Bring Your Thinking Cap

Bring Your Thinking Cap

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Word

Gary Pollard

Today’s article may be a little chaotic. It’s about something not well-defined or understood, and its solution is unknown to me. This article will hopefully serve as a target; it’d be good to have lots of Christian minds brainstorming solutions to this issue.

Just about everyone’s had THE virus. I’ve had it once for sure, maybe twice. It don’t mess around. I started developing symptoms after recovery that, apparently, quite a few people have developed. It’s commonly called Long Covid or PASC. Symptoms include fatigue, cognitive difficulties, decreased mobility, respiratory and cardiological issues, pain, malaise, and many others (psu.edu). You probably either know someone dealing with this now, or are dealing with it yourself.

Research is not super easy to get ahold of, and what I could find was either low-quality or not peer reviewed. Its existence isn’t really contested, but little is known about its prevalence. Best I could find was that about 43% of those who recover will experience Long Covid. Many haven’t recovered after almost two years!

My concern with this is its potential effect on faith. Things like driving at night, interacting with lots of people, spending time together outside of worship, church events, service projects, teaching/preaching/song leading, evangelism, etc. are part of our Christian life. While some of these can be difficult on a good day, they’re now practically impossible (or significantly more difficult) for people with Long Covid.

The church has always had members with chronic, debilitating diseases. Normally, our shut-ins are a very small percentage of overall membership. With Long Covid often compared to the effects of chemotherapy, this number is likely to grow significantly. If roughly half of our recovered members end up with these long-term effects, how do we address this?

Since it affects both young adults and senior citizens, how do we navigate its impact? What can members who now have Long Covid do to stay active in their churches? While living with a chronic health condition is no cake walk, those of us who do are at least mentally equipped to accept it. Members who enjoyed good health before Long Covid are struggling to adapt to this change.

At some point in the near-ish future, I hope to write an article with potential solutions. It will be geared toward those who’re experiencing major health issues for the first time. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to do a lot of praying, planning, brainstorming, and creative problem solving. Nothing’s too big for God, and we’ll find a solution with his help.

Praise The Lord!

Praise The Lord!

Neal Pollard

Your version may use the word “hallelujah” to begin Psalm 135. Hallelujah means “praise the Lord.” While it is synonymous with giving thanks, it means to laud a superior quality or act, to acclaim and express joy in doing so. What is so noteworthy is that the psalmist does this in very specific ways, recounting times in history when God demonstrates His power and glory on behalf of His people. As we walk through the psalm, we see this. Why is He to be praised?

  • HIS CHOOSING OF HIS PEOPLE (4)
  • HIS NATURE (5)–Great, Above All
  • HIS WORK IN CREATION (6-7)–Heaven, Earth, Seas, All Deep, Vapors, Lightning, Wind, Rain
  • HIS DEFEATING OF THEIR ENEMIES (8-11)–Egypt, Amorites, Canaanites
  • HIS BLESSINGS (12)–Gave His People A Heritage (Possession)
  • HIS POWER (13)–His Name And Remembrance
  • HIS PROMISES (14)–Compassionate Judgment
  • HIS SUPERIORITY OVER HIS RIVALS (15-18)–Deaf, Dumb, And Blind Idols, Just Like Humans

The writer calls on God’s people to praise and worship Him in song, expressing their adoration (1-3). He ends with a threefold call to “bless the Lord” (19-21). May I suggest that you work through something both in your daily life and in your preparation before every time you assemble to worship? Call it setting the table for fellowship with the Divine. Either meditate on the specific works and ways of God that are worthy of admiration, praise and honor or pray to Him, expressing these matters in specific terms. Focus on how He’s demonstrated greatness in blessing your life and the lives of those around you. Perhaps it’s answered prayer, providence, deliverance, or relief. Focus on His power and might in the affairs of our nation, in the activities of our congregation, and the occurrences within your family and personal life. Let the worship flow as you look around at all you see in nature, from the universe to right out your window. Think about the gift of Jesus for your sins. All of this will surely cause you to echo the writer in Psalm 135 and call out to others, “Praise the Lord!”

