Four Ways to Cope With a Day Gone Awry 

Four Ways to Cope With a Day Gone Awry 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Thursday, October 29, 2020, proved to be a day gone awry for me. I was supposed to have a follow-up appointment with one of the many specialists my health problems require. The day started with a bang. That banging was the screen door repeatedly smashing the side of the house, driven by the wind in Tropical Storm Zeta. The power was out, but our backup generator was on, providing electricity. No problem, correct? No, our community well does not have a backup generator.  So, though I had electricity, I had no water. What was going to make me presentable to the public? Baby wipes to the rescue.  

The thought had occurred to me that if I were having a hard time because of the weather that the doctor’s office might as well. I called. No answer. Perhaps, I should stay at home? No. One incurs a fee for missing an appointment without prior 24-hour notification of a missed visit. So, there was no turning back from this point. I checked Georgia 511 to ensure the roads I was traveling was clear. My route checked out. There were reports of debris on secondary roadways in the areas I would travel, but none affected my trip. Everything looked great. 

In Union County, the highway was passable. The Notley River overflowed its banks, flooding the surrounding lowlands, but the road was in no danger because it is above the water-engorged river. In Lumpkin County, just beyond the Appalachian Trail crossing at Neel Gap, I noticed that the leaf and pine needle debris increased. The winds must have been worse further south.  I began seeing evidence of trees that had been cleared from the roadway in the hours before I arrived. In White County, the power was out, rendering stoplights inoperable. I discovered that most of the drivers I encountered did not know that you treat a useless traffic light as a 4-way stop. In Hall County, I drove over two or three dead, downed powerlines. A flagman stopped me briefly before directing me around a large tree, still covering half of Clarks Bridge Road.  

But I arrived at the doctor’s office safely. I was even early for my appointment. I couldn’t help but notice the parking lot was empty when I arrived, however. Yes. The office was closed because of the power outage. Had anyone thought to contact those having to drive “over the mountain” from over 50 miles away? Of course, they had not. I heard a sigh slip out.  

 

There is a large Dollar Tree in Cleveland, Georgia. So, I called my parents to let them know I arrived safely but would be returning home sooner than they expected. The Dollar Tree excursion went well. I returned to Walmart in Blairsville, Georgia, since dad had some medicine I needed to pick up. Before doing so, I stopped to take a picture of the raging Trahlyta waterfall at Vogel State Park 11 miles outside of Blairsville. It was beautiful, even if it looked like the observation deck might be washed away. Once at Walmart, I found the pharmacy was closed. The “system” had “gone down.” Despite saying they hoped they would have it back up in thirty minutes, they did not. I went home, minus dad’s medicine.  I fixed a cup of coffee and sat down to write my article. I spilled some of it on my desk. Fortunately, I did not get the keyboard wet. However, my workspace now smells like coffee. (But that is a good thing.)  

Do you want to know something interesting? I wanted to throw my hands up in exasperation at several points during the day but refused to do so. I pulled out four tricks to help me cope with a day gone awry. And here they are. 

  1. RELAX. As Cain discovered, when we become agitated, sin crouches at the door desiring mastery over us (Genesis 4.7). I could be upset that my doctor’s office was discourteous to me, but that was no excuse for sinning (Ephesians 4.26). Hence, I needed to “be still” so I could acknowledge God (Psalm 46.10).

 

  1. REJOICE. That day was a day made by my Lord. So, I needed to rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118.24). I had a say over how I would feel about things. It was a beautiful day, despite its raucous start. I was happy to be alive. Despite sounding trite, I knew others that day faced actual challenges, potentially imperiling their life. The pointless trip only inconvenienced me.  

     
  2. REFOCUS. After telling us how to find indescribable peace through prayer, Paul tells us to meditate (think) about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,” and anything excellent or worthy of praise (Philippians 4.8). Now that I calmed down, I needed to think about what I would do to salvage the rest of the day, filling it with superlatives!

