Keep Him King

Keep Him King

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”

1 Samuel 12.24 

When this passage is taken out of the events unfolding in this chapter, it seems like a great verse to remind us to be grateful for God’s blessings. While that application could certainly be made, here’s the context. 

God’s desire for His people is rejected. Unlike the surrounding ancient cultures and nations, Israel had no king. Instead, they were to have men chosen by God to serve as their judge. The temptation to establish an earthly king became so great among the Israelites that they gave in and decided to oppose the Lord’s leadership strategy. 

Samuel is in the final stretch of his life and guided by God’s direction, he allows the people to have what they wanted— but not what they needed. 

Samuel replies to the people’s cry for a king and here’s our verse in context. 

“You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.” 

Samuel wasn’t merely encouraging the people to be grateful for what they have as it might seem on the surface. He was reminding them to not reject the King of Kings after their earthly king fails them. When we make poor decisions and are forced to pay the consequences, the worst possible move would be a move away from God. Taking ownership of the trouble we bring into our lives is vital to future faithfulness. Difficult lessons are, by definition, not a joyful experience. Things could always be worse, but things could always be better. At the end of the day it comes down to which king we decide to serve. 

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke…”

Proverbs 3.11 

Altars And Allies

Altars And Allies

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Israel had made political and religious decisions, all of which showed they had left God for the world. Hosea addresses these in Hosea 8. Their national and spiritual interests were to make treaties “among the nations” (10) and make “idols for their own destruction” (4). God did not recognize Israel’s kings and princes (4). 

As irrational as Gomer’s decision to leave the love and provision of Hosea for lovers who used and abused her, Israel’s apostasy was self-defeating. On the surface and at the moment, it may have seemed alluring and promised satisfaction. But they were setting themselves up for hurt and failure. Look at how the inspired prophet evaluates their decisions:

  • They were carrion for the vulture (1).
  • They were incapable of innocence (5).
  • They sowed the wind, and they were going to reap the whirlwind (7).
  • They were swallowed up (8).
  • They were a useless vessel (8).
  • They were a wild donkey wandering alone (9).
  • They were going to writhe in oppression (10).
  • They had erected multiplied altars for sinning (11).
  • They regarded God’s laws as a strange thing (12).
  • They were going to return to a state of bondage (13).
  • They were going to be devoured by fire (14).

It must have pained Hosea to write those words. No doubt, it pained God to have to say them. But, Israel persisted in her unfaithfulness. What was it like for God to look down, day after day, only to see that His chosen people paid no attention to Him. He never entered their thoughts. They pursued a path He knew would only lead them to hurt and destruction. They sought protection from fallible, wicked people. They offered praise to vain, lifeless idols. All the while, their Creator and caregiver was there wanting to be their shield and salvation! 

The application may be obvious. We have the same choices today. We can put our trust in our country and we can make something (work, relationships, pleasure, etc.) the object of our affection in place of God. We may, like Israel, still come to worship (13), but spend our lives with something else laying upon the altar of our heart. That was the condition addressed by Hosea. That was what God illustrates through spiritual adultery. God is belaboring the point, but it’s an eternally important one. He wants us to get it because He loves us so much! 

Ancient altar discovered at Manoah (via Biblewalks.com)
The Parable Of The Lost…Hen?

The Parable Of The Lost…Hen?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Five hens were safely back in the coop, but one would not go back inside. When the man and his wife tried to coax her back in, she began darting left and right and back and forth. The closer the couple came to her, the more frantic she grew. She darted away from her house toward the woods. When the man went after her, she flew over the fence and deeper into the neighbor’s woods. The man and his wife went inside their home and waited. Later, the hen was back outside the coop. Her sisters were pacing inside their run and she was trying to go head first through the small square of the welded wire to join them. The man and his wife herded her into the corner where the coop meets the run. The man caught the frantic hen as she tried to fly away. As he held her and tossed her inside the coop, she squawked and wailed the whole way. A few minutes later, she was mindlessly and meekly scratching and pacing with the rest of the girls. 

