It’s Time To Check Out

It’s Time To Check Out

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Several weeks ago I was told a sermon illustration with a very powerful reminder.

It begins with a scenario that each one of us is quite familiar with. You’re at the grocery store and you’re shopping for your weekly groceries. In this illustration we are introduced to two very different shoppers.

Shopper #1

This person can be summarized as an individual who is definitely NOT on a diet of any kind. They go through each aisle grabbing anything and everything that looks good to them. They aren’t concerned about health or nutrition, they get whatever they want. If it looks good, they grab it. If it tastes good, they take it.

Their shopping cart is filled with all kinds of unhealthy food. I’m talking Cheetos, Mountain Dew, Little Debbies, cake batter, and ice cream. Bottom line, Shopper #1 is an unhealthy individual who has only one desire, to eat what looks good to them with absolutely no consideration for nutrition or health. This individual is similar to those described in scripture who are trapped in several deadly sins. Shopper #1 through his choices symbolizes those in the world who choose to practice sins such as lusting (James 1:14-15), gluttony (Phil. 3:17-19), laziness (Prov. 6:6), anger (Col. 3:8), envy (Prov. 14:30), and pride (Prov. 16:18). The sins found in Shopper #1’s cart are by no means an exhaustive list, but they are examples of what to expect in this kind of person’s cart.

Shopper #2

This individual is a completely different type of shopper. They are on a serious diet. It’s almost depressing to look at wha’ts in their cart. It’s all healthy and beneficial to the body. It’s items like carrots, peas, broccoli, chicken breast, yogurt, fruit, and spinach. This person isn’t focused on the taste necessarily, but more on the nutrition and vitamins found in food. This shopper symbolizes the ones who Paul would call dedicated Christians.

1 Tim. 6:11, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” Who does Paul call a man or woman of God? The shopper who chooses: Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. The person who is dedicated to filling their cart with these things and other similar traits is a true Christian. Shopper #2 chooses to eat healthy no matter how gross or inconvenient the food may look. Both shoppers went to the same store and passed the same choices.

The illustration comes to a close as the two shoppers get to the checkout line.

Shopper #1 empties their cart at checkout and begins ringing up their grocery items. They scan their anger, their pride, their envy, and the rest of their life choices. They finish and pay what is due. Shopper #2 does the same. They scan their faith, love, gentleness and the rest of their godly choices. They empty their cart, but something unexpected happens.

As they reach for their wallet to pay the total on the screen says 0. Their groceries are paid for in full.

Shopper #1 lived his life however he pleased. He chose to do what made him happy and when checkout time came he was required to pay in full.

Shopper #2 lived their life according to God’s Word. They did their best to fill their cart with the things that pleased God.

Because of this decision, God has paid their bill in full. The one who has put on Christ and has devoted his life to serving God will find grace and mercy on that final day. Not out of his own good works, but through grace and salvation found in faith in God. This leads us to the all-important question, “What’s in my shopping cart?” Is it filled with the things I want? Is it junk food and sin? If so, one day I will pay for this decision. Or is it filled with the things that lead to eternal life? If your cart is filled with sin, there’s still hope (1 Cor. 6:9-11). If you have made the choice to fill your life with sin, it’s not too late to empty the cart and start over. And the time to do that is right now.

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

It’s something they never tell you in the romantic movie. The ending of the storyline so full of twists and turns, where he and she might not have ended up together but seemed destined to be together, is so happy and perfect. Both are all smiles, with stars in their eyes, when we see “The End” and the credits roll.

They never tell you what happens after the fairy tale wedding or the long-awaited kiss. He refuses to ask directions as they fade into the sunset. They argue over where to eat that romantic dinner. He speaks without thinking and says something thoughtless, followed by tense silence. 

I am not critiquing one of the sacrosanct principles of romantic movies and books. Happy endings can be a great escape from reality and a feel good experience. Yet, when we hold it up as the unqualified expectation for our own lives, we set ourselves up for trouble. Social media is rife with posts and pictures which can perpetuate the fiction that the people we friend and follow are constantly living out “happily ever after.” Life is always grand, and success and satisfaction is the constant. 

Don’t misunderstand. So much of what we experience in life is shaped by attitude. Being positive can help us negotiate those hairpin curves in the road of life. But, coping through positivity is different from allowing disappointment to make us disenchanted with failing to meet the unrealistic expectation that every problem and adversity can be wrapped up into a pretty, neat package with a frilly bow on top. 