Photo credit: Kathy Pollard
Ascending Hearts And Hills

Ascending Hearts And Hills

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Fifteen consecutive psalms (120-134) are so-called “Psalms of Ascent.” They were given this name because they were songs designated for the Israelites to sing on their way to worship in Jerusalem. Moses had instructed them at the giving of the Old Law, “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God” (Ex. 34:34). You can imagine how especially those who came a long distance to Jerusalem (it’s over 100 miles from Mt. Hermon and Beersheba, for example) might benefit from a reminder of why they were making this lengthy journey. As most would walk, this would help pass the time while preparing their minds. This is not a bad idea for us even on a 10 or 20 minute drive to the church building on Sunday morning. 

There is quite a bit of uneven terrain, mountains and valleys, in the area around Jerusalem, and the temple required a steep climb as there were three valleys surrounding Mount Zion and the temple complex. So, people coming from every direction would have to “go up to Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:17; John 2:13; 5:1). But, it was more than a physical ascent, this trip to the temple. It was more significantly a spiritual ascent, an effort to get closer to God. While we can and should draw near to God daily in our personal devotion, there is still great significance and benefit when we join each other in the presence of God to worship Him and fellowship with Him and each other (Heb. 10:24-25). Each time, this should be an ascent for us! 

Notice the repetitive use of “will” in Psalm 121. The word is used eight times in these eight verses. The word points to the future and indicates either anticipation or trust. The writer is confident, especially of what he expects God will do. Such assurance had to take his heart higher!

I WILL LIFT UP MY EYES TO HIM (1)

He starts with what he will do. The writer will look up to God, seeking help and strength. A heart ready to worship is one who sees things as they really are. I am spiritually destitute and needy, and I depend on God for everything. When that is my mindset, I am prepared to praise, thank, and petition Him!

GOD WILL HELP ME (1-2)

Whatever problems, distractions, struggles, and temptations are weighing me down and wearing me down, God will help me! His power is proven. Just look at the creation (2). He has not lost an ounce of strength from that moment to now.

GOD WILL NOT LET ME FALL (3)

The terrain around Jerusalem is often rocky and uneven. I suppose it is easy for anyone’s foot to slip on those roads up to the holy city. But, spiritually, it is a different matter. If I fall, it will not be God’s fault (John 10:27-29). If I hold to God’s unchanging hand, I will successfully complete my journey.

GOD WILL NOT FALL ASLEEP ON THE JOB (3-4)

Night and day, moment by moment, God is alert. He sees everything I do and everything that is done to me. How comforting to know that the All-seeing eye never droops or closes. He does not nod off, even for a moment. 

GOD WILL GUARD AND PROTECT ME (5-8)

Half of this psalm is devoted to this idea. God is not just passively involved, watching me. He is actively involved, keeping me (5,7), providing me shade (5-6), protecting me (7), and guarding me (8). Our God is not inanimate! He is involved! It is why we pray. It is why we trust in His providence. It is why we serve and obey Him. As we love to sing, “There is a God! He is alive. In Him we live and we survive.” The writer of Hebrews quotes three Old Testament passages (Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; Psa. 118:6) to convey two promises: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (13:5-6). 

When you enter to worship, enter with the heart and faith of the righteous pilgrims on their way to the temple for one of the annual festivals. Come with your heart ready, and come with a heart full of faith and trust in the object of your worship. You will leave rejuvenated and resolved.

Finding Refreshment

Finding Refreshment

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Lying in a bed for three and a half months will make you feel icky. You can only bathe with washcloths. Some nurses loaded those cloths with water and got me wetter than an Anglican baptism. Those “baths” made me feel better. However, before being discharged, I finally took a shower. That was the best. I felt refreshed. The only downside was seeing my hair come out in clumps as I washed my hair. It seems I am fated to look like the Stooge, Larry Fine.   

Where do you find your refreshment? Is it in a cool drink on a sultry day? Is it standing by a fireplace in winter? Such actions reinvigorate us. This result is what refreshment accomplishes. The sinner can find refreshment in obedience. In his second recorded sermon, Peter says: 

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3.19 NASB1995).

This refreshing comes from being immersed in Christ (cf. Acts 22.16). I would encourage any who have not yet clothed themselves in Christ to allow their faith to lead to this total submission, in which one joins the Lord in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-5). No, it is not a work, nor is the power in the water. It is where we symbolically contact the blood of Christ and express a clear conscience before God (1 Peter 3.21). It is a necessity for salvation. 

