How Could He Not Take That Shot?

Neal Pollard

His coach, Jay Wright, and teammates expected and wanted him to take the last shot in the 2016 NCAA basketball championship game. The senior point guard had intentions of doing so, too, but at almost the literal last second he turned and delivered a short pass to Junior Kris Jenkins who sank a three-pointer just before the final buzzer. It was the game-winning shot, lifting Villanova over North Carolina for the Pennsylvania school’s first championship since their legendary victory in 1985. Ryan Arcidiacono, who grew up 20 miles from campus and constantly dreamed of hitting a game-winning shot for the championship, will be remembered, as much as Jenkins, for delivering one of the most exciting games in college basketball history—Jenkins for his beautiful shot and Arcidiacono for his unselfish pass.

For those who know coach Wright’s philosophy, this turn of events is absolutely no surprise. Google “Jay Wright unselfish” and a multitude of articles come up talking about how the coach drills the idea of putting everybody else above yourself from the time kids enter his program. Players earn his trust and confidence by proving themselves converts to his selfless style of play. It is heartwarming to see such values being instilled in impressionable young people.

The local church must adopt the philosophy of its leader, Christ. He modeled it (Ph. 2:5-11) and mandated His followers do the same (Ph. 2:3-4). An atmosphere of unselfishness cultivates spiritual and numerical growth, just as selfishness inhibits such growth. Selfless service is most often bypassed by the world, though most deeply appreciate seeing demonstrations of it. Deference to others is a mark of distinctiveness that must be found in disciples. The better we do this, the brighter the light of Christ can shine through us!



Neal Pollard

Positively traumatic.  I don’t know another way to describe it.  Sure, I knew about the gentle receding of hair on my forehead—or “sixhead,” as my good friend Dean Murphy recently called it. However, nothing prepared me for “the picture.”  Sure, I’ve had people, even recently, noting the thinning of my hair on top.  I found the noting of that irritating and even, at times, amusing. But, the stark, unflinching, and brutally honest photo was utterly convicting.  There, in living color, was my immutably glabrous cranium.  OK. My bald spot.  I have no idea how long I’ve walked around sporting this condensed coif, but I can see it now… every time I look at that picture.

That blind spot was more vain than dangerous.  There are situations in life where a blind spot can be more serious.  Driving down the highway, we may miss another vehicle that is in our blind spot—not visible in our rearview mirrors but still most definitely there.  But the far more common blind spots of our lives have to do with what we cannot, do not, or choose not to see.

It is easy for us to see the faults of others, their sins of attitude, speech, and action.  We marvel that they seem oblivious to them.  After all, we see it all so clearly.  Yet, in our own lives, we may not be seeing clearly.  We do not realize how unfriendly we appear to others, how self-promoting, how braggadocios, how sarcastic, how unhelpful, how harsh, or how suggestive our words and deeds appear to others.  Solomon notes that “all the ways of a man are clean in his own sight” (Prov. 16:2a). Relying on others to tell us is really not fair to them.  After all, they must navigate around and through their own blind spots on the commutes of their daily lives.

Paul helps us identify these social and spiritual blindspots. He writes, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5).  The best way to actively view our lives is through the mirror of God’s Word (cf. Jas. 1:23).  As we look closely and carefully into it, we see ourselves better.  How vital that we get a better view of how our own lives impact others, for good or ill!  This is about more than vanity.  This has more serious far-reaching implications.  May the Lord give us the courage to see our blind spots and the strength to eliminate them.

There it is on the fella in the sweater in the far left seat of the front row.

Addicted To The Taste

Neal Pollard

On a slightly different life’s path, Kathy could easily be a world-famous, wealthy celebrity on Food Network.  Her culinary skills and creativity in the kitchen has yielded some incredible dishes that would cave the iron-willed. Incredibly, she has learned through the years to make things that are good for you not simply palatable but tasty!

In 1 Peter 2, Peter urges Christians, facing an ultimate inheritance from a God who wanted them though impeded by persecution by a world who did not want them, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1-3).

Peter urges them to purge from their spiritual diet those dangerous additives of attitudes in verse one.  They are more than malnourishing; they are poisonous!  Instead, he calls for them to hanker for the pure milk of God’s Word.  What would heighten their craving was having tasted the Lord’s graciousness.

