WikiLeaks (And God)

Jeff Wiant (guest baker)

Up until this past election cycle I had never even heard of WikiLeaks. Months and endless press later, I have become very familiar with this website. For those who may have been living under a rock for the past few months, WikiLeaks is a website that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media that they receive from anonymous sources for the world to see. Just looking on their page the other day, I discovered links that would allow me to read private emails from a presidential candidate and her associates, secret files about global surveillance, private emails between top employees at Sony Pictures, and I could have even watched a classified video.

Through all of this browsing it made me start to wonder. With hindsight being 20/20, would the ones who wrote these emails or committed these acts have written or done things differently if they knew that in the future they would be exposed and the whole world would be able to see and judge them because of these leaks?

More importantly, this also got me thinking further about myself. Do I have any secrets that I would fear if they ever got out? Do I ever have thoughts in my head that are impure and unfaithful? Do I allow myself to continue to have these thoughts because, after all, I’m keeping them to myself? After all, who’s going to know?

Allow me to answer that question for us all:  GOD KNOWS! Like WikiLeaks in our world, God can, and does, unearth all these dark spots in our personal lives. But whereas there are still plenty of classified files and incriminating private emails out there that haven’t been, and won’t ever be, exposed by WikiLeaks, God already knows EVERYTHING there is to know about us.

As it says in Psalm 139:1-4, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.” God knows everything we do on the outside and the inside. Having that realization is very intimidating.

For more evidence of this you can also look at Hebrews 4:12-13, which states, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

We will all be judged. Not just based on what our family, friends, and the rest of the world see, but based on the EVERYTHING that God sees. You can’t hide anything from God. Knowing this, are there changes we need to make in our lives? Are there things we need to do and think about differently?

The good news is that it’s never too late and God is a forgiving God. If we do sin, we need to confess these sins to God ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). I challenge you to live with the knowledge in the front of your mind that God is always watching and listening. There are no secrets with God and there is no misleading God. Live the life He requires and you will receive your eternal reward in Heaven.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

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Jeff (holding Dallas)

Do You Believe In Goats?

Neal Pollard

With the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908, which year was near the end of Teddy Roosevelt’s second presidential term when there were only 46 United States and the first that Mother’s Day was celebrated in America, diehard fans believe a World War II-era “curse” has been lifted. Chicago tavern owner, Billy Sianis, “put” the curse on the Cubs when he and his goat were asked to leave game four of the 1945 World Series against the Tigers (imagine a goat even getting into a Major League park today). Fans point to strange, “inexplicable” events through time—most famously Steve Bartman in 2003—to support the “fact” of that curse (see more here: http://www.billygoattavern.com/legend/curse/).

For most of us, this is a fun and playful distraction that makes sports, particularly baseball, that much more fun. Superstition is a nuance that shows up in so many places: pitchers stepping over the foul line going back to the dugout, players not washing and re-wearing underclothes and uniforms, pre-game and post-game meals, etc. I would guess precious few actually believe there is real power in these rituals (on a personal note, my continuous practice of having to wake up wearing UGA apparel on football game days—begun in 1980—was once and for all broken in the midst of a bad 2016 season).

All joking aside, goats get negative attention in a place much more important than Wrigley Field. In Scripture, Jesus, in the last of five parables of preparation in Matthew 24-25, likens the lost to goats (Mat. 25:32-33). Commentators tell us that “their normal dirty state, it might even have been considered wise to leave it to the skilled shepherd to distinguish with confidence the sheep from the goats” (Nolland, NIGTC, np). In fact, throughout the Old Testament, sheep and goats were mostly interchangeable for milk, meat, sacrifice, and general use (ibid.). But, for the purpose of Judgment, Jesus is skillful and discerning enough to know with perfect discernment whether every individual is “goat” or “sheep.” No one is inadvertently mislabeled or misplaced. He will perfectly divide the saved from the lost.  Placement at Judgment will not be influenced by looks, wealth, popularity, education, or any other criteria the world embraces as success. Jesus tells us who both the goat and sheep are (Mat. 25:31-46).

