Time Flies, But We Navigate

Time Flies, But We Navigate

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Ann Turner Cook passed away at her St. Petersburg, Florida, home on Friday, June 3, 2022. She was 95 years old, was an educator, a novelist, a wife, and a mother. Her father was a well-known cartoonist. But you almost certainly know her for a charcoal drawing that was made of her by an artist neighbor, Dorothy Hope Smith. It was submitted for the label of a baby food company and chosen in 1928, then trademarked in 1931. Ann was the original Gerber baby (news report here)! You’ve seen that iconic picture. If you realized she was a real person, you never thought about the fact that this baby grew up and eventually grew old. Or that she would now be dead.

I know nothing about Mrs. Cook’s religious life or spiritual preparation. But I do know that she is part of a universal truth concerning life, and that is that death comes relatively soon for us all. How soon? 

  • Like water spilled on the ground (2 Sam. 14:14). 
  • Like a weaver’s shuttle (Job 7:6; Isa. 38:12). 
  • Like a breath (Job 7:7).
  • Like a shadow (Job 8:9; 1 Chr. 29:15; Ec. 6:12). 
  • Like a flower (Job 14:2).
  • Swift as a runner (Job 9:25).
  • Like a handbreadths (Ps. 39:5).
  • Like a wind that passes (Ps. 78:39). 
  • Like a sigh (Ps. 90:9). 
  • Like smoke (Ps. 102:3).
  • Like a lengthened shadow  and grass (Ps. 102:11; 109:23). 
  • Like a passing shadow (Ps. 144:4). 
  • Like a fading flower or withering grass (Isa. 40:7-8; Js. 1:10; 1 Pet. 1:23-25). 
  • Like a vapor (Js. 4:14). 

With that in mind, shouldn’t we pray with David, “LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am” (Ps. 39:4).

Yes, we can look at the Gerber Baby and see that. Or we can look through our own family albums. The baby, childhood, and young adult photos of our grandparents, parents, or ourselves. The weathering winds of time do sure and quick work, reminding us of the many ways the Bible depicts it for us. Time is short and it passes quickly.

Rather than a depressing inevitability, this should be a respected teacher. We should pray with Moses, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:9). We should take Paul’s inspired advice and “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). Don’t leave undone what needs to be done. Don’t put off what must be done before this life is over. It will be over before you know it. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (9:27). 

Your Dash

Your Dash

Tuesday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

(pictured with his dad and brother to his right)

Caleb Fudge

About a month ago I was sitting at a funeral, my dad was doing the ceremony, and he said something that stuck with me. A guy named Ron Tranmer wrote a poem, and said to sum it up: “When we go to a gravestone we often look at the dates on the stone, but we should look at the dash. The dash serves as an emblem of our time here on earth, although it is small, the dash has touched so many on this earth between our years.” I had never heard this before my dad quoted it, and I think there is a bigger message in this poem.

I want you to take a moment to think about your dash….. Most likely you thought of a big moment in your life, or even a sad time or a time you wish you could redo. As I was thinking of my dash I got caught up thinking about all of my accomplishments and accolades that I forgot about how much I’ve affected others with my dash. I think about Jesus and how he affected and helped so many people. One of the moments that came to mind was when Jesus feeds the 5000 (Mat. 14:13-21). Jesus went out of his way to do something for others. 

One thing that comes to mind when reading this passage was the tornado. I can remember coming here to BG (Bowling Green) after the tornado hit. I had no idea the destruction that was done, because I was in my house when it hit. But when our group was driving around the community and giving some water, food, clothes, or anything to someone that needed it, they were so thankful and relieved that they were getting food. I imagine the 5000 people were grateful when Jesus brought them food.

Our dash also is going to have some times where we wish we can go back and redo a bad decision. Just recently I had a Blue Stars Camp for DCI in March, and one of the teachers said this statement that I will always remember. “Every single time you do a rep of something you make a green marble and a red marble from how that rep was. Whenever it comes to showtime and you are about to do a show, you have the bag of all of these marbles, and for that show your run will be based on either the green or red marble that you chose.”

