Roy Benavidez: Cheating Death For A While

Roy Benavidez: Cheating Death For A While

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Thanks to MrBallen, popular millennial YouTuber, I reacquainted myself with the incredible story of Roy Benavidez through his video, “This man died 37 times.” His story, from childhood to death, is incredible. But it was his heroic acts on May 2, 1968, serving in Vietnam as an Army Special Forces Airborne team that he survived his most incredible, heroic feats. He was shot, hit with grenade shrapnel, bayoneted, and clubbed with numerous injuries so serious that at one point he was mistakenly put into a body bag, presumed dead. He charged with a helicopter rescue team so suddenly that he left his machine gun behind, armed with only a Bowie knife. He ran repeatedly into enemy fire at point blank range and continued bouncing back until he successfully rescued eight soldiers who undoubtedly would have been killed without him. When Ronald Reagan gave him the Medal of Honor 13 years later, he told White House Reporters, “You are going to hear something you will not believe if it were a script.” The Mexican-American orphan, raised in poverty and determined to serve his country, stared death in the face armed with little more than a devout faith and a devotion to his fellow soldiers. This after stepping on a land Mine in 1965 on his first tour of duty, after which doctors proclaimed he would never walk again. To the utter disbelief of medical personnel, he walked out of the hospital less than a year later and had qualified for special forces less than two years after that (additional information via psywarrior.com).

Schools, parks, and even a Navy ship have been named in his honor. He was often referred to as the man who could not be killed. He is a military legend. But, ultimately, in 1998, diabetes did what an array of enemy fighters trying their hardest could not do. It took his life. 

No one would want people to know this divine fact more than Mr. Benavidez would: “…it is appointed for men to die once…” (Heb. 9:27). Solomon adds, “For the living know they will die” (Ecc. 9:5). The sons of Korah echo, ” For he sees that even wise men die; The stupid and the senseless alike perish..” (Psa. 49:10a). The message is clear. One may evade death repeatedly, but not ultimately. Only the second coming of Christ will avert the unpreventable appointment with death (cf. Gen. 3:19). 

What can and must be prevented is what the book of Revelation four times refers to as “the second death” (2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8). It is powerful, painful, and punishing. But it’s avoidable. Christ died to defeat the power of physical death and the justice of spiritual death (Heb. 2:14-15). Jesus is the greatest hero of time and eternity, who faced death and overcame it to live forevermore and offer eternal life to those who follow Him (Mat. 16:24-27). He faced the worst that the most powerful enemy of all could throw against Him, and He utterly defeated him and  it. We needed rescue, and Jesus delivered us. Surely no one who understands that would choose to remain where he or she will eternally die. Physical death is sure. Spiritual death is not. God still pleads, “Choose life in order that you may live” (Deut. 30:19). 

Life Lessons Hit Hard

Life Lessons Hit Hard

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard
 
April 30th 2:30 PM.
 
It was a gorgeous sunny day without a cloud in the sky. I shot Dale a text and told him to meet up with me at a mom and pop gas station outside of Huntsville for a BLT.
 
I grabbed my motorcycle keys, helmet, and leather vest. On the way out the door I decided to throw on my jean jacket underneath my vest. I don’t know why I did this because the temperature was close to 80 degrees. I hopped on my bike, turned on some Hank Williams Jr., and headed towards Huntsville.
 
2:37 PM
 
I was biking on the road that led to those amazing gas station BLT’s. I had been on this road hundreds of times, but today’s trip ended a little differently than normal. I noticed a truck slowly pulling out of the driveway of the local shooting range. He crept forward and then stopped. I figured he was stopping because he saw me coming. I get about 100 feet away from the truck, and he pulls out. He turned left blocking both lanes of traffic and I knew what was about to happen. I pulled the clutch and grabbed a fist full of brakes, but it was too late.
 
2:38 PM
 
It’s amazing how many thoughts you can have in such a short time. Everything slowed down and as the truck got closer I thought about Emily, my family, my spiritual state, and BLT’s. The initial impact was to my left leg, then my head hit the front body panel of the truck. The last thing I remember is a sharp pain in my head and a blinding flash of white.
 
2:43 PM
 
I woke up in a ditch and the first thing I saw was my motorcycle upside down next to me and somehow “Feelin’ Better” by Hank was still playing from the speakers on my bike. Incredibly, I didn’t break a single bone or have any major head injuries. Needless to say, I never got that BLT.
 