     
  3. REPURPOSE. So, I was not seeing the doctor. Even so, I needed to find something productive to ensure that I could make the most of my time (Ephesians 5.16). I immediately scrapped my previous idea for my Biblical Byte to a lesson on coping with days gone awry. I meditated upon it during my trip and read through the Scriptures after returning home. And this is the result.

It may be that one needs to throw in a fifth “R” also. Repent. If you allow a bad day to make profanities escape your lips or harbor hatred in your heart, you need to make that right with God and any other parties that may be present pronto. In that way, you can turn the day around and make it something good. I trust, though, that with practice, you can better deal with your days gone awry too. Let us strive to do all to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10.31).    

 

“Making Our Defense In The Darkness”

“Making Our Defense In The Darkness”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

 
Gary III
Gary Pollard
 
One night Chelsea and I were walking the dog before bed and came across an enormous armadillo. We were in a rural area and it was pitch black outside except for her flashlight. I had a rifle with me, so I took a shot at the armadillo. Instead of falling where it stood (as they had usually done), this one jumped a couple feet into the air and then ran off with surprising speed.
 
We thought that was the end of it, so she walked the opposite direction with the flashlight and the dog. In the pitch black, I heard the angry armadillo heading towards me full-steam.
 
Being rushed by an armadillo in the dark is terrifying, no two ways around that. The darkness accentuates our helplessness and makes defense a lot harder. I John 2.11 makes it very clear that if we hate our church family, we’re walking in darkness and don’t know where we’re going because the darkness has blinded us. If we’re in darkness, we have no fellowship with Jesus and we’re liars (1.6).
 
2020 has given our mortal sides quite a bit of strain. We’re so divided as a nation that a person’s political party alone is enough to preclude their value in the eyes of their opposition. The church has to be different.
 
Had the moon not come out just a little and the laser on my optic not worked, I would have been cut up pretty good by that armadillo. Light gave me the means to save my skin!
 
If we show love to our church family and are walking in the light, we have been given the ability to be saved. If we live and die in the light, we gain an eternity where there is no night or darkness in a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21 ). As November 3rd looms ominously over us, let’s remember that our eternal destination hangs – at least partially – on how we treat one another after this stressful election.
Perspective

Perspective


WEDNESDAY’S COLUMN: THIRD’S WORDS

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
Owners of small dogs are familiar with how easily they can be made to bark. Small noises to us are great potential threats to them. A small ladder may be Mt. Everest to an ant, but is a way to reach the top of the pantry for us.
 
Our perspective drives our perception. A very large, very strong person likely does not feel threatened by anyone. A small, weak person may feel threatened by many.
 
Our problems in life seem massive. If we weigh them against the past, with its billions of lives and many cultures, our problems seem smaller. Compare them further to the infinite nature of God, and our problems are inconsequential.
 
James tells us that when we face difficulties in this life we must appeal to the One who has infinite wisdom and power, the God of the stars, the source of every good and perfect gift (1.5-8, 17). We ask Him for the ability to understand our trials. They refine us and make us mature and well-rounded. With that wisdom we can have perspective, seeing our massive trials as the small ladders they are.
 
Keeping Eternity Nearby

Keeping Eternity Nearby

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Eternity is a topic that many of us have heard taught many times. We have Sunday classes on eternity, and we hear sermons about heaven and hell. We learn about the life that comes after this one, but sometimes it doesn’t feel real. I’ve known about eternity for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t truly grasp this idea until later in my life. The extent of my knowledge was that heaven was where I wanted to go, and hell was for sinners. 

It didn’t seem very real. I found myself thinking, “I have my entire life ahead of me, I’ll worry about it later down the road.” I saw eternity like any other young guy. It was a place that I knew was coming in the future, but failed to live with this knowledge in mind. Lately I’ve noticed a few things that need to be said.

