Keeping Eternity Nearby

Keeping Eternity Nearby

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Eternity is a topic that many of us have heard taught many times. We have Sunday classes on eternity, and we hear sermons about heaven and hell. We learn about the life that comes after this one, but sometimes it doesn’t feel real. I’ve known about eternity for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t truly grasp this idea until later in my life. The extent of my knowledge was that heaven was where I wanted to go, and hell was for sinners. 

It didn’t seem very real. I found myself thinking, “I have my entire life ahead of me, I’ll worry about it later down the road.” I saw eternity like any other young guy. It was a place that I knew was coming in the future, but failed to live with this knowledge in mind. Lately I’ve noticed a few things that need to be said.

Eternity is so much more than what I believed it to be. It can be an eternity filled with life, or an eternity filled with torment. John 5:24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” The Word of God has the ability to make our eternity be one that is filled with life and joy. But then we read verses like Romans 6:23 that say, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this verse before, but I was failing to grasp what Paul is really saying. We deserved punishment. We were lost and consumed with sin, and we should’ve been punished for what we had done. Instead of punishing us or giving us what we deserved, God offered us eternal life. 

Paul describes eternal life as being a free gift. He uses the Greek word “charisma” which translated means “that which is freely and graciously given.” I have major trust issues when it comes to car dealerships. They say a bunch of words that they apparently don’t understand. Things like, “no interest” and “zero down” or “totally free.” But I have a hard time believing that something could be completely free with no strings attached. Eternal life was given to us. God wasn’t forced to do it. He wasn’t pressured into giving it, instead He chose to give it to us. No strings attached. 

In the church, some have failed to see eternity for what it is; a place that is very real. It is a place that everyone will end up going to. If we live with eternity in view, we will begin to focus on what is truly important. Living with eternity in mind gives us the clarity we need to make the right choices, knowing that our actions will impact our final destination. 

If we live with eternity in mind we will realize the importance of time. I’ve been preaching at the Hebron church of Christ in Grant, Alabama, for two years and it feels like I just moved here. Every year seems to slip away faster than the one before it. James 4:14 tells us that our life is a vapor. We weren’t meant to be here forever. When I was younger I failed to see how quickly life will pass by. Without eternity in mind we won’t see each day as an opportunity to share the Gospel or a chance to tell the world about a loving God that longs for everyone to be saved. We would find ourselves spending less time on the insignificant. 

As a teen I was horrified at the thought of hell. And while hell is still very real, the longer I live, the less I fear hell, and the more I long for heaven. I long for the day when I will be in the presence of God. I long for the day when God will give me a comfort and peace so powerful that it will completely remove all sorrow and pain. I long for heaven because I’ll never have to say a painful goodbye, but instead I’ll be with faithful and likeminded men and women for all eternity. The longer we live the more pain and heartache we go through. The stronger our desire becomes to be with God in that perfect home. 
Life has a way of changing our outlook on eternity. Let life’s issues be the motivation to reach eternity, and not the reason we lose eternal life. 

Understanding “Gospel” In The Colossians Epistle

Understanding “Gospel” In The Colossians Epistle

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Word

Gary III

Gary Pollard

If you’re remotely religious, you’re familiar with the word “gospel.” It has a wide semantic range, describing everything from a genre of music (and a few sub-genres) to the trustworthiness of a statement (“gospel truth”) to an all-encompassing description of religious doctrine. 

The word literally means, “God’s good news to humans,” from εὐαγγέλιον. It is mostly about the life and times of Jesus and the spiritual rewards we have when we accept that hope and follow God’s plan of salvation. It is so common and familiar to many of us that we sometimes overlook its importance. 

We often hear about “spiritual blessings,” but the definitions we are given of them are sometimes (if not often) frustratingly ambiguous. Colossians 1:3-12 gives us a beautiful description of those blessings. One of them is the gospel! Here’s why: 

1. The Gospel is Hope

A phenomenon so common to my generation (it’s immortalized in more than a few memes) is the idea of existential crisis. We ask questions like, “What am I doing? Why am I here? What’s my purpose? Why am I working this dead-end job?” We don’t like to think of where we’ll be in 20 years because that’s downright depressing. Will it be more of the same? The crushing weight of a meaningless existence is at the forefront of so many minds. 

The good news we have is described in Colossians 1:5 as, “…the hope reserved for you in heaven…” That’s purpose! What kind of hope? What are we looking for? We have been given the means to live a life with purpose. It won’t be easy, but it guarantees a perfect existence after we’re gone. This hope for heaven is central to the gospel. 

