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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The Appointment We Cannot Escape

The Appointment We Cannot Escape

Neal Pollard

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeanne later in life
In Awe Of The Greatest Freedom

In Awe Of The Greatest Freedom

 

Neal Pollard

I once was without representation,
Not a citizen of that chosen nation,
Enslaved and oppressed,
Deprived of the best,
And discouraged by my lowly station,

But my freedom was bought at a price,
With the one ransom that would suffice,
Sweet liberty was bought,
And my freedom I sought,
When I opted for virtue instead of vice.

Independence is becoming and sweet,
It is found when I fall at His feet,
And make Him my Master,
I avoid pain and disaster,
He offers me victory for my defeat.

I celebrate privileged position,
Embrace His heavenly mission,
Knowing the blessings He gives,
Is because He still lives,
He hears the faithful disciple’s petition.

As we celebrate the blessings in this land,
Bestowed by a Providential hand,
Let us never forget,
That He paid our great debt,
He’s preparing what’s infinitely more grand.

Whatever may become of our dear country,
I pray that our eyes will always see,
That no earthly place is home,
We are strangers who will roam,
’Til we reach the Great City across the sea.

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