WHEN THE STORMS OF LIFE ARE RAGING

WHEN THE STORMS OF LIFE ARE RAGING

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

When I preached in Livingston, Alabama, Selman Falls would often lead us in singing the song, “He Will Hide Me.”  This M.E. Servoss hymn was in the Songs of the Church hymnal.  Servoss, a woman from Chicago (“Mary Elizabeth”), was a prolific hymn writer.  This was maybe her most notable hymn.  Perhaps no imagery is more graphic in scripture than depicting troubles as a storm (cf. Psalm 55:8; Proverbs 1:27; Isaiah 25:4-5; 1 Timothy 1:19; etc.).  Storms are frightening and damaging.  I sat in a hallway with my head in my lap in Junior High in Franklin, Georgia, during a tornado and my family and I rode out a hurricane in Virginia in 2003.  The unknown of what the storm will do adds to its ferocity.

I read David McCullough’s Johnstown Flood, about the torrential rains that broke the Little Fork dam and unleashed a calamity of its kind unmatched in modern, U.S. History.  People were completely swept away, crushed by debris, drowned, and even burned to death.  The storms of that late May day in 1889 cost 2,209 people their lives.  McCullough tells about Victor Heiser’s incredible survival in this flood.  He climbed into a barn just before the powerful waters blew through the property and he watched the family house (in which his parents were) instantly demolished.  The barn was carried downstream in such a way that it barely missed whole houses, freight train cars, barns, and the like before the then sixteen year old Heiser found refuge with nineteen others in the attic of a two-story brick house commandeered by the flood.  Along the way, he witnessed the deaths of several not so blessed as he.  Heiser made the most of the blessing.  He grew up, became a doctor, and it is estimated that he saved as many as two million lives through the development of the first effective treatment against leprosy.  He died at the age of 99 in 1972.

Most storm survivors are not as acclaimed and famous as Victor Heiser.  So many have taken hold of the hand which calms the storms and have enjoyed the Lord’s guidance as they weathered their own storms of tragedy, trouble, and transgression.  They reached their end, many of them having aided others to escape through Christ!  Spurgeon and a friend saw a weather vane upon which were written the words, “God is love.”  The friend objected, saying, “God’s love is not so fickle and transient.  That vane is not correct.”  To which Spurgeon replied, “No, friend, you have misunderstood its meaning.  It is correct.  It suggests that God is love, which ever way the wind blows.”

Donna Dungan, a wonderful Christian lady who has lived along the Gulf Coast where many fierce storms have blown, wrote a poem to comfort a friend suffering from an unknown virus that eventually took her life.  Her beautiful words may bring you comfort as you deal with your storms.  I close with it.

Though a fierce storm is raging about you
And you fear there is nothing you can do
There’s a place in your heart where He meets you
And in the eye of the storm He carries you through
Don’t let go, don’t try to leave the eye, or the storm will take you in
Nothing will overtake you while you are holding on to Him
There is a place of peace and rest that is safe from the battles of life
A place in your heart where He will shield you from worry and strife
Our Lord never sleeps nor slumbers while His children are in pain
He alone has the power to hold you up until you are whole again
Oh, please don’t let go–just hold on
In the eye of the storm just hold on.

 
1002 Lehman Avenue
Bowling Green, Kentucky 42103
United States of America
The Care and Feeding of Feral Cats

The Care and Feeding of Feral Cats

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

Brent Pollard

During my father’s recuperation from quadruple bypass surgery, I’ve had a Sisyphean task: feeding and caring for feral cats. Yes, we have been killed by kindness at the Pollard home nestled in the northeast Georgia mountains. In the summer of 2016, a desperate kitty with soulful eyes showed up begging for food. We do have a soft spot for God’s critters and thought having a mouser around would be useful. Plus, cats are also good at taking care of snakes. So, we fed her, not realizing that her desperation to approach us, though feral, was fueled by her pregnancy. I think you know what is coming next. Yes, we are now a cat sanctuary, a FERAL cat sanctuary.  

I must use a broom to sweep the doorway so that no feral cats come inside. (Being feral, they would quickly tear the house apart. We know this from experience.) Once I exit, the cats start meowing at me as if starving. A few of the cats I am trying to feed will batt at the other cats, effectively bullying them, attempting to jockey for a better position at the bowls. Sometimes, I must retrieve many of their bowls since they have knocked them off the porch into the yard. One of the more annoying things they do is stick their heads over the food bowl I am trying to fill, and the kibble often bounces off their heads, scattering everywhere. When I move to a new bowl, many will abandon a bowl, I just put food into, coming to eat at the new bowl even though it is the same food! I realize that they cannot understand me, but I still tell them that I don’t feed certain ones anything “special” and do my best to give them the same amount of food in every bowl.  