It was tempting to let her go, to conclude that she asked for that. But, we thought about the feed and care that has gone into her, the fact that she is just about ready to start laying eggs, but also the humane aspect. There are so many predators on or near our place–foxes, raccoons, snakes, hawks, coyotes, a bobcat, and even an occasional long-tailed weasel. We also have seen the carnage that befell a Green Egger in this current flock. So, we did not give up on Pearl. She’s safely home and doing the things hens do, scratching, pacing, eating, and so forth. 

I could not help but think how often I act like Pearl. My Father has given me so much. He supplies my every need (Phil. 4:19), and then some! He takes care of me (Mat. 6:25-32) and has my best interest at heart. He has invested more into me than I can possibly comprehend (John 3:16). Yet, so often I fail to trust Him and even run away from Him in favor of my own, misguided way (Prov. 3:5; 14:12). When I go astray and get into harmful predicaments, I reveal a rejection of His wisdom in favor of my own folly. I don’t have near the excuse of a chicken. Despite journal articles outlining the spatial capacities, very basic arithmetic capacities, complex communication system, and complex emotions of chickens, the most generous assessment is that they are, at best, of average intelligence in the animal world and not remotely comparable to humans. Of all God’s creation, only we are made in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Only we were valuable enough to Him that He devised a plan to save us from our sins. 

Why would I run from Him? Why would I evade His care and His guidance? Why would I protest and fight His efforts to help me and bring out my best good? While the parable in Luke 15 and the 23rd Psalm are about sheep rather than poultry, the reminder is spot on: “He makes me lie down…He leads me…He restores my soul…He guides me in the paths of righteousness” (Psa. 23:2-3). He is with me, He comforts me, He generously provides for me, and He heals me (Psa. 23:4-5). The Bible helps me see the big picture, to see beyond the desires of the flesh and the perceived need of the moment. God wants me to trust Him and follow His way. May I be “smart” enough to know that and never run away! 

An update from this afternoon: Pearl is on the nest!
2 Peter (Part 3)

2 Peter (Part 3)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of II Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.

The Liars

There have always been liars who claim to be speaking on God’s behalf, so you’ll encounter them, too. They’ll secretly teach things that will wreck your faith. They’ll even disown the one who saved them, but they’ll be destroyed soon. They don’t have moral restraint, so a lot of people will follow them. This will make the world think of us as hypocrites. They don’t even have your best interests in mind! They’ll take advantage of you and lie to you. They will face inescapable consequences. God didn’t even give angels a free pass when they sinned. He sent them to a dark place where they’ll stay until judgment. God didn’t give the ancient world a free pass. In fact, only Noah and his family survived the flood that destroyed everything else. God didn’t give Sodom and Gomorrah a free pass, either. He completely destroyed them as a warning to everyone who might be interested in living like they did. Lot was a good man and he was extremely upset by how everyone in his city was living. God rescued him from the bad conditions he had to live through, so he knows how to rescue us from temptation. He also knows how to take care of godless people who do whatever they want and reject authority. They’ll have to answer to him. These people don’t even get nervous when they insult angelic beings! Even though angels are considerably more powerful than humans, they wouldn’t ask God to condemn those liars with that kind of animosity! These liars are just like dumb animals. They act on every impulse, they insult in ignorance, and they will be destroyed. They’ll gratify their passions in broad daylight. They drag you down with them, and they’re excited about that! They’re a cancer. They are obsessed with gratifying their impulses and they won’t stop. They drag down people who aren’t strong in their faith. They only care about themselves and they’ve abandoned the right path. Remember Balaam? He enjoyed living by his own rules, too. He was reprimanded by a donkey, of all things, so that he’d get a grip on himself. Donkeys aren’t even supposed to talk, but God did whatever it took to make sure he’d get back under control. These liars are like wells that don’t have water. They’re like rain that gets blown around by the wind. They’re destined to spend forever in the darkest place. They lie with confidence and bring down people who have a hard enough time staying pure as it is. They promise freedom, even though they’re slaves. After all, we’re slaves to whatever controls us. This is really bad for them. If you learn about God and escape the influence of worldliness, but fall right back into your old ways, you’re much worse off. It’s better to not know God at all than to know him and then reject him. You’ve heard the old saying, “Dogs eat their own puke,” and, “Pigs get right back into the mud after they’ve had a bath.” That’s what these liars have done. 

