Neal Pollard

Perhaps you have seen the video of two John Jay High School football players targeting an official late in their loss last Friday to their Marble Falls, Texas, opponent.  Marble Falls was running out the clock to preserve their win.  Details have not been divulged to explain why the players were angry or why they took apparent revenge by blindsiding the unwitting official. It does not take too much discernment to conclude they must not have liked something this referee said or did prior to their inappropriate response.  Whether or not the official provoked these young men to anger, all would have to agree that whatever moral authority they might have had disappeared after their vicious tackle of the defenseless man (Read and watch here).

Umpires and referees exist to keep order, to enforce and interpret the rules, and make judgments about whether the game is being played as it should be. They are not a popular lot, as attested by the heckling they can receive and the jokes made about them. We may even wonder what draws a person to take on such a job.  They make an easy target for those who often know less than and have a worse view than the one on the field or the court who must execute their judgment in real time.

While as a preacher and the son of a preacher I have seen and experienced ministers blindsided by angry hearers who confused the message with the messenger, I see a much more maligned, misunderstood, and marked group whose judgment and decision-making has occasionally been unfairly attacked.  No wonder Peter promises faithful elders that they will receive a superlative reward (1 Pet. 5:4). There is certainly such a thing as bad leadership and decision-making, and elders are fallible human beings. Yet, I have never yet seen an eldership practice church discipline without at least a few members taking a cheap, undeserved shot at them for trying to follow and get God’s people to follow His “rules.”  Whenever they are faced with a difficult decision in the realm of judgment, like eliminating an ineffective ministry or starting a challenging one, a change or alteration to the place of meeting, letting a preacher go or hiring another one, or the like, they may get figuratively roughed up.

The New Testament urges a different attitude from the spiritually mature.  Paul says appreciate and highly esteem them in love (1 Th. 5:12-13). The writer of Hebrews tells us to be the kind of sheep that bring our leaders “joy and not grief” as grievous fellowship isn’t profitable even for us (Heb. 13:17).  Be careful what you say about elders (cf. 1 Tim. 5:19). In fact, why not let them know, out of the blue, how much you appreciate their efforts to shepherd the flock (cf. Acts 20:28).  That may knock them off their feet, but it will be in the good way!


Neal Pollard

That’s not a typo for another popularly-used term.  It’s actually a “thing,” at least according to a 2010 study by the UK Post Office.  It is short for “no-mobile-phone phobia” (Tim Elmore, There’s even a website called, and they identify “the four fears of Nomophobia”—broken, lost, stolen, or useless smartphones. While that site operates “tongue in cheek,” there are a bevy of experts more than ready to talk about how this is an epidemic impacting especially youth in our culture.  University of Connecticut School of Medicine’s Dr. David Greenfield has done much work in this study. He points to the problem of a dysregulation of dopamine, “meaning that it motivates people to do things they think will be rewarded for doing” (clever, cutting, or flamboyant Tweets, posts, pics, etc.) and that it can foster people’s addiction to the internet and technology (Madeline Stone, Greenfield adds, “That feeling you’re going to miss something if you’re not constantly checking is an illusion — most parts of our lives are not relevant to our smartphones. What happens on our devices is not reflective of what happens in real life” (ibid.).  There are even digital detox programs, in the United States as well as other countries around the world.  Psychiatrist Dale Archer gives this advice, “Stop texting while you’re driving. Don’t take it into the bathroom with you. Have a rule not to use your phone when you’re with your friends. If you’re on a date, make a rule that you’ll both check your phone for a maximum of 5 minutes every 90 minutes. It’s all about setting simple rules that you can follow” (ibid.).

