Neal Pollard

The hope of finding survivors on the cargo ship El Faro has severely dwindled, as one of two lifeboats, severely damaged, has been discovered as well as one body.  While the other lifeboat from the ship, with a capacity for 43 persons, has not been found in the ocean waters off the Bahamas, the 735 foot long ship sent a distress signal Thursday from near the eye of Hurricane Joaquin as it battled 20-30 foot waves.  The Coast Guard is hopeful, but the realistic expectation is that this will soon be a recovery rather than rescue mission (info from and Out of all the frightening ways to face death, being lost at sea has to be near the top.  There’s the foreboding strength of battering waves, the immense, liquid darkness of the deep, the mystery of what lies beneath the surface, the horrific experience of drowning, and the overall helplessness in the face of a fierce overwhelming force.  Since maritime history goes back for millennia, people both ancient and modern have faced the terrors of shipwreck. Dating at least as far back as the ship found off Dokos, Greece, dating back to 2700-2200 B.C. carrying a cargo of pottery (read more at, mankind has experienced the sinking of ships.

No wonder New Testament writers seize on this common situation of life. Luke records (Acts 27:14) and Paul looks back on (2 Cor. 11:25) literal shipwrecks the apostle survived.  How fitting that he is the one who describes those who lose their faith as those who have “suffered shipwreck” (1 Tim. 1:19). Preventing shipwreck, according to Paul, necessitates.

  • A fighting (1:18). Just as crew members must strain at their tasks on deck, despite weathering difficult winds and choppy seas, we cannot be passive and yielding in spiritual storms. Paul warns Ephesus against being “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (4:14).  Faith is vital to equipping one for the spiritual fight.
  • A keeping (1:19). You can imagine someone clinging to ropes and rails or staying at the helm or rudder as they weather the storms of life. But the lifelines to which we must cling in such torrents is faith and a good conscience (see 1:5). Our spiritual constitution and fortitude spell the difference between survival and lostness.
  • A teaching (1:18-20).  Training often spells the difference in surviving out at sea.  Certainly, keeping a cool head and being able to use, when needed, that which has been previously learned is vital!  Paul says as much regarding the survival of spiritual shipwreck.  He mentions an entrusted command (1:18), prophesies (1:18), and being taught (1:20). The best teaching may not help the literal sailor in storm-tossed seas, but heavenly teaching is guaranteed to rescue those so equipped even in the face of the most seemingly insurmountable difficulties of life.

We had the feeling of finality of those lost at sea.  Thankfully, as long as one lives, he or she can be recovered from spiritual shipwreck. But, they must come back from such depths and take hold of God’s life preserver, His Son Jesus Christ! Let us do our part to rescue the perishing, snatching them with pity from sin and the grave (2 Pet. 3:9).

Take Time To Be Holy

Neal Pollard

In 1 Peter 1:13-19, there are three commands that relate to something that must be done regardless of how much time it takes to complete.  They are, “fix your hope completely on grace” (13), “be holy in all your behavior” (15), and “conduct yourselves in fear” (17). There’s a fourth command of this type in verse 22: “Love one another from the heart.” All of these are done as the result of a salvation taught by the prophets and revealed to us. Because we’ve been saved, we should fix our hope on grace, be holy in behavior, conduct ourselves in fear, and love one another from the heart. Considering what God has done for us, we should be eager to do what He tells us to do. At the heart of the discussion, Peter calls for holiness. “Holy” is found 10 times in 1 Peter, but there are synonyms in the book, too (“behavior” or “manner of life”—7 times; “do good” or “right”—13 times).  We want to be holy, do good, and behave, and this letter says a whole lot about how that looks. It’s faithfulness in suffering, distinctiveness in daily living, and keeping heavenly in focus. It’s captured in Peter’s petition (2:11). Our world places more emphasis on happiness than holiness, and if you have to choose one the world says choose happiness. But, God calls us to choose holiness. How do we do that?

  • Look within (13). Moral behavior begins in the heart.  So, he says to keep sober in spirit and fix your hope on grace. These are both heart matters.
  • Look out (14,17). Sanctification and obedience appear together in three different verses in chapter one (2,14,22). Holiness is a matter of obeying the truth. This has a negative aspect (14—“Don’t be conformed”) and a positive aspect (17—“Conduct yourselves in fear”). To be holy, we’ve got to keep our eyes peeled and be vigilant. We’re going to look out for the traps and tricks of this world because we know we’re only strangers here.
  • Look up (15-16). This letter is about our need of God’s help to be holy. There’s a wide gap between our holiness and God’s holiness, and we can never forget that. Peter says to be holy like He is holy.  That is an endless aspiration, a goal we’ll never achieve but must constantly work at.
  • Look ahead (17). God is going to impartially judge according to each one’s work. We should be holy now because we will stand before the Perfect Judge some day.
  • Look back (18-19). I love the way Peter ends the paragraph. It gives us such hope! The way to take time to be holy is to turn around and look back—at our salvation (1:4) and at our Savior (1:2,21). I can’t look at sin in my life and glorify it, rationalize it, defend it, hide it, or minimize it. Peter reminds us why He had to die (2:24-25).

