“To Protect And To Serve”

Neal Pollard

This now famous motto came into the public consciousness as part of a contest run by the Los Angeles Police Department’s internal magazine, BEAT, in 1955. Officer Joseph Dorobek submitted the winning entry with “to protect and to serve.” Nearly 60 years later, it continues to be seen on the side of the department’s patrol cars and serves to “embody the spirit, dedication, and professionalism” of the LAPD’s officers (via joinlapd.com).

With so much animus and distrust of law enforcement in some circles right now, it can be easy to forget their vital role of keeping peace and enforcing the law.  Without them, anarchy and violence would reign, with no one to restrain the lawless from violating and harming those incapable of defending themselves.  While there are unethical, lawless individuals in every profession, many who hear reports against law enforcement never stop to ask whether there is ever bias on the part of the reporters.  Perhaps it is a bias against law, authority, or the perceived power delegated to those wielding a badge.  It is good to remember that God has appointed the governing authorities of each locale (cf. Rom. 13:1ff).

God does not have an official position in His Kingdom for watchdogs or police officers to police the actions of others.  He made us creatures of choice and He allows us to choose good or evil.  While occasionally there are preachers and other members who are self-appointed to such a position, the concept is foreign to Scripture.  However, He did organize the church with elders who protect (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2) and deacons who serve (1 Tim. 3:10,13).  In fact, all members are to be servants of Christ (Gal. 5:13).  Preachers are to preach the word, and when they declare the whole counsel in love (Acts 20:27; Eph. 4:15), they will sometimes convict the hearts of the hearers.  Particularly elders, who are commissioned to protect and serve the flock, deserve our respect and esteem (1 Th. 5:12-13).  Especially is that vital in an age that disdains authority.

It was an honor for me to serve as a reserve police officer in Livingston, Alabama, for a couple of years in the early 1990s.  I was able to see the dedication and sense of honor held by these extraordinary men and women. Let us honor those public servants of God (Rom. 13:6) and those spiritual servants of God (1 Th. 5:13)!

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FURIOUSLY ENRAGED

Neal Pollard

Paul recounted his conversion on several occasions and spoke of his attitude toward  Christianity before embracing it himself.  Of the many ways he described his pre-Christian life, think about what he said in Acts 26:11.  He describes it as being “furiously enraged” at Christians. He ravaged the church (Acts 8:3). He breathed out threats against them (Acts 9:1).  He had the power and desire to punish them (Acts 22:5).  He was a violent aggressor toward Christians (1 Tim. 1:13).   What changed him?

The word of Christ did (Acts 27:14).  Jesus taught that among the conditions of heart is the good and honest one (Luke 8:15). The teaching of Christ can change people’s minds and attitudes.

A changed view of Christ did (Acts 27:15).  Though Scripture does not explicitly tell us his view toward Jesus before his conversion, His vicious reaction to “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 22:4) reveals that he was absolutely opposed to the view of Christ asserted by the disciples, that He is Lord (cf. Acts 2:36).  Yet, on the road to Damascus, encountering Jesus, Paul immediately begins to acknowledge Him as “Lord” (see how Luke emphasizes the Lordship of Christ in Saul’s conversion in the account in Acts 9—1,5,10,11,13,15,17).  A person will have a dramatic attitude adjustment toward Christ who comes to acknowledge and appreciate Him as Lord and Master.

A more profound life’s purpose did it (Acts 27:16-21).  Christ outlines His purpose for Saul—a minister (16), a witness (16), opening people’s eyes (18) as his own were.  Whatever the focus of a person’s life, it is not as meaningful as when Christ is in the center of that focus.

16th-Century Scottish historian, John Knox, wrote, “No one else holds or has held the place in the heart of the world which Jesus holds. Other gods have been as devoutly worshipped; no other man has been so devoutly loved” (Haythum Khalid).  That is true for those who come to take Him as He is presented in the Bible. In the public marketplace where ideas are sold and traded, we will encounter people whose mindset toward Christ and His Way mirrors that of Paul’s before He was converted to Him.  Our task is to live Him in our lives and, if possible, share His Word.  If their heart is good and honest, the Word will change their view of Christ and their view of their life’s purpose.  If that happened so frequently in the unfriendly environment of the Roman Empire of the first-century, it can happen in our current culture!

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PINPOINTING THE PROBLEM

Neal Pollard

Terrorist madmen shoot up a school in Pakistan and kill over 100 people, mostly children.  A politically correct society is close to forbidding biblical teaching on matters that violates its bombastic code.  Pluralism (all religious paths are equally valid) and syncretism (blending two or more religious belief systems into a new system) seem to grow more popular in the religious philosophy of a great many.  An erosion of morality and ethics seems to daily redefine acceptable norms and boundaries so that things not long ago thought outrageous are now not just tolerated but celebrated.  The culture of unbelief and agnosticism spreads while the spirit of humble dependency upon God seems to shrink.  When we pause to consider all of this, our head can spin and we can begin to question how this happened and so quickly.

