THE TALE OF CYNIC, CYRUS DIFFY

Neal Pollard
At the corner of Oak and Griffey
Lived an old man, Cyrus Diffy. (*)
A lifelong skeptic, centered on self
With Dawkins and Darwin on his shelf
He scoffed at those he thought “too much,”
Who leaned on religion as their crutch.
Whose faith was rested on their Bible
Were subject to his scorn and libel.
His own morality and ethics were iffy
He was his own rule, Cyrus Diffy
No one could tell him how to live
For others he had nothing to give
Scorn metastasized, and he grew bitter
Spewed his venom on Facebook, on Twitter
With chip on shoulder, he sought debate
Relished each moment “the faith” to hate
One morning in his chair in one quick jiffy
The last breath was breathed by Cyrus Diffy
He lifted up his eyes in a place most unpleasant
With him each skeptic and agnostic were present
Yet like him they no longer could fuel their doubt
Now in this painful place with no door to get out.
He’d tied his whole life to his naturalistic bent
But rejected the Savior the Father had sent.
Let’s sum up concisely, I’ll try to be pithy
Here’s what we can learn from old Cyrus Diffy
We all hitch our wagons to some conviction
Determine what’s truth and what is fiction
Design exists, it points to a designer.
We feel moral ought, know what’s coarse, what’s finer
We’re built to worship, we possess intellect.
When charting life’s course, every angle inspect.
View your worldview, consider its implications
Choose based on logic not potential complications
Christian, you might pass by a place like Oak and Griffey
Live Christ well before all folks like the late Cyrus Diffy.

(*) “Cyrus Diffy” is a random name I made up and is
not meant to refer to anyone real having that name.

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DON’T BE A “BORED AGAIN” CHRISTIAN!

Neal Pollard
Steve Martz recently wrote a book he entitled 77 Talks To Bored-Again Teens. Explaining the rationale for his book, Martz says, “With teenage attention spans decreasing as fast as new channels appear on satellite TV, it’s not just a case of presenting the gospel as it stands and hoping they ‘get it.’ In this post-modern age you have to hit them in bite-sized chunks to make an impact and make tentative steps into their world.” There is no doubt that our world is changing, and most of us change with it to a greater degree than we realize. This blog post, your congregation’s PowerPoint, your dish, your DSL, your i-stuff, and a thousand other gadgets are shrines paying homage to such change. These things may indeed challenge the perseverance of our attention span.

Yet, with all due respect to Martz’ attempt at accommodation, I think his premise misses the point. Without intending to, Martz is trying to improve on God’s means of communicating His message. If it is not still “the foolishness of preaching” whereby God seeks to reach and save mankind, what can man invent to better it (cf. 1 Cor. 1:21)? However, I am certain that there are “bored again” Christians of all ages scattered here and there. I agree that there should not be any, but let me suggest some other ideas for breaking out of these doctrinal doldrums.

Break out of the entertainment mindset. Each of us should remind ourselves every day, “It’s not about me.” Humor-filled, emotionally-tugging, and feel-good lessons may touch a more superficial part of us, but we should remember that listening to a sermon or singing a spiritual song is not the same as watching a good (?) movie or listening to our favorite musical performer. Read the sermons of Peter, Stephen, and Paul. Vegetable-Soup For The Israelite Soul or Your Best Roman Life Now was not the foundation for their lessons. Andrew, Bartholomew, and Philip were not a traveling drama troupe or praise team. The Greeks and Romans had actors and actresses, stage and plays. The early church was not interesting in tickling a funny bone; they wanted to save the soul.

Renew your relationship with God. The Christian life can become more exhilarating and exciting the longer you live it. As your inward person is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16-18), you will find God, His Word, His promises, His love, and heaven more real to you. Even as your body breaks down, people disappoint you, and others desert Him, you can find Him dearer and closer to you with each passing day. Even as living the Christian life brings tears, sacrifices, and persecution, it will not seem boring to you! Paul is pretty discouraged at times in 2 Timothy 4, but he never once sounds bored. My grandpa would say that boredom means you have too much time on your hands anyway!