Eternity is so much more than what I believed it to be. It can be an eternity filled with life, or an eternity filled with torment. John 5:24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” The Word of God has the ability to make our eternity be one that is filled with life and joy. But then we read verses like Romans 6:23 that say, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this verse before, but I was failing to grasp what Paul is really saying. We deserved punishment. We were lost and consumed with sin, and we should’ve been punished for what we had done. Instead of punishing us or giving us what we deserved, God offered us eternal life. 

Paul describes eternal life as being a free gift. He uses the Greek word “charisma” which translated means “that which is freely and graciously given.” I have major trust issues when it comes to car dealerships. They say a bunch of words that they apparently don’t understand. Things like, “no interest” and “zero down” or “totally free.” But I have a hard time believing that something could be completely free with no strings attached. Eternal life was given to us. God wasn’t forced to do it. He wasn’t pressured into giving it, instead He chose to give it to us. No strings attached. 

In the church, some have failed to see eternity for what it is; a place that is very real. It is a place that everyone will end up going to. If we live with eternity in view, we will begin to focus on what is truly important. Living with eternity in mind gives us the clarity we need to make the right choices, knowing that our actions will impact our final destination. 

If we live with eternity in mind we will realize the importance of time. I’ve been preaching at the Hebron church of Christ in Grant, Alabama, for two years and it feels like I just moved here. Every year seems to slip away faster than the one before it. James 4:14 tells us that our life is a vapor. We weren’t meant to be here forever. When I was younger I failed to see how quickly life will pass by. Without eternity in mind we won’t see each day as an opportunity to share the Gospel or a chance to tell the world about a loving God that longs for everyone to be saved. We would find ourselves spending less time on the insignificant. 

As a teen I was horrified at the thought of hell. And while hell is still very real, the longer I live, the less I fear hell, and the more I long for heaven. I long for the day when I will be in the presence of God. I long for the day when God will give me a comfort and peace so powerful that it will completely remove all sorrow and pain. I long for heaven because I’ll never have to say a painful goodbye, but instead I’ll be with faithful and likeminded men and women for all eternity. The longer we live the more pain and heartache we go through. The stronger our desire becomes to be with God in that perfect home. 
Life has a way of changing our outlook on eternity. Let life’s issues be the motivation to reach eternity, and not the reason we lose eternal life. 

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

It’s something they never tell you in the romantic movie. The ending of the storyline so full of twists and turns, where he and she might not have ended up together but seemed destined to be together, is so happy and perfect. Both are all smiles, with stars in their eyes, when we see “The End” and the credits roll.

They never tell you what happens after the fairy tale wedding or the long-awaited kiss. He refuses to ask directions as they fade into the sunset. They argue over where to eat that romantic dinner. He speaks without thinking and says something thoughtless, followed by tense silence. 

I am not critiquing one of the sacrosanct principles of romantic movies and books. Happy endings can be a great escape from reality and a feel good experience. Yet, when we hold it up as the unqualified expectation for our own lives, we set ourselves up for trouble. Social media is rife with posts and pictures which can perpetuate the fiction that the people we friend and follow are constantly living out “happily ever after.” Life is always grand, and success and satisfaction is the constant. 

Don’t misunderstand. So much of what we experience in life is shaped by attitude. Being positive can help us negotiate those hairpin curves in the road of life. But, coping through positivity is different from allowing disappointment to make us disenchanted with failing to meet the unrealistic expectation that every problem and adversity can be wrapped up into a pretty, neat package with a frilly bow on top. 

It’s quite the balancing act, isn’t it? Scripture teaches to think on healthy, beneficial things come what may (Phil. 4:8). Or, as Solomon puts it, “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Prov. 15:15). Yet, Job (14:1) and Solomon (Ecc. 2:23) do not sugarcoat the reality that life is often painful, grievous, and full of trouble both day and night. 

May I offer some encouragement?

