“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!
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Keeping Eternity Nearby

Keeping Eternity Nearby

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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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.”

Is God Really Everywhere at Once?

Is God Really Everywhere at Once?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

One of the most mind boggling topics we can study is the omnipresence of God. When one contemplates the power of God, it is easy to see why so many are intimidated by this subject. Most who believe in God believe in His ability to be in every location on earth at one time, and by recognizing God as the creator, we are automatically ascribing Him as the Author of time.
God is the creator of time, and as humans we are stuck in a timeline. We see everything through the eyes of time. The date we were born, the day we got married, and what time our doctors appointment is next week. God isn’t bound to time the way we are.
2 Peter 3:8 says, “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.” God does not experience time the same way we do. What seems like forever to us is just a second to God, and what seems like a moment to us is forever to God. God has the power to move through His creation unrestricted. The laws of the universe do not apply to Him because He is not a part of the universe in the same sense that you and I are. God is spirit, not matter or physical substance to be measured and weighed. He is The Almighty God and is not bound to His creation of time.
Psalm 33:13-14 reads, “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth.” If God sees all the inhabitants of the earth, He is automatically breaking the laws of time and space. For example, I am writing this blog at 6:24 PM. At this very moment it is 2:24 AM in Dar es Salaam. It is 6:24 AM in Bangkok. It is 11:24 AM in New Zealand. God sees those who are awake on half the planet, and those who are asleep on the other half. God is naturally present in every aspect of the natural order of things, in every manner, time, and place.
God is omnipresent, and it is very important for us to understand this. A God with this much power and holiness, that is everywhere on earth at any given moment, takes the time to listen to us. A God who created everything with His Words, sees all the inhabitants of the earth, and has the power and might to be everywhere on this earth at one time is the God who looked at me and you and saw that we needed a Savior.
What an incredible God we serve!
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THE GREATNESS OF LOVE

THE GREATNESS OF LOVE

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Love is the ultimate gift we can have as Christians. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 shows us why love is greater. It’s patient, kind, humble, and selfless. He wraps up this section by saying, “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Why is love the greatest?
The Importance of Faith. Paul tells us that now “abide these three.” He uses the Greek word meno (“to continue to exist, remain, last, persist, continue to live).” We are commanded to remain in and live in faith. What does this mean? It means our lives must be transformed by our faith. It must be a LIVING faith. Not a one time faith, but a continual faith and trust in God. And this applies to all three attributes. Continue to live in faith, hope and love. We have to ask, “What does it look like when a Christian lives in faith?” To understand this we need to recognize that faith is “state of believing on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted, trust, confidence.” Faith is the Christian fully trusting in God because we believe in His promises.
People have ruined the meaning of faith. They will say that Christians have a “blind faith,” one that is almost illogical and irrational. As Christians we aren’t commanded to have a blind faith, but a faith based off of the evidence that we can see. There is evidence of an almighty creator, evidence that is seen in His infallible word, evidence that can be seen in His marvelous creation, and evidence that is based in logic by just taking a moment to look at the many different ways that God has revealed Himself to us. Paul tells us to live in faith, a faith that is backed by confidence.
The Need For Hope. The Christian walk is based on the hope of heaven. Biblical Hope is a confident expectation of the future we have as Christians. There’s a great need for Hope. Many in the world feel hopeless, especially when they see the news and look at what is going on around them. It can be easy to feel hopeless at times. To feel overwhelmed by the sin that surrounds us. It’s natural to feel this because we live in a fallen world where people do whatever they want with no regard for others. Paul remind us that we have hope, and even more than that, he tell us to remain in this hope and let it be an encouragement in times of need.
If we ever feel helpless, think of what we have to hope in as people that God has Called: The hope of a reunion with fellow Christians that have gone on, the hope of an eternity spent with the Father, the hope of a time where God will wipe away the tears of his children, and the hope of a time where we will never have to experience heartbreak and say those painful goodbyes. Each one of us will experience death, but it is not the end because we have hope.
The Greatness Of Love. Love is greater than faith and hope. Why? Why is love the greatest? What happens to our faith? It becomes sight. The One we have had faith in will be with us in person. The future we have hoped for all our lives will become a reality. But love, love will continue on for an eternity.
As Christians we will be separated from those who are filled with hate and be in a place filled with love. Our faith and hope will end, but love will never cease. Think about a place filled with pure love. Surrounded by likeminded people that have this sacrificial love, and living forever with the Author and perfecter of true love.
Why is love the greatest? Because it lasts.
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God Shall Wipe Away All Tears

