Will He Marvel At Me?

Will He Marvel At Me?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

What is faith? According to the world, faith is seen as a blind trust. It is belief in something regardless of a lack of proof. Many believe that as Christians we are called to have a blind faith. But this is simply not the case. 

The word for faith in scripture is “pistis” and it is defined as “that which evokes trust.” This is trust that is formed from an objective basis. It is a confidence in the proof that has been revealed in scripture. The biblical definition is far from this idea of a blind faith. 

We know what faith is, but what does it look like practically? Faith is holding on to God through tragedy and loss. Faith is knowing that no matter what sickness or trial we go through, God is still in control. Faith is persevering through life with a confidence and hope in our eternal home. 

Faith impacts every aspect of life and that’s why we should always strive to grow our faith. 

There is a need for greater faith. We can grow our faith by looking to those who Jesus commended for their great faith. 

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he encountered several people that showed great faith. There are only two occurrences in scripture where Jesus “marveled.” One is Mark 6:7, where Jesus marveled at their unbelief (lack of faith).  The other is Luke 7:9, where Jesus marvels at the Centurion’s great faith. With our faith we have the ability to cause Jesus to Marvel. The question is, will Jesus marvel at our belief or our unbelief?

creative common via PxHere
The Vale Of Bandits

The Vale Of Bandits

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

The Valhermoso Springs Resort was a gathering place for those seeking treatment from the famous Sulphur and mineral springs. The three springs were even used by the Indians for the same reason— adding yet another vale of mystery to the area. Despite being a place that attracted visitors from all around the world, including European and French royalty, there are only three low quality images of the place. Walking through the dense brush and stepping over toppled stones can give one the impression that this spot is determined to keep its secrets

In the upper room there was a dancing hall with slat boards covered in tile. During the civil war, confederate soldiers were hidden by Mrs. Geirs who was a hot-blooded rebel sympathizer. 

One of many legends surrounding this resort is that of the visit of famous outlaw Jesse James. It’s rumored that a man matching the description of Jesse rode in one night from Huntsville after robbing a bank. He wore two leather bags slung over his shoulder as he dismounted his horse. At some point, it’s unclear how he was discovered, but the law came knocking on the resort’s front door. Jesse’s stealth and cunning kept him alive during the bloody guerrilla skirmishes of the civil war, and they would help him escape the clutches of justice time and again. Legend says he left the hotel in a hurry— without his two leather bags. Did Jesse James stash his stolen goods in a cave or bury it? There’s not even hard evidence that the outlaw made a stop at the tavern, or even robbed a bank in Huntsville. 

In Numbers 13 there are twelve spies who go into the land of Canaan for forty days. Their goal was to make observations that would help them conquer it as well as bring back reports about the kind of land it was. Upon their return only Joshua and Caleb are willing to take on the giant challenges that they’ll need to overcome in order to claim Canaan. Sadly, the message that the people chose to believe was that the giants were even bigger than God. What evidence did they have? Not a shred. God had proven His might and power throughout their time in the wilderness. He’s the one who directed the children toward Canaan in the first place! The fear in the crowd and the report of ten cowardly spies was contagious. 

If we’re not careful, we might end up believing what’s not based in fact, too. We might be tempted to believe that Christians are a weak minority who can’t do a thing to change the culture. We might be tempted to believe that nobody is interested in spiritual things anymore. We might begin to believe that the world is bigger and stronger than the God who spoke the world into existence. Of course, this is simply not true. 

Relics found by Dale and Carl on the site of Valhermoso Springs Resort

“Rumors Of War”

“Rumors Of War”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

The war in Ukraine is tragic, with loss of life in the several thousands already. Families have been displaced. Untrained civilians fiercely resist invasion. NATO can’t make up its mind, leveling sanctions as though at war, but not declaring war formally. This – among other factors – is escalating an already volatile situation. A great many feel as though we’re at the brink of WWIII. 

Maybe we are. Humans tend to show their very worst or their very best in times of crisis. When the pandemic started, millions forgot their humanity. Fights broke out in grocery stores, people forgot what patience, selflessness, and compassion were, and hoarding was the name of the game. Besides all that – as if we needed another polarizing issue – families, friends, and neighbors bitterly fought about masks and vaccines and social distancing. 

