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.
“Rhosts!”

“Rhosts!”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

My favorite show is Scooby Doo (the originals, of course). It’s packed with ghosts and monsters, most of which are exposed as frauds or criminals. Mankind has been fascinated with ghosts and other postmortem apparitions for a while. They make great stories and nearly every culture has ghost stories. We point to widespread legends of dragons as one evidence of man’s coexistence with dinosaurs. Since so many cultures have these ghost stories, is it possible they’re true? 

Life and death are God’s jurisdiction, so let’s see if he’s said anything about the subject. Who better to ask about the other side than the one who controls it? 

Look at Luke 16.19-31. Whether this is literal or figurative is immaterial, I just want to look at something Jesus described in detail. A rich man neglected Lazarus (an impoverished man) and ended up in torment after death. He lets Abraham know that he has family on earth who don’t believe and he wants to prevent them from sharing his fate. 

Abraham points out that a large abyss acts as a barrier, preventing anyone from moving between realms. He’s specifically talking about passing from torment to paradise and vice versa, but the rich man was nonetheless incapable of leaving under his own power. 

Hebrews 9 says that we die one time and face judgment. This seems to indicate some permanence to our destination. We know that some spiritual entities are capable of interacting with our world (angels/demons) in some capacity, but the Bible doesn’t give us much detail. 

We can state with a decent degree of confidence, though, that the dead are stuck where they are. That’s a major comfort, too, because our future is secure if we die in Christ (I Peter 1.3-7). They make for great plots (and the best cartoon ever), but ghosts remain solidly in our awesome imaginations.  

Judge Not That You Be Not Judged

Judge Not That You Be Not Judged

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. 
We’ve Not Reached The Judgment Yet

We’ve Not Reached The Judgment Yet

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

Neal Pollard (pinch-hitting for Carl today)

Solomon makes an interesting observation in the book about his grand experiment seeking the meaning of life. In Ecclesiastes 8, he is writing about the “evil man” who is basically living life as he pleases, doing what he wants with no regard for judgment. There seem to be multiple reasons for him to continue living this way:

  • He’s doing evil and is not suffering immediate consequences for it (11).
  • He’s repeatedly doing evil and is even living a long life (12; cf. 7:15).
  • He doesn’t seem to suffer a fate any worse than the righteous, and sometimes seems to do better than the righteous (14). 

Frankly, Solomon is making a timeless observation. Perhaps you have sung the song, “Tempted and tried, we’re off made to wonder why it should thus all the day long, while there are others living about us never molested though in the wrong.” Billionaires, movie stars, professional athletes, politicians, and the like provide public examples of this passage and that song. We can produce more local, if lesser known, examples of those who seem prosper, living so wicked year after year. 

Solomon does not have the understanding we have this side of Calvary, but he ultimately grasps the principle that should guide our lives today. At the very end of Ecclesiastes, he says, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (12:13-14). This is a vital principle for me to internalize and live by.

When I am tempted to live like this world is my home and the pleasures of earth are what life is about, I need to understand that I may not be struck dead while pursuing life on those terms, not even if I persist in it over a long period of time. I may not die a horrible death as the result of pursuing what God calls “evil.” However, Ecclesiastes 8:11-14 does not describe the end. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 does.

If I drift away from fellowship with God and His people, if I live like the world when I am out of sight of the church, if I put someone or something above my faithfulness to God, I probably won’t suffer immediate consequences. God loves me enough to let me know that. He will let me make whatever choices I want, but He wants me to know the results of my decisions. Solomon rightly says, “Still I know it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly” (Ecc. 8:12; cf. 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 12:13). There is an appointment for every one to “be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). It is when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and Paul says we must all do so. Wisdom is living this life preparing for that moment, understanding that judgment is not now but then. Such knowledge should move us to “fear God and keep His commandments.”

Do Not Gloat 

Do Not Gloat 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

A politically conservative thought leader died on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Not even an hour had elapsed from when the news was broken on his ground-breaking radio show by his widow that some of the most hateful comments began appearing on social media. As one who listened to his show periodically, I can attest that I never heard him utter any of the types of hateful speech of which Wikipedia readers and contributors accused him. Most of those hating him did so because of his powerful influence against their political ideology.  

The political Left viewed him as a Svengali that would brainwash millions if allowed to remain on the radio. Thus, rather than defeat him in the arena of ideas, they chose to slander him. The fascist propagandist Goebbels once said, “Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth.” Those who never listened to him genuinely believe he was an ugly, divisive person. Thus, the deceased will have a mixed legacy depending upon whether someone took the time to listen to what he said. He will either be one to whom people said, “ditto,” or, as the Huffington Post put it, the “Bigoted King Of Talk Radio.”  

