Judging The Right Way

Judging The Right Way

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Matthew 7:1-5 contains that well known verse, “Judge not that you be not judged.”

This has been a misquoted and misunderstood section of scripture because some have taken this to mean that Jesus is implying that not judging someone involves a complete acceptance of a sinful lifestyle. This obviously isn’t the case since later in this same chapter He tells us that we can judge others based on their fruits. How will we know if a “sheep” is really a “wolf” in disguise? 

We can sort the wool from the wolves by judging the actions of both. 

Some level of judgment, then, must be passed on our part, but this is not to be an action of belittlement. Jesus will masterfully use the illustration of the plank-eyed man attempting to remove a speck out of another’s eye. Notice how our Lord doesn’t reprimand the attempt to remove the speck, but that we can see the speck better when that metaphorical plank is removed from our own eye. 

Jesus is not teaching an acceptance of sin, nor is it a lack of love. Unconditional love is a requirement, but Jesus shows that it is possible to love the sinner and hate the sin. A speck can keep us from the narrow gate just as easily as a plank can– and both should be removed. 

Here are three thoughts to consider on these verses

  1. Our own planks aren’t as obvious to us as they are to others. Before becoming agitated and aggravated with a brother or sister we should keep in mind that they may not know what is so obvious to others. 
  2. Our eyes must be clear if we are ever going to help others.
  3. Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t help, but that we are required to. 
Three Keys To Better Bible Classes

Three Keys To Better Bible Classes

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard  

The Tompkinsville church family is blessed to have some righteous and knowledgeable elders. In the past week and in separate Bible classes these men have each shed some insight on three different biblical texts. One elder brought a passage of scripture to the table that clarified the difference between anger and sinful anger. Another elder gave a separate take on the dispersion of humanity after the language change at Babel. After a discussion surrounding the blessing that was promised to Jacob, one of the elders broadened the scope and showed how that promise played out in Jacob’s life and in the life of the Israelites. Though the insights they offered in class were contrary to some beliefs in the brotherhood, they navigated the disagreements with grace and tact. These were not matters of salvation and in some cases were simply a matter of opinion.

The biblical text is not always clear in the English translations since there is the cultural and linguistic barriers that must be taken into consideration. Since that’s the case, there are occasionally opposing views that could both be correct. To some degree, speculation and educated guess work will attempt to fill in the gaps. Is there a hard line in the sand that indicates when anger becomes sinful? Certainly. Could God have miraculously scattered the confused people after the Tower of Babel was completed? Yes. God could have also allowed them to naturally migrate to their respective regions. Are there several applications that can be taken from Genesis 32 where we read that Jacob wrestled with God? Definitely. A church family should appreciate an eldership with a heart and mind so immersed in God’s word that they have drawn their own conclusions based on their personal study. Godly men and women express their faithfulness in Bible classes in several ways. 

  • First, they understand that the truth must be spoken in love (Ephesians 4.15). They are able to tell the difference between matters of opinion and matters of salvation. 
  • Second, they are eager to maintain a unity of spirit and a bond of peace (Ephesians 4.3-6). Godly members are not purposefully divisive or quick to start heated debates. 
  • Third, the older Christians recognize the responsibility they have to share their wisdom with the younger generation and the godly youth respect the wisdom that is given from the older generation (Titus 2.2-12). 

When the body of Christ is unified it’s also unstoppable. The church family that respects those God-given rolls that we are all assigned will find that Bible classes, Biblical discussion, and relationships are enriched and strengthened. Knowledge is both shared and received in love and humility. 

It Only Takes A Crack

It Only Takes A Crack

Friday Column: Brent’s Bent

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Brent Pollard

“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3.14 NASB1995). 