  • To the newlyweds, neither of you is perfect and there is no way you can always agree and get along without mutual compromise and effort. You will have so many great days, but there will be some mountains to climb and valleys you must pass through. No couple out there is breezing through married life. Turning to one another (and God) rather than on one another when marriage is hard will forge your bond come what may (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • To the new parents, though that baby looks perfect and angelic, he or she will introduce demands, needs, concerns, and challenges you never knew existed before. Each developmental stage will be accompanied by incredible highs and lows. As you look into the faces of your children, you will be looking at eternity and knowing the weight of your decisions and leadership. But, savor those little ordinary moments. You are placing puzzle pieces that will one day become your children’s picture of their childhood. How you handled the hard times will be at least as important as how you handled the fun times (Prov. 22:6). 
  • To the new Christian, it is right for you to relish the feeling of relief and joy over being forgiven and cleansed from sins. The burden of guilt has been lifted. You are experiencing something in Christ that you never knew existed. But, there will be difficult days. The devil lurks (1 Pet. 5:8). Selfish desires can derail (Jas. 1:13-15). Suffering for your faith should be expected (1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 14:22), but by hanging on your eternal destiny is better than you can imagine. Along the journey, you will grow, mature, and develop into someone better and stronger as Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20). 
  • To the Christian who publicly repents, you had no idea how much support, love, and encouragement you were going to receive. You feel the relief of forgiveness and restored hope. There’s clarity and purpose where there had been confusion and distraction. Things are better now (cf. Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9), but the battles and temptations that led you away are still there. You will still have to face the consequences of bad choices, but you will not regret turning to God and your spiritual family for help. This is the first step of your rededication. Keep walking and never stop (Mat. 7:13-14; 1 Th. 2:12).

There are so many other phases and circumstances deserving the same kind of encouragement. The bottom line for each is the same. When viewed with heavenly eyes, each of us is staring at the ultimate happy ending. Even as our exterior deteriorates, our inner man is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). Our momentary difficulties will give way to incomparable glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18).  The best is yet to come (2 Cor. 5). But, between now and then, we all have to negotiate bumps in the road. That’s OK. Keep following Christ on this narrow road and the “ever after” will transcend your greatest hopes (Mat. 16:24ff). 

The Eternal Optimist

The Eternal Optimist

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

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

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

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

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

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A different Non Sequitur sampling

Some Perspective, Please!

Some Perspective, Please!

Neal Pollard

–I have taught a Bible study in the hut of a woman in a jungle village of southeast Asia. She had no furniture and only a couple of cooking vessels and utensils. Her one-room house was thatched in a place that averages an inch or more of rain each week. Her lifestyle reflected that of nearly all of her neighbors. 

–I have stayed in the house of a faithful, fruitful gospel preacher in west Africa. One night, the temperature in the house was 91 degrees overnight. The interior walls were made of styrofoam, thin enough to hear the rats scurrying around and scratching behind them. They were actually better off than most in their village. 

–I have stayed not far from the Bay of Bengal in a crowded city across from a leper colony. Taking a bath/shower consisted of using a large cup from a single spigot in a “bathroom” where the water ran a light brown color. Within a hundred miles of there, at least 100,000 people were living under cardboard boxes and old tarps.

–I met a man at a church service in east Africa who made his living working in a gem mine. He and his wife had four children of their own. Their neighbors both died of AIDS, leaving their three children orphaned. This Christian and his wife adopted them. He made $2 per day and Sunday was his only day off. He supported a household of nine on less than $15 per week. 

In every one of the examples above, I was only there for a couple of weeks and returned home to hot water, running water, reliable shelter and automobiles, and a thousand other amenities. 

Many of the people in our world, before the current pandemic, struggled to survive through subsistence farming, poor nutrition, virtually non-existent healthcare, and little access to education. This sets up a cycle of poverty and disease that lowers life expectancy to middle-age at best. Sports, vacations, retirement plans, and insurance are, for many, a pipe dream if even a concept they have ever entertained. I once drove past a slum in a capitol city that was part of 2.5 million homeless people living in what was essentially a trash dump. 

