“CONTRADICT: THEY CAN’T ALL BE TRUE”

Neal Pollard

Kathy just called me and told me she saw this bumper sticker on a truck as she fought traffic on Wadsworth Boulevard.  How clever!  It uses the same religions that the infamous “Coexist” bumper sticker uses, including Hinduism, Daoism, Shintoism, Unitarian Universalism, Satanism, Atheism, Islamism, and Judaism. There is a website where these bumperstickers can be purchased (http://www.contradictmovement.org; warning: I do not endorse everything on this web site, whether message or method).

The “Coexist” campaign is meant to promote pluralism,  a theory or system that recognizes more than one ultimate principle. The very idea is contradictory.  The Koran says, “And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers” (3.85).  Shintoism says that humans become gods (kamis) after death, and they do not believe in absolute right and wrong with the soul losing individual identity and becoming part of one great guardian spirit (Japan-Guide.com; litesofheaven.com).  Atheism believes, since there is no God, that there is no judgment and no accountability to a higher power. Taking any number of tenets about conduct, salvation, our nature, deity, afterlife, and the like, one sees inescapable and frequent contradiction between these faiths and philosophies.  Yet, even without all of this, there is the exclusive truth claim of Christianity in Scripture.  The “Contradict” bumper sticker has a passage that says much.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).  Jesus speaks of an exclusive way, calling it “the” way and saying there is “no other” way.

The “Coexist” mentality is founded, for some, upon a noble enough desire, the desire for peace and harmony.  Yet, it seeks the wrong way to peace and harmony, letting mankind devise their own way for this to exist. We do not have that prerogative.  The Bible reveals God, the Creator, in a specific way, revealing His nature, His will, and His expectations.  With that, there is human accountability and an expectation that people will follow that way or suffer the consequences of disobedience.  Conflicting, opposing positions contradict one another, and they cannot all be true!

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How To Make Others Friendlier

Neal Pollard

I am exasperated at how unfriendly the people at church are. They never speak to me.  When they do speak, I feel as though I am simply being tolerated. I do not feel a part of their “crowd.” It is so unfair! Yet, I have the answers for me and any other poor soul who has encountered such unfriendliness when at the assemblies.

I AM GOING TO MAKE EVERYONE CONVERSE WITH ME.  I’ll strike up conversations with everyone at church, including those I hardly even know. To make it better, I am going to find out what interests them so I’ll have plenty to say and hear with the. I’m not going to give them the chance to not speak to me. I will eagerly listen to what they say, and they will think they’ve never met someone so sincerely interested!

I AM GOING TO WEAR A BIG SMILE. I am going to develop a personality so magnetic that no one can resist getting to know me better. My grin will be like an open invitation to visitors and members alike. I bet they’ll wonder what’s gotten into me, that I’m so happy. They’ll be eager to be a part of what makes me so cheerful!

I AM GOING TO DO UNSOLICITED ACTS OF KINDNESS. I’ll send them notes of cheer, cards of sympathy, and letters of encouragement. I’ll visit their sick family members and neighbors. They won’t know what hit them. I’ll pray for those folks down at church…by name…every night!

I AM GOING TO STAY AROUND LONGER AFTER THE LAST “AMEN.” I’ll hang around the auditorium, get to the foyer early enough to catch the early departures, talk to the elderly, the small children, and the visitors. I bet they’ll mistake me for a deacon or an usher.

I AM GOING TO STUDY EVERY PASSAGE ON KINDNESS AND FRIENDLINESS I CAN FIND. I’ll memorize, ” Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). I will model Colossians 3:12: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” I’ll carry a plaque with me that reads, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). I am going to memorize the beatitudes (Mat. 5:3-12), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), and the Christian graces (2 Pet. 1:5-7).  I can’t kill them with kindness unless I’ve got my guns loaded.

Now I’m ready! Those unfriendly folks at church don’t stand a chance. I’ll melt every cold stare. I’ll dodge every harsh word. I’ll reflect every criticism with the shield of warmth. I’ll be so friendly…hmmmmm…maybe that was a part of the problem anyway. If were friendlier….

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“Not Yet, Not Yet”

Neal Pollard

American born painter, James Whistler, was as controversial as he was competent.  The artist best known for Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (or, Whistler’s Mother), the famous painting depicting an aging woman in side profile wearing a bonnet, was as known for his arrogance and egotism (Peters, Lisa N. James McNeill Whistler. Smithmark: New York, 1996. p. 4).  On one occasion, Whistler was told that a shipment of blank canvasses he had ordered was lost in the mail.  He was asked if they were of any value and he replied, “Not yet, not yet” (Today In the Word, 12/3/92).

