The Greatest Longing Of The Soul

The Greatest Longing Of The Soul

Neal Pollard

Quick. Name the top three accomplishments of Grover Cleveland’s presidency. I’ll wait. 

Nothing? Don’t feel dense or unpatriotic. He’s not in most historians’ top 10 (25?) of American presidents. But on yesterday’s date, 132 years ago, he was at the helm and dedicated the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.  This, if you don’t recall, was the proposed gift of French historian Edouard de Laboulaye in honor of America’s alliance with France during the Revolutionary War, sculpted by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, designed by Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel), completed in France in 1884, and delivered to America the next year with the last rivet fitted on October 28, 1886 (via Instagram). The pedestal of the statue contains a sonnet by poet Emma Lazarus, well-known to most of us, that reads, 

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door” (ibid.).

With all the debate about immigration–a Reuters story revealed that immigration tops the economy and healthcare as the top issue for voters (Read here)–there is no denying why so many people around the world want to come to the United States. We have long been regarded as the haven for poor masses yearning to breathe free and wanting a home inside “the golden door.” Many have come and achieved incredible success in our country. Many more than that have come to find that immigrating here did not solve their problems or make their dreams come true.

There is a greater longing of the soul, a desire for something even more than prosperity.  Jesus teaches us that material things won’t last (Mat. 6:19-20). Peter tells us what comes of such ultimately (2 Pet. 3:10). 

There is a greater longing of the soul than even freedoms afforded by nations and governments. Many will abuse those freedoms through immoral choices.  Proverbs 14:34 strongly applies.

The most noble, highest longing of a soul is for the freedom only Christ can provide. To be free from the slavery of sin (John 8:31-36), from guilt of sin (Psa. 51:1-14), and from the power of sin (Heb. 2:14) is man’s wisest quest. A person with an abundance of money, liberty, and other earthly advantages may still be buried by the influence of sin. To know there’s a solution right now–who wouldn’t want that?

Don’t forget what Jesus tells people everywhere: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28). 

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Oise-Aigne American Cemetery Plot E

Oise-Aigne American Cemetery Plot E

Neal Pollard

My brother and fellow preacher, Brent Pollard, finds the most interesting historical facts—an ability which makes his preaching illustrations most interesting.  He sent me an article about the Oise-Aigne Cemetery in northern France.  Though I have actually visited that cemetery, I had no idea about the existence of an auxiliary burial plot known as “Plot E.”  While the 6012 military personnel buried in the four main burial plots lost their lives in World War I, the 94 interred in Plot E are infamous, disgraced soldiers who died for their crimes during or after World War II.  These men either murdered fellow soldiers or raped and/or murdered 71 people in England, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Algeria.  “No US flag is permitted to fly over the section, and the numbered graves literally lie with their backs turned to the main cemetery on the other side of the road” (warhistoryonline.com).

These men were supposed to be fighting for the freedoms and rights of American citizens, but instead they were most dramatically undermining the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness of the unfortunate ones who crossed their paths.  For their crimes, they not only paid the ultimate penalty but were buried in disgrace and immortalized with infamy. They are remembered as “the dishonorable dead.”

The book of Revelation refers to the “book of life” (20:12), implying that it is possible for one’s name to be blotted out of it (3:5).  However, those whose names are not found in that book will be “cast into the lake of fire” (20:15). Those who take away from the words of this revelation—and by application any other (cf. Gal. 1:6-9)—“God shall take away his part of out of the book of life” (22:19).  More specifically, John says, “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27).  For the ungodly and disobedient, John lays out in apocalyptic terms how unthinkably horrible it will be to die unfaithful to Christ.  He says, “He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night…” (14:10-11a).

Everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10).  The faithful will receive glory and honor and reward (Mat. 25:34-40).  The unrighteous, however, will go away into everlasting punishment (Mat. 25:46).  No one will deserve heaven, but will go there thanks to God’s amazing grace and his or her conscious effort to walk in the light (1 John 1:7-10). Those who know not and obey not the gospel will endure something eternally worse than a firing squad, a hangman’s noose, or blameworthy burial (2 Th. 1:8-9).  Though the world may believe less and less in the reality of hell, the Bible’s position on the matter has not changed. Knowing the terror of the Lord, may we persuade others and, ourselves, be persuaded (2 Cor. 5:11).

Cease Fire!

Cease Fire!

(Guest Baker)

Gary Neal Pollard III

On Christmas Day in World War I, British and German soldiers called a ceasefire and shared food and other comforts. They were definitely still enemies, but were able to tolerate each other long enough to celebrate a holiday.

In keeping with the prominent theme of “walking” in the book of Ephesians, Paul says, “Always be humble and gentle, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (4:2). This word “tolerance” literally means “to endure something unpleasant or difficult” or “to permit the presence of something.”

I don’t like all of my Christian family. I love them all, but there are personality differences and thought processes and it’s hard to get along with them all. I like most of them! Talk to any member of the family of Christ, and they will agree, no one gets along with everyone.

According to Ephesians 4:2, we are required to put up with those who bother us or don’t get along with us or do things the way we do. We aren’t told to be their best friend, but we are going to be held accountable for how we treat those in the family of God.