Amateur psychiatrists and specialists everywhere can quickly diagnose this condition in their spouses and significant others, their children, and their friends, but they may be myopic to their own inordinate practice (see every airport, doctor’s office, restaurant, etc.).  Addiction to, or at least habitual abuse of, smartphones and similar technology is simply the latest and a more obvious example of a long-standing human tendency.  Paul told Corinth, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). In context, Paul is beginning a discussion of the sin of fornication after having talked about Corinth’s generally sinful past from which they had been forgiven.  Paul’s desire was not to be “mastered” (ruled, reigned over, Louw 37.48) by anything.  He later writes about the self-mastery and discipline necessary to live the Christian life (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Cell phones are just one possible impediment to this.  There are so many other possibilities we must keep aware of, things which can derail us from our purpose and focus in this life.  So many of them are fine in balance and moderation, but we can allow them to consume and even overtake us.  A fear of being without those things is only one of the attending problems.  Being ruled by anything or anyone other than Christ is the overriding concern.  We are all served well by looking carefully at the things in our lives and make sure we have no master other than Christ.


Neal Pollard

With the high profile case of an NFL star putting the idea of spanking in the spotlight, it is proper to examine this practice more closely.  A sweet young mother asks a couple of questions about the practice of spanking in light of Proverbs 13:24.  First, “Is Proverbs 13:24 literal, meaning we are to physically discipline our children, or is it figurative meaning we are to discipline in general?” Second, “If it is literal, does it literally mean to use an implement such as a rod, belt, etc rather than our hands to inflict the physical discipline?”  These are vital questions young parents like her have to grapple with in light of a desire to properly train and mold the heritage given them by God, but do so in a world less accepting of biblical truth in general and passages like Proverbs 13:24 specifically.  To address this, let’s break the matter into three component parts.

Spanking and society.  Due to the prevalence of physical child abuse, society has reacted to any type of corporal punishment (i.e., punishment of or relating to the physical body; spanking).  While the principle of spanking is more widely approved than we may be led to believe (a recent ABCNEWS poll found 65% of all parents approve of it,, and a 2013 Harris Interactive poll with a sample size twice as large found that 81% consider spanking their children sometimes appropriate,, the politically correct wing of society so often in charge of media and education most often rail against it in any form.   There are three revised statutes in Colorado, one civil and two criminal, that address spanking in Colorado ( includes the laws of all 50 states).  While the statutes are eerily vague, here is what they permit:  “Parent/guardian/ person with care and supervision of minor can use reasonable and appropriate physical force, if it is reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain or promote welfare of child” (Colorado Code Section 18-1-703).  The greater concern would be judicial interpretation or further revisions in the law that forbad corporal punishment altogether.

Spanking and scripture.  With our youngest now 16 years old, we are beyond the timeframe where spanking holds sway as a primary means of discipline.  When our boys were of that age (from toddlerhood up to the beginning of the teen years), we would resort to spanking (usually with the hand or a paddle).  This was undoubtedly the result of practices learned from our own parents’ regimen of discipline, but also our conviction (as it was our parents’) that scripture taught the necessity of this under circumstances where mere words did not remedy misbehavior.  The Bible clearly teaches it as an integral part of disciplining—Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, and 29:15.  Hopefully, we will never find ourselves in a place where our civil government absolutely forbids corporal punishment of our children, but if it does we would be compelled to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

Spanking and sensibility.  Let us get to common sense issues, though.  This is especially the “how” but also the “where” and “when.”  Consider these suggestions for effective discipline—

  1. Do not spank in anger or in an out of control manner (this reflects your own lack of self-discipline and is not likely an attempt to assert behavior modification).
  2. Exercise restraint in how hard you administer physical punishment.  The idea is to impress upon the child that their words, behavior, etc., is unacceptable.
  3. Follow up the punishment with an explanation and teaching.
  4. Avoid administering discipline in public places.  Find a private room or wait until you get home to mete out the punishment.
  5. If restraint is used, it will not matter whether the hand or another implement is used.  Overall parental demeanor will determine whether the child is “scarred” or “shaped” by it.

Obviously, personal judgment and discretion are essential.  Yet, inasmuch as the concept originates in scripture, our good sense as citizen of the society will govern us as we prayerfully attempt to raise children that please and follow God.

Grappling Over Grass?

