God’s Solutions For Our Problems

God’s Solutions For Our Problems

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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

It’s been said that the there are more stars in the known universe than all of the sand on earth combined. That being said, in just one grain of sand there are more atoms than all of the stars. That’s pretty amazing. Our planet is but a speck in the grandeur of space. Countless stars, planets, galaxies, lightyears and somehow God is well aware of the happenings of people. Have you stood on the mountain tops? Have you observed the power of the oceans as the waves crash on the shore? Has your heart almost stopped after the vibrating sensation of a thunder clap resonates in your chest? The might of the Creator is everywhere in the world around us and at times it just demands to be noticed. 
A section of scripture that is mysterious and fascinating is found in 1 Kings 19:11-13. The Lord of hosts is about to show Himself to a depressed and exhausted Elijah, but in a way that he would never forget. “The Lord said, ‘go out on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out to stand at the mouth of the cave. Then the voice said, ‘what are you doing here Elijah?’” In the solitude of Horeb, Elijah seeks to avoid the troubles of his world. 
The acoustics of the mountainous area along with the time spent in silence must have made the shattering rocks, raging fire, splitting hills, and rumbling earth all but deafening and definitely a terrifying display of divine power. Then in sharp contrast, a still whisper comes. This gentleness, no doubt, is the reason Elijah decides to cautiously emerge from his hiding place. God is teaching His worn-out servant a lesson that holds true for us today. The fact is, there is no more God, His wisdom, power, and presence in an earthquake than there is in the sweet breath of a blooming flower. The quiet ticking of a wrist watch reveals just as much intelligence and purpose as does the striking of a clock tower’s bell. 
One may walk out into an open field at night and stare up into the vast sky, lit up with numerous twinkling stars and declare, “I’ve found God!” But God is no more in the sky than He is in the blades of grass flattened beneath your feet. The question came to Elijah from that still voice, “What are you doing here?” To the prophet, his problems were too great and too large and his solution was to run and hide. God, in a magnificent way, is trying to remind Elijah of his place.
 Our place in life is not to take matters into our own hands or solve life’s many difficulties on our own. The answer is not to run away, but to walk humbly with our awesome God. He is strong enough to lift our burdens, wise enough to counsel us, patient enough to allow us to learn, and loving enough to constantly forgive. 

How Can Evil And A Loving God Coexist?

How Can Evil And A Loving God Coexist?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Note: This is not going to be a quick read. Any answer to the question addressed is going to require some theological/philosophical consideration. 

Stephen Fry is a well-known actor, activist, humanist, and athiest. When asked what he would say to God in a face-to-face, he replied, “Bone cancer in children, what’s that about? … How dare you create a world where there is such misery that is not our fault?” There’s more to the quote, but this sums it up. 

“How can evil and a loving God coexist?” At some point, we have to confront this question in our own faith. Some can accept the problem of evil as being a byproduct of a fallen world. Others – especially those who have experienced evil firsthand – have a hard time justifying the two. 

Most answers offered sound something like this: “The creation groans with the pains of childbirth up to now. Man, as a free moral agent, transgressed God’s law and brought the consequences of sin upon humanity. God cannot look upon evil, and certainly does not cause it. Every good thing and every perfect gift comes down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” 

While the principles in this explanation are correct, it fails to address the question on at least two levels. One, it does not answer how God could allow evil to affect humans. We exist, technically, against our will. Two, it utilizes jargon. It’s easier to say religious-sounding things to answer difficult questions, but anyone struggling with this problem knows how frustrating this answer can be. It doesn’t address the question, and sometimes comes across as avoiding it altogether. 

The following is based on personal study, as I’d wrestled with this problem, too. To be very clear: God loves us, and the existence of evil does not change that at all. This question was answered for me through an unrelated study that put a few things into perspective. Here’s the condensed version: 

God created reality, and it was flawless (Gen 1.31). In fact, Jesus described heaven as being a return to this flawlessness (Matt 19.28). The code of reality was intact. God didn’t force us to love him, he gave us freedom to choose for ourselves. According to Romans eight, nature was fundamentally affected by the choice we made. This choice essentially introduced a bug into the code of reality. God didn’t create evil, we did. 

Even though our choice has consistently been rejection – and we’re solely responsible for messing everything up – he still gave up everything to give us a second chance. Yes, Jesus sacrificed himself on a cross. This was extremely selfless and loving in itself. But this was NOT the only sacrifice he made. 