Find somebody to serve. Boredom reflects the luxury of thinking about and tending to self. Stephanas and his house devoted themselves to service. The Bible does not say, but I cannot imagine them being bored (cf. 1 Cor. 16:16). Christians have been liberated to serve (Gal. 5:13). Through serving one another and in all serving the Lord, we will find great satisfaction and reward (cf. Eph. 6:6-7). I have seen few true servants that were unhappy, much less bored. This is a sure remedy for the “bored again” Christian.

Someone once asked a preacher, “What is worldliness?” A teenager in the class answered, “It’s letting the world set the standards.” That may be the best definition I have ever heard. Let us not let the world set the standard for spirituality, excitement, or enjoyment. Those trying to medicate themselves with entertainment are heart-sick folks! True excitement and joy comes in overcoming this world (cf. 1 John 5:4). Don’t be a “bored again” Christian!

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What If There WAS An Ebola Outbreak In Your Town?

Neal Pollard

Kathy avoids any of the depressing news stories centered on the Ebola virus. She believes they heighten stress and fear. I admit to moderate fascination and monitoring of the latest developments. There’s no denying that there has been a growing hysteria in our nation since a Liberian man died and two of his nurses contracted it while treating him. Their travel plans and interactions have been chronicled in minute detail. Quarantines have occurred in multiple states, schools have been closed, and fear has escalated. The concern seems connected to what has been reported in villages throughout the west African nations where the outbreak began in the Spring.  The disease is horrific and deadly. It seems easily spread to others. Entire families have been wiped out by it. Yet, calm voices have tried to convince us no epidemic is occurring in our country.

But what if there was an outbreak where you and I live? Beyond the obvious fear, how would that change your life? Would you look differently at your spiritual life and eternal preparedness? How urgently would you reach out to repair broken relationships? Would you be more bold in trying to make disciples? Would you be more focused on leading and influencing your family to serve Christ?

Ebola is tangible and physical. We can see its effects. The damage it inflicts is completely visible. Sin does not present in the same, dramatic way, but its seriousness is infinitely greater. It is a global, daily threat and it’s already here in our communities. Somebody very close to each of us is almost certainly in the process of succumbing to it! May God give us eyes which see and hearts which feel, appreciating the dangers of sin and trusting the Great Physician to protect us.

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“MY BROTHER SHOT ME!”

Neal Pollard

My sons have had some notable incidents involving guns, particularly the air-soft variety.  While these all are thankfully memories from the past, they continued a less than proud tradition from their father.  I have stories involving my BB gun, easter eggs set on a fence, and a custom van parked in the next yard, “old west shootouts” involving BB guns and all our neighborhood buddies (including the loss of at least one permanent tooth), and one other BB gun story that stands out in my mind more than any other.  It was shortly after the easter eggs incident, and my brother and I were playing cowboys and Indians on a warm Spring Sunday afternoon.  It had been a tough week for Brent, not yet school-aged. Just a few days before he was climbing on a stair rail, lost his grip, and fell head first onto the concrete.  He had recuperated enough from that to be outside with me.

Our shoutout rules were typical.  If you got shot, you had to fall down and play dead for 10 seconds. Then, you got back up and resumed action. Brent had a cool toy flintlock pistol. I had my trusty BB gun in hand. As I recall, Brent came running around the house right into my ambush.  I cried out, “Bang, bang, bang!” He fell to the ground and got up crying.  He was bleeding under his eye and had a frightening gash.  We both had great imaginations, but not that great!

Our parents heard the commotion and Brent told them, “Neal shot me!”  That was sufficient investigation, given that the concussion and the easter egg incident were both fresh on their minds.  Dad took my Daisy and in an incredible show of strength ended its functional use with a single application to his knee.  A spanking quickly followed.  Meanwhile, Mom had done triage on Brent enough to ascertain one additional fact.  I had only pretended to shoot him (the Daisy was not loaded) and Brent fell on the sight of that pistol and produced that gash.  Dad felt terrible and apologized to me before taking Brent to get stitches.  Of course, with my checkered past with my low-powered air gun, I was not very incensed.

