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.   

Division

Division

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

In this volatile political climate, many Christians face some uncomfortable dilemmas. Is party line a salvation issue? How do we handle seemingly irreconcilable differences? What do we do going forward?
 
Rather than delving into those questions, I’d like to focus on the attitude of the early church, which faced internal division–Jew/Gentile controversies like in Acts 15, opinions over cultural matters as seen in I Corinthians 8 and Romans 14, and external pressures.
 
In keeping with the spirit of the early church, let’s focus on the following list.
 
  1. We must focus on and grow our own spiritual culture, independent of our earthly nationality (while observing Romans 13).
  2. We must be faithful Christians who value being righteous, no matter the cost.
  3. We must manage our concerns and worries by spending MORE time with each other and developing our faith.
  4. We may need to see ourselves less as Americans and more as Christians. If we remember that our kingdom is the church first, we will be far more united.
  5. Be awesome citizens. When outsiders hear about us, it should be that we never cause trouble, we are loyal to each other, we are selfless, we help people, we have strong families, we rely on each other, we are pleasant to be around, we are dedicated to our faith, and we love people who treat us poorly.
  6. We must remember that priority number one is heaven. Everything else is second.
  7. We must avoid talking or posting on social media about non-salvation issues that can and do create division or offense, out of courtesy and respect for each other (Romans 14.1-4; 13ff).
 
If these are the things we worry about and focus on, no political division or any other heartburn-inducing unpleasantness can affect us. Besides being happier, we’ll be a stronger church!
THE IMPERATIVES OF ROMANS 15

THE IMPERATIVES OF ROMANS 15

Monday’s Column: “Neal At The Cross”

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Neal Pollard

When examining a passage that we need to put into practice, one of the most important things we can do is to find the imperatives in that passage. For example, the Great Commission in Matthew 28 contains one imperative–“make disciples” (19).  Two participles tell us how to do that: “baptizing” and “teaching” (19-20). Another example is Ephesians 5:18-21. There is a double imperative here: “Do not be drunk with wine” (18), but “be filled with the Spirit” (18). How do you obey the command to be filled with the Spirit? There are five ways, according to Paul. You are filled with the Spirit by “speaking,” “singing,” “making melody,” “giving thanks,” and “being subject to one another.” 

In his closing appeal to the Romans, Paul is concerned about how church members are treating each other. There are apparent struggles among them over their diverse religious past. Paul pictures this as those “weak in faith” (14:1)  and those who are “strong” (15:1). The strong is also called one who has faith (14:2). Apparently, God not only expects that congregations will have both categories of Christians, but He expects us to successfully work through situations that arise out of this fact. 

Apparently, one of the most damaging ways we handle such differences is by “judging” one another (14:3-4,10,13). The way Paul uses that word here means to “pass an unfavorable judgment upon, criticize, find fault with, and condemn” (BDAG 567). The issues in their circumstance were things like eating meets offered to idols and observing special days (14:5-6). Those things seem strange, even trivial, to us today. But the church in every generation has their own petty problems to negotiate, things that are struggles of faith nonetheless (14:16-23). This clash of convictions and maturity levels must be successfully met and overcome. How?

That’s where we turn to Romans 15. Paul gives two imperatives that are at the heart of negotiating the prickly situations like those we are facing right now. They are “please your neighbor” (15:2) and “accept one another” (15:7). Those two commands can be the hardest thing to do when we disagree with how our brother (or sister) handles a matter, especially matters without clearcut instruction. To “please” is to accommodate others by meeting their needs and sacrificing self-interest. None of us wants to do that, but if you are strong (15:1) it’s what you do. It’s what Jesus did (15:3)! To “accept one another” is best defined by contrasting it with its opposite, which in this context is to “regard with contempt” (14:3). That’s reflected in a sinful attitude, dismissing, disdaining, judging, and looking down on. 

Think about the difference when one obeys or disobeys these two God-given commands. If our mentality is to “please” and “accept,” how does that affect our relationship with those drawing different conclusions in matters of judgment? If we choose to please ourselves and reject our spiritual family based on their different conclusions, where do we wind up? According to Paul, it’s not a good place (14:12,15). 

