I Want To Be A Lipizzaner

I Want To Be A Lipizzaner

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

The majestic Lipizzan horse is a sight to behold. One of its dressage gaits is called the levade. If you’ve seen a horse in a heraldic setting, you’ve likely seen something akin to this pose. The horse raises and draws in its forelegs, balancing its bodyweight on its bent hind legs. Lipizzaners are relatively few today, with about 3,000 of them in the world. However, owners prize them for their docile and highly obedient natures. These characteristics are something I wish to emphasize as I consider Jesus’ appeal for us to be “meek” or “gentle” (Matthew 5.5).  

The history of the Lipizzan breed goes back to around 800 A.D. Muslims invaded the Iberian peninsula and brought their Arabian and Berber horses with them. The Muslims bred their Arabians and Berbers with local Spanish horse breeds. One of the resulting horse breeds was the Andalusian. Fast forward to the late 1500s, and you find Archduke Charles II establishing a stud in Lipizza, Austria, known today as Lilica. He bred this Andalusian with Arabian, Berber, Baroque, and the now-extinct Neapolitan horses. The horses produced in Lipizza were equally at home on the battlefield and in aristocratic riding venues.  

In the same latter half of the sixteenth century, the Spanish Riding School began in Vienna. This school has trained these Austrian bred horses for over 450 years using the classical dressage, which the Greek, Xenophon, described. And that is the glue that brings this entire discourse together. Xenophon referred to properly trained horses, ready for battle, as praus. That is the Greek word used by Jesus in Matthew 5.5. So, if you want to see a horse that has been meeked, look at the Lipizzaner during its performance.  

Interestingly, with time’s passage, meekness has been equated to weakness or timidity. Surely weakness or timidity would not be a mindset needed for those wishing to enter the Kingdom. If a horse acted as the modern conception of that word, it would be useless. Is this desirable trait watered down due to its probable source of Psalm 37.11? David wrote: “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (KJV).  

Newer translations of that passage, like the NASB1995, will substitute “humility” for the word meek. However, if you look to the original Hebrew, the term employed is anav. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon suggests that within this context, anav means “poor, weak, and afflicted Israel.”1 If you read the entire thirty-seventh Psalm, you note that David describes the destruction of evildoers, which creates a void to be filled by the anav (meek or humble) persons (Psalm 37.7-11). 

The problem with bringing David’s meaning to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is the Septuagint would have likely influenced Matthew as he recorded the words of our Lord, and it uses praus. Of course, it may be that Jesus quoted the Septuagint, too. Christ seems to do so on several occasions. As Koine Greek was the lingua franca, why wouldn’t He use the Septuagint in His public teaching? Ultimately, it matters little whether Jesus quoted from the Masoretic Text or the Septuagint since we must deal with the Greek in which the Holy Spirit wrote it for you and me today.  

As a quick aside, the church or Kingdom is not an institution that Jesus’ meek will be inheriting from defeated evildoers, as were David’s meek. Instead, Jesus built this institution Himself and now adds the saved to it (Acts 2.47). These saved may be sin-weary and spiritually afflicted upon entry (cf. Matthew 11.28-30), but Jesus adds them to a spotless church without blemish (Ephesians 5.27). Even if Psalm 37.11 was in the mind of our Lord when He preached, He made an entirely different application of it centered on the idea of the “meeked man.” 

Aristotle said that a meek man was one remaining between the extremes of cowardice and recklessness. In other words, a courageous man. 2 That takes us back to Xenophon and our Lipizzaners, the descendants of the Greek war-horse. What kind of a horse would Alexander the Great ride to glory on the battlefield? We know because historians have written much about him. The horse’s name was Bucephalus. Plutarch said Alexander perceived that Bucephalus was spooked by his own shadow and so situated the animal to face away from his source of fear. 3 No man could ride Bucephalus but Alexander. Alexander brought Bucephalus’ power under control. Following the body of knowledge passed down by such men as Xenophon, young Alexander meeked Bucephalus.  

So, what virtue was Jesus urging us to adopt? Naturally, we cannot physically become Lipizzaners. Still, we can discipline ourselves to become docile (i.e., ready to receive instruction) and highly obedient (i.e., willing to carry out those orders) as that magnificent horse. As such, we are equally as fit for service in the war against Satan as being a Barnabas to fellow Christians. Hence, a meeked Christian is far from poor and weak. He knows who holds his reins. As such, he enjoys what is his and what the Lord has promised him. Doesn’t that make you want to be like the Lipizzaner too?   