The current crisis is real and impactful. It has required adjustments, changes, and sacrifices. Yet, from a medical, monetary, and material standpoint, we still find ourselves at the top of over 200 nations in just about every earthly way things can be measured. This is a time for us to pause and humbly thank God for His abundant blessings, to ask forgiveness for complaining in the face of such generosity, and to seek His guidance in how we can use this time to focus on others’ needs and helping those who are truly unfortunate. Matthew 25:31-46 is a convicting text, where the Lord tells us He watches how we respond to the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, sick, and imprisoned among “the least” of the world. Perhaps what we are going through now is a door of opportunity, to sharpen our perspective on what is essential and what is extra. Let it begin with me!

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“Who Will Bring Me Down To Earth?” God!

“Who Will Bring Me Down To Earth?” God!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The shortest book of the Old Testament is dedicated to revealing the coming punishment of a nation which descended from Esau. Edom, also called Teman (for Esau’s grandson, Gen. 36:15),  faced “the day of the Lord” (a frequent Old Testament term meaning coming, divine punishment) along with all the nations. Well over a thousand years after Esau lived, his descendants betrayed God’s people, Judah, by helping the Babylonians loot Jerusalem during the time of the captivity and exile. God took notice and the book of Obadiah is proof that He planned to take action. 

While that is the background of Obadiah, it’s the way that Edom saw itself that has been imitated by many nations in subsequent times. One of the consequences of forgetting and denying God is that the most frequent substitute put on the throne of one’s heart is self. How sweet to embrace the thought that “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psa. 33:12). What a contrast to the frequent lamentation in Scripture about nations who forget God (Psa. 106:21; Deu. 32:18; Jud. 3:7; Jer. 3:21; etc.). 

Is it possible for people today to imitate the mindset of the Edomites? If so, how does God feel about that? How will He respond to that? It seems that at the heart of this book, we find:

THE SOURCE OF THEIR SECURITY (3-9)

Obadiah says they are arrogant and put their trust in their hiding places and their lofty places. They thought they had built a pretty impregnable defense and impenetrable destiny. This earth and world provide no such guarantees. Jesus would call this building upon the sand (Mat. 7:26-27). What do I place my confidence in? The stock market? Material prosperity? Military might? Higher education? Recreation? Retirement? None of these things are inherently wrong, but they make poor foundations for our lives. 

THEIR SIN (10-14)

It appears that the three overarching problems God has with Edom is that they did nothing when their brother (the nation of Judah) was in need (10-11), they rejoiced over their brother’s misfortune (12), and they even participated in his suffering (13-14). When we list out the “worst sins” mankind commits, where do we place apathy? God puts it at the top of His list here. Sometimes we call them “sins of omission.” Edmund Burke wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” On Judgment Day, the Lord will place on His left hand those who saw the needs of others and didn’t meet them (Mat. 25:31-46). Obadiah depicts three stages of one spiritual cancer: indifference, gloating, and collusion. John’s sobering words are appropriate here, as he asks, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). How helpful to see our brothers–those through Christ or Adam–as God sees them.

THEIR SENTENCE (15-20)

Nine times in five verses (10-14), Obadiah refers to “the day” God visited Judah for her sins. It was the day of their disaster, distress, destruction, and misfortune. Because of Edom’s sinful response described above, God had a day set aside for them, too. They would reap what they sowed (15-16). They would suffer (18). They would lose it all (17,19-20). The future looked bright for God’s faithful remnant (17-21), but not for those who had built their lives upon the sand. 

This book has application for our world, our country, for the church, and for each of us as individuals. Frequently, life will come along and shake our confidence. How we do on the other side of that distress depends on our foundation. That is a prayerful process. We can be fire or stubble (18). May we find the strength ascend Mount Zion and the kingdom (21; Heb. 12:22-29). 