Jesus – the one who designed and built reality (John 1) – permanently demoted himself for humans. He gave up his status to die for us (Heb 2.7). He’s in the father’s chair right now, but will step back down after the end of time (Heb 1.14; 2.8-9). He is still God, but permanently lower because he’s still human, too (I Tim 2.5; I Cor 11.3; I Jn 3.1-3; Heb 2.11-18). 

So, how can evil and a loving God coexist? We’re stuck with the way reality is now, but he fundamentally changed himself to give us a second chance. He works full-time to get his family home (Rom 8.27; I Tim 2.5; I Jn 2.1-2). We changed the terms, but he changed the consequences. The most powerful entity in the universe stepped down – forever – knowing most of us would ignore it. When we look at it that way, it puts our own culpability into perspective and demonstrates God’s infinite capacity to love. 

Photo Credit Of Stephen Fry (Flickr)
Praise The Lord!

Praise The Lord!

Neal Pollard

Your version may use the word “hallelujah” to begin Psalm 135. Hallelujah means “praise the Lord.” While it is synonymous with giving thanks, it means to laud a superior quality or act, to acclaim and express joy in doing so. What is so noteworthy is that the psalmist does this in very specific ways, recounting times in history when God demonstrates His power and glory on behalf of His people. As we walk through the psalm, we see this. Why is He to be praised?

  • HIS CHOOSING OF HIS PEOPLE (4)
  • HIS NATURE (5)–Great, Above All
  • HIS WORK IN CREATION (6-7)–Heaven, Earth, Seas, All Deep, Vapors, Lightning, Wind, Rain
  • HIS DEFEATING OF THEIR ENEMIES (8-11)–Egypt, Amorites, Canaanites
  • HIS BLESSINGS (12)–Gave His People A Heritage (Possession)
  • HIS POWER (13)–His Name And Remembrance
  • HIS PROMISES (14)–Compassionate Judgment
  • HIS SUPERIORITY OVER HIS RIVALS (15-18)–Deaf, Dumb, And Blind Idols, Just Like Humans

The writer calls on God’s people to praise and worship Him in song, expressing their adoration (1-3). He ends with a threefold call to “bless the Lord” (19-21). May I suggest that you work through something both in your daily life and in your preparation before every time you assemble to worship? Call it setting the table for fellowship with the Divine. Either meditate on the specific works and ways of God that are worthy of admiration, praise and honor or pray to Him, expressing these matters in specific terms. Focus on how He’s demonstrated greatness in blessing your life and the lives of those around you. Perhaps it’s answered prayer, providence, deliverance, or relief. Focus on His power and might in the affairs of our nation, in the activities of our congregation, and the occurrences within your family and personal life. Let the worship flow as you look around at all you see in nature, from the universe to right out your window. Think about the gift of Jesus for your sins. All of this will surely cause you to echo the writer in Psalm 135 and call out to others, “Praise the Lord!”

Photo credit: Kathy Pollard
Does God Only Shelter Some In A Storm?

Does God Only Shelter Some In A Storm?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

I’ve heard some say of a house left standing after a tornado or hurricane that God must have spared the structure’s owner from material loss because of their righteousness. But, unfortunately, such statements imply that the neighboring destroyed property belonged to the unrighteous. Yet Jesus said, “for He (God) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5.45, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated). 

Even amongst the destruction, though, if someone is observant enough, he sees what he chooses to call miraculous. However, since a miracle is the suspension of God’s natural laws, we understand that the word “miracle” oft becomes an adjective to describe what defies human comprehension. In reality, laws of nature explain the “skipped” houses or why a decorated Christmas tree can remain amidst a room, missing its walls and a part of its ceiling. 

For example, there can be what scientists call “suction vortices” within tornadoes. Within a more significant tornado, these many vortices move in a looping, cycloid pattern that will hit some things while completely missing others.1 In other words, the hand of God was in the creation of the natural laws resulting in the occasional formation of tornadoes, with their suction vortices, as opposed to directing storms into particular locations.  

But did God originally intend for His natural laws to include such destructive phenomena? Think back to the world God initially created. God called it “very good” (Genesis 1.31). What changed? Humanity used its free moral agency to sin, bringing change to the world. In fact, things got so bad that God destroyed the original world. Peter says, “…by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3.5-6). 