May I suggest that this is a cyclical process.  In other words, we must be willing to begin feeding on the word.  For most, this is an acquired taste.  But from the first serving, the reader gets a taste of God’s good food.  It nourishes and satisfies.  It illuminates the soul.  It is practical in daily application.  It helps forge a closeness with God.  It gives strength in a difficult world.  The blessings of Scripture are multifarious, endless, and inexhaustible. The very experience of all of this by the consumer drives him or her right back into the Word for more!

Are you addicted to the sweet savor of Scripture?  If you are not partaking, you are starving your soul!  Those hunger pangs you feel cannot be satisfied by adulterated alternatives. Let us say with the ancient patriarch Job, “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (23:12).



Neal Pollard

Two wonderful upcoming events should have us excited! Vacation Bible School is a prime opportunity for us to be evangelistic with our neighbors, friends, and co-workers.  It showcases the many talented people we have in our education program for children and it is always pulled off in an impressive way.  Our seminar/gospel meeting will be conducted by one of the most engaging, genuine preachers among us.  Steve Higginbotham will do an outstanding job.  There are several things we can do, but this Saturday’s door-knocking can accomplish so much to try and draw our nearest community neighbors to both these events.  May I make a personal appeal to you to be at our building this Saturday at 1 P.M.  To encourage you, consider three brief and true statements.

  • It Is Easy.  We are not setting up Bible studies.  We are simply inviting (or leaving fliers at the door if they are not home).  A quick, pleasant “hello” and statement of what we are inviting them to attend is all you need to know.  If you have access to small children, they always serve as an excellent buffer.  But, no matter your age or degree of cuteness, you will find this the easiest evangelizing you will ever do.
  • It Is For You.  Door-knocking is not just for the students, preachers, elders, or teens.  Parents, deacons, men, women, middle-aged folks, young adults, professionals, unprofessionals, blue-collar, white-collar, tall, short, fat, skinny, and if there be any other category, your presence is vital to the success of this.  So often, we assume others will do the work.  Please do not make this assumption.  If you are tempted to feel that way, know that others share that struggle.  Encourage somebody else.  Call or email them and tell them you are coming and ask them to come, too.
  • It Is Important.  You may be helping somebody take their first step toward heaven.  You might find somebody who has been searching for truth.  You may knock the door of somebody who has been struggling and looking for answers.  God may use you this Saturday to save a soul!  How wonderful to be able to face our dear Savior some day having taken opportunities like this Saturday to expose people to the Lord’s church.

I feel pretty confident that you will not regret participating in this Saturday’s mass inviting. It will require a little time, gas, and energy, but it is also one of those things that just leaves you feeling like you have helped the Lord a little in His mission of reaching the lost.  My highest hope is that I will see you this Saturday at 1 P.M. as we try to take greater Bear Valley for Christ!

“Does The Bible Really Teach That?”

Neal Pollard

Perhaps you have had a chuckle at the “chimney corner Scriptures”–those things that sound like or we think that are in the Bible but are not (“Let your conscience be your guide” or “confession is good for the soul” or “God works in a mysterious way”).  It is not as funny when our hearts and minds are not adequately protected from a teacher or preacher who promotes something as biblical that is not.  It may be someone who touts a thing as acceptable to God which the Bible teaches is not.  It may be someone who asserts that something must be believed or done, though the Bible does not bind it.  Either way, God holds each of us accountable for knowing His will.  We are cheating ourselves and our souls who allow a teacher or preacher to dictate to us how we should feel or think about a given matter.  I am not saying we should be suspicious or distrusting.  Instead, I am saying we should be like the Bereans.  One of the most powerful, positive statements made about any group of people is said of them in Acts 17:11: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” You have likely read that passage before, but what is the Holy Spirit saying about them?

They Were Characterized By EXCELLENCE.  They were noble-minded. Notice that it began here.  All else positive that is said about them began with their mindset.  Jesus praises people who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt. 5:6). These people were predisposed to accept God’s Word.  What higher praise can be lavished on anyone?

They Were Characterized By EAGERNESS.  The antithesis of this would be apathy and indifference.  These were “word-receivers.”  They were sponges, anxious to know God’s Word.  The Bible, from cover to cover, touts itself as the message of salvation.  Doesn’t it deserve our greatest enthusiasm?