Billy’s goat was not responsible for a “Cubs curse.” Yet, we should understand in a day when the world and even the religious are less inclined to label any activity goat-like, i.e., soul-condemning, Scripture makes it clear that Jesus has not lost any such ability to discern. In fact, He tells us most will be placed in the goat column (cf. Mat. 7:13-14). Let us love and respect God’s Word enough to avoid the curse He came to undo (Gal. 3:13; Rev. 22:3).

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Carelessness And Ignorance

Neal Pollard

Of course it happens on a week where you are already running a little late, and it contributes to an improper decision.  Sunday morning, en route to teach my Bible class, I approached the red light at Ken Caryl and Wadsworth to turn right and head up to the church building.  However, I did not execute a clean stop but rolled through it (since I could see that no cars were close enough to overtake me).  Unfamiliar with the mandatory use of the acceleration lane, I pulled on into the right lane of northbound traffic.  It was about fifteen seconds later that I noticed the State Trooper inviting me to pull over and chat about it. Truthfully, I did not realize I had rolled rather than stopped and I did not realize that I had to use the acceleration lane first. The extremely polite officer let me know that my ignorance and relative indifference did not make my actions lawful. Only because of his kindness and the validity of my insurance and registration did he let me go with just a warning. But, I was “dead to rights.”  It would have been an expensive lesson for a man who has been driving for 30 years as of this year. Oh, and I was 30 seconds late to my Bible class, too.

I will claim that I am a courteous and ordinarily lawful driver with a clean MVR (motor vehicle record), but that did not make me exempt from Colorado driving laws.

It is sobering to contemplate the great day of judgment. “All nations will be gathered before [Christ]” (Mat. 25:31). “Each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12; cf.  2 Cor. 5:10). “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16). “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecc. 12:14). While every child of God will be the benefactor of amazing grace available to all who walk in the light (Ti. 3:7; 1 Jn. 1:7), there will be moral, upright people lost for eternity (Mat. 7:21-24). God will deal out fiery retribution to “those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Th. 1:8). Despite this, they will pay the penalty of eternal destruction (2 Th. 1:9; cf. Mat. 25:46).

I cannot help but think of how many people will stand before the kind, beneficent Christ and claim ignorance or carelessness. He will have demonstrated great patience and doled out so many “second chances” (2 Pet. 3:9), but His long-suffering will have been exhausted in that day “when He comes to be glorified in His saints” (2 Th. 1:10). May we “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Pe. 3:15) and make sure we are in compliance with His reasonable expectations.

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The Appointment We Cannot Escape

Neal Pollard

William T. Turner was captain of the Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a german U-boat in May, 1915. He was one of the few officers saved (Montreal Gazette, 6/24/33, obituary). The Atlantic writes in an article that Turner was “relieving captain” of the SS Ivernia when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat on New Year’s Day, 1917, and he once again survived (James Gould, 5/7/15). Turner was a man renowned for heroics and not a coward, which makes a captain surviving the sinking of two ships all the more incredible. But in 1933, after three, bed-ridden months, Turner succumbed to intestinal cancer (Gazette).

A few years ago, I wrote about Roy Sullivan, the park ranger who had survived seven lightning strikes (Preacher Pollard Blog). What an incredible tale of survival, but Sullivan insured his own mortality when he committed suicide in 1983 (ibid.). The man was incredible, but not invincible.

Jeanne Louise Calment is thought to be the world’s longest living person in modern times. She was born in 1875 in France, met Vincent Van Gogh as a young teenager, but eventually died in a nursing home in 1997, 122 years old! She took up fencing at 85, rode a bicycle until she was 100, ate two pounds of chocolate each week and quit smoking at 119 (http://anson.ucdavis.edu/~wang/calment.html). Back in the antediluvian period, in a purer world closer to creation, several lived over 900 years. But in each case, scripture punctuates their earthly existence by saying, “…and he died” (Gen. 5:5).

