Choosing Our Attitude

Choosing Our Attitude

 Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

Two birds flew over a desert. Both birds saw the same scenery, but they each viewed them differently. The vulture noticed the rotting flesh and decay because that’s what it was looking for. But the hummingbird ignored the dead animals and instead looked for the colorful blossoms of desert flowers. The vulture thrives on what was and lives off of the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is, they search for new life, and they fill themselves with the freshness of life. Two birds flew over a desert, and they both found what they were looking for. 

We all have the ability to choose what it is that we focus on. Each one of us has the ability to choose our attitude in life. God saved us for a reason, and that is so we would glorify Him with our lives. If we choose an attitude of discontentment or laziness we are failing to fulfill our divinely given purpose. Having the proper attitude helps us mentally, spiritually, and even physically. So what should our attitude look like? 

God wants us to have an attitude of gratitude for letting us be a part of His saving plan (Look throughout the psalms!). Gratitude is choosing to focus on the positive. It is to be grateful for what we have been blessed with and not what we don’t have.

We should have an attitude of excitement in getting to help others find and grow a relationship with God. It is a God-given privilege to be a part of the work of the Kingdom. We are doing what really matters, and we should be excited to be apart of such a great work. 

We should also have patience (Gal. 6:9). Times will get tough. It won’t always be easy to show excitement and gratitude. It’s in the trials and testing that our patience is needed. We must have a patient attitude knowing that God holds the future in His hands (Psa. 31:14-15).

If we have this proper attitude it will help us glorify God through our actions. These actions include important things like bearing fruit for the Father (John 15), fighting as soldiers for Christ (2 Tim. 2:3-4), and running in the Christian race (1 Cor. 9:24-27).  Having the proper attitude will strengthen our dedication to the Lord. We receive salvation from God and in return we must be dedicated laborers and workers in the Kingdom (Col. 3:23; Matt. 5:16). 

Just like those two birds that flew over the same desert, we have been given the ability to choose what we focus on and what our attitude will be in life. Two people can go through the same terrible event and respond in two entirely different ways. God created us with the power of choice. We have the power to choose what our attitude will be. We can either focus on the bad in this world, the hopelessness, the sin and decay. Or we can focus on glorifying God with an attitude that He approves of. 

Tell Me About Grace

Tell Me About Grace

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

  1. Grace brings peace (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
  2. Grace gives us favor with God (Romans 3:24).
  3. Grace is the generous attitude God has towards His people (Ephesians 1:6).
  4. Grace brings salvation to sinful man (Titus 2:11).
  5. Grace teaches us how to live (Titus 2:11-12).
  6. Grace gives us a glimpse of God’s Character (John 1:16).
  7. Grace appeared in the flesh (Titus 2:11).
  8. Grace originated from God (Eph. 2:4-5).
  9. Grace is powerful (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  10. Grace helps put Heaven in view (Acts 15:11).
  11. Grace helps us be the salt of the earth (Acts 4:33).
  12. Grace is an attribute of Christ (John 1:14).
  13. Grace is an attribute of Christians (2 Corinthians 8:7).
  14. Grace puts the word “Christ” in Christian (John 1:17).
  15. Grace is a powerful motivator (Titus 2:13-14).
  16. Grace is a gift (that is often left unopened, Ephesians 2:8).
  17. Grace gives us hope (Romans 6:14).
  18. Grace shows us the love of God (Romans 5:8).
  19. Grace brings comfort (Hebrews 4:16).
  20. Grace is given to the humble (James 4:6).
  21. Grace gives us strength ( 2 Timothy 2:1).
 
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
 
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Four Ways to Cope With a Day Gone Awry 

Four Ways to Cope With a Day Gone Awry 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Thursday, October 29, 2020, proved to be a day gone awry for me. I was supposed to have a follow-up appointment with one of the many specialists my health problems require. The day started with a bang. That banging was the screen door repeatedly smashing the side of the house, driven by the wind in Tropical Storm Zeta. The power was out, but our backup generator was on, providing electricity. No problem, correct? No, our community well does not have a backup generator.  So, though I had electricity, I had no water. What was going to make me presentable to the public? Baby wipes to the rescue.  