I have yet to hear of a congregation without at least “two sides” in negotiating all that’s involved in reacting to the current pandemic. Everything from masks to isolating versus assembling to rational versus irrational fear gets dragged into the conversation. It’s easy to dig our trenches deeper and draw our lines bolder. What is to govern us in these tedious, perilous times? At the heart of it all, we must obey our Lord’s instruction. “Please your neighbor for his good, to his edification” (15:2) and “accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (15:7).  Never lose sight of this! 

 

 

Those Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil 

Those Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources Consulted 

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

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

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

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

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

Election & Covid & Anxiety, Oh My! 

Election & Covid & Anxiety, Oh My! 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

I bet you’re probably sick hearing about two big topics right now so for the sake of this little article and your sanity— I won’t even mention them by name. Believe me, I wish my blog posting day didn’t fall on this particular Tuesday. I thought about avoiding any p*******l-related angles all together. The fact is, it’s a big deal and it’s probably what’s on your mind today. 

Well we better pray about it!

 I’m sure you’ve heard that in your congregation many times. Let’s clarify what that needs to look like in my life and in every God-fearing individual’s life. 

When we bring God a petitioning prayer concerning anything, large or little, let’s first remind ourselves of the sacred ingredients that make up an effective prayer. 

  1. Evaluate your spiritual life. The prayers of “righteous” men and women make an impact. James 5:16 
  2. God can’t be seen as one option. Think of the rascally child who, after receiving a “no” from his father, approaches his mother in secret seeking a “yes.” That child should receive a stern chat— perhaps a spanking? When we approach God, we must do so with His will above our wants. Sometimes the two line up! If they don’t, accept the answer and press on. 
  3. Saturate your petitions with praise and thankfulness. Though the virus remains active or the “wrong” man takes the office— The Almighty deserves your praise and thankful heart. After all, He reigns with perfection and justice on His throne (Psalm 97:1). God has given us the cure to a horrible sickness that not even all the scientists in the world could cure (Ephesians 2:8). Nothing that happens today or any day will ever change those things. We’ve only scratched the surface here, too. God deserves every bit of your praise and thankfulness— no matter what. 
  4. Don’t miss the big picture when you pray. Our minds have a way of fooling us into thinking that current events ARE the big picture. That’s just not true. What’s more important? The growth and faith of every member of His church. I can’t help but think of congregations that have been spiritually strengthened and grown— despite an earth shaking pandemic. What’s most important is not this country or nation, it’s His kingdom and that kingdom to come. 

Are you righteous? 

Please pray for this world and pray for His church. If there’s something keeping you from the righteousness of God, that’s far more urgent than anything else. Your faith is  what deserves your full attention. 

Let’s be a happy and hopeful people— let’s be those who practice righteousness. 

 
“Christianity Is Not Communist”

“Christianity Is Not Communist”

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

Brent Pollard

This article requires a preface. Christianity is apolitical. Were our Savior in the voting booth, He would not have a party affiliation. Though I cannot say Jesus Christ would stand with David Lipscomb, advocating Christians abstain entirely from political involvement, I know our Lord would remind us that the Father establishes the governments of men (cf. Daniel 2.20-21;4.17,25; Romans 13.1ff). Frankly, I cannot imagine our Emmanuel casting a ballot. However, I think He would still be concerned by a government allowing abortion on demand and loose sexual ethics since these things subvert God’s Will. 

2020 is, of course, an election year in the United States, and it is safe to say that the world is watching to see how this election will turn out. Obviously, other governments have preferences about whom they would rather work with on the global stage. Vladimir Putin of Russia is no different. On October 7, 2020, various news outlets reported Putin’s statement about the upcoming election. Putin stated he could see himself working well with a Joe Biden Administration since the latter’s party shared “common values” with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Gehrke). One may recall that Putin was a member of the communist party and KGB officer (Wiki).

Despite what you may be anticipating, I am not using Putin’s “endorsement” as a means to influence the American reader to vote for “the other guy.” I am taking issue with Putin’s words that these shared values are akin to “Christian values” (Swindoll). Unfortunately, there is a lie that primitive Christianity was communist. This misunderstanding is an extrapolation from the benevolence of the early church. Yes, Christians are said to have held all things, including their property, in common (Acts 4.32). Yet, context is critical. There was no mandate to forfeit personal, worldly property to the leadership of the church. In communism, by contrast, the State (i.e., leadership) owns all capital.   