Yet, there remains refreshment for the Christian as well. Paul speaks of his desire to meet with the brethren of Rome in Romans 15. He tells them to join him in prayer so his arrival will refresh him (Romans 15.32). That is an interesting word choice. In fact, this is the only time this word, συναναπαύομαι, appears in Scripture. The word means to rest along with, but here implies a spiritual refreshing.  

I like that idea of “resting with”, though, especially as it applies to Christian fellowship. We spend our weeks in the world and get beaten up by the forces of the adversary. How refreshing is it when we pause and rest with our brethren in worship and Bible study? I know I have gone to services feeling poorly, physically, only to find myself reinvigorated on my way back home. It has the same effect mentally and, most importantly, spiritually. Unfortunately, my recovery prevents me from joining the brethren currently. Still, you better believe that I eagerly await the day I can rejoin them even more than when I wished for a shower.  

It is sad when brethren find excuses to avoid refreshment since it is one of the blessings we receive in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1.3). Earthly diversions cannot reinvigorate the spirit as can God. Oh, it might bring temporary happiness, but the participant of earthly delights is left feeling empty, needing entertainment and diversion yet again. Services are not a chore when one comes seeking to worship God and rest beside their brethren.  

“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10.24-25 NASB1995) 

Don’t you want to find your refreshment? 

How Satan Tempts

How Satan Tempts

Thursday Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

 
Genesis 3 records for us the fall of man. This account reveals to us the methods Satan uses to tempt us, and the choice that changed the course of the world. We can learn a lot about the devil in his first interaction with God’s creation.
 
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.””
 
We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden. There is no timeframe between chapter 2 and 3.
It could’ve been a month, a year, a century that has gone by. Whatever the time frame, Satan comes to Eve and places doubt in her mind. This is quite possibly the worst lie ever told. “Did God really say…?” While Satan doesn’t physically appear and speak to us today, he still uses this same tactic. He has destroyed many churches’ worship to God. “Did God really ask for music with no instruments?” “Did God really say for the women to be silent?” By casting doubt Satan has corrupted the worship and faith of millions.
 
After he casts doubt, he then blatantly contradicts God, “you will not surely die.” And once again he continues to blatantly contradict God’s word today. The message Satan tells the world is completely different from what God has given to us. Satan contradicts the Father. Rather than “love you neighbour as yourself” he says “love yourself above your neighbour.” Rather than “serve God and keep his commandments, he says “serve yourself and listen to no one.” Satan contradicted God in the past and continues to do so today.
 
After he casts doubt and blatantly contradicts God, he then offers power, “you shall be like God.” Obviously in their close relationship with God, they understood who created the world. The created wanted to be like the creator, but the devil offered a lie. Satan only has one thing to offer– sin. He oftentimes portrays this lifestyle of sin as a lie.
He offers happiness and joy, but at the end of the day all he has to offer is sin and regret.
 
Eve was tempted by Satan, and he used the same methods then as he does now. Eve experienced:
  • The lust of the flesh (she wanted to eat of the fruit)
  • The lust of the eyes (literally says “it was a delight to the eyes,” v.6)
  • Pride of life (she wanted to become wise and have power)
The devil always knows what to say in order to get us to stumble. We must be vigilant and ready to refuse the tempter when he appears.
Heart Attacks

Heart Attacks

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

dale and janelle

Dale Pollard

In many cases the battles that wage inside of us are never seen by others. The Bible, however, gives us a few clues as to what might be going on inside our hearts. 

A cheerful disposition can be the sign of a healthy heart according to Proverbs 15:13. Sometimes our appearance can show the darkness that has crept in. 

Consider the following verses, 

“And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering,  but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.  The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” (Gen. 4.5-6). 

God already knew what was in Cain’s heart, but notice how He tells Cain the outward signs of his inward struggles. 

He’s angry and his countenance had fallen. In the following verses Cain ends up killing his own brother because that darkness had taken over. 

God knows the heart. He knows every aspect of the heart. 