Sources Cited and Consulted 

1 “Strong’s Hebrew: 6035. עָנָו (Anav) — Poor, Afflicted, Humble, Meek.” Bible Hub, Bible Hub, biblehub.com/hebrew/6035.htm

2 Chaignot, Mary  Jane. “Definition of Meekness.” BibleWise, Biblewise.com, www.biblewise.com/bible_study/questions/definition-meekness.php

3 Wasson, Donald L. “Bucephalus.” World History Encyclopedia, World History Encyclopedia, 2 Feb. 2022, www.worldhistory.org/Bucephalus/

Kawsar, Iffat. “Lipizzan Horse: A Horse Dedicated to Spanish Riding School in Vienna.” The Vet Expert, The Vet Expert, 11 June 2021, www.thevetexpert.com/lipizzan-horse-a-horse-dedicated-to-spanish-riding-school-in-viena/.  

Photo credit: Max Pixel (Creative Commons)
Facing Fear With Christ

Facing Fear With Christ

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

When it comes to storms, people either love them or hate them. Personally I find storms to be relaxing. I love hearing the lighting and thunder rumble and shake the house. Some people are deathly afraid of storms and for good reason. If a storm is violent enough, it can end up costing millions of dollars in damage. 
Storms are a majestic show of God’s power. Did you know that a single bolt of lighting contains up to one billion volts of electricity? That’s enough electricity to power 56 houses for 24 hours straight…from a single strike! It can generate temperatures six times hotter than the surface of the sun. Storms are majestic, but also can be terrifying. 
I want to take a brief look at a well-known account in scripture. Matthew 14 is the account of Jesus walking on the water. Verse 24 says, “But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.”‭‭ This storm is so great that even experienced fishermen couldn’t handle it. 
Peter, James and John were fishermen by trade. They knew how handle storms, but this one was so great they couldn’t control the boat. Matthew tells us it was during the fourth watch which would’ve been from 3-6 AM., a massive storm in the middle of the night. And it was at this moment Jesus comes to the apostles walking on the water. 
What is their reaction? They believe Jesus to be a ghost or “evil spirit.” And honestly if I was in their position I’d be afraid, too. Verse 27 gives us three significant reminders. “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’”
“Take Courage” 

Jesus tells them to have courage in a scenario that many would be scared for their life in. 


“It is I” 

“ego emi.” This phrase reminds us of what God said to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). Jesus says, “it is I”–the “I AM,” The all-powerful. 


Do not be afraid” 
He tells them not to fear. To suppress the natural reaction and to trust in the great I AM. The next time we encounter storms in our lives, take courage BECAUSE, The Great I AM, has got you in His hand. So don’t be afraid. Trust the Loving Savior to care for you. 

The Art Of Excuses

The Art Of Excuses

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

 
Someone once said, “Excuses are tools of the incompetent, and those who specialize in them seldom go far.” Ben Franklin is quoted saying, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
 
Jeremiah had a complete list of excuses ready when God called on him to be a prophet to the people of Israel. Many times the excuses of Jeremiah become ours when we are called on to be a preacher to this world. We see that with every excuse Jeremiah made, God gave promises in return.
 
First, Jeremiah said, “the task ahead is difficult.” God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5).  Notice what God says to Jeremiah: “I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The task ahead is difficult, so Jeremiah gives off a list of excuses for why he isn’t the one for this job. God gives a promise for Jeremiah’s excuses; He says, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” God knew that Jeremiah was the one for the job, even if Jeremiah didn’t think so.
 
Second, Jeremiah said, “I don’t have the talent.” Jeremiah 1:6 says, “Then I said, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.” Many times people blame their cowardice on lack of talent. They say that it isn’t a natural talent to them, that there are others more suited for the job; but God knows Jeremiah and the great good he can accomplish. In Jeremiah 1:9, God promises that He would put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth.
 
As Christians today we have these same promises for our worries and excuses. Let’s not blame our cowardice on a lack of talent. That isn’t a good excuse to God. Nothing is. God has promised He will be with us, and we have HIS Word to teach to others. Let’s trust in that.
Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

Jeremy Waddell

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A lot of you do not know this about me but I grew up on a dairy farm. Holstein cows were a part of every day of my life up until about five or six years ago.

I have milked, showed, studied, and researched cows for years and invested so much time, effort and even money into cows. I can answer almost any question and have a deep conversation at any moment and can be confident in my answers when it comes to a Holstein cow… who won the show, who owns it, where it came from, her genetics.