God Shall Wipe Away All Tears

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Tears are a very interesting and important part of the human anatomy. Tears are produced by the tear gland, which are small glands that are in our upper eyelid. Tears keep the surface of your eyeball clean, and help protect your eye from damage. But there’s another function of tears. They appear when we experience heartache and sadness. They form when we encounter joy, heartbreak, and sometimes for no reason with some people.

When we cry because of something emotionally painful, most of the time we wish that the problem never would’ve happened In the first place. Tears are a natural part of life. It’s going to happen, no matter how tough we claim to be. At some point we are going to break under the pressure of this world. That’s why I’d like to spend a few moments in one of the most encouraging passages of scripture in the Bible, Isaiah 25:8-9. In these two verses we will notice three painful types of tears that will be wiped away.

It reads, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

The first type of tears that will be wiped away are tears of death (v. 8). Every human on earth will experience death. Our lives will end in death, and scattered all throughout our days on earth we will lose those we love. Death is terrible. It tears us apart– we feel like we are drowning in heartbreak– that this pain will never end. We have to watch as mothers and fathers lose their children, children lose their parents, and spouses lose each other. Death is inevitable and something none of us ever want to go through. But there will come a day when we will never have to shed a tear over a loved one. We will never stand at a graveside again. God will make sure that his children never have to experience this heartache ever again. I long for heaven because the tears of death will be wiped away.

He will wipe away the tears of disgrace (8b). We can all agree that this world is full of evil. There is murder, rape, liars, gossip, and broken homes. This world is a place full of tears over the pain that comes from evil. Homes are torn apart and hearts are broken over the sin of others. A day will come when Christ will wipe away all tears (Rev. 21:4).  A day will come when Christ will mend the hearts of the broken. David spoke of his Joy in God. He says, “Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Psa. 30:10-11). As Christians we can turn to God with hope, knowing that He is our helper and strength. We don’t have to face the evil of this world on our own. God can turn our heartache into Joy. He can wipe away the tears that sin has placed in our eyes. A time will come when the tears of disgrace will be wiped away.

God will wipe away the tears of distance and discouragement (9). It is common after a tragedy has occurred to hear someone pray, “Jesus come quickly.” We say this because we know that Christ is our way of escape from this world. Christ is our hope. We want Him to come back, to help us escape the sin that is around us. Sometimes this distance from God can cause us to become discouraged and to think that He isn’t coming back to save us. God will wipe away the tears of discouragement.

And on that day we will say, “This is OUR God.” The God that we have placed all hope and faith in. “This is OUR God that we have waited on to save us.” “This is OUR God that has brought us salvation.” The day will come when God will wipe away the tears that have been formed by the distance and discouragement we encounter on earth.

The day will also come when we will be judged for how we lived on earth. Can we say that we have waited on God? Can we rejoice in His return? Can we truthfully say that we have placed our faith and hope in God? On that day our tears will either be wiped away, or they will continue on into eternity. The question we must ask ourselves is this:  “Will God wipe away my tears?”

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Great song

Understanding “Gospel” In The Colossians Epistle

Understanding “Gospel” In The Colossians Epistle

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Word

Gary III

Gary Pollard

If you’re remotely religious, you’re familiar with the word “gospel.” It has a wide semantic range, describing everything from a genre of music (and a few sub-genres) to the trustworthiness of a statement (“gospel truth”) to an all-encompassing description of religious doctrine. 