After Barnabas gave the proceeds from his real estate sale to the Apostles (Acts 4.36-37), Ananias and Sapphira also sold their property (Acts 5.1). Acts 5 records how Ananias and Sapphira decided to keep a portion of their profit but lie about the size of their donation to the church’s coffers. They told the Apostles that they were giving all. Peter exposed their lie. In addition to his rebuke of the foolish pair, which included their sudden deaths, Peter said, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5.4 NASB—emphasis mine).  Note that Ananias and Sapphira maintained ownership of their capital in contradiction to socialist dogma. 

We think Paul went on his journeys to found local congregations of the Lord’s church, but God tasked Paul with collecting aid for the brethren of Jerusalem and Judea during a famine (Acts 11.27-30). As Paul instructed these new local congregations about their contributions (cf. 1 Corinthians 16.1-2), he told them God did not want them to feel compelled to give. They were to provide as they purposed in their hearts cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9.7). Like the Macedonians, some presented themselves to God so that they could give despite their poverty (2 Corinthians 8.1-5). Others, however, such as the Achaeans, were able to give more freely. Hence, Paul used the example of the Macedonians to encourage the Achaeans of Corinth to be liberal with their giving (2 Corinthians 8.10-15). 

So, I am sorry, Mr. Putin, that you have confused communist values with Christian values. Christianity is not communist. The church can be benevolent without being socialist and should be (cf. Matthew 25.31ff). 

Sources Cited 

Gehrke, Joel. “Putin Touts ‘Common Values’ Shared by Democrats and Communists.” Washington Examiner, Washington Examiner, 7 Oct. 2020, www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/putin-touts-common-values-shared-by-democrats-and-communists

“Vladimir Putin.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Putin

Swindoll, Jeffrey. “Putin Favorably Compares Biden, Democrats to Soviet Communists.” Disrn, Disrn, LLC, 10 Oct. 2020, 14:48, disrn.com/news/putin-favorably-compares-biden-democrats-to-soviet-communists

“WHEN HE GOT SICK”

“WHEN HE GOT SICK”

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

I couldn’t help but notice all the different reactions from people when the president got sick last week. I found myself reading several media outlets that released articles saying they were hoping he would die. They went on to say that he was old and obese and the chances were pretty high that he wouldn’t recover. Other articles criticized his choices, and some were cheering him on. And this was the case on both sides of the fence. Some were hoping that the president would die, and others were hoping that the other one running for election would contract COVID and die as well.
 
While we should never wish death upon someone (no matter our political views), it stuck out to me what these people were doing. They were cheering and getting excited at the thought of someone dying. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Mankind as a whole has a tendency to let hate take over and control their lives. No matter the situation, the time period, or the culture, we always tend to get consumed with hatred. So much so that we find ourselves cheering and getting excited at the thought of someone we don’t like dying.
 
This hatred is out of control. This is the very reason a crowd cheered on as the Son of God was tried and sentenced to death. This hatred is the very reason this crowd grew excited at the thought of killing the Messiah.
 
No matter what our views are we all have one thing in common. We are the reason Christ was crucified. Our sin problem is the reason nails were driven into His body. And even after God sent His Son for a sinful world, we are going right back to what hung Jesus on the cross in the first place. Hatred.
 
It can seem in some places like the church is splitting apart. Congregations are fighting and bickering. Hatred flows in the comment section on social media. What kind of example is that for those in the world? What encouragement does that bring to God’s family?
 
Every part of our lives should be totally consumed by the greatest commandments. “Love the Lord your God…” and “love your neighbor” (Matt. 22:36-40). If we would listen to these two commands, our opinions would come second to love. And hatred for one another would be a problem of the past.
 
Not to sound like a hippie, but love cures everything. Love God, love people and love His Church. John 13:34-35. 
“Soft Civil War”

“Soft Civil War”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

It is no secret that we are politically divided in this country. Larger cities are typically progressive, while the majority of a state’s rural populations are conservative. This has even dictated what kind of news we watch! If you watch CNN, you fit in with progressives. If you watch Fox News, you are most likely conservative. Both approach reality with their own highly specific bias in order to appeal to their respective audiences. As a result of this, we have entered into what is being called a “soft civil war.” Liberals speak with extreme hatred against conservatives. Conservatives speak with great hatred against liberals. It may be a soft civil war right now, but it would not take much at this point to become a full-fledged war.