We are born into this world innocent and with endless potential.  Some are born with many more advantages and opportunities than others.  All of us who live to maturity leave this life, whatever we achieve, stained by sin having disappointed or transgressed against others.  Yet, of what value will we be to those we meet?  What to our families, our friends, the church, and the world?  It depends upon what we allow God to do with our lives.  He can take the most mundane, ordinary material and work a masterpiece through it.  If we allow Him to work on the canvas of our lives, we will become infinitely better parents, spouses, and Christians.  But, how can we become masterpieces in the hands of the Master?

  • Keep your heart soft (Eph. 4:32).
  • Have hands that are willing (Neh. 2:18).
  • Have feet that are ready (Eph. 6:15).
  • Maintain an open mind (1 Chr. 28:9).
  • Turn your face toward Him (cf. Job 22:26).
  • Strengthen your back (cf. Nah. 2:1).

Such is the possibility for everyone who submits themselves a blank canvas to be worked upon by the Master Artist.  He is not arrogant.  He is perfect.  It is not a boast for Him to declare His ability to transform the dullness of our lives into the brilliance produced by the influence of His Word and will!  You are not yet what you could be.  When all is said and done, will you have been what you could be?  The decision is made if you let Christ work upon you.

Whistler’s Mother (1871)

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Giving Away Your Wedding Ring

Neal Pollard

Brooklin Yazzle, a Mesa, Arizona, wife and mother, apparently handed out her wedding ring with the Halloween candy last week.  She had taken off her ring and put it in a candy jar to help her children carve pumpkins.  Later, things got hectic and she absentmindedly dumped her ring along with the candy into a candy bag to give to children.  Complicating things, among her treats were plastic rings.  She has made an appeal through the news to get it back, stating that while it isn’t worth much monetarily it has great sentimental value (FOX News).

Many of us can relate to such a mindless blunder.  To my everlasting chagrin, I lost my wife’s High School class ring back while we were dating (she married me anyway!).  It is not uncommon for a person to remove their wedding ring to work or play, but removing it in such cases is to protect it from harm or loss.

The American Community Survey and the Daily Beast collaborated to provide a list of the “Divorce Capitals of the U.S.”  The ignominious top ten list, from “top” to bottom, is: (1) Panama City, FL, (2) Sierra Vista, AZ, (3) Charleston, WV, (4) Medford, OR, (5) Reno, NV, (6) Deltona, FL, (7) Pueblo, CO, (8) Palm Bay, FL, (9) Jacksonville, FL, and (10) Grand Junction, CO. In six states, the divorce rate is between 12.64-14.35% per 1,000 people, age 15 and older (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, and Oklahoma). Yet, the best of states still average 6.05-7.65% (Ashley Reich, The Huffington Post, 11/4/13).

This survey is but an example of a trend that is only tempered by a falling marriage rate, as more and more couples are living together without the sanctity of marriage. It shows that the dissolution of marriage is not confined to one area of the country, or more like in a “Red” or “Blue” state.  Are there steps we can take to keep our wedding rings?

  • Spend time together.
  • Have shared interests.
  • Focus on pleasing your spouse more than being pleased by him/her.
  • Make marriage a priority, not an afterthought or a “no thought.”
  • Make spiritual investments together (devotions, prayer, serving, etc.).
  • Spend time with couples whose marriages are healthy and happy.
  • Practice hospitality together.
  • Keep romance alive.
  • Keep Christ King of your home.
  • Avoid pettiness.

This list is not exhaustive, but it already gives all of us areas to work on and improve in.  We should remember God’s feelings, who said, “I hate divorce” (Mal. 2:16). Let’s hold on to our wedding rings!