Reliable Sources That Boost Your Wisdom

Reliable Sources That Boost Your Wisdom

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Last week, we looked at our syllabus for Wisdom 101. Professor Solomon has outlined the aims of our course. And now, Solomon will introduce us to the “texts” we will be studying. The primary “text” will come as no surprise to the believer. That source is God (Proverbs 1.7). But there is also a secondary “text’ that Solomon encourages us to study. We will examine this more in a moment. 

Wisdom begins with the “fear of the Lord” (1.7). That fear is the primary text. But what do we have in mind when we say “fear?” It cannot mean that God causes an unpleasant emotion making us apprehensive to approach Him. If God were scary, how could we entice another to listen? In their commentary, Old Testament scholars Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch give a superb definition. Fear is a “reverential subordination” to God.1 In other words, when you recognize the superiority of God, you stand in awe of Him. Who better to learn wisdom from than the One you admire? You should desire to hang on His every word. God, for His part, is glad to impart His wisdom to us. As James reminds us, if we ask Him, He will generously give us wisdom (James 1.5). 

Yet we know not everyone esteems God highly. Those disrespecting God are called “fools” (1.7). But by calling them fools, we are not suggesting that such people lack the intellectual capacity for growth. Rather “fool” demonstrates their disposition. In the original Hebrew, the word translated as “fool’ is “evil.” No, not our English word, evil, but a word transliterated as such from the Hebrew language. Hebrew scholars Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Bridge observe that the word always denotes one is “morally bad.”2 Confirming this interpretation is the Septuagint version of the Scriptures. The 70 or so Jewish scholars translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek used the word “asebēs” for “fool.” That Greek word means “impious.”3 Thus, one who is impious (i.e., morally bad) despises wisdom and instruction. Such foolish persons might echo the pharaoh who asked, “Who is God that I should listen to Him?” (Exodus 5.2). So, if we were to cite a secular maxim to explain this part of our proverb, it might well be that “you can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink.”   

Yes, God can boost your wisdom, but you must desire to sit at His feet, develop a relationship with Him, and learn from Him those words leading to eternal life (John 6.68). But since I used the plural form of source in our title, you know there must be at least one other source. Indeed. You have probably heard of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is essentially an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It is supposed to be an unbiased source of information, but a quick perusal of hot-button topics often reveals the bias of Wikipedia editors and publishers. At best, though, Wikipedia is a tertiary source of information. The word “tertiary” is from the Latin tertiariesmeaning “of or containing a third.”4 So tertiary is a fancy way to say that Wikipedia provides third-party information (i.e., information twice removed from its source). But what sources come before the tertiary one? The educational field gives us a clue by using the terms “primary” and “secondary” when describing its schooling. Primary is the category coming first and takes youth through to the age of 12, or 14, depending on the country. Following primary education, a child enters secondary education. Secondary schools will see the child through graduation from high school, the highest level of compulsory education. From there, a young person may elect to pay for “post-secondary” education in college or university.  

So, for the believer, God is the primary source of wisdom. And though we can learn wisdom elsewhere, before listening to those tertiary sources of wisdom, Solomon reminds us of our secondary source of wisdom in Proverbs 1.8. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Note that God makes parents the secondary source of wisdom. Hence, parents become the secondary “text” for Wisdom 101. Recall the first institution created by God in Genesis 2.18-24. That institution was the home, the family.  