The word literally means, “God’s good news to humans,” from εὐαγγέλιον. It is mostly about the life and times of Jesus and the spiritual rewards we have when we accept that hope and follow God’s plan of salvation. It is so common and familiar to many of us that we sometimes overlook its importance. 

We often hear about “spiritual blessings,” but the definitions we are given of them are sometimes (if not often) frustratingly ambiguous. Colossians 1:3-12 gives us a beautiful description of those blessings. One of them is the gospel! Here’s why: 

1. The Gospel is Hope

A phenomenon so common to my generation (it’s immortalized in more than a few memes) is the idea of existential crisis. We ask questions like, “What am I doing? Why am I here? What’s my purpose? Why am I working this dead-end job?” We don’t like to think of where we’ll be in 20 years because that’s downright depressing. Will it be more of the same? The crushing weight of a meaningless existence is at the forefront of so many minds. 

The good news we have is described in Colossians 1:5 as, “…the hope reserved for you in heaven…” That’s purpose! What kind of hope? What are we looking for? We have been given the means to live a life with purpose. It won’t be easy, but it guarantees a perfect existence after we’re gone. This hope for heaven is central to the gospel. 

2. The Gospel Makes Us Better People

Once the Colossian Christians changed their lives, were immersed, and changed their lifestyles, they had a great love for each other and all of the other Christians (1:4). We can be friendly to others (even complete strangers), but Christianity promotes unconditional love for others. The world tries to achieve this artificially, but Christianity accomplishes this through unity and self-sacrifice based on guidance from scripture. 

If we are as dedicated as we should be, it also gives us endurance and patience when we deal with difficulty (1:11, 12). Those who follow God’s will and are dedicated to serving Him are guaranteed a perfect and meaningful existence after this life (Colossians 1:5, 12). 

We are confronted with our own mortality more often than we’d like (especially today). This has a whole lot of people questioning their purpose and their destiny. Christianity offers the greatest gift ever given: purpose and destiny. God has told us how to have both of those things; we can live a meaningful life here, no matter how difficult, and we can have a perfect life there. If you are looking for meaning and purpose in this life, look no further than the gospel – it is how we can be pure here, living a purposeful life with perfect hope for the next. 

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THE POWER OF HOPE

THE POWER OF HOPE

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

Have you been struggling with some feelings of hopelessness lately? Whenever we have a hard time seeing the end in sight or we face uncertainty or are exposed to fears and anxieties, it can undermine our determination to have hope. Yet, over a hundred times in Scripture, God points us to the hope His children have through Him and His promises. We have such a resource because of the rock-solid expectation He provides. Whatever may happen to us this week, this month, or this year, the Christian can look forward with confidence at the fulfillment of what God through Christ promises us. And Scripture says it so many ways:

–Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5)
–Hope helps us persevere with eagerness (Romans 8:24-25)
–Hope causes rejoicing (Romans 12:12)
–Hope fills you with all joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13)
–Hope is an abiding quality, alongside such elite qualities as faith and love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
–Hope enables deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:10)
–There is one, unconquerable hope (Ephesians 1:18; 4:4)
–Hope is tied to earnest expectation and boldness (2 Corinthians 3:12; Philippians 1:20)
–Hope is connected to steadfastness (Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:3)
–Hope offsets grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
–Hope tunes our hearts to look for Jesus’ appearing (1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:13)
–Hope encourages the pursuit of our eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7)
–Hope anchors the soul (Hebrews 6:19)
–Hope helps us draw near to God (Hebrews 7:19)
–Hope is tied to endurance (Hebrews 10:23)
–Hope is instrumental to faith (Hebrews 11:1)
–Hope prepares for eternity (Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3,13)
–Hope helps give a defense (1 Peter 3:15)
–Hope purifies (1 John 3:3)

Remember this:

“How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).
“The hope of the righteous is gladness…” (Proverbs 10:28).
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:24).
“Christ Jesus…is our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1). 