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The “Moral Compass” Of The Modern Culture

Neal Pollard

If a nation or people will move back toward the Bible, it must overcome three philosophical barriers.  I mentioned these in an earlier blog (http://preacherpollard.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/why-ridgedale-church-of-christ-is-getting-slammed/).  Here are the three barriers:

  • The Cultural Sickness Of Subjectivity.  Subjectivism, in its final form, makes the individual “god” and their views supreme. Thoughts and feelings trump a rational look at an individual matter, and even searching for an objective viewpoint is disdained.
  • Society’s Warped View Of Tolerance.  Rather than “hate the sin, love the sinner,” the mantra is “there is no sin and no sinner.”  Though everyone has a line in the sand somewhere, no one wants anyone putting their behaviors on the other side of the line.
  • The Average Person’s Ignorance Of The Bible.  Of course, we are getting past the point where the average person believes the Bible or has a favorable view of it.  The fruit of the seeds of biblical illiteracy is more than immorality.  It includes prejudice against the Bible and contempt for those who seek to upheld it in most any forum.

Certainly, those professing to follow the Bible and its guidelines have hurt their own cause through ungodly attitudes, hypocrisy, isolation, and prejudices of their own.  Christians must be willing to make the first (and even second and third) steps (cf. Mat. 5:41).  We must model biblical teaching with righteous lives (Mat. 5:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:9).  We cannot expect the world to act Christlike, but we must expect that Christians will not be worldly.  We can effect the change we want to see, and, in time, align the culture’s moral compass with the Creator’s.

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Why Don’t YOU “Stop The Violence”?

Neal Pollard

To borrow the words of our own Mike Bennett, “Excuse me?”  An AP story published this morning is so thick with irony it is palpable!  Two people were arrested and put in jail on Tuesday in Washington, Pennsylvania.  They were two community organizers “with a local Stop the Violence group” and they “severely beat a former roommate with whom they had a property dispute” (via FoxNews.com).  They “allegedly jumped the man as he was walking down the street on Tuesday. Police say the defendants kicked the victim as he was unconscious…” causing injuries too gruesome for me to describe here.  The female defendant “was still wearing the same ‘Stop the Violence’ T-shirt that she had on the night before when she led a march in the city protesting two recent shootings” (ibid.).  “The victim remains in critical condition” (ibid.).

Could there be a clearer example of hypocrisy from the world?  We have seen or heard of the environmentalist driving the gas-guzzling SUV and the televangelist having an adulterous affair, but the peace protestor beating up somebody?  That’s very unattractive!

It is also a reminder to us as Christians about practicing “true religion…unstained by the world” (Jas. 1:27).  Not only are we ineffective, we are counterproductive when we claim to wear the name of Christ and then defame it by our words and deeds.  What about mouths praising God in worship on Sunday profaning man at work on Monday?  What about hands shaking hands or embracing fellow Christians one day then typing in ungodly websites or texting someone not our spouse in sexually suggestive ways the next?  What about words of kindness to each other when we meet followed up by slandering speech about each other or those in the world when we are away from the assemblies?

The Bible warns against hypocrisy, saying “beware of it” (Luke 12:1), “let love be without it” (Rom. 12:9), “don’t be carried away by it” (Gal. 2:13), “eliminate it” (Jas. 3:17), and “put it aside” (1 Pet. 2:1).  It’s easy to see why.  Few things are more repelling and disgusting than to witness hypocrisy.  Let us consider that as we conduct our own lives before the watchful eyes of the world!

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“The People…In The Wilderness”

Neal Pollard

Shortly before Joab turns the tide of Absalom’s rebellion by killing him, David, the rebel’s father, had reached a low ebb in his reign.  David and his faithful followers had been on the run from Absalom for some time, hiding and trying to escape rout and death. Worry was a regular exercise for David during this time (2 Sam. 15:14), as was weeping (2 Sam. 15:30) and weariness (2 Sam. 16:14).  Just before the fateful day of his son’s death, David and his loyal followers fled for their lives and survived thanks to the crafty counsel of Hushai.  The state of the people, at this point, is described in 1 Samuel 17:29: “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.”  They were at the end of their rope, worn and frazzled by their very real problems.

Have you wrestled with worry, weeping, and weariness lately?  Can you relate?  Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed and overmatched by things going on in your life.  As we read this account, there are several reasons to hope.

THEY WERE NOT ALONE.  2 Samuel 17:22 notes that it was “David and all the people who were with him” who arose and crossed the Jordan to go to Mahanaim.  Each struggled, anxious and uncertain, but how comforting that they were able to go together.  The Christian should never have to go it alone.  There are those around us who to help bear our burdens (Gal. 6:2).  From the beginning of the church, this has been the case.  Acts 2:44 says, “All who had believed were together.”  While each of us may be struggling with individual problems, struggling is part of the human condition (Job 14:1).  In God’s wisdom, He has made the church a place where we can help and support each other (1 Th. 5:11).

