Count Your Blessings

Neal Pollard

Today, you have probably:

  1. Bathed in a shower, with hot, running water.
  2. Opened an electric refrigerator, retrieving nutritious (though perishable) foodstuffs.
  3. Used a disposable or electric razor.
  4. Discussed plans or swapped news with someone by telephone, cell phone, email, or another electronic medium.
  5. Been made comfortable by electric, gas, or wood heating
  6. Spent money from a generous paycheck.
  7. Sheltered yourself from the elements in an insulated, modern house.
  8. Traveled otherwise impossible distances in your automobile, and
  9. Passed by or visited a doctor at an office or hospital.

Pause for a moment and consider the following about our world in general:

  1. Most people must bathedrink, and cook from water used as an animal latrine and in which deadly amoebae lurk.
  2. Most people eat less in a week than we do at one meal!
  3. Health care is typically scarce and/or unavailable.
  4. The average person makes less money in a year than the “average American” makes in several days.
  5. Most people do not have an animal to ride, much less a car.
  6. Appliances are as unknown as insulated, four-wall housing.
  7. Exposure, hypotermia, heat stroke, etc., are daily battles.
  8. Schools, hospitals, and stores are inconceivable.
  9. Toys are hand-made, extremely hand-me-down, or completely not in hand at all.
  10. Child labor and over-strenuous labor is matter of course.
  11. Sufficient clothing (much less designer clothing) is unknown.
  12. Retirement is foreign, as are “savings.”

Isn’t God long-suffering? Another over-abundant resource in our nation is “belly-aching” citizens. Lawsuits abound. Whining is commonplace. the wounded cry of “victim” gluts the air. The sickening air pollution made by complaining is ruining souls and destroying character. Not only do we not sufficiently count our blessings, we sourly ignore them. We have had so much for so long, we see the amenities and luxuries of life as entitlements and hard-core necessities.

Long ago, Jeremiah logically pondered, “Why should a living man complain?” (Lam. 3:39). Paul said, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11). God knows people to be ungodly sinners by their murmuring and complaining (Jude 15-16). The directive of God is, “do all things without murmurings and disputing” (Phil. 2:14). Are we listening to Him?

Murmuring is a sin which will not go unpunished (1 Cor. 10:10). It is counter-productive (Acts 6:1). Most of all, it is an utterly ignorant disposition in the face of God’s giving and saving love (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 3:1; 4:8). Count your blessings. Take a few moments and thank God for even the “little (?) things.”  “…And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done” (Johnson Oatman).



Neal Pollard

No, not Scrooge (though my favorite version starred George C. Scott)!  That Ebenezer is the one even most Christians are more familiar with. The Ebenezer I’m referring to is from the Bible. You’ll read about it between 1 Samuel 4-7. The first two references are to an existing village (4:1; 5:1). But, it’s the last reference that Robert Robinson makes use of in his well-known, 1758 hymn, O Thou Fount Of Every Blessing.

In the thread of Jewish history, Eli is rejected as High Priest for the corruption perpetrated in his house against the people in their priestly functions. Samuel is chosen to be his replacement. Due to the terrible leadership of Eli’s sons and their influence over the people (2:24), God allows the Philistines to rout them in battle (4:2). The Israelites try to form their own solution by bringing the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh to Ebenezer as an icon of power (4:3-4) and perhaps to intimidate the Philistines (4:6-9). This backfires, the Philistines steal the ark (4:11), and keep it in the house of their god, Dagon, for seven months (5:2; 6:1). This brings what might have been Bubonic Plague on the Philistines until they, desperately, return the ark to Israel (6:12). Except for the over 50,000 people of Beth Shemesh who look into the ark when it was returned to them and were destroyed (6:19), things were much improved for Israel.

By now, Eli’s successor has been named. Eleazer cares for the ark, safeguarding it for 20 years at Kirjath Jearim. Samuel leads a Restoration Movement to free Israel from Philistine oppression. The people repent when they gather at Mizpah. The Philistines hears of Israel’s prayer meeting and prepare to fight them.  Samuel urges prayer and sacrifice (7:8-9). It was then God made His appearance and confused the Philistines so much that Israel utterly defeats them. There, between Mizpah and Shen, Samuel takes a stone and laid it on the ground, calling the place Ebenezer. This means, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (7:12). Israel regains cities lost to Philistia and were relieved from their oppression. The place where Israel had been defeated twice became the place where God helped His people win with finality!