Despite my equal food distribution efforts, some larger cats will gobble up more food than they should eat. There are cats with timid personalities who will hang back and eat the remnants. I will try to sneak them some more kibble, but their characters cause them to yield that extra portion to the assertive one who is willing to steal. It is very frustrating since they cannot understand. And how can we achieve understanding? God gave me dominion over them, and the difference between our kinds is too significant. One idiomatic expression keeps coming to mind, “Like trying to herd cats.” It feels like an impossible task. 

But, then, when you are about to make a phone call and turn yourself in to animal control, one of the cats rubs up against your leg rather than joining the tumult clamoring for the food bowl. Despite being feral, a few cats learn to appreciate their benefactors. These same cats allow you to pet them and may even approach you for the same. A select couple will even walk with you as you walk down to the mailbox or go on a two-mile hike. Yes, I know, that kind of behavior is more what one associates with canines.  Yet, some cats manage to worm their way into your heart.  

I want to tread with care as I make an application. First, we brought this situation on ourselves.  Second, if we had moved after the first cat had delivered her kitten, having her spayed, we would have nipped our current situation in the bud. But catching them to spay and neuter them would be another nigh-impossible task under our circumstances. 

As I think about our feline predicament, though, I wonder what it must be like to be God looking down on a creation choosing rebellion over obedience. Could it be that He feels as if He is “herding cats?” He sends His rain on the just and unjust, but there are still the unscrupulous, defrauding others, failing to be benevolent. There are people He made in His image attacking others He has likewise made in His image. How often does He hear complaints rather than thanksgiving? Why won’t these people listen to what He says? But there are also the few on the “strait and narrow.” These desire a relationship with their benefactor, despite being feral. These walk with God. Do they buoy His heart? We do know God promised Abram that He would have spared Sodom for the sake of ten righteous souls (Genesis 18.32). It is possible. It is upon this consideration of God’s vantage over His feral creation that I ask with David, “What is man that You think of him?” (Psalm 8.4) Yes, I think that feral cats’ feeding and care is a fitting metaphor to describe God’s task of dealing with fallen humanity.   

 

The Window To The Soul

The Window To The Soul

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

The eyes are the window to the soul…sounds like something straight out of a Shakespeare sonnet. While this is a phrase that was around even before the time of Christ, many believe that it is from Matthew 6:22-23.

This saying is often a misapplication of what Jesus said while preaching the Sermon on the Mount. To understand it better we need to understand the purpose of Matthew chapters 5-7. Jesus is speaking about righteousness. I’m fact, this section in chapter 6 is one of the five areas of righteousness that Jesus talks about by way of practical application. In verses 19-24, Jesus is talking about money. Using exegetical principles we can better understand Matthew 6:22-23.

Verses 19-21 say, “”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”” Now notice verse 24, “”No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” If verses 19-21 is talking about money, and vs. 24 is talking about money, what is he talking about in verses 22-23?

Money! He says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Jesus is talking about our view of money. The eye is the lamp of the body. Basically the way we view money effects our way of living. If we have a healthy view of money, our priorities will be in line with Gods. If we have an unhealthy eye, and view money as more important, our whole body will be full of darkness because we have chosen money over God.

The problem with the saying “the eye is the window to the soul” is that it has often offered people permission to judge the state of a person’s soul. It gives permission to judge others solely because of what they perceived a person was looking at or thinking. Biblically, we can’t know the state of a person’s soul simply by looking at their eyes. Only God has the ability to see the intentions of the heart. As humans we don’t have the power to condemn someone, only God has this power.

That being said, it is our job to be attentive to people. Our duty to one another in the church is to look out for the souls of everyone. Our view of money can either corrupt our priorities, or help us grow the kingdom.

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
We’re going through I Peter in the college class at Lehman Avenue and we most recently studied part of chapter three. This chapter further discusses the theme of submission (giving up our power willingly to another) frequently appearing throughout the book. Christians are essentially told, “It’s not about me,” that we should get rid of certain behaviors, and an explanation for why we give up certain behaviors or power is given.
 
For example, we should get rid of hatred, taking advantage of others, hypocrisy, jealousy, and character assassination (2.1), because we know that God has shown us mercy (2.9, 10). That’s hard. We should listen to our government, even when we disagree with them (as long as it doesn’t violate God’s word), because God uses them to maintain some semblance of law and order (2.13-17). That’s hard. We should be good employees, even when our bosses aren’t fair, because Christ suffered, too, and God looks at us favorably when we suffer for doing the right thing (2.18ff). That’s hard.
 