We take the time for what is most important to us—sports, social media, hobbies, work, shopping, and the like. None of that ultimately matters. As we do anything, these or other things, we must make sure that we are holy in heart and conduct. It’s worth the time and will be worth it when there is no longer time.


Neal Pollard

Saving for retirement. Exercising and losing weight. Mending a broken relationship. Daily Bible reading.  Many are the objectives, goals, and needs we all have in this life, but just as many are the excuses we often give for not addressing them.  We fall back on lack of time, how we feel, whose fault it is, and generally why we cannot do what we know we should be doing.  It seems that until we are convicted of our need to do something, we will always find ready excuses.

But, when we are motivated to do something, we will not let anything stop us.  We find the time, muster the will, and channel the discipline necessary to keep plugging away until the objective is achieved.

Living for Christ is the greatest objective there is.  It fulfills the very purpose for our existence. It benefits everyone around us. It is imperative to gaining heaven as home.  It positively influences those closest to us.  But, when it is not our greatest priority, we will come up with a bevy of excuses. These run the gamut from sports activities to work to hypocrites to personal weakness to whatever else may come to mind.  Until we are motivated, we will find excuses.  So, what should motivate us to live for Jesus?

  • His sacrificial love (Gal. 2:20).
  • Fear of judgment and eternal punishment (Mat. 25:31-46).
  • The debt we owe (Rom. 1:14-17).
  • The love we have for Him (2 Cor. 5:14).
  • Our love for our family and others close to us (Ti. 2:3-4; Eph. 5:25).
  • An understanding of our purpose (Phil. 1:21-24).
  • The hope of heaven (John 14:1ff).
  • A sense of obligation to our spiritual family (1 Th. 5:11; Mat. 18:12ff).
  • A desire to do what is right and serve Jesus as our Master (1 Pe. 2:20; Mat. 7:21).

All of these (and more) are excellent motivation for enduring the difficult in order to successfully overcome in this life. They will help us to eliminate every impediment that stands in our way.  As the writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).


Neal Pollard

There was a disappearance and a murder confession.  So, the last thing police expected when they stopped at “Mrs. Schneider’s” apartment in Dusseldorf, Germany, was to find the 1984 murder victim, Petra Pazsitka, talking to them.  Thus began the unraveling of an elaborate plot by Ms. Pazskitka to disappear and reemerge with a new identity.  She was successful for 31 years, living in several West German cities without a passport, driver’s license, and social security card. She supported herself by “living off illicit cash-in-hand work” (via Why did the college student who had just completed her thesis on computer languages leave the grid and go into hiding? So far, there has been no explanation given. Perhaps there will eventually be more details and insight into this bizarre situation, but for now a grief-stricken family can take some measure of comfort in knowing their loved one they thought was dead is alive.

Spiritually, we are surrounded by the living dead.  It is the result of choices they’ve made.  This is even true for some who have abandoned God’s family and reemerged in the world having cast off the privileges and position of that honorable name they took on when they were baptized into Christ.

Paul says, “The mind set on the flesh is death” (Rom. 8:6). He tells Timothy, “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:6). God diagnosed an entire church, Sardis, “having a reputation of being alive” as being dead (Rev. 3:1). Of course, nothing illustrates the point better than Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son.  The younger son was off in the “far country,” and through that lifestyle he reached the point of desperation and despair. He repented and came home, where his father declared “my son was dead and is alive again” (Luke 15:24).

Sometimes, it makes no sense to us why a brother or sister leaves God’s family, abandoning spiritual life, hope, and heaven for spiritual death, hopelessness, and hell.  Yet, we must continue to search for them.  Let us pray that we can find those long since declared dead and encourage them so that we “save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:20). Search for them. Appeal to them. Help them reclaim the blessed identity they had when they had “life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).


Neal Pollard

I’ve known individuals whose sole purpose in the assemblies has seemed to be to critique those who lead the worship or show up to engage in it, from their appearance to their aptitude.  While we certainly need to avoid having someone blatantly engaging in sin and error (that’s an article for a different occasion), if that is one extreme then hypercriticism of the worship and worshipper can be another.  If you or someone you love is tempted to play this deflating part, consider the following.

