Our Cosmic Mudball

Our Cosmic Mudball

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Happy Earth Day! Yes, fifty-two years ago, the annual event created by peace activist John McConnel began. McConnel intended that we observe Earth Day on March 21 in connection with the vernal equinox. But instead, the academics and bureaucrats from the United Nations who got behind and promoted the annual observance chose April 22, which happened to coincide with the birthday of Vladimir Lenin.  

McConnel, a Pentecostal, hoped that more Christians would get involved with Earth Day, finding inspiration in God’s declaration that he had made the earth for humanity (cf. Psalm 115.16). McConnel felt that March 21 was a more natural date and less likely to be politicized. However, he admits that Earth Day has become politicized, alienating Christians and conservatives.1 

This year’s Earth Day theme is “Invest In Our Planet.” In addition to the alarmist hype that our time to “fix” things is short, you’ll note the following: “This is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate. Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, our livelihoods… together, we must Invest In Our Planet.”2 

So, when did fighting pollution and conserving our natural resources become about changing business and politics? Those usurping the Earth Day idea from McConnel prove his point about its politicization. However, I will not write another lengthy post about climate change but refer you to an article posted on this blog on January 7, 2022, “Worry Not; The Sky Is Not Falling.” 

In the meantime, as you hear people talk about our terrestrial home today, I wish to remind you of our eternal one. We are told not to love this world or the things therein since they will be destroyed (1 John 2.15-17). And while that doesn’t excuse us from being good stewards of the planet, it can be unhealthy to become so invested in a cosmic mudball that will only one day melt with fervent heat (2 Peter 3.10). Set your mind on things above (Colossians 3.2). 

Jesus is coming. He promised to prepare His followers a dwelling place (John 14.1-3). With that promise is the one of His return. It is certain. Note the testimony of the angels at Jesus’ ascension that our Lord will return one day in the same way He left us (Acts 1.11). Our task is to prepare for that great day since we know not the day or the hour (Matthew 25.13). Are you ready? 

Sources Cited 

1 Sparks, Nicole, and Darrin J Rodgers. “John McConnell, Jr. and the Pentecostal Origins of Earth Day.” Assemblies of God Heritage Magazine, Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, ifphc.org/-/media/FPHC/Heritage-Magazine/2010.pdf

2 “Earth Day 2022: Invest in Our Planet™.” Earth Day, EarthDay.org, 21 Apr. 2022, www.earthday.org/earth-day-2022/

Two Camps

Two Camps

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I understand the power of grace, and am grateful for it. I understand that those walking in the light have lenience with God, and I’m grateful for that! But I still wonder what I’m missing. Many (maybe most) Christians feel the same way. We want Jesus to come back as soon as possible! But the thought is also terrifying. After all, a lot of Christians will be shocked when they’re condemned at judgment (Matt 7.21). So how do we avoid that eternal gut punch? 

Obviously, the first step is to join God’s family the way he said to. “Being saved” is not just about rescue from sin. That’s part of it! Being saved is about the last day. When Jesus separates humanity into two camps (Matt 25.32), we want to be in the one that doesn’t get destroyed. 

Notice what Jesus tells people on both sides: “I was hungry, so you gave me food. I was thirsty, so you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, but you invited me into your home. I had no clothes, so you gave me some. I was sick, so you took care of me. I was in prison, so you visited me” (Matt 25.34-36). 

If that statement applies to someone, they’re saved. If it doesn’t, they’re out of luck. 

It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t say, “You had the correct view of worship. You debated the plan of salvation with religious groups. You read your bible every day.” Those are critical (see the whole New Testament), so don’t misunderstand me. 

But when Jesus addresses both groups, their fate will be decided by how they treated God’s family. 

So what do we take away from this? 

  • Take care of the physical needs of church family. 
  • Be very careful about criticizing the church. Err on the side of caution. 
  • Keep priorities where they need to be. There’s a time and place for defending God’s word and his teachings! But most of our energy should be dedicated to what matters most to Jesus. 

When we take care of each other, we’ll be told, “My father has nothing but praise for you! Come with me, you’ve inherited the kingdom that was made for you when we created the world” (Matt 25.34). 

Soul Food

Soul Food

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

man with classes and beard smiling and wearing a ball cap.
Gary Pollard

When I get discouraged, I read a few specific verses. They will hopefully encourage you, too! 

Philippians 3.20f: But we are citizens of heaven, where the lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. 

Romans 8.1-4: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death…God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. In that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. 

I Corinthians 15.51-53: But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 

II Corinthians 4.16ff: That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 

II Corinthians 5.1-4: For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.

Plate full of food with turkey, dressing, vegetables, mashed potatoes
Mine!

Mine!

