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.”

THE BLINK

THE BLINK

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

God created the world in 6 days.

144 hours. 

8,640 minutes. 

518,400 seconds. 

That’s not a lengthy period of time to create the human experience but it’s all destined to end in an instant. Just like that, time is gone— 

everybody. Everywhere. Will be carried off into eternity. 

The blink of an eye happens in 0.3 of a second. 

God gave us that ability so that we might protect our delicate corneas and sclera from dust particles and other small debris which easily aggravate the eye. 

The reflex and speed of the human blink is testimony to our mighty Creator’s designing ability but in His divine wisdom, He knew the blink would also be an illustration for the way in which He will return on day. 

The average person will blink 15 to 20 times a minute.

900 to 1,200 times an hour.

14,400 to 19,200 times a day.

100,800 to 134,400 times a week.

That’s between 5.2 and 7.1 million times a year. 

In other words, it seems like God intended to remind us all millions of times a year that He is coming back.

The blink of an eye occurs in 0.3 a second. 

You can’t hear the gospel message in that time.

You can’t believe that Jesus is the son of God in that time.

You won’t be able to repent in that amount of time.

You couldn’t confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior in that time.

You certainly can’t be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins in that time. 

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” – I Cor. 15:52

Now is the time to prepare for that last and final blink.

The Asparamancer

The Asparamancer

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

I came across an article with this title, “Fortune Teller uses asparagus to predict the future.” Of course, I clicked on it, and here’s what I learned:

Her name is Jemima Packington and she is known as the “Asparamancer.”
She throws asparagus in the air and then reads the patterns that have landed on the ground. So far she has correctly predicted Trump’s election, British soccer league losing the World Cup, and the spike in vegetable sales across the world.

But Jemima isn’t always correct. She once said about her wrong predictions, “I am usually about 70 percent accurate with my predictions. This is because not every asparagus is meant to be used for prophesying. I take what I do very seriously and this is especially important when it comes to picking the right asparagus” (ecr.co.za).

If only reading the future were as simple as throwing vegetables in the air, but unfortunately it’s not.

Matthew 24:36-39 says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
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As humans we cannot see the future, only God can. We won’t have a warning that will let us know when He is coming. So that begs the question, “How are you living?” It would be amazing to always have a clean house. if someone dropped by you can invite them in and know it looks fine. My mom hated inviting people over when our house was dirty. She’d clean for hours before even one of our friends would come over.

What kind of house do you have? When God comes back, will He find a dirty house? A life that was spent in vanity and on self-service? Or will He find a clean and orderly house, one that has been prepared and one that has lived a life of service to God? As we think about the future, may we never fail to ask ourselves, “How is my house?”

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All the Time in the World 

All the Time in the World 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

1969 was a landmark year in many respects. Most notably, the year saw a man walk on the moon. Of much lesser note, 1969 witnessed George Lazenby take on his sole (some say, forgettable) performance as the iconic spy, James Bond. I am not a Bond fan, seeing as nothing is entertaining about an unrepentant philanderer. Yet, I do enjoy music. Thus, I am familiar with this Bond movie because of its soundtrack, which featured a Moog synthesizer for the first time in its main theme. Louis Armstrong recorded the love theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The song was titled, “We Have All the Time in the World.” It was Armstrong’s last studio recording. 1Sadly, he was too weak to play the trumpet during the piece, performing only the vocal. 2

The love theme belies the movie’s sad ending well. Music composer, John Barry, chose Louis Armstrong to do the vocal for the love theme precisely because he felt that Armstrong could deliver the titular line with irony. 3 The song’s title is Bond’s last spoken dialogue in both the Ian Fleming book and the film of the same name. I doubt I am spoiling a movie that is 50 years old by revealing its ending but provide warning that there is spoilage ahead.

With the sixth Bond installment, Bond is finally allowed to fall in love and marry. In the closing moments of the story, however, the antagonist kills Bond’s wife as they are heading out on their honeymoon. The movie’s love theme, as an instrumental, Armstrong’s vocal performance, and several reprises play prominently throughout the film’s score. Hence, this pretty false promise crashes down under the weight of reality in the end. Not even spies saving the world have time promised to them.  The atypical Bond ending makes it more of a cult favorite among fans of the franchise. It didn’t do well at the box office. Of course, that may likewise be attributable to Sean Connery’s absence from the screen. Critically, the movie is well received, with at least one reviewer considering it the third best film of the franchise. 4

I think this subject strikes a chord with me more because of it being Armstrong’s last recorded song than for anything otherwise related to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Armstrong is a man of declining health singing about having all the time in the world. I wonder if Armstrong had a sense that he was nearing his departure. In the final years of his life, Armstrong battled poor health but went against the advice of physicians by continuing to tour and perform. 5 I suppose one may chalk that up to dying doing what one loves?