  • It’s unwarranted.  Who earns the right to be the official analyst of the worship?  How does one properly and fruitfully engage himself and herself in John 4:24 worship while assuming this presumptuous activity?  The Bible nowhere portrays such a one in a positive light.  One critic of another’s worship we do read about is unflatteringly presented and unfavorably analyzed by God in Luke 18:9-14. We should ask why we feel it necessary that we grade and rate others present with us before the Great I Am.
  • It’s unscriptural. This can be the case in many possible ways.  First, if we gossip or speak about someone rather than addressing it with them, that’s wrong (1 Pet. 2:1; Mat. 18:15). Second, if our tone is biting, sarcastic, and unloving, that’s wrong (2 Tim. 2:24; Eph. 4:15).  Third, if in being critical we ourselves are not properly engaged in worship, that’s wrong (John 4:24).
  • It’s unwise. It is so easy to undermine and squander one’s own influence who reduces himself or herself to nitpicking others in the assemblies.  It can cause others to lose respect for us and even seek to avoid us.  This is especially important to remember if, in a close and final analysis, what we criticize does not rise to the level of meriting such criticism.
  • It’s untenable.  The critic is exposed as doing what he or she is condemning others for—i.e., not offering acceptable worship.  It’s somewhat like the child who sees a sibling with eyes open during the prayer and who tattles to mom and dad, who promptly ask, “How do you know?”
  • It’s unwelcome. The chronic complainer, sooner or later, develops a reputation for such.  It causes others to avoid them for fear of the carnage it could create.  The Corinthians were urged to be edifiers in their assemblies (cf. 1 Cor. 14:12,26). The worship critic works against that ever-present need.
  • It’s unbelievable.  How incredible that one would misuse the assemblies to nitpick minutia when the Creator, the Savior, and the Revealer are present and expecting worship from all present!  What a gross misunderstanding of our role as Christians to abuse the time in such a way. In fact, it is utter audacity.

There may be a bit of the critic in all of us.  Certainly, we should be striving to make worship better in every practical way we can. That involves teaching and training. It involves singing songs with words we actually use and understand. It involves probably 1,000 other things, but let’s not get so lost in the pursuit of “improving” that we forget to do what we assembled to do:  worship God!

Lessons From Yogi Berra’s “Yogi-isms”

Neal Pollard

One of the great American personalities of the 20th Century, Yogi Berra, has died. The 90 year old died Tuesday, September 22, in West Caldwell, New Jersey.  In his wake, Berra, a Hall of Fame catcher with the New York Yankees in the 1940s-1960s, left a book full of memorable quotes, such as:

  • “It’s deja vu all over again”
  • “you should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours”
  • “if I can hit it, it’s a good pitch”
  • “when you come to a fork in the road…take it”
  • “you can observe a lot by watching”
  • “it gets late early out here”
  • “a nickel isn’t worth a dime anymore”
  • “if it’s an emergency, it’s usually urgent”
  • “nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded”
  • “never answer an anonymous letter”
  • “pair off in threes”
  • “I really didn’t say everything I said”    (via USA Today and Fox News)

Yogi’s inimitable wit and wisdom will long outlive him.  Those of us who were born after his amazing baseball career more likely remember him for the Yoo-Hoo ads or the Aflac Commercials. However, observers of human behavior can learn a lot from this legendary figure.

—“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). Yogi reminds us of the influence we wield by the very words we speak.  Paul would urge us to let our “speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt” so that we will know how we should answer every man (Col. 4:6).  Daily, people hear our speech. Are we “killing” them or “saving” them?

—Cause people to think.  The longer you mull over a “Yogi-ism,” the more profound it becomes. With the Bible, our source material is unmatched. Whether a preacher or a Bible class teacher or a one-on-one Bible teacher or even as a Christian being light and salt in the world, the “attention getter”—not to ever draw attention to us but to the Lord—is powerfully effective. Jesus caused hardened officers to confess, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46). He had a wisdom and insight we’ll never attain, but we have a message unmatched by even a wordsmith like Berra.

—You will be remembered. Do you remember how the writer of Hebrews memorialized righteous Abel? “…Through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (11:4).  Of course, how we are remembered is etched by the lives we live in these bodies. We will be recompensed for this before Christ one day (2 Cor. 5:10).  We’ll be remembered by the people we leave behind, from the eulogy and obituary to the memories people keep with them of us. We’ll be perfectly remembered by God (cf. Rev. 14:13).

We lost an iconic cultural figure with Yogi Berra’s demise. But people like that continue to leave an impression on us after they are gone. As Christians, may we live so that when we die the impression we leave can influence and positively alter the eternal destiny of those we touch.

