Categories
attitude destiny future

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). 

Categories
cross emotion suffering

Words For The Aching Heart 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Why do we hurt? In Bible classes and in sermons you have been pointed to scriptures such as James 1:2, which says, “Count it all joy my brethren, when you fall into various trials.” You may then find yourself wondering about that specific trial you are forced to miserably wade through. 

Perhaps you think, “But what good could possibly come from this?” Or maybe you even question, “why would God let me experience this kind of heartache?” This is when a faithful Christian may sink into a pessimistic kind of bitterness that slowly steals each smile and smothers even the faintest glimmer of hope. If Jesus could sit with you and lovingly give you some wisdom, I’d imagine this is what He’d say.

I dreaded that cross, the cruel instrument of death.
I felt such intense emotion with each painful and strained breath.
Embarrassed, I was stretched naked amid a hateful crowd—
but prayed for their forgiveness, with my bleeding head bowed.

I intimately knew trauma, isolation, abandonment, and shame.
I lost everything for everyone, so peace and glory you would gain.
It’s that joy I’ve set before you, even seen through tearful eyes,
that will push you, as it did Me, through each valley and each sigh. 

No matter what you’re fighting here, don’t worry, stress or fear.
Today it hurts, tomorrow it’s over, in the twinkling of an eye I’ll appear.
Life is brief and fragile like that of a lowly dove, and like the dove,
with broken wing still mending, look hopefully above.
–Dale Pollard
(These words were inspired by the words found in Hebrews 12:1-3.)

I’d like to encourage you, if you’re suffering through a trial in life, to read Psalm 69.  It’s a lament psalm, which may help you put into words what your aching heart is feeling.

“What we really need and what the psalms of lament provide is a way to live through times of disorientation with God as an intimate traveling companion.”
– Glenn Pemberton

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Categories
resurrection

Because He Lives

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words (Round 2)

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 

This song by the Gaithers was written in 1971 at the height of the Vietnam War. Also happening in this country was great civil unrest, school and public arena shootings, civil rights/suffrage/anti-war protests, political unrest, economic downturn, and concerns over the rising influence of communism. It was written during the Cold War when children had to do nuclear attack drills at school.
I never noticed how important the line, “this child can face uncertain days because He lives” was until seeing the year it was published. Those were definitely uncertain days.
Our time isn’t much different. I don’t have to elaborate on the stuff that makes our days uncertain – we’re very aware. We are able to handle what’s going on because He lives. No political unrest, civil disorder, threat of war, disease, or economic downturn can keep shut us down for good because He lives.
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He hold the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”
Categories
1 Corinthians 13 faith hope 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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Categories
death grief sorrow

How Can I Go On?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

How can we handle the hurt of losing someone we love?

Many emotions run through our hearts when we’re faced with the loss of a loved one. These emotions can present themselves as questions:

  • Confusion. Why did this happen?
  • Sadness. How will I go on?
  • Anger. Who allowed this to happen?

Who can answer these questions?  Who can provide comfort?  Who can guide our hearts through the heartbreaking moments of life?

Is it not the Creator of life who can explain the end of life, even though “end” is a very human term?

100 years from now I’ll be alive and so will you. 150 and 200 years from now,  I’ll be alive and so will you.

In Genesis 1:26-28, God said,  “Let us create man in our own image.”

  1. When God breathed into you the breath of life He gave you a piece of Himself called the soul which will live on forever…somewhere.
  2. When God created you in a more intimate way unlike the beasts of the field and the birds of the air He gave you free choice.
  3. He gave you the ability to reason.
  4. He gave you the ability to contact Him and be contacted by him.

How sad and how tragic it would be to live your life with no hope! Today, I’m here to offer wonderful, comforting news, at a time where such news seems all but missing.

God loves you more than anyone else does.

Though many cry for and with you when you grieve the loss of a loved one, that love falls short of the one who expresses His love in a way that’s perfect and unfailing. You will experience feelings you may not be able to put into words, but God feels and understands them. God can walk you through them. Life doesn’t have to be impossibly tragic and void of purpose.

God created the heart, so He can heal yours. God created the mind, so He can sort yours out. God made the soul, so He can save yours. God created the body, so He can give you rest. God created the eyes, so He can wipe your tears away. God created the shoulder, but His are the only shoulders capable of bearing the weight of all those who lean on them.

“Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:18).