If we think about our life and how many decisions we make daily, that would add up to be a lot of marbles. Other people are going to remember you from those decisions, green and red. When you pass away and someone looks at your gravestone and looks at your dash, what do you want them to remember? Is it going to be a green or red marble?

Calling On And Looking To Jesus

Calling On And Looking To Jesus

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

For practitioners of Japan’s True Pure Land Buddhism, one desires to enter the pure land upon death. In so doing, he could bypass our corrupt world and enter the western paradise where he could quickly achieve nirvana. Conversely, True Pure Land Buddhism has a hellish alternative in which souls are tortured by oni (i.e., demons) until they are purged of their sins and can enter the Pure Land. No one desires torture. So, the Japanese would recite the nembutsu: “I call on the Amida Buddha.” In medieval Japan, practitioners of True Pure Land Buddhism would lay on their deathbeds holding on to a string as an added measure. That string led to a painting of Amida and his cohorts. As they looked longingly towards the picture, they hoped that their escaped soul would travel the line and enter the western paradise. 

It may be that upon reading the previous paragraph, you thought of the apostle Paul in ancient Athens. He told the men of Athens that he perceived them as superstitious, literally δεισιδαιμονεστέρους—“very fearful of gods” (Acts 17.22). As Japan is often called the home of eight million gods, with the Buddhas incorporated into the mix, it is easy to label the Japanese as superstitious. Yet, I note something different when I hear about this True Pure Land Buddhism. It would almost seem that True Pure Land Buddhism rubbed elbows with Christianity somewhere. It is conceivable since Pure Land Buddhism arose in India during the second century A.D. before making its way to east Asia. However, note two intriguing features of True Pure Land Buddhism reminding one of Christianity. 1) Calling on Amida’s name and 2) Looking to Amida for hope. 

Joel prophesied that those calling up the name of the Lord would be saved (Joel 2.32). Peter and Paul quote this verse from Joel’s prophecy regarding salvation within the New Covenant (Acts 2.21; Romans 10.13). So, there is most assuredly power in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter says there is “no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated). But calling on Jesus’ name is not like reciting a nembutsu. Paul shows us that we call upon the name of Jesus when our faith moves us to action. After seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul has been fasting and praying for several days. The prophet Ananias finds Paul in his misery and says, “ Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22.16 NASB1995). See then how Paul called on Jesus’ name. Paul submitted himself to baptism for the washing away of his sins. In so doing, Paul called on the name of Jesus. 

Do we not also look to Jesus to give hope? Well, we do not stare at an artist’s rendering of the Christ upon our deathbed. But we do look to Him in life as our hope. After citing many examples of those from whom we could find a worthy model of faithfulness, the Hebrews’ writer adds: “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12.2-3). The KJV says we look to Jesus. Either way, our eyes are drawn to and become fixated upon Him. This hope we have in Jesus is an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6.19). 

It remains a challenge to preach the Gospel in those parts of the world where Buddhism has taken root. I’ve heard missionaries remark of the antagonism against Christianity within the Buddhist world. Yet, it seems strange that within at least one branch of Buddhism, there is a central figure who is something of a Messiah. Considering that so much of Buddhism asks you to find salvation from within yourself, there are at least some within that belief system who recognize the nature of the human condition is such that we must rely on the grace of someone greater. Therefore, even in hostile environments, may we endeavor to preach that the One willing and able to save is the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us tell the world to call upon and look to Jesus.

courtesy via Flickr

      

Ignorance And Inoculation

Ignorance And Inoculation

Neal Pollard

Stephen Coss, author of The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics, relates the fascinating story of the first widespread inoculation effort in the fight against the deadly plague of smallpox. At a time when medical practice was steeped in vast misunderstanding and wrongheaded medical treatments (more than half a century later, George Washington’s doctors would facilitate his death by treating his cold and fever through bloodletting!), two unlikely men were able to withstand the withering criticism of the local medical community and superstitious Boston residents who adamantly vilified them both. One was a physician, Zabdiel Boylston, ostracized, threatened, and condemned by his peers and the town’s council. The other was Cotton Mather, forever infamous for his superstitious influence in the Salem witch hunt and trials that led to the execution of over 20 innocent people a quarter-century earlier. Both believed that by infecting a person with a small amount of smallpox, they could prevent death and even a serious, scarring case of the frightening disease. No less than young Benjamin Franklin piled on with criticism and satire against the two men’s campaign, but both were ultimately vindicated as the inoculations proved far superior in saving lives in Boston’s deadliest smallpox outbreak. It took a lot of courage and conviction for these men to persist in the face of resistance from the highest places of their society.