Since I have “grown up,” I have drawn my own conclusions without having all the facts.  I have done this with my sons, and I have done it with my wife.  I have done this at times with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I was sure I had all the facts and I reacted.  More than once, I’ve felt the regret of being hasty and premature.

When that brother or sister seems cold, distant, or unfriendly, they may simply be having a terrible day or dealing with an incredibly heavy burden.  When it seems that son or daughter has misbehaved, take the time to ascertain all the facts before reacting.  When  in a spousal spat, stave off assumptions, perceptions, and prejudices that may lead you to a hasty, false conclusion.

How many have fallen prey to “friendly fire” from loved ones? Be careful not to accidentally shoot first and ask questions later.  If you do, have the humility to admit your mistake and make it right!  If we can, we should avoid a “shoot out.” If we must, then we must fight fair!

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THE MOANING OF A DOVE, THE GROWLING OF A LION

Neal Pollard

One of the more interesting Hebrew words in the Old Testament is the word translated “meditate” in passages such as Psalm 1:2.   הָגָה (“Haga”), most often found among the poets and prophets, has a wide range of meaning depending on derivation of the root word.  Elihu uses the word to speak of the “rumbling” of God’s voice (Job 37:2). Moses uses the word to speak of a “sigh” (Ps. 90:9). Isaiah uses the word to speak of the “moaning” of a dove (38:14) and “growling” of a lion (31:4). The occult mediums “whispered” and “muttered” their incantations (8:19) (Harris, et al, TWOT, 1999, n/p).  Yet, the word is often used to speak of a low voice within, pondering and rehearsing what God’s Word has to say and what it means.  This is how David and Joshua use the term in speaking of meditating day and night on God’s Word (cf. Jos. 1:8).  It is possible that in carefully considering God’s Word, the student would rehearse or mouth the words of God as they contemplated and looked into it.  One lexicography renders it “to read in an undertone” (Koehler, et al, HAL, 1999, n/p).

How one studies the Bible is very personal, but for it to have value and assist us in living the way God wants us to, there has to be a process in place that takes us beyond mere reading to comprehension and then on to application.  Meditation upon the Bible seems a vital part of this.  When is the last time in your personal Bible reading that you memorized, rehearsed, and meditated upon what you read that day?  Do you revisit in your mind what you read earlier, pondering meaning and relevance in your attempt to live as God wants you to live?  Have you found yourself returning to its truths again and again, convicting yourself of needed changes and improvements in your Christian walk?

Meditating upon God’s Word will build your reverence of it, your conviction that it as modern and relevant as today’s sunrise, and your view of it as the inspired, authoritative Word of God.  It will bind your mind and heart to the mind and heart of God.  It will help you elevate your thoughts and consider the bigger picture of eternity and not just the mundanity of earth.  It will have you singing with David, “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).

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PRAISE IDEAS FOR PRAYER

Neal Pollard

Prayer is a very personal exercise, a life built between an individual and God. Thus, these suggestions may of themselves feel intrusive or foreign to some.  However, through the years, I have heard many express some difficulty in knowing how to praise God or what to say in praise to Him when in prayer.  Leah, in naming Judah, was the first to articulate the idea (through his name), “I will praise” (Gen. 29:35).  Moses resolved the same at the head of his song in Exodus 15:2.  The remaining six times the phrase appears, the psalmist pens the words (Ps. 22:22; 35:18; 69:30; 109:30; 145:2; 146:2).  Twice in the Psalms we learn that “praise is becoming” (33:1; 147:1). In fact, it makes little sense to make the case for the importance of praise to anyone who professes a belief in God and has seen His blessings and assistance in his or her life.

Having said all of that, what are some specific things one can praise God for in the exercise of prayer?

