Do You Love Your Country?

Neal Pollard

Are you one who looks back with affection,
Reminiscing about days of yore?
Waving flags and praying for protection,
For your nation from shore to shore.
There are songs and celebrations sweet
Speeches that rouse the emotion
Fierce loyalty for the land beneath your feet
That inspires a most patriotic notion

But what about the better land beyond,
The place you can truly call your own?
Is that yearning great, is that hope fond,
To live in the land of the Risen Son?
If so, are you packing and preparing
For the journey that will reach beyond time?
Down here do you feel alien and wayfaring?
Is citizenship there of importance most prime?

Join a people most ancient whose love was great
For a better, a heavenly country
Who felt like exiles here, were the object of hate
By earthly counterparts who put their scorn bluntly
Fix your eyes on a grand immigration
Made possible by the Great Emancipator
Make sure you’re a member of the holy nation
And your eternal home will be infinitely greater.

Ft. McHenry (Maryland)

MY FAMILY TREE

Neal Pollard

Years ago, for a school project, I was asked to trace my ancestry and make a family tree. In the process I learned some things I did not know about my heritage. Some of that made me proud, and some of it did not. I also learned that a family tree is always living and growing. Now that I am a husband and father, I appreciate that my children (and, one day, grandchildren) will be affected by how I lead my family.

You are nourishing your family tree, too. How are you caring for it? That is called a legacy. It will affect those who live after you are gone. Consider some things every family tree has, and ask yourself what kind of tree you are growing in your home.

Your family tree has…

  • ROOTS. Something is central to your home. It is what drives and motivates you. It is where you have your primary interest and investment, measured in dollars, energy, and time. For your family tree to survive, you must be “firmly rooted and…built up in [Christ]” (Col. 2:7).
  • BRANCHES. Your home is an influence on the larger community surrounding you. Every facet of your life, your job, your friends, the church you attend, and your community, is impressed, positively and negatively, by your home. You have a reputation. You are seen. As your family branches out into the world, what impact is it making for Christ? Remember, “If the root be holy, the branches are too” (Rom. 11:16).
  • NUTRIENTS. God made the tree to eat and drink, and by such it lives. If the nutrients are cut off (via drought or disease or damage), the tree dies. Likewise, our family tree must be nourished properly to keep each member of it alive. We must keep “constantly nourished on the words of faith and of the sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6).
  • FRUIT. It may be acorns, cones, blossoms, or edible fruit, but trees bear fruit. When a fruit-bearing tree ceases production, it is a sign of trouble. At best, such a tree has lost its value. Our family tree will be known by its fruits (cf. Mat. 7:16,20). Failing to bear good fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) or bearing bad fruit (Luke 6:43) is condemned by God.
  • PREDATORS. “Dutch Elm Disease,” beetles, ants, and termites can all prematurely end the life of a tree. Sometimes, what kills the tree cannot be readily seen. Trees can be eaten from the inside out, and by the time the damage is visible it is too late. How like the damage predators do to the home! Three are so many! Tragically, sometimes the damage comes from within—what we do or allow to happen in the family. Satan is the predator of the home, but he works through human agency.
  • LEAVES. There are evergreens, conifers, and pines, but hardwoods are the most fascinating to me. I like their annual cycle. In Spring, the trees are in bloom and put on their leaves. They flourish in Summer. In Autumn, they are vibrant in color and beautiful. In Winter, they die and leave the tree. Parents, think of your children as those “leaves.” From birth, they bud and grow. Hopefully, in the teen years after trial and tribulation they begin to absorb and emulate the good principles we have taught. It can be a beautiful time. Then comes the time for them to leave. Remember that they are going to leave home some day. Make sure they leave spiritually and eternally prepared.

Should We Let The Devil Make The Rules Of Engagement?

Neal Pollard

Thanks to the hospitality of my good friend, Jason Jackson, I had the opportunity to visit beautiful AT&T Park in San Francisco, witnessing a rarity (a Rockies win) against his beloved Giants.  It was LGBT Night at the old ballpark, an annual sponsorship of “SF Pride.” It was also the day of the historic Supreme Court decision mandating the recognition of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The crowd was enthusiastic about that event in Washington, D.C., cheering when it was proclaimed over the P.A.  The videoboard featured gay and lesbian couples for its “kiss cam.”  While San Francisco is renowned for its “sexual progressiveness,” the city of Denver has earned a reputation for similar liberality of thought regarding homosexuality. In a growing number of places in our nation and especially among those under a certain age, there is welcoming, sanctioning language for homosexuality and vehement intolerance for the least word of condemnation of the behavior as sinfulness.  Even among those professing to be Christians, there is a changing posture in how or if it is dealt with.  Understanding that no sin is worse than any other, that it is not right to display an ungodly attitude in addressing any sin, and that there should not be an inordinate amount of time, attention, and energy given to any sin to the exclusion of the other, I wonder if even some of our Christian brothers and sisters have become unwitting pawns of the prince of this world regarding this matter.  The devil is at war against the Word and will of God, and he is at war against anyone loyal to such (Rom. 13:12; 2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:10ff; etc.).  He wants his cause, the ultimate end of which is the spiritual destruction of all men, to succeed, and he wants the cause of Christ to be overthrown.  We know that his mission will ultimately fail, with there being those who are welcomed by our Lord to heaven (1 Cor. 15:24; Mat. 25:34-39). Yet, most will follow him to everlasting punishment and destruction (Mat. 25:41-46).  He has the bulk of the resources and influence of this world, as he almost always has had in every generation. He has powerfully allies and mouthpieces from Washington to Hollywood and most media and education outlets in between.