Paul often writes that we are engaged in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-13; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:12). While we will witness violence, hatred, gross immorality, an anything goes mentality, and the like, lost sinners are not the enemy.  They embrace the thinking and values of the enemy, but Paul says such people are ensnared and held captive by the enemy (1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:26), “caught” (Gal. 6:1), and “subject to slavery” (Heb. 2:15).  New Testament writers pinpoint the source of this enormous problem as:

  • The ruler of this world (John 12:31; 16:11).
  • The god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).
  • The prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2).
  • World forces and spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12).
  • The whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19).

Peter simply calls him our adversary (1 Pet. 5:8).  In the gospel, Jesus often alludes to him as the enemy.  From Christ’s temptations in Matthew 4, we learn that he has been given the power over “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (8).  They are his to dispense and disperse (9).  New Testament writers pinpoint this domain with its unrighteous thinking simply as “the world” (Jas. 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17).  All who submit to living according to the thinking and values of this world are submitting to this ruler, god, prince, force, and evil one. They are pledging allegiance to his way and being guided by his leadership.

We can see the devastating effect this is having on the peace and the practice of the masses.  Yet, we must resist it in our individual lives.  Perhaps Paul said it most concisely when he wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Many of the spiritual problems in our lives can be pinpointed to our following the wrong leader.  May God give us the wisdom and discernment to see through his destructive schemes!

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Implications of God’s Existence

Neal Pollard

“God is.” God is real. God is alive. God is watching. God is in control. All these ideas and an infinite number besides are implicit in the fact of God’s existence. That God is implies other things.

God can work through every event of life among men to accomplish His sovereign purpose (Rom. 8:28).  God, in an amazingly intricate way, weaves together the innumerable actions and occurrences that transpire in daily life on every continent according to His will. He does not make or force anyone to do anything, but He can work through even tragedies caused by men to effect good. The problem comes when one tries to define goodness on his or her terms rather than the transcendent good that is larger than the single person.  Strength in trial, character in tragedy, example in spite of great loss or pain are all transcendent good that can occur even in the reverses we face in our individual lives.

God has not left us alone (Rom. 8:35-39).  Deism suggests that God created it all, then took a Divinely giant step backward forever out of our affairs. Yet, God isn’t aloof and indifferent to man. This was best proven at the cross of Calvary. It is proven in the perfect Word He has left to guide us. It is proven through the strength derived from prayer. It is proven by the fellowship and companionship provided through the church He eternally purposed (cf. Eph. 3:9-11).

God holds us accountable (Rom. 14:12). What a privilege to be counted as part of the human race, made in the likeness of God (Jas. 3:9), and to be recipients of countless blessings! So “…from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12:48). Especially is this true in relationship to God. He has given us life, an everlasting spirit, material and spiritual blessings in abundance, talent, time, and opportunity. For all of these resources, we shall give an account for our stewardship of them.

Only a fool would deny what is so clearly seen (Ps. 14:1; 53:1; Heb. 11:3). Since God is, we must respond appropriately. We should do so both from gratitude and a sober realization that His existence requires our proper response.

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WHAT ABOUT ME? (POEM)

Neal Pollard

My sister is taking a meal to the sick
My brother has gone a wayward one to see
They both were busy, no “convenient” time to pick
But what about me?

They invite their neighbors to come to church
Have over people with frequency and glee
For good deeds they seem to constantly search
But what about me?

He’s a leader of others, she’s winsome and sweet,
He’s teaching the class, she’s full of hospitality,
They’re meeting the visitors, their lunch they will treat,
But what about me?

My life’s not more complicated, my resources so few,
That some little something I just cannot do
God wants me to warm so much more than my pew,
Others are active, and I can be too.

I don’t have to do some dramatic, huge act,
But with little needs every life’s brimming and packed,
If I could be impressed with just one simple fact,
I can supply something where once it had lacked.

I’ll look at life differently today, as I can,
Will spring to my feet after bowing my knee,
When asked, “Who’ll help this child or woman or man?”
I’ll say, “What about me?”

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A VISIT TO A TEEN’S RELIGIOUS WORLD

Neal Pollard

I love the World War II generation and the enormous impact they have had on our nation!  Perhaps no generation has had a greater challenge since them than the one presently coming to maturity.  Last night, at Teens In The Word, we asked the teens to describe the religious philosophy of their peers as they interact with them at school, their jobs, and their extracurricular activities.  It was heartening to see and hear our teens’ conviction, knowledge, and heart, but disheartening to discuss the fruit of a couple of generations of our culture’s social experiment to reprogram the thinking of people, especially this burgeoning generation.