In 1 Kings 12, Jeroboam has just become king over the Northern tribe of Israel. In the Southern kingdom they had the capital of Jerusalem where all the Israelites in that region would gather to sacrifice to the Lord. The Bible indicates to us the very plans that Jeroboam said in the “privacy” of his heart. He built his own place of worship and foolishly stood those golden calves up for his new kingdom to worship.

Jesus proves once again that He’s the son of God by reading the hearts of many individuals in the New Testament (Luke 16:15). 

May we never forget that we serve a God who can read our hearts. There are things we can hide from every human on earth, but certainly not God. Let’s also never forget that we don’t have the ability to read hearts and attempting to do so is to pretend to be something other than human. 

HE’S SO EXCITED TO GO TO CHURCH

HE’S SO EXCITED TO GO TO CHURCH

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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(Pinch-hitting for the groom-to-be)

Neal Pollard

Last weekend, we had an opportunity to see good friends of ours when Kathy did a Ladies Day in “L.A.” (Lower Alabama). We met Justin and Anna Maynard when they served as missionaries in Tanzania, and we have also been to Israel with them. They have two beautiful Standard Poodle puppies, a girl named Ruby and a boy named Colton. They are both smart, but Colton has to be a canine Einstein. Perhaps the best measure of his intelligence is his absolute love of going to the church building with Justin (see picture below). Some years ago, I wrote about a dog from my childhood that was faithful to be at the building when the church met (The Dog At Church). What I appreciate about Colton is how eager he is, every single time, to “go to church.” When Justin asks, “You wanna go to church?,” Colton goes ballistic! When he gets there, he sprints to the door and impatiently waits for his “dad” to open the door. Then, he runs around excitedly (I watched him do laps around the auditorium for several minutes before contentedly sprawling out on the floor to rest). He does a flying leap onto one of the other minister’s couch and thoroughly enjoys the whole experience at the church building.

His enthusiasm is so high, it made me think of what David once said: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psa. 122:1). The sons of Korah described being in the house of the Lord, “with the voice of joy and thanksgiving” (Psa. 42:4). Maybe it was his memories of “sweet fellowship together” with others who “walked in the house of God in the throng” (Psa. 55:14). In those last two passages, the writers look back with longing to a time when they could do freely what now was impossible to do. They longed to be there. The psalms, as much as any book, describes zealous worshippers. Think about Psalm 95:6, which admonishes, “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker!”

I watched Colton and I asked myself, “Do I have that attitude toward going to ‘church’?” Frankly, I can let a sour mood or personal problems or distractions dampen my joy and zeal for being there. Here’s a creature who will not live eternally, is not made in the image of God, and for whom Jesus did not die, but whose unbridled enthusiasm is overflowing! The next time I’m tempted to grumble or grimace as I approach the “next appointed time,” I hope I will remember Colton Maynard, who loves to go to church! 

Colton and Justin
WHAT VIRTUAL WORSHIP CANNOT ACCOMPLISH

WHAT VIRTUAL WORSHIP CANNOT ACCOMPLISH

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

This is not a judgment against those of us who have stayed home, especially those vulnerable, for whatever period of time to protect ourselves from legitimate risk of contracting the Coronavirus. It is an attempt to exhort and encourage those of us who have concluded that participating virtually meets what God intends for the assemblies. While we may get to see the church worship and engage in Bible class and receive edification, we are missing quite a bit of what God designed for the church by assembling together.

What can’t we accomplish when we remain in the virtual setting?

  • We cannot stimulate one another to either love or good deeds (Heb. 10:24).
  • We cannot exhort one another (Heb. 10:25).
  • We cannot speak to, teach, or admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19). 
  • We cannot come together and edify (1 Cor. 14:26). 
  • We cannot welcome visitors from the community who have come to the assemblies.
  • We cannot engage in the enriching, faith-building, and faith-preserving fellowship the early church found so essential (Acts 2:42ff). 
  • We cannot congregate, as they did (Acts 4:32). 
  • We cannot come together and eat the Lord’s Supper, as they did (1 Cor. 11:20,33). 

Let’s not forget the responsibility God puts upon each Christian to all others who assemble. Worship is not just personal and vertical, it is also horizontal. 