Despite causing great harm to the family by signing the so-called Great Society Legislation, Lyndon Baines Johnson nevertheless stated that “the family is the cornerstone of our society.”5 Indeed, Johnson’s “reforms” helped break the home. He bolstered single-parent households and turned birthing children out of wedlock into a cottage industry. The State stepped in to fill the vacancy left by the absent parent, and education became the responsibility of the public-school educator. This innovation was never the intention of God.  

Solomon was aware of the Law given to Moses. Fathers were to instruct their children at every opportunity (Deuteronomy 6.1-8). What we observe today in our society is that which played out countless times in Old Testament history. First, you would have a faithful generation that failed to impart wisdom to the next generation. God’s people would then enter a decline, followed by apostasy. God would then punish them using the military might of their pagan neighbors until they repented and cried out for mercy. Finally, God would bring a deliverer who would lead the people into a new righteous era. This period would persist until a new untaught generation arose, and the cycle would begin again. 

Though we are not a theocracy, righteousness still exalts a nation (Proverbs 14.34). And this democratic republic is buoyed by the faith of its citizenry. As a result, we have noted prosperity resulting from periods of “goodness” (e.g., the post-WWII boom). And times of difficulty that seem to result from times of “excess” (e.g., the “Roaring Twenties” and the Great Depression). One wonders where we are within our cycle of apostasy and renewal when he hears news stories of public-school teachers confusing children about being oppositely gendered or talking openly about their perverted lifestyles. There is a significant disconnect between what parents would teach their young and what some teachers teach in schools. That was, at least, one blessing from the COVID pandemic shutdown. Parents overheard what teachers were teaching their children and would have none of it.  

So, what happens when you have children who do not have a trustworthy secondary source of wisdom (i.e., parents)? Tertiary sources step in and instill man’s wisdom, which arises from man’s dark heart (Romans 1.21ff). The children worship the creature rather than the Creator. And these progenies ignore all authority: God, parents, and even the civil government (Romans 13.1ff). There can be no substitute for the wisdom mom and dad are to instill. You cannot even delegate instruction over to the faithful brethren of the church. The Bible school teacher can be a trusted tertiary source, it is true, but he or she does not have the amount of time with the child given by God to parents. Christian parents must stop abdicating God’s role in their children’s lives.  

And the result from having the proper primary and secondary source for wisdom? Wisdom becomes one’s attractive accessory, like a graceful wreath upon one’s head or a necklace around their neck (Proverbs 1.9). We observe this in Peter and John. We trust the secondary wisdom imparted to them by their parents was adequate but take note of the primary wisdom they received spending time with Jesus. As they stood before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders noted the confidence with which they spoke. They concluded these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4.13).  

So, what are the reliable sources you have that boost your wisdom? First and foremost, it is the fear of God. The second source is the godly instruction you receive from your parents. But wherever you are in your journey to find Lady Wisdom, whether one who is still learning from his parents or who may soon be the secondary source of wisdom for a child or grandchild, remember the words of our Lord to those feeling deficient. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7.7-8 NASB1995).   

Sources Cited 

1          Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. “Commentary on Proverbs 1”. Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/proverbs-1.html. 1854-1889.   

2          “Strong’s Hebrew; 191.” Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Unabridged, 2006, biblehub.com/hebrew/191.htm.   

3          “Strong’s Greek; 765.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, 2011, biblehub.com/greek/765.htm 

4          “Tertiary English Definition and Meaning.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries,www.lexico.com/en/definition/tertiary.  

