Categories
life providence suffering trust

A Message From The Rattling Bones

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Six hundred years before Christ would make His providential appearance, a righteous man finds himself in captivity. While exiled, Ezekiel, was able to witness the spirit of God in a very intimate way (Ezekiel 1). Even so, he was still living under the thumb of the Babylonians like every other Israelite with him. While under these unideal circumstances though, he is privileged to see awe-inspiring visions from God. Have you ever paid attention to the eerie sensations described throughout this book? In Ezekiel 1:4 the prophet feels a great and stormy wind on the bank of the river Chebar. The wind brings with it a massive cloud with fire flashing around it and a substance like glowing metal in the center of it. The wings of the creatures he saw (verse 24) made sounds like that of roaring waters. The voice of the Almighty was like the sound of a great army camp. What sights he was able to see! This great connection to God didn’t take away his pain or sorrow, though.

 Chapter 19 is one long lament as Ezekiel cries over his hardhearted Israelite brothers. Why won’t they listen to him? Even after Ezekiel performs some radical visual illustrations like eating his bread over dung and laying on his side for an entire year, they won’t respond to the “invitation.” How frustrating is that, preachers? God never abandons His faithful servant, but His confused prophet is still left to wonder what God is going to do about the mess which makes up his reality. A familiar feeling for many faithful Christians today.  

Never underestimate the hand of the Almighty. This truthful statement can be pulled from Ezekiel 37, when the prophet is taken up and then placed in the middle of a dark valley. Ezekiel is surrounded on all sides by heaps of dry human bones and he’s probably wondering why in the world God has taken him to such a place. The text answers the question by asking a question. God speaks to Ezekiel and says, “Can these dry bones live again?” What an odd thing to ask. However, Ezekiel responds, “Only you know, O Lord.”

 It’s always when we’re deep in the valley’s of life that we’re forced to answer the difficult questions about God’s abilities. When we’re surrounded by darkness, the question we have to ask is, “Does God have the power to see me through this?” If you remember, Ezekiel has become frustrated with the fact that Israel just won’t listen to him or Him. He’s lost hope in their ability to change— they’re just too far gone. However, God demonstrates to His prophet in a dramatic way that NOTHING is impossible for Him. 

He doesn’t bring the bones to life in the blink of an eye, but we know He could have. Instead, He allows Ezekiel to hear those bones rattle and to hear the sounds of fibers and flesh sticking together. He wanted to leave an impression on Ezekiel to demonstrate the might of the Almighty. Ezekiel had no idea how those bones came to life, but he knew one thing for certain. God did it. You may not understand why God has allowed you to enter your valley, but you can be certain that He has the power to see you through. You are standing on your two feet because God has given you the strength to do so. God has promised His faithful servants a heavenly light at the end of our tunnels and whatever God says— He will always accomplish (Ezekiel 37:14). 

Categories
providence Uncategorized

Trail Magic

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

My dad has discovered YouTube. He had been using the service to watch streaming worship services during the height of the coronavirus lockdown; he has since noted its potential entertainment value. One of his favorite channels is one that plays classic country music from the 1950s and 1960s. Recently, however, he has been watching the videos of hikers along the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails. I use to enjoy hiking in my healthier days, so I have sat down to watch more than one of these videos with him. I have never even contemplated doing a thru-hike of one of the previously mentioned 1,000 mile plus trails, but have admired those who have completed them. As I watched one video of a hiker who undertook the Appalachian Trail to conquer his depression, I heard him use an unfamiliar term: “trail magic.” In another video, a young woman from Opelika, Alabama, used the words in regards to her trek along the Pacific Crest Trail. Curiosity compelled me to look that phrase up. The phenomenon originated on the Appalachian Trail but has since popped up along the other lengthy trails as well.