As a church, we are a kingdom. Our king is Christ and the citizens of this kingdom are Christians. Sadly, the church is not immune to soft civil wars. In Philippians 4, Paul strongly rebukes Euodia and Syntyche because their argument was destroying the church. How easily we can become heated and hateful over matters of opinion! The way we handle differing opinions on matters not pertaining to salvation determines whether we will be unified as a church or whether – like Euodia and Syntyche – we will be a force for division. The greatest tragedy of the American Civil War was that families fought on opposing sides and killed one another. As the body of Christ, let us continue to handle our differences with godliness, love, and patience.

Avoiding The Samaritans

Avoiding The Samaritans

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength


Brent Pollard

I recall a decision in 1999 to take the “scenic route” home from the Richmond (Virginia) metropolitan area, where I had attended a lectureship, to my home in Coffee County, Tennessee. West Virginia and Kentucky indeed proved to be beautiful states, but I added about three hours to my trip. I was exhausted. I decided to stick to the fastest route in the future.

In New Testament times, there were many routinely taking the longer route. No, they were not enjoying the scenery. According to Charles F. Pfeifer, author of Baker’s Bible Atlas:

“Prejudice was so great that many Jews chose to detour across the Jordan and travel through Peraea, rather than go through the land of the despised Samaritan, when making trips from Galilee to Judah.”  (Pfeifer 1)

It appears a trip through Peraea was more palatable since it was a district inhabited by Jews during New Testament times. I wonder how many hours this detour added to their journeys?

Jesus made a point by traveling through Samaria on this one occasion. What was that point?  Everyone needs Him. I imagine this point seems less significant compared to the “meatier” portions of John 4. Typically, we focus on His discourse with the woman at the well. Yet, note verse 4. Translations vary in the wording, of course, but the gist is that Jesus had to travel through Samaria.  (I do not deny that His rationale may have been logistical, to save time. Regardless of the exact reasoning, however, Jesus intended for the Samaritans to hear the Gospel. We see early Christians taking the Gospel there in Acts 8. Therefore, Jesus provides an example by speaking to the Samaritan woman, showing Samaritans deserve the Truth.

That the Gospel is for all was a hard lesson for even the Apostles to learn. Consider the example of Peter. The Lord chose Peter to preach to the first Gentile convert to the Faith (cf. Acts 10.9-15,28). Even so, Paul had to later rebuke Peter for avoiding the company of Gentiles for the Jews who had recently come from Jerusalem (cf. Galatians 2.11-14). Can this not also be a hard lesson for us? In our era of identity politics, it is easy to feel uncomfortable among those who do not share our demographic. Thus, we go out of our way to avoid others with whom we share less in common. We avoid others because they have more or less melanin in their skin. Socioeconomic difference likewise becomes a justification for avoidance. Maybe we don’t want to associate with someone less educated than ourselves. Whatever the reason, we may go out of our way to avoid such persons.

It is time for us to stop the unnecessary detours we take to avoid contacting those making us “uncomfortable.” Everybody needs Jesus. The Lord expects that you and I must go through Samaria too!

Sources Cited:

1 “New Testament Palestine.” Baker’s Bible Atlas, by Charles F. Pfeiffer, Baker Book House Co., 1961, pg. 191. 

Because He Lives

Because He Lives

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words (Round 2)

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 

This song by the Gaithers was written in 1971 at the height of the Vietnam War. Also happening in this country was great civil unrest, school and public arena shootings, civil rights/suffrage/anti-war protests, political unrest, economic downturn, and concerns over the rising influence of communism. It was written during the Cold War when children had to do nuclear attack drills at school.
I never noticed how important the line, “this child can face uncertain days because He lives” was until seeing the year it was published. Those were definitely uncertain days.
Our time isn’t much different. I don’t have to elaborate on the stuff that makes our days uncertain – we’re very aware. We are able to handle what’s going on because He lives. No political unrest, civil disorder, threat of war, disease, or economic downturn can keep shut us down for good because He lives.
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He hold the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”