The thought had occurred to me that if I were having a hard time because of the weather that the doctor’s office might as well. I called. No answer. Perhaps, I should stay at home? No. One incurs a fee for missing an appointment without prior 24-hour notification of a missed visit. So, there was no turning back from this point. I checked Georgia 511 to ensure the roads I was traveling was clear. My route checked out. There were reports of debris on secondary roadways in the areas I would travel, but none affected my trip. Everything looked great. 

In Union County, the highway was passable. The Notley River overflowed its banks, flooding the surrounding lowlands, but the road was in no danger because it is above the water-engorged river. In Lumpkin County, just beyond the Appalachian Trail crossing at Neel Gap, I noticed that the leaf and pine needle debris increased. The winds must have been worse further south.  I began seeing evidence of trees that had been cleared from the roadway in the hours before I arrived. In White County, the power was out, rendering stoplights inoperable. I discovered that most of the drivers I encountered did not know that you treat a useless traffic light as a 4-way stop. In Hall County, I drove over two or three dead, downed powerlines. A flagman stopped me briefly before directing me around a large tree, still covering half of Clarks Bridge Road.  

But I arrived at the doctor’s office safely. I was even early for my appointment. I couldn’t help but notice the parking lot was empty when I arrived, however. Yes. The office was closed because of the power outage. Had anyone thought to contact those having to drive “over the mountain” from over 50 miles away? Of course, they had not. I heard a sigh slip out.  

 

There is a large Dollar Tree in Cleveland, Georgia. So, I called my parents to let them know I arrived safely but would be returning home sooner than they expected. The Dollar Tree excursion went well. I returned to Walmart in Blairsville, Georgia, since dad had some medicine I needed to pick up. Before doing so, I stopped to take a picture of the raging Trahlyta waterfall at Vogel State Park 11 miles outside of Blairsville. It was beautiful, even if it looked like the observation deck might be washed away. Once at Walmart, I found the pharmacy was closed. The “system” had “gone down.” Despite saying they hoped they would have it back up in thirty minutes, they did not. I went home, minus dad’s medicine.  I fixed a cup of coffee and sat down to write my article. I spilled some of it on my desk. Fortunately, I did not get the keyboard wet. However, my workspace now smells like coffee. (But that is a good thing.)  

Do you want to know something interesting? I wanted to throw my hands up in exasperation at several points during the day but refused to do so. I pulled out four tricks to help me cope with a day gone awry. And here they are. 

  1. RELAX. As Cain discovered, when we become agitated, sin crouches at the door desiring mastery over us (Genesis 4.7). I could be upset that my doctor’s office was discourteous to me, but that was no excuse for sinning (Ephesians 4.26). Hence, I needed to “be still” so I could acknowledge God (Psalm 46.10).

 

  1. REJOICE. That day was a day made by my Lord. So, I needed to rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118.24). I had a say over how I would feel about things. It was a beautiful day, despite its raucous start. I was happy to be alive. Despite sounding trite, I knew others that day faced actual challenges, potentially imperiling their life. The pointless trip only inconvenienced me.  

     
  2. REFOCUS. After telling us how to find indescribable peace through prayer, Paul tells us to meditate (think) about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,” and anything excellent or worthy of praise (Philippians 4.8). Now that I calmed down, I needed to think about what I would do to salvage the rest of the day, filling it with superlatives!

     
  3. REPURPOSE. So, I was not seeing the doctor. Even so, I needed to find something productive to ensure that I could make the most of my time (Ephesians 5.16). I immediately scrapped my previous idea for my Biblical Byte to a lesson on coping with days gone awry. I meditated upon it during my trip and read through the Scriptures after returning home. And this is the result.