 The Appalachian Trail Conservancy defines trail magic as follows:

“1) Finding what you need most when you least expect it. 2) Experiencing something rare, extraordinary, or inspiring in nature. 3) Encountering unexpected acts of generosity, that restore one’s faith in humanity.” 1

As the videos demonstrated, trail magic presented itself in a cooler of cold drinks left at a taxing point in the trail. Or maybe a veteran thru-hiker set up a tent at a spot along the pathway to feed the hikers who came through. It could also be a person volunteering to provide a wearied hiker a ride to his or her nightly lodging when the trail came close to a town offering a hostel or hotel serving hikers. Thru-hikers have no reason to expect that any of these things will happen to them as they make their journey even though it happens enough to warrant a name (i.e., trail magic). That is why it is so appreciated.

 When I read that, my mind immediately associated aspects of this phenomenon to what those of us who are Christians call “providence.” How often have we found something unexpected in our life, typically at the most opportune time, that screams “God” to us? In other words, a sudden something that points to God’s hand at work in our lives. No, providence is not a miracle, since it does not circumvent the laws of nature to occur. It works within the established framework around us, making it even more amazing since it can require God’s forethought rather than just a momentary expression of His unlimited power. Yet, it is as appreciated by us as any miracle would be since it satisfies our momentary need, whether remission from cancer or unexpected inflow of funds when presented with a financial crisis.

 This characteristic of God has earned Him a unique name first applied by father Abraham, Jehovah-Jireh. Do you recall the reason Abraham called God by that name? God had asked him to offer his only son as a sacrifice. This son was the promised one for whom he had long waited. Yet, Abraham complied. When his son, Isaac, noticing a missing sacrifice, asked his father about it, he replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22.8 NASB). After nearly sacrificing his son, an angel stopped Abraham, and Abraham noted a ram with its head stuck in a nearby thicket. Abraham offered the ram as a sacrifice in place of his son and called the location “Jehovah-Jireh,” meaning “The Lord will provide.”

 Our path to Heaven is strait and narrow (Matthew 7.13-14). It is, therefore, most welcome that as we make our way through this life that we encounter this celestial trail magic. Let us never fail to thank our God since He is also Jehovah-Jireh.

 REFERENCES

1 Bruffey, Daniel. “Trail Magic.” Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, appalachiantrail.org/explore/hike-the-a-t/thru-hiking/trail-magic/.

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Categories
existence of God God God (nature) omnipresence providence Uncategorized

Is God Really Everywhere at Once?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

One of the most mind boggling topics we can study is the omnipresence of God. When one contemplates the power of God, it is easy to see why so many are intimidated by this subject. Most who believe in God believe in His ability to be in every location on earth at one time, and by recognizing God as the creator, we are automatically ascribing Him as the Author of time.
God is the creator of time, and as humans we are stuck in a timeline. We see everything through the eyes of time. The date we were born, the day we got married, and what time our doctors appointment is next week. God isn’t bound to time the way we are.
2 Peter 3:8 says, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” God does not experience time the same way we do. What seems like forever to us is just a second to God, and what seems like a moment to us is forever to God. God has the power to move through His creation unrestricted. The laws of the universe do not apply to Him because He is not a part of the universe in the same sense that you and I are. God is spirit, not matter or physical substance to be measured and weighed. He is The Almighty God and is not bound to His creation of time.
Psalm 33:13-14 reads, “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth.” If God sees all the inhabitants of the earth, He is automatically breaking the laws of time and space. For example, I am writing this blog at 6:24 PM. At this very moment it is 2:24 AM in Dar es Salaam. It is 6:24 AM in Bangkok. It is 11:24 AM in New Zealand. God sees those who are awake on half the planet, and those who are asleep on the other half. God is naturally present in every aspect of the natural order of things, in every manner, time, and place.
God is omnipresent, and it is very important for us to understand this. A God with this much power and holiness, that is everywhere on earth at any given moment, takes the time to listen to us. A God who created everything with His Words, sees all the inhabitants of the earth, and has the power and might to be everywhere on this earth at one time is the God who looked at me and you and saw that we needed a Savior.
What an incredible God we serve!
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Categories
Esther influence providence

