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Heaven’s “Start Up”: The Ultimate “Rags To Riches” Story

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

Some of the wealthiest companies, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, Mattel, Google, Tesla, and The Walt Disney Company, started in the quaint, quiet haven of a garage. Often, they had little more than an idea of a product or service, but they refused to stop until they achieved success. These rags to riches stories intrigue us and fire our imaginations.

Have you thought about the “start up” that began in heaven? It was conceived in the eternity before time. A couple of millennia ago, a poor couple staying in an obscure little village laid a newborn baby boy in an animal trough. This Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him as He kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Nothing more is said about this amazing adolescent until He is thirty years old and began sharing new ideas and promising the thing every person in every place in every generation absolutely cannot afford to be without. 

Though He was executed for His radical claims, thoughts, and actions, His followers refused to keep what He had to offer hidden. Many of them gave their lives to advance this cause, they believed so much in it. Most of them were poor, uneducated, and ordinary people, but they relentlessly carried His offer to every creature under heaven. People began to describe their efforts by saying these men have turned the world upside down! 

And indeed they have. Those who heard the Man who started it all shared it with those who shared it until this ultimate hope went everywhere. Today, multiplied centuries today, their work lives on. Taking that same, original plan, written down in one Book, people of every race, color, country, and economic strata continue to start from nearly nothing and grow in extraordinary ways. 

No wonder! That newborn is God in the flesh. What He came to offer is the eternal salvation of our souls. Where He offers it is in His body He calls the church. Anyone can have it, if they are willing to give Him everything they are and have. At this very hour, there is an untold number of men, women, and young people who desperately want what He has to offer, but they need to know how to get it. That’s where we come in. He is counting on us to share His offer today, while there’s time for them to take advantage of it. If we truly believe in the power of it, nothing will keep us from getting this indescribable gift to the masses!

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THE WORLD’S MOST IMPORTANT CHASE

Neal Pollard

It’s hard to believe that it was 25 years ago today that Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson led Los Angeles police on a low-speed chase. The infamous white Bronco took off on the day he was supposed to turn himself into police, a suspect in the deaths of his wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman. The chase went on for 75 miles and two hours. The drama on this day in history led to the more infamous trial that ultimately led to Simpson’s acquittal. Despite what seemed a mountain of evidence against him, Simpson went free until, ironically, he was charged in an armed robbery case in 2008 that him imprisoned until two years ago (some facts via cbsnews.com). 

The Bible records several notable chases:

  • Laban and Jacob (Gen. 31:26)
  • Esau and Jacob (Gen. 32)
  • The Egyptians and the Israelites (Josh. 24:6). 
  • Barak and Sisera (Jud. 4:22). 
  • Asahel and Abner (2 Sam. 2:19). 
  • Saul and David (1 Sam. 23:25). 
  • Absalom and David (2 Sam. 16-17). 
  • Joab’s men and Sheba (2 Sam. 20). 
  • Benaiah and the lion (1 Chr. 11:22).

These pursuits were the result of military conflict, personal vendettas, and familial disputes, but they all were matters of life and death. Many other chases outside of the biblical record are famous, from the great locomotive chase of 1862 to the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia in the Middle East during World War I.  But, there is a chase with infinitely more at stake than any of the ones I’ve mentioned already. What is it?

Paul says, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11). Paul tells Timothy that so many people pursue material things, and their love for such is the cause of their own hurt and destruction. So, Paul encourages Timothy to run from those things and run after those qualities that lead to eternal life (6:12-13), preparation for the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ (6:14), and storing up the treasure of a good foundation for the future and life indeed (6:19). All of us are either chasing the things of this world, which pierce us through with many sorrows, or the things of the world to come, where eternal life awaits those who pursue it. 

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EVERY NAME IMPORTANT

Neal Pollard

Today marks 16 years since the most infamous and iconic attack rocked our collective consciousness. Each year, there is a solemn ceremony conceived in such wisdom and executed with a poignancy that never abates. That is the reading of the names of those who died in the 911 Attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The soft music playing behind the readers accents the mood, punctuated by every reader mentioning the name of a family member they lost that fateful day. September 11th resonates with us so deeply because it was an attack on our country, but also because of the death of each and every individual who perished that day. Behind each name are family members, memories, joy and sorrow. Each person, in such a dramatic, untimely way, was taken from time into eternity. God loved and loves each one with an infinite, eternal love and wanted each one to be saved. Christ gave His life to provide salvation for each one. The Bible was written for the benefit of each one. The Lord’s church was meant to pursue and teach each one.

Though each individual is numbered among such a large group, around 3,000 of them, each one means more than the whole world (Mat. 16:26). This touching memorial is a tribute to the overall value of human life. It reminds us that we are surrounded by individuals all possessing an eternal soul.  Everyone you see today is heading toward eternity. Each one will either hear “well done” or “depart from me” (cf. Mat. 25:31ff). What is said about God’s attitude toward those victims specially remembered today is true of every person we meet and see today.

