“Let’s Go Throw Rocks At The Campbellite Preacher!”

Neal Pollard

That one statement was what introduced my great grandfather to the gospel and is a big reason why my mom was raised in the church and why I was, too.  A “Campbellite preacher” (so named because of Alexander Campbell, a leading figure of the 19th Century who pleaded with people to throw off the division of denominationalism and restore simple New Testament Christianity) was in their Mississippi community, preaching at the local school house.  Several teenage boys, including my then 19-year-old great-grandfather, conspired together to stand outside and throw rocks at the preacher.  The big talk apparently came to nothing harmful, but standing out there my grandfather was convicted by the preaching.  As the result, he studied more deeply and carefully the Scriptures and found that the denomination he was a part of did not teach the same plan of salvation he read in the New Testament.

Plain, New Testament teaching and preaching, which faithfully and accurately handles the Scripture, has a profound effect on an honest heart.  One who is already persuaded that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, who is convicted that it was faithfully transmitted through time, can see from gospel preaching what God’s will is for “matters of life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).  Such allow the powerful Word to operate skillfully upon their hearts, being persuaded of its penetrating truths (Heb. 4:12).  Even one who may start out angry at the messenger but who is “fair-minded” (cf. Acts 17:11) will “receive the word with all readiness, and [search] the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things [are] so.”  Such an unprejudiced, open-minded attitude will serve such individuals well not only in learning how to become a Christian, but also in how to live the Christian life.  We must keep an honest and good heart if we will be the “good soil” Jesus praises in His parable of the soils (Luke 8:15).

Whatever your age, position in life, race, education level, or physical address, are you teachable? Do you receive the word in humility (Jas. 1:21)?  James says that your soul’s salvation is ultimately at stake.  Whether it regards becoming a Christian or living the Christian life, keep an open and tender heart!  You’ll be eternally grateful that you did.  So may many of your descendants!

How Much Will It Take To Make You Happy?

Neal Pollard

Well, according to a London survey, it takes–for the average person–about 1.5 million dollars to make one happy.  One NBC analyst says that by knowing you make more than the Joneses next door, you are likely to be quite happy.  As usual, we give our thanks to the experts.

Are they better informed than the Lord and the inspired writers? Jesus taught, “Beware, and be on guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Your life does not consist of your possessions. Jesus warns us to ward off such thinking and the selfish, covetous behavior it spawns. He is saying, “You cannot measure who you are and what you are about by checking your bank balance.”

King David says, “Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked” (Psalm 37:16). One might conclude from this that one, financially modest Christian is wealthier than all the worldly, howbeit financially richer neighbors. That runs contrary to NBC’s money guru, doesn’t it? What could be “better” than being financially set? Solomon says “the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 15:16).   He says “righteousness” is better (Prov. 16:8; i.e., upright character and moral living). He says “peace and quiet” are better (Prov. 17:1). He says “integrity” is better (Prov. 19:1). He says “love is” better (Song 4:10).

Heavenly standards are superior to those of earth’s sagest experts. Jesus identifies an extremely poor widow as one having more (in the ways that count to heaven) than the wealthiest citizens of Jerusalem in her day (cf. Mark 12:42-44). The world has its values turned upside down, and it seeks to sway the Christian’s thinking on the matter, too. Believe this.  Having more than your neighbor will not bring you lasting happiness, in and of itself. Seeing $1.5 million or more on your bank statement will not supply you the peace that passes understanding.  Don’t trust me. What do I know? Believe the Lord!

 

 

 

If The Bible Is God’s Word…

Neal Pollard

  • It answers the biggest mysteries of this life that so baffle humanity.
  • It reveals the plan of the Creator of everything.
  • We are accountable to it.
  • It tells us where we are going.
  • It will give us a guide we can have confidence in as we head to the future.
  • We cannot refuse to follow it.
  • We should share it with as many people as we possibly can.
  • It is not on a par with other books; it is superior to all of them.
  • He disapproves of religious division.
  • There is a right way to worship Him.
  • We can know the truth.
  • We discover some great, precious and exciting truths and promises.
  • The New Testament church is eternally important.
  • We should read and study it faithfully.

Investigate the Bible and explore its origin and the book as it is today.  God’s Word is not afraid of investigation.  It has been more scrutinized than any other book ever written, and it still stands.  It is a foundation we can confidently build our lives upon.  It is a guide that can safely lead us now and forever.  Have you been in the book of books today?