“I Drive A Donkey”

Neal Pollard

There is an obscure Bible character that holds a great deal of fascination for me.  His name is Harbona(h) and his name only appears twice, both in connection with the account of Esther.  He is introduced in Esther 1:10 and plays a key role in this divine story of providence in Esther 7:9.  His name means “donkey driver.”  Granted, his name means more than that.  The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names says his name means, “Warlike; martial; a destroyer. Ass driver; the anger of him who builds” (Cornwall and Smith 96).  Harbonah was the eunuch in Ahaseurus’ court who informed the king of Haman’s treachery, saying, “Behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits high, which Hanan made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!”  Ahaseurus, true to form, wasted no time and said, “Hang him on it.”  Thus, ended the life of the man who tried to end the life of the Jews, through whom the Messiah of the world would eventually be born.  Thus, Harbonah has an important footnote in the beautiful unfolding of God’s providence in the life and book of Esther.  His name is favorably included in only sacred volume God ever moved men to write.  That’s a pretty good legacy for a man whose name means “donkey driver.”

All of us are probably curious, if uninformed, about what our name means.  I once learned that my middle name, by which as a “junior” I am called, Neal, means “champion.”  Lest I should be exalted above measure, my first name, Gary, means “hunting dog.”  My surname, Pollard, means “tree topper.”  Thus, taken together, I can be proud to know that my full name means “champion hunting dog tree topper.”  Solomon wrote about a good name, calling it better than it is more desired than great wealth (Prov. 22:1) and better than a good ointment (Ecc. 7:1).  Regardless of what your given name means, what means most and how your name will be remembered on the lips of others, good or bad, is determined by what you do on this earth as is associated with that name.  So even if your name is Rafe Bosephus McGillicutty, that name will be sweet on others’ lips if how you wear your name honors the Lord and promotes His cause.

Categories
providence trust Uncategorized worry

The Curious Case Of The Caratinga Cow

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

 

We know that tomorrow isn’t promised and we also understand that, unless God comes first, everyone will die one day. With that being said, I am almost 100% certain that nobody reading this will pass from this life after having a cow fall through your roof. The “steaks” just aren’t that high. While this is an unlikely way to die, it’s not an impossible way to go. In fact, this is exactly what happened to Joao Souza in 2013. A one-ton cow was grazing on the hills behind his home in Caratinga before it somehow found it’s way up on to his roof. An unknowing Souza was snoozing on his couch when suddenly his life was over. The asbestos-filled roof collapsed under the weight of the cow. Being done in by a bovine is not exactly a bodacious way to make that final transition, but the media had reported two more similar events of cows seemingly falling from the sky in this area just two years prior. Even though this event actually occurred, how ridiculous would it be for us to spend our days in fear— worrying that we will meet a similar fate? 

The last verse of Matthew six will tell you not to exert so much energy worrying about tomorrow. This passage has brought peace and comfort to many Christians throughout the years, but many of us still worry about our tomorrows. I guess if our tomorrows were actually ours to begin with, we may really have something to fear. The truth is, God owns the future. He doesn’t tell us not to worry about the things that are unlikely to happen, He simply tells us not to worry. God’s almighty hand still holds the world, and for the faithful believer this reality can set your mind to rest. I’m not sure what tomorrow brings. It’s possible that a cow could even come crashing through my roof and send me into eternity— but that’s alright. It’s not just alright because I could use a little more dairy in my diet, but it’s alright because a life in Christ comes with a secure future. It doesn’t matter what Fox News tells us when the Good News already told us everything we need to know. No matter what the day may bring nothing can change the fact that Jesus came, He died, and He definitely is alive, well, and active every day. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Let’s live our lives with joy and in the peace only He can provide. 

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    I hope this moos you and that you have an udderly fantastic day. If this beefed up your spiritual cow-fidence please share with someone else.  