Mike Schmit of Markesan, Wisconsin, grew the largest pumpkin in the United States in 2021. The pumpkin weighed in at 2,520 pounds. Yet, Schmit is not winning the $22,680 prize he could otherwise have received from California’s Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. (They pay $9 per pound for the winning pumpkin.) Schmit is not the winner because the pumpkin he grew developed a fingernail-sized crack from internal forces within the pumpkin. That tiny flaw was sufficient to disqualify his pumpkin from the competition.*  

In like manner, spiritually, there will be those surprised by the Judgment of God since they esteem themselves worthy of His eternal prize. They will discover too late that they had a crack in their discipleship. No, it is not a matter of lacking sinless perfection. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3.23). But there will be those who disqualify themselves by failing to be obedient to God’s Will (Matthew 7.21-23). They may do good things, even in the name of Christ. Yet, men ignore God’s Word regarding what he must do to receive eternal life.  

By what name do men call their religious bodies? What do men teach is necessary to receive salvation? How do they teach that we worship? How is the church they attend organized? Opinions and methodology vary among practitioners within generic Christendom because no one checks to see what the Bible teaches. They ignore God’s guidance about neither adding to nor taking from God’s Word (Deuteronomy 4,2; 1212.32; Proverbs 30.6; Revelation 22.18). “God didn’t say that I could not do thus-and-such.” “Surely, God is OK with this.” As Jesus said of the religious leaders of His day: “This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15.8-9 NASB1995). 

We began by sharing Peter’s admonition to be diligent in our efforts to remain spotless and blameless. The only way that is possible is through obedience. Through obedience, we walk with God enabling His Son’s blood to provide continuous cleansing from our sin (1 John 1.7). Essentially, God’s grace covers the cracks that form because of human nature. That grace makes it seem as if no cracks began. However, for the disobedient or those whose obedience is incomplete, the flaws remain. As Mike Schmit can tell you, a tiny crack is sufficient to disqualify one’s efforts. As costly as a crack is to the pumpkin grower, it is even more so to the lost soul. Therefore, we owe it to God to ensure that while we live, we do so according to His Will.   

 

*Hooper, Ben. “Tiny Crack Disqualifies Pumpkin Thought to Be Largest in U.S.” UPI, UPI, 18 Oct. 2021, www.upi.com/Odd_News/2021/10/18/heaviest-pumpkin-disqualified-Markesan-Wisconsin/8621634581685

  

Deprivation In The Land Of Plenty

Deprivation In The Land Of Plenty

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

It is likely the most willfully ignorant who would deny that we are entering a period of inflation. Various issues are causing this, such as rising fuel costs and a growing sector of society preferring unemployment to gainful employment. To illustrate this, look no further than our ports. There are dozens of ships parked off our coasts with an insufficient workforce to unload the products at the docks. COVID-19 indeed gets its share of the blame for this but, despite the pundits, cannot account for it all. Thus, we are beginning to see shortages of certain products and empty shelves in stores. For example, we will be running out of certain products again while it sits on a ship just hundreds of feet from our shore. Thus, we may well experience deprivation in the shadow of plenty. 

This deprivation happens with greater frequency within our collective spiritual lives. For example, how many households own unread Bibles? I would venture to guess that there are many. So here we have people sitting in the presence of plenty but suffer for a “lack of knowledge” (cf. Isaiah 5.13; Hosea 4.6). The Israelites ended up in captivity because of a similar choice of ignoring God’s Word. We cannot suppose that a gracious-but-just God would allow those of us living under the New Testament to skate when committing the same offense. Jesus depicted a Judgment scene in His Sermon on the Mount. Do you recall what He said to those crying, “Lord, Lord?” God only allows heavenly entry to those doing the Father’s will (Matthew 7.21-23). And where do we learn of God’s Will? Peter says that God has given us all things about life and godliness (2 Peter 1.3ff). And Paul reminds us that the Scriptures are God-breathed [inspired] (2Timothy 3.16-17). Lastly, Jesus confirms this Word as truth (John 17.17). Indeed, God has left us with a book into which even the angels desire to look (1 Peter 1.12). 