The thing is… cows are no longer part of my life. I still have all that knowledge that worked so hard for, but it is basically useless in my everyday life.

Most people I deal with today would think I was crazy and probably take offense if I came up and asked what they thought about the rump and legs on that cow.

The need for that knowledge faded away just like every other earthly thing will and does for each of us.

I am sure we all have things in our life that seemed so important at one time and that we have moved on from. It faded away and was not near as important as we thought it was. Things of this earth will always fade away at some point.

God, Jesus, and the Bible does not fade away and never will!

1 Peter 1:4 tells us that God has given us an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled and that does not
fade away. It is reserved in heaven for each of us because of the blood that Jesus shed for us. We should have the same knowledge and confidence in the Bible and about Jesus that we have about our hobby or job or whatever else it is that consumes our time and know that it will never become useless. If anything, it should get more and more important in our lives.

We should be able to have:

-Have a conversation about Jesus and not be nervous
-Be confident in answering questions about the Bible
-Quote scripture and passages from heart just as we can the facts about our hobby or job and whatever interest we have that consumes us on a daily basis.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” God has given us everything we need to be prepared to win souls AND to save our own soul.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

We need that same knowledge, passion, and fire for studying the Word of God and being the “workman” that we are for our hobbies and earthly things. Being able to teach anyone at any time about Jesus and have ready answers for them. There are people out there that want to hear about Jesus. We need to be ready and able to talk to them, teach them and most importantly be an example to them. Remember: ““Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). 

  • –  Are you the worker God wants you to be?

  • –  Are you ready to use the tools He has given you? The Bible, your abilities and talents

  • –  Are you ready to put in the time and effort that you need to to be the Christian that

    God wants you to be? To study and learn from something that will never fade away or become useless.

Spirit One 

Spirit One 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

In the first chapter of Genesis we read that God made man dominion over every creature He had made. Then in James 3:7 the inspired writer says, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind.” When we think about the implications of that and then apply it to the world of the Old Testament it becomes even more impressive. The first humans lived with all kinds of beasts, including the dinosaurs. Whatever image comes to mind when you think of those extinct reptiles, it’s probably not that of a tame animal. God gives us a curious glimpse into the past where humans and dinosaurs not only coexisted, but we managed to tame them. In Ecclesiastes, the preacher concludes his sermon in chapter 12 by saying we must prepare ourselves for the day we meet our Creator. The spirit that He made will one day return back to Him. Solomon then says, “fear God.”

The correlation between “spirit” and “fear” is also seen in the New Testament. Paul writes to a fearful and wavering Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). The message in the Old and New Testament then is, “fear nothing but God.” When Adam and Eve were in the garden they feared nothing because that’s not the spirit that God gave them. He gave us one of power, because of the God we serve. He is our Father and He has all the power. He gave us a spirit of love. We aren’t animals. We aren’t lions who display great power but lack the ability to love. We were made in the image of God and that means we have both a spirit, which is our life force, and a soul— our eternal life force. On top of all this God gave us the spirit of a sound mind. The Greek word used there means a mind that is calm. Even in the face of calamity and craziness, we can be calm. Why? Because we are God’s children and God is in control. One day every faithful Christian will get back that perfect spirit given to His original creations. Spirits without fear.

“Leviathan” by Lewis Lavoie
(https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=1247)
The Scandal Of The Savior

The Scandal Of The Savior

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Neal Pollard

On 14 occasions in his gospel record, Matthew uses a word from which we get our English word “scandal.” Arndt and his fellow lexicographers define the word as meaning “to cause to be brought to a downfall; to shock through word or action” (BDAG 926). Jesus was at times the cause of others experiencing anger or shock through what He said and did. While Jesus uses the word to condemn those whose words and actions cause themselves and others to stumble (5:29,30; 18:6,8-9), it more often refers to those who took offense at what He said or did. He was not a poor example or stumbling block. The problem for many was that what Jesus stood for and taught was unpopular, difficult, or contrary to fleshly desires. 

Does living the Christian life ever cause us to run the risk of being scandalous to the world? Share Jesus’ sexual ethics and expectations. Tell others Jesus’ exclusive salvation message. Stand up for His doctrine. Condemn what He would condemn. Any number of social causes celebrated in our society crash against the teaching of Jesus. When you stand with Him, you can expect the world (and sometimes even the weak among God’s people) to “take offense” (11:16; 13:57; 15:12; 26:31). 