2. The Gospel Makes Us Better People

Once the Colossian Christians changed their lives, were immersed, and changed their lifestyles, they had a great love for each other and all of the other Christians (1:4). We can be friendly to others (even complete strangers), but Christianity promotes unconditional love for others. The world tries to achieve this artificially, but Christianity accomplishes this through unity and self-sacrifice based on guidance from scripture. 

If we are as dedicated as we should be, it also gives us endurance and patience when we deal with difficulty (1:11, 12). Those who follow God’s will and are dedicated to serving Him are guaranteed a perfect and meaningful existence after this life (Colossians 1:5, 12). 

We are confronted with our own mortality more often than we’d like (especially today). This has a whole lot of people questioning their purpose and their destiny. Christianity offers the greatest gift ever given: purpose and destiny. God has told us how to have both of those things; we can live a meaningful life here, no matter how difficult, and we can have a perfect life there. If you are looking for meaning and purpose in this life, look no further than the gospel – it is how we can be pure here, living a purposeful life with perfect hope for the next. 

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CORONA VIRUS

CORONA VIRUS

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Now that I have your attention…
I want you to think about the furthest place you have ever traveled from home. For me, the furthest I have been is Cambodia which is approximately 9,320 miles from where I live in Alabama. There are a lot of places we could travel to that are very far away. There’s Africa, Asia, Russia or Antarctica, but there is one place in our relationship with God that is further than any place on earth.
Jesus, when he was talking about the final judgment in Matthew 25, tells of people who will be cast away from God. In verse 34,  He says there will be sheep on His right and tells us of the blessing they will receive– an eternal life with God. They received this because of their good works they did on earth and their willingness to follow God.
Verse 41 says, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This word “depart” is a very interesting word. It is the Greek word “poruomai,” which is described as, “go away [or to keep] walking the way you originally were headed.” These people have already made their choice. In life they were already headed for destruction. God just tells them to depart or to keep walking the way they had already chosen to walk.
This place is one of eternal separation from God. This is the farthest place we could be from our heavenly home. I know that no one wants to go to this place, yet sadly many are unknowingly drifting away from God. Some even choose to live a sinful life and are throwing away an eternity of perfection for a brief moment of pleasure.
The good news is that God is a God of love. He wants us to be with him, and we have the opportunity to repent and turn to God. As you’ve been reading this, I want you to think about the direction you are walking. Is it toward eternal life or an eternity of suffering?
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 Homesick For Heaven 

 Homesick For Heaven 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

There is so much debate out there as to what Heaven will actually be like. Some make the argument that we just can’t know for sure. We know that there will be no tears in Heaven, so since that is the case there will definitely be some meatloaf there. Because in a place where there is no meatloaf present, I would cry. Now with that out of the way, let’s look at three quick promises about Heaven.

First there is the promise of “relationship.” In Revelation 21:3 it says, “He will dwell among us…” Not just any relationship, an actual relationship with Jesus Christ.

The second promise is that of “Relief.” In the very next verse it says, “God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” How many of us can’t wait for that day?

Now the third promise is one that is pulled from a verse that many people do not like to read. In Revelation 21:8 we see that there is a promise of “refuge.” You see, Heaven is going to be so great because of who will not be there. After we get a glimpse of what is promised to those who love Him (James 1:12), we see what is promised to those that don’t. Yet even here we see a blessing. Heaven is going to be place that is absent of, “…the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars…” Heaven is going to be a place filled with family. The faithful Church family.

I’m going to Heaven! It’s a choice. It’s a choice to live right and follow Christ no matter what. You have the ability to say it confidently and you should never have to wonder if you’re going to Heaven. It’s a promise! Take hold of that promise, because it’s the only thing that matters.

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Homesick

Homesick

 

Neal Pollard

This time of year our minds go back
To days gone by, down memory’s track
Of laughter, stories, food and walks
Singing, sharing family history and talks

Some who once were in our clannish stable
Have left our banquets for the heavenly table
Childhood recollections may be larger than life
And death or loss may cut like the proverbial knife

Football played on the lawn or watched on the screen
Presents opened and distant relatives seen
For the blessed, much spiritual guidance and contemplation
And talk of our hope and our common anticipation

Do you miss those times of hearth or home?
Or revel in its prospect, when kids and kin soon will come?
Are you in the company of those Scripture upholds?
Those who desire a better country, with streets of clear gold?

Who are longing for a room in the Father’s house?
To bask in the Light that no tears can ever douse?
To stroll the banks by the gentle River Of Life,
A place of happiness, joy, peace, but no strife.