Attributing Work To The Holy Spirit

Neal Pollard

Inquiring minds want to know.  How does God work through providence? How does He answer our prayers to strengthen, help, lead, and endow us with wisdom? We are without doubt that God is active, interested, and involved in our lives today. Deism denies this, saying that a Creator set things in motion and then permanently stepped out of the picture on planet earth. Theism affirms His present involvement and interest in the affairs of men today. The dogmatic at either extreme purport to speak for God, absolutely affirming or denying what He does or does not do. There is an area in which we cannot say how God operates or whether it is the Father, Son, or Spirit who is at work simply because it has not been revealed and we are not in a position to observe what is transpiring in the heavenly realm. Moses once said, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).  Moses told Israel that some things aren’t revealed to us, but he also said some things are revealed. We are obligated to observe what is revealed.  We are on dangerous ground when we affirm what Scripture does not reveal.

Scripture does not reveal that the Spirit is involved in our decision-making in a direct way apart from the Word. It does not indicate that He is stirring inside our hearts, influencing us to think, speak, or act in a given way for a given purpose or moment.  He does not give us our words in the miraculous way He did for the apostles, who had no need to prepare or study for a given moment (cf. Matt. 10:19-20).  When we boldly assert such things, we stand without the foundation of revealed truth beneath us and, at best, stand upon dangerous conjecture.

The Spirit’s work in written revelation informs my heart and mind, and it (Scripture) awakens me to appreciate and depend upon the power of God through that word and its promises.  The Bible says we are strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man (Eph. 3:16).  We do not know the full implication of that promise, though we are thrilled by it. What a leap it is to go from acknowledging the Spirit strengthens us to claiming He gives us thoughts, ideas, or direct guidance in addition to His Word.  If we say, “The Spirit led me to take this job” or “The Spirit told me to speak to that person” or “The Spirit told me I’m saved,” we speak from ignorance (i.e., lack of knowledge or information). Kathy once studied with a woman and showed her the multitude of passages proving the essentiality of baptism, but she replied, “But the Spirit told me I’m saved.” We know that it was her own will and desire in her heart that she attributed to God. That is the danger of such reckless assertions. We easily confuse what we desire and prefer with “the will of God” or even “the Spirit’s work.” God repeatedly warns that our hearts can deceive us, that we can credit God for what, in reality, is our will (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; Jer. 10:23).

We do need to study the personality, the work, and the Deity of the Holy Spirit more. It is obvious, hearing and reading after even some brothers and sisters in Christ, that we have neglected studying about Him. Let us handle each other without suspicion, in a spirit of love and kindness and without attacking people and personalities. Let us also always be careful not to “exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), never adding to or taking away from what is revealed (Rev. 22:18-19). Yet, let us be grateful that our great God is interested and involved in our lives, being content to affirm only what Scripture reveals.

Launch Out Into The Deep

Neal Pollard

When Jesus met Peter, it may have seemed like an ordinary day to the Galilean fisherman. Simon Peter and his partners had just spent a long night fishing with no results.  You can imagine they were irritated and frustrated, maybe even feeling sorry for themselves. Then, Jesus commandeered Simon’s boat and used it to teach. This presumably would have been Peter’s first impression of Christ, though we do not know how closely he was paying attention to the Lord.  In Luke 5:4, Jesus stops preaching to the crowd and addresses Peter. He says, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Jesus has ulterior motives, but the command is for Peter to literally cast his nets to try to make a literal catch of fish. Immediately, though, Peter is exposed to something far greater than anything earthly or material. Notice how this account illustrates the call of scripture in which Christ tells us, like Peter to launch out into the deep in faith to do great things for Him.

Launch out into the deep…even if, despite great effort, you have failed in the past (Luke 5:5). Simon explained that he and his associates had struck out overnight. Jesus was telling him not to worry about the past. He tells us the same things today. If you have failed in trying to do right or have succeeded in doing wrong, don’t give up hope. Launch out again!

Launch out into the deep…at the prompting of God’s Word (Luke 5:5). Simon was willing. What a great character trait. He tells Jesus, “Nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” Simon says, “I value and respect your word enough to try again where I failed in the past.” Do we trust God’s promises and revere God’s commands enough to keep trying and biting off big things for the Lord?

Launch out into the deep…and involve others with you (Luke 5:7). Of course, with the Lord’s help, Simon became a success. In fact, the disciple knew immediately that he was not big enough to tackle his opportunities alone. He got his partners involved. In the Lord’s church today, each of us as Christians are partners and associates together with Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-6:1). Launching out into the deep requires involving as many as possible, for the task is so great and too much for one alone.