It may be that one needs to throw in a fifth “R” also. Repent. If you allow a bad day to make profanities escape your lips or harbor hatred in your heart, you need to make that right with God and any other parties that may be present pronto. In that way, you can turn the day around and make it something good. I trust, though, that with practice, you can better deal with your days gone awry too. Let us strive to do all to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10.31).    

 

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

It’s something they never tell you in the romantic movie. The ending of the storyline so full of twists and turns, where he and she might not have ended up together but seemed destined to be together, is so happy and perfect. Both are all smiles, with stars in their eyes, when we see “The End” and the credits roll.

They never tell you what happens after the fairy tale wedding or the long-awaited kiss. He refuses to ask directions as they fade into the sunset. They argue over where to eat that romantic dinner. He speaks without thinking and says something thoughtless, followed by tense silence. 

I am not critiquing one of the sacrosanct principles of romantic movies and books. Happy endings can be a great escape from reality and a feel good experience. Yet, when we hold it up as the unqualified expectation for our own lives, we set ourselves up for trouble. Social media is rife with posts and pictures which can perpetuate the fiction that the people we friend and follow are constantly living out “happily ever after.” Life is always grand, and success and satisfaction is the constant. 

Don’t misunderstand. So much of what we experience in life is shaped by attitude. Being positive can help us negotiate those hairpin curves in the road of life. But, coping through positivity is different from allowing disappointment to make us disenchanted with failing to meet the unrealistic expectation that every problem and adversity can be wrapped up into a pretty, neat package with a frilly bow on top. 

It’s quite the balancing act, isn’t it? Scripture teaches to think on healthy, beneficial things come what may (Phil. 4:8). Or, as Solomon puts it, “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Prov. 15:15). Yet, Job (14:1) and Solomon (Ecc. 2:23) do not sugarcoat the reality that life is often painful, grievous, and full of trouble both day and night. 

May I offer some encouragement?

  • To the newlyweds, neither of you is perfect and there is no way you can always agree and get along without mutual compromise and effort. You will have so many great days, but there will be some mountains to climb and valleys you must pass through. No couple out there is breezing through married life. Turning to one another (and God) rather than on one another when marriage is hard will forge your bond come what may (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • To the new parents, though that baby looks perfect and angelic, he or she will introduce demands, needs, concerns, and challenges you never knew existed before. Each developmental stage will be accompanied by incredible highs and lows. As you look into the faces of your children, you will be looking at eternity and knowing the weight of your decisions and leadership. But, savor those little ordinary moments. You are placing puzzle pieces that will one day become your children’s picture of their childhood. How you handled the hard times will be at least as important as how you handled the fun times (Prov. 22:6). 
  • To the new Christian, it is right for you to relish the feeling of relief and joy over being forgiven and cleansed from sins. The burden of guilt has been lifted. You are experiencing something in Christ that you never knew existed. But, there will be difficult days. The devil lurks (1 Pet. 5:8). Selfish desires can derail (Jas. 1:13-15). Suffering for your faith should be expected (1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 14:22), but by hanging on your eternal destiny is better than you can imagine. Along the journey, you will grow, mature, and develop into someone better and stronger as Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20). 
  • To the Christian who publicly repents, you had no idea how much support, love, and encouragement you were going to receive. You feel the relief of forgiveness and restored hope. There’s clarity and purpose where there had been confusion and distraction. Things are better now (cf. Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9), but the battles and temptations that led you away are still there. You will still have to face the consequences of bad choices, but you will not regret turning to God and your spiritual family for help. This is the first step of your rededication. Keep walking and never stop (Mat. 7:13-14; 1 Th. 2:12).

There are so many other phases and circumstances deserving the same kind of encouragement. The bottom line for each is the same. When viewed with heavenly eyes, each of us is staring at the ultimate happy ending. Even as our exterior deteriorates, our inner man is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). Our momentary difficulties will give way to incomparable glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18).  The best is yet to come (2 Cor. 5). But, between now and then, we all have to negotiate bumps in the road. That’s OK. Keep following Christ on this narrow road and the “ever after” will transcend your greatest hopes (Mat. 16:24ff). 

