Soldiers Of Christ

Soldiers Of Christ

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

IMG_3575

Gary Pollard

Christianity is important to us. Making sure we live the right way is important to us. Because our loyalty to God is important to us, and because our lifestyle is characterized by avoiding evil, many believe that our mission in life is to defeat evil. Some Christians believe that this involves social activism or influencing public opinion. Nothing about this is intrinsically wrong, but it cannot be our primary focus. 

Evil exists, period. Humanity introduced evil when we disobeyed God. As we noted last week, evil is on borrowed time thanks to Jesus, but it will exist until the end of time. So, what’s our job if fighting evil isn’t top of the list? 

Christians are people who decide to follow God. That means living based on his moral code, not on humanity’s. That means we avoid practicing morally evil things. We recognize the influence that evil has on the world. We understand the consequences of choosing evil over God. 

Christians are recruiters! We’re a tight knit group of people with shared goals, views, and struggles. Part of our job is to keep each other strong (Gal. 6.10; I Pet. 1.22; Heb. 3.12,13). The rest of our job is to recruit people to populate heaven (Matt. 28.19; Acts 20.24; Jn.15). God also expects us to be good citizens and live quiet, peaceful lives (Rom. 13; I Pet. 2.13; I Tim. 2.2; I Thess. 4.11). 

Jesus defeated evil (I Jn. 3.8, 4.4; Col. 2.15), and he will personally destroy it forever at the end (Rev. 20; II Pet. 3.7). For now, though, evil is inevitable (I Jn. 5.19). Our job is to share God’s hope with those who don’t have it. By avoiding evil ourselves and helping others escape its influence, we help diminish its influence on the world! 

Much More Better

Much More Better

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

IMG_3575

Gary Pollard

Jesus wants us to have a perfect eternity with him because he sees us as family (Heb. 2.11-14). He took drastic measures to make sure anyone who wants to could easily get a passport to heaven. 

  • He took a 33 year demotion to save us (Heb. 2.9). The engineer and fabricator of reality stepped down to an entry-level position so His own creation could abuse and kill him. 
  • An immortal being allowed Himself to die. He did this to experience what all of us have to experience (2.9). 
  • The best pulmonologists have a respiratory disorder (or a family member with one). They empathize and know from personal experience what works. Jesus was the perfect person to give out freedom because He personally experienced what we go through. If someone’s going to be in charge of handing out grace, who better than someone who can empathize with our struggles (2.10; 17,18)? 
  • He makes us perfect in God’s eyes (2.11). 
  • He brags on His family to the father and to the faithful dead who are hanging out with Him until judgment (2.11-13; 12.21-23). 
  • Death is scary and uncertain, but not for Christians. Satan used our fear of death against us (2.14; cf Rom. 8.15), but Jesus confiscated Satan’s power.  
  • He made God very accessible, which makes it easy to stay faithful (4.16). 
  • He’s better than ancient human priests – and even they were gentle/patient with ignorant and weak believers (5.1,2). If they were patient with ignorant, weak believers, He’s even more patient (5.5-10). 
Teens stand for Scripture reading at recent Summer Youth Series (Chase Johnson reading)
“Escargot?”

“Escargot?”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

[Note: I titled it escargot because I used to get eschatology and escargot confused. Plus, in his section concerning the end of time Peter prefaces with, “The Lord isn’t slow concerning His promises the way we consider slowness.” Snails are slow. The end of time seems far away, hence escargot]

A lot of movies detailing a world-ending event are designed to elicit a fearful response from viewers (for thrills, of course). Whether it’s the Walking Dead’s zombie apocalypse, Independence Day’s alien invasion, or Knowing’s solar flare (although Nicolas Cage’s acting is probably the most terrifying thing about the movie…), the end of time is usually portrayed as a terrifying event requiring humanity to go to incredible lengths to avoid it. 

Christianity is so beautiful because we’re actually dying for the end to come! 

I Corinthians 1.7 – “…as you wait for the revealing of our lord Jesus Christ…” Wait is apekdechomia, which means to welcome something with great anticipation. The same word is used to I Peter 3.20 where God eagerly waited for the earth to run away from sin in the days of Noah. 

Philippians 3.20 – “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a savior, the lord Jesus Christ…” Paul encouraged the Philippian church to imitate the examples of selflessness he had listed, especially since enemies of the cross were in existence (maybe even an indirect reference to Euodia and Syntyche). Unlike the enemies of the cross, we’re waiting for God to save us from this world. 

Romans 8.19 – “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God…” And 23, “Not only creation, but we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Redemption is apolutrosis, which describes release from a captive state or from interrogation. We eagerly anticipate the last day. 

Hebrews 9.28 – “…so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Verse 27 makes it very clear that we face judgment immediately after death! Jesus’ second coming is to save us from this world, which was made dysfunctional because of sin. 