But for many (most?) other people, it brought out their best. People checked on each other regularly. Personal feelings were put aside to accommodate the apprehension some felt. Resilience and benevolence was/is strong. The church was heavily invested in each others’ lives. 

War is a tragic part of the human experience. Some may be fought for good reasons, but war itself is never good. We all hope the conflict in Europe will be resolved soon and with minimal loss of life. It might not, though. So what will we do? 

  • Train the Brain – Determine to respond with levelheadedness and compassion, period. If it comes to war, we won’t forget our humanity. We will look out for others and act rationally. Our conditioned response will be, “How can I help other people?” 
  • Be Like Jesus – He didn’t exploit weakness to gain an advantage. He didn’t stockpile supplies to the detriment of others. He wasn’t concerned about maintaining his standard of living. He fed people, healed people, gave them counseling, and gave them hope. That will be our response, whatever the future holds. 
  • Be Cool – We might get scared, but it’ll never override our desire to look out for each other. We’ll demonstrate genuine faith in the creator by not acting like people who are controlled by fear. 

Those are easier said than done. But we can do them, and I’m confident that we will. If the threat never exceeds high fuel prices or inflation, we’ll have made the best of a bad situation. If the threat becomes war, we’ll make the best of a bad situation. Dark days make it that much easier to shine God’s light. So that’s what we’ll do! 

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I Hope You Read This

I Hope You Read This

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

We have abused this word. We say things like, “I hope there’s some food at the house” or, “I hope the weather is nice tomorrow,” and “I hope my team wins the Super Bowl.” The hope that’s mentioned in scripture has a completely different definition. 
 
The word in Romans 15:13, for example, is the Greek word “elpis. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This word is defined as, “Looking forward to something with confidence” (BDAG 319).  It is an expectation that we have as Christians. We have hope because we call God our Father. 
 
The world does not have that relationship and because of this they have nothing to hope in. If they look forward to anything it’s pay day, or the weekend, or vacations. Every one of these come to an end and once again they are left with no hope. 
 
Don’t get me wrong, we look forward to these things too. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but this isn’t what we look forward to solely. We know that there is more to life than vacation. 
 
1 Peter 5:10 is an incredible verse that describes the hope we have. It says, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 
 
This is true hope. It is the God of the universe Himself that will do this for each one of his children. We may not see it every day, but the world is lost and desperate. We have what they need. They’re desperate for guidance because they’re lost. They’re desperate for purpose because they have none. They’re desperate for Hope because the world offers nothing to those who are struggling. 
 
God has entrusted us with the answers to life, so what are we doing with this knowledge?
Fears Are Funny

Fears Are Funny

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Do you remember what any of your childhood fears were? Maybe you never really grew out of those fears.  I can remember a number of phobias I had as a child but one of them was not arachnophobia. In fact, me and my younger brother would collect spiders from the backyard and put them all in a container in our bedroom. At night we would put a flashlight behind a clear cage and watch all the spiders make their webs— occasionally fight each other. I don’t believe mom ever discovered this little secret. For some reason as I grew older (more mature) I developed a fear of spiders, despite having played with them often as a young kid.

Fears can be funny like that. They can come from bad experiences or just somewhere in the back of our minds. There’s a lot of fear in the world today!

One of my favorite psalms in the Bible is Psalm 46. We read about what seems to be those worst case scenarios, but God still reigns over all. What if the earth gives way? What if the mountains are thrown into the sea? What if the wrong man becomes our new president? What if this virus never goes away? Even so, we have no reason to fear. God is bigger than our fears. We serve a Being with that much power and it should fill us with courage. What are you afraid of? 

How To Avoid Worrying About Your Kids

How To Avoid Worrying About Your Kids

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

For those not on social media and connected either with Kathy or any of our three sons, Carl, our youngest (and Thursday’s blog writer), was in a serious motorcycle accident a little over a week ago. A large pickup truck tried to turn left onto the highway and Carl hit it going highway speed. Our concern was for both his immediate safety and longterm health. Add this to two sons unofficially assisting police in breaking up a local theft ring, a son tackling a shoplifter attempting to flee a store and interrupting a gang initiation beating, broken bones, ER trips, ICU stints for health issues, and that’s not to mention innumerable “close calls,” “near misses,” “close shaves,” and “narrow escapes.”  Of course, it’s not just health. What about their relationships? What about their jobs, careers, and financial futures? What about the country they are inheriting or the children God may bless them with? Most of all, what about their spiritual condition, their faith, and their relationship with Christ? With each new phase of life, we are left to numerous consider “what ifs.” For future empty-nesters, that does not decline or disappear when they leave home. If anything, it mounts. So, how does a Christian not worry about their children?