May we have our hearts stirred by the sobriety of that truth. May we never lose sight of our urgent responsibility to share the message of Christ with the people in our lives. As moving as the ceremony that occurs each year in New York City on September 11th, we really cannot imagine what the Day of Judgment will be like. Each person who ever lived, including you and me, will hear our name called (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). As important as our own name is, every name is important. Let us pray that this realization will propel us to tell the best news of human history and help someone find the only way, truth, and life.

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Wells And Cisterns

Neal Pollard

In 1980, my family moved to the thriving metropolis of Glenn, Georgia. Dad brought in a Jim Walters Home on the property that already held a barn, smokehouse, and considerable spring. However, it proved difficult to bore a well there because of the rock that stood between the surface and the water table. I’m sure that was one of the more trying experiences my parents ever had in their decades of home-owning. Because we could not access fresh water, my siblings and I had to make regular trips up to the neighbor’s house for drinking water (I say up because the driveway was a long, steady incline to the highway, and our neighbor, the Buckners, had their house just off the highway to our north).

We rarely think about the blessing we enjoy in this nation simply to turn on a faucet and have safe drinking water on demand. Many places I have visited around the world do not enjoy that same extravagance, but must at times travel a great distance to get water from a well. Others must risk drinking water contaminated with bacteria, parasites, and viruses that cause typhoid fever, cholera, Hepatitis A, giardia, and similar, deadly pathogens.

It is not surprising that God uses a substance so basic to our existence to illustrate great spiritual truths. It’s not just the water itself that is presented figuratively, but the source and reservoir of it. The well is the source, while the cistern is the container of water. As followers of Christ, we draw from a divine source but it is contained within us. If we’re not putting it in, we will not keep it or have it to use. The Bible tells us that:

—Wells May Need Dug Again (Gen. 26:18). In Isaac’s day, that was literal. Today, that may mean reviewing the basics even if we feel like people should already know them (2 Pet. 1:12; 3:1).

—Cisterns Need To Be Clean (Lev. 11:36). That was true physically, and it needs to be true of our hearts today. How well can we keep divine water in a dirty pool?

—One Must Draw From His Own Cistern And Well (Prov. 5:15). Solomon uses the cistern figuratively to speak of the imperative nature of faithfulness in the marriage relationship. Be satisfied with your spouse alone.

—One May Foolishly Decide To Draw From Broken Cisterns (Jer. 2:13). Jeremiah speaks of how Judah rejected God for the thinking of men. It was doomed to failure then, just as it is today.

—We Must Drink From The Well Springing Up To Eternal Life (John 4:14). Jesus uses physical water to speak of eternal life. We cannot go to a source other than Him and hope to receive it.

Water is an essential part of us and a necessity to maintain us. That’s true spiritually, too. Are we going to the right source? Are we a good reservoir for that living water? When we lived in Virginia, we had a well. We were told to pour a little Clorox into it on occasion to keep it from contamination. However helpful that is to drinking water, it is vital that we let the water of life serve us in its pure and unadulterated form. Then, let us share that with the people around us dying of spiritual thirst.

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Why Travel The Road Less Taken?

Neal Pollard

Gunnar Garfors is the youngest “hobby traveler” to have visited every country in the world. He’s written a book about it, entitled 198: How I Ran Out Of Countries. I have not read the book, but his website offers a very interesting article on The 25 Least Visited Countries in the Whole Wide World. Guess which one is least visited. He tells us, statistically, it is Nauru, a Pacific island country with no capital and no armed forces. It is 8.1 square miles in size, having only 10,000 inhabitants. They have the world’s highest level of type 2 diabetes and the highest obesity rate in the world (97% of men and 93% of women are overweight or obese). It has no seaport and no daily news publications. Perhaps some or all of these factors lead this country to be most frequently avoided by travelers, but somebody has to own that distinction (read more here: Independent UK, BBC, and Gunnar Garfors).  Perhaps none of these facts inspire you to work to help Nauru lose its notorious tourism distinction.

Robert Frost wrote his famous poem about the two roads which diverged in a yellow wood. He took the one less traveled by, and that made all the difference.  It appears he may have actually stood before such a fork, but he used the experience to speak metaphorically. We can all appreciate this figurative choice. We must choose a path in life, and the one we choose does make all the difference!

Jesus uses such a metaphor to describe the way of life we choose on this earth. He says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mat. 7:13-14). In this familiar passage, He gives us multiple reasons why we should take His way.

  • Its aim (“leads to life”).
  • Its alternative (“leads to destruction”).
  • Its autonomy (it is a road each one chooses to “enter through”; it is not arbitrarily chosen for us).
  • Its assumption (one must choose between these two, and no other, ways).
  • Its accessibility (it can be “entered” and “found”).
  • Its attainability (Jesus says “few” find it and not “none” find it).
  • Its associability (one is not absolutely alone, for there are “few” rather than “none”).

Jesus compares our brief time on this earth with a road trip. We are not fated to stay on the broad way, but we are not unconditionally guaranteed a spot on the narrow road. As Frost surveyed the two paths and made his choice, so must we. Jesus says we make this decision daily (cf. Lk. 9:23). And our choices determine which path we are traveling. Be deliberate and prepared for this arduous journey that terminates all too quickly. The right choice is the one less taken and most avoided, but take it anyway!

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That’s the whole country of Nauru