It’s quite the balancing act, isn’t it? Scripture teaches to think on healthy, beneficial things come what may (Phil. 4:8). Or, as Solomon puts it, “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Prov. 15:15). Yet, Job (14:1) and Solomon (Ecc. 2:23) do not sugarcoat the reality that life is often painful, grievous, and full of trouble both day and night. 

May I offer some encouragement?

  • To the newlyweds, neither of you is perfect and there is no way you can always agree and get along without mutual compromise and effort. You will have so many great days, but there will be some mountains to climb and valleys you must pass through. No couple out there is breezing through married life. Turning to one another (and God) rather than on one another when marriage is hard will forge your bond come what may (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • To the new parents, though that baby looks perfect and angelic, he or she will introduce demands, needs, concerns, and challenges you never knew existed before. Each developmental stage will be accompanied by incredible highs and lows. As you look into the faces of your children, you will be looking at eternity and knowing the weight of your decisions and leadership. But, savor those little ordinary moments. You are placing puzzle pieces that will one day become your children’s picture of their childhood. How you handled the hard times will be at least as important as how you handled the fun times (Prov. 22:6). 
  • To the new Christian, it is right for you to relish the feeling of relief and joy over being forgiven and cleansed from sins. The burden of guilt has been lifted. You are experiencing something in Christ that you never knew existed. But, there will be difficult days. The devil lurks (1 Pet. 5:8). Selfish desires can derail (Jas. 1:13-15). Suffering for your faith should be expected (1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 14:22), but by hanging on your eternal destiny is better than you can imagine. Along the journey, you will grow, mature, and develop into someone better and stronger as Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20). 
  • To the Christian who publicly repents, you had no idea how much support, love, and encouragement you were going to receive. You feel the relief of forgiveness and restored hope. There’s clarity and purpose where there had been confusion and distraction. Things are better now (cf. Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9), but the battles and temptations that led you away are still there. You will still have to face the consequences of bad choices, but you will not regret turning to God and your spiritual family for help. This is the first step of your rededication. Keep walking and never stop (Mat. 7:13-14; 1 Th. 2:12).

There are so many other phases and circumstances deserving the same kind of encouragement. The bottom line for each is the same. When viewed with heavenly eyes, each of us is staring at the ultimate happy ending. Even as our exterior deteriorates, our inner man is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). Our momentary difficulties will give way to incomparable glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18).  The best is yet to come (2 Cor. 5). But, between now and then, we all have to negotiate bumps in the road. That’s OK. Keep following Christ on this narrow road and the “ever after” will transcend your greatest hopes (Mat. 16:24ff). 

What Is Your Trajectory?

What Is Your Trajectory?

Neal Pollard

The New Oxford Online Dictionary defines trajectory as “the path followed by a projectile flying or an object moving under the action of given forces” (n/p). The term is used of everything from ammunition to astronomy, but in its figurative sense can be used to speak of the law of sowing and reaping or cause and effect.  There appears to be three elements to this definition: the path, the object, and the action of given forces. Apply this to a person’s life and the discussion becomes eternally serious.

  • The path: Jesus teaches that there are really only two paths to take, “the broad way” and “the narrow way” (Mat. 7:13-14).  Some have given no thought as to which road they are taking. Others convince themselves they are on the narrow way when an honest, objective look reveals it to be the other way. Some change roads, for good or bad. However, we cannot successfully argue that we are not on a path leading somewhere, whether the destination is “destruction” or “life.”
  • The object: Friend, the object (projectile) in this path of trajectory is the individual. It is you and me. We are moving closer to eternity every day and to some eternal destination. God created a never-dying soul within us (Mat. 25:46; Ec. 12:7). As it was with the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31), we will lift up our eyes in either Abraham’s bosom or in torment. That soul was precious enough to God to pay the highest price to ransom it (John 3:16), but we may choose to give it away by allowing the trajectory of our life to miss the intended target (cf. Mat. 16:26).
  • The action of given forces: We are not helpless regarding this, but force implies pressure, resistance, and influence. The decisions we make, the people we allow to have prominence, our choices, what we prioritize, and what values we establish become the forces moving us to the destination. It’s not what we say is important, what we know is right, or what we intend to do. It is seen in our attitudes, words, and actions.

The earlier we figure this out, the sooner we will make it our aim to do everything we can to head in the only right direction. We can change paths, but the longer we are aimed the wrong target the harder we make it on ourselves to change course. This is true with finance, physical health, occupation, marriage and family, but nowhere are the stakes as high than as concerns our eternal destiny. Let’s give thought to the trajectory of our lives and be sure that where we are heading is where we really want to go.

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