Why would Robinson use such a relatively obscure Old Testament moment to talk about God’s guidance and assistance? First, Israel had to come as far as they could from wickedness to salvation. But, it was not by their goodness or power that they were delivered. Far from it! God “thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines.” The Lord “confused them.” So, Samuel sets up a memorial in an attempt to remind Israel of their dependence on Him.

Because of human nature, we still need that reminder today. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of dependence, a continual reminder of our need for a substitute sacrifice to save us from hell. Prayer is an inherent reminder that we’re preserved only by the Lord’s help. Even our bodies remind us we are finite. When we look at the incredible world of nature, our souls sing out, “How Great Thou Art!” The next time you sing that Robinson hymn, remember that “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22).


An Oasis In The Desert

Neal Pollard

I’ve been to Palm Springs, west Texas and east Africa, and these places are the closest I’ve been to the desert (though I have looked out from an airplane over the Sahara Desert and seen the endless miles of brown sand). These provide me with the best visual picture of the desolation and cruelty one would have to endure in its midst.

Psalm 63 is a psalm of David, and the uninspired inscription over it indicates he wrote it while in “the wilderness of Judah.” David ran there more than once, pursued by Saul. Near the time of Christ, the Essenes and revolters against Rome hid there, and after the corruption of the New Testament church monasteries were established there (Negev 206). Negev describes, from archaeological discovery, this wilderness.  “The eastern slopes of the Judean Hills, which fall steeply toward the Dead Sea, are almost devoid of vegetation. The meager rainfall and porous rock of which the hills are composed produce a rugged landscape, and the descent of some 3000 feet over a distance of less than 15 miles form deep gorges with precipitous waterfalls, dry for all but a few days in the year. The steep banks of the gorges contain numerous caves that are difficult to reach and therefore ideal hiding places. Springs are few and small and the only oasis in the whole region is at En-Gedi, where a copious spring fosters lush vegetation” (ibid.).

With that setting in your mind, imagine David, moved by the Holy Spirit, writing the 63rd Psalm. The odds were against his writing on a rainy day, though we do not know. In the dry and thirsty land of persecution, opposition, fear and doubt, David had God. Because he did, David’s love and gratitude overflowed in a fountain of praise and worship to his God.

  • He expresses relationship–“You are my God” (1)
  • He expects relief–“My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You…My soul shall be satisfied” (1,5)
  • He experiences refreshment–“Your lovingkindness is better than life” (3)
  • He excitedly rejoices–“My mouth shall praise you with joyful lips…I will rejoice” (5,7).
  • He exerts responsively–“I will bless You, lift up my hands, praise You, remember You, meditate on You, My soul follows close behind you” (3-8).

God was David’s ever-present oasis, no matter how dreary the setting of life around him was (9-10). He was confident in God’s love and care and strengthened by that to fight life’s battles.

God’s oasis is still flowing in our dry and thirsty land. His power and glory continue the same today. Look for Him where He is found, among God’s people as well as in the Book that bears His authorship and the sanctuary of prayer where He always awaits you. He is more than able to quench your spiritual thirst and shelter you in His care.


We Could Use More Fear

Neal Pollard

Maybe you are like me and reach a threshold where you just don’t want to see any more alerts, the latest, in-depth reports about terrorism and senseless violence and murder, and warnings of looming threats. At some point, most of us reach a saturation point. Many wish to avoid the news altogether for its depressing gloom and despair. I don’t believe we need to manufacture or reinforce that kind of fear. There is plenty of that.

However, there is a significant sense, globally, nationally, locally, and personally, where needed fear is insufficient or absent.