So why do people suffer spiritual want? God’s Word sits like those cargo ships, within reach of those who would profit from it. The problem lies in the lack of readers on this side of eternity’s shore. Oh, there are excuses, to be sure. For example, “I’m too busy and cannot find time to read.” Or “I get enough instruction during church services.” But their stores are increasingly empty of what the spirit most needs. Unlike our current economic situation in the United States, where reliance on imports leaves us in a lurch, there is a different reality in the spiritual realm. Since we refuse to partake of the plenty God has supplied, the devil gladly steps in and stocks our shelves for us with the sensual. Since our focus is on the immediate, we don’t notice we’ve traded our soul for that which will destroy us (Matthew 6.19-21; Luke 9.25; Luke 12.16-33). 

Get to work (2 Timothy2.15)! Grab that Bible and unload its truth into your heart. Don’t suffer deprivation in the shadow of plenty.    

Handling Thorny Issues

Handling Thorny Issues

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Christians live on planet earth and aren’t immune to social issues. The vaccine is one of them. This article is NOT about vaccination specifically. I am not qualified to write about it, but this wouldn’t be an appropriate forum even if I was.

However, this issue has influenced the church in a few timeless ways: misapplying scripture, creating division, and engendering hostility.

Misapplying Scripture: Applying Romans 13 to this subject is not appropriate. Nothing about the passage sheds light on which governing authority we should follow. What if federal law contradicts state or local law? Which do we follow then? I Peter 2.13-14 does address varying levels of governing authority, but does not specify which takes precedence. Both passages demand submission to everyone who has authority over us because it’s what God wants. As it stands now, neither passage applies to this issue. We cannot use God’s word to enforce or condemn issues that have no bearing on salvation. When state or local law is in conflict with federal law (or vice versa) and the issue at hand isn’t a salvation issue, it falls under the jurisdiction of Romans 14.

Creating Division: Differences in opinion aren’t new to the church. No reasonable person will call this a salvation issue, so it does fall under the purview of Romans 14. We need to remember the commands in this passage: accept those who have different opinions (1), do not think poorly of those who disagree (3), do not judge someone who exercises preference (3), make decisions based on conviction (5), do not condemn each other over opinions (13), don’t let opinions destroy relationships (15), and don’t let your decision become a problem (16). What does this mean for us? Respect your Christian family’s decision, do not think less of them because of their decision, make the decision you feel is best for you, don’t condemn someone based on their decision, and don’t let an issue that has no bearing on our Christian lives become a source of division.

Hostility: The previous point addresses this somewhat, but sinful behavior has come out of this. Thinking less of a Christian who gets the vaccine is sinful. Thinking less of a Christian who doesn’t get the vaccine is sinful.

Nothing about this issue is new or different. Controversial opinions over military service, firearms, holiday observance, or vaccination are not handled any differently. God expects us to put these kinds of issues in their proper place: the back seat.

“We have to love each other, because love comes from God and everyone who has love belongs to God and knows him. Anyone who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love” (I Jn. 4.7-8).

“Love each other deeply with a pure heart” (I Pt. 1.22).
“You must continue to love each other” (Heb. 13.1).
“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness” (I Tim. 6.11).

It’s Time To Check Out

It’s Time To Check Out

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Several weeks ago I was told a sermon illustration with a very powerful reminder.

It begins with a scenario that each one of us is quite familiar with. You’re at the grocery store and you’re shopping for your weekly groceries. In this illustration we are introduced to two very different shoppers.

Shopper #1

This person can be summarized as an individual who is definitely NOT on a diet of any kind. They go through each aisle grabbing anything and everything that looks good to them. They aren’t concerned about health or nutrition, they get whatever they want. If it looks good, they grab it. If it tastes good, they take it.