THEY WERE BENEFICIARIES OF KINDNESS. What happens when they get to Mahanaim? Shobi, Machir, and Barzillai are waiting for them.  That had to be encouraging by itself.  But look what they had with them—“beds, basins, pottery, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans, lentils, parched seeds, honey, curds, sheep, and cheese of the herd” (28-29a).  Those three men saw their brethren were suffering, hurting, and needy.  So what did they do?  I have seen this in the church more times than I can remember.  A brother or sister was in financial, emotional, or spiritual need, and their brethren showered them with kindness and love. So many of God’s people take to heart Paul’s exhortation, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted…” (Eph. 4:32a).  See 1 Corinthians 13:4, Colossians 3:12-15, and 1 Peter 3:8, and you see the heart of so many of our fellow-Christians.  How helpful when we are in the wilderness!

THEY WERE SOON VICTORIOUS.  David draws up a battle plan in 2 Samuel 18:1, and before long the threat was quelled. There were still plenty of challenges that lay directly ahead, but they had doubtless learned a valuable lesson in the wilderness. Their victory did not mean that they were exempt from further problems, but they had experienced God’s deliverance. What a powerful lesson for us!  Yes, we will continue to struggle so long as we are pilgrims on this earth (cf. 1 Pet. 2:11), but there is a victorious “day of visitation” on the horizon (1 Pet. 2:12).

Are you “in the wilderness”?  Hang in there!  Focus on the people God has put in your life, be attuned to their kindness and encouragement, and remember the great victory God has promised you.

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Why These Are Exciting Times

Neal Pollard

I am filled with a tremendous sense of optimism that is not generated by politics, current events, the media, the economy, or any other worldly thing.  Neither am I fueled by some Pollyanna spirit.  Yet, I cannot shake this swelling tide of hope that fills me on a daily basis.  It is a hope for what the church and its members can be in the face of the growing challenges we face in this culture and around the world.  Why are these such exciting times?

The darkness is allowing the light to shine brighter!  Sadly, moral, ethic, philosophical, and civil behavior is eroding.  The messages being sent by those in power and authority are increasing anti-biblical.  Those who have lived for any length of time have witnessed a pretty dramatic shift in thinking and behavior.  This is reflected in so many things from language on the job and on “the street” to what is allowed and promulgated in TV and movies to the blatant lifestyle choices of the rank and file.  What all this means is that as Christians we can, by leading “a quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Ti. 2:2; cf. 1 Th. 4:11), shine the light of Christ (cf. Mat. 5:14-16).  As we share Christ with those in our circle of influence, we can countermand the marching orders of the “world forces of this darkness” (Eph. 6:12).  That, brothers and sisters, is exciting!

People are earnestly searching! I read with interest the studies about exiting millennials, new world orders (not just conspiracy theories, but fundamental shifts in worldviews), spirituality over organized religion, and the like. For all of that, down where we live day by day on our jobs, at school, in our neighborhoods, and our community and civic activities, people are longing for meaning and purpose in their lives.  Yes, they can be confused and misguided.  Yes, they have broken and messed up lives.  Yes, this produces a great challenge to churches as we are intentional and outwardly focused.  But, we have not seen a day in any of our lifetimes where biblical ignorance and, thus, directionlessness has been greater.  Remember what Jeremiah said: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (10:23).  There are many who would say with the Ethiopian nobleman, “How can I (understand, NP), unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31).

The church is ripe for revival! It seems that the tale most churches with whom I have contact tell boils down to larger numbers, greater involvement, and younger members occurred in the past! Thus, panic, pessimism, and perplexity lace the private conversations and public addresses of the pulpits, the pastors, and the pews. Perhaps it is time for congregations to consider moving from the defensive to the offensive. I don’t know that individual Christians have ever been more impressed with the dire urgency of evangelizing than right now. I believe the conviction and dedication of our Christian soldiers is palpable.  With bolder leadership, concerted efforts, and a faith-filled plan of action, I believe the church as a whole is poised for growth.  This will require a change of priority, focus, and commitment, but I believe that we are more than ready for it.  We are eager for it!

But, time is short!  Paul is right.  “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12).  If ever the mantra, carpe diem, has applied, it is right now!  May our anthem become, “Rise up, O men of God!”

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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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