Neal Pollard

I heard about the guy last week who tried to choke his neighbor’s lawn service worker for failing to weed the neighbor’s flower bed.  The worker explained he had been hired to cut and trim the grass, but not the beds.  This apparently unsatisfactory answer led to the “choker” leaving visible marks on his victim and ultimately being charged with a count of felony battery.  The irate neighbor was convinced that the lack of weeding was causing him to now be fighting weeds in his own lawn.  The attacking neighbor tried to pull the victim off his riding mower and grabbed him by the neck.

If these are all the facts, what an extreme case of mixed up priorities.  Hurting another person over how unkempt or manicured his or their lawn is?  It seems unthinkable. But many of us know “that” neighbor.  Some of us may wrestle with being “that” neighbor.  If we could step back, we might see how silly excessive obsession with such things is.

In speaking about worry, Jesus reminds us that the grass of the field is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace (Mat. 6:30). Peter adds that the grass withers (1 Pe. 1:24). James similarly speaks of withering, fading, and expiring grass (1:10ff).  These men said this to make a spiritual point about worrying, the Word, and wisdom, but the fact remains that grass is numbered among those things that will be burned up at the end of the world (2 Pe. 3:10).  Yet, the souls of men will continue somewhere everlastingly (cf. Mat. 25:46).

Are we spending too much time grappling over grass, fretting over finances, or wrapped up in the world?  Are we giving the best part of ourselves for that which in the end matters least?  Jesus said, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life…” (John 6:27).  Maybe it’s not food or grass for you.  Whatever earthly thing it may be, put it in its proper place.  And put Him in His proper place (cf. Mat. 6:33).


Neal Pollard

They are currently touting a diet pill that is a normal size when one takes it, but it expands up to 100 times its original size when taken with a 16 ounce glass of water before a meal.  This is to give the one who takes it the exaggerated feeling of being full.  Then the pill eventually reduces in size afterwards.  Some are calling it the answer for those who are severely overweight but who have a harder time cutting back how much they eat.

Ours is an age prone to offer easy alternatives to what the Bible calls self-control (2 Pe. 1:6). This word is defined as “‘to hold oneself in,’ ‘to command oneself,’ ‘to be a chief of oneself,’ ‘to make one’s heart be obedient,’ ‘to command one’s own desires,’ ‘to be the master of what one wants,’ or ‘to say No to one’s body'” (Louw & Nida, np).  Few of us excel at this all the time, but the Holy Spirit through His inspired writers call it a characteristic of the sanctified.  Paul preached it to individuals like Felix (Ac. 24:25) and to congregations like Corinth (1 Co. 9:25).  Perhaps some limit their understanding of “self-control” to sexual matters. While that is certainly an important area, all passions and desires must be kept in check.  Paul told Galatia, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (5:24).

That applies to diet and exercise as surely as it does tobacco, alcohol, and various lusts.  If one looks to a pill as a substitute for portion control and healthy food choices, he or she is bypassing the exertion of a trait that is supposed to be a sign of faithful Christian living. How many of God’s people have eaten themselves into health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and the like?  It is often easier to excuse our unhealthy lifestyle by pointing to stress, heredity, metabolism, or busyness than to exert the necessary discipline needed for us to better care for our bodies.

Some of us may have to work harder at this than others thanks to genetics, age, or the other factors just mentioned, but that is what self-control is all about.  It is about exerting the effort required to master our wants and say no to our bodies.

This may be an unpopular subject to address, but in our ever-expanding society that has eaten its way into weight problems and obesity God’s people are to lead by example.  That means demonstrating self-control not only by what comes out of our mouths or from our deeds, but by what we put into our bodies.  We don’t do that by taking a pill, but instead by exerting our will.


