“NO MATTER WHAT” OBEDIENCE

(video by Wes Autrey)

Neal Pollard

I cannot imagine anyone present yesterday morning to witness Janice Lee baptized into Christ could have failed to be touched at a very deep level.  J.J. and Lila Brennan had been studying the Bible with Janice, and she came to the conclusion that she needed to be baptized for the forgiveness of her sins.  So, she came to the front after my sermon and made that desire known.

She was in a wheelchair because she suffers left side paralysis as the result of a stroke.  She is also on oxygen.  Several ladies and a few of us men took special measures to help her into the baptistery.  She could walk, slowly, gingerly, and with much difficulty.  The ladies helped her up the stairs, while we stood in the water to receive her and help her the rest of the way.  Each step was tenuous and required the utmost effort on her part. Once she was finally in the baptistery, we carefully lowered her under the water and brought her back up.  Very quickly, her deeply felt emotions gently bubbled to the surface.  She softly cried, recalling difficult things from her past, and she said, “I forgive those who’ve sinned against me.”  The joy and peace on her face is something impossible to adequately describe.

What did this new sister in Christ demonstrate yesterday?  Resolve!  Afterward, I found out not only that she had to deal with the consequences of the stroke, but she is afraid of water.  Yet, she saw the need of her soul as preeminent over any obstacle she might have cited.  The constant need of oxygen, the paralysis, and the phobia were outweighed by the Lord’s command.  Her faith was so strong that they were not insurmountable barriers.  She refused to let them be!

The difference at the Judgment, in part, will be that some will offer excuses for why they did not obey the Lord while others, through genuine, trusting faith, will not need to make excuse.  They will stand before Christ, who will see His blood covering their transgressions.  What does it take to go to heaven? A “no matter what” obedience!

V__7BB1(Photo taken by Kathy Pollard)

Cease Fire!

(Guest Baker)

Gary Neal Pollard III

On Christmas Day in World War I, British and German soldiers called a ceasefire and shared food and other comforts. They were definitely still enemies, but were able to tolerate each other long enough to celebrate a holiday.

In keeping with the prominent theme of “walking” in the book of Ephesians, Paul says, “Always be humble and gentle, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (4:2). This word “tolerance” literally means “to endure something unpleasant or difficult” or “to permit the presence of something.”

I don’t like all of my Christian family. I love them all, but there are personality differences and thought processes and it’s hard to get along with them all. I like most of them! Talk to any member of the family of Christ, and they will agree, no one gets along with everyone.

According to Ephesians 4:2, we are required to put up with those who bother us or don’t get along with us or do things the way we do. We aren’t told to be their best friend, but we are going to be held accountable for how we treat those in the family of God.

Let’s be determined this week to be civil and deferential to everyone in the family of God and not think about our differences with them. Let’s remember that this is all done for the purpose of unity, which is vital to the health of the church (4:3,4). It will require effort – no one said it would be easy! But if it will help the church be healthy, it’s totally worth it.

GOOD NEWS FOR YOUR BLUES (poem)

Neal Pollard

If your life is feeling fallow, your ambition sadly shallow,
Turn your eyes upon another, help a sister or a brother,
To their feet.
It doesn’t need to be dramatic, full of noise and other static,
Just a word or even smile, can lift their day a little while,
And make it sweet.
When your gaze is outward trained, that’s when blessings’ surely gained,
Your cup is fuller when you share, take the time to prove you care,
You will receive.
God has made life just that way, you gain so much when you give away,
Your treasure, toil, and precious time, service makes life so sublime,
This you’ll believe.
Before you know it you’ll have found, your trouble has turned all around,
Joy will be where there was hurt, fulfillment will spring, love will spurt,
From your glad heart.
Start today and try this out, learn what contentment’s all about,
Find someone to serve and serve them, life will be less drab and dim,
Just make a start.

blues

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….

HOW DO WE TREAT ONE ANOTHER?

Neal Pollard

As we live in a culture of disrespect, Christians have an added responsibility to give thought to how we speak to one another.  Civility, courtesy, and manners were once staple subjects taught in every home, but those days are increasingly relegated to the yearbooks of nostalgia.  Yet, it shouldn’t be so with God’s people.  Especially if we, as we claim in our songs, sermons, and speech, love one another, that will be reflected in speaking kind words even when we feel impatience, disagreement, or aggravation toward another. This is difficult, but it is a mark of our bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

In the last several chapters of Romans, Paul reinforces this idea of loving, kind treatment of one another.  He urges the church to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (12:10), “give preference to one another” (12:10), “be of the same mind toward one another” (12:16), “love one another” (13:8), “let us not judge one another” (14:13), “build up one another” (14:19), “be of the same mind with one another” (15:5), “accept one another” (15:7), “able to admonish one another” (15:14, but notice that this comes from those who are “full of goodness”), and “greet one another with a holy kiss” (16:16).