Surrounded by Orange Daylilies

Surrounded by Orange Daylilies

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Driving along the highways of north Georgia and western North Carolina, there is one flower that stands out, the orange daylily. I look forward to seeing them every year. However, I recently discovered daylilies are not even native to North America. The daylily, which, despite its name, is not a lily, is a native of Asia. At some point, merchants traveling the silk road brought them back to Europe. Later, when Europeans settled in the “New World,” they brought the daylily bulbs with them. Yet, they have become so common here that among their colloquial names is the designation of “ditch lily,” since they have become a ubiquitous feature along highway shoulders and medians. Some do still plant them purposefully, but it is not necessary unless one wants them in a specific location. It is as if some unseen John Chapman, but of the daylily bulb, travels the rural countryside of Appalachia, planting these flowers. It can be bad enough in some locations for the pretty flower to be labeled as “invasive,” since it chokes out local flora.

I’ve already mentioned how I am partial to daylilies, but the world would be less exciting and beautiful if all I saw were the orange daylilies wherever I looked. I understand that other flowers are needed to complement and balance this resilient flower.  I need purple lupines, red roses, and yellow black-eyed Susans too. When it comes to the daily living of our lives, we need such variety also.  Frankly, the only constant should be the “the true bread out of heaven.” Otherwise, our lives will become as dull as a world of but orange daylilies.   Paul reminds us, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4.8 NASB). There is no doubt that the items on Paul’s “focus list” are related and flow from one another. Of a truth, we can describe God using each of those words. Even so, there remains variety, even in the ways we choose to look at God. Do I want to focus on His love? His grace? His justice? His mercy?

“Orange daylilies” surround us in our life’s journey. It is the “news junkie” regurgitating cable news talking points, especially when his or her interpretation of “facts” is different from our own. It is the brother or sister who always has something negative about which to talk, especially the injuries he or she perceives to have suffered. It is the enthusiastic fan who regales us with the latest news from his or her fandom. It is the brother or sister in Christ weaned on a pickle, unable to find joy in life. Again, we do appreciate the orange daylilies for their worth. They have their beauty.  But if we only surround ourselves with them, it chokes out the other “flowers” we want to bloom as well. Consider that also about yourself and your topics of conversation and demeanor when around others. Adopt the attitude of Christ and work to be someone’s red rose or purple lupine even on those days you only feel like being an orange daylily too.

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The Negative Mosquito

The Negative Mosquito

Thursday’s Column: Carl’s Corner

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Carl Pollard

I have loved living in Alabama for the past two years, but there’s one major problem I’ve run into since moving…the mosquitos. These bugs are a nightmare. The one good thing about the winter is there aren’t any of these blood sucking demons.
It honestly seems like there are two kinds of mosquitoes here. You have the ones that are small enough to fit through the screen door, and ones big enough to push it open.
I did some research and found out a few interesting details about mosquitoes. For one, they are attracted to high cholesterol (If you get bit a ton you most likely need to slow down on the burgers). Two, they are attracted to carbon dioxide and can actually smell it from 150 feet away. And three, a mosquito’s average lifespan is only about 10-14 days.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this, but I actually found an interesting connection between mosquitos and a very specific group of people. The more I learned about them, the more they began to resemble negative people. For example, negative people love what isn’t good for them, just like carbon monoxide can kill you and cholesterol can stop your heart. Also, negative people can only seem to keep a friend for about 10-14 days.
Paul, in the book of Philippians, is urging the church to show humility and to be servant minded like Christ. In 2:1-4, he says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Paul through inspiration uses the word “conceit” (kenodoxia). This is defined as “a vain or exaggerated self-evaluation.” A negative mindset under any circumstance is vain and  selfish. We must always keep in mind that the people we are negative toward should be treated as more important than ourselves.
There is no room for negative people in the body of Christ. We are commanded to love each other, serve each other and encourage one another. Keeping in mind what Jesus has done for us, live to help your brothers and sisters in Christ.
P.S. Don’t be a mosquito.
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The Quality That Makes Us Excited For Hard Times