I have been involved in so many funerals as a preacher, from the first I assisted with Gary Hampton in Gainesville, Alabama, in 1992, until as recently as a couple of weeks ago. What strikes me as much as anything, whether in preparation for it visiting with the family or during slide shows during the service, is watching the progression of life unfolded in photos. Usually they are arranged chronologically, so that the fresh faces of the baby becomes the look of vitality found in children and young adults gives way to the robust strength of early to middle adulthood. Signs of aging subtly appear as the photos fade in and out, the added pounds or gray hairs or the advent of wrinkles. Pictures eventually show frailty and signs of physical deterioration. Then, one in attendance simply needs to gaze at the casket, if present, to see that this once fresh, new physical life does not go on forever.

The writer of Hebrews speaks in hopeful, positive terms to Christians as he proclaims the superiority and potency of Jesus, our great High Priest. At the cross, He offered His own life to “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:26). Having a human body, Jesus was destined for death “inasmuch as it appointed for men to die once…” (9:27). Death is unavoidable, but it does not have to be unhinging. Death is followed by judgment, but that day can be the day of salvation realized and eager anticipation (9:28). What happens on the other side of death depends on what we do with Jesus on this side of it.  Whatever we decide, we will make the appointment Turner, Sullivan, Calment, Adam, and billions of others have already made. We must decide if we will meet it prepared.

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Jeanne later in life

HOW CAN WE ENSURE THE CHURCH WILL NOT GROW?

Neal Pollard

  • Talk Up Big Plans And Follow Through With Inactivity. This will build frustration and discouragement. Satanfears not the plan, but rather the working of it.
  • Make No Plans For The Future: Just Accept The Status Quo.  Just hope that the future will take care of itself. Buy into the “is/ought” fallacy: “The way it is is the way it ought to be.”
  • Do Not Practice Church Discipline. Let the disorderly walk unchecked in ungodliness. Let all members see how nonchalantly bad or grossly negligent behavior is treated.
  • Under-appreciate The Leadership. Do not pray for the elders, actively seek to help them, encourage them, express appreciation for them, submit to their authority (Heb. 13:7,17), or respect them. Just expect them to be without flaw or feelings.
  • Do Not Actively Enlist. Allow a small nucleus of folks to do the brunt of the work. Leave the majority of the members in the dark as to how and where to be involved. Ignore the fact that people must be personally invested to be faithful.
  • Pressure Or Allow The Pulpit To Be Form Over Substance. Make sure the preached message is soothing and non-offensive, fostering comfort and expecting little to nothing. Have the pulpit heavy on the social and light on Scripture.
  • Get Into The “Change Extremes”: “Nothing Is Sacred” Or “Nothing Is Changeable.”  Departing from the left or right will kill the church, whether its identity or effectiveness. Buy into every new fad that comes along or suspect and oppose any change which may scripturally improve the life and work of the church.
  • Make Personal Preferences And Opinions Binding. Equate personal discomfort with doctrinal sin. Take presumptuous positions, supposing there is biblical foundation without finding such. Allow the nay-saying of one or two thwart effective, soul-winning, and needed programs.
  • Have No Follow-up Program For New Christians. Let them make their own way to heaven after the water of baptism dries. Have no Bible study follow-up, fellowship mechanism, or other effort to integrate and educate these spiritual babes.
  • Maintain An Unchallenging Budget. Do not risk offending non-sacrificial members. Make plans by sight, not by faith. Do not make ambitious financial goals as a congregation.
  • Be Distant And Unloving With One Another. Confine association and fellowship to the building, and that in passing. Stay out of each others’ homes. Do not visit. Do not build friendships with those of like faith. Do not be involved in one another’s lives.
  • Take “Christ” Out Of Christianity. Be secular and worldly. Fail to be distinctive to a world desperately seeking something different from itself.
  • Ignore The Small And Voiceless. Be it children, elderly members, or the sick and shut-in, let them fall through the cracks of inattention. Treat singles, new Christians, and weak, struggling members as second-class citizens of the Kingdom.

It is easy to arrange things in the local congregation so that the church fails to grow. But, the Lord wants His body to grow. The early church grew (Acts 6:1,7; 9:31). A growing church reflects a church on fire for the Lord’s mission (Mat. 28:18ff) and in focus with the Lord’s desire (2 Pet. 3:9). May we overcome these church-shrinking tendencies and build a great church!

