Noting God’s Glory on a Cold Day 

Noting God’s Glory on a Cold Day 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19.1 NASB1995)   

A cold wind bit my exposed skin as I walked to the mailbox. Three cats wove between legs desiring a petting. I wanted to hurry back to the house but feared inadvertently kicking one of the lovable, purring furballs. I carefully made my way from the shadow into the direct sunlight. I felt the warming rays of the sun on that same exposed skin. I closed my eyes but could still sense the bright light of that gaseous ball some 92 million miles away. As I coaxed the cats back up to the house, I contemplated our life-sustaining star.  

How is it that we happened to find ourselves in the “sweet spot” in our proximity from this sphere of hot plasma? Were we any closer, the conditions on earth might prove too hot to support life. Were we any further away, the conditions on earth might prove too cold to support life. If you do any searching into this happenstance, you will encounter the expression “Goldilocks zone.” You may recall Robert Southey’s story of the titular Goldilocks who decided to make herself at home in the house of three bears. She tried the food, chairs, and beds of the absented creatures, finding the baby bear’s things to be “just right.” 

Somehow we found ourselves on a planet in that spot, which is just right. Atheists say that this is the result of chance. I was reading a site contributed to by those departing the Christian faith as they discussed this very topic. The original poster to the forum said that this habitable zone’s existence was a remaining hurdle for him in his desire to cast off the reality of God. Commentors threw out what I would consider a straw man argument, stating that life is possible elsewhere; it is just that evolution would produce a different result. Thus, some other lifeforms would be having this same discussion about how their planet was in the “right spot.”  

Of course, that does nothing to explain how we found ourselves in just that right spot. It was an explosion from nothing (i.e., Big Bang) that scattered the known universe’s material. Gravity also resulted from this explosion somehow. This gravity enabled the cosmic debris to coalesce into the Earth, Sun, and all the tiny dots of sparkling light observable in the night sky. Yet, despite its chaotic beginning, the earth was situated at the proper distance from the sun to allow life to get sloshed together inside primordial oceans.  

Those simple lifeforms, defying every observation today that things go from a state of order to disorder, managed to grow more complex over eons of time. Yes, there were untold dead ends in which mutation brought about disastrous results. But finally, homo sapiens (“wise man”) emerged at the animal kingdom’s apex, the hairless primate, to ponder his existence. With his technology, he created machines that enabled him to communicate over much distance instantly about how the Goldilocks zone is just the illusion of an Intelligent Creator.   

Call me crazy, but I think it takes more faith to believe that pure chance put us into the sun’s sweet spot. It is much easier for me to accept an Omnipotent God created us and placed us inside the Goldilocks zone He made. Thus, the perfect proximity from our star declared God’s glory to me! As such, as I felt the sun’s warmth on a cold day, rather than think of it merely as a hot ball of gas heating me, I could imagine those sun’s rays were the arms of my Heavenly Father holding me in His loving care.   

 

Those Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil 

Those Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Isaiah 5 is an interesting chapter. Isaiah tells the people how they’ve corrupted God’s vineyard (1-7). Isaiah then outlines Judah’s corruption (8-23). Lastly, Isaiah prophesizes that a foreign nation will punish Judah for her sins (24-30). As Isaiah speaks of Judah’s sins, he includes Judah’s political class in the middle section. It is hard not to think about how many of these sins given for Judah rings true for the United States today. 

Axios, not a news organization friendly to President Trump, hence “progressive,” wrote an article exposing the “relationship” between Representative Eric Swalwell and a Chinese spy named Fang Fang (aka Christina Fang). Fang began “associating” with Swalwell while he was just a city councilman in Dublin, California. Fang raised money for Swalwell’s campaigns for Congressional office. The question raised by those alarmed by Swalwell’s association with Fang, who left the country in 2015 after coming under investigation, is what information, if any, was leaked to China. Despite Swalwell’s assertion that it was not a “romantic” relationship, it is interesting to note that Swalwell’s brother and father likewise maintained social media connections with Fang until the story from Axios broke.  

Swalwell spoke to Politico and blamed President Trump for the Axios story. He says that the only crime committed was that someone leaked information to Axios. Swalwell is silent about whether he had a sexual relationship with the known Mata-Hari-type spy. As one commenter stated during a national talk show, though, it seems unlikely Fang would have “wasted four years drilling a dry hole” (an idiom from the oil industry). When money is involved, there is typically the expectation of something to be given in return. At least one news outlet, since the Axios story broke, has noted how “pro-China” Swalwell has been during his Congressional career. 

One of the signs of Judah’s corruption given in verse 23 was justifying bribery. Note that passage: “…Who justify the wicked for a bribe, And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!” (NASB) I do not mean to single Swalwell out. Nor do I wish to sound that only those sharing his political affiliation are capable of sin. The problem may well be how Christians view our democratic process. We continuously turn a blind eye to our political class because we are not a theocracy. Hence, we feel that we should stress their secular leadership qualities rather than their moral character. 