Philippians 4:6. Paul urges us to “be anxious for nothing.” That word for anxious depicts apprehension, being unduly concerned about possible danger or misfortune. We can drive ourselves crazy thinking of all the scary scenarios. Paul says instead to pray (speak to God and petition His help), supplicate (urgently request God to meet the need, suggesting begging and pleading), and express gratitude. Specifically articulate the help you seek from God. Won’t this just make things worse? Not at all. Instead, “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (7).

Luke 12:25-26. Luke records Jesus’ voluminous teaching on various material concerns. In the middle of it, Jesus shares a principle that applies to any number of matters. He teaches, “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?” What a practical, sensible truth. What do we change by endless fretting and worrying? Does it change outcomes? Does the exercise of worry keep the bad and scary things from occurring? Does it override the freewill choices of our children or others? We are at one place at a time. God knows everything (30). “He who keeps you will not slumber…nor sleep” (Psa. 121:3-4). Trust that! 

Matthew 6:33. What Matthew records is close to parallel to the material in Luke 12, though the wording and setting are different. The counsel here is about prioritization. It’s hard to “let go and let God,” but that’s Jesus’ bottom-line guidance. Again, in context, He’s dealing with material things rather than our kids. But substituting the one concern for the other does not change the principle. We are well-served to practice “God-firstness” from as early as possible, before our children are born. We should strive to live by that principle throughout the years they are in our homes, trying to show it to them. Then, we must continue to live it out personally and exemplify it before them after they leave the home. God’s kingdom, His will, His righteousness, His goals, His Word comes first and foremost. Keeping focus on that, trust Him to take care of not only us but those whose lives we care about. Jesus sweetly consoles us, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (34).

1 Peter 5:7. I love how Peter acknowledges that we all have anxiety. We’re all tempted (and all of us at least occasionally succumb to the temptation) to worry. Peter’s words are practical. Humbling yourself under God’s all-powerful hand, throw all your anxieties on Him. He is strong enough to carry it. Do you know what’s the best part? Not only can He do it, He wants to. Why? He cares for you! He’s your Father. “Care” here means concern and anxiousness. Our lives matter to Him. His heart is involved. We may not stop to think that all of us are His children. The difference is that this Father can see the future, is fully in control, will never be startled or surprised, and never lacks for what to say, how to react, and what to do. How foolish not to give Him the things we would obsess over, be consumed with, and eaten up by. 

I wish I could tell you I will never worry about Gary, Dale, and Carl again. Those who know them know what a tall task that is. I wish I could tell you that you will never worry about your precious children again. But, none of us should. We can make progress and get better if we’ll feed on the rich truths of passages like the ones we’ve visited briefly together today. Go back and read them again. Drink deeply of their comforting, helpful truths. They will help you trust Him more with whatever frightening prospects you face regarding your children’s lives. I don’t promise. He does! 

 

Saturday at Hebron church of Christ (where Carl, center, preaches). This was at Carl and Emily’s wedding shower. The boys had just returned from hunting wild hogs near Demopolis, AL. It never ends!
“I’m Better Than That”

“I’m Better Than That”

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

When you’re reading the Bible or sitting in a Bible class do you ever secretly think you’re better in some ways than the characters you’re studying? Before that sounds terrible let me explain. 

Moses is walking along minding his own business and tending to his father in-law’s flock in Exodus three. As the chapter progresses we see that he has a supernatural encounter with God when God appears to him from a burning bush. The voice of The Angel of the Lord is speaking from a bush that isn’t consumed by this supernatural fire— incredible.  Would that be enough to convince you to go and confront the most powerful and powerfully stubborn world leader of the day? 

What about the disciples when Jesus calms the storm in Mark four then walks on the water in Mark six? After these encounters the disciples still respond, “Who is this Man?” 