  • Praise Him for His attributes (eternality, limitlessness, superlativeness).
  • Praise Him for the wonders of creation (try praying under a starry sky, as the sun is rising, or out in the midst of nature’s beauty—words of praise will flow like water).
  • Praise Him for His blessings.
  • Praise Him for His sovereignty and superiority.
  • Praise Him for His promises.
  • Praise Him for His desire to have relationship with you.
  • Praise Him for His providence.
  • Praise Him for His plan of salvation, giving thought to its component parts.
  • Praise Him for the glorious future He has prepared for you.
  • Praise Him for the victorious work of Christ and the spiritual benefits that brings you.

Obviously, this is just a primer list of ideas.  Contemplate God, His nature, His work, His personality, and you will have an ever-growing, ever-changing, and ever-deepening “praise component” to your prayer life.  It is good to thank Him and petition Him, but take sufficient time to exalt Him by infusing your supplications with praise to Him!  As David urged Asaph and his relatives to proclaim, “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised” (1 Chr. 16:25a). Amen!

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A COORDINATED RESPONSE

Neal Pollard

The leading local story today has to do with how police and fire responded to the Aurora theatre shooting in the summer of 2012, a horrific crime that left 12 dead and most of the other theatre patrons injured to one degree or another.  Those tasked with evaluating the response use words like “chaotic” and uncoordinated to describe what emergency responders did in the face of the incredibly unusual and tragic scene.  It is hard to imagine how one would prepare for something so unprecedented and it is much easier to make such evaluations in hindsight, but all seem agreed about the need to work together more efficiently when faced with life or death situations.

There is no greater life or death situation than concerns the spiritual state of even a single soul.  Whether we are talking about bringing a lost soul to Christ, helping a discouraged or offended brother or sister, or retrieving a Christian who has fallen away, it requires a coordinated response! Many people are needed to work together to help a person in his or her relationship to God.  Paul urges, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” (1 Th. 5:11).  He also writes, “Bear one another’s burden” (Gal. 6:2a).

When we are faced with the challenge of reaching a lost soul, think of all the coordination needed.  There is the friend or family member trying to reach them, but who else? What about the one(s) trying to study with them, not to mention members who need to reach out to them by befriending them, make them feel welcome, have them into their homes, and introduce them to other Christians?

When someone is struggling, it requires many people calling and reaching out, visiting, and doing what can be done to show them love and concern.  When someone has fallen away, it takes more than the preacher or an elder to do that “heavy lifting.”  Anyone who knows them and can influence them should coordinate with all others to rescue the perishing one!

Twelve lives ended that fateful night in Aurora.  It has been determined that emergency responders were not responsible for a single person being lost, a fact that has to provide them with solace and validation.  When we stand before Christ, each of us wants to do our part so that we can say no one was lost due to our neglect or lack of response.

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KNOWING GOD THROUGH THE BIBLE

Neal Pollard

The tendency to try and make subjective experience as more meaningful and valuable than objective truth is age old. We would rather feel something than learn or obey something. Yet, notice how thoroughly the Bible shows that adequate knowledge of God relies upon studying and knowing the Bible.