Even When You’re Alone, You’re Not

Neal Pollard

If I have a favorite chapter of the Bible, it would have to be 2 Timothy 4.  Yes, I love the first eight verses, but that alone is not what cinches this chapter as dearest to me.  It’s Paul’s personal remarks starting in verse nine.  There’s his longing to see his spiritual son, Timothy.  Twice he implores Timothy to come see him (9, 21).  He’s in prison, persecuted for preaching the Prince of Peace. He longs for Christian companionship.  Then, he shares his dejection over the abandonment of certain fellow-workers (10). He wants to see cohorts with whom he has done spiritual battle (11). He has personal needs and wants (13). He warns Timothy of a spiritual troublemaker (14-15).  Then, he shares personal feelings of isolation and loneliness, a time when he needed a Christian brother by his side but had none (16).  Bold, risk-taking Paul, who would stand up to any opposition, the epitome of true manliness, was now in undoubtedly dire, dank conditions, the smell of squalor in the air.  Whatever he saw, heard, and felt as he wrote, Paul scratched out these words: “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.  But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (16-18).  These words aren’t the end of the letter, but they are the end of the matter!

This faithful Christian was deserted by men, but he felt God’s presence and power:

  • The Lord stood with him.
  • The Lord strengthened him.
  • The Lord spoke through him.
  • The Lord saved him.
  • The Lord was steering him.

You and I cannot fathom the price Paul paid for proclaiming Jesus. But even if we were ever to face privation, punishment and pain for our faith, what was true for this apostle will be true of us.  He promised to be with us always (Mat. 28:20) and never forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Even if you ever feel physically alone, you will have the spiritual assistance Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 4.  Through it all, you can say with Paul, “To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen!”

What Do We Make Of God’s Second Chances?

Neal Pollard

We were living in Cairo, Georgia, and I was in the third grade. It was during a game of kickball on the playground and I was the “pitcher.”  A kid kicked it hard and I caught it.  As the ball hit me in the gut, I felt a sharp pain.  Something wasn’t right.  My parents took me that week to see the local doctor.  He thought it might be a hernia. Exploratory surgery in Thomasville instead revealed a tumor on my liver.  My parents and I flew to Atlanta, Georgia, where I was checked into Egleston Children’s Hospital.  Extensive testing there and Emory Hospital, the general campus for Egleston, led my team of doctors to the same conclusion. It was cancerous. They tried to prepare my parents for how slim my chance of survival was.  Even if their diagnosis was wrong, surgery and attending blood loss may well be more than I could stand. My parents maintained great faith, and my dad solicited prayers from congregations all over the place. Dr. Gerald Zwiren, who led a team of highly-skilled doctors, brought the news to my parents that I survived the surgery and later shared the oncology report that my tumor was benign. That was close to 40 years ago and to this point I have never had further complications. I certainly received a second chance.

Periodically, I ponder at length what I have done with that second chance. The scar I bear from that surgery has long since become invisible to my daily view.  I suffer no lingering consequences. That event is certainly not why I chose to become a preacher, as if to try and pay a debt to God for saving me. Sadly, despite His mercy in sparing me, I have sinned in ways great and small that reveal, in addition to all else, a failure to appreciate that blessing. Spiritually, whether as a preacher, husband, father, or Christian, I am saddled with the realization of how far I have to go.  With the help of His Word, His providence, and His strength, I continue to try to make the most of this extra time He gave me back in 1979.

All of us who are New Testament Christians face the same spiritual situation.  We suffered the terminal condition of lostness in sin. By all human calculations and efforts, nothing could be done to save us.  Yet, when we responded to His grace by believing, repenting, and being baptized (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38), He gave us all a “second chance.”  We passed from death to life.  More than that, God gave us a way to continually receive the benefits of the blood and grace of His Son as we strive to walk in His light (1 Jn. 1:7-10).  You may have messed things up badly in your life.  You may feel that it is impossible for God to love and forgive you.  Friend, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).  God is the God of the second chance!  His diagnosis is perfect, and His is the only one that counts!  Trust in the Great Physician.  He has never lost a patient who followed His prescription!

Picture of me (2nd from left) about a year after the surgery.