Maybe on occasion we find ourselves thinking that we would react and act more favorably in similar situations. 

As Christians there are certainly times when we fall embarrassingly short, but the same God that spoke from a burning bush to Moses and calmed the seas is the very God that reaches out to pick us back up when we fall. It’s tragic that some, even in the church, have this image of God in their minds as a stern tyrant waiting for us to become hopelessly tangled in this messy world. Your Creator is just too perfect to act like that. If you find yourself struggling spiritually then may this be a friendly reminder to look up and grab the hand of our Savior. He understands how human we are and how desperately we needed the One He sent in the first place. 

Hope For The Christian Who Struggles With Sin

Hope For The Christian Who Struggles With Sin

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

We are imperfect people trying to get to Heaven, and we make mistakes. Throughout scripture is a distinction between people who live to sin and people who struggle with sin, but live for God. 

I John 5.16, 17 and Romans 7.5-8.17 are perhaps the most encouraging passages for a Christian who struggles with sin. These passages demonstrate God’s willingness and great desire to keep us pure, even when we struggle with sin. 

Paul teaches us that sin is something we struggle with and should hate (Rom. 7.15-20). We don’t want to sin, but we do. We love God’s law, we recognize that it’s good, and we want to live up to it, but we often don’t (7.22, 23). Paul even goes so far as to say, “I don’t understand my actions. I don’t do what I want, but I do what I hate” (Rom. 7.15). It causes him great distress, and he expresses a desire that all creation shares: release from sin’s power and life with God without the possibility of sin’s influence (7.24; 8.22-24). He says twice that sins we struggle against are not held to our account (7.17 and 7.20). 

I John 5.16, 17 shows that a Christian who struggles with sin is still pure in God’s eyes. The key idea is struggle. We can’t fool God – He looks at our hearts to determine whether we hate the sin in our lives or welcome it with open arms (Rom. 7.27). If sin is something we hate, grace keeps us pure despite our weakness (I John 1.9, 10; 3.19-24; 4.13-19; 5.18-20; Romans 7.25)! 

This is so encouraging because it shows that God does everything within His power to keep us pure. We are lost when we reject Him to pursue a sinful lifestyle, certainly. But if we hate our sin and fight our sin, He keeps us faithful! 

Heaven is attainable, God is good. 

Over 50 members came to pray Tuesday night for our soul-winning plans, including our “Fill The Void” seminar (photo credit: Randy Simpson)

Where Few Dare Go 

Where Few Dare Go 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

In the movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea there is a scene where one of the main characters finds himself on an island in the middle of the ocean. Suddenly he hears the faint sound of bongo drums in the distance and the sound becomes louder and closer. Out of the jungle a large group of cannibalistic natives appear, chasing this poor man across the beach. The hero escapes, but only by the skin of his teeth. That scene used to terrify me and an irrational fear of cannibals was instilled in me at a fragile age. In the 1830s when European explorers came to the Fiji islands they were horrified to discover the local practice of cannibalism. To me, the sake of exploration is not worth confronting that particular fear. 

We all fear something! The one who claims to be fearless is afraid to admit or confront their fear. Fear isn’t wrong, it’s natural. We’re supposed to have a healthy fear of the Lord (Job 28:28). Facing our fears is a noble thing, but it really only matters in a spiritual sense. 

A common phobia in our world today seems to be the fear of truth itself. Many Christians in the Lord’s church know family members and friends who have refused to listen to and act on the truth found in God’s Word. They’re afraid to give up the teachings taught to them by their families or the religious groups they grew up in. They’re afraid that the truth requires them to give up a sin they tightly hold on to and the sacrifice required to follow Christ. 

The gospel of John is all about truth. In it we learn that Jesus is the only way to salvation and heaven; that’s the truth (John 14:6, 17:17). We must teach through our actions, daily lives, and yes, by inviting them to look at this great truth in Bible study. Though confronting that truth might make some fearful, we must show others that it has the power to free and cleanse us from the guilt of our sins. 