Neal Pollard
It is not an interjection or obscure, Cowboy euphemism. It is one of the latest weapons in the fight for weight loss. In fact, it was approved a few years ago by the FDA to be used in the treatment of especially type two diabetes. The drug, exenatide, contains a chemical that is found is the saliva of the poisonous Gila monster. There are chemical explanations for why the reptile’s oral emission is effective in weight loss, but the result is that a growing number are clamoring for it to be made available for use in the battle of the bulge. To curb enthusiasm, one might want to consider the long-term effects of exenatide as there have been several reports of pancreatitis among users of the drug (for more info on this, see
It is human nature to look for shortcuts and substitutes. Often, this can be a good thing as we look to be more efficient, better time managers, or discoverers of that which contributes to better quality of life. However, it can also betray a tendency to look for the easy way out rather than choosing a path that leads to the best, long-term solution. Whether it is in matters relating to finance, weight-loss, work productivity, or spirituality, the quick fix or easy substitute is not usually the best choice. In fact, it can even prove counterproductive.
Lizard spit in shot form might be easier than diet and exercise, but it does not sound like a good first choice. Getting “our Bible” only from the preacher is not a viable substitute for personal study. Letting man tell us that some other way leads to salvation will not take the place of obeying what the Lord says in His word about how to be saved. Self-reliance is no stand-in for prayer. Instant gratification is not the same as self-denial, whatever excuse or rationalization we make. No matter if it’s the old proverbial peddler of “snake oil” or the new medical expert promoting lizard spit, it is much the same. Remember that the path of least resistance is the quickest way to erosion. Do not accept substitutes!



These Snakes Can Find Their Way Back


Neal Pollard

Even those not inherently squeamish about snakes are uneasy about a phenomenon occurring in Florida.  Former pet owners of Burmese Pythons probably started releasing them in south Florida back in the late 1990s.  On February 4, personnel found an 18-foot specimen in the Everglades.  That they are huge predators was already a known fact.  Yet, researchers from Davidson College and members of the U.S. Geological Survey organization trapped six of these snakes and moved them 13 to 20 miles away. In less than a year, all six had navigated to within three miles of their original location.  This means these huge creatures are capable of “homing,” whether by sight, smell, or by way of the earth’s magnetic field (Elizabeth Weise, USA Today, 3/19/14).

As unsettling for some of us as that idea might seem, there is a predator far more deadly than that whose cunning and wiles are even greater.  Satan, called “that serpent of old,” is said to have “devices” (2 Cor. 2:11), and is depicted by Peter as being predatory (1 Pet. 5:8). While he is not able to make us do evil—that’s something we do ourselves (Js. 1:13-15), he is subtle and beguiling and desires our destruction.

The implication of the article and those researchers is that moving the snake is not the answer.  They make their way back.  The answer is to destroy the snake.  As we fight temptations in our lives, we must be aggressively proactive!  We must take radical, decisive steps to keep the snake from coming back.  From faithful Bible study and prayer to exerting will-power and self-control, we can prevent the old serpent from invading our lives!  James urges us on, telling us that by resisting the devil we can put him to flight (Js. 4:7-8).

Our Words Reveal Us

Neal Pollard

I was recently checking the customer reviews for an upcoming hotel stay.  The reviews were from verified members of the hotel club of that particular chain.  74% of the raters gave it the highest possible rating, but it was interesting to read the remarks of the smattering of people who ranked it poorly.  One said, “I’d rather drive an extra 30 miles than stay at this hotel. The staff is impossible to deal with.” Another put, “This hotel is nothing more than regular. Expect nothing great for a high price. Bad choice for the night of your wedding.”  A third wrote, “Very overpriced for quality of accommodations. Mold in bathroom, poor upkeep, poor bed quality. Would not recommend this hotel.”  Surrounding these aberrations are gushing reviews overflowing with superlative words like “by far the best,” “amazing,” “could not have asked for better,” “very happy,” “very clean,” etc.  My best guess is that somebody did something to upset the “exceptions” or, as experience has shown, the guests may not have handled themselves well and helped matters escalated.

Here is something that is certain.  So often, our complaints, angry words, unrestrained speech, and foul mood reveals far more about who we are than the object of our disgruntlement.  Two people could receive the same customer service and react completely differently.  Two aggravated people express themselves totally unlike one another.  The waitstaff may be lacking at a restaurant, and one encourages while another berates.  A teacher may have a bad day and one student might sympathize while another brutalizes.