Among those mechanisms that God put into place in the world emerging from the flood are the weather patterns that spawn tornadoes and hurricanes. The patient patriarch, Job, observed the following regarding the wisdom known to God: “…He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure…He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt…He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out” (Job 28.25-27). 

Now, the point of our devotional today is not to increase the misery of those having suffered loss during what insurance companies euphemistically call “acts of God.” Yes, things like tornadoes and hurricanes do arise because of sin. However, it is not a part of the chastisement God sends upon us (cf. Hebrews 12.4ff). So, if you want to see God after a tornado, do not see it in a church building with no roof, but with all its hymnals and pew Bibles still safely secured in the pew racks. That is likely but a side effect of natural law.  

No, look for God in His grace. As Fred Rogers often said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”2 Might I suggest that it is in the helpers that we see the actual hand of God? His Providence works through the people clearing debris, handing out food, and providing shelter to those who have lost everything. These fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6.2). Thus, God does not only shelter some in a storm. He provides for all of the weary through the agency of those whom He made in His image (Genesis 1.26-27).  

Sources Consulted and Cited 

1 Seman, Steven, et al. “Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths.” Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths | METEO 3: Introductory Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo3/l9_p8.html

2 Rogers, Fred. “A Quote by Fred Rogers.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/198594-when-i-was-a-boy-and-i-would-see-scary

The God We Serve

The God We Serve

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

25 ways God has shown His love to us: 

  1. Creation (Genesis 1-2) 
  2. The Cross (Matthew 27:32-56) 
  3. Salvation (John 3:16) 
  4. The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16) 
  5. The Church (Ephesians 2:19-22) 
  6. The Ability To Pray (Philippians 4:6) 
  7. A Caring High Priest (Hebrews 4:15) 
  8. The Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) 
  9. True Peace (Philippians 4:7) 
  10. Purpose (1 Peter 2:9) 
  11. Made Us Alive (Ephesians 2:5) 
  12. Servitude (Matthew 12:18) 
  13. Gave Us An Identity (John 1:12) 
  14. Joy (Proverbs 10:28)
  15. An Example (John 13:1-17) 
  16. Revealed Knowledge (Ephesians 1:17)
  17. Compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) 
  18. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11) 
  19. Strength (Exodus 15:2) 
  20. Good Advice (Matthew 6:34
  21. Takes Our Anxiety (1 Peter 5:7) 
  22. A Refuge (Psalm 46:1) 
  23. A Resurrection (John 11:25) 
  24. A Place Of Rest (Matthew 11:29)
  25. He’s Coming Back (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Do You Know Him Or Know Of Him?

Do You Know Him Or Know Of Him?

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

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


God speaks of Himself as simply “I Am.” This is one powerful statement depicts His infinite presence and His existence through every age. What does it mean to know Him? How do you know if you do? To know of Jesus is very different than knowing Him.

John is one of those books in the New Testament that will help us to become better aquainted with the Christ. John paints us a vivid picture of who He was and is on a deeper level than even the three previous books.

He’s the Bread of life, Light of the world, the Gate, Good Shepherd, Resurrection and Life, the Truth, and the Vine. All of these titles found within the book teach us a little more about the Savior of the world. There are seven “I Am” statements in John referring to Jesus and three hundred throughout the entire Bible. They begin in Genesis and end in Revelation, and in many books in-between. You just can’t read very far without discovering something very profound about it’s Writer.

He’s eternal. God’s desired response to this is simply for us to believe, respond, and live with our minds and hearts prepared to live with Him. When Jesus describes Himself as the “I Am” it makes the religious leaders want to kill Him in John 8. To know Jesus, to really know Him, is something that many people have not fully understood. Even as Jesus walked among us mortals and witnessed His miraculous power there were still several that didn’t realize what it meant to follow Him Luke 9:57-62.

While it’s true that everyone is made in the image of God, few reflect the Father’s image. Those that know Jesus introduce others to Him. With the knowledge that we are imperfect, let’s not forget that we also have the ability to have a relationship with Him. I am flawed and I am weak, but the Great I Am is interested in who I am.

By the grace of God, I am His child. He is the bread of life that sustains us, the light that guides us, the gate we’ll walk through, and the truth that will save us. It’s not how great I am, but how great the Great I Am is. Do you know Jesus?