II Peter 3.12 – “Since all these things will be undone, what sort of people should you be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hurrying the coming of the day of God, because of which the sky will be set on fire and dismantled, and the earth and the works done within it will be dissolved.” Peter is describing the end, but far from terrifying, we are waiting for and hurrying that last day. 

A lot’s going on in our world, much of it scary and anxiety-inducing. Oh well! “Come back, lord Jesus” (Rev. 22.20).  

Circle of Life

Circle of Life

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

gary and chelsea

Gary Pollard

  1. Earth Created (Gen. 1) (A)
  2. Man Sins, Earth Corrupted (Rom. 8) (B)
  3. Access to Tree of Life Blocked (Gen. 3) (C)
  4. Man Unified in Evil (Gen. 6) (D)
  5. Earth Destroyed by Water, Preserved for Destruction by Fire (II Pet. 3.6,7) (E)
  6. Jesus Grants Access to God As Mediator, High Priest, Perfect Sacrifice (Heb. 2.9; Rom. 8.17) (F)
  7. Man Rejects God, Unified in Evil (II Thess. 2.3-12) (4) (D)
  8. Earth Destroyed by Fire (II Pet. 3) (E)
  9. Man Redeemed, Creation Redeemed (Rom. 8.18-20; cf Mt. 19.28) (A, B)
  10. Access to Tree of Life Restored (Rev. 22.2) (C)
  11. God’s Own Live with Him, Share Unique Bond, Can Never Lose Paradise Again (II Pet. 3.13; Rom. 8.29; II Tim. 2.12) (F)

You can also look at it this way: 

  1. Earth Created (Gen. 1) New Heavens, New Earth (II Pet. 3.13; Rev. 21.1; Matt. 19.28)
  2. Man Sins, Earth Corrupted (Rom. 8.18-20) Man Redeemed, Earth Redeemed (Rom. 8.18-25)
  3. Access to Tree of Life Blocked (Gen. 3) Access to Tree of Life Restored (Rev. 22.2)
  4. Man Unified in Evil (Gen. 6)  Man Unified in Evil (II Thess. 2.3-12)
  5. Earth Destroyed by Water (Gen. 7; II Pet. 3.6,7) Earth Destroyed by Fire (II Pet. 3.7)
  6. Jesus Gives Access to Father (Heb. 2.9)  We Live With God (II Tim. 2.12; I Jn. 3.1ff; Rom. 8.29)

“The God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ is blessed. Thanks to His incredible mercy, we are born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ out of death. Because of this, we have an immortal inheritance that has no flaw and cannot wear out. This is guarded in heaven for you who are also guarded by God through faith. This salvation will be revealed to you at the end” (I Pet. 1.3ff).

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 

Crisis

Crisis

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

  • 1918 had the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed at least 675,000 people in the United States and 50,000,000 worldwide.
  • 1929 birthed the Great Depression, a multi year period of societal upheaval and economic collapse.
  • 1941 ultimately led to our involvement in a world war after the attack at Pearl Harbor.
  • 1963 saw the dramatic assassination of JFK.
  • 1986 put a damper on the excitement of space exploration with the tragedy of the Challenger explosion.
  • Violent crime rose dramatically from the 60’s to the 90’s, enough that most people no longer left their houses unlocked and were less likely to trust their fellow people.
  • 2001 marked the beginning of a global war on terror with an awful display of evil.
  • 2008 saw the Great Recession, the aftermath of which may be one of the causes of our great political division.
  • 2020 was a train wreck we need not discuss further.
 
This is by no means an exhaustive list! It covers some major events that affected Americans in the last 100 years, but much more could easily be said about the negatives of our history.
 
This is important: Immunity was attained after two years of the Spanish Flu pandemic. Lifespans increased by a few years during the Depression and led to a hearty generation of folks who helped to win the Second World War. That war, as horrible as it was, led to many incredible breakthroughs in medical and other sciences, not to mention historically unprecedented economic prosperity. The 1960s at least exposed the ungodly, ugly nature of hatred and racism, leading to some positive changes that were long overdue.
 
Even in the worst of times, good happens. But even if it doesn’t, hope is invulnerable! For a Christian, these issues are simply the result of a fallen world and they’re temporary. The end of life for us is the beginning! We have one important thing that no crisis can destroy: hope. We are absolutely certain that death will be the moment we get to live in a perfect world with our creator (see also II Peter 3.13ff; Matthew 19.28; Ephesians 1.18ff).
 