But what of us? Do we ignore the stark reality of James 4.14? We are like the morning fog burned away by the rising noontime sun. And sometimes our lives are such that even if lengthy we may sound as Jacob speaking to the pharaoh: “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life…” (Genesis 47.9 NASB). Even so, we act as if we have all the time in the world. Jesus reminds us that we have but a small window in which to do what we must (John 9.4). Yes, the night is coming. Perhaps, you have been putting off those things you know must be done to save your soul or improve your example as a Christian. Don’t listen to Satan’s sweet melody telling you about the time you do not have. Your only time is now.

“Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6.2b NASB).

 

REFERENCES

1 “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Soundtrack).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Her_Majesty%27s_Secret_Service_(soundtrack).

2 “We Have All the Time in the World.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 July 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Have_All_the_Time_in_the_World.

3 ibid

4 Hausmannsgate. “All 25 Bond Films, from the Best to the Worst.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 21 Nov. 2015, www.imdb.com/list/ls055107293/.

5 “Louis Armstrong.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Aug. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Armstrong#Death.

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Mbah Gotho, Methusaleh, And Mortality

Mbah Gotho, Methusaleh, And Mortality

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Neal Pollard

Incredibly, his residency card and his nation’s official documents, state his birthday as December 31, 1870 (The Guardian). For clarification, that was almost three weeks before Germany became an official nation, only five years after the end of the Civil War (reconstruction was just underway and Ulysses Grant was president), 28 years before the Spanish-American war, 33 years before the airplane was invented, 44 years before the start of World War I, and America was less than 100 years old. Mbah Gotho died in 2017, making him 146 years old at the time. The only reason it is questioned is because his native Indonesia did not begin recording births until 1900. Officials stand firm that it is accurate. Can you imagine? What was it like to live almost a century and a half? To see almost all of 15 decades? 

To put it in perspective, the ancient Methuselah lived almost seven times longer than Mbah. He died at almost 1,000 years old.  Genesis 5:27 faithfully records, “So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.” Methuselah was contemporary with Adam and Shem, a gap of over 1,600 years. In a day of pristine gene pools and a water canopy-covered atmosphere, everyone and every thing lived much longer. But God determined a general rule of thumb to which humanity has almost universally submitted, saying, “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3). Thus, an Mbah Gotho is an almost singular oddity. The official oldest age in modern times was reached by Jeanne Calment, who was 122 when she succumbed in 1997. 

Average life expectancy throughout much of recorded time falls more closely in line with what Moses states, in Psalm 90:10, somewhere between 70-80 years of age. War, disease, famine, poverty, and the like sometimes curtail those numbers, but what is true of those who die at birth or who make it 122, 146, or even 969 years is that they do die. Hebrews 9:27 affirms the inevitability of it barring only the second coming of Christ in one’s lifetime (1 Cor. 15:52).

Most people make decisions as though they will live forever. People who know better put off obedience to the gospel, put other things before Christ in their priorities, serve sin, and neglect their reason for existence. While too many do this in ignorance, how tragic for the untold number who know how they ought to spend their lives but either deny or delay doing it. The moment of surrender will come. The body and spirit separate (Jas. 2:26). The body returns to dust and the spirit returns to God (Ecc. 12:7). At death, one’s eternal existence begins (Mat. 25:46). God gives one only the moments between birth and death to prepare for that existence, but He does not tell any of us how long that is. He simply tells us to be ready (Mat. 24:42,44). May we all get ready and stay ready for that day!

A Leadership Legacy

A Leadership Legacy

Neal Pollard

I am not sure how long our congregation has conducted what we call “Young Lions And God’s Precious Daughters,” but I would guess it has been at least 15 years and probably longer. All three of my sons participated in Young Lions and feel it was helpful in getting them over nervousness when leading in worship. Yesterday afternoon, 16 girls between the ages of 6 and 12 hosted a tea for the Bear Valley ladies. Their theme was daring to be different by serving, and they served high tea while conducting a devotional with songs, Scripture reading, prayers, and short talks.

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Photo Credit: Aimee Woolley

Last night, 10 boys in the same age group stood before the congregation, leading songs, reading Scripture, praying, and preaching short lessons. Some of them were nervous, but all of them were eager and enthusiastic. Hearts all over a full auditorium, even on a wintry, snowy evening, were melting as we got a preview of tomorrow’s leaders.