Reality’s Architect

Reality’s Architect

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

We’re impressed by the intricacies of craftsmanship or artistry. A well-made instrument or diorama or painting can sell for thousands or more. Watching the process of those things coming to life leaves an even more profound impression of the talent required! I’ve lost track of time while watching hyper-realistic dioramas take shape (by other artists, not me). The sheer effort involved is incredible.
While those artists are very, very talented and impressive, they’re nothing compared to reality’s architect! Hours, weeks, or months are invested in breathtaking artwork, yet those pieces come from extant materials and are based on extant concepts. Humanity cannot create anything new.
It took God less than a week to fabricate an unfathomably large universe. We explore and investigate our world, only to be blown away by its complexities. Even the simplest life forms require highly intelligent minds and sophisticated equipment to understand. The more we discover, the more we understand how little we know.
For several years, science has been adopted by many as an explanation for reality. Besides the fact that science is merely our observations of what already exists, it still leaves plenty of questions unanswered.
For example, look into how many medications say something like (paraphrased, of course), “We don’t know how this works, but we think it…” We can perform complex surgeries using robots, but we can’t cure the common cold. We can explore our galaxy, but we’re not sure how exactly some antidepressants work to alleviate symptoms. Humanity has accomplished some amazing things, but even the most “basic” issues continue to evade our understanding.
Therefore, it isn’t entirely unreasonable to assume that something or someone intelligent was responsible for our incredible existence. Our greatest accomplishments pale in comparison to the magnitude of our universe. Every great piece of art has an artist behind it. Every piece of groundbreaking technology has a design team behind it. Our universe must have also had an immensely powerful, creative, compassionate designer.
Far from somehow disproving the existence of God, our greatest accomplishments merely highlight how powerful God really is. He gave us a beautiful world and way more than we need to survive. The sheer beauty of this planet alone should tell us that our God is a loving God.
“I look at the heavens you made with your hands. I see the moon and the stars you created and I wonder, ‘Why are people so important to you? Why do you even think about them? Why do you care so much about humans? Why do you even notice them?’ But you made them only a little lower than angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You put them in charge of everything you made. You put everything under their control…Lord our Lord, your name is the most wonderful name in all the earth” (Ps 8.3-9)!

Our God Is An Awesome God!

Our God Is An Awesome God!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Are there songs that really pump you up in your faith? While there are several that strike that chord in me, none do that more than the song, “Our God is an awesome God.” I know the melody helps, but just that short, sweet, and profound reminder puts wind in my spiritual sails. It reminds me that I can overcome because of who He is.

Psalm 104 is a much more detailed, exhaustive song that lays out how “very great” our God is. It is exciting to think about who we are serving, and sobering to think of the cost of rejecting Him. Look at the awesomeness of God.

LOOK UP (1-4)

My boys call me “sky guy.” I am known to take some pictures of sunrises, sunsets, and skies in general. I remember a night at the Ngorogoro Crater with our oldest son, Gary, when the sky looked, as the late Andrew Connelly once described it, like diamonds laying on black velvet. I remember looking over the Caribbean Sea with Kathy in Cozumel, Mexico, with the moon above us and reflected in the water as yellow as gold. But, I get the same sense on many nights when I cut off the porch light and walk out my front door. God did that!

God’s garments are splendor, majesty, and light (1-2). He stretches out heaven like a curtain, rides the clouds, and walks on the wings of the wind (2-4). How can anyone look up and fail to see God?

LOOK AROUND (5-23)

Where is the most beautiful place on earth? Often, we could say it is wherever we are at the moment. Creation’s beauty is so diverse and its complexity is so incredible. Look at its order and durability (5). Think back to how He changed it all through the flood, using water to raise up mountains, form valleys, and then prevent it from ever happening like that again (6-9; Gen. 9:11). Look at how he sustains us and all creation with water (10-11,16), food (13-15), habitat (12,17-18), seasons (19), and daylight and darkness (19-23). The earth is full of His possessions (24), the sea (25), animals (25), the sea and its wonders (26). He sustains and provides and He shows His power (27-30). On the first hike my family ever took as residents of Colorado, in Rocky Mountain National Park, we met a young woman on a trail. We had in common the fact that we had all just moved there from out of state.  We told her why we had moved, to work with the church in Denver. She, though very polite, said that she moved out there to get away from God. We were all standing, facing such incredible grandeur, and I thought, “Good luck with that!” Where do you go to get away from God when His fingerprints are everywhere? 

LOOK BEYOND (31-32)

As the psalmist begins to wrap up this tribute to God’s awesomeness, he speaks of God’s unlimited power. He makes earth tremble and mountains smoke (32). It gives Him glory and gladness (31). Really, this point is made throughout the entire psalm. Everything we see is a reflection of the One who is above all, through all, and in all (Eph. 4:6). 