The Quality That Makes Us Excited For Hard Times

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Joy is something we’re supposed to have when we go through trials (Jas. 1.3). It’s χαρά, which means, “to experience gladness.” It describes a forward-thinking mentality that says, “Right now isn’t great, but I can learn from this and grow.” Our joy comes from anticipating the ultimate growth we experience from conquering trials! And if those trials take my life, that joy is in anticipation of heaven. 

Joy is something experienced in heaven and in the presence of angels when someone repents (Luke 15.7, 10). It is compared to the excitement one feels when regaining something valuable that had been lost. Joy is more than just contentment;  it contains also an element of excitement. 

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22). It is contrasted with outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, etc. A part of living the Christian life, denying our primal desires, and not being boastful is having joy. Sometimes we find ourselves focusing on what we give up to live faithful lives, but we forget that Christianity provides for, encourages, and promotes excitement and joy! 

So what are we supposed to be excited for? Paul even had joy in the face of suffering (Phil. 2.17). Joy and happiness are not necessarily the same thing. We can have joy or gladness or excitement concerning the life that waits for a Christian while living in the sometimes harsh realities of a fallen world. 

In this life, Christians can have joy because of a profound sense of purpose, having meaning in a confusing world, healing after tragedy, and something to always look forward to. 

It may not be our first response to be excited about hard times, but if we develop a mindset that looks to the rewards and positives of difficulty (growth, endurance, empathy, perspective, heaven), we will have joy and excitement. 

Carl and Chip

THE HEART OF JONAH

THE HEART OF JONAH

TUESDAY COLUMN: “DALE MAIL”

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Dale Pollard

The book of Jonah is a unique book in the Old Testament. Unlike other prophetic books, God chooses to focus on the prophet himself rather than the message being preached by him. While many lessons can be pulled from this four chapter book, there’s one in particular that we can all benefit from hearing from time to time. That lesson is that in order for true change to occur in our lives there must be a genuine transformation of the heart.

The book begins with God’s call to Jonah to preach to the wicked people of Nineveh and then closes with God’s response to Jonah’s anger at the penitent hearts of the Ninevites. Between these two divine speeches you read about the prophet’s incredible experience in the belly of a great fish. Many artist’s have painted pictures of Jonah desperately trying to keep his head above the waves while a terrifying monster breeches the surface with its mouth wide open preparing to swallow him. While this may be the image that comes to mind, Jonah gives us an interesting detail in his prayer. He recalls how the waters closed over him and he eventually reaches the sea floor where he is helplessly tangled in the weeds. While the murky waters cloud his vision his fate seemed very clear. Jonah admits that he called out to the Lord provoked by his great distress and this mental plea was a desperate attempt to preserve his life. God answers this cry by sending him a slippery savior. Jonah, while known to be a little on the dramatic side, will later recall how it was in the moment when his life was fainting away that he “remembered the Lord.” God saved a blatantly rebellious man who in no way deserved that salvation but He also allowed Jonah to reach great depths and come face to face with his own spiritual reality. Jonah was a long way from God, but not geographically.

Before Jonah became soaked by the stormy seas, he was soaked in a sin problem that had taken root in his heart. God allowed Jonah to physically experience rock bottom so that he could acknowledge some spiritual issues that distanced him from God. While Jonah may have desired to run from God, he came to the conclusion that being away from God was not the relief he thought it would be.

As traumatic as this event was, Jonah seems to emerge from the belly of the fish with lingering spiritual issues. Though he preaches to the city of Nineveh, there is still anger and hatred dominating his heart. The last chapter gives us a glimpse of this as he directs this anger towards the very God that saved him. In order for true change to occur, there must be a genuine change of heart. While low points can help us examine our heart health for a moment, relentless determination to live life differently is the key to success. A hopeful reminder for anyone who may find themselves in the depths of sin, there is no place too dark where God is not able to hear your prayers. 