You will face nothing today or ever that is too destructive, terrifying, or powerful to offset this hope! That doesn’t mean be rash, reckless, or rebellious. It does mean be faith-filled, optimistic, and courageous! Are your faith and hope in God (1 Peter 1:21)?  

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 Homesick For Heaven 

 Homesick For Heaven 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

There is so much debate out there as to what Heaven will actually be like. Some make the argument that we just can’t know for sure. We know that there will be no tears in Heaven, so since that is the case there will definitely be some meatloaf there. Because in a place where there is no meatloaf present, I would cry. Now with that out of the way, let’s look at three quick promises about Heaven.

First there is the promise of “relationship.” In Revelation 21:3 it says, “He will dwell among us…” Not just any relationship, an actual relationship with Jesus Christ.

The second promise is that of “Relief.” In the very next verse it says, “God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” How many of us can’t wait for that day?

Now the third promise is one that is pulled from a verse that many people do not like to read. In Revelation 21:8 we see that there is a promise of “refuge.” You see, Heaven is going to be so great because of who will not be there. After we get a glimpse of what is promised to those who love Him (James 1:12), we see what is promised to those that don’t. Yet even here we see a blessing. Heaven is going to be place that is absent of, “…the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars…” Heaven is going to be a place filled with family. The faithful Church family.

I’m going to Heaven! It’s a choice. It’s a choice to live right and follow Christ no matter what. You have the ability to say it confidently and you should never have to wonder if you’re going to Heaven. It’s a promise! Take hold of that promise, because it’s the only thing that matters.

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How To Make The Best Of A Bad Situation 

How To Make The Best Of A Bad Situation 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Rattlesnakes are large, venomous snakes that live throughout North and South America. In my humble opinion, they are one of the most terrifying creatures on the planet–from the hair-raising sound of that rattle to those intimidating fangs that can be up to six inches long. The bite from one of these monsters is excruciatingly painful. If you were to be bitten, at first you would experience a tingling feeling, followed by an intense burning sensation. After this you would feel lightheaded and begin sweating profusely. Your vision would become blurry, and each breath would be more strained than the last one.

If left untreated, it can be fatal to humans. All of that sounds terrible doesn’t it? What good could possibly come from a deadly rattlesnake? Well, at some point in history, somebody looked at these snakes and decided that they would make a beautiful pair of boots. That’s how to make something great, out of something terrible. There is no doubt in my mind that the inventor of snakeskin boots was an optimist. He could see the good, even when staring into the dark vertical pupils of pure reptilian evil.

When faced with hardship, that simply comes from living in a fallen world, it can be a challenge to see the silver lining in each dark cloud. American basketball player, Charles Barkley once said, “Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.” That’s definitely how it can feel sometimes! Although we have books in the Bible like Job and James that teach us how we should view our earthly struggles, here are just a few reminders from our God.

Number one, remember that each day is worth rejoicing over. Psalm 118:24 gives us the reason why— because today is another day that the Lord has made. It’s not my day; it’s God’s day. Reminder number two, what we can’t see in times of difficulty, is worth waiting for. Paul would inform us in Romans 8:27, “But if we hope in what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.” In the muck of life it may feel at times that there’s just no way out. Just because you may not see the end in sight, rest assured that our hope is in a promise that was put in place before time itself began (2 Timothy 1:9). The last reminder is simply this, that God made the world you are living in and Jesus is currently creating the world we will one day live in (John 14:1-3). I firmly believe each day that passes can only mean that heaven will be that much more beautiful. If God created this world in six days, in all it’s beauty, imagine the splendor of our home to come. Now, if that doesn’t make a bad situation a good one, I don’t know what will! Here are the lyrics to an optimistic hymn that I hope get stuck in your head for quite a while.

“I care not today what tomorrow may bring, if shadow or sunshine or rain. The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything, and all of my worry is vain. Living by faith in Jesus above, trusting confiding in His great love. From all harm safe in His sheltering arm, I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.”

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One of two pair of rattlesnake skin boots I own.