Categories
adversity providence trust

Lessons From Adversity (1): Let Go and Let God

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

We find God not in an anxious mind, but a still heart. God exhorts us in Psalm 46.10a, “Be still, and know that I am God” (KJV). Contextually, this statement occurs amid the possibility of much turmoil. We admit sometimes we must move forward to receive God’s deliverance, as the Israelites did when pressed by pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea (Exodus 14.13-16). Yet, there are also times when we can do nothing. For those times, we’re to be still.

 

What do we mean by “still?” Without trying to sound like a Hebrew scholar which I’m not, allow me to suggest by using this word God is saying, “Drop your arms!” In other words, quit fighting or putting up a resistance. The New American Standard states in Psalm 46.10a we are to “cease striving.” Each of us reach a point in our life when the time for our struggle ends and we must enter the vestibule of God’s Providence.

 

What do we do, for example, when the doctor says we have cancer? The Kubler-Ross model of grief puts anger as third on its list of seven stages. We all experience grief differently, so anger may come either sooner or later for you than at stage three. However, I can tell you from experience, anger is something you feel dealing with cancer. “Why me? Why not this sinner over here? I never smoked. I never drank. I’ve been chaste.” Yet, God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” He has shown us through His Word, His grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12.8-10). And for any lingering anxiety, there’s prayer. What does prayer do? It grants peace we cannot even comprehend (Philippians 4.6-7).

 

Though an entire lesson can be given about Providence, let me briefly suggest why it’s more awesome than the miracles for which people beg when they hear “cancer.” For a miracle, God instantaneously suspends natural law, and directly intervenes. It’s amazing, I admit. It shows His power in a way one cannot ignore (e.g. parting the Red Sea). Yet, it’s also not the thing to which He must resort to heal one’s body of a disease like cancer. His Providence is there to use the immune system which He placed within us. Providence is quiet. It requires that we be still to observe it. When we do, we see God in a thousand different things. Like a domino stacking champion, God aligns the bits and pieces that, when struck, fall into place revealing the beautiful mosaic He planned for us all along.

 

The more still you make yourself throughout life, the more you see His Providence. Through prayer comes peace, yes, but so, too, the wisdom to know when to move and when to be still (James 1.4-6). So, let go and let God. Live faithfully and trust Him do the rest.

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view from Pike’s Peak

Categories
God God (nature) goodness love of God providence

God Is Always In Control

Neal Pollard

While the knowledge of my fear of snakes is widespread, some of the events of my past that hardened that horror as less so. A couple of years before moving to Colorado, we were hit by Hurricane Isabel. On our one acre lot, we had well over 100 trees. In fact, about 100 of them fell in that storm, which was the deadliest and costliest of the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season. Cleanup took months, as the storm shook up the environment in some notable ways. To me, the most disturbing was that it forced a great many copperhead snakes out of their dry dens and rocky hillsides down into neighborhoods like ours. In the course of several months of cutting and removing trees, we ran into about a dozen of these demonic creatures. 

On one occasion, a copperhead was near my foot. Also near my foot was a garden hoe, which I promptly dispatched for the purpose of eliminating this threat. To my utter dismay, the blade of the hoe, put to the head of the snake, sank into the rain-softened ground. Rather than killing the snake, it made it mad. At this point, I was in a quandary. Pushing the hoe harder was not causing further harm to the snake, but releasing the snake from the hoe felt like a bad option, too. For what seemed like a week, I continued to work the hoe on that copperhead until it was hurt badly enough for me to properly finish the job.

Have you ever been caught on the horns of a dilemma which seemed bigger than you? As you were in the throes of it, you prayed, pleaded, and petitioned God for help. You realized that without His help, you were in big trouble. It could have been regarding your health, finances, a relationship, a sin struggle, or big decision. Most of us become keenly aware of our need of God’s intervention in moments like those. Yet, it is a helpful reminder that even when life is not so scary or circumstances are less dramatic, God is still in control. Our prayers should reflect this. Our plans should be governed by it. Our priorities should show that we get that.