A place full of family, both known or which we meet
Of those we met in Scripture or those who made our lives sweet?
Are you longing for something far better than here,
Where sight replaces faith, where peace tramples fear?

Is your life centered around new heavens, new earth
Where righteousness dwells, only those of the new birth?
Do you long for what happens after being put in the ground
The home of the soul where eternity is found?

Let’s long for and live for that heavenly land
Where we’ll see God’s dear face and hold Jesus’ hand.

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Thanksgiving 1994, at Gary and Brenda Pollard’s house (baby is Gary)

THE KIND OF LIFE WE SHOULD LIVE

THE KIND OF LIFE WE SHOULD LIVE

Neal Pollard

Most of us are familiar with the intimate words spoken by Jesus to His followers in John 14:1-6. They were words of active comfort for a man who was imminently facing the worst suffering humanity could ever know. Yet, from those gentle words of guidance, we find a beacon to show us what kind of life it is possible for us to live—no matter what!

We can live a fearless life (John 14:1). Our hearts don’t have to be troubled. That doesn’t mean we won’t face fears and uncertainties. How can we avoid it? But we can let our fears be subjugated to our Father. We can trust the Bible’s promises and follow its guidance on this (cf. John 14:27; Phil. 4:7).

We can live a faith-filled life (John 14:1b). A “theocentric” (God-centered) point of view will influence our decision-making and daily living. We can have assurance and conviction (Heb. 11:1), but we must have a faith accompanied by works of obedience (Js. 2:20). All of us have lives centered around something that we make most important of all. There are many noble things that could fill in that blank—profession, family, friends, or the like. These may be part of our identity, but they should not define us. Our faith should define us.

We can live a focused life (John 14:2-4). Jesus urges His disciples to focus on at least three things:

  • Focus on the Father’s house (2). Long for heaven.
  • Focus on the Son’s coming (3). Anticipate His return. We know death is an appointment followed by the Judgment (Heb. 9:27).
  • Focus on God’s fellowship (4). Long to be where God is and to follow where He leads. Let that desire lead you to fellowship with Him and His saints publicly and privately in your personal devotional life.

We live in a world full of distractions—technology, appointments, hobbies, politics, and sports. Never let any of those things get your life out of focus.

We can live a follower’s life (John 14:6). We must believe that Jesus is the only way. We must shun the politically-correct notion that says there are many ways. We must live the exclusive way that Scripture teaches. We cannot serve God on our own terms. We must submit to His way and His truth, and we can enjoy the eternal life He offers.

Fame, fortune, fun, friendship, and such may draw and lure us. But none of those things will last. Jesus points to the kind of life we should live. May we be wise enough to listen.

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In Awe Of The Greatest Freedom

In Awe Of The Greatest Freedom

 

Neal Pollard

I once was without representation,
Not a citizen of that chosen nation,
Enslaved and oppressed,
Deprived of the best,
And discouraged by my lowly station,

But my freedom was bought at a price,
With the one ransom that would suffice,
Sweet liberty was bought,
And my freedom I sought,
When I opted for virtue instead of vice.

Independence is becoming and sweet,
It is found when I fall at His feet,
And make Him my Master,
I avoid pain and disaster,
He offers me victory for my defeat.

I celebrate privileged position,
Embrace His heavenly mission,
Knowing the blessings He gives,
Is because He still lives,
He hears the faithful disciple’s petition.

As we celebrate the blessings in this land,
Bestowed by a Providential hand,
Let us never forget,
That He paid our great debt,
He’s preparing what’s infinitely more grand.

Whatever may become of our dear country,
I pray that our eyes will always see,
That no earthly place is home,
We are strangers who will roam,
’Til we reach the Great City across the sea.

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EXCUSES OR MOTIVATIONS

EXCUSES OR MOTIVATIONS

Neal Pollard

Saving for retirement. Exercising and losing weight. Mending a broken relationship. Daily Bible reading.  Many are the objectives, goals, and needs we all have in this life, but just as many are the excuses we often give for not addressing them.  We fall back on lack of time, how we feel, whose fault it is, and generally why we cannot do what we know we should be doing.  It seems that until we are convicted of our need to do something, we will always find ready excuses.

But, when we are motivated to do something, we will not let anything stop us.  We find the time, muster the will, and channel the discipline necessary to keep plugging away until the objective is achieved.

Living for Christ is the greatest objective there is.  It fulfills the very purpose for our existence. It benefits everyone around us. It is imperative to gaining heaven as home.  It positively influences those closest to us.  But, when it is not our greatest priority, we will come up with a bevy of excuses. These run the gamut from sports activities to work to hypocrites to personal weakness to whatever else may come to mind.  Until we are motivated, we will find excuses.  So, what should motivate us to live for Jesus?