May 12th 1:21 PM
 
I’m at the church building with my brother writing an article for tomorrow morning. I can’t stop thinking about everything that happened. I can’t help but feel like God’s providence was written all over that day.
The jean jacket I grabbed at the last minute saved my arms from getting road rash, the crash bars I installed literally the night before absorbed the initial impact. Those bars were an inch and a half solid steel pipe and they folded like a quesadilla. That would’ve been my leg if it weren’t for the time I spent installing them the night before.
 
I realized several important facts that day:
 
  1. Only God knows what tomorrow holds (Prov. 27:1).
  2. Death is certain, but when we die is uncertain. Because of sin we are destined to die. I could’ve died on a motorcycle, or from a heart attack from too much bacon. Bottom line, we must be spiritually prepared to leave this earth at any moment (Heb. 9:27; Matt. 24:42-44).
  3. Some things are more important than a motorcycle. Like my parents’ mental health and blood pressure. Emily’s well-being and peace of mind is far more important than a bike. It’s a matter of looking at things from the other person’s point of view. Practicing the golden rule (Matt. 7:12). I would be a wreck if either of my parents bought a motorcycle (pun intended).
 
So here’s my two cents for those reading this:
 
It’s beneficial to take a step back and look at our priorities. If we value anything on earth more than God, we will leave this earth unprepared.
 
If there’s sin in our lives, procrastination is the absolute worst thing we could do. Tomorrow is never promised.
 
Be mindful of what our actions do to others. It may not even be sinful, but it’s all about showing a love that values others’ peace of mind and well-being above yourself.
 
P.S. Watch out for black Dodge trucks; they don’t stop.
MAKING PLANS FOR OUR OWN FUNERAL

MAKING PLANS FOR OUR OWN FUNERAL

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Recently I attended the funeral of a loving and godly mother. She was celebrated and greatly mourned over by her family and friends. As the funeral service went on there were memories that were brought up that made the audience laugh and cry, even those that didn’t know her all that well. How we are remembered in life is dictated not by a single day or moment, but how the life was spent overall. This concept should be one that we make a conscious effort to visit often. There’s a great question that every Christian should know the answer to. 

What does it mean to be a person after God’s own heart? 

According to Nathan the prophet, David was “the man”! Today we use that term when we are complementing one who has shown himself to be an overachiever or is excellent in some way. When Nathan said this to David, however, he was speaking on behalf of the king’s King. Nathan was accusing David of a great wickedness. 

That being said, David was remembered at the end of his life as someone who chased the heart of God. The Lord was his passion and his pursuit in life. He wanted to see through the eyes of God, follow in the steps of God, and mold himself into a tool that accomplished a will higher than his own. His life is summed up well in a single verse. 

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” ( 1 Kings 15:5). 

This verse does not indicate that David was only guilty of one sin while on this earth. It wasn’t that David stumbled and continued on the path of righteousness, but instead there was a season in his life where he completely abandoned God. He gave up the path of light for one of darkness. After Nathan boldly confronts him, he is reminded of his inward allegiance to his God and he changed his course of direction. David lost his son as a consequence. Another son rebels against him. His kingdom is no longer as peaceful as it once was and at the end of his life he sits on his throne as a weary and restless ruler. Even so, despite the darkness on all sides, he chose to stay in the light. 

In the end he wasn’t remembered as the “adulterous murderer.” He is praised for being Israel’s greatest king because he had a heart that mimicked the king of Kings. Let’s make our plans to be remembered as people who chased after the heart of God. 

Salvation

Salvation

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

We don’t typically associate salvation with death. Normally the opposite is true! In the New Testament salvation normally describes forgiveness of sins (Acts 4.12, for example). Escaping spiritual death is how the word is primarily used. The exception to this rule is fascinating and sobering. 

Human instinct compels us to avoid unpleasantness, suffering, and death. When faced with danger or difficulty, our default response is avoidance at all cost. This was a great temptation for many in the early church. 

Peter wrote to Christians who were about to face some awful hardships. He encouraged them by promising salvation, but it was a hard message to swallow. In the following examples, Peter used “salvation” to mean something different (it would have been understood to mean this because of context): 

  1. I Peter 1.5 – Death
  2. I Peter 1.8ff – Death
  3. I Peter 2.2ff – Death

How is death the same thing as salvation? For those who were suffering and stayed faithful, death was the ultimate salvation. For those whose lives were upended because of persecution, being with God forever was salvation. For those who lost their family members, salvation meant reunion. The ultimate result of faith is eternal life with God. 