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WHEN GOD PAID A VISIT TO ISRAEL

Neal Pollard

The Bible tells the beautiful story about the day God visited earth as a human being, coming as a baby by way of the virgin Mary (John 1:14). Because He came here, we can hope to go to His home (John 14:1-3). But one day, He’s going to pay another visit, a visit that will be welcomed by the saved but horrific for the lost (2 Thess. 1:7-10). But, there have been times when God has come in judgment of people on earth, and Amos’ day was one of them (3:14). The prophet wrote, “That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Bethel; and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground.”  Some versions have the word “punish” instead of “visit.” Punishment was the purpose or nature of the visit.  Why did God pay a visit to Israel?

  • Life had become very cheap (2:6). Two different classes of people were viewed cheaply by Israel—the righteous (spiritually rich) and the needy (physically poor).  This could refer to those who were innocent of crimes who were found guilty through bribery and corruption. Apparently, a ridiculously small amount was required to purchase the poor. Throughout the history of mankind, evil people have found ways to devalue human life (slavery, abortion, euthanasia, prostitution, pornography, etc.). When God pays a visit and sees such an attitude toward life, He is not pleased (cf. Prov. 6:16-17). I should ask, “Do my everyday dealings with others reflect my high regard for human life? Do I see others as pawns in my hand to be manipulated, as those I can take advantage of for my selfish gain, or as those who can meet my needs?” This applies to fellow-Christians, too. Do I value them or devalue them (cf. Phil. 2:1-4)?
  • There was immorality (2:7).  God did not hesitate to enter the bedroom when He paid a visit. It was God who created sexuality, and what He made was good. Since the fourth chapter of the Bible, people have tampered with His design. By the time God visits Israel in Amos’ day, the condition of things in this area of life was disgusting and perverse. It violated the Law of Moses (Lev. 18:8). But it also violated the laws of common decency. It was that way in New Testament times in the church of Corinth (1 Cor. 5:1). Woe unto the people who, when God visits, He finds full of immorality. God created human sexuality and He lays the ground rules for it (Heb. 13:4).
  • There was ingratitude (2:9-10). It’s not clear whether the feasts in Amos 2:8 were legitimate and therefore abused worship to Jehovah or if these were pagan practices to idols. We know there was drunkenness and probably fornication during the course of these festivities, whatever the intended object of worship. But the root of the problem was a failure to acknowledge God’s hand in their protection and deliverance. These people failed to give God the credit for their success. They had been so blessed by God, but they ignored Him. It’s the problem of the nine ungrateful lepers in Luke 17:11-19. They appealed directly to God, He healed them, then they forgot Him. I believe that in our land of plenty, we must guard against ingratitude and even a sense of entitlement. We have running water on demand, clean water, hot water, air conditioning, dental plans or at least dentists, clean hospitals with the world’s best doctors and nurses, no malaria, cholera, or typhoid epidemics, retirement plans, and more. But we’re the most ungrateful people on the planet. As a Christian, I have even more than that. Am I grateful for it?
  • They closed the mouths of the prophets (2:12). They had aready tempted the Nazarites to break their vows (11). They were hard at work on the prophets, too, trying to stop them. When God visits a people, He had better find faithful messengers. Later, in Ezekiel’s day, God was hard pressed to find them (cf. Ezek. 22:30). Paul warned about this (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Woe to the preacher who has a price, who markets his message to the highest bidders. A man who sells out to his paycheck and a people who love to have it so will neither one fare well when God pays a visit.

These weren’t the only things God saw when He paid Israel a visit. They were out of step with God (3:3). Their women lost their spirituality (4:1). They corrupted their worship (4:4). They were rebellious (4:6). They had divorced religion from righteous living (5:21). They were at ease at Zion when they should have grieved over it (6:1). At the judgment seat of Christ, many people’s works will go up in flames. We must be ready when Christ pays a visit.

Confident And Unafraid

Neal Pollard

Some are afraid of death because they’re uncertain of where they are going, but others are afraid of death because they are certain of where they are going! Paul was confident even in the face of death (2 Tim. 4:6-8). He could see his end coming but he embraced it. While it is possible to have a false hope and confidence about eternity (cf. Mat. 7:21-23), the faithful New Testament Christian should be confident and unafraid of death. By looking at the last words we have from Paul, we can learn from him how to face death. How could he be so confident even in the face of death?