LOOK WITHIN (33-35)

In a psalm paying tribute to creation, what should be my response? How should it change and shape me? I will sing to Him as long as I am (33). I will meditate about Him (34). I will be glad in Him (34). I will follow Him, knowing what awaits the sinner and the wicked (35). Listen to the psalmist’s summary: “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!”  What I see above, around, and within me should melt my heart in praise. It should leave me singing every day, “Our God is an awesome God!”

(taken near the summit of Torrey’s Peak, 2018)
How Satan Tempts

How Satan Tempts

Thursday Column: Captain’s Blog

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

 
Genesis 3 records for us the fall of man. This account reveals to us the methods Satan uses to tempt us, and the choice that changed the course of the world. We can learn a lot about the devil in his first interaction with God’s creation.
 
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.””
 
We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden. There is no timeframe between chapter 2 and 3.
It could’ve been a month, a year, a century that has gone by. Whatever the time frame, Satan comes to Eve and places doubt in her mind. This is quite possibly the worst lie ever told. “Did God really say…?” While Satan doesn’t physically appear and speak to us today, he still uses this same tactic. He has destroyed many churches’ worship to God. “Did God really ask for music with no instruments?” “Did God really say for the women to be silent?” By casting doubt Satan has corrupted the worship and faith of millions.
 
After he casts doubt, he then blatantly contradicts God, “you will not surely die.” And once again he continues to blatantly contradict God’s word today. The message Satan tells the world is completely different from what God has given to us. Satan contradicts the Father. Rather than “love you neighbour as yourself” he says “love yourself above your neighbour.” Rather than “serve God and keep his commandments, he says “serve yourself and listen to no one.” Satan contradicted God in the past and continues to do so today.
 
After he casts doubt and blatantly contradicts God, he then offers power, “you shall be like God.” Obviously in their close relationship with God, they understood who created the world. The created wanted to be like the creator, but the devil offered a lie. Satan only has one thing to offer– sin. He oftentimes portrays this lifestyle of sin as a lie.
He offers happiness and joy, but at the end of the day all he has to offer is sin and regret.
 
Eve was tempted by Satan, and he used the same methods then as he does now. Eve experienced:
  • The lust of the flesh (she wanted to eat of the fruit)
  • The lust of the eyes (literally says “it was a delight to the eyes,” v.6)
  • Pride of life (she wanted to become wise and have power)
The devil always knows what to say in order to get us to stumble. We must be vigilant and ready to refuse the tempter when he appears.
The Law Of The Lord

The Law Of The Lord

Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

How much does your Bible mean to you? Each time we pick it up and read from its pages, we are reading the very words of God. God has revealed His Character, His will, and His love through inspired men. Each time we open our Bibles we are seeing the mind of God. 

What an awe inspiring fact to think about.

We aren’t the first ones to feel this way.

In response to the perfect Law of God, David wrote Psalm 19. It is a tribute to the perfection of scripture. As we read through this chapter, David puts into words these feelings of awe and gratitude.

He begins by stating a fact that has always been true.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”

In a psalm dedicated to the perfect Law of the Lord, David starts by praising the Author. The God of creation, who can be seen in every aspect of our world, is the One responsible for writing such a perfect book. We can look around and the world declares the glory of God. The Author of life itself gave us a book that leads to eternal life.

In verse 7 David describes the Law of the Lord as being perfect. Notice what this perfect Law does for us: it “revives the soul.” The words of God are sure and steadfast. They are truly perfect and are ever relevant to us, His creation.

We continue reading and he goes on to say that God’s Word:

  1. Gives us wisdom (wisdom we would otherwise never have)
  2. Is always right (there is no doubting, thinking that they might be wrong)
  3. His commandments are pure (no false motive)
  4. His word enlightens our eyes (we can now see the truth)
  5. His rules are true
  6. His word is righteous

With such a perfect Law, it is only natural that we should desire it more than Gold.
David says in verse 10 that the words we read in scripture are “sweeter than honey.”
His response to God’s word should be every Christian’s response. We should value and cherish God’s perfect Law.

The Bible is a blessing like no other. In its pages we are warned about the things we should avoid. By keeping His commands we receive a great reward. Psalm 19 is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful book.

With these facts in mind, how much does God’s book mean to you?