Their shopping cart is filled with all kinds of unhealthy food. I’m talking Cheetos, Mountain Dew, Little Debbies, cake batter, and ice cream. Bottom line, Shopper #1 is an unhealthy individual who has only one desire, to eat what looks good to them with absolutely no consideration for nutrition or health. This individual is similar to those described in scripture who are trapped in several deadly sins. Shopper #1 through his choices symbolizes those in the world who choose to practice sins such as lusting (James 1:14-15), gluttony (Phil. 3:17-19), laziness (Prov. 6:6), anger (Col. 3:8), envy (Prov. 14:30), and pride (Prov. 16:18). The sins found in Shopper #1’s cart are by no means an exhaustive list, but they are examples of what to expect in this kind of person’s cart.

Shopper #2

This individual is a completely different type of shopper. They are on a serious diet. It’s almost depressing to look at wha’ts in their cart. It’s all healthy and beneficial to the body. It’s items like carrots, peas, broccoli, chicken breast, yogurt, fruit, and spinach. This person isn’t focused on the taste necessarily, but more on the nutrition and vitamins found in food. This shopper symbolizes the ones who Paul would call dedicated Christians.

1 Tim. 6:11, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” Who does Paul call a man or woman of God? The shopper who chooses: Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. The person who is dedicated to filling their cart with these things and other similar traits is a true Christian. Shopper #2 chooses to eat healthy no matter how gross or inconvenient the food may look. Both shoppers went to the same store and passed the same choices.

The illustration comes to a close as the two shoppers get to the checkout line.

Shopper #1 empties their cart at checkout and begins ringing up their grocery items. They scan their anger, their pride, their envy, and the rest of their life choices. They finish and pay what is due. Shopper #2 does the same. They scan their faith, love, gentleness and the rest of their godly choices. They empty their cart, but something unexpected happens.

As they reach for their wallet to pay the total on the screen says 0. Their groceries are paid for in full.

Shopper #1 lived his life however he pleased. He chose to do what made him happy and when checkout time came he was required to pay in full.

Shopper #2 lived their life according to God’s Word. They did their best to fill their cart with the things that pleased God.

Because of this decision, God has paid their bill in full. The one who has put on Christ and has devoted his life to serving God will find grace and mercy on that final day. Not out of his own good works, but through grace and salvation found in faith in God. This leads us to the all-important question, “What’s in my shopping cart?” Is it filled with the things I want? Is it junk food and sin? If so, one day I will pay for this decision. Or is it filled with the things that lead to eternal life? If your cart is filled with sin, there’s still hope (1 Cor. 6:9-11). If you have made the choice to fill your life with sin, it’s not too late to empty the cart and start over. And the time to do that is right now.

Where Is He?

Where Is He?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

It’s tempting to run with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, “But of that day and hour no man knows…only the father.” We might think we’re all set or that he won’t come in our lifetime. I Thessalonians 5.1-3 reinforces the surprise nature of his return. II Peter 3 says the same. For sure, we won’t know when, but it’s good to be reminded that we aren’t promised tomorrow. 

The Patriarchal Age lasted roughly 2500 years, the Law was in effect for around 1500 years, and we’ve been in the last age for nearly 2000 years. No one can point to a day, but there’s nothing wrong with living as if He’s coming back in our lifetime. 

“Since all of these things will be destroyed, what kind of people should you be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hurrying God’s return?” (II Pet. 3.11). 

“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (I Thess. 5.1-3). 

Love And Fear

Love And Fear

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

 
How many Christians are afraid of the judgment day? Maybe we are worried we haven’t done enough, or maybe we are thinking of a specific sin that would keep us from entering heaven? It is also a possibility that we may just be plain scared of everything that will take place on that day. 1 John 4:18 is one of the most comforting verses in Scripture. It tells us that if we are a faithful Christian there is no reason to be afraid.
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – 1 John 4:18
 
While this verse can very easily be taken out of context, the true meaning should give us hope and comfort. John tells us three important fact concerning the Christian and judgment day.
 
Love = No Fear
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” This love is strong enough to calm our fears concerning the day of judgment. But what is perfect love? When we hear the word perfect we think of taking something flawed and making it flawless in every way. Does this mean we need to have a love that is flawless in every way? This word perfect is teleos which is defined as “attaining an end or purpose; complete.” This word is best illustrated like this, if your flashlight batteries die and you need 2 AAA, it doesn’t matter if you have an unopened box of AA’s. The used AAA’s in your TV remote are perfect for the job.
 