How do we view difficulty? Do we compromise faith to avoid suffering? At worst, suffering leads to death. At best, suffering leads to death. Nothing can slow a faithful Christian down! We have salvation in this life (guilt does not weigh us down), and the end of this life is salvation. We have an awesome God. 

All the Time in the World 

All the Time in the World 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

1969 was a landmark year in many respects. Most notably, the year saw a man walk on the moon. Of much lesser note, 1969 witnessed George Lazenby take on his sole (some say, forgettable) performance as the iconic spy, James Bond. I am not a Bond fan, seeing as nothing is entertaining about an unrepentant philanderer. Yet, I do enjoy music. Thus, I am familiar with this Bond movie because of its soundtrack, which featured a Moog synthesizer for the first time in its main theme. Louis Armstrong recorded the love theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The song was titled, “We Have All the Time in the World.” It was Armstrong’s last studio recording. 1Sadly, he was too weak to play the trumpet during the piece, performing only the vocal. 2

The love theme belies the movie’s sad ending well. Music composer, John Barry, chose Louis Armstrong to do the vocal for the love theme precisely because he felt that Armstrong could deliver the titular line with irony. 3 The song’s title is Bond’s last spoken dialogue in both the Ian Fleming book and the film of the same name. I doubt I am spoiling a movie that is 50 years old by revealing its ending but provide warning that there is spoilage ahead.

With the sixth Bond installment, Bond is finally allowed to fall in love and marry. In the closing moments of the story, however, the antagonist kills Bond’s wife as they are heading out on their honeymoon. The movie’s love theme, as an instrumental, Armstrong’s vocal performance, and several reprises play prominently throughout the film’s score. Hence, this pretty false promise crashes down under the weight of reality in the end. Not even spies saving the world have time promised to them.  The atypical Bond ending makes it more of a cult favorite among fans of the franchise. It didn’t do well at the box office. Of course, that may likewise be attributable to Sean Connery’s absence from the screen. Critically, the movie is well received, with at least one reviewer considering it the third best film of the franchise. 4

I think this subject strikes a chord with me more because of it being Armstrong’s last recorded song than for anything otherwise related to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Armstrong is a man of declining health singing about having all the time in the world. I wonder if Armstrong had a sense that he was nearing his departure. In the final years of his life, Armstrong battled poor health but went against the advice of physicians by continuing to tour and perform. 5 I suppose one may chalk that up to dying doing what one loves?

But what of us? Do we ignore the stark reality of James 4.14? We are like the morning fog burned away by the rising noontime sun. And sometimes our lives are such that even if lengthy we may sound as Jacob speaking to the pharaoh: “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life…” (Genesis 47.9 NASB). Even so, we act as if we have all the time in the world. Jesus reminds us that we have but a small window in which to do what we must (John 9.4). Yes, the night is coming. Perhaps, you have been putting off those things you know must be done to save your soul or improve your example as a Christian. Don’t listen to Satan’s sweet melody telling you about the time you do not have. Your only time is now.

“Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6.2b NASB).

 

REFERENCES

1 “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Soundtrack).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Her_Majesty%27s_Secret_Service_(soundtrack).

2 “We Have All the Time in the World.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 July 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Have_All_the_Time_in_the_World.

3 ibid

4 Hausmannsgate. “All 25 Bond Films, from the Best to the Worst.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 21 Nov. 2015, www.imdb.com/list/ls055107293/.

5 “Louis Armstrong.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Aug. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Armstrong#Death.

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How Can I Go On?

How Can I Go On?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

How can we handle the hurt of losing someone we love?

Many emotions run through our hearts when we’re faced with the loss of a loved one. These emotions can present themselves as questions:

  • Confusion. Why did this happen?
  • Sadness. How will I go on?
  • Anger. Who allowed this to happen?

Who can answer these questions?  Who can provide comfort?  Who can guide our hearts through the heartbreaking moments of life?

Is it not the Creator of life who can explain the end of life, even though “end” is a very human term?

100 years from now I’ll be alive and so will you. 150 and 200 years from now,  I’ll be alive and so will you.

In Genesis 1:26-28, God said,  “Let us create man in our own image.”

  1. When God breathed into you the breath of life He gave you a piece of Himself called the soul which will live on forever…somewhere.
  2. When God created you in a more intimate way unlike the beasts of the field and the birds of the air He gave you free choice.
  3. He gave you the ability to reason.
  4. He gave you the ability to contact Him and be contacted by him.

How sad and how tragic it would be to live your life with no hope! Today, I’m here to offer wonderful, comforting news, at a time where such news seems all but missing.