The older I become, the more I feel inclined to accept the judgment of brother David Lipscomb about the Christian’s political involvement. For those unfamiliar with brother Lipscomb’s view, he stated that since we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we do not involve ourselves in political affairs. Concerning voting, brother Lipscomb said that we don’t know the will of God concerning who the winner of a contest should be. Thus, to vote against the candidate that God has chosen to fulfill His purpose is to vote against God’s will. It is a complex subject falling within the realm of judgment rather than doctrine, however. While Paul shows us that one may utilize his citizenship rights (Acts 16.35-39;25.11), he did not live in a republic, as do we. Rome had already become imperial. Therefore, Paul was subject to the whims of an authoritarian leader. 

Thomas Jefferson famously stated that he feared that God’s justice could not sleep forever. The context of Jefferson’s words was the institution of slavery. Whether the American Civil War was of God or not, it took bloodshed to deal with an injustice ignored by our Founding Fathers. We might use Jefferson’s words out of their context, though, to warn that our God’s justice will not sleep forever when it comes to our rampant immorality from the ordinary citizen to those in leadership. In many respects, we have become a people who call good, evil, and evil, good.  Woe to us, indeed.  

Sources Consulted 

Allen-Ebrahimian, Bethany, and Zach  Dorfman. “Exclusive: How a Suspected Chinese Spy Gained Access to California Politics.” Axios, Axios Media, 8 Dec. 2020, www.axios.com/china-spy-california-politicians-9d2dfb99-f839-4e00-8bd8-59dec0daf589.html

Bresnahan, John. “Rep. Swalwell Says Trump Criticism behind Spy Story.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 10 Dec. 2020,www.politico.com/news/2020/12/08/swalwell-trump-criticism-spy-story-443845

Steinbuch, Yaron, and Mark Moore. “Swalwell Mum on Sex with China Spy, but Family Remains Facebook Friends with Honeytrap.” New York Post, New York Post, 9 Dec. 2020, nypost.com/2020/12/09/rep-swalwell-wont-say-if-he-had-sex-with-chinese-spy/

Moore, Mark. “Eric Swalwell’s Brother, Dad Finally Unfriend Chinese Spy Christine Fang.” New York Post, New York Post, 10 Dec. 2020, nypost.com/2020/12/10/eric-swalwells-brother-dad-unfriend-chinese-spy-fang-fang/

Gertz, Bill. “Security Questions Raised about Swalwell and China.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 9 Dec. 2020,www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/dec/9/eric-swalwells-china-views-raise-security-question/

WHAT YOU DO WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

WHAT YOU DO WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

Neal Pollard

In discussions about the smartest person who ever lived, William James Sidis’ name will come up as being in the mix. Though measuring IQs with a specific number is not an exact science, he is reputed to have had an IQ of 200 or more. He was reading the New York Times at 18 months old. He taught himself eight languages and made up another one. He enrolled at Harvard University at the record young age of 11. He was a professor at what’s now Rice University by the age of 17. He was a renowned mathematician. But, adjusting to mainstream society proved an ongoing problem for Sidis, whose extreme, socialistic politics and eccentric behaviors dogged him for the rest of his life. He died of a brain aneurysm in 1944 at the age of 46. With such a brilliant mind, his contributions to the world were relatively small. In fact, most of us have never heard of Bill Sidis (much information from Amy Wallace’s sometimes disputed biography, The Prodigy, Dutton: New York, 1986).

We all know people who rose from poverty, dysfunction, and perceived disadvantage who have risen to great heights in their profession and their personal lives. Those abused as children, those who grew up in homes afflicted with drug use or alcoholism, and those whose parents went through failed relationship after failed relationship, have grown up to break such patterns by becoming loving, effective parents and spouses. Some who were given little have done much with it.

Jesus teaches the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, which demonstrates the good and bad stewardship of three particular individuals. Two faithfully used what they were given, but another was unfaithful. The Lord shows us God’s dim view toward one who fails to use what he or she has been given.

Most of us are somewhere on the continuum between the one talent man and the world’s smartest man. Scripture shows us that we must be faithful stewards (1 Cor. 4:2) and that we will give an account for our stewardship (Mat. 25:14-30), whether money, abilities, opportunities, time, or whatever our relative resources. May we be encouraged to do as much as we can with what we have been given. How great to be acknowledged by Christ before all nations as one who did the most with what we had!

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DO WE HAVE CONFUSING MENU TERMS?

DO WE HAVE CONFUSING MENU TERMS?

Neal Pollard

Open Table, a company that facilitates reservations at better restaurants, sent a quiz today to test my familiarity with some of the more sophisticated menu terms one encounters. I made 40%, and at least a few of my right answers were lucky guesses. Truly, I’ve never heard of “okonomiyaki,” “Harissa,” “gochujang,” or “crudo.” These and others were foreign words, in the literal and culinary sense. Certainly, chefs, maitre d’s, refined diners, and the otherwise alimentary literate folks know these terms, but most of us are proud to differentiate between la fork and la spoon. We also do not like to be made to feel less than intelligent by the more informed foodie.