They Were Characterized By EXAMINING. But, they were not uncritical, undiscerning students.  They were listening to one of history’s greatest Christians, borne along by the Holy Spirit, but they still checked after him.  Every man who purports to be God’s proclaimer deserves that same level of scrutiny.

They Were Characterized By EVERYDAYNESS.  They were not content to wait for the next Bible class or sermon.  They were daily devourers of these Divine dictates!  Aren’t there things you feel compelled to do on a daily basis (eat, sleep, brush your teeth, check your Facebook)? We prove to God we are serious about the blessing of having a relationship with Him by constant, consistent consultation of His revealed mind and desires–we only find that in His Word!

How can we tell whether something is just a man’s conviction or is God’s command?  How do we know that some strange, new doctrine is true or false? Do not be content to let somebody be your sole source of gauging that!  Be a Berean!


Neal Pollard

  • In our giving–not grudgingly, stingily, just the leftovers and the afterthoughts; sacrifice.
  • In our living–be a light, be salt, make a difference for Christ in the world each day. Know that morality and example matter.
  • In our attending–not just Sunday morning or if nothing else is going on; come evenings and during special events like lectureships, seminars, and gospel meetings.
  • In our serving–whether in the sunlight or the shade, white-collar or blue-collar tasks, whether thanked or thankless the task.
  • In our praying–unselfishly, faithfully, constantly, praising and thanking along with the requesting.
  • In our speaking–take courage, keep it pure and wholesome, unite with your words.
  • In our loving–sincerely, fervently, without favor, following the example of Christ.
  • In our forgiving–from the heart, permanently, without digging it back up, humbly.
  • In our studying–dig, use word-study tools, pen and paper, perspiration, zeal.
  • In our evangelizing–pray about it, work up the nerve, and do it, consistently.
  • In our leading–be it elders and the church, parents and children, saints and sinners. 
  • In our teaching–pray, prepare, and present with passion; avoid laziness and volunteer
  • In our feeling–be joyful, be positive even in discouraging circumstances, be gentle always.
  • In our uniting-lead others to come together in Christ; avoid and discourage cliques, build up His body, remember it is His (Eph. 4:16).
  • In our worshipingput your heart in it; be enthusiastic; pay attention; yearn to co-participate with other saints in glorifying God wholeheartedly


He is the Great I Am.  He gave the most precious gift.  He loves us infinitely more than anyone else.  He will ultimately judge us. He is Awesome and worthy!  He is the source of every spiritual blessing.  He will never forsake us or leave us. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift.  He deserves our best!


Neal Pollard

The prophet Jeremiah was concerned about the task before him. He felt he was unqualified and unseasoned (1:6).  He was wrestling with fears (1:8).  Whether or not we preach the gospel, as Christians living in this world we can relate to how hard it can be to stand up for Jesus.

The “omniscient” (all-knowing) God makes three statements about the as yet unborn Jeremiah. The God who sees the future as though looking at the past (cf. Isa. 46:10) says some things about Jeremiah before he was placed in his parents’ arms.  Consider three things God tells Jeremiah to reassure him and that bear relevance to us today.

God knew him. This seems to be specific and personal. How exciting to think that God sees us, as our hair, organs, bones and features develop, and knows who we are.

God set him apart.  He says, “I consecrated you.”  Some in religious error have made too much of this, teaching that God chooses us against our will and arbitrarily decides whether we are saved or lost.  God is simply saying, “I had you in mind to work for me.”  Isn’t it incredible to think that God thinks so much of us as to give us work to do.  The Great Commission confirms that God thinks that way about you and me, too (cf. Mark 16:15).

God gave him a job.  He says, “I appointed you.”  Does God determine your occupation, location, and station in life?  I cannot answer for Him, but He says that Jeremiah was appointed a prophet.  Jeremiah could have exercised free will and rejected the assignment, but that does not negate what God saw for him.  I know that Paul says we have differing abilities (cf. Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:4ff).  Observation says that we have different personalities, temperaments, and characteristics.  Whatever that is, we are all well-suited to serve some way in God’s kingdom.  The question then only remains, “Will we do our job?”

God is not detached and unconcerned about this world or the seven-plus billion people currently inhabiting it.  We can deduce that from the way He spoke of just one man who died over 2,500 years ago.  It is another proof of God’s desire to “relate” to us.  It should move us to want to “relate” to Him.