In the same way – that is, keeping with the theme of surrendering our own power and doing something difficult for the sake of goodness – Peter addresses women and men specifically in chapter three.
 
This is an interesting study because it sheds light on a controversial topic: wives being submissive to their husbands. Let’s look at the text:
 
  • Γυναίκες (wives/women): Submit to ιδιοις (your own) husbands. Not all men, just husbands. Peter is not saying that women are inferior and should submit for that reason.
  • Ινα (in order that): For the purpose of cultivating godliness and influencing a fallen husband. It’s not for the purpose of manifesting inferiority, but to influence a lost husband! This involves a difficult task – as in 2.18 – which demonstrates the power of the word.
  • Δια (through/by): γυναικών αναστροφής (womanly or “wifely” conduct). Through her submission to her husband and through an emphasis on timeless inner beauty, she can save his soul. “Men and women have different ways of expressing godliness. Peter is showing how women can powerfully influence their husbands, which is by submitting to them” (Edwin Jones).
 
This sensitive topic is nonetheless a powerful one. Wives are not told to submit because it’s “just what women should do,” or because of a belief that women are somehow inferior, but are told to submit because it can save souls. Men are told to assign value to their wives and to be respectful and considerate with them if they want to be right with God (3.7), followed by a general set of commands for all Christians to act a certain way for the sake of godliness (3.8ff).
 
We submit and suffer as Christians to save souls and to remember that, “It’s not about me.”
(Gary teaching 1 Peter in the college class at Lehman Avenue)
Unmasking Pride 

Unmasking Pride 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

In the best cartoon ever made, “Scooby Doo Where Are You?” from the 60s, the episodes would predictably end when the monster is unmasked and the man beneath is revealed. The gang was always shocked! The culprit would then say that famous line, “I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling kids and that dog.”

There is a monster in the Bible that is mentioned in almost every book of the Bible in some form or fashion and for good reason, too. The monster is “pride,” and we’re going to unmask it so that we know exactly what it does– and what it looks like.

Pride is a form of insanity— a blindness to our reality.

Judah didn’t have many great kings, but Hezekiah was one of the rare exceptions. In 2 Kings 18-20 we read about his eventful life (as well as in Isaiah, I Chronicles, Nehemiah, and Zephaniah). While he was a righteous king, he had to battle his pride. He had seen God’s great power in action in the lives of those in Jerusalem as a whole, and in his own personal life. God saved them from Sennacherib and his army and then Hezekiah was cured of a deadly illness. However, Hezekiah had a difficult time giving God the glory for those victories. He repented and turned back to the Lord (2 Chron. 32:25-26), but his children still suffered the consequences. There’s no such thing as a “self made man” and Hezekiah needed to be reminder that he was a “God-made man.” This proves that even the righteous man can struggle with the monster, pride. 

Pride is a destructive form of amnesia.

How easy it is to turn to God when we’re in dire straights. Nebuchadnezzar had seen God save three men from a blazing fire he threw them in for not feeding his own ego by worshiping a giant image of himself. After witnessing this miraculous event, he acknowledges the Lord briefly, but his life isn’t transformed. While walking on his temple rooftop he says, 

“Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30).

He seemed to have had a little more gloating to do, but while “the words were still in his mouth…” God drives him from the land and he is fed grass like an ox for seven years (4:25). You would think his son, Belshazzar, would not forget the difficult lesson that his father had to learn but he falls victim to pride as well. 

Five Symptoms Of Pride

1. FEAR – We will find ourselves in fearful situations when we become consumed with self-reliance. We refuse to see that some things are really out of our hands. 

2. ENTITLEMENT – Romans 3-6 says we deserve death on account of sin. We’re not entitled to anything but pride makes us think we’re better than we are and that we deserve more than we do. 

3. PEOPLE-PLEASING – Pride is a form of self-worship and self-perseveration. We want the approval of others over God’s approval. Gal. 1:10 – “If I’m trying to please man I’m not a servant of God.”

4. HYPOCRISY – Elevating of status, forgetting God’s mercy, “holier than thou” mentality and quick to point out faults in others. 

5. REBELLION – The one whose actions say, “I know better than God.”

Pride is a destroyer of lives. Let’s strive for humility so that God can use us in great ways. 

Daniel 4:37 “…those who walk in pride He is able to humble.”