The more we try to be soul-conscious and truly sensitive to the visitors who attend our services, the more thoughtfully we should consider especially the terms we use and even take for granted. We’ve used them so long that maybe we assume everybody knows them.  But, these visitors may be sitting there, despite their intelligence and capability, feeling ignorant or uninitiated as we pepper them with “expediency,” “hermeneutics,” “extend the invitation,” “conversion,” “denominational,” “redemption,” and other terms that require the context of our learned church culture. Other terms, not at all hard to define, are terms that mean something specific to us but that mean something else to those without our “background”: sin, salvation, repentance, worship, born again, holy, works, grace, etc.  On many occasions, I’ve looked at some of the lyrics in our songbook and have found, especially in older songs where words have inevitably changed or fallen into disuse, we press on without defining or explaining these words to our youth, new Christians, or non-Christian attendees. “Could my zeal no respite know?”  “His garment too were in cassia dipped?” “Heavenly portals loud with hosannas ring?” Many, many more examples of such lines could be produced!

My point is not to be critical. There is no way we can define every word a visitor or newcomer may encounter in our worship services, but we do have so many who do not have our grasp of our unique terms. We have a serious obligation to them (cf. 1 Cor. 14:22-25). If we took some time to define the words of our songs, sermons, and even prayers, we would be helping those several groups who may not “get” it otherwise—teens and pre-teens, some of our young adults, a lot of our first-generation Christians, new converts, and those valuable visitors who may be termed “unchurched.” It will help the rest of us, too, to break down our rote and memorized sentences and think about what some of those “ten-cent” theological terms really mean. God desires worship that involves our heart (cf. John 4:24), and clear comprehension is a key to achieving that. May we deliberate on this when we assemble together this Lord’s Day!

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Who knows what this is?

A TRUTH IN THE MIDST OF TRANSIENCE (poem)

A TRUTH IN THE MIDST OF TRANSIENCE (poem)

Neal Pollard

Waters vast and oceans deep create a marvel and wonder
By its volume and power but also the creatures that you’ll find thereunder.
The stars and planets, galaxies, the universe, the vastness of outer space
The finest particles and smallest molecules, the most infinitesimal place.
The power of the greatest man who rules upon the land
The lowliest person who grovels around unseen and far from grand.
The outward beauty and loveliness of the Lord’s most fair person
The inward workings and intricate details of us all makes this so very certain.
To look upon the mountains high, whether green or rocky or tall
To investigate the tiniest plant and the creatures so delicate and small
Look afar or microscopically, dig and search, uncover
Test it, taste it, see it, smell it, here’s what you’ll discover
Locked within our DNA or viewed from light years away
You see the same truth, over and over, a fact that’s here to stay.
We are the evidence of a Being whose power and knowledge are unending
Who makes what is made extraordinary, through His infinite nature expending
But making what’s made and doing what’s done, His resources are not depleted
Because He is God, He’s never without. He never needs completed.
He’s worthy and mighty, He’s wonderful and true, the God we worship and serve
He’s faithful and ingenious, active and gracious, from perfection He cannot swerve
As you walk through the day and make observations, what you see or happens to you.
Whatever may change, crumble, fall, or fade away, God will still be faithful and true.

                             Endothelial cells viewed under a microscope

“THE UNIVERSE IS ETERNAL”

“THE UNIVERSE IS ETERNAL”

Neal Pollard

Articles across the scientific community of late have been postulating a similar idea. Astrophysicist Brian Koberlein suggests that there was no single point in space and time when matter was infinitely dense, saying, “The catch is that by eliminating the singularity, the model predicts that the universe had no beginning. It existed forever as a kind of quantum potential before ‘collapsing’ into the hot dense state we call the Big Bang. Unfortunately many articles confuse ‘no singularity’ with ‘no big bang’” (briankoberlein.com). One of the most recent darlings of this explanations are Ahmed Farag Alia and Saurya Das, whose paper “Cosmology from quantum potential” is being cited by quantum physicists and astrophysicists.  As this gets traction, there should be a trickle down effect until the broader scientific community embraces this idea.

Let’s hope so!

It could be a pivotal moment in the creation versus evolution debate.  Why?  When you wade through the technical, obtuse jargon, this theory concludes that the universe is eternal.  We all know that something has always had to exist.  Our options are “intelligent, moral, animate mind” or “mindless, amoral, inanimate matter.”  The faith factor has just multiplied by a centillion for those wanting a God-less explanation.  The same argument they have tried to level against those believing in intelligent design and creation applies to them.  How did that eternal matter get here?

Here’s the difference between the two arguments.  Matter not only had to “create” itself, it also had to develop (evolve?) intelligence, morality, purpose, etc.  The Bible reveals an intelligent designer (Creator) with inherent morality, purpose, and sufficient power and energy to make it all.  “It’s too simplistic,” they say.  “How quaint!”  But to a person who is truly trying to approach these two explanations with open-minded fairness, which of these two ideas will seem more plausible?  It won’t even be a fair contest!

Let’s hope this latest attempt to explain our origin finds favor among those who “say there is no God” (Ps. 14:1) and who “suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18ff).  Maybe it will help more honest searchers “find” God (Acts 17:27). I think it will!