Now, the purpose of this post has nothing to do with politics or even the deceased. It has to do with the visceral reaction created by the news of the radio talker’s passing. As one who tends to soak up the room’s emotional atmosphere, I found myself negatively impacted by the unadulterated hatred. I was disappointed yet again by my fellowman. However, it was also a moment of introspection. Do I understand that God created this person in His image, just like me? (Genesis 1.26-27) If so, even if I vehemently disagreed with him, should I find even a modicum of the rationale necessary to express glee?  

Paul wrote that we must all appear before Christ’s judgment seat. And after stating this truth, Paul immediately added, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Corinthians 5.10-11a). Of what do we persuade men? We convince them to accept the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. We recall Jesus’ final marching orders to us to take the Gospel to every nation and creature (Matthew 28.19-20; Mark 16.15-16). We know our time on earth is short (Psalm 90.10 & 12; James 4.14). Time is being allowed to continue to give men everywhere an opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3.8-10). Once God’s longsuffering has ended, nothing remains for the disobedient other than flaming fire and vengeance (2 Thessalonians 1.6-12). 

We would all do well to recall the words of Solomon in Proverbs 24.17-18: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them” (NIV). Yes, God is aware of the feelings of our hearts. We must give an accounting of ourselves to Him. How terrible it would be if He found in our heart love only for those with whom we felt comfortable associating. John reminds us that our love must extend to our brother if we love God. Otherwise, we are a liar (1 John 4.20). Let us allow love to replace hatred, the Gospel’s utterance to replace vitriolic expressions, and a prayer for our enemy’s salvation supersede our schadenfreude at his downfall.   

Tearing Lions And Toeing Lines

Tearing Lions And Toeing Lines

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

He wore a name we know well but accomplished the will of a Name we know better. Samson the judge was the man who dropped a thousand Philistines with a jawbone while dropping the jaws of those who would read these accounts years later.
In Judges 13 through 16 we find the awesome, yet tragic life of the strongest man who ever walked the earth. From the moment of his miraculous conception to those dramatic moments between the pillars, he captivates our imagination. Some tend to idolize his prowess as a warrior and rebel, but the real lessons we can learn from Samson can be appreciated by everyone. What if a mortal human could act in place of God? While impossible, let’s just humor this thought. In a way we get a glimpse of how miserable life would be if we didn’t serve a righteous Lord. When Samson lost his temper, became annoyed, bored, or defiant he would always choose to act in his own self interest. He was empowered by a God he didn’t serve and that is seen time and again in these three chapters. His final act of killing over three thousand Philistines who mocked him in their pagan temple were slain out of revenge (Judges 16:28) and hatred. His eyes had been gauged out and he is led by a servant through a crowd of people who were not even supposed to be living in the same land as the Israelites (Numbers 31:17). In other words, the Philistines were a hole dug by God’s children in the first place. Samson was a tool in God’s hand to relieve His people from the oppression of these ruthless “fish people.”

I’m sure you know many of the accounts from the life of Samson so here are a few things that God intended for us to learn from him.

1. God is infinitely more powerful than His creation (including Samson) and is infinitely more loving and patient than His creation. If Samson had the power of God, his own humanity would provoke him to destroy anyone who irritated or upset him. How many times has God forgiven us and then placed those sins out of His sight? Too many times to count, I’d imagine.
2. God can use the self-seeking people in the world to accomplish His own will. He never lost control of Samson and God hasn’t lost control in the world today.
3. Nothing could make us serve God, even if He paid us a supernatural visit (see Jesus). Samson’s abilities were given to him by the Lord, and yet that wasn’t enough to convince him to dedicate his life to Him. Consider Solomon that was given wisdom in a miraculous way— yet still fell. In the end it comes down to the individual heart, the desire, and the determination to commit ourselves to His service.
4. God’s desire to protect His people is great and His methods are creative. The Israelites could have never dreamed that their savior would be a man like Samson. They were plagued by a race of wicked warriors, but God used one man to turn the tables. When we look at our country today we may think there’s no way that things could be different but let’s not forget how powerful and how creative God is. It doesn’t matter whether or not WE can see a path forward when God has proven that He is more than capable and willing to see us through.

You could ponder over the life of Samson and come up with more great lessons to build your faith. Why not read through Judges 13-16 to remind yourself of God’s control in this world? As a bonus, you’d be treating yourself to one of the most fascinating sections in the Old Testament.