God loves you more than anyone else does.

Though many cry for and with you when you grieve the loss of a loved one, that love falls short of the one who expresses His love in a way that’s perfect and unfailing. You will experience feelings you may not be able to put into words, but God feels and understands them. God can walk you through them. Life doesn’t have to be impossibly tragic and void of purpose.

God created the heart, so He can heal yours. God created the mind, so He can sort yours out. God made the soul, so He can save yours. God created the body, so He can give you rest. God created the eyes, so He can wipe your tears away. God created the shoulder, but His are the only shoulders capable of bearing the weight of all those who lean on them.

“Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:18).

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The Eternal Optimist

The Eternal Optimist

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Wiley Miller is the creator of the comic strip, Non Sequitur. When apolitical, Miller’s strip can be enjoyable. I cut one of his strips from a daily edition of The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC) back in the early aughts featuring “the eternal optimist.” In the one-panel comic, the grim reaper stands before a man in business attire. This eternal optimist calls to his wife in another room: “Well, honey, it doesn’t look like I have to worry about that long commute anymore.” I kept that strip until it yellowed with age and crumbled into oblivion. I did so for another reason than having a dark sense of humor. I hope I am an optimist on the order of the businessman finding something good to say even in the face of death.

Paul had such a character. He told the Philippians that he had everything to gain in death, as a Christian, and needed only remain for the sake of the brethren (Philippians 1.21-26). Nearing the end of his life, a confident Paul told Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4.7-8 NASB). Why was Paul an eternal optimist? It was not because he was free of sin. Indeed, Paul considered himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1.15). However, Paul was full of faith and understood God’s grace.

We cannot afford to live in fear, whether that fear is of death or whether we are “good enough.” We must do the will of God. John says, “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1.7 NASB). That faith may not always take us to places providing comfort. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had their faith put to the test. Nebuchadnezzar had instructed everyone to bow to his golden image in worship. The young Hebrews refused because they remembered the Law of Moses and their covenant relationship with God. Nebuchadnezzar was angry with the young men and told them they would perish in a fiery furnace. They replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3.16b-18 NASB).

Did you notice why they did not fear? Can you see why they were optimistic? They understood their God was more powerful than a king and could deliver them. Yet, even if God did not deliver them, they still realized they had an obligation to serve Him regardless. These days the world seems scary. There is so much bad news on TV. But our God is more powerful. Thus, we can even say, “If I do catch COVID-19, God will deliver me. But even if He does not, I know Heaven will be my home.” Other scenarios would likewise suffice as an example. However, this is one of the things that seems to be on the minds of many today. Build your faith and become an eternal optimist as well. The world, in turn, will become a less daunting place.

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A different Non Sequitur sampling

Sin Illustrated

Sin Illustrated

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Who doesn’t love a good illustration? Over the next few weeks this column will have three of them— all geared around a singular topic. 

In the early days of flying men would attempt to soar into the skies like the birds by building wings made out feathers and jumping of towers, hills, and even cliffs. In 1507 John Damian strapped wings covered in chicken feathers to his back and leapt from the walls of Sterling Castle in Scotland. He ended up breaking his thigh and quickly blamed his failure on the fact that he used chicken feathers instead of eagle feathers (undiscoveredscotland.com). 

Many early attempts of flying ended in more serious injuries and even death. If they had a better understanding of the principles of flight they could have avoided their tragic endings. 

Millions of people today are plummeting to their spiritual deaths, and we have the knowledge they need. Nobody will achieve spiritual flight through the:

1. lust of the flesh
2. lust of the eyes
3. pride of life

If an apple has a hole in it, some would assume that a worm has eaten its way inside. But in reality there was a worm in the seed of the apple the whole time. And as the worm grew it ate its way out of the core. 

At first sin is easily hidden, but as it grows it shows itself through our actions. 

Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music would claim that one of her favorite things are snowflakes that stay on her nose and eyelashes. A small beautiful snowflake. Thousands of years ago a single snowflake fell from the skies. Then another, then another. Soon the snow turned to ice and the ice became so heavy that it broke off the glacier and fell into the sea. It began to float and drift until one night it struck a ship called the Titanic, killing 1500 people. 

When a sin problem begins to take hold, it may seem as harmless as single flake of snow. Overtime the sin proves to be more than some can handle, and they’re heading for disaster. 

“Sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you intended to stay, and charge you more than you wanted to pay.” 