Hezekiah’s Tunnel (Jerusalem)
Coming Together, Coming Apart

Coming Together, Coming Apart

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Last Saturday, John Moore and I traveled a couple of hours over to Lexington, Kentucky, to see several places associated with the “Restoration Movement.” This restoration effort, coming at a time of spiritual awakening where people were rethinking their approach to the Bible as well as questioning religious teaching, led to independent movements of people who concluded it was not only possible but necessary to go back to the Bible for everything they taught and believed. Rejecting religious creeds, disciplines, and manuals, they sought to do Bible things in Bible ways, speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it was silent. While we should not revere or unduly exalt the people who led this effort, neither should we abandon their work. We should imitate their spirit of letting the Bible, not human tradition, be our sole rule and guide.

Two independent movements, most associated with Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell, began to conclude that they were of the same mind and judgment in desiring to get back to simple, New Testament Christianity. They met in 1832 in downtown Lexington on Hill Street. John and I stood at this very spot, now a parking lot for a major bank.

Untold numbers of people from the northern and mid-Atlantic United States to the southern and, at the time, western United States obeyed the simple New Testament message they and others preached. They established colleges, held lengthy evangelistic meetings to preach the gospel, had religious discussions and debates, began journals and periodicals, wrote books, and shared the gospel with their neighbors, family, and friends. More and more were leaving religious division to simply be New Testament Christians. 

John and I went from that place where great hope and renewal occurred just a few minutes north up to a little community called Midway. It is a quaint little town, with antique shops, trains, and a beautiful little college named for the town. We first went to a church building, built on the site of another building where in 1860 the well-meaning group of saints there, to aid what in their view was atrocious singing, accompanied their singing with a piano-like instrument known as a melodeon. The practice of adding mechanical instruments of music would spread to congregations throughout the state and ultimately out to the Lord’s church all over the country. Something lacking the authority and approval of Christ, but meeting with the tastes and preferences of men, was introduced and disrupted the unity and harmony of God’s people. It would take years to form a wedge wide enough to cause systemic division and disunity, but it happened alarmingly fast. 

Throughout history, the precious attribute of unity (Psa. 133:1) has required great effort to achieve and has proven difficult to maintain (1 Kings 12:1ff). However, God commands it (1 Cor. 1:10; Rom. 12:16; Phil. 1:27). He is pleased when we pursue and preserve it, so how does He view when we viciously sever, undermine, and destroy it? History is a great teacher, if we allow it to be. May we have hearts desiring nothing else than God’s Word as the foundation of our teaching and lives, and pursue that with a spirit of harmony and oneness which permeated the church at its very beginning! 

Failing to See the Value

Failing to See the Value

 Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

In the 1970s, the people at Reece’s came up with a new candy they initially called “PBs.” They later changed their name to Reece’s Pieces. Sales were good but then dropped. As fate would have it, Universal Studios was shooting a new movie by Steven Spielberg about a stranded extra-terrestrial who wanted to go home. They were planning on using candy as the bait to lure the alien out from his hiding place. Obviously, they were going to use the popular M&M’s. However, the maker of M&M’s, Mars Incorporated, turned down the offer to have their candy featured in the film.  

Since Reece’s Pieces were the same small size as M&M’s, Spielberg and company decided to use the chocolate, candy-coated peanut butter pieces instead. The Hershey Company was a little hesitant to permit the usage of their candy until the vice-president at the time, Jack Dowd, saw a few movie stills. He agreed and went in on a million-dollar joint promotion with the film. The movie, of course, was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  It was a huge hit. Consequently, sales of Reece’s Piece went up 65% and surpassed sales of M&M’s for the first time in its history. One wonders what the folks at Mars Incorporated thought of their blown opportunity.  

The Hebrews’ writer speaks of something much more valuable, of which others fail to see the value: The Son of God. Note Hebrews 10.29. “How much more severe punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” In its context, the Hebrews’ writer is addressing apostate Christians. This lack of appreciation is not a matter of these Christians merely falling short of God’s glory (cf. Romans 3.23). The Hebrews’ writer talks about the willful disregard of the new covenant with its symptoms, such as forsaking the assemblies (Hebrews 10.25). These are people re-crucifying Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6.4-6). 