• GENESIS (24:12-14)–God’s KINDNESS is knowable.
• EXODUS (14:4-18)–God’s MATCHLESS HONOR is knowable.
• LEVITICUS (23:43)–God’s PROTECTING NATURE is knowable.
• NUMBERS (16:28)–God’s SPOKESMEN are knowable.
• DEUTERONOMY (4:35)–God’s PREEMINENCE is knowable.
• JOSHUA (23:13)–God’s CONDITIONS are knowable.
• JUDGES (6:37)–God’s INTERVENTION is knowable.
• RUTH (2:12)–God’s REWARD is knowable.
• 1 SAMUEL (17:46-47)–God’s MEANS OF SALVATION is knowable.
• 2 SAMUEL (7:18-29)–God’s PROMISES are knowable.
• 1 KINGS (20:28)–God’s SUPREMACY is knowable.
• 2 KINGS (19:19)–God’s UNIVERSAL AUTHORITY is knowable.
• 1 CHRONICLES (28:9)–God’s DIVINE QUALITIES are knowable.
• 2 CHRONICLES (25:16)–God’s DISAPPROVAL is knowable.
• EZRA (7:25)–God’s LAWS are knowable.
• NEHEMIAH (9:14)–God’s REVELATION is knowable.
• ESTHER (4:14 + rest of book)–God’s USE OF PROVIDENCE is knowable (even if we don’t know what is or isn’t providence).
• JOB (19:25)–God’s REDEMPTIVE WORK is knowable.
• PSALMS (100:3)–God’s CREATIVE POWER is knowable.
• PROVERBS (24:12)–God’s LIMITLESS ABILITY is knowable.
• ECCLESIASTES (3:14)–God’s PERFECTION is knowable.
• SONG OF SOLOMON–God’s DEVOTION TO MARRIAGE is knowable.
• ISAIAH (60:16)–God’s SALVATION & REDEMPTION are knowable.
• JEREMIAH (16:21)–God’s NAME & MIGHT are knowable.
• LAMENTATIONS–God’s STANDARD FOR PUNISHMENT is knowable.
• EZEKIEL (5:13)–God’s ZEALOUS WORD is knowable.
• DANIEL (11:32)–God’s STRENGTHENING is knowable.
• HOSEA (13:4)–God’s WORSHIP REQUIREMENTS are knowable.
• JOEL (2:27)–God’s PRESENCE is knowable.
• AMOS (3:2)–God’s HATRED OF INIQUITY is knowable.
• OBADIAH–God’s FEELINGS TOWARD PRIDE are knowable.
• JONAH (4:2)–God’s GRACIOUSNESS is knowable.
• MICAH (6:5)–God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS is knowable.
• NAHUM (1)–God’s PROTECTIVE CARE is knowable.
• HABAKKUK (2:14)–God’s GLORY is knowable.
• ZEPHANIAH (2:3)–God’s DESIRE TO BE SOUGHT is knowable.
• HAGGAI–God’s MISSION is knowable.
• ZECHARIAH (2:9-13)-God’s PLAN OF SALVATION is knowable.
• MALACHI (2:4-5)–God’s COVENANT is knowable.
• MATTHEW (22:16)–God’s TEACHINGS are knowable.
• MARK (1:24)–God’s HOLINESS is knowable.
• LUKE (11:13)–God’s BENEVOLENCE is knowable.
• JOHN (17:3)–God’s UNIQUENESS is knowable.
• ACTS (2:36-47)–God’s REQUIREMENTS FOR SALVATION are knowable.
• ROMANS (8:28)–God’s ASSURANCE TO THOSE WHO LOVE HIM is knowable.
• 1 CORINTHIANS (2:12)–God’s SPIRITUAL BLESSING OF REVELATION is knowable.
• 2 CORINTHIANS (8:9)–God’s GRACE is knowable.
• GALATIANS (3:7)–God’s HEIRS are knowable.
• EPHESIANS (1:17-19)–God’s BESTOWED WISDOM & HOPE are knowable.
• PHILIPPIANS (3:8-11)–God’s SON is knowable.
• COLOSSIANS (4:1)–God’s MASTERFUL ROLE is knowable.
• 1 THESSALONIANS (1:4)–God’s MEANS OF ELECTION is knowable.
• 2 THESSALONIANS (3:7)–God’s GOOD EXAMPLES are knowable.
• 1 TIMOTHY (3:15)–God’s CODE OF CONDUCT IN THE HIS HOUSEHOLD is knowable.
• 2 TIMOTHY (3:15-17)–God’s HOLY SCRIPTURES are knowable.
• TITUS (1:9-16)–God’s SOUND DOCTRINE is knowable.
• PHILEMON–God’s FREEDOM FROM SIN & CALL FOR SERVICE IN CHRIST is knowable.
• HEBREWS (8:11-13)–God’s SUPERIOR SALVATION is knowable.
• JAMES (2:20)–God’s DEMAND FOR ACTIVE FAITH is knowable.
• 1 PETER (1:18-19)–God’s INCORRUPTIBLE MEANS OF SALVATION is knowable.
• 2 PETER (3:17)–God’s FOREWARNINGS are knowable.
• 1 JOHN (4:2)–God’s SPIRIT is knowable.
• 2 JOHN 1–God’s TRUTH is knowable.
• 3 JOHN 12–God’s INSPIRED WRITERS’ TRUTHFUL RECORD is knowable.
• JUDE (4-23)–God’s ENEMIES are knowable.
• REVELATION (2:10,17)–God’s REWARD is knowable.