What if there was a disease that threatened one hundred percent of the global population, one that proved one hundred percent fatal if untreated? What if there was a remedy available that was proven to save every patient from otherwise certain death? What if you knew it worked? Would you have the courage and conviction to offer it to the infected, even in the face of intimidation and threat?

Over 600 years before Christ, a prophet wrote, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?” (Jer. 8:22). The balm of Gilead, who was also the Great Physician, came to be the remedy and administer it to the willing (Mat. 9:12; Mk. 2:17; Lk. 4:23; 5:31). He left us in charge of offering this remedy and trying to prevent spiritual death (Jn. 8:21,24) in as many people as possible. Most will reject or at least ignore the offer, unaware of the gravity of their condition. That cannot deter us! Jesus is counting on us to apply His blood to rescue the perishing and care for the dying. A day is coming when there will be no more remedy (cf. 2 Chron. 36:16), but we must be out sharing it until that moment! There are people out there searching for a cure (Mat. 7:7-8). Whatever it costs us, let’s not stop until we’ve helped as many people as we can!

Painting of Zabdiel Boylston
Homesick For Heaven

Homesick For Heaven

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard
The definition of homesick is “experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.” It’s the feeling a college student experiences in their first few months away from home. It’s a desire to get back to the people you love and to be back in a familiar place. Whether it’s a business trip that takes you away for extended periods of time or even a vacation, that feeling of opening the door and being back home is amazing.
 
We sometimes sing a song in worship that speaks of this longing. “I’m kind of homesick for a country. To which I’ve never been before..” How can we long for a place we’ve never been? This is a homesickness like no other. It’s unique in that the desire to be there is based on the descriptions of heaven we read in scripture.
 
We are to long for heaven more than our earthly home. How can we do this? “No sad goodbyes, will there be spoken. For time won’t matter anymore.” Aren’t you homesick for a place without goodbyes? A time when we will never have to stand over the coffin of a loved one again. A place where cancer and sickness can’t take our loved ones away. Heaven is a home where we will never have to experience the pain and grief that comes from death.
 
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:53-55‬, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” For too long death has won. For too long people have felt the pain that death brings. But one day, death will be swallowed up. No longer will death be able to torment us. Our eternal home will be a place free of death. There won’t be any funeral homes, graveyards, or hospitals because heaven is a place where no one will ever die again. I’m homesick for a place I’ve never been because in that wonderful home we will never say goodbye.
 
I’m homesick for a place I’ve never been.
Are you?
 
 
A Message To Mankind

A Message To Mankind

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

 
Someone once said, “There are two reasons I know the devil exists. Number one, the Bible tells me so. Number two, I’ve done business with him.” There is no denying that the world is filled with sin. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The penalty for sin is condemnation. The wages of sin is death. Every time we sin, death is the payment.
 
Under the old law, people would watch as an innocent animal was slaughtered on their behalf. They would watch as these animals bled to death knowing that it was THEIR sin that caused it. In the New Testament we learn that our sins brought about the the death of Jesus. A pure and holy sacrifice, sent once and for all mankind (Romans 5:8).
 
But the death of God’s Son brings hope to mankind. This sacrifice means that our sins are not unforgivable. We can come before the throne of God and have them taken away. The Bible tells us of God’s love for us, and how badly He wants us to live with Him for all eternity. John 3:16 says, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
 
This message is a life-changer. But it will only change our life if we listen and obey it. Each and every person can be saved because God “shows no partiality…” (Acts 10:34). Salvation can be found, but only if we are willing to change and live according to God’s will.
 
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” (Acts‬ ‭17:30‬).
Roy Benavidez: Cheating Death For A While

Roy Benavidez: Cheating Death For A While

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

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

gary and chelsea

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.