  • His sacrificial love (Gal. 2:20).
  • Fear of judgment and eternal punishment (Mat. 25:31-46).
  • The debt we owe (Rom. 1:14-17).
  • The love we have for Him (2 Cor. 5:14).
  • Our love for our family and others close to us (Ti. 2:3-4; Eph. 5:25).
  • An understanding of our purpose (Phil. 1:21-24).
  • The hope of heaven (John 14:1ff).
  • A sense of obligation to our spiritual family (1 Th. 5:11; Mat. 18:12ff).
  • A desire to do what is right and serve Jesus as our Master (1 Pe. 2:20; Mat. 7:21).

All of these (and more) are excellent motivation for enduring the difficult in order to successfully overcome in this life. They will help us to eliminate every impediment that stands in our way.  As the writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).

Do You Love Your Country?

Do You Love Your Country?

Neal Pollard

Are you one who looks back with affection,
Reminiscing about days of yore?
Waving flags and praying for protection,
For your nation from shore to shore.
There are songs and celebrations sweet
Speeches that rouse the emotion
Fierce loyalty for the land beneath your feet
That inspires a most patriotic notion

But what about the better land beyond,
The place you can truly call your own?
Is that yearning great, is that hope fond,
To live in the land of the Risen Son?
If so, are you packing and preparing
For the journey that will reach beyond time?
Down here do you feel alien and wayfaring?
Is citizenship there of importance most prime?

Join a people most ancient whose love was great
For a better, a heavenly country
Who felt like exiles here, were the object of hate
By earthly counterparts who put their scorn bluntly
Fix your eyes on a grand immigration
Made possible by the Great Emancipator
Make sure you’re a member of the holy nation
And your eternal home will be infinitely greater.

Ft. McHenry (Maryland)

“WINNING THE LOTTERY”

“WINNING THE LOTTERY”

Neal Pollard

One of the most recent lottery winners, Jesus Davila, Jr., has an interesting backstory.  He once spent 12 years behind bars for the manufacturing and selling of cocaine, a felony.  This week, he claimed $127 million after taxes.  Sounds like a rags to riches kind of story, doesn’t it?  It is interesting, and not a little sad, to read about some past winners of the lottery:

  • Ibi Roncaioli was murdered by her husband after giving $2 million of her $5 million dollar prize to a secret child she’d had with another man (businessinsider.com).
  • Evelyn Adams won twice, in 1985 and 1986, winning a total of $5.4 million. She gambled it away in Atlantic City and lives in a trailer park today (ibid.).
  • Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in 1989, but spent it all on a horrible crack addiction, divorced his wife, lost custody of his children, and was charged with attempted murder (ibid.).
  • Victoria Zell won $11 million in 2001, but went to prison convicted of a drug and alcohol-induced car collision that killed one and paralyzed another (theatlantic.com).
  • Abraham Shakespeare won $31 million in 2006. He disappeared in 2009, after having spent most of his fortune. He was found under a concrete slab in 2010, a woman accused of fleecing him for nearly $2 million charged with his murder (ibid.).
  • Jack Whittaker, already wealthy when he won $314 million in 2002, suffered too many calamities to mention here, but they include the death of his granddaughter and daughter and being sued for writing bounced checks to casinos. He was quoted as saying, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up” (ibid.).
  • Bud Post won $16.2 million, but squandered it.  His brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to try and kill him. He died of respiratory failure in 2006, living on $450 a month and food stamps. He once said, “I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare” (cleveland.com).
  • Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million in 1996. In 2005, he was kidnapped, robbed and murdered by his sister-in-law and her boyfriend (ibid.).

To say there are mountains of additional, equally pitiful stories is to understate the matter.  Certainly, not every one who wins the lottery winds up on skid row or in the morgue because of it.  Yet, neither is it the panacea one might believe it to be.  How many others, who can ill afford to play, squander money on a regular basis in the hopes of striking it rich?  The overwhelming majority will never achieve that, but even many that do wind up worse than before they won.

In the ever-elusive search for happiness and satisfaction, mankind will come up empty when looking to material things for the answer.  Jesus taught that it’s a hollow pursuit (Mat. 6:19).  Paul says not “to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).  Jesus warned that your life does not consist of your possessions, even if you have an abundance of them (Lk. 12:15).  The good news is that there is a true treasure, one that never disappoints, that never depletes, and will never go away.  Peter calls it “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Pet. 1:4).  Strive to “win” that!

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