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Categories
comfort fellowship God (nature) love of God

Walking with God In a Fallen World

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

God’s desire from the very beginning of creation was to walk with man. Scripture tells us that He would walk in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). This was all undone when sin entered the world and created a chasm between God and mankind.
The theme of the Bible is the salvation of man, through Christ, to the glory of God. From the moment sin entered the world, God has been proactive in seeking a relationship with His creation. Through the perfect sacrifice of Christ, that relationship has been restored, and we are once again able to walk with God.
Even though we have peace with God again, at times it feels like we don’t have peace in our everyday lives. We turn on the news and watch as courthouses are set on fire, and a widespread virus continues to harm and kill people that we love. Yes, we have peace with God, but where is the peace in our own lives?
These are questions that most everyone has asked. But there’s one question I want us to focus on for a few moments; how does God want us to react to the events that are going on today? Let’s examine three encouraging verses that tell us how we are to conduct ourselves each day.
Proverbs 15:3. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” God sees the violence, the grieving families, the struggling Christian. But God also sees how His children respond. God is in every part of His creation, at every moment in time. We may feel like He doesn’t see, or that He is indifferent to what’s going on, but His eyes are on the evil and the good. We respond in love because we know that God is watching.
Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” God not only sees what is going on, but He is with His children. The greatest of Christians still struggle with feelings of loneliness (Elijah in 1 Kings 19). Even though we walk through the shadow of death, we don’t fear the evil that we encounter because God has promised that He will be with us. We may see the hate, the hurt and the helplessness of mankind, but the comfort of God gives hope to His people.
Matthew 28:20. “…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is a promise first given by Jesus to His apostles, a promise that we as Christians sometimes fail to remember. The world isn’t perfect because sin has corrupted what God has made perfect. People will do you wrong, they’ll hurt you, and they’ll do whatever they feel like doing. We have a command to fulfill, and it can only be carried out with the presence of God.
Showing love to a world that’s full of hatred can seem impossible at times, but if we will remember who we are and Whose we are, we can and will get it done. Remember that God loves you, and the church loves you. Let’s be an example to those who are without this love.
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Categories
confidence fear optimism

The Eternal Optimist

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Wiley Miller is the creator of the comic strip, Non Sequitur. When apolitical, Miller’s strip can be enjoyable. I cut one of his strips from a daily edition of The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC) back in the early aughts featuring “the eternal optimist.” In the one-panel comic, the grim reaper stands before a man in business attire. This eternal optimist calls to his wife in another room: “Well, honey, it doesn’t look like I have to worry about that long commute anymore.” I kept that strip until it yellowed with age and crumbled into oblivion. I did so for another reason than having a dark sense of humor. I hope I am an optimist on the order of the businessman finding something good to say even in the face of death.

Paul had such a character. He told the Philippians that he had everything to gain in death, as a Christian, and needed only remain for the sake of the brethren (Philippians 1.21-26). Nearing the end of his life, a confident Paul told Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4.7-8 NASB). Why was Paul an eternal optimist? It was not because he was free of sin. Indeed, Paul considered himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1.15). However, Paul was full of faith and understood God’s grace.

We cannot afford to live in fear, whether that fear is of death or whether we are “good enough.” We must do the will of God. John says, “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1.7 NASB). That faith may not always take us to places providing comfort. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had their faith put to the test. Nebuchadnezzar had instructed everyone to bow to his golden image in worship. The young Hebrews refused because they remembered the Law of Moses and their covenant relationship with God. Nebuchadnezzar was angry with the young men and told them they would perish in a fiery furnace. They replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3.16b-18 NASB).

Did you notice why they did not fear? Can you see why they were optimistic? They understood their God was more powerful than a king and could deliver them. Yet, even if God did not deliver them, they still realized they had an obligation to serve Him regardless. These days the world seems scary. There is so much bad news on TV. But our God is more powerful. Thus, we can even say, “If I do catch COVID-19, God will deliver me. But even if He does not, I know Heaven will be my home.” Other scenarios would likewise suffice as an example. However, this is one of the things that seems to be on the minds of many today. Build your faith and become an eternal optimist as well. The world, in turn, will become a less daunting place.

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A different Non Sequitur sampling

Categories
faith faithfulness hope persecution

Hope In A Hopeless Situation

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

 

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Neal Pollard

Nadezhda Khazina was born in Russia at the turn of the 20th Century. She met and married the famous poet, Osip Mandelstam, in Kiev, Ukraine, after the Russian Revolution and establishment of communism. The couple saw enough of that system of government to conclude it was destructive and harmful, so they railed against it as they had opportunity. Mandelstam had a wide audience through his poetry, and his 1934 epigram about Joseph Stalin was a work he called “his suicide note” and that has been described as his “sixteen line death sentence.” He was arrested, exiled, and died of exposure and neglect four years later. Nadezhda became even more active in crusading against the tactics used in the Soviet Union, then near the end of her life she wrote a two volume autobiography of her life and work: Hope Against Hope (1970) and Hope Abandoned (1974)(https://spartacus-educational.com/RUSkhazina.htm). What’s interesting is looking up the name “Nadezhda” or the more familiar form “Nadia”; the name means “hope.” In fact, Lois Fisher-Ruge wrote a book by that title in 1989.