5          Johnson, Lyndon B. “Lyndon B. Johnson Quote: ‘the Family Is the Corner Stone of Our Society.”.” Quotefancy, Quotefancy, quotefancy.com/quote/1017793/Lyndon-B-Johnson-The-family-is-the-corner-stone-of-our-society

Rescuing Your Brother

Rescuing Your Brother

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Friday night’s snow storm was almost blizzard-like, in manner if not in measure. With the winds, visibility was near zero. The drive from the church building to our house, all 8.8 miles of it, had to be negotiated at speeds of about 20 miles per hour at times. It was the first night of our gospel meeting with Melvin Otey, who did an excellent job! In attendance were all of our sons and their wives. I’m grateful that all three of our children learned to drive in Colorado and have a lot of experience handling snowy conditions. But, as a parent, you are never without concern. Thanks to Life360, I could watch their progress. And I did. I watched as one by one each made it to their homes. Only one of them did not. I saw that one of them was stuck at “0 MPH” kind of in the middle of nowhere. Thanks to cellphones, I could call him. Turns out that he had slidden off the road and was stuck. Another of our sons was not far away and he was able, with difficulty, to reach them and take them to his home. I watched every bit of it “unfold” on Life360. The saga ended with their safe arrival at 12:30 AM. They were able to pull out his truck without difficulty or damage. It turned out as well as it could.

This all made me think about what the heavenly perspective must be like. The Father does not rely on an App to see fuzzy details of His children’s situation. He sees with the perfect omniscience and is present with the perfect omnipresence of an Almighty God. While He has the power to do whatever He pleases, He has bound Himself to allow His children to exercise free will. When one of His children drifts into danger, He is dependent upon others of His children to rescue them. I am reminded of how anxiously He desires their safe return, how thankful He is when others of His children intervene, and how joyful He feels when He sees His children safe at home. Do you remember in the parable of the prodigal son? Luke 15:20-24 shows the joy and celebration of a father overjoyed that his son, astray in a sinful condition, had come back home. He could not contain his happiness. That story depicts God.

It also makes me appreciate Paul’s words in Galatians 6. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (1-2). Or James’ closing admonition, that “if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (5:19-20). It should be the natural response of one brother who knows of another brother overtaken and astray to act, to “restore” and “turn him back.” The Father is happy when this happens! The stakes are infinitely higher than physical safety. Eternity is in the balance! Is there a brother or sister out there who needs you and me to rescue? If so, it is time for us to act! Consider the Father. Consider the brother. Let’s go get them back!

Friday night at Lehman
Apathy

Apathy

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

It is a well-known fact that apathy destroys whole countries. Wealth lulls people into a state of complacency that avoids conflict at all costs. Government seizes the opportunity to gain power. Oppression always follows. “Hard times create tough people. Tough people create good times. Good times create soft people. Soft people create hard times” (loosely paraphrased from Those Who Remain by Michael Hopf). 

Faith is not immune. Hebrews 2.1-4 strongly warns us against apathetic faith. What happens when we lose interest in our awesome spiritual freedom? We put distance between ourselves and God. This isn’t without consequences. 

“How will we escape if we disregard our salvation?” (2.3). We won’t! Apathy is scary because the consequences arrive in plain sight and at a slow pace. We can easily see them coming, but choose to ignore them for a few more moments of complacent bliss. Once consequences arrive, they’re miserable on multiple levels. 

So, how do we get rid of apathy? Hebrews 2.5ff gives some hypes: 

  1. We’re in Charge of the World to Come (5)
  2. God Is Invested in Us (6)
  3. Jesus Is in Charge Now (7-8)
  4. Jesus Rescued Us (8-10)
  5. Jesus Sees Us As Family (11-16)
  6. Jesus Goes to Bat for Us (17-18)

Finally: “How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (10.29). 

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 Price Of Flight

The Price Of Flight

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The cost of leaving God’s presence is more than many fully realize. 

It’s interesting how the phrase “away from the presence of the Lord” is used twice in Jonah 1:2-3. 

Leading up to the second mention, the text states that Jonah “paid the fare.” In the very next verse we read of a terrible storm that would end with the beginning of Jonah’s three day stent in solitary confinement within the belly of a great fish. 