I met the mom and brother of my good friend, Al Washington, last night at the Palm Beach Lakes church of Christ. They are members of the Third St. congregation.
Mercy

Mercy

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

On at least two different occasions, Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’” (Matthew 9.13; Matthew 12.7). It’s quoted from Hosea 6.6, but in multiple other passages God tells us that He prefers obedience over going through the motions of worship (Isaiah 1.11ff; Amos 5.21; Micah 6; Mark 7). 


This is NOT saying that worship is less important than obedience, since obedience causes us to worship. It does show God’s attitude toward those who claim to follow Him, but whose actions say otherwise. 
Listen to the force behind His words in Amos 5.21, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” Israel had adopted some religious and social misconduct. 


Do our actions cause God to wince at our worship? Israel was God’s chosen nation, but when they neglected to show mercy, justice, compassion, or faithfulness, God rejected their worship and sent them into captivity. 
So what kind of worship does God love? Obedience, mercy, pursuing good, showing compassion to those less powerful, integrity, justice, and being morally pure (Amos 5.11ff). 

“Let Us Sing!”

“Let Us Sing!”

Don’t miss the latest TBNB Podcast with Dale and Carl (subscribe here)

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

Neal Pollard

I counted 96 people present for the singing at the Waddells’ home Friday night, sitting in our camping chairs in their beautiful backyard. Beyond the hospitality and tasty desserts, this was such a wonderful, needed time of fellowship and singing. There were babies up through senior saints, with a whole lot in between. It was exciting to see visitors, several who have been attending but have not yet placed membership, elders, deacons, and so many others. Though the air was surprisingly chilly, you could not help but feel the warmth and glow of brothers and sisters enjoying life together. It felt so first-century!

While it is extremely valuable for us to make as a goal improving our singing, from training our song leaders to becoming better, more attentive followers, it is even more important to understand what God is trying to do for us and through us in our singing. Notice just a few of the objectives God achieves through those who follow His will by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

  • We communicate to one another in a special, spiritual way (Eph. 5:19).
  • We teach and admonish one another with all wisdom (Col. 3:16).
  • We express gratitude in our hearts to God (Col. 3:16; cf. Psa. 28:7).
  • We proclaim God’s name to our brethren (Heb. 2:12).
  • We praise God’s works and nature in a unique way (Rev. 15:3; cf. Exo. 15:1,21; Psa. 68:4).
  • We offer up a sacrifice of praise by the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15).
  • We help others see and fear and trust in the Lord (Psa. 40:3). 

Certainly, much more is implied concerning the power, effect, and blessings of saints singing together. But, it is helpful for us to consider the value of singing on its own. As a sacrifice of praise, singing is, of itself, worship. Worship is ” to express in attitude or gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure” (BDAG 882). From “I Need Thee Every Hour” to “Holy, Holy, Holy” to “You Are My All In All” (and literally hundreds more), we prostrate ourselves before God as an act of reverence, fear, and supplication (Louw-Nida 217).  Our Creator designed us to connect to words and their meanings in a unique way through singing. We memorize better when we set something to music. We connect music to events and people, forming deeply touching memories and recollections. We touch our own hearts and those of others in a crucial way through melody. It is not just “filler” between prayers and the Lord’s Supper. It is a profoundly meaningful act God purposed for us to help us grow and be strong. By doing it together, we are connecting our hearts and encouraging one another’s spiritual lives. 

So, think about what you can do to make this act of worship so much more effective.

  • Clear your mind and focus intently on the message of each word of each song.
  • Focus on the people around you, deliberately trying to teach and admonish them.
  • Sing out so that your teaching and admonishing can be heard (forgetting yourself and how you think you “sound” to others).
  • Put forth effort, not just with your vocal cords but with your heart and mind.
  • Do not be afraid to connect your singing with your feelings.
  • Consciously work to communicate to God your praise and adoration each and every time you sing.
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly by your singing.

Do you remember when government mandates suggested that church goers not sing for fear that virus germs might be spread? Will you consider that God intends for something vital to be spread through our psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? His Word! It should spread to our own hearts and to others. It should even reach the throne of God in heaven! Whether you are worshipping Him alone or with your physical family in song, assembled on the Lord’s Day, or gathered with saints in other places, let us sing!

Photo Credit: Shedona Tillman