I suppose that Mars Incorporated’s lack of foresight only hurt them momentarily. I could not find a direct head-to-head sales count for the two products, but Mars Incorporated made more sales revenue than Hershey’s in 2019. However, the person failing to value the blessings found in Jesus Christ through the committing of willful sin does away with the efficacy of the sacrifice made for their sins (Hebrews 10.26). Furthermore, such apostates will not enter God’s rest (Hebrews 4.1-11). Don’t be guilty of giving what is holy to dogs and pearls to swine (Matthew 7.6). Respond to the invitation of our Lord: 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is comfortable, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11.28-30) 

Works Consulted 

Foster, Tom. “Why Reese’s Pieces and Not M&M’s Were Featured in the Movie ‘E.T..’” TVOvermind, TVOvermind, 12 Feb. 2018,www.tvovermind.com/reeses-pieces-not-mms-featured-movie-e-t/

Kelly, Debra. “The Untold Truth of Reese’s.” Mashed.com, Mashed, 29 Apr. 2020, www.mashed.com/205754/the-untold-truth-of-reeses/

Troy, Eric. “Reese’s Pieces Instead of M&M’s For E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial?” Culinarylore.com, Eric Troy and CulinaryLore, 5 June 2018, https://culinarylore.com/food-history:reeses-pieces-instead-of-m-and-ms-in-et/

“Mars.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, www.forbes.com/companies/mars/

“Hershey (HSY).” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, www.forbes.com/companies/hershey/

The Christian And Communion

The Christian And Communion

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

Did you know that eating processed meats like bologna and pepperoni have been linked to memory loss? That’s a real bummer because most of the meat that I like is processed. I love Vienna sausages, hotdogs, pepperoni, and many other types of processed meat. Which might explain why I can’t remember names to save my life. It’s not just names, I forget about birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and a bunch of other important dates. But I’m not alone in this. Mankind as a whole tends to forget important events with the passing of time.
 
Which is exactly why God in His infinite wisdom commands us to remember a certain event every first day of the week. “The Lord’s Supper,” “the Lord’s Table,” “the Cup of Blessing,” “Communion,” and “the Breaking of Bread” each are descriptions used in scripture that refer to the act of remembering the body and blood of Jesus on the first day of the week. In the early church it was also called “the Eucharist” or “the giving of thanks” (Matt. 26:27).
 
What is the Lord’s Supper? Every week Christians observe it, and most of us know what it is. It’s a time to pause and think about the sacrifice of Christ. We do it every week and for good reason since we tend to forget important events. God commands us to participate in this act every week as a church so that we can always be thankful and remember what Christ did for us.
 
What can sometimes be an issue is that if we aren’t careful, it can be easy to let it turn into a mindless habit. What should we be doing during the communion?
 
Scripture gives us many different aspects of the Lord’s Supper that should be taken into consideration when we stop to remember the sacrifice of Jesus.
 
Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus commands us to “eat” the bread, and “drink” the cup. We are commanded to eat the bread which represents His body, and drink the cup which represents His blood.
 
As we fulfill the command to “eat” and “drink,” our minds must be completely engaged in a thorough remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice (1 Cor. 11:24-25). What do we think about during this time? The sinless and perfect life Jesus lived that made Him an acceptable solution for our sin problem. His willingness to go to the cross. The crucifixion. Specifically His body that was pierced and beaten, and His blood that poured from His wounds. Blood that has the power to forgive our sins. The burial AND resurrection because none of this would’ve meant anything if Jesus stayed in the tomb.
We should remember Christ’s right hand position in heaven that now gives us access to the Father. And we are to remember the common bond we now have as a church.
 
1 Corinthians 10:16 describes the Lord’s Supper as a “participation.” Paul uses the Greek word koinonia which means “a sharing or fellowship.” As a church we have fellowship in the blood and body of Christ. Verse 17 tells us that the “many are one” because there is only one body (Christ) that brought us together. We are united by the body of Christ.
 
The next time we observe the Lord’s Supper let’s be sure to dwell on these things; Remember every aspect of Christ’s sacrifice, remember where He is now, and remember the unity we now share with each other.
 
 
 
 
Kavachi

Kavachi

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
Scientists with National Geographic went near the Solomon Islands to study one of the most active underwater volcanos on earth. What they found in the hot, acidic waters of the volcano, surprisingly, was life – a couple species of sharks, stingray, and fish swimming among the plumes of ash. The risk for these fish is great, as Kavachi is known erupt frequently.
 
Churches are made up of people, and people are imperfect. No church is immune to the problem of evil, though we should certainly have a greater level of immunity to evil’s influence. When non-Christians interact with us, they may be unsure of what to expect. The world does not paint a pretty picture of our beliefs.
 
So, what will they find? They will ideally find a group of people who, despite the pervasive dysfunction of the world, display unconditional love, forgiveness, excellent character, patience, forgiveness, fairness, grace, resilience, and hope.
 
Christians should strive to pleasantly surprise the world! When they expect to find an environment that could never support healthy, loving, functional relationships, we should blow their minds with positive, life-changing interactions.
 
“Always keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they might see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (I Peter 2.12).