We should never be a scandal because of unrighteous behavior (see those passages in chapters 5 and 18). We should never go out of our way to be offensive. But, we should know that walking with Jesus will lead us to scandalize some. What will comfort us is knowing that standing with the Scandalized Savior will keep Him from taking offense at us! Nothing is more important than that. 

Mission Possible

Mission Possible

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Writing to a church filled with multiple ethnic groups, Paul has a broad goal in mind in writing the Roman epistle.  Having dedicated himself to “world-wide” evangelism, as Acts and his letters show, his heart was on more than winning Jews in one small part of the world.

In Romans ten, Paul is reaching the crescendo of the doctrinal argument he makes in Romans 1:15-17 about salvation through faith in Christ.  In the middle of the chapter, he states some principles that are worthy of our attention.  Consider briefly Romans 10:5-17.

Here, we have the message expressed (5-10).  It is the message Paul has been stressing throughout the letter, a message of “righteousness based on faith” (6).  It is a word of faith (8), one emphasizing what the scriptures say (Paul quotes Deut. 30:12, 14, 21, Psa. 19:4, Isa. 28:16, 52:7, 53:1, 65:1-2, and Joel 2:32 just from Rom. 10:6-21), and a message meant to touch the heart (8) and lead one to eternal salvation (9-10).  Thankfully, the same word that tells us to “make disciples” tells us to do that through the divine message of scripture.

We also have the men envisioned (11-13).  Twice, Paul says that “whoever” (11,13) calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  The Lord’s riches are for “all who call on Him” (12).  He makes no distinction between Jew and Greek (12).  That underscores the biblical idea that God wants all men everywhere to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4).  

We have the means executed (14-16).  Paul exalts preaching and preachers.  This is honorable work requiring honorable people.  They are an indispensable part of God’s soul-winning plan (14).  They are divinely sent (15).  They are positively described (15b). They dispense good news (16).  As Paul writes Corinth, preaching is God’s medium for saving men’s souls (1 Cor. 1:18).

Finally, we have the mission embodied (17).  The word of Christ must be heard, and faith results by hearing that word.  People do not teach themselves.  Societies are not won accidentally or incidentally.  There must be deliberate, often sacrificial, activity—preaching, planting seed, and perseverant persistence—to fulfill that mission.

We have mission work to do right here.  We have it to do daily at our jobs and in our more immediate communities and neighborhoods.  Whether you are going across the street or around the world, fulfill your mission! 

I Dare You To Jump Off This Wall

I Dare You To Jump Off This Wall

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Peer pressure was a topic that I was taught a lot as a teen. Many have the false assumption that only teens struggle with peer pressure. While it is true that as a young person it is easier to be persuaded, adults and mature Christians can fall for peer pressure just as easily.
While there are many personal illustrations I could use of times that I fell for peer pressure and did something dumb, I’m not going to use them because I like my job at Hebron. But, there is one that I will tell because it’s a great illustration on the power of peer pressure.
Back when I was 12 years old (I was young, perfect and innocent) I fell for peer pressure and I’ll never forget the life lesson that I was taught. At the Bear Valley church there was a wall outside that the teens would sit on and hang out. This wall was about 10 feet tall and at the bottom was a bunch of rocks and bushes. I remember watching all the teen guys jump off the wall and land in the bushes below. I wanted to jump off so bad, but I knew I’d get in huge trouble if I did. All the cool kids would go out after church and see who could do the coolest jump off this wall. I remember one of the guys saying, “This is how you prove you’re a man.” And so of course I had to prove I was a man. I didn’t want them to think that I was a chicken. So one evening after church I went and sat on top of the wall and got ready to jump. Everyone was watching and I knew there was no turning back. I sat on the wall for a good 15 minutes trying to build up the courage to jump off what seemed like a 30 foot drop. I finally took the plunge and jumped…and fell like a sack of rocks onto the drainage pipe below and broke it clean in half. A feeling of dread washed over me when I realized what I had done. One of the deacon’s kids ran and told his dad…who told the elders…who told my parents…who told me that I was grounded from going outside after church for the foreseeable future. Every Sunday and Wednesday I was forced to stay with my parents in the auditorium until we left. I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Peer pressure is dumb. And the only thing that you gain from it is trouble.
Being pressured to jump off a wall probably won’t ever happen to you, but there’s a choice that each one of us will have to make at some point in our lives. That’s the choice of who we will call our friends and companions. This choice will shape who we are, how we live, and where we will go in the next life. The foundation for this subject is built by looking at a comparison between the righteous and the wicked. We can build our character by choosing righteous company, but what does righteousness look like?
In Psalm 1, we are given this comparison. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (1). There is a progression of temptation laid out here: blessed is the man who…Walks not in the counsel of the ungodly (the one who sees the sin and keeps walking) Nor Stands in the path of sinners (sees the sin and stops to watch out of curiosity) Nor sits in the seat of the scoffers (sees the sin and sits with them to join in).
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (2).  Rather than walking next to sin, standing with evil, and sitting with evil company, his delight is in God’s Word and not in the sin of his fellow man. This man is blessed because he chooses to mediate on the Law of the Lord rather than dwelling with those in sin.
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (3). Once the righteous man has chosen God’s Word over sin, we are given the result of this choice. He’s healthy. He produces fruit. He’s well nourished. He’s blessed in what he sets out to accomplish. This happens as a result of choosing godliness over evil company.
“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (4).  Those who choose evil deeds over God’s Word are worthless. They are described as chaff. Chaff is the husk on the outside of a wheat kernel. You can’t eat it, and it basically doesn’t do anything. You have to take it off before you can make anything with the wheat. How they would do this is they would throw it up in the air and it would seperate from the kernel and the wind would blow it away while the wheat would fall back down.
The wicked are useless to God. When it comes to choosing friends, we have just two choices. The righteous (that are blessed in what they do) or the wicked (the ones that are useless to God). The choice should be an easy one for us, and yet Christians will fail to make the right decision.
A piece of advice: Don’t jump off the wall. Choose to hang with those that are concerned for your well being. Choose the righteous friend that will look out for your soul.
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Who Is God to Me? (Psa. 46:1-2)