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

garyandme521

Gary Pollard

When I first got into shooting, I relied pretty heavily on what others believed. There was (and is) a wide range of opinions on which platforms are the best, which calibers are the most effective, or which subcultural group is the worst (mall ninjas, fuds, tacticool operators, etc.). Most hold their opinions with great passion and will advocate for their position vehemently. I never really enjoyed shooting with the platforms and calibers I initially chose because I made all of my decisions based on the preferences of people I respected and admired. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I did not yet feel as if the sport was truly mine. Several years later, countless thousands of rounds, and hours of research, and I’ve found my place. I prefer 9mm, Glocks or Caniks, Combloc, AR platforms, 6.5 Grendel is the best intermediate round, etc. In other words, it’s not an “inherited” faith. I like what I like based on the energy I’ve dedicated to study and practice.

When it comes to elements of our faith, how often do we challenge our personal beliefs? Unlike firearms – which are subjective and spiritually irrelevant – our faith is based on an objective standard. It is difficult to have a strong, personal faith if most of what we believe is based on what others taught us or what others believe. We may even adopt their beliefs because we admire and respect them as people. That’s not a great foundation. Humans are fallible!

Approaching scripture as a blank slate, asking only, “What does God want me to believe about ______?” is the best way to grow. The only opinion that matters is God’s! When we hear something that elicits an emotional response and seems to conflict with our current beliefs, we shouldn’t panic. God’s word determines validity. If we can approach scripture without bias, we’ll grow exponentially. Challenging our beliefs does more than simply refine our understanding – it forces us to take ownership of our faith. Not only will this cause growth, it will also deepen our love for God and our confidence in eternal destination!

On an elk hunting trip in Gunnison, CO, around 2008.
Christianity: A Top Five List

Christianity: A Top Five List

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Life has been found in some of the most uninhabitable spots on earth. Bacterial life thrives in Lake Vostok in Antarctica, for example. Thiolava veneris was found thriving in the aftermath of a violent submarine volcanic eruption near the Canary Islands. Organisms that thrive in extreme environments are called “extremophiles” (noaa.gov). We’re always amazed when life thrives in extremely hostile environments.

The moral climate of our planet makes it extremely difficult to thrive. Humanity has created a moral environment consisting of self-interest, violence, apathy, and general dysfunction. In terms of population, they have the clear advantage. Christians are, by definition, extremophiles. We defy all expectations by thriving in an overwhelmingly hostile environment.

That said, we are studied by those who make up our environment. Many will come to the conclusion that we’re strange and warrant no further interest. Many will consider our loyalty to a supernatural morality to be hostile (II Tim. 3.12; Rom. 5.3,4). Few will wonder how we’re able to have hope, purpose, direction, resilience, and happiness in any condition.

Why would anyone want to be an extremophile? Why would anyone willingly assume a lifestyle that automatically puts them at odds with their own environment? Here’s why:

1. Everyone is going to live forever (Jn. 5.28,29). We want to live with the creator in a perfect world (II Pet. 3.13; Rev. 21.1,2; Rom. 8.18-25), not in an even worse world (Matt. 25; Rev. 21.8; II Thess. 1).

2. We didn’t make up the moral code we follow. Human error is not a factor in our worldview because it came from the creator (II Tim. 3; Jer. 31.31ff). This system can’t be corrupted and doesn’t take advantage of its constituents (unlike many human laws). We’re secure and confident because of this.

3. The creator went to extreme lengths to make sure we could easily have access to a perfect eternity (I Jn. 5.3; Heb. 9.11ff). Who wouldn’t want to follow a perfectly selfless leader?

4. We enjoy peace and existential purpose because our worldview isn’t from around here (I Pet. 1.1-10). It doesn’t matter what happens to us, we’re more than fine.

5. We’re not afraid of death (Heb. 2.14f). Self-preservation is not our main priority – how many people have done horrible things out of self-preservation? Lots! We don’t have a death wish, we’re just not afraid of death.

That’s just a sample of why we voluntarily become extremophiles. Done correctly, ours is the best life possible! It makes this one better, it makes the next one perfect. We can’t lose!

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.

Where Is He?

Where Is He?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

It’s tempting to run with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, “But of that day and hour no man knows…only the father.” We might think we’re all set or that he won’t come in our lifetime. I Thessalonians 5.1-3 reinforces the surprise nature of his return. II Peter 3 says the same. For sure, we won’t know when, but it’s good to be reminded that we aren’t promised tomorrow. 

The Patriarchal Age lasted roughly 2500 years, the Law was in effect for around 1500 years, and we’ve been in the last age for nearly 2000 years. No one can point to a day, but there’s nothing wrong with living as if He’s coming back in our lifetime. 

“Since all of these things will be destroyed, what kind of people should you be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hurrying God’s return?” (II Pet. 3.11). 

“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (I Thess. 5.1-3). 

“Rhosts!”

“Rhosts!”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

My favorite show is Scooby Doo (the originals, of course). It’s packed with ghosts and monsters, most of which are exposed as frauds or criminals. Mankind has been fascinated with ghosts and other postmortem apparitions for a while. They make great stories and nearly every culture has ghost stories. We point to widespread legends of dragons as one evidence of man’s coexistence with dinosaurs. Since so many cultures have these ghost stories, is it possible they’re true? 