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Petra: In the territory of ancient Edom

It Isn’t Hard To Find The Flaws

It Isn’t Hard To Find The Flaws

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Neal Pollard

Take a moment to think about what happens in the course of a typical day. The coffee’s too hot (or not hot enough) or it tastes funny. The car in front of me is going too slow. The internet’s malfunctioning. The waitress has forgotten me. My coworker is lazy or undependable. My spouse did that annoying thing again. I can’t believe my child left that mess or didn’t do the simple thing I asked. My friend was thoughtless. Think about how easy it is to become critical of everything and everyone. Basic to human nature is a tendency to point out what’s wrong with something and that tendency spills into our speech (or posts). 

One subject that seems to find its way into the crosshairs of critics is the church. Increasingly, we are given privy to its weaknesses, problems, shortcomings, mistakes, failures, ineptnesses, inadequacies, ignorances, and derelictions. Virtually any facet of the church seems fair game, but church leadership, mission, purpose, and function are predictable among the topics. It might be a lengthy article or a quick, social media rant. Scroll through a news feed and do your own research. Did you find one (or a few)? Or look through private groups you are a member of. Is it even worse there?

In every aspect of church life, regarding the “human side,” there will always be room for improvement. The church is full of people, and people sin and fall short of God’s glory. One does not have to look too far or too deep to find problems. 

Each of us has work to do to be a better soul-winner, steward, visionary, time manager, encourager, servant, prayer warrior, student, etc. But it would be very cool to see a revival of communication (written and oral) that says, “Do you know what I love and appreciate about the church?” That does not mean we bury our heads, ignoring problems and especially sin. Instead, it’s about challenging ourselves to be balanced. Whatever we look for, we typically find. Let’s just spend more time looking for what’s right and great about the Lord’s Bride. 

“Being A Christian Is Hard”

“Being A Christian Is Hard”

Neal Pollard

The church office receives a monthly publication called Faith Connect. In the latest edition, they include some data from Barna Group on faith in America. In a sidebar of statistics to an interview with Barna’s Vice President, Bill Denzel, writer Kelly Russell reveals what the research organization found in interviewing those who identify themselves as Christians. They report feeling:

  • “Misunderstood” (54%)
  • “Persecuted” (52%)
  • “Marginalized” (44%)
  • “Sidelined” (40%)
  • “Silenced” (38%)
  • “Afraid To Speak Up” (31%)
  • “Afraid Of Looking Stupid” (23%)

These findings accompany the assertion that America is a “Post-Christian nation,” having forgotten or rejected its roots, history, and former culture and practices (Summer 2017, 49-51). The thing that strikes me is how “Christians” report feeling. Barna did not exist in the first-century, and as such there is no record of any polling of the original Christians. But if there was, can you imagine the New Testament church answering the way these respondents did? I’m sure they felt misunderstood and persecuted. How could they not? Reading New Testament books like Acts, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and Revelation, along with early church fathers, we’re sure the Jews and Romans sought to marginalize, sideline, and silence them from the marketplace to the temples and synagogues. Our ancient spiritual family members were arrested, murdered, driven from their homes and cities, ostracized, stolen from, ridiculed, and more.

How they responded to such treatment is instructional for us today.  Peter reports their feeling:

  • “Living hope” (1:3)
  • “Great rejoicing” (1:6; 1:8)
  • “Love” and “believing” (1:8)
  • “Joy inexpressible” (1:8)

There are a lot of imperatives and exhortations throughout the rest of this epistle, written to encourage them to hold onto their faith however poorly they were treated by the people around them. Peter wants them living holy lives, but he also wants them to appreciate how great living the Christian life is. That’s a message we need to take to heart.

I hope we never put the focus in our spiritual lives on how hard it is to be a Christian. It can be! But, what will make the greatest adversity bearable is keeping our focus on our purpose, our promise, our privileges, and our peace. There is no better life than the Christian life. May we focus on our opportunities rather than our obstacles!

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