Who Is God to Me? (Psa. 46:1-2)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

We are obsessed with our phones. A new study has found, that the heaviest smartphone users click, tap or swipe on their phone 5,427 times a day. Now that’s the top 10 percent of users, so we would expect it to be high, but even the average smartphone users still tap their phones almost half that many times a day. This means that some of us will touch our phones a couple million times a year (Adam Alter study).
The majority of the time we are on our phones is spent on social media. A place of fake relationships. We spend hours being “social” but this time spent never builds true relationships. The world is hungry for true and meaningful relationships. They waste hours online trying to get close to someone, but it always leaves them emptier than when they began.
As Christians we have a relationship with each other because of Christ, but even more, we have a relationship with God. The creator of this world. Let’s spend some time looking at this relationship we have with God. Who is God to me? Psalm 46 is a psalm of encouragement. The psalmist tells us to trust in God, to have hope in the relationship we have with Him, but this psalm also answers the question, Who Is God to Me?
He’s My Refuge/Strength. Verse one says, “God is our refuge and strength…” In my relationship with God, He’s my refuge. A place I can run to in times of need. He’s my strength, giving me more than I could ever have on my own.
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, a famous strongman, recently broke the world record deadlift pulling 1,104 pounds, breaking the previous record by 2 pounds. When I think of strong, this is what I think of. Lifting half a ton from the ground up to your waist, as mind boggling and impressive as this is, Hafþór still isn’t strong enough. None of us will ever have enough strength on our own. We may be physically strong, but spiritually God is the only one strong enough to help us walk the Christian walk.
The Hebrew word for refuge conveys the idea of a protective shelter (HALOT 571). God is a place of safety, a shelter that no one can break into. Thieves will break In and steal our possessions, but no one can ever take away our relationship with God. He’s our refuge, a place of safety. The word “strength” further builds onto the description of God. God is a strong refuge. And even more, He gives us that strength and refuge to help us in our walk. The strongest man is weak when compared to God. The most impenetrable of places pales in comparison to God. Who is God to me? He’s my strength and place of refuge.
He’s My Help. Verse one continues to say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Trouble is something all of us will face. We run into opposition in almost every area of life.
“Good help is hard to find.” You’ll hear businessmen say this all the time. It’s a struggle that every restaurant, business, and church will run into. Who can we count on? We want people that are reliable. That’ll show up to work, get their job done, and be responsible. We need help. And the psalmist here tells us that God is our help.
God’s help is not hard to find. It is a help that is always there for us when we need it. Even more, God wants to help us. We all know people that when you ask for help, they’ll help you, but they really don’t want to. God wants to help his children, and that’s who God is to us.
He’s My Courage. Verse two says, “Therefore (because he is our refuge, strength, and help) we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” God is my courage because He helps me not fear what happens to me.
According to the DSM, specific phobias typically fall within five general categories: fears related to animals (spiders, dogs, insects), fears related to the natural environment (heights, thunder, darkness, fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues (injections, broken bones, falls), fears related to specific situations (flying, riding an elevator, driving), and other (choking, loud noises, drowning) (University of Pennsylvania study).
The world is full of fear. It is an ever present problem. I can’t stand heights and it all started when I had a nightmare where I was stuck by a belt loop at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Ever since I’ve been deathly afraid of heights.
My relationship with God gives me the choice to have courage instead of fear, hope instead of dread, joy instead of worry, and peace instead of anxiety. Though the earth gives way, though our world falls apart around us, we have courage instead of fear.
How does this help us? We need courage in so many areas: evangelism (we have a loving God to proclaim, but it isn’t always easy), confrontation (no one likes to call out a brother living in sin), family (courage to lead them to heaven, to make the hard calls), as a church (since we are called to live like Christ, we will make enemies), and Christian living (living righteously takes courage).
Who is God to Me? He’s my refuge, my strength, my help, and my courage. We spend hours each day on our phones, trying to be social or just wasting time. If our relationship with God was turned into a survey, how many times would we contact him? God wants a relationship with us, and sadly we tend to spend more time on social media than we do building our relationship with Him. Who is God to you? Is He your strength? Do you turn to him for help? Building and strengthening our relationship with God is the most important thing we will ever do.
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The Secret Message 