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Photo Credit: Aimee Woolley

Several adults met with these two groups, week after week, for two months, talking to them about how to dare to be different in a world that demands conformity. There were interactive, hands on lessons. There was weekly training and instruction helping them practically implement what they were learning. What is interesting is that though the names and faces of the adults who lead this have changed through the years, we continue to see the fruit of the church’s work in the lives of an age group that can easily be overlooked. “Leadership” is the thread that has run through this program over the years. Alumni of “Young Lions” include many Christian college graduates, many gospel preachers, and a countless number of young men who are leading in worship not only in Denver but across the country. For most, their first effort was standing on a stool (or stools) behind the podium at Bear Valley.  Alumni of “God’s Precious Daughters” are found faithfully serving the Lord’s church locally and elsewhere (the elders through Facebook Live charged one of these young ladies, Jordan Balbin, in advance of her mission trip to Nicaragua this week), filling Bible classrooms, and serving the Lord in a variety of capacities.

These precious resources God gives us as parents–our children–are to be molded, encouraged, challenged, and inspired to put faith into practice, to use their abilities and minds to glorify God and serve His Son. Thank God for the wisdom of elders who encourage such works, for parents and other adult volunteers who sacrifice time and energy to teaching them, and “young lions” and “God’s precious daughters” who participate with zeal and joy. What will eternity reveal to be the good that works like this produced? I can’t wait to find out!

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After “Young Lions” six years ago. 

 

 

ARE YOU ON THE LIST?

ARE YOU ON THE LIST?

Neal Pollard

I recently heard D.C. Brown, illustrating proper conduct, mention a list I’ve seen at times in my adult life. The list he mentioned was of people whose personal checks the cashier was not to take. The offenders apparently wrote “bad checks,” checks they did not have sufficient funds to cover. The names, as is typical, were bold and legible to the customer as well as the employee. Multiple purposes are achieved through such a list—warning, shaming, identifying, and the like. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that someone’s name might accidentally land on the list.

Throughout our lives, we may find ourselves looking to see if we are on this list or that. When I was in school, they would publish the honor roll list, depth charts in sports, casts for plays and who was chosen for what part, and those who were selected for the Beta Club or Honor Society. The advent of the internet has slowly replaced paper lists with electronic ones, but the concept is still intact.

The Bible talks about a “list.” It is a list every thinking and feeling person should yearn to have their name written on.  The setting is the great day of judgment, recorded by John in Revelation 20:11-15. Jesus is sitting in all His majesty on His throne. Everyone, great and small, stood before that throne. They were judged by God’s Word and what they did with it. In a sobering text, here is the climax: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was throne into the lake of fire” (15). Jesus preached on earth that the majority of all people will not be on that list (Mat. 7:13-14). They will have neglected or rejected the will revealed in the Bible (cf. John 12:48). If never before that moment, at that threshold of eternity they will have never wanted anything like they will want to have their name on that list. But, then it will be too late. Now is the time to submit ourselves and our lives to that divine will and, by grace through faith, have our name written there.

Some lists we would wish to avoid in this life. The list, in Revelation 20:12, is not one of them. What a joy it will be to hear our name “when the roll is called up yonder”!

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“3-2, With The Bases Loaded”

“3-2, With The Bases Loaded”

Neal Pollard

Dave Stewart, former Oakland A’s pitcher known for pitching well in the big games, was asked how he was able to shine when the spotlight was brightest. He explained that as children he and his brother would play against each other in the backyard. They would pretend they were in the “big game,” and it was always “3-2, with the bases loaded.” So, Dave would face the situation as if it were always the big game. He conditioned himself to confront the pressure situations, and through this he came to excel in the playoffs and World Series.

How do we excel in life? It is not by expecting and waiting for smooth sailing and an easy life. You do not grow in life when the sun is shining and there is zero wind resistance. Why not embrace challenges as catapults for personal growth? Look adversity in the eye and take it on.

The first-century church was in a situation where they faced opposition on an ongoing basis. They probably did not welcome this, but neither did they cower before it. In the face of fiery trials, they won the lost and kept the faith. In our own personal lives, we may dislike the thought of suffering. However, looking back, we may find these as the times where most growth occurred.

How do we face life? Are we looking for a beautiful, problem-free life? If so, we will be disappointed! More than that, we shall fail. We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God! Former Minnesota Vikings head football coach Dennis Green once told his team, “We are going to go on in the road, in the cold, in a hostile environment, and we don’t want it any other way.” That’s the philosophy to embrace in our spiritual lives. The world opposes us as we stand faithfully for Christ. That’s OK! It is a chance to excel to the glory of God.

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Tora! Tora! Tora!

Tora! Tora! Tora!