Our love is complete and perfect when we abide in God. Love cannot cast out our fear of the judgement day if we are loving the wrong things. Our perfect and complete love can cast out fear when we abide in the ONE who is, and always will be, the author and perfecter of love. Perfect love that is found in the Christian who is wholeheartedly abiding in the Creator has no reason to be afraid of the judgment day.
 
Punishment = Fear
 
One of the worst phrases you can hear as a kid when you get in trouble is, “just wait till your father gets home.” The thought and anticipation of punishment brings about fear and dread. 1 John 4:18 says, “For fear has to do with punishment.” The fear we may feel concerning the judgment day stems from the punishment that might come upon us. And it is only right that we should fear the punishment of hell, a very real place that is saved for those who have chosen to do nothing about their sin problem. The thought of hell should scare us. It is a place that will forever torment the souls of those who are lost. Fear has to do with punishment, so will we be punished on the judgment day?
 
Punishment equals fear, but there’s good news for those in Christ. We have NO reason to fear the judgment. The judgment day will be a day of reward for faithful Christians. There is no fear of punishment because God has promised us a place in heaven with Him.
 
Fear = Imperfect Love
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
 
If we are afraid of the judgment this could mean several things about our Christianity:
  • Fear shows us that we have room to grow (Our love hasn’t reached its designed end with God)
  • Fear can reveal a possible lack of faith (maybe we are afraid because we doubt the words we read in 1 John 1, or revelation 21?)
  • Fear exposes the sin in our lives (if there is sin in our lives that is continuous and habitual we SHOULD be afraid)
 
With these facts in mind we should take this verse and use it to shape our attitude concerning that day. Let the love of God change the way we live. Let the love of God influence our decisions and actions. Let the perfected love of God give us confidence on the day of judgment.
WHAT WOULD I GRAB?

WHAT WOULD I GRAB?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

John Castillo Kennedy writes a riveting account of the fire that swept through San Francisco in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake that struck on April 18, 1906. The earthquake and resulting fires, which killed 3000 people, destroyed 80% of the city. Among the dead was the city fire chief. Firefighters, unaccustomed to using dynamite to create firebreaks, caused several of the fires. 

At one point early in the fires, according to Castillo, the spread of the flames surprised people living along Pine, Bush, and Sutter Streets, forcing them to flee immediately. They had been confident that the flames would not reach them there. The author says,

“Quickly filled trunks grated up the hills. Wagons, mostly pulled by men, rattled over the rough cobblestones. Baby carriages and toy express wagons rolled along packed full with the ‘things’ people had snatched up in the flight. Pianos were bumped along the sidewalks–some went to pieces in the process. Sewing machines slipped along on their rollers with stacks of bedding and the like lashed to them. Women had their valuables on their person, or carried trinkets Gypsywise in handkerchiefs. Men wore columns of hats five-high. Some carried only a book. Parrots jabbered and scolded from many cages. Some people had blankets. Girls usually had bandboxes. Boys stretched poles between them and carried, suspended there, bundles of clothing and provisions. Once it was only a ham” (83). 

These panic-stricken people, with no time to prepare, reached for the thing that had the most practical or sentimental value to them. Something made people faced with total loss and threat of life to lug heavy items or pets or food. Many of the choices seem irrational. Perhaps they were in shock or acting in impulse. In essays and contests asking people what they would grab if their house was on fire and they could only grab one thing, they have cited passports, wills, legal documents, insurance policies, personal papers, portable hard drives, phones, etc.

I’m trying to put myself in their shoes. If I was in one of the many neighborhoods forced to flee my home with no time to spare, what would I have been sure to grab? How long would it take my mind to settle on sentimental family items like old photos, my wedding video, or the boys’ baby books? Would I be relieved if I could make it out with my Bible, though I saved nothing else?