So how do we lift that off the page and put it into practice?  Think about any and every interaction we have with other members of the Lord’s body.  Give forethought to how you answer them and speak to them.  Apply this to our leaders, our peers, and those who are led by our example. Do your words and attitudes help create the kind of atmosphere Paul repeatedly calls for, or do they undermine it and make it difficult.  It is so easy to allow pride, selfishness, lack of self-discernment, or the like to erode the kindness from our demeanor.  But now more than ever, we need to bear this distinctive mark in a world who has seemingly lost sight of it.  When we treat each other the way Paul encourages, we will not only build each other up but we will draw the world to the Lord.  It is the mark of true discipleship (John 13:34-35).  In our busy, hectic, stressful lives, may we redouble our efforts to be ever be edifiers and never be nullifiers!

Don’t Preach!

Neal Pollard

What an odd thing to say, especially when our Lord (Mark 16:15; Acts 10:42) and Paul (2 Tim. 4:2) say to preach!  I’m not saying don’t preach at all, but there’s too much “preaching” that is not really preaching.  We must not preach that way.

  • Don’t preach self!  No matter how funny, folksy, charismatic, creative, good-looking, glamorous, smart, or suave I might be, it’s not about me.  I am no Savior. I am a sinner proclaiming the Savior.
  • Don’t preach doubt!  People already wrestle mightily with doubts.  Don’t reinforce them.  Clear away such cobwebs with the definitive, hopeful, concrete message of truth.
  • Don’t preach man-made doctrine!  It’s a foundation of sand.  It will land countless people on the Lord’s left hand at the day of reckoning.  If a doctrine is at odds with the gospel, keep it from the message.
  • Don’t preach unprepared!  Every hearer deserves a well-planned, well-thought-out, and well-practiced sermon.  They are giving their time.  Make sure you have put in yours.
  • Don’t preach in a pandering way!  Audience analysis is helpful, but don’t “play to the crowd.” It seems insincere and disingenuous. Don’t carry the standard down to the people. Call the people up to the standard.
  • Don’t preach philosophy!  Philosophers prefer questions without answers more than answering questions.  “What ifs” may be fun with sports teams and political elections, but they too often tear down rather than build up faith.
  • Don’t preach arrogantly!  The preacher, George Bailey, would often say, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package.”  How many times have people echoed the sentiments of the Greeks, “Sir, we want to see Jesus!” (cf. John 12:21).
  • Don’t preach timidly!  Should we apologize for the Lord’s message?  We never want to be harsh, antagonistic, or in any way present an obstacle with negativity or our presentation, but we must have the courage to share what the Lord said. If the Lord commands it, we must convey it, even if it’s difficult to do so.
  • Don’t preach indistinctly!  Truth stands out. We must let it.  We cannot hide the parts that may make the church or the preacher seem in the minority or at odds with prevailing views.  We must be Micaiahs, intently committed to preach with this philosophy: “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that shall I speak” (1 Kin. 22:14).

Instead, preach the Word!  Saturate your message with His message.  The late Wendell Winkler would say, “Fill your lesson with Scripture. At least that much of it will be right!  Let God get a word in edgewise!”  Some have convinced themselves that they know better than God does what makes sermons effective.  The old song, “None of Self and all of Thee,” is in order here.  Hide behind the cross and lift Him up.  Being thoroughly biblical, applicable, and practical, we will grow the church and we will grow people.  If one is prone to veer from His pattern and example of New Testament preaching, may we ask such a one is genuine, loving candor, “Don’t preach!”

(Carl preaching the word in Cambodia last month)

An Up And Comer In A Different Profession

Neal Pollard

How many human cannonballs at the circus can call themselves “Oxford-trained”?  30-year-old Gary Stocker, with law degree in tow, left a six figure income working as an academic law writer and legal recruitment officer and “ran away with Chaplin’s Circus” (Lizzy Buchan, Cambridge News Online, 7/11/14).  He actually is starting up the circus with a buddy he worked with as a street performer as a teenager, and he actually had continuing various performances while a student at the prestigious British university.  While many would be baffled to think of one leaving a comfortable, white-collar occupation for one that has been for the more common, blue-collar person since ancient Roman times, Stocker is choosing what he loves over what others thought more suitable for him.

A thought occurred to me as a new class is about to embark on their studies at the Bear Valley Bible Institute next week.  There is an analogy here, as men come to us not only from High School but more often from medical, business, agricultural, mechanical, military, law enforcement, and other professions. For 50 years, men have been leaving jobs, often well-paying, respectable ones, to pursue “the foolishness of preaching” (cf. 1 Co. 1:18-21).  Some, even close friends, brethren, and family, may question their thinking for undertaking such a pursuit and even offer resistance and dissuasion.  When they graduate and go into full-time ministry, they may never regain the income or have the notoriety they would have enjoyed in the secular world.  However, it can be argued they will be entering the most noble, worthwhile profession there is.  To work with the people of God and to bring the lost to God provides endless, invigorating opportunity and excitement. Each day is new, exciting, and rewarding.  Though it has its pressures, disappointments, and trials, it is a work that is easy to love!

There are men who may be successfully toiling in some other field, but they leave it for a love of preaching.  Thank God for these men.  Let us encourage them and ever have a hand in helping these “up and comers” in their new profession!