Conclusion (1 John, Part 15)

Conclusion (1 John, Part 15)

Wednessday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

We’re writing this to you so you’ll know you have life forever. This is for those of you who believe the name of God’s son. We can be confident when we talk to God — if we make a request that aligns with his will, he listens to us. We know he listens whenever we ask, and that he’ll give us what we ask for. 

If one of you sees a Christian family member sin (not the kind that causes death), ask God to give them life, and he will. This only applies to the kind of sin that doesn’t cause death. There is a kind of sin that leads to death, and I’m not saying you should pray for someone who commits that kind of sin. Every morally wrong act is sin, but there are sins that don’t lead all the way to death. 

We know that no one in God’s family continues to sin. God’s son personally protects us, and evil can’t affect him at all. We know that we belong to God, but evil controls the whole world. We know that when God’s son came to earth, he gave us the ability to understand the true one. We live in truth through his son, Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and he is life forever. Children, keep each other away from idols. 

Our Weakness

Our Weakness

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Our Weakness

Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

We don’t like to be weak. Admitting weakness means admitting we are powerless. It means that we have to accept that we can’t fix our problems on our own. As humans we sometimes don’t like to admit that we need help. It’s in our nature to try and take care of our own problems.

The problem is that if we want to have a relationship with God, we have to admit that we are weak. We must come to terms with the fact that we are helpless without God. Sin has separated us from God. We are weak, but the Spirit helps us with this weakness. Paul uses the word astheneai, meaning a “lack of confidence or feeling of inadequacy.” The Spirit restores our confidence through prayer. The Spirit takes the inadequate, and makes it adequate.

Our weakness is taken away by the Spirit, and the only hurdle left is our own humanity. We need to understand that we can have confidence in prayer. We should also accept the fact that we need God’s help. How wonderful that our God can hear us even with our weakness!

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is…The Lord

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is…The Lord

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Following the arc featuring the “story” of Lady Wisdom and Ms. Folly, we notice a stylistic change in the book of wisdom, ostensibly collected by King Solomon. Beginning in chapter ten, King Solomon wields a shotgun and pelts us with wisdom’s birdshot. Manufacturers make birdshot by packing numerous steel or tungsten balls into a cartridge. The steel balls scatter when fired. This design increases the likelihood of striking a flying bird and keeps game fowl from being completely obliterated by the shot.  

So, beginning with Proverbs 10, the reader is confronted with numerous truths that do not form a cohesive narrative like Lady Wisdom and Miss Folly but are practical words of wisdom that enrich life. As a result, it is often best to approach the rest of Proverbs as a topical study. “The fear of the Lord” is an excellent place to start our topical overview of Proverbs. Solomon defined fear of the Lord as the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1.7; 9.10). 

As with the word “fool,” the Biblical definition of “fear” is not what one typically associates with the term. I oft tout Webster’s original 1828 dictionary since it often frames words within a Biblical context. Here is Webster’s subentry for the word “fear.” 

“In scripture, fear is used to express a filial or a slavish passion. In good men, the fear of God is a holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun every thing that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience. This is filial fear 

I will put my fear in their hearts. Jeremiah 32.39. 

Slavish fear is the effect or consequence of guilt; it is the painful apprehension of merited punishment. Romans 8.15. 

The love of God casteth out fear 1 John 4.1.”  

(https://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/Fear)  

Regarding the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, we understand that this is because we respect and revere God. We acknowledge His authority and thus trust His knowledge and judgment. Beyond its role in enlightening us, the fear of the Lord will accomplish other positive things as well. 

We will hate evil. (Proverbs 8.13). 

One cannot truly despise evil without also cherishing good, and just as an aversion to wrongdoing motivates people to turn away from it, so does a desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. In this context, “fear of the Lord” refers to the essence of religious practice. 

We will prolong life. (Proverbs 10.27) 

Mature individuals can recall numerous cases of the wicked whose lives were cut short and ended due to their evil actions—fatalities caused by drunk drivers, robbers who police have shot, adulterers killed by cuckolded husbands, etc.            

We have strong confidence and a fountain of life. (Proverbs 14.26-27) 

The traps of death include not only the pitfalls and dangers of our current lives on Earth but also the unfathomable terrors of the “second death.” James Moffat translated the Scriptures in 1929 and rendered the passage: “Reverence for the Eternal is a fount of life; it shows how to avoid the nets of Death.” He capitalized the “d” in “death” to show that it was eternal condemnation. 

The fear of the Lord will prompt us to depart from evil. (Proverbs 16.6) 

No matter how well done, mercy and truth cannot save people from sin unless genuine repentance and a change of heart toward God’s will accompany them. People refrain from doing bad things because they are afraid of the Lord, and this fear affects them. Those with holy fear and reverence for God in their hearts will not sin against him. 

We will have a satisfying life, spared from much evil. (Proverbs 19.23) 

According to this verse, the only way to be “satisfied” is to fear and serve God. On the tomb of William Rockefeller in New York’s Tarrytown Cemetery, there is a quote from Augustine that reads, “Our souls, O God, were made for Thee, and never shall they rest until they rest in Thee.” Men will never find happiness elsewhere, no matter how hard they try. Only in Jesus Christ can we find the fullness of life that God provides. 

We will enjoy riches, honor, and life! (Proverbs 22.4) 

This verse, which discusses humility and reverence for God, sums up several of the principal lessons of Proverbs. In addition, it provides a concise overview of the fundamental requirements for human survival on this planet. 

True religion, as demonstrated by “the fear of the Lord.” is synonymous with humility. The signs of humility are being dependent on God, having a low opinion of oneself, surrendering one’s will, and convincing ourselves of sin. They are all summed up in the phrase “the fear of God,” which is the source of all virtues and blessings: riches, honor, and life. 

We deprive ourselves of God’s wisdom and knowledge treasures when we do not fear the Lord. We will tempt fate and let ourselves get corrupted by mingling with evil. Our refusal to listen to God’s word will likely shorten our lives (e.g., suffering sexually transmitted diseases if we do not heed His Word on sexual relationships). We will not come to know God’s love, which provides assurance and confidence in salvation. We are not motivated to repent or turn to God when we sin! We will not be inspired to “work out our salvation.” This outcome from lacking the fear of the Lord sounds dreadful.  

To be truly wise, we must first learn to fear the Lord. Let us understand this fear, appreciate it, and incorporate it into our lives as God’s children! 

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! 

Слава Україні!

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.