  • Fear That Shows Itself In Service To God (Josh. 24:14).
  • Fear That Motivates Obedience (1 Sam. 11:7).
  • Fear That Opens Our Minds To His Blessings (1 Sam. 12:24).
  • Fear That Ushers Praise  To God (Ps. 22:23).
  • Fear That Brings Wisdom (Ps. 111:10).
  • Fear That Results In Trusting God (Ps. 115:11).
  • Fear That Gives Rise To Blessings (Ps. 115:13).
  • Fear That Causes Knowledge (Pr. 1:7).
  • Fear That Leads To Hating Evil (Pr. 8:13).
  • Fear That Produces Confidence (Pr. 14:26).
  • Fear That Yields Life (Pr. 14:27).
  • Fear That Prompts A Departure From Evil (Pr. 16:6).
  • Fear That Focuses Us On Our Purpose On Earth (Ec. 12:13).
  • Fear That Makes All Ultimately Well For The “Fearers” (Ec. 8:12).
  • Fear That Proves Us Followers Of The Mind Of Christ (Is. 11:2-3).
  • Fear That Precipitates Stability In Our Times (Is. 33:6).
  • Fear That Makes God Show Mercy (Jer. 26:19).
  • Fear That Helps The Church Grow (Acts 9:31).

(There are literally dozens of other passages that speak of the benefits of this godly fear)

A lack of godly, reverent fear of God generates more than deadly attacks on innocent, defenseless people all over the world; it leads to people’s callous, wanton ungodliness that causes mothers to slaughter their unborn children, that hardens people in lifestyles of sin, sexual immorality, rank atheism and moral bankruptcy. The kind of fear that the Bible urges in every genre of Bible literature (history, poetry, prophesy, gospels, and epistles) is the pathway not only to peace, security, and joy on this earth, but eternal peace, security, and joy!  History is rife with examples of what happens in the presence and absence of such fear in the lives of individuals and whole societies.

In practical terms, that starts with you and me demonstrating and declaring the urgent necessity of such fear. It may mean watching less TV or less scouring of internet reports on the latest security threats and investing in more devotional time building dependency upon God to help us through these perilous times. Refocus and retrain your heart regarding the object of your fear! It is truly the gateway to fighting the fears that appear to plague humanity’s souls at the current hour.


Deadly and Dangerous

Neal Pollard

The book of Proverbs is divided into 31 chapters and 915 verses. So, nearly 1,000, divinely-authored truisms are packed into this one book penned by Solomon and others. In Proverbs 13, the writer begins by talking about what a wise son does, then describes a prudent man, a lazy man, a righteous man, a wick man, a rich man, and a poor man (2-10). Then, in verses 11-13, an alarm is sounded against three deadly behaviors.

A warning is sounded against dishonest wealth (11). “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.”  Financial scandals, surrounding company presidents and CEOs, often dominate current headlines. Not all swindlers, defrauders, embezzlers, and cheats are found out—in this life (cf. 1 Tim. 5:24). Cheating, lying, misrepresenting, deceiving, and otherwise acting unethically to get gain causes one to forfeit the riches of eternal life (Ti. 3:7). Be careful how you get what you get.  “…Attend to your own business and work with your hands…” (1 Th. 4:11; see Rom. 12:17).

A warning is sounded against deferred hope (12). “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” This verse is not about choosing instant gratification over delayed gratification. It recognizes a principle played out daily. Look at an elderly person, relatively strong in body but who has “given up hope.” Such do not usually live very long. Consider a couple whose problems so overwhelm them that they surrender in some way to despair. Divorce cannot be too far off in the distance. For the human spirit to thrive, it must have hope. Hope anchors the soul (Heb. 6:19). Paul, oft-imprisoned, oft-persecuted, muses, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). What pulls the Christian through his or her troubles? It is the present help of hope. Those who throw it away often say goodbye to their faith, too!

A warning is sounded against despising the word (13). “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” Few physically take their disgust for God’s will to the point Jehoiakim did, the wicked king who cut out with a penknife the portions of scripture he hated (Jer. 36:23). Not everyone is so bold as their atheist, the satanist, or the pagan in expressing their disdain for the Bible. Yet, everyone who transgresses against it in willful, habitual, and premeditated ways, despises the word. The price for such rebellion is eternal (2 Th. 1:7-9).

Interestingly, these three verses deal with three pitfalls—of deeds, depression, and doctrine. As God’s people, we must guard against the wiles of the devil as he seeks to destroy us. Our souls are at stake. Don’t let him win. Let Christ reign!


The Assassins In Our Midst

Neal Pollard

They are on the loose and nobody even seems to be hunting for them. They have struck countless times. They strike daily. Yet, they will never make the nightly news or the local paper. They do their deeds with seeming impunity. At times, their actions cause the weak and fearful to simply follow or at least stand by and say nothing. While they may escape the earthly courts of justice, they will give an account in the heavenly one.  Who are these brutal killers?