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(Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr, James Vaughn)

“We Have Nothing to Offer but Fear Itself” 

“We Have Nothing to Offer but Fear Itself” 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

We have entered the vestibule of a new year. Upon reflection, one might realize how subjective the significance of this day is. Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to point this out annually. For example, in 2011, he tweeted: “January 1, 2011: Happy New Year to all –at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.” (Tyson) Consider China. They may observe the Gregorian calendar to conduct global business, but they will not celebrate the new year until February 12, 2021. Why is there a discrepancy? The Chinese, like the Jews, have a lunar-based calendar. God may have created time as a construct in our material universe, but the only “clocks” He provided were the moon and the sun (Genesis 1.14-19), and it is easier to mark time by the moon since we watch it wax and wane. The sun may appear a little lower or higher in the sky, but it is always making its same east-west circuit.  

Even so, we choose January 1 as a special day to begin making necessary or desirable changes to our lives. I would hope that in an age of “fear porn,” the child of God will choose calm. I apologize if the use of that four-letter word is offensive. However, “fear porn” is an expression that has entered our vernacular. Oxford defines this specific usage of the word “porn” as follows: “[in combination or with modifier] Television programs, magazines, books, etc. that are regarded as emphasizing the sensuous or sensational aspects of a nonsexual subject and stimulating a compulsive interest in their audience.” (“Porn”)  Perhaps the definition provided by a user of the less-authoritative Urban Dictionary is more accessible.  “Mainstream Media content that deliberately and enticingly plays on people’s fears about disaster, disease, and death.” (Animalfarm1984) 

While addressing the Great Depression, Democrat Franklin Delano Rosevelt famously stated, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Among others, Michael Reagan, speaking of his political opponents, has altered the maxim to be “the only thing we have to offer is fear itself.” (Reagan) I imagine there are those considering that indictment up to debate. However, it is not my point to assign blame to political parties or politicians. Many thrive on instilling fear regardless of political affiliation. As one writer for a pop-psychology magazine opined, fear is “the most powerful motivator of all.” (Wilson)    

I set out to recall a time in my life in which no Chicken Little was trying to scare me about something. I fail to remember a season when all was well with the world. In nearly a half-century of life, alarmists told me of the perils I face from nuclear war, a new ice age, a hole in the ozone layer, acid rain, killer bees, the deforestation of the Amazon region, the policies of Ronald Reagan, Y2K, global-warming-no-wait-let’s-call-it-climate-change-to-cover-all-our-bases, the policies of Barrack Obama, Ebola, the very existence of Donald Trump, the Illuminati, Globalists, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and, now, Joe Biden’s socialist regime. Phew. Sadly, I have occasionally given such Chicken Littles a greater hearing than the assurances found in God’s Word.  

What was it that the inspired Apostle John said? “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4 NASB1995). Jesus created and now sustains creation (Colossians 1.16-17). It is He who will destroy it when the time comes (2 Peter 3.10). In the interim, as God promised Noah: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8.22 NASB1995).” It may be that we figuratively see the writing on the wall as Belshazzar indeed did in Daniel 5, but even so, God will be our Rock. Even if the mountains crumble and fall into the sea, He is still our refuge (Psalm 46). It is OK to face uncertainty with apprehension like Habakkuk did as he awaited the impending Babylonian invasion (Habakkuk 3.2,16). Yet, like Habakkuk (and the Apostle Paul), we must bravely move forward, recognizing our dependence upon Providence (Habakkuk 3.17-19; Philippians 4.11-13). Regardless of what 2021 may hold, if you seek God and His Kingdom first, God has your back (Matthew 6.33)! 

Works Cited 

Tyson, Neil deGrasse (neiltyson). “January 1, 2011: Happy New Year to all –at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.” 1 January 2011, 2:55 p.m. Tweet. 

“Porn: Definition of Porn by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com Also Meaning of Porn.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries,www.lexico.com/en/definition/porn

Animalfarm1984. “Fear Porn.” Urban Dictionary, Urban Dictionary, 26 June 2020, www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Fear+Porn

Reagan, Michael. “Stories in the News – Ketchikan, Alaska – The Fear Peddlers.” Sitnews, Stories in the News, 15 May 2003, 4:25 p.m.,www.sitnews.net/Columnist/051503_reagan.html

Wilson, Robert. “The Most Powerful Motivator.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 23 Sept. 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-main-ingredient/200909/the-most-powerful-motivator