Life and death are God’s jurisdiction, so let’s see if he’s said anything about the subject. Who better to ask about the other side than the one who controls it? 

Look at Luke 16.19-31. Whether this is literal or figurative is immaterial, I just want to look at something Jesus described in detail. A rich man neglected Lazarus (an impoverished man) and ended up in torment after death. He lets Abraham know that he has family on earth who don’t believe and he wants to prevent them from sharing his fate. 

Abraham points out that a large abyss acts as a barrier, preventing anyone from moving between realms. He’s specifically talking about passing from torment to paradise and vice versa, but the rich man was nonetheless incapable of leaving under his own power. 

Hebrews 9 says that we die one time and face judgment. This seems to indicate some permanence to our destination. We know that some spiritual entities are capable of interacting with our world (angels/demons) in some capacity, but the Bible doesn’t give us much detail. 

We can state with a decent degree of confidence, though, that the dead are stuck where they are. That’s a major comfort, too, because our future is secure if we die in Christ (I Peter 1.3-7). They make for great plots (and the best cartoon ever), but ghosts remain solidly in our awesome imaginations.  

TIME

TIME

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard

Our lives are based on time. Everything we do is on a schedule. We all have limited time, we waist time, we spend time, we invest time, we make time, the world is on a clock. 

God has the title of the Creator. 

He created 

  • You
  • me
  • the world 
  • Galaxy 
  • Universe 

He was and is and ever will be, the Alpha Omega beginning and end. 

He is the God of history, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He is God of the present, and God of the future. 

God is the originator of time; He invented it, it’s His. 

Here are three quick thoughts to consider about this precious commodity.

  1. Money and time share similarities. Don’t waste it. Spend it wisely. Invest it in the future. 
  2. All good things come to an end but thank God that the best thing, heaven, will never end.
  3. With the proper perspective we can clearly see that we’re all on God’s time. 

What will we do with the time God gave us today?

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. – 2 Peter 3:8 

Keeping Eternity Nearby

Keeping Eternity Nearby

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl pic

Carl Pollard

Eternity is a topic that many of us have heard taught many times. We have Sunday classes on eternity, and we hear sermons about heaven and hell. We learn about the life that comes after this one, but sometimes it doesn’t feel real. I’ve known about eternity for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t truly grasp this idea until later in my life. The extent of my knowledge was that heaven was where I wanted to go, and hell was for sinners. 

It didn’t seem very real. I found myself thinking, “I have my entire life ahead of me, I’ll worry about it later down the road.” I saw eternity like any other young guy. It was a place that I knew was coming in the future, but failed to live with this knowledge in mind. Lately I’ve noticed a few things that need to be said.

Eternity is so much more than what I believed it to be. It can be an eternity filled with life, or an eternity filled with torment. John 5:24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” The Word of God has the ability to make our eternity be one that is filled with life and joy. But then we read verses like Romans 6:23 that say, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this verse before, but I was failing to grasp what Paul is really saying. We deserved punishment. We were lost and consumed with sin, and we should’ve been punished for what we had done. Instead of punishing us or giving us what we deserved, God offered us eternal life. 

Paul describes eternal life as being a free gift. He uses the Greek word “charisma” which translated means “that which is freely and graciously given.” I have major trust issues when it comes to car dealerships. They say a bunch of words that they apparently don’t understand. Things like, “no interest” and “zero down” or “totally free.” But I have a hard time believing that something could be completely free with no strings attached. Eternal life was given to us. God wasn’t forced to do it. He wasn’t pressured into giving it, instead He chose to give it to us. No strings attached. 

In the church, some have failed to see eternity for what it is; a place that is very real. It is a place that everyone will end up going to. If we live with eternity in view, we will begin to focus on what is truly important. Living with eternity in mind gives us the clarity we need to make the right choices, knowing that our actions will impact our final destination. 

If we live with eternity in mind we will realize the importance of time. I’ve been preaching at the Hebron church of Christ in Grant, Alabama, for two years and it feels like I just moved here. Every year seems to slip away faster than the one before it. James 4:14 tells us that our life is a vapor. We weren’t meant to be here forever. When I was younger I failed to see how quickly life will pass by. Without eternity in mind we won’t see each day as an opportunity to share the Gospel or a chance to tell the world about a loving God that longs for everyone to be saved. We would find ourselves spending less time on the insignificant. 

As a teen I was horrified at the thought of hell. And while hell is still very real, the longer I live, the less I fear hell, and the more I long for heaven. I long for the day when I will be in the presence of God. I long for the day when God will give me a comfort and peace so powerful that it will completely remove all sorrow and pain. I long for heaven because I’ll never have to say a painful goodbye, but instead I’ll be with faithful and likeminded men and women for all eternity. The longer we live the more pain and heartache we go through. The stronger our desire becomes to be with God in that perfect home. 
Life has a way of changing our outlook on eternity. Let life’s issues be the motivation to reach eternity, and not the reason we lose eternal life.