Some strike at the personal level, assassinating the character of a brother or sister in Christ through gossip, slander, and backbiting.  This type of assassin takes the good name and reputation of their victim and shreds it. Sometimes what they say is true but it should not be said. Usually, it is said in the absence of the object who is left unable to defend or explain. As often, what they say may be untrue, distorted, or crafted in such a way as to portray the object in the most unflattering or unsavory light. With practice, these assassins can seemingly wield their deadly weapon with seemingly seared conscience. Whether careless or calculated, they fire their darts with blind indifference. They leave a wake of carnage.

Some strike at the good works of a congregation, school, or program of work.  With what appears to be little interest in fact-finding, for motives often unknown and perplexing, they often slander, misrepresent, or inconsistently apply rules they themselves cannot and do not live up to. At times, they make themselves the judge and create the standards whereby others are deemed fit or unfit to survive their assaults. But in doing this, they are hopelessly inconsistent. They face the prospect of facing merciless judgment, they themselves having been merciless.

Some strike without respect of person. Their tongues are unbridled, their passions and self-control are unchecked, and their disposition is volatile and ungodly.  They are quick to fire, and their speech spews venom and acid.  Most tragic is when they aver that they are speaking as a Christian or as an ambassador for Christ. People who witness their cold and brutal attacks are left to assume that such is what constitutes Christianity.  Repulsed, the world violently turns away and vehemently reacts against any and all efforts to teach even difficult and sensitive subjects the world is prone to reject.

James unapologetically condemns such careless slapdash strikes!  He says, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:5-10). Before loading up and taking aim at someone, may we consider the eternal implications of it. Thankfully, such assassins can be reformed and retrained through remorse and repentance. May it be!


A Tale of Two Kings


So excellent! Thanks, brother!

Originally posted on Dewayne Bryant:


While exploring Herod’s fortress at Masada, visitors are immediately struck by its extravagance and grandeur. It housed two palaces and provided a tremendous view of the Dead Sea. It featured every luxury for which a person in the first century could have hoped, including heated baths. It was a home fit for a king.

Herod was a cruel and unjust ruler, and seems to have suffered from paranoia. This would lead to the deaths of several family members, including three sons and his beloved wife Mariamne. He was a friend to emperor Augustus, having helped save the Olympic Games, among other things. Yet even Augustus is said to have once remarked that he would have rather been Herod’s pig than his son. Observing the Mosaic law, Herod would have never eaten pork. His family did not enjoy the same measure of protection.

During the final years of Herod’s life, another king was born – one who would come…

View original 239 more words


Neal Pollard
We have been blessed to stay with Jared, Rachel, Brennan, and Tate Kyle during some of our time in New Zealand. Kathy spoke to the ladies of The north island on the subject of her book, Return To Me: What To Do When Loved Ones Fall Away. Sunday, we worshipped where the Kyles attend. Jared, a 2011 Bear Valley graduate, made a profound observation. Those in New Zealand, just across the international date line, are the first to worship God each week! I am not sure I ever thought about the anticipation of heaven as the Lord’s Day dawned each week. This brings to mind a perspective we may not dwell upon enough. We know God is the object of our worship and while it is impossible to comprehend how our infinite Creator views us and what we do, it does make us think about what we bring Him. Do those who are first to worship disappoint or thrill Him? Of course, when you take in all those who refuse to come before Him and those who fail to bring Him what He wants the way He wants it, there is an abundance of heartbreak and disapproval as He sits on the throne. But when it comes to all who bring worship in accordance with His instructions, how does He feel if we come minus a heart full of enthusiasm, passion, and concentration?
Only one small portion of the world can be first to worship God each Sunday. Denver is 18 hours behind Palmerston North (“Palmy”). For a God not bound by time, I suppose that is more of an earthly fascination than a heavenly notation. Wherever we are on the world clock, shouldn’t we give thought to how our worship takes its place among all the other worship His saints give Him each week and do all we can to give Him our best and pour out hearts full of reverence and praise. It impacted me to think of being among the first to bring worship to Him this week. I pray I will maintain a growing desire to bring my best each week I am privileged to come before the Great I Am! What about you?

So, How Are You Doing?