I Just Can’t Share Their Bitterness

I Just Can’t Share Their Bitterness

Neal Pollard

I write this as someone who has spent his entire life in a preacher’s home. I grew up a preacher’s kid, whose dad was fired twice (once for baptizing a black woman and later for standing against the “New Hermeneutic”). I have been a full-time preacher for nearly thirty years myself. Now, my sons are devoting their lives full-time to preaching. To an extent, our family’s lives have revolved around preaching. Have there been hurts, disappointments, and occasions of mistreatment? Certainly. Of course, plumbers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and builders will tell you the same. But, we work with Christians, who should know better? That’s true, but they are still humans constantly struggling with the battle of self. 

My dad has always spoken of the value and blessing of the church, even when dealing with personal hurts. He loves the Lord and His church. As we grew up in the home, he taught us to have a high esteem for the precious bride of Christ. In college, I had one teacher who especially counseled us to look at the church–and the people who make it up–with hopeful, optimistic eyes. We generally find what we are looking for. If we are looking for injustices, offenses, and disappointments, we’ll see an endless supply of it whether we’re looking at elders, deacons, long-time members, or new or weak Christians. If we can view the foibles of others with patience, compassion, and empathy, we are likely to help each other grow and transform. We will definitely steer away from an “us versus them” mentality.

If you are in full-time ministry for any length of time, you will have some stories to tell. Some will be full of joy and excitement. Share these generously. They will encourage and edify. Some will be unbelievable, but not in a good way. Use wisdom and discretion about how, who and if you tell those. What are we hoping to accomplish by such sharing?

Preaching is not lucrative business. It’s not paradise on earth. It’s not easy and not everyone can (or should) do it. But, it’s the greatest work in the world! It constantly impacts eternity in seen and unseen ways, in a way that perhaps nothing else can match. There will be some lumps and bumps. Ask Paul (2 Cor. 11:23ff). But, listen to Paul, too. In prison, he wrote of rejoicing about preaching despite its various pitfalls (Phil. 1:14-24). Some seem bitter about how they have been treated in preaching, and I hope they can work through it. But, I love this life so much, and I just can’t share their bitterness!

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Our staff introducing themselves to the 2019 Future Preachers Training Campers

How Will We Be Remembered?

How Will We Be Remembered?

Neal Pollard

Seven churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Each remembered for an overall characteristic. The same is true for individual Bible characters, isn’t it? Most remember Moses, Samson, David, Jeroboam, Jonah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Judas, Peter, Paul, and John for a particular attribute, whatever else could describe their lives. That’s more than fascinating. It’s sobering.

What about you and me? Is there a word others–those we attend school with, work with, live near, attend church with, or share family ties with–would use to describe us? Here are some possibilities:

  • Grumpy
  • Disagreeable
  • Dishonest
  • Hot-tempered
  • Unreliable
  • Divisive
  • Worldly
  • Gossiping
  • Selfish

Such attributes are the cumulative result of the attitude, words, and actions that we portray each day we live. Everybody has good days and bad days. But, there is an overall tenor and flavor to our lives that cause people to associate something with us. However, the word might be different:

  • Gentle
  • Patient
  • Loving
  • Kind
  • Serving
  • Sacrificial
  • Unselfish
  • Humble
  • Uniting
  • Faithful
  • Courageous

That, too, is being built moment by moment, day by day.

With both groups of words, we can think of people who epitomize characteristic above. But I want to know, “Which one would best describe me?” Don’t you want to know that about you?  The good news, if you don’t like the answer there’s time to change that. Dickens’ Christmastime novel about Ebenezer Scrooge is written to make that very point. Infinitely more importantly, the Bible is written to make that point. We can be transformed through the influence of Christ in our hearts and lives (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:18). How will you be remembered? 

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