Launch out into the deep…and astonishing things can happen (Luke 5:9-11). First, the catch of fish is astonishing to them. Then, Jesus’ commissioning of them is astonishing (to turn from fish to men). Finally, their response is astonishing. They get to land, leave their boats and all they have, and follow Jesus. Eventually, they change the entire world! Launch out into the deep.  Who knows what you can do through Christ (cf. Phil. 4:13), but it will be astonishingly amazing.

Obviously, this was about men and not about fish.  Jesus was not interested in making them rich fishermen in Galilee.  He was looking to enrich the people of Galilee and far beyond through these fishermen. All it took was for some men who believed in God’s power to launch out into the deep.


Neal Pollard

When the boys were younger, I would ask them questions about Old Testament characters as part of a quiz.  Included in that were questions about the Minor Prophets.  How well do you know the following without consulting your Bible (or Google)?

  • He wondered why God used a more wicked nation to punish his own nation.
  • He repeatedly talks about “that day” near the end of his book, referring to the day of Christ and the church.
  • He asked, “Will a man rob God?” and said, “God hates divorce.”
  • He wrote to condemn Nineveh and was a prophet of comfort for God’s people.
  • He said, “The just shall live by faith.”
  • He was the Minor Prophet who spoke the most about “the day of the Lord.”
  • His message was, “Rebuild the temple.”
  • He compared his nation to a person who touched an unclean body, who became unclean.
  • His book includes the “Shigionoth.”
  • He said, “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.”
  • He mentioned, “The Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings.”
  • He saw a flying scroll.
  • He was the great-great grandson of Hezekiah.
  • He talked about putting wages in a bag with holes.
  • He talks about a Man whose name is “The BRANCH.”

All of these answers come from either the books of Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, or Malachi.  This weekend will be more than about mere facts and information, though.  The message, principles, and application will enrich your heart and life because it is “a portion” of the Word of God. These prophets write at a significant time in Bible history, and the implications of much of their writing play out in the ministry of Christ and establishment of the church.  I hope you will come and be a part of our lectureship, if you can and for as much as you can. It will be a time of great growth and building up. Send me your answers and I’ll message you back with your “grade.” Happy test-taking!  See you here starting tomorrow night at 7 P.M.


Neal Pollard

Do you want the truth as bad as Jiang Xulian wanted a six-karat diamond from Thailand?  The 30-year-old woman stole the jewel from a jewelry fair in Nonthaburi, swallowed it, and tried to smuggle it out of the country.  CCTV caught the heist and an X-ray in Bangkok revealed the diamond in her large intestine.  Eventually, a surgeon removed the gem, worth $392,000, and Xulian faces three years in prison (read more here).

In successive parables, Jesus compared the search and pursuit of the kingdom of heaven to treasure, the first unspecified valuables and the second pearls (Mat. 13:44-46). David calls the law of the Lord “more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold” (Ps. 19:10; cf. 119:72, 127). Solomon adds his inspired counsel to “buy truth, and do not sell it” (Prov. 23:23).  Repeatedly, the Bible lays out the superiority of spiritual treasure above not only physical treasure but all else (Mat. 6:19-21).

  • Some do not stand in the truth (John 8:44).
  • Some question even the existence of truth (John 18:38).
  • Some suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).
  • Some exchange the truth for a lie (Rom. 1:25).
  • Some do not obey the truth (Rom. 2:8).
  • Some are not straightforward about the truth (Gal. 2:14).
  • Some do not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved (2 Th. 2:10).
  • Some do not believe the truth (2 Th. 2:12).
  • Some are self-deprived of the truth (1 Tim. 6:5).
  • Some have gone astray from the truth (2 Tim. 2:18).
  • Some are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7).
  • Some oppose the truth (2 Tim. 3:8).
  • Some turn their ears away from the truth (2 Tim. 4:4; Ti. 1:14).
  • Some lie against the truth (Jas. 3:14).
  • Some stray from the truth (Jas. 5:19).
  • Some malign the truth (2 Pet. 2:2).
  • Some do not practice the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).
  • Some do not have the truth in them (1 Jn. 1:8; 2:4; etc.).

The point of Scripture is that these are people who not only do not want the truth but are trying to avoid it.  They lack sufficient hunger and desire for the will of God or the rule of God in their lives. It is not something they treasure.

What about us?  Do we want God’s truth so badly that we are willing to sacrifice, pursue, and strive to obtain it? Its value is without comparison! Its reward is beyond comprehension. Let’s encourage each other to be truth-lovers, willing to pay whatever price is necessary to have it.