Our teens attend schools in Douglas, Jefferson, and Denver Counties, go to large High Schools, charter schools, private schools, and homeschools. Despite these diversities, what they encounter is remarkably similar.  It might surprise you that many of their peers believe in a Higher Power and would consider themselves spiritual. More than anywhere else, these peers attend community churches.  Whatever the church growth gurus and experts claim, the teens that go to these churches tell our teens something very different.  Their religious experience is heavily dependent upon entertainment, doing fun things with a party atmosphere, not motivated or influenced by much biblical teaching, segregated from adults, hard-rocking music, dancing, and overall a very tactile experience.  What impact does it have on “faith”?  If speaking in terms of growing closer to God and learning more about Him, not that much. The prevailing worldview of many of our teens’ friends is “what’s right for me may not be right for you,” that God and the devil, heaven and hell are mindsets more than realities (really just your conscience inside of you), and that essentially the only or worst sins, the “objective wrongs,” are offending others and judging others.  When our teens seek to assert objective truth from scripture, they sometimes encounter scorn or rejection. While our teens know a varying degree of peers whose faith and beliefs are more concrete and committed, perhaps the most frequently observed comment last night was that many of their peers “believe in God but not the Bible or Christ.”  They see the Bible as a book of myths or fairytales and not the revealer of truth or a standard of authority.

As we closed our class last night, I was left awestruck.  Our teens are among my most cherished heroes.  They are on the frontline of faith, battling in a world more opposed to truth than that of any generation now living which preceded them.  We were struck with more than admiration, though.  We felt determination, the need to redouble our efforts to establish and defend the trustworthiness and integrity of the Bible, the existence of God, and from that the authoritative nature of Scripture.  Not only will this bolster the faith of our teens, but it will help them in dialoging with those among their peers possessing good and honest hearts (cf. Lk. 8:15).

Here are four things you can do right now for our teens.  (1) Pray for them. (2) Live Christ without hypocrisy before them. (3) Actively encourage them. (4) Help equip them.  Look for heroes where you will.  I have found mine!

Our teens recently feeding the homeless (photo credit: Lexi Hoagland)

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BRAVE MEN IN BELLEAU WOOD

Neal Pollard

In March, 2006, I spent nearly an hour walking in Belleau Wood, a 200 acre tract behind the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery about 50 miles east of Paris, France, accompanied by Kathy as well as the preacher for the Eglise du Christ in Paris, Roland Mohsen. Seeing the World War I cemetery, chapel, and memorial was exciting for me, given not just my love for history but my special interest in “The Great War.”  It was in those woods that the U.S. Marines made their first big impression on the whole world.  At a 1923 ceremony for an American battle monument there at Belleau Wood, the Army General who led the Marines in the decisive battle against the Germans, James G. Harbord, said this:  “”Now and then, a veteran … will come here to live again the brave days of that distant June. Here will be raised the altars of patriotism; here will be renewed the vows of sacrifice and consecration to country. Hither will come our countrymen in hours of depression, and even of failure, and take new courage from this shrine of great deeds” (Kozaryn, Linda. “Marines’ First Crucible: Belleau Wood.” 6/18/98. Armed Forces Press Service).

The Marines won a hard-fought victory, at great price requiring such persistence. The memorial erected on that ground has been an inspiration for countless soldiers as well as those from many nations who have stood at that spot.  Now, almost 100 years after the battle, memories have faded and fewer go to that spot for inspiration despite the predictions of General Harbond.

For the last several days, I’ve been mentally devouring the sermonic masterpieces of men like V.P. Black, Franklin Camp, Roy Lanier, Bobby Duncan, Wendell Winkler, and others at a great audio site called preachersvault.com. Most of the men on that site have transitioned from time to eternity.  My heroes have always been preachers, and I appreciate the depth of understanding and motivational value found in listening.  I recall the incredible blessing of attending the 1988 Faulkner University Lectureship, where brother Winkler invited men who at that time were 65 years old and older.  Only 18 years old, I sat with my dad, who was also in attendance, to hear Camp, Black, Hugo McCord, Winfred Clark, Rex Turner, Sr., Bob Hare, Leroy Brownlow, George DeHoff, Basil Overton, and many others.  Over a quarter-century later, I still revel in the memories of those lessons.