He paid the fare— but the price was a little steeper than he thought. It’s expensive to flee from the presence of the Almighty. Too many Christians run away from the responsibilities that God has given us only to discover that the dark waters of sin and separation just aren’t worth it. 

Some discover this when it’s too late, but others are fortunate enough to realize this truth and return to the safety of God’s presence. May we learn from Jonah to go where the Lord leads and not make our own alternative routes. 

“But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah‬ ‭1:3‬ 

 
 
The Angels’ Struggle (And Ours)

The Angels’ Struggle (And Ours)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

We sometimes have a tendency to give up when we mess up spiritually. We’ll think, “Guess I blew it, there’s no point in trying now.” Guilt or frustration over the difficulty of living for God and falling short is a powerful Achilles Heel of ours. Paul describes our struggle with sin as combat with self (Romans 7). 

A Christian who is fighting to follow God is still going to sin at some point. We sometimes allow the loss of that battle to drag us into a pattern of sinning solely because we’ve become discouraged that we even allowed that sin to happen. 

I’d like to point out that we aren’t alone in that struggle. Consider Job 38.7: angels – who do not need faith because they live in the presence of God – were up close and personal to the creation of our incredible universe. They watched in awe as God fabricated the stars. They heard those stars sing, which means that they were amazed by the sheer power and majesty of what we can only hear as obscure signals. They were right there! 

Some of those same angels were caught up in sin (II Peter 2.4ff; Jude 6-9). Satan currently has followers who were at one time up close and personal to the Power behind our existence (Romans 12.7ff; Matthew 25:41). 

If an angel, a being who does not serve God based on a mere belief in His existence, but because they were originally created for the sole purpose of carrying out His will, and who are eyewitnesses to His existence and unlimited power, can be tempted to the extent that they are willing to abandon the presence of God and forfeit ever seeing His face again, who are we to think that our struggle is that defeating? 

God does not have a salvation plan for angelic beings (II Peter 2.4). When they breach their boundaries, that’s it. The moment they act outside of God’s will is the moment they forfeit the presence of God for eternity. 

We are lower than angels on the creation totem pole (Psalm 8.5), yet we have Jesus as a mediator defending us before God (I John 2.1) and constantly making us sinless in God’s eyes when we’re doing our best to live for Him (I John 1.7). We have a gift that angels do not enjoy: we get extra chances. As long as we are willing to wage war with our sinful desires, as long as we are striving to be like Him, and as long as we are trying to incorporate the word of God into our lives, we have grace. 

We’re stepping out of the concrete and into conjecture, but there is at least some evidence that lust (Genesis 6; II Peter 2; Jude 6-9) and perhaps tragedy (Matthew 18.10) are enough to make an angel forfeit their home. Again, this is pure conjecture but it has, at the very least, some scriptural evidence to suggest legitimacy. 

When we sin, we need to take a step back and get some perspective. We must not brush off sin as being inconsequential, but we also must avoid allowing a mistake to send us into a dysfunctional pattern just because we think, “I’ve blown it, there’s no point in trying now” or, “This struggle is too great for me.” If angels aren’t immune, why on earth would we think that we are supposed to be? 

The beauty of Christianity is found in God’s grace. It is understandable, seeing how some have abused the subject, to want to avoid the topic altogether. How many, though, have found themselves trapped in sin because they did not understand or believe in the power of God’s continual forgiveness?

Understanding what we have when we make a concerted effort to follow God is of the highest importance. We will sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are liar and there is no truth in us (I John 1.8). When we do sin, let’s remember that not only can we have forgiveness if we’re walking in light, we’re not especially awful just because we find ourselves falling short. If even God’s angels can be tempted to the point of leaving His presence forever, so can we who have not seen His face. And let that cause us to seek His face with even more enthusiasm than before! 

I Corinthians 10.13

II Peter 3.9

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