Neal Pollard

It was a little after 6 P.M. on Monday.  I was standing in the lobby of Porter Hospital, visiting with Gerald and Maurya Fulkerson. Maynard and Donna Woolley were upstairs in the surgery waiting room with Diane, Lindsey and Jordanna Swann as Steve was receiving his kidney transplant (throughout the surgery, Joanie Stapleton, Bob Sprouls, Ernie and Sharon Barrett, Dave, Michelle, and Thomas Parker, Jack and Carla Hoagland, Clint and Carol Stephens, and Dick and Deanna Brant would show up and Brett Petrillo had been with them that morning). To my great surprise, I saw Derald and Verna Dunagan come through the front door.  The surprise was not seeing the Dunagans visiting people at a hospital (or hospice, nursing home, or assisted living facility). I cannot count how many times I’ve seen them making a visit in such a place. What was surprising is seeing a man diagnosed with such a serious, progressive, and ultimately fatal condition, a condition that acutely saps his strength riding over a half hour in a car to come minister to someone else in need. He had gotten up early to bake a delicious batch of his famous chocolate chip cookies to delight those sitting and waiting during the long surgical procedure.  Maybe no one, besides the Dunagans themselves, knows how much effort this required of Derald. But, few people who know Derald find this remotely surprising.  I never had the privilege to be a sheep in the flock where Derald served as a shepherd (he served at Lakewood several years ago), but I would have been anxious to follow him. He demonstrates gentleness, caring, and compassion through that sly sense of humor and competent manner. He seems to think so little of himself and so much of others, a trait Verna shares. Monday night was such a clear confirmation of that.  Especially many of our “senior saints” take the time to minister to others in the way the Woolleys, Fulkersons, and Dunagans did with the Swanns. They set a high bar for the rest of us, to fit into our busy routines that visit, phone call, or even card that says, “I care.” I’m grateful for the challenge of their example.  Derald humbles me even further, though. When I am prone to offer some excuse about why I am missing an opportunity to serve or minister, I hope I will replay the memory of a sweet, sick man coming in out of the evening to prove his love to another sweet, sick man.  What does Jesus look like? Isaiah 53 seems to indicate that He had no specific physical characteristics to distinguish Him.  But I feel like I caught a glimpse of Him at the northwest corner of Downing and Yale the other day. My prayer is that when someone looks my way, they catch a glimpse of Him, too!
A picture from Arlene Teel’s hip surgery a couple of years ago. Derald is on the left side in the blue-striped shirt and Verna is in the very center of the photo with the pink shirt and sleeveless vest. Cookies not pictured (but somewhere in that room).

What Do We Do At The End Of The Sermon?

Neal Pollard
People who attend our services may be perplexed by the way we end each sermon. I, or whoever is in the pulpit, invite those present to respond to the lesson if they need to become a Christian or if they need to share a need for prayers or even forgiveness for living sinfully. This is a perfectly acceptable, logical thing to do, since the message will often be persuasive and call for a change of heart and action. We never find an example of “offering the invitation” in scripture or a command to do it after the preaching, but it is an suitable, convenient, and advantageous thing to do. The power of God’s Word, when preached, has frequently touched and convicted hearts (Acts 2:37; 7:54). Many have come face to face with the reality of who God is and wanted to know what to do to be saved (cf. Acts 16:31). Our preaching answers that question, after most every sermon. One can respond to Christ’s invitation (cf. Rev. 22:17) any time of day or night, in a public assembly or privately. Many times, the sermon will simply build our desire to live more like Jesus . We may not come to the front row, but we have that resolve within ourselves.
But, let me make this confident pledge to you. If you feel like you need to publicly respond after the sermon, you will not be judged, criticized, looked down upon, or rejected by any godly, faithful Christian. The overwhelming majority of those present will simply hug your neck and a great many will add you to their daily prayers. You will feel the love and support of a loving and supportive church. You will understand that we are all dealing with the same struggles and temptations, all of us trying to make it to heaven! We often build up fear and anxiety about how traumatic “responding to the invitation” will be, but that is almost always a figment of our imagination. God gave us the blessing of the church so that we would have a spiritual family to aid us on our spiritual journey. Never fear taking that step “down the aisle,” if it is necessary. Your example may be the catalyst for someone else to consider their need to come forward, too!