He was going to face Jesus as judge (1). Our relationship with Christ makes the difference. If I don’t know Jesus and haven’t made Him Lord, I don’t want to face Him in the judgment. But if I’m in Christ, there are several reasons why I long to face Him there.

  • He understands us (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15). Even before Christ came to earth, God was “mindful that we are but dust” (Psa. 103:14). When I stand before Christ, He will know what it was like to be me. He will have experienced temptation and be sympathetic and merciful.
  • He will be fair (2 Tim. 4:8—He’s the righteous judge). This means in accordance with what God requires. That means He won’t be more lenient than He’s promised, so I can’t expect to disobey His will in this life and hear Him say, “Claim your eternal inheritance in My Father’s house.” If I never obey the gospel, when I face Christ at the judgment He’ll be fair. If I obey the gospel but become unfaithful, when I face Him at the judgment He’ll be fair. But if I’ve tried to walk in His light, though I sometimes fell short, He’s going to be fair (1 Jn. 1:7-9). He knows I’ll be struggling with sin up until the day I die, but if He sees me struggling, He’s going to be fair. More than that, He’ll be merciful and faithful to atone for my sins!
  • He’s told us by what we’ll be judged (2 Tim. 4:2). It’s why we must faithfully present it in spirit and in truth “with great patience and instruction.” Jesus said His word will judge us in the last day (John 12:48).

I can face death confidently because it won’t be just any man judging me. Like you, I’ve had some people judge my actions and motives pretty harshly and unfairly. They may have thought they knew my heart or every fact, and they were ready and seemingly eager to pronounce me guilty. That’s not going to happen with Jesus! He’ll be consummately fair!

He spent his life doing good (5). This verse is the measuring stick of every gospel preacher, who asks, “Was my mind, endurance, work, and ministry as God wanted it to be?” No preacher wants to go through life and have these answers to be no. But in a broader sense, that’s a question every Christian needs to ask. Paul could look at his life with spiritual confidence (7). Three times, Paul, in essence, says, “I have” lived a faithful Christian life. You’ll remember that the first part of Paul’s life was spent not doing good, but from his conversion to his death he did good. Think about his missionary journeys in Acts. Think about all he went through for Christ that we read about in 2 Corinthians 11. What about the trials he mentions in Philippians 1? You may have a past you are ashamed of. Even as a Christian, you may have some regrets and things you wish you could change. But, if you’ve tried to walk in the light of Christ, you can face death and the judgment with blessed assurance.

He knew that he had a crown waiting (8). When we stop to think about death, it contains many variables that tend to make us anxious if not fearful. But Paul could look to death with the idea of its reward. The crown Paul speaks of is described in many ways in the New Testament:

  • It’s perfect (2 Tim. 4:8).
  • It’s permanent (1 Cor. 9:25).
  • It’s payment (Jas. 1:12).
  • It’s preeminent (1 Pet. 5:4).
  • It’s personal (Rev. 3:11).

But there’s not just one crown or a few crowns available. There’s one for “all who have loved his appearing.” If you sincerely desire it, you can receive it.

He knew that God would be with him (16-18). At the time he wrote, Paul knew betrayal and abandonment. Good friends had left him (10). At times, he had no one to stand with him. But he knew that One was always there (17). He was even confident of the future. Being delivered didn’t mean escaping physical death, but it meant rescue in the eternal sense.

You and I can live with the same blessed assurance of Paul. We’ll never go through anything alone (cf. Mat. 28:20). We may be pilgrims and strangers on earth (1 Pet. 2:11), but we aren’t one this journey by ourselves. The Lord will preserve and deliver us, as He did Paul.

I want to remain on this earth to enjoy family, friends, and brethren. I want to be as useful as I can be for as long as I can. But, like Paul, I can look forward to dying (cf. Phil. 1:21-24). We can be confident, even in the face of death!