Neal Pollard

Since I was a little boy, I’ve heard the frets and tsks

Of spilled juice and food stains, and other soiling risks

End caps have threatened to come off, legs seemed near collapse

Faithfully we’ve scrubbed and hammered, to avoid “what ifs” and “perhaps”

The fabric fades with time and use, the joints are loosed with sitting

And many the lady and the man have saved them by nails and knitting

Let’s get a few more years from them, the cost to replace is too great

We’ll bolt them down and prop them up, and save them from an awful fate

But what is the condition of the pews, when speaking metaphorically.

By that I mean the people on them, as we’ve used the phrase historically.

If too many are old and dying, and no efforts are made to reach others.

Those pews will look sparse and scattered from lack of sisters and brothers.

If those who use them think of Christian living as only time spent on them

They will not take their faith into a daily walk spent with Him.

I love the pews, the people that are striving to be more useful

Who love the Lord, who live that love, and refuse to be “excuse-full.”

They come and worship, with eyes all bright, and voices blending gladly

They help the sick, they reach the lost, they want to serve God badly.

What are you doing for the pews, for those who through Christ you’re related?

Is your love for those upon the pew growing stronger or has it abated?

The next time you go to take your seat and settle in for the worship time

Reflect a moment on these words set in this simple rhyme,

“What will I do to save the pew?  How much can I afford?

When I show care for every pew, I’m saying I love the Lord.”

CONTRADICTING: The Pastime Of Our Time

Have you noticed that, no matter what the topic or matter one may choose to bring up, someone or ones seem to feel compelled to say something to contradict it?  What fuels the activity is known only to the doer, whether a need to seem expert or more knowledgeable, pride, a habit of argumentativeness, or the worldly, age-old practice of “disputing” (Phil. 2:14; 1 Tim. 6:4).  Doctrinally, we are called to lovingly defend God’s truth (Eph. 4:15), to gently help correct a brother (Gal. 6:1) or non-Christian (2 Tim. 2:24-26), and to guard the name of Christ against all attacks.  That is courageous and spiritual.

But, do you know what I am referencing?  That nit-picky, minute, non-essential practice of increasingly many to just “have” to correct somebody and everybody.  Why is that?  Perhaps forums like Facebook feed that tendency, where folks “drive by” somebody’s wall and “need” to be heard and seen as the guru and all-wise.  Perhaps it is something far more benign.  Surely, we don’t see how easily we sign up for the sport of sparring speech.  But, all of us are well served to ask, “What is my purpose in contradicting? What fruitful thing am I seeking to accomplish?”  If we can find no good answer, let’s challenge our own desire to challenge another.  Such makes for “seasonable speech” (cf. Col. 4:6).

Don’t Take A Dog By The Ears

Neal Pollard

I was shocked to hear this morning that local NBC morning news anchor, Kyle Dyer, was bitten on the lip by an Argentine Mastiff in a “feel good story” about the dog, who was rescued by a local fireman from a frozen pond in Lakewood.  The segment was a reunion between the dog and its owner and the rescuer.  The dog showed no signs of aggression, but Dyer leaned in way too close as if to kiss or snuggle with “Gladiator Maximus.”  Though certainly showing that she is a dog lover, Dyer would no doubt, in hindsight, have done things differently.  Considering the size, the breed, and even the trauma through which the dog had just undergone, this was not a wise move.  Dyer had reconstructive surgery and may be off the job for as much as a month.

In Proverbs 26:17, the writer says, “Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.”  The inspired writer is referring to one “sticking his nose” in someone else’s “business.”  I have not ever taken a dog by the ears, but when I was four I tried to throw a house cat into a 50 gallon barrel on our carport.  The insides of my forearms did not fare well, as I bore skid marks from biceps to wrists.  That cat was minding its own business when I foolishly made it (the cat) my own.

Maybe you have never been so foolish with a dog or cat, but have you ever made someone else’s business your own?  It could have been unsolicited advice, taking sides in a conflict between two parties, being a busybody, or the like.  Avoid such a habit!  Sooner or later, you will receive a painful lesson that might hurt badly!  Your interference may hurt others, but you may will inevitably injure yourself–your feelings, reputation, or even character.  Maybe, meddlers should get a sign that reminds them, “Beware of the dog.”  Save yourself!  Let others’ business be just that.