Paul urged Colosse, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6).  This is said in the context of evangelism, though the principle prevails in all our interactions.  The late Wendell Winkler often said, “If you are not kind, you are the wrong kind.”  Are we cognizant of the power of our tongues to heal or kill (Pro. 18:21)?  Jesus says, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Mat. 15:18).  More than once, my parents admonished me in my formative years to “watch my mouth!” What sage advice for grown-ups, too! We might think we have good hearts, but our words reveal who we really are!

A Runaway Ford

Neal Pollard

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is eating up news headlines these days, from admitting “to smoking crack cocaine, buying illegal drugs, and driving after consuming alcohol” (Allison Martell, Reuters, 11/18/13).  His profanity-laced tirades, graphic sexual remarks, domestic incidents, and general godless behavior are all marquee letters on a sign that reads, “No self control here!”  His appearance, speech, and videotaped conduct are all primary witnesses to that end.  He appears to be one gigantic-sized scandal.  Though Toronto’s City Council has voted to transfer his power to the deputy mayor and otherwise curtail his ability to serve, Ford has utterly refused to resign. Mr. Ford seems like more of a symptom than a cause of debauchery and indulgence in western society however larger than life he demonstrates it.

Self-control is an oft-touted virtue set forth by God in His Word.  It was important enough to be a part of Paul’s three point outline to Felix (Acts 24:25), to be an important point in Paul’s counsel to Corinthians about godly marriage (1 Cor. 7:5,9), to be a “slice” of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23) and to be one of the Christian virtues (2 Pet. 1:6).  Paul paints a grim picture to Timothy about spiritually-difficult times to come, talking about men who are “without self-control” (2 Tim. 3:3).  He says to avoid such men as these (2 Tim. 3:5).

What is so important about self-control?  It is impossible for one to submit to the Lord whose passions and desires are not under control.  Paul says, “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24).  An out-of-control person is out of harmony with His will.

One without self-control is prone to have a negative influence upon others, too.  For a Christian lacking self-control, there is the crisis of turning others off from Christianity.  There is the equally damaging effect of swaying impressionable people to follow out-of-control, sinful behavior.  Either way, a lack of self-control pushes other people further away from Christ.

Ford’s behavior has been described as repulsive, offensive, and flabbergasting.  Perhaps he is an uncomfortable, if exaggerated, picture of tendencies we all have in our own lives.  Hopefully, seeing how negative a picture a lack of self-control paints will motivate us to take care in this regard.


Someone Is Always Listening

Neal Pollard

If you are a college football fan, you have likely heard your fill of coverage about Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini.  Two years ago, before giving a post-game interview following a victory over Ohio State, he had a very frank, foul discussion with the Nebraska play-by-play man.  Somehow, someone recorded the whole thing. In the candid, clandestine rant, laced with profanity, Pelini denounced Cornhusker fans who roundly criticized him for the team’s blowout loss the previous week.  A sport’s website released the raunchy rant earlier this week.  Words like “alienation,” “irreparable damage,” and “classless” easily come to mind, describing the coach’s mini-meltdown.

Yet, if it had not been recorded, nobody would have known, right?  Wrong!  The three other men in the room would have known, but that is not who I mean.  What we can often forget, as we lose our grip on self-control and sin with our tongues, is that there is One who is always listening.  “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mat. 12:36-37).  Jesus does not specify the type words, except to call them “careless.”  He speaks in terms of totality (“every”), the ultimate test of our words (“they shall give an accounting…”), and the temper of those words–either justifying or condemning us.

We may seek to project something publicly about the type and temper of our words only to reveal something else when we think only one or a few can hear them.  The tongue is fiery (Js. 3:6) and tameless (Js. 3:8), whether the ignition and wreckage is public or private knowledge in this life.  Jesus warns that we cannot get away with a lifestyle of loose, lewd lips.  It will catch up with us.  It may not cost us a high profile job, as it probably will Pelini.  But, as Jesus says, it may cost us infinitely and eternally more!