Diversions, Distractions, Or Deviations?

Neal Pollard

All the following are legitimate outlets, kept in proper perspective:

  • Social causes and needs.
  • Politics.
  • Sports, recreation, leisure and fitness.
  • Wholesome forms of entertainment.
  • Family events.
  • Social media.
  • Socializing and fellowship with fellow Christians.
  • Church buildings.
  • Addressing controversial issues and false teaching.
  • Material possessions.
  • Hobbies.

But our common struggle is allowing these to eclipse our purpose on this earth as Christians.  Interestingly, they all can be utilized as part of our mission, but none were ever meant to replace it.  These activities can easily hinder our faithfulness and usefulness to the cause.  Will you pray for me to keep seeking and saving the lost at the top of my “to do” list of life?  I will do the same for you, if you let me know.  Let’s pray for courage, focus, discernment, resolve, and encouragement to take the gospel as we go about each day.  This is what energized the church in its infancy (cf. Acts 8:4).  They had access to the same distractions and diversions we do, but they could not be diverted from the prime objective. Consequently, we read throughout Acts of their exponential, if unlikely, growth.  May we help each other imitate their spirit and service!

“Marathon Heart”

Neal Pollard

A protein called “troponin,” indicating heart damage, is typical with the majority of runners tested after running a marathon.  Malissa Wood, a Harvard-affiliated cardiologist who has competed in four marathons says that the danger comes in not training enough, running forty-five miles or more each week.  Her pithy summary was, “Use your head when you use your heart” (William J. Cromie, Harvard University Gazette, 12/18/06).   Elite distant runner and hopeful Olympic marathoner, Ryan Shay, died November 4, 2006, from an apparent enlarged heart aggravated by intensive athletic training.  The month before, an amateur running a marathon in Chicago, also dropped dead with heart-related problems.

It is no news flash when heavy smokers or extremely overweight people die of heart disease and heart attacks.  It is expected.  Yet, most of us are shocked to get the news that athletes capable of running ridiculous distances dropping dead.  That just seems to defy logic.  Aerobic exercise is supposed to be good for the heart.

The Bible uses the heart to refer to the center of a person, his or her feelings, thoughts, desires, will, and more.  We expect that people out in the world have spiritual heart problems.  The world’s world-view has self at the center, with no regard for a higher standard or authority.  So, it thinks, says, and does so much that naturally and destructively follows spiritual heart problems.

As Christians, we need to be careful to monitor our hearts.  That applies to even those who are regarded as spiritual giants, leaders, and ones seemingly impervious to heart problems like those seen in the world.  No doubt, David is the greatest Bible example of this.  As you recall, he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).  What a strong heart!  Yet, he had a nearly fatal fall while running his course (2 Sam. 12ff).  Have you ever known Christians who you never dreamed would commit adultery, be arrested on child pornography charges, abandon the church, steal money from a company or organization, be jailed, or something similar?  What happened?  They developed heart problems!

The good news is, spiritually, that intensive heart training will not result in catastrophe.  You cannot over-meditate on the Word.  You cannot be overly-engaged in prayer.  You cannot too actively combat impurity in your heart.  In fact, it is the way to spiritual survival.  There is likely still quite a distance between you and your finish line.  It is not a sprint.  It is more like a marathon, that race you are running (1 Cor. 9:26; Gal. 5:7; Phil. 2:16; 2 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 12:1).  Spiritually, at least, you need a marathon heart!

SHE CARRIED HER SISTER TO THE FINISH LINE

 

Neal Pollard

At the southern Illinois state track meet, Claire and Chloe Gruenke, twin sisters, were signed up for several races.  Chloe would even win the one mile race in 5:23 that day.  But in the 800 meter race, Chloe heard a pop in her knee and absolutely could not run another step.  Claire saw it happen and made an incredibly sacrificial gesture.  She put her sister on her back and carried her piggyback the final 370 meters of that race.  The crowd wildly cheered her on and gave her the encouragement she needed to do the difficult and finish the race with her sister in tow (via Fox4kc.com). It was a beautiful story!

The writer of Hebrews tells us we are running a race, surrounded by many witnesses (12:1).  It is easy to grow weary and lose heart (3).  God has given us Christ as a focal point (2). However, the Bible gives us the charge to help each other, too (Gal. 6:1; Heb. 12:13).  While no one can run the Christian race for someone else or make another person do what they need to do to be saved, we are encouraged to help each other run that race.  Paul talks of helping other “runners” and watching himself in the process (1 Cor. 9:27). He urges the Romans, “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-2).

There are times when we feel strong and can make progress without the assistance of others on this earth, but at other times we will struggle.  How terrible if we do not have someone to help us make it through the struggling times.  Of course, we also have to think of ourselves as ones willing to aid the brother or sister who needs a spiritual lift—the carrier and not just the carried.  God has made the church as a unified body, each member helping the other when the need arises.  Many will not finish the race.  May we make sure that we do what we can to prevent our spiritual family from failing to successfully cross the finish line.

What You Can Do With A New Heart!

Neal Pollard

This morning while running indoors with Rob Sinclair and Bob Turner, we happened to notice a news story about a woman who just completed 52 half marathons in 52 weeks.  That alone is impressive, but then we learned that Aurora De Lucia had open heart surgery in 2010.  She was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White, a rare congenital heart condition. She had an extra pathway to her heart, and several complications that extended halfway through 2011.  With her repaired heart, she became determined to complete the incredible fitness goal and she reached her goal (via http://www.laketahoenews.net).

Most of us without the excuse of a serious heart problem will not ever be able to say we ran 52 half marathons in a year, but she did it under such adverse circumstances.  What a difference a “new” heart made for Aurora.  She proves the power of perseverance and wears the decoration of determination.

The Bible tells us that, spiritually, we can achieve even greater feats with a “new heart.”  From the time the exilic prophet Ezekiel foretold a time when Judah would have a “new heart” (36:26), Bible writers spoke of the possibility of a renewed heart and mind.  Paul spoke of it to Corinth as the renewed inner man (2 Cor. 4:16) and to Ephesus as being “renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:23).  He tells Colosse that this renewal process is brought about by true knowledge (3:10).

A “new heart” is pure (Mat. 5:8; 2 Tim. 2:22), honest and good (Lk. 8:15), glad and sincere (Ac. 2:46; Eph. 6:5), resolute (Ac. 11:23), open (Ac. 16:14; 2 Cor. 6:11), circumcised (Rom. 2:29), obedient (Rom. 6:17), believing (Rom. 10:9-10), enlightened (Eph. 1:18), compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient (Col. 3:12), loving (1 Pet. 1:22), and assured (1 Jn. 3:19).  The old heart is none of these things and described with words like lustful (Mat. 5:28), distant from Christ (Mat. 15:8), defiled (Mat. 15:18), hardened (Mat. 19:8; Eph. 4:18), Satan-filled (Ac. 5:3), uncircumcised (Ac. 7:51), not right (Ac. 8:21), darkened (Rom. 1:21), stubborn and unrepentant (Rom. 2:5), veiled (2 Cor. 3:15), unbelieving (Heb. 3:12), deceived (Js. 1:26), selfishly ambitious (Js. 3:14). and trained in greed (2 Pet. 2:14).

Thankfully, one can have his or her heart transformed from that wretched, latter condition with God’s help.  His Word, with its convicting and instructing power, can work on the heart (Heb. 4:12) and renew it!  With a “new heart,” we can impact lives and destinies–including our own. At the very end of all things, the Righteous Judge will note such as the greatest accomplishment of all time and eternity!  Oh, think what we can do with a new heart!