  • Who is behind the idea that we are not loving the sinner when we speak of homosexuality as sin?
  • Who would have us believe that we are mean-spirited or unrighteous if we use terms like “unnatural” (Rom. 1:26), “exceedingly grave sin” (Gen. 18:20), “ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:6), “gross immorality” and “going after strange flesh” (Jude 7) to describe homosexual behavior?
  • Who would sell us on the idea that loving the homosexual means keeping quiet about their practice of it, failing to warn them to repent (Ezek. 33:8)?
  • Who would seek to equate a behavioral choice (1 Cor. 6:9) with one’s race or skin color (Acts 17:26; Acts 10:34-35)?

What happened in our nation’s highest court last Friday may have been necessary to shake the church out of its general lethargy and indifference regarding evangelism.  What happened there will ultimately be overruled in the highest court there is (Mat. 25:31ff).  What happened there should not become our obsession, but neither are we wrong to take note of how this is a significant societal erosion.  Jesus implies how intolerable it would be for Sodom and Gomorrah at the Judgment (Mat. 10:15). The Lord overthrew them in “in His anger and in His wrath” (Deut. 29:23). Homosexuality is not the only sin there is nor is it the chief sin, but may we not be intimidated away from calling it what it is—“sin.”

THE MASTER’S MATERIAL

Neal Pollard

A while back it was popular in the religious world to talk about Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The emphasis has often been on the disciples’ experience. I believe the biblical emphasis is on the character of Jesus. The disciples are contemplating Him even as they encounter Him. They describe Jesus as “a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19). Notice three reasons why He was so mighty in word before all the people.

JESUS KNEW HIS MATERIAL. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Truly His knowledge is perfect and ours is not, but there is no excuse for failing to study–both on our own and for a class we are teaching or sermon we are preaching.

JESUS KNEW HOW TO RELATE ITS MEANING EFFECTIVELY. The men journeying to Emma’s, after walking with Jesus, said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). The dismal method of too many Bible classes is to essentially read and paraphrase in verse by verse fashion. Preaching can too often be disorganized in delivery or vague in message. Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, NIV).  Robertson says of “rightly handling” that it means “cutting straight…Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor?” (Vol. 4, 619). As presenters of truth, tell what it meant then and in context, and then apply it!

JESUS KNEW HOW TO MAKE THE MATERIAL LIVE IN HIS STUDENTS. Luke 24:45 says, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” That is just what we are after as teachers, preachers, and proclaimers of the Word. We are not just fact-reporting. We are trying to get into the heart. Remember that Jesus sought to change lives with His teaching.

Only Jesus was the perfect teacher. But we can always be better and great. Let us mimic the Master’s approach to His material!

Dangerous Clothing!

Neal Pollard

Have you ever heard of clothing that puts you in the hospital?  A 35-year-old woman in Adelaide, Australia, had to be treated at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for loss of circulation.  She was on an IV for four days! Why? The official report used scary words like “hypoattenuation,” “oedema of muscles,” and “myonecrosis.”  The bottom line was that her skinny jeans were too tight.  Coupled with squatting frequently while helping a family member move and wearing these overly compressed pants, her legs and lower extremities were so numb that she could not walk (via jnnp.bmj.com).  The truth is truly stranger than fiction.

Is there any dangerous clothing in your closet or wardrobe?  Especially as summer weather heats up, some reveal clothing that could be dangerous to themselves and others.  Consider this.

  • Clothes may be too tight.
  • Clothes may be too short.
  • Clothes may be otherwise too revealing.
  • Clothes may contain provocative words or sexually suggestive phrases.

Frustrating for both those trying to defend or condemn immodest clothing is the fact that Scripture does not give specific guidelines for clothing God finds either acceptable or unacceptable.  True, we can point to how God clothed the first couple in the Garden of Eden, but they had the right to see each other completely unclothed.  We can talk about the priests’ garments under the Old Law, but they wore it doing things, offering animal sacrifices and worshipping with mechanical instruments, that keep us from binding that as a pattern for clothing today.  New Testament passages about modest clothing (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4) seem to primarily address over-dressing, though the principle about clothing which can easily produce lust may be applicable.  Yet, especially clothing that strongly resembles lingerie and undergarments, extremely short-shorts, clothing that clearly outlines parts of the body that should not be publicly seen, and the like can be dangerous for the wearers and the observers. God made men and women sexual creatures, and clothing that “feels” and “looks” sexy can stir feelings in people toward people they do not have the right to feel.