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Some Things That Will Not Be At The Judgment

Neal Pollard

What will the throne of judgment look like? What will Christ, the Judge, look like? Will the Judgment be experienced through the sense of sight? What will be different there from this life? What will be changed?

The Bible speaks often about the moment of reckoning, when the righteous and wicked dead (John 5:28-29) and all living (Mat. 25:31-33) will stand before the King of kings to give account for the conduct of the body (2 Cor. 5:10). As we attempt to paint a mental picture of the Judgment Day, some things shouldn’t be envisioned because they won’t be there.

  • There will not be an unbeliever at the Judgment (Phil. 2:10-11). With an introduction only heaven could produce, John says Jesus will come with clouds, every eye shall see Him, and all nations of the earth will wail because of Him (Rev. 1:7). No person will be able to continue in unbelief. Faith will be permanently past tense. Evidence of God’s power and the power of His promises will be beyond the realm of the hopes for and in the arena of the finally seen (Heb. 11:1). Jokes scoffing the Divine will not slip off the sin-darkened hearts of the defiant. No skeptics, no agnostics, no doubters, and no infidels will be at the Judgment.
  • There will not be a material possession at the Judgment (2 Pet. 3:10). The inhabitants of this planet seem to be more engrossed with things daily. The Lord calls things “corruptible” (1 Pet. 1:18) and inferior treasure (Mat. 6:19). People seek material things to provide them a life of joy, peace, and comfort. We will give an account for our stewardship of material things. We will answer “yes” or “no” when asked if we robbed God (Mal. 3:8). But no person will bring his possessions or amassed wealth into the venerable court of justice.
  • There will not be a mistrial at the Judgment (Acts 17:31). Each of us will appear before the Judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10). We will each “stand trial” (2 Cor. 5:10). Christ, the “true” (John 8:16), universal (Acts 10:42), righteous (Acts 17:31), God-ordained (Rom. 2:16) and ready (1 Pet. 4:5) judge will sit to hear the case of every mentally accountable person to have lived. Jesus will judge without bias (Eph. 6:9) by relying on heaven’s unabridged record of the individual’s life (Rev. 20:12). He will judge according to the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25). No one will be able to legitimately cry “foul.” When the law book is closed and the last judgment is handed down, no one will be able to find a loophole or mistake in the proceedings that will allow them to go free or be retried. There will not be any miscues or oversights.
  • There will be no secrets at the Judgment (Rom. 2:16). God now knows every man’s secret sins (Psa. 90:8) and He shall bring such things to the Judgment (Ecc. 12:14). God sees every secret place (Jer. 23:23). He reveals the deepest, darkest secrets (Dan. 2:22). At the Judgment, such things will judged (Rom. 2:16). “…All things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13b).
  • There will be no baptistery at the Judgment. Most people will go into eternity not having been washed, sanctified and justified (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11). As Christ divides the sheep from the goats, it will matter whether a person has fully obeyed the gospel (cf. 1 Pet. 3:21; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:27; Acts 22:16; Mark 16:16). Perhaps people will cry out for another person to baptize them. The angst of many who bargained for a later date to be baptized will be realized when they stand before Christ without His blood covering their sins.
  • There will be no invitation song at the Judgment. When the trumpet sounds, no sermon will be preached to convince the lost to obey the gospel. There’ll be no pleading with the lukewarm and unfaithful Christians. No song leader will stand before that numberless crowd to appeal to the lost and erring. Legions of hearts will be melted by the power of God. Fearful realization will fill those unready to meet Christ. Perhaps many will cry out for another chance, but the last opportunity will have passed.

There will be a righteous Judge who will give a fair trial to every individual. All will give an account. An eternal sentence will be handed down based upon one’s life and acceptance or rejection of Christ’s sacrifice. There will be no parole, stay of execution, or pardon for the lost. We all will need abundant grace to be able to stand at His right hand side, but Scripture tells us how that is extended. We must prepare for that in this life (Heb. 9:27). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HOLDING THE CIGARETTE OUT THE WINDOW

Neal Pollard

I saw an older man, trying to negotiate a turn, with the window partially down and balancing a cigarette out of that window. It was 25 degrees, so my guess would be that he was not overheated by his tiny, burning cylindrical distraction. It’s not an uncommon occurrence, though I’ve normally observed teens doing this. A friend of mine in High School said he dangled his cigarettes out the window to keep his mom from smelling it in the car.  There may be more than one reason why people do this, but concealing the fact of one’s smoking (or at least its pungent smell) seemingly factors in.