The Secret Message 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

If he was nervous, it was clear that the king’s palace guards couldn’t tell. They checked his left thigh for a weapon, and when they were satisfied they allowed Ehud to enter the throne room chamber. Ehud is just steps away from going down in history as the man who delivered the Israelites from the Moabite oppression. If he can pull this off, he and his people will enjoy eighty years of peace. It was a big job, and if you know this account, it was a big in more than one way. Hanging from his right side, unknown to anyone but him, is an eighteen inch double-sided sword. It was a weapon made for stabbing, and Ehud planned to use it for it’s created purpose. The guards stationed outside the chamber open the door for him. The room is filled with servants and more armed security, but this is probably not the first thing to catch your eye. There, in the middle of the room on the throne sat an extremely obese man. He’s been the ruling power over God’s people for eighteen years now and as king, he clearly took advantage the royal food supply. His name was Eglon. He, along with the sons of Ammon and Amalek, defeated the Israelites and then claimed the city of palm trees, Jericho.

Ironically, the palm tree was considered a symbol of peace and victory. Many years later, people would lay the branches of these trees down before Jesus the Nazareth as He enters Jerusalem. It seems reasonable to assume that Eglon was glad when he saw Ehud walk towards him. After all, Ehud was the man in charge of gathering Israel’s tribute and delivering it to him. With these funds, the king was free to continue living his life of gluttony and leisure. However, this time God was about to give a gift to the Israelites— Eglon’s life.

Ehud begins to look for the perfect opportunity to kill the king. He says to Eglon, “I have a secret message for you.” At this, Eglon clears the room. Now it’s just Ehud and the king. They’re alone in Eglon’s roof chamber. Ehud continues, “It’s from God.” This is out of the ordinary, and the king seems to have some level of respect for Jehovah, because he then stands up. I would imagine, a man of his size didn’t usually make a habit of standing unless it was absolutely necessary. Ehud pulls from his right thigh the hidden sword and quickly thrusts it into Eglon’s belly. The fat closes over the blade, and his insides spill out. Ehud locks the door and makes his escape. The guards assume Eglon is relieving himself in the coolness of his roof chamber. They wait until the point of embarrassment before opening the door, only to find their king dead. Ehud manages to rally the Israelite troops— slaying ten thousand mighty Moabites. Peace fell on the land for the next eighty years until the children of Israel once again fell away from God.

This account is found in Judges 3, and it’s an interesting, perhaps disgusting account, of how God delivered His people. Believe it or not, there are a few takeaways for us today. Sometimes Christianity involves bravery on our part. God was with Ehud, and He’s still with us today. Even so, humans still face very real fears. Whether you’re asked to lead a prayer in worship, or you’re thinking about talking with those in your social circles about Christ, or making an uncomfortable hospital visit, faithful service requires courage. It’s always been that way. Another lesson we can learn from this account is that God strengthens our faith by testing that faith. Just look at how zealously Ehud conquers the strong and valiant Moabites after Eglon’s death. When we can witness how God has worked in our past, it can build our faith in God’s ability to assist us in the future. If God is for us, who can be against us? Absolutely nobody. 

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