As we assess the clothing in our wardrobes, it is good to ask some important spiritual questions:

  • Does it help me present my body as a sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1)?
  • Does it reflect that I am conforming to the world or being transformed by God’s will (Rom.12:2)?
  • Is it an “anything” that causes my brother to stumble (Rom. 14:21)?
  • Is it “lust-producing” (cf. Mat. 5:28)?

Frustratingly, this requires some common sense and some thoughtful examination.  Individuals must use propriety in the absence of a “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not.”  Yet, neither should we feign ignorance in a world where fashion designers tout clothes that are “hot,” “sexy,” “dangerous,” or the like.  No preacher or Bible teacher can force their personal standards of modesty on anyone else, but he or she can appeal to the heart and ask that Christlike love for the souls of others be exercised.  After all, clothes can be dangerous even if they don’t land you in the hospital!

A SWEET OLD PERSON

Neal Pollard

Today, I talked with some godly, sweet, and loving elderly people.  They are people I respect and admire.  They are full of rich memories, have vast experience, and profound wisdom.  You are drawn to them.  The people I’m referring to are neither superhuman nor necessarily those whose lives have been easier. Their sweetness is a product of their good attitudes.  Not every elderly person I talk to are those I’d consider godly, sweet, or loving.  They are bitter, rude, mean-spirited, selfish, and even, at times, belligerent. While dementia might transform the occasional person’s personality, there is a simpler explanation for how some old people get to be unpleasant. They were that way when they were younger.

Life is about the sum total of the choices we make, the way we bend our will, and our reaction to the adversities of our lives.  We are building character, one day at a time, one reaction at a time.  As I think about it, I know some godly, sweet, and loving children, teens, young adults, and middle-agers. I also know too many who are none of these things. If they live long enough, they’ll grow into more hardened, exaggerated forms of themselves.  Gossips can become worse gossips in the golden years because they may have more time and have had more practice. Grouches seem to grow worse with time and opportunity.  The impure of heart, after years of harboring filth, allow it to spill over far more often in words and deeds (how many of us have encountered a “dirty old man”—a more elderly form of the “dirty young man”).  Worriers in youth make fretful worriers in the twilight time of life. So many traits of character and attitude in the old have been in the making in the young.

In Psalm 119:9, David asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Solomon saw among the youths a young man lacking sense (Prov. 7:7). He also counseled one to remember his creator in days of youth (Ecc. 12:1). God can be our confidence from our youth (Psa. 71:5). These and so many other admonitions aimed at those in days of youth will also protect and preserve those who reach old age.  What can I do to make sure I am a sweet old person?

  • Be intentional.  Take steps to be sweet.  It’s not many people’s natural mode of operational.  Spending much time with God and learning to imitate Him helps with this.
  • Be introspective. Take time and effort to examine yourself. Are you ill-tempered, impatient, easily irritated, easily put out, and the like?  Warning!  You’re well on your way to being a crotchety curmudgeonly coot!
  • Be interested. Selfishness is behind those traits that lead one to be unpleasant in the winter of life. Be genuinely, actively interested in the welfare, needs, and interests of others.  Taking the focus off self will aim you toward sweetness.

We could probably think of more suggestions, but here’s a good start.  Surely, we’d all like to be sweet old people when the day comes.  But, don’t wait! Start now!

A TRUTH IN THE MIDST OF TRANSIENCE (poem)

Neal Pollard

Waters vast and oceans deep create a marvel and wonder
By its volume and power but also the creatures that you’ll find thereunder.
The stars and planets, galaxies, the universe, the vastness of outer space
The finest particles and smallest molecules, the most infinitesimal place.
The power of the greatest man who rules upon the land
The lowliest person who grovels around unseen and far from grand.
The outward beauty and loveliness of the Lord’s most fair person
The inward workings and intricate details of us all makes this so very certain.
To look upon the mountains high, whether green or rocky or tall
To investigate the tiniest plant and the creatures so delicate and small
Look afar or microscopically, dig and search, uncover
Test it, taste it, see it, smell it, here’s what you’ll discover
Locked within our DNA or viewed from light years away
You see the same truth, over and over, a fact that’s here to stay.
We are the evidence of a Being whose power and knowledge are unending
Who makes what is made extraordinary, through His infinite nature expending
But making what’s made and doing what’s done, His resources are not depleted
Because He is God, He’s never without. He never needs completed.
He’s worthy and mighty, He’s wonderful and true, the God we worship and serve
He’s faithful and ingenious, active and gracious, from perfection He cannot swerve
As you walk through the day and make observations, what you see or happens to you.
Whatever may change, crumble, fall, or fade away, God will still be faithful and true.

                             Endothelial cells viewed under a microscope