BLACK FRIDAY

BLACK FRIDAY

Neal Pollard

It was September 24, 1869. The Civll War was barely an excruciating national memory and the nation was rebuilding. That specific day was a Friday, the day a cruel scheme by two Wall Street investors was discovered and led to an implosion of the Stock Market. It was referred to as “Black Friday.” The tie of this term to the Christmas shopping season is also surprising. In the 1950s, the Philadelphia police department used the phrase to describe the mayhem brought by the combination of suburban shoppers, tourists, attendees of the Army-Navy football game, and increased shoplifting in stores. They would have to work extra-long shifts this day after Thanksgiving. It was a derogatory term until relatively recently, when retailers in the late 1980s co-opted the expression to depict the day as the day retailers were trying to take their businesses from the “red” to the “black.” This meant bargains for shoppers, the best day to get out and shop and spend. While the advent of online shopping and retail promotions have created new and additional days of holiday shopping deals, “Black Friday” still symbolizes the happy time of “the most wonderful time of the year” (information from Sarah Pruitt, History Channel). 

For the Christian, black Friday was the day darkness fell over the whole land of Palestine around 30 A.D. (Mat. 27:45). It had to take place to save humanity who were sitting in the darkness of sin (Mat. 4:16) facing the grim prospect of eternal, outer darkness (Mat. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). It was a horrible day. It was a day of seeming loss, with Jesus’ followers sensing total defeat. Jesus was undergoing six hours of horrific torture before succumbing to death. Satan seemed victorious. But God, according to His eternal, humbling, and essential plan, took that day of darkness and defeat and used it to bring the only profit that ultimately matters. It was actually a day of triumph (Col. 2:15). It became a day of victory for us (1 John 5:4). What turned that day from sorrow to joy was the Sunday that followed that Friday. That Friday death was God’s gift to the whole world, and it profits anyone who responds to it by obedient faith (Rom. 6). 

This Sunday (and every Sunday), we get to celebrate this gift and what it means to us when we take the Lord’s Supper. We think back on those dark events, thank God for what they mean to us now, and look ahead with hope and assurance to what it means for our eternal destiny. It was a day of defeat, but God transformed it into the day of victory! 

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Mbah Gotho, Methusaleh, And Mortality

Mbah Gotho, Methusaleh, And Mortality

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Neal Pollard

Incredibly, his residency card and his nation’s official documents, state his birthday as December 31, 1870 (The Guardian). For clarification, that was almost three weeks before Germany became an official nation, only five years after the end of the Civil War (reconstruction was just underway and Ulysses Grant was president), 28 years before the Spanish-American war, 33 years before the airplane was invented, 44 years before the start of World War I, and America was less than 100 years old. Mbah Gotho died in 2017, making him 146 years old at the time. The only reason it is questioned is because his native Indonesia did not begin recording births until 1900. Officials stand firm that it is accurate. Can you imagine? What was it like to live almost a century and a half? To see almost all of 15 decades? 

To put it in perspective, the ancient Methuselah lived almost seven times longer than Mbah. He died at almost 1,000 years old.  Genesis 5:27 faithfully records, “So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.” Methuselah was contemporary with Adam and Shem, a gap of over 1,600 years. In a day of pristine gene pools and a water canopy-covered atmosphere, everyone and every thing lived much longer. But God determined a general rule of thumb to which humanity has almost universally submitted, saying, “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3). Thus, an Mbah Gotho is an almost singular oddity. The official oldest age in modern times was reached by Jeanne Calment, who was 122 when she succumbed in 1997. 

Average life expectancy throughout much of recorded time falls more closely in line with what Moses states, in Psalm 90:10, somewhere between 70-80 years of age. War, disease, famine, poverty, and the like sometimes curtail those numbers, but what is true of those who die at birth or who make it 122, 146, or even 969 years is that they do die. Hebrews 9:27 affirms the inevitability of it barring only the second coming of Christ in one’s lifetime (1 Cor. 15:52).

Most people make decisions as though they will live forever. People who know better put off obedience to the gospel, put other things before Christ in their priorities, serve sin, and neglect their reason for existence. While too many do this in ignorance, how tragic for the untold number who know how they ought to spend their lives but either deny or delay doing it. The moment of surrender will come. The body and spirit separate (Jas. 2:26). The body returns to dust and the spirit returns to God (Ecc. 12:7). At death, one’s eternal existence begins (Mat. 25:46). God gives one only the moments between birth and death to prepare for that existence, but He does not tell any of us how long that is. He simply tells us to be ready (Mat. 24:42,44). May we all get ready and stay ready for that day!