Neal Pollard

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event which drew our country into World War II. 2,343 men were killed, 1,143 were wounded, and 960 unaccounted for or missing. The Japanese chose Sunday to attack as it was the most relaxed day of the week for the servicemen. Many were still in their pajamas or having breakfast when the attack began at 7:55 that morning. Kermit Tyler, an Air Force lieutenant serving as the officer on duty that morning, told the radar operator not to worry about the large blip on the radar screen. He thought it was a flight of U.S. bombers coming from our mainland. Instead, it was the first wave of attackers. Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the airstrike leader for the Japanese carrier force, could see that Pearl Harbor was totally unaware of the impending attack. He radioed back a coded message, repeating an abbreviated word three times—“to ra, to ra, to ra”—meaning “lightning strike.” The transmission began at 7:49, undetected by the soon-to-be victims of the attack that began a mere six minutes later (read more here).

Among so many significant facts, what we most remember about the attack on Pearl Harbor was how utterly surprising it was. No one stood vigil, considering the possibility of it. Like its later counterpart, “9/11,” and even natural catastrophes like Pompeii, the Galveston hurricane, the 2004 tsunami, or Mexico’s El Chicon volcano, serious and deadly events can occur without warning. With our most sophisticated technology and detection systems, we are without the ability to forewarn about the greatest surprise that will ever be.

Paul says that the resurrection of the dead of all time will occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52). Paul and Peter both refer to “the day of the Lord” as that which will come “as a thief in the night” (1 Th. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). Jesus warned that the day could be a disaster, a trap that comes on one “suddenly” (Luke 21:34). He taught that it will come at an hour unknown to everyone (Mark 13:32-33).

While it will surprise everyone, the coming of Christ will be a devastating event for the great majority of mankind. For them, it will infinitely exceed the loss of physical life. It will be an everlasting loss (Mat. 25:46; 2 Th. 1:9). Yet, God has made preparation eminently possible. He desires escape for everyone (2 Pet. 3:9). One can be prepared for that day and be saved from harm and for something inexpressibly superior. Those of us who have discovered the way of preparation must hold fast to it (cf. Heb. 3:6) and strive to share this vital information with as many as possible. The sudden coming of Christ need not be a defeat, but can instead be the harbinger of the greatest victory ever.  May Paul’s inspired exclamation be our song of victory: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:54b-55). Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20)!

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What Kind Of Church Do We Want To Be?

What Kind Of Church Do We Want To Be?

Neal Pollard

V–ictorious? Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 Jn. 5:4). No coach hopes to win without first planning and architecting. The blueprints have already been put in place (Rom. 6:17), but we must work the plans to be a success in God’s eyes!

I–nvolved? Do we want to merely keep house and meet together each week? That is not New Testament Christianity (cf. Acts 2:46). They took Christianity out of the church building’s doors. They were tangibly involved in doing God’s work. Will be be?

S–erving? This is a self-serving world. Many seem intent to climb over whoever is in their way to the top. Jesus’ religion runs contrary to that (John 13:12-17), and He calls us to follow His example. A serving church is a living, thriving, arriving, surviving church.

I–mpactful? Do our neighbors know who we are? What about the surrounding communities? What about the farthest reaches of our world? Don’t you want to be part of a church putting a Christ-sized impression on those around us?

O–bedient? We have one authority (Col. 3:16-17; John 14:1-6; Acts 4:12). There are potential masters, but only one will lead us to heaven. A church that steps outside His “lines” will become eternally out of bounds. Those intent on obeying Him will be saved (Heb. 5:9).

N–urturing? Don’t we want to be part of a people with an infinitely more profound purpose than that found by the patrons and workers portrayed in the old sitcom Cheers? We want everyone to know our name and be glad that we came, but we should also want a place where we can grow in every right, positive way. This must be a church that cares about all, whatever our age, background, interests, income, or education!

A–ble?  Do we want to focus on our liabilities or, through Christ, our limitless resources? We have so much to do, but we’ve been given so much to do it. Don’t we want to be part of a “can do” church, doing with our might what our hands find to do?

R–eaping? If we are a working church, we will see results. They will come through baptisms, programs of work, outreaches, visitation, stronger fellowship, missionary success, and much, much more. As my good friend, Cy Stafford, says, “What God controls, grows.” The law of sowing and reaping is positive, too (Gal. 6:8).

Y–earning? A church that is alive and growing is full of holy desire, enthusiasm, and a confidence that we can do all things through the Christ alive within us (Phil. 4:13). Our greatest desires will be to do spiritual things to the glory of God.

How does a church become a visionary church? We must be intentional! What do we intend to do?  With God’s help, that is up to us!

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