I do not judge those folks with their bizarre, split-second decisions. For some reason, it just made me do some introspection. What does my priority list look like? What do I value most in my life and in my home? What would I try to be sure to preserve?

Perhaps the answers to those questions is best provided by my choices in ordinary, every-day actions. I want my wife, children, fellow-Christians, and, most of all, my God to see from my life that they come before the things of this world. The things will all ultimately burn (2 Pet. 3:10). It is the relationships that will outlast the final, global conflagration. I pray that my influence and example will save them from the fire (Jude 23).  

Reference: Kennedy, John Castillo. The Great Earthquake And Fire: San Francisco, 1906 (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1963). 

 

Life Lessons Hit Hard

Life Lessons Hit Hard

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard
 
April 30th 2:30 PM.
 
It was a gorgeous sunny day without a cloud in the sky. I shot Dale a text and told him to meet up with me at a mom and pop gas station outside of Huntsville for a BLT.
 
I grabbed my motorcycle keys, helmet, and leather vest. On the way out the door I decided to throw on my jean jacket underneath my vest. I don’t know why I did this because the temperature was close to 80 degrees. I hopped on my bike, turned on some Hank Williams Jr., and headed towards Huntsville.
 
2:37 PM
 
I was biking on the road that led to those amazing gas station BLT’s. I had been on this road hundreds of times, but today’s trip ended a little differently than normal. I noticed a truck slowly pulling out of the driveway of the local shooting range. He crept forward and then stopped. I figured he was stopping because he saw me coming. I get about 100 feet away from the truck, and he pulls out. He turned left blocking both lanes of traffic and I knew what was about to happen. I pulled the clutch and grabbed a fist full of brakes, but it was too late.
 
2:38 PM
 
It’s amazing how many thoughts you can have in such a short time. Everything slowed down and as the truck got closer I thought about Emily, my family, my spiritual state, and BLT’s. The initial impact was to my left leg, then my head hit the front body panel of the truck. The last thing I remember is a sharp pain in my head and a blinding flash of white.
 
2:43 PM
 
I woke up in a ditch and the first thing I saw was my motorcycle upside down next to me and somehow “Feelin’ Better” by Hank was still playing from the speakers on my bike. Incredibly, I didn’t break a single bone or have any major head injuries. Needless to say, I never got that BLT.
 
May 12th 1:21 PM
 
I’m at the church building with my brother writing an article for tomorrow morning. I can’t stop thinking about everything that happened. I can’t help but feel like God’s providence was written all over that day.
The jean jacket I grabbed at the last minute saved my arms from getting road rash, the crash bars I installed literally the night before absorbed the initial impact. Those bars were an inch and a half solid steel pipe and they folded like a quesadilla. That would’ve been my leg if it weren’t for the time I spent installing them the night before.
 
I realized several important facts that day:
 
  1. Only God knows what tomorrow holds (Prov. 27:1).
  2. Death is certain, but when we die is uncertain. Because of sin we are destined to die. I could’ve died on a motorcycle, or from a heart attack from too much bacon. Bottom line, we must be spiritually prepared to leave this earth at any moment (Heb. 9:27; Matt. 24:42-44).
  3. Some things are more important than a motorcycle. Like my parents’ mental health and blood pressure. Emily’s well-being and peace of mind is far more important than a bike. It’s a matter of looking at things from the other person’s point of view. Practicing the golden rule (Matt. 7:12). I would be a wreck if either of my parents bought a motorcycle (pun intended).
 
So here’s my two cents for those reading this:
 
It’s beneficial to take a step back and look at our priorities. If we value anything on earth more than God, we will leave this earth unprepared.
 
If there’s sin in our lives, procrastination is the absolute worst thing we could do. Tomorrow is never promised.
 
Be mindful of what our actions do to others. It may not even be sinful, but it’s all about showing a love that values others’ peace of mind and well-being above yourself.
 
P.S. Watch out for black Dodge trucks; they don’t stop.