This does not begin to exhaust the list of things which the Bible tells us we can know! God has not left us to grope in the dark. Neither has He left it up to us to decide to live however we want to live.

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Death Is No Respecter

Neal Pollard

On the young man’s Facebook page, he made hopeful comments.  He had just graduated High School when he wrote, “Can’t wait to see what’s in store for my future.” Randomly, several weeks later, he gushed, “Some day, I’m going to travel the world.”  The Colorado Mesa University student from Lakewood, Colorado, was 19 years old when he went hiking in Bangs Canyon south of Grand Junction and fell to his death on Saturday.

Obituary columns are supposed to be filled with wrinkled faces and names that sound like our grandparent’s generation. Birth dates should go way back to the early or at least mid-1900s.  We’re just not conditioned to think that death can come to the young.  But if we are careful Bible readers, we realize that there is no guarantee that we reach Moses’ inspired guideline for life expectancy of 70 or 80 (Psa. 90:10).  We listen to James as the Holy Spirit leads him to write, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (4:14).  It does not say that the vapor floats around for a century and a half or more. We do not get to decide how high and long our vapor hangs in the air.

The fact of this uncertainty ought to cause all of us, wherever we are on the time continuum, to take the attitude James urges.  He writes, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that'” (4:15).  Such a statement shows submission under God, humility before God, and obligation to God.  This will help us see each day as a gift from Him and should cause us to use it wisely and productively to accomplish His will.  It should also prompt us not to delay following and submitting our lives to Him.  Instead, it should cause us to not delay becoming a Christian, leaving a lifestyle of sin, or getting actively involved in serving Christ.

Most of us will likely reach a ripe old age.  The law of averages are at play.  But we do not get to choose if we do or do not.  What we can choose is who we serve and when!

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WAITING EIGHTY-SEVEN YEARS FOR A MEDAL

Neal Pollard

Ernest Pusey was the third-oldest person in the world the day he died at age 111 on November 19, 2006. Nine days before, the man who had worked 32 years for General Motors and drawn retirement for 48 years entertained a visit from Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Bush was delivering something a bit overdue to Pusey-the Victory Medal he had earned from fighting in World War I from 1917-1919. He was a sailor in the Navy, charged with patrolling the seas around the British Isles. He went to church each Sunday and was able to walk from a friend’s car into his trailer (he preferred living there to nursing homes). A man extraordinary for longevity and survival, “Ernie” was a true hero remembered by his country on Veteran’s Day if a bit overdue.

Repeatedly, Bible writers speak of our Christian service in military terms. We are like soldiers, not serving at our own expense (1 Cor. 9:7). Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) and Archippus (Phile. 2) are referred to as Paul’s “fellow soldiers.” Paul urges young Timothy to behave properly as a soldier of Christ, telling him to endure hardness and avoid entanglement in the affairs of daily life (2 Tim. 2:3-4). Our Christian soldiering is implied through the imagery of the “whole armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-17. But, when do we receive our “honor” and reward? We may want the world to appreciate and acknowledge our faithful service in our battle for souls, but that will not happen. We may suffer and struggle on the battlefield, stuck in the anonymity and anxiety of the trenches without fanfare or commendation. We will have to wait what seems like a long time before receiving “official recognition” for our tour of duty. Yet, our reward will be imperishable (1 Cor. 9:25) and eternal (1 Thes. 4:17)! Don’t lose heart. God will not forget your service for Him (Heb. 6:10).

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