Let’s be determined this week to be civil and deferential to everyone in the family of God and not think about our differences with them. Let’s remember that this is all done for the purpose of unity, which is vital to the health of the church (4:3,4). It will require effort – no one said it would be easy! But if it will help the church be healthy, it’s totally worth it.

BRAVE MEN IN BELLEAU WOOD

BRAVE MEN IN BELLEAU WOOD

Neal Pollard

In March, 2006, I spent nearly an hour walking in Belleau Wood, a 200 acre tract behind the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery about 50 miles east of Paris, France, accompanied by Kathy as well as the preacher for the Eglise du Christ in Paris, Roland Mohsen. Seeing the World War I cemetery, chapel, and memorial was exciting for me, given not just my love for history but my special interest in “The Great War.”  It was in those woods that the U.S. Marines made their first big impression on the whole world.  At a 1923 ceremony for an American battle monument there at Belleau Wood, the Army General who led the Marines in the decisive battle against the Germans, James G. Harbord, said this:  “”Now and then, a veteran … will come here to live again the brave days of that distant June. Here will be raised the altars of patriotism; here will be renewed the vows of sacrifice and consecration to country. Hither will come our countrymen in hours of depression, and even of failure, and take new courage from this shrine of great deeds” (Kozaryn, Linda. “Marines’ First Crucible: Belleau Wood.” 6/18/98. Armed Forces Press Service).

The Marines won a hard-fought victory, at great price requiring such persistence. The memorial erected on that ground has been an inspiration for countless soldiers as well as those from many nations who have stood at that spot.  Now, almost 100 years after the battle, memories have faded and fewer go to that spot for inspiration despite the predictions of General Harbond.

For the last several days, I’ve been mentally devouring the sermonic masterpieces of men like V.P. Black, Franklin Camp, Roy Lanier, Bobby Duncan, Wendell Winkler, and others at a great audio site called preachersvault.com. Most of the men on that site have transitioned from time to eternity.  My heroes have always been preachers, and I appreciate the depth of understanding and motivational value found in listening.  I recall the incredible blessing of attending the 1988 Faulkner University Lectureship, where brother Winkler invited men who at that time were 65 years old and older.  Only 18 years old, I sat with my dad, who was also in attendance, to hear Camp, Black, Hugo McCord, Winfred Clark, Rex Turner, Sr., Bob Hare, Leroy Brownlow, George DeHoff, Basil Overton, and many others.  Over a quarter-century later, I still revel in the memories of those lessons.

Military memorials may begin to fade with time, but the value of good Bible teaching only grows with the passage of time.  There is great reward in taking the time to sit at the feet of seasoned students of Scripture, drawing from their deep wells of knowledge.  These opportunities are not just relegated to days gone by and various media selections.  Try prepared, studied Bible class teachers, guest speakers, and local preachers. Those of us in those positions need to be challenged to go deeper and make truth live more powerfully.  Those of us who hear need to value this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7).  Won’t you reserve a few spots in your heart for heroes whose weapon is the sword of the Spirit?

(L-R): Kathy Pollard, Gary Pollard III, Wendell Winkler, Betty Winkler, Shellie Holder, Clay Holder, and Jacob Holder (1994, Livingston, Alabama)
Blessed Assurance

Blessed Assurance

from a different Ukraine trip (2003)

Neal Pollard

In the spring of 2002, I went with Keith Kasarjian, who is currently the assistant extension director of our Bear Valley Extension Program, to Kramatorsk and Slavyanagorsk, Ukraine.  One of the first things I recall doing the day after arriving there was meeting to fellowship with the Christians from that general area of Ukraine.  Several other foreigners in addition to Keith and me had travelled over for the first graduation of the first Bear Valley foreign extension in Kramatorsk, but they had travelled up to Slavyanagorsk to see the Christians there.  That gave the small room of the house where that church met an international if an over-filled feel.  It was decided that we sing some hymns.  The first hymn sung, as I recall, was “Blessed Assurance.”  Most present sang the song in Russian.  The Americans scattered around the room sang in English.  As Italian Sylvia Gaddio and French Canadian Sylvain Arsenaux were in the room, they each sang in their native tongue, too.  At one point, I stopped singing to listen to the voices blending in multiple languages.  I remember being completely overwhelmed and overcome at the thought of what tied us all together.  People native to Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Italy, and the United States (we also had a Romanian and Chinese who came over for the graduation who might have been in the room, too) were hampered in their ability to interact by their language limitations, but the love, unity, and spirit of fellowship created by our common bond in Christ seemed to eclipse whatever our differences may have been.  Never before that moment had I felt the power of the oneness Jesus causes.

In our congregations, we have different interests, incomes, spiritual backgrounds, education levels, temperaments, personalities, ethnicities, maturity levels, and dozens of similar variables that make us unique, even dissimilar.  But, do we emphasize often enough how our service, obedience, and allegiance to the Lord is meant to overcome all these?  The Philippian congregation needed the reminder that practical unity was necessary and not just desirable (see Philippians 2:1-4).  We need to frequently emphasize the beautiful nature of unity in Christ (cf. Psalm 133).  It’s as touching to think about how the Lord makes all of us in our local congregation one as to think about times like that special moment I recall from a tiny house in a tiny town across the world!  That’s the power of Jesus, His blood, and His church.  “O what a foretaste of glory divine!”