“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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When The Storms Of Life Are Raging

When The Storms Of Life Are Raging

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Jesus, the master teacher (Luke 8:1-21), shows His humanity as He fell asleep as the disciples sailed across the Sea of Galilee (23). Assuming the boat to be large enough to transport at least 13 people and provide Jesus room to repose, it makes the situation more impressive when “a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger” (23). We know that at least four of the men in that boat made their living negotiating these waters as fishermen, and we would guess they had seen their share of storms. But this one was apparently exceptional. They woke Jesus up in a panic, exclaiming, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” (24). 

When Kathy and I were young newlyweds, we worked with the church in Livingston, Alabama. Our best song leader was a man who grew up close friends of Gus Nichols’ children. His name was Selman Falls, and his repertoire of songs was vast. He taught us the song, “He Will Hide Me,” written by Mary Servoss in 1878. The first verse says, “When the storms of life are raging, tempests wild on sea and land, I will seek a place of refuge, in the shadow of God’s hand.” Few metaphors seem more fitting than to call our trials and difficulties “storms.” I confess that more than one of these has led me to panic and to pray, “Master, Master, I am perishing!” Our trials disturb our peace, rock our world, and threaten our stability. 

Will you notice how Jesus handled this? First, He acted. Then, He admonished. He did not lecture while waves crashed and water encroached. He took care of the problem. But, then He said, “Where is your faith?” Luke mentions no sober self-reflection on the part of the disciples. Instead, they marveled. They responded, in fear and amazement, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” (25). Storms are opportunities for us to ask, then answer, such an identity question. It’s the right question. Not, why did this storm come? Why me? But, Who then is this? Who is the master of the maelstrom? Who is the commander of the crushing confusion? 

Chances are great that several of you are in the midst of some kind of storm. The boat is rocking, the winds are howling, and the prospects are not promising. What will you do? More importantly, what will you allow Him to do? He still stills storms! 

Business on 31W bypass, relatively close to our church building
Christ-less In Crisis

Christ-less In Crisis

Neal Pollard

It is hard to describe the beauty of faith evidenced in Room 913 yesterday as all the elders and their wives, Wes and Teri Autrey, and Tiffanie and Bethany Vaught stood with Myrna and the rest of the Murphy family at University Hospital yesterday.  We sang songs and Dave Chamberlin prayed a touching, loving prayer.  Moments later, a godly, wonderful woman made her transition from this life to the better one. Despite the inevitable, natural flow of tears, the heartache of separation, and the final earthly stanza of a beautiful, 59-year-old love song played by Ray and Myrna.  Myrna was an obvious success as a mother, wife, grandmother, and friend, but central to everything she did and who she was was Christ.  She did not fear death nor the condition that brought it.  She was ready because of Christ.

When I think of the red-letter days that have occurred in our nation and world during my lifetime, whether the bombing of the Murrah Building, the horrors of 9/11, the unbelievable natural disaster of the December 26, 2004, tsumami (“Boxer Day Tsumami”), the disappearance of the Malaysia Airliner, and the like, I am made to think how many stood in the wake of such tragedy without the hope and promise made possible through Christ.  Yet, every ordinary day where death looms through the natural course of life, people come to those final moments either ignorant or bereft of the bright prospect of what happens beyond death.  Certainly, some think they have hope, but it is not hope rested in what they can find in Scripture but rather what they think, feel, or have been told is real and true.  In some ways, those situations are the most tragic of all. Others are convinced that we are the result of chance and will cease to be when we draw our last breath, yet they continue to try and live with purpose and even act in the interest of others without bothering to ask why they behave civilized with such an animalistic point of view.

But for the one whose hope is built on the truth of what God’s Word says, there is no tidal wave of heart or explosion of life powerful enough to wrench us free from that hope. Paul exalts that we are saved by unseen hope (Rom. 8:24-25). In the rest of the chapter, he proclaims the unfailing love and promise of God for the redeemed who place their trust in Him.  Paul encourages the Thessalonians not to face death, sorrowing like a world without hope (1 Thess. 4:13).  Without Christ’s resurrection, there is no hope (cf. 1 Cor. 15:19-20).  However, because He lives, we can face tomorrow, all fear is gone, we know who holds the future, and life is worth living (Bill Gaither lyrics from “Because He Lives”).

The Murphys will have sorrow and grief to bear.  This is a testimony to their humanity.  But they look at tomorrow with an even brighter anticipation.  This is a testimony to the Christ who lives in them.  It is available for us all!

A dear sister in Christ, Myrna Murphy