Nothing can or should dampen our faith in God, our hope for a better life, our mission to pull people out of darkness, our attitude, our love for each other, our dedication to spiritual growth, our responsibility to take care of people, our resilience in difficult times, and our critical compulsion to emulate Jesus in every possible way while we still breathe.
Tell Me About Grace

Tell Me About Grace

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

  1. Grace brings peace (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
  2. Grace gives us favor with God (Romans 3:24).
  3. Grace is the generous attitude God has towards His people (Ephesians 1:6).
  4. Grace brings salvation to sinful man (Titus 2:11).
  5. Grace teaches us how to live (Titus 2:11-12).
  6. Grace gives us a glimpse of God’s Character (John 1:16).
  7. Grace appeared in the flesh (Titus 2:11).
  8. Grace originated from God (Eph. 2:4-5).
  9. Grace is powerful (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  10. Grace helps put Heaven in view (Acts 15:11).
  11. Grace helps us be the salt of the earth (Acts 4:33).
  12. Grace is an attribute of Christ (John 1:14).
  13. Grace is an attribute of Christians (2 Corinthians 8:7).
  14. Grace puts the word “Christ” in Christian (John 1:17).
  15. Grace is a powerful motivator (Titus 2:13-14).
  16. Grace is a gift (that is often left unopened, Ephesians 2:8).
  17. Grace gives us hope (Romans 6:14).
  18. Grace shows us the love of God (Romans 5:8).
  19. Grace brings comfort (Hebrews 4:16).
  20. Grace is given to the humble (James 4:6).
  21. Grace gives us strength ( 2 Timothy 2:1).
 
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
 
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
“Calm Thyself”

“Calm Thyself”

 

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

It’s a jungle out there, so here’s some friendly reminders:

  1. We’re here for a short time, not a long time (James 4.14).
  2. God ultimately controls the outcome of November 3rd (Romans 13.1).
  3. This earth is fallen anyway and we’re looking forward to something way better (II Peter 3.10).
  4. We have more pressing matters to attend to (Ephesians 2.10; 4.11; Matthew 28.18ff).
  5. We’re ambassadors, not crusaders (II Corinthians 5.11ff).
  6. Mercy always trumps a condemning attitude (James 2.11ff). Contextually, this is about not showing favoritism based on appearance or status. A broader application concerning our attitude toward others in general is appropriate.
  7. Our attitudes may well be what condemns or saves a lost soul (Philippians in general, but specifically 2.5-11).
  8. Don’t be rude to people, but especially not to those in our spiritual family (Galatians 6).
  9. What we do about our beliefs speaks far more powerfully than what we say about our beliefs, and that can be amazing or especially harmful (James 2.18).
  10. Revelation 22.20!
p
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. 

Going To The Son Road

Going To The Son Road

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

Neal Pollard
Avalanche Lake hike (Glacier Natl. Park)

It has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, going to northern Montana to see Glacier National Park. Though I lived only a long day’s drive from it for 13 years, it took moving across the country before we made the trip. Sometimes, the event cannot live up to the hype, but that was not the case with this experience. The beauty is as diverse as it is breathtaking. While there is so much to see, some of the most memorable sights are to be found along a route in the park known as the Going-To-The-Sun Road.

It has to be 50 of the most beautiful miles on the planet, with diverse wonders. You’ll see mountain streams cutting through the landscape.

There are breathtaking views of the northern Rocky Mountains throughout the length of this iconic road.

And, of course, there are the lakes that dot this God-kissed path.

There may be some impressive, enjoyable creations of man, but no one can outdo the Master Creator for displays of beauty. I’m glad I took some pictures, but there is no way I could ever forget what I saw.

I could not help thinking about how such an experience reinforces my faith in the existence of God or how it shows me what kind of God He is. How could anyone see what is on display in places like that park, then come away denying Him or concluding that mere random chance produced it?

But, given the name of this road, I also could not help but think about an analogy Jesus used when He walked the earth. He referred to the path of discipleship, following Him, as the narrow way (Mat. 7:14). It is a one-lane road, a singular path (“the way,” John 14:6). It can be an uphill climb (Acts 14:22; 1 Pet. 2:21). But, not only is there much beauty to be found along the journey (John 10:10), the payoff is without rival (Mat. 10:22; Rev. 21:1ff).

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open only for a season and, though park officials can estimate when it will close each year (mid-to-late October), this cannot be precisely predicted. The road that leads to the Son is likewise open only for a season (Heb. 9:27), but no one knows when that road will forever be closed (Mat. 24:36; 25:10).

It breaks my heart to realize that most people are not on the “Going-to-the Son” road. They have charted a path that may bring them pleasure for a season (Heb. 11:25), but it will end in their eternal destruction (Mat. 25:46). Jesus has His disciples here to show others the way to Him (Mat. 28:19). He is preparing a place far superior to this world (John 14:2-3), a place we should be looking for (2 Pet. 3:13) and longing for (Heb. 11:16).

For all its tears and sorrows, the road of life is full of so much beauty, too. There is never a regret in taking the path of the Savior. But, there are lost and weary travelers who need our help to find it, too. May we find someone today to introduce to the “Going-to-the-Son Road.”