What will happen to our nation in time to come? What might the church face that scares and intimidates us? What could happen in our individual lives that fills us with dread? No matter what, trust that God is always in control. Take heart in this truth: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident” (Psalm 27:1-3). 

In other words, God is always in control!

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Categories
providence Uncategorized

Who Can Be Against Us?

Neal Pollard

Have you ever had someone that seemed to have it out for you? Not only did they not like you, but they actively undermined you. They may have slandered you or even lied about you. You may have even felt that they were trying to ruin your life!

Have you ever had something that seemed to overwhelm and overshadow you? It could be something from your past, present, or future, worry, guilt, regret, fear, trouble, pain, problem, or other stress. Maybe it was something that was nearly impossible to shake or something of which you were constantly reminded.

In a beautiful context writing about assurance, Paul asks, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). That is an eminently fair question to ask. Here are some potential foes that could undo us: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, powers, the present, the future, height, depth, or any other created thing (35, 38-39). Examine that list closely. Doesn’t it include just about every potential threat and trial? Do we believe the assertion of Romans 8:31, this rhetorical question firmly implying that God is bigger and stronger than any potential problem or person?

When it comes to our righteous plans, isn’t this same principle vital to our process? What can we do and be as a church? The only limitation is that which goes against God’s will or that which can dominate God’s will. We must give great care to the first part, but we need not worry for a second about the second part. There will be factors that strain or intimidate. There will be reverses and failures. But, if we will persist and persevere, what can defeat us?

How exciting, in our personal and congregational lives, to serve a God more powerful than any foe or fear! We can succeed by His help and to His glory, come what may! Let us trust this timeless truth and live our lives as though we believe it!

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Categories
God guidance life omnipotence providence

THE MORE I KNOW, THE LESS I KNOW

Neal Pollard

It is a true paradox. Today,  I’ve been married longer than I have ever been.  I’ve been a father longer than I have ever been.  The same is true for me as a Christian, a preacher, and every other relationship I am in.  My experience in all of these has never been greater than it is right now.  Yet, as I examine things, I realize just how much I do not know.  I am not saying that truth is unknowable, for such a statement would be false and contradictory to what God affirms in Scripture (John 8:32; Eph. 1:18; 1 Tim. 3:15; etc.).  It is just that I realize how little I understand compared to what needs to be understood, that I find the challenge of putting truth into practice in every situation requiring wisdom and understanding as daunting as I ever have.  Yet, despite such a realization, my optimism has never been greater.  Why?  Because I have never believed more strongly in the power and wisdom of God, nor have I ever depended more on Him for strength and provision where I am lacking than I do today.  I feel smaller, but He seems bigger.  While the walk on the narrow way seems a steeper, more strenuous, incline each day and the challenges to faith more daunting, more than proportionate to this is my realization that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20). My conviction about what the Bible says has never been stronger. My belief in God’s existence, involvement, concern, and righteousness has never been more than this moment.  Yet, my awareness of my finiteness and limitations, the transiency of this life, and the ferocity of the adversary is acute.  Incredibly, this doesn’t cause me to despair. It causes me to hope. It takes the focus off me and puts it where it belongs—on Him! He is able to establish me through His Word (Rom. 16:25). He is “able to make all grace abound to” me, that I, “having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).  The most important thing for me to know, every day in every challenge and responsibility, is that God is able (Rom. 14:4; Phil. 3:21; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 2:18).

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not despairing. I am not even frustrated. I am hopeful and excited.  One of the greatest promises of Scripture is, “But He gives more grace” (Jas. 4:6). He will walk with me through the darkest valleys (Psa. 23:4). As He holds my hand and guides me through His word and His providence, He also points me toward His house.  He tells me He will help me get home and when the narrow way becomes too steep or arduous for me to walk alone, He will carry me in His everlasting arms (cf. Deu. 32:7). I will keep studying His inspired guidebook and striving to apply it to my life.  And as I do, I will increase my dependence and reliance upon Him, confident that “He who has begun a good work in [me] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  That’s really all I need to know!