Do you see the irony? Her name meant hope, but her life was full of hopes dashed and hopelessness in the midst of her struggle. But, she kept on working because of the hope she felt. 

Peter writes 1 Peter to Christians who were going to see some seemingly hopeless situations in their lives. Some of them lived in Bithynia, a region whose governor, Pliny, famously bragged to the emperor Trajan at the turn of the second century about his pogrom of executing professed Christians for their faith. This was just about half a century after Peter writes this epistle warning of persecution. 

Despite Peter’s warning about the testing of their faith in unfavorable circumstances, he frequently mentions not just the ultimate reward we see for faithfully serving Christ but also “hope.” Five times in the first three chapters, Peter mentions this hope. It’s a living hope caused by Christ’s resurrection (1:3), a complete hope (1:13), a hope in God (1:21; 3:5), and a reasonable hope (3:15). The world around them was hopeless; they lived without hope. They wanted to drag the Christians into that hopeless state, but Peter urges them to hold onto hope. 

Our hopes are tested by times like these, by a world full of sin and iniquity. It’s easy to restrict our focus to this earth and this life. Peter’s words are for us, too! Do not be hopeless! You have Christ. Only those in Him have legitimate hope! 

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Drone photo from Nick Dubree of our drive in service at our new property. 

Categories
angels grace prophet salvation

God’s Spiritual Stimulus Plan

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Many Americans have recently been recipients of a stimulus check. Quite a few have taken that and made some big purchases or padded a savings account or used it for much-needed relief. Whether or not this stimulus was an economically sound decision, most have seen it as a well-timed gift that – at least in the short term – has lessened some of the difficulties of this pandemic. It was designed to bring relief, and for many it has. 

We often look at salvation as something we received at baptism (which we did, I Pt. 3.21, Acts 2.38, Col. 2.12-14). We are grateful to have grace and a mediator for when we fall short as Christians, and this gift is not something we should ever take for granted. 

When we think about how we got salvation, though, we don’t always think about the enormous amount of preparation that went into it. The ability to have our sin problem erased (Colossians describes it as a certificate of debt with legal demands in 2.14) is no small gift. 

I Peter 1.10-12 says, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven – things into which angels long to look.” 

Briefly, I’d look to look at how this passage brings out the enormous value of salvation. Firstly, ancient prophets were told that this salvation was for future generations. They wrote about this while living under a far more difficult system of godly living, knowing that they would not be beneficiaries of that salvation. 

Secondly, the early church benefited from the sacrifices and hardships of those who brought the message of salvation to them. It was valuable enough that those men were willing to assume that risk to give it to others. 

Thirdly, angels – who, like the early prophets, are not beneficiaries of this salvation – were extremely interested in salvation. 

If two of the groups mentioned here were not even beneficiaries but strongly desired to know more about it or recorded it for all time, what does that tell us about salvation’s value? Peter set up its value this way to encourage the early church to live holy lives. 

Knowing just how valuable our salvation is should push us to live like we appreciate it! Not only does it have enormous value as a gift, the One who gave it wants us to have it. With that in mind, let’s cultivate greater appreciation and godliness because of the awesome gift of salvation. And if we know anyone who could use it, let’s pass the good news on to them, too. 

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Categories
attitude faith God God (nature) power

Some Exciting Gifts From God   

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

There’s a magic moment when a child discovers that two different paint colors combined can create an entirely different color. The possibilities seem endless! Red and yellow paints are dumped on a blank canvas and mixed to create a bright orange. That same excitement, on a whole new level, can be experienced when we discover that God mixed with “human nature” creates something far better and more beautiful. God is often the ingredient missing from our potential success as well as those goals we sometimes attempt to make alone. Consider the impact He has on our common life struggles…

1. When God is mixed with our sin – He creates forgiveness (Romans 4:7)

2. When God is mixed with our finances – He creates a healthy view of money and how to use it (Proverbs 13:11)

3. When God is mixed with our relationships – He creates a stronger and more      fulfilling bond (Eph. 4:2-3)

4. When you mix God with uncertainty – He creates certainty (Romans 8:28)

5. When you include God in difficult decisions – you find direction (Prov. 3:5-6)

6. When you mix God with depression/anxiety – you discover some relief (1 Peter 5:6-7)

7. When you include God in your work – you will get the best results (1 Cor. 2:9)

8. Add God to any fear – you not only get courage, but a total removal of fear (1  John 4:18)

In short, the more yellow you add to red, the brighter the orange. The more God you add to your life, the brighter the future becomes. If you desire a vibrant life, then God is what needs to saturate your mind, heart, and decisions.

When God is in my mind my mind becomes more holy.

When God finds His way into my heart, my heart develops more purity.

No meaningful and lasting change can be accomplished by sheer willpower and determination— if those two things are not mixed with an all-powerful God.

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