“Snodgrass’s Muff”

Neal Pollard

It happened on October 16, 1912, the eighth (*) and deciding game of the World Series. In the bottom of the 10th, with his New York Giants winning by a run, Clyde Engle sent a lazy pop fly to centerfield.  Fred Snodgrass, an average hitter and dependable fielder, settled under it and ultimately dropped it.  A lot of other things happened. Snodgrass made a spectacular catch on the next play.  Hall of Fame pitcher walked the next batter.  Tris Speaker, before driving in the winning run with a single, hit a pop foul that both Fred Merkle (aka “Bonehead Merkle,” but that’s a story for another day) and Chief Meyers failed to catch.  Snodgrass’ blunder was the scapegoat for the Giants’ series loss to the Boston Red Sox. Fred would go on to be successful in business as a banker, an appliance merchant, and a rancher, was elected mayor of Oxnard, California, and served on the City Council for three terms.  There was so much more to Fred Snodgrass than a single unfortunate moment in time, but even his obituary read: “Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly.” In a 1940 interview, Fred spoke of how that fated fly ball would come up as he met or spoke with people (info via sabr.org and history.com).

Isn’t it interesting how a mistake or sin committed in a moment can have such lasting implications, bringing infamy and an enormous challenge of trying to live it down?  But doesn’t Snodgrass also prove that we do not have to be defined by our failures? Maybe our blunder is not played out with such renown and infamy, but it can still stay with us and dog our continued steps.

Have you dropped the ball with something?  Maybe you let down somebody you loved or somebody that was really counting on you.  Maybe you hurt someone special to you.  It might have been a foolish or ungodly word or deed when someone was watching.  The bigger the blunder, the heavier that burden of guilt might be in your heart.  There’s no excusing it. But what will you do now?  Will you let it keep you down or will you refuse to be defined by it?  The writer of Hebrews urges us, “Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1b). The focal point must be what’s before us, not what’s behind us.  So said Paul (Phil. 3:13).

Dust yourself off. Regroup. Get ready for what’s next! Focus on what’s next, not on what’s over and done.

(*) Game 2 was called on account of “impending darkness”

Copperopolis, California

Neal Pollard

It boomed when “copper was king” and owed its thriving existence to shell casings made for the Union Army in the far-away Civil War.  Fittingly, her downtown streets were Union, Grant, Lincoln, and Sherman. There were 90 businesses in “Copper City” from 1865-1867. The extraction and production of copper ore found in such strikes as at Gopher Ridge, Quail Hill, and Hog Hill made Copperopolis a boom town for a short time.  A huge fire in the center of town, in 1867, coupled with the enormous drop in demand for copper following the end of the Civil War, left the community a virtual ghost town. So, despite a few modest copper mining rebounds periodically through World War II, Copperopolis, which yielded $12 million in copper from 1861 to 1946, is a shell of its former self. It is a resort and recreation area today, a modest little town who  once entertained the likes of Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, and “Black Bart” (Charles Boles)(mymotherlode.com,  calaverashistory.org/copperopolis).

History is fascinating, with its “rags to riches,” “riches to rags,” and even “rags to riches to rags” stories.  Family histories play out the same way.  So can the rise and fall of nations.  The history of the church, wherever she has existed, may follow the same trajectory.  The Jerusalem church of Christ, where it all began, once boasted thousands of members.  In time, due to persecution and the introduction of false doctrines, the church there faded from view.  Today, it has only a modest presence. The same could be said of other congregations we read about in the New Testament.  Our congregation is somewhere on its course from the past to the future.  Where will it be in 10 years? 50 years?

Then, I look at my own life.  I have been a Christian for over 30 years.  I have preached for over 25 years. There have been Bible studies with non-Christians and new Christians. There have been efforts to try and influence others with the gospel.  My three sons are all nearly grown and on their own.  My wife and I have labored together to serve Christ.  But, each day, I must look and sincerely investigate what my spiritual trajectory is.  Am I growing nearer to Christ, acting more like Christ? Am I bearing more or less fruit? Are my best days in His kingdom behind me or in front of me? The good news is that, to a great degree, that lies within the scope of my free will and deliberate choices. With God’s help and to His glory, I can make today, tomorrow, and beyond the brightest days of service to Him.

Look at your life.  What legacy are you building? You will help determine that by what you do today.  Paul says, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).

Photograph taken of ruins in Copperopolis, California.