Military memorials may begin to fade with time, but the value of good Bible teaching only grows with the passage of time.  There is great reward in taking the time to sit at the feet of seasoned students of Scripture, drawing from their deep wells of knowledge.  These opportunities are not just relegated to days gone by and various media selections.  Try prepared, studied Bible class teachers, guest speakers, and local preachers. Those of us in those positions need to be challenged to go deeper and make truth live more powerfully.  Those of us who hear need to value this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7).  Won’t you reserve a few spots in your heart for heroes whose weapon is the sword of the Spirit?

(L-R): Kathy Pollard, Gary Pollard III, Wendell Winkler, Betty Winkler, Shellie Holder, Clay Holder, and Jacob Holder (1994, Livingston, Alabama)

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“What’s Wrong With The Church…”

Neal Pollard

The blogosphere is getting pretty rife with posts about how the church is inept in method or impure in motive on just about everything, from good works to evangelism to preaching to leadership to cultural relevance. It appears that we (the church) have a skewed perspective of the past, we are doing practically nothing now (at least nothing right), and we have a doomed future.  We have no clue how to reach millennials or keep converts (not that anyone’s winning anyone).  We’re losing our young people. We’re full of hypocrites. We have no vision or it’s the wrong vision.  We’re at once too legalistic while too soft on sin and uncommitted in discipleship.

Do such posts draw an elevated number of hits or similar attention?  Do they gratuitously spark or provoke strong emotions from readers?  Do they make good tabloid journalism?

The church faces enormous challenges that require greater service, dedication, faithfulness, and sacrifice.  Being full of sinners, we’re imperfect and have plenty of room for improvement.  I guess my question is what the objective of this “Negative Nelly” approach is.  To better motivate and encourage growth? Or is it to beat down, create guilt, or demonstrate some sort of superiority by the “pundit”? Is it a spiritual approach or does it look more like the world than we might like to admit? May we never be like the ostrich, head buried in the sand and ignorant of reality around us.  Yet, as Christians, may we exemplify a joy and positivity borne of following Jesus.

Because of sin, things have always been bleak–including when He walked the earth.  Yet, rather than lament a falling sky, He came to make a positive difference in this world.  His followers’ writings were rich with words like “hope,” “grace,” “heaven,” “faith,” “unity,” “forgiveness,” and “peace.”

What if we made more suggestions and used less sarcasm? What if we concentrated more on our own example and less on everyone else’s errors? What if we balanced our hand-wringing about what’s wrong with the church with hand-raising about what’s right with it? What if?

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GOOD NEWS FOR YOUR BLUES (poem)

Neal Pollard

If your life is feeling fallow, your ambition sadly shallow,
Turn your eyes upon another, help a sister or a brother,
To their feet.
It doesn’t need to be dramatic, full of noise and other static,
Just a word or even smile, can lift their day a little while,
And make it sweet.
When your gaze is outward trained, that’s when blessings’ surely gained,
Your cup is fuller when you share, take the time to prove you care,
You will receive.
God has made life just that way, you gain so much when you give away,
Your treasure, toil, and precious time, service makes life so sublime,
This you’ll believe.
Before you know it you’ll have found, your trouble has turned all around,
Joy will be where there was hurt, fulfillment will spring, love will spurt,
From your glad heart.
Start today and try this out, learn what contentment’s all about,
Find someone to serve and serve them, life will be less drab and dim,
Just make a start.

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THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE

Neal Pollard

The immigration issue I want to bring to your attention is not one you’ll read about in the news.  I doubt they’d have any interest in covering it.  It has been articulated in this way: “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).  He also speaks of this as “the time of your stay on earth” (1 Pet. 1:17).  But the dilemma existed before the first century church was established.  Old Testament heroes of faith “confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).

One of the hardest things for us to do is to live with conviction the idea that “this world is not our home, we’re just passing through.”  As Jesus prayed for us and all His followers, He even touches on the inevitability that we must be here on this earth (John 17:15), but it is so easy for us to forget our status.  Too often, we become naturalized citizens of this world by virtue of our conforming to its values, worldview, philosophy, and goals.  When that happens, we may gain its wholehearted acceptance but we renounce our heavenly citizenship in the process.

The issue for us is how to be in the world but not of it.  Paul familiarized himself with the culture, icons, and activities of his time, and he used that information to reach people in that culture with the saving message of Christ.  It was a means to an end, not the end itself.  For us, achieving that balance can be difficult.  As we become informed and interested in sports, politics, entertainment, and various media, does it become so much a part of us that it distracts us and replaces our longing for the Father’s will (Luke 22:42) and the Father’s house (John 14:1-4)?  In a materialistic culture like ours, we can become so enamored with earthly treasure that we fail or cease laying up treasure where we should be (Mat. 6:19-21).

Let’s encourage each other as fellow aliens and exiles to understand what Paul said, that “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).  We must set our mind on things above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:2).  That is the issue for us.

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