Trying to conceal actions we know are wrong or think others will disapprove of is as old as the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, “the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8b). From that point forward, mankind has shown a remarkably similar tendency—regardless of century, geographical location, gender, age, or other demographical details—to try and cover up his sins. David, one whose heart was ordinarily pleasing to God, conceived such deception and dishonesty in an effort to hide his egregious sin with Bathsheba (cf. 2 Sam. 11:6-27). Solomon issues multiple warnings to those who, rather than repenting, attempt to conceal their iniquity (Prov. 10:6,11,18; 28:13).

It extends beyond just trying to conceal the smell of smoke, doesn’t it? Guilt, fear, worry, and shame usually leads the pornography addict, participant in an illicit relationship or affair, the problem drinker or drug user, as well as the general hypocrite, to use up a lot of energy and attention to covering up their wrongdoings. The hope is that they can keep discovery out of the reach and detection of the ones whose acceptance and approval they greatly desire to have. So often, these concealers have forgotten someone very important. Such is a serious miscalculation since that someone cannot fail to notice. The eyes of the Lord watch all the ways of man and his paths (Prov. 5:21) and “are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men” (Psa. 33:13).

We may conceal deep, dark secrets from even those closest to us for a lifetime.  Yet, ultimately, no one will get away with a lifestyle of sin.  God won’t be duped. We won’t pull the wool over His all-seeing eyes. Instead, our energy should be directed toward overcoming sin and looking to Him to give us the strength we need to do so.  All of us struggle with temptation and sin, but how we address it is an indicator of our character. May we be transparent with our God and honest with one another!

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WE WILL WEAR A CROWN

Neal Pollard

Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutiérrez Arevalo, wore the crown of Miss Universe for a couple of minutes, before Steve Harvey came out and sheepishly admitted that he accidentally mixed things up. She was actually first-runner-up to Miss Philippines.  Though I don’t get pageants at all, I understand human nature. In a sequence of awkward moments now blowing up social media, none is worse than the seemingly endless time before the crown is finally removed the head of a tearful Arevalo. She was confused, disappointed, and totally embarrassed. While these moments will live on in infamy, they will fade into insignificance soon enough.

Scripture illustrates the culmination of a faithful Christian life with the giving of a crown. Several New Testament writers speak of this crown, a prize or reward given to those who have turned in an outstanding performance. The New Testament extends this hope, that there is not just a crown for one contestant but for all who successfully compete and complete the most grueling obstacle course of all—life. Notice a few facts about this crown:

  • It’s Faithful (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10). The one who faithfully handles his or her trials will receive the crown of life. We can be assured that it won’t be snatched from us because “the Lord has promised [it] to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12). Jesus says, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). As great as the promises of God is the assurance that a faithful life will be followed by a faithful crown.
  • It’s Future (2 Tim. 4:8). We will not be crowned in this life but after successfully completing the Christian life. Paul was confident that the Lord would make no mistake in handing out this crown. He says that the Lord, the righteous Judge will award it to all who love His appearing on that Day of Judgment. At the end of the contest, the crown will be placed upon the heads of the winners!
  • It’s Fadeless (1 Pet. 5:4). Specifically, this promise is made to the church’s shepherds who faithfully execute their task. Peter calls it “the unfading crown of glory.” Some have argued this is a passage teaching degrees of reward, but whose heavenly crown will tarnish? Instead, here is another tribute to the fact that we will have a reward and recognition that never loses its luster.

The 2015 Miss Universe finale has been dubbed “cringeworthy.” What a deflating turn of events for a person who actually had the crown of victory snatched from her head!  Aren’t you thankful that, as we face eternity, we have a perfect Judge who will get it right in every case. Once we are crowned, He won’t take it back! Let’s keeping competing and complete the contest the culminates with the crown.

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