Contentment 

Contentment 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6.6 ESV). 

Recently, the battery of our 2014 Chevrolet Impala died while I sat in the local hospital’s parking lot. Of course, we did not realize that it was “just” the battery at the time. The problem seemed worse. As my dad and I were in a difficult situation, stranded in the hospital parking lot, we had the car towed to our local mechanic. Luckily we thought to facilitate everything through our local auto insurance agent, including our car rental. That choice certainly made things smoother. While our mechanic repaired our Impala, we rented a 2020 Toyota Corolla. I will be honest. I really liked the Corolla. I was a little disappointed when the mechanic called to let us know we could pick up our car.  

Isn’t that odd? There is nothing wrong with the 2014 Impala. Cosmetically, it looks good. It has low mileage. It is like one of those mythic cars that little old ladies only drove to church on Sunday. Yet, the Corolla had cool little bells and whistles. An alarm sounded if I drifted over the middle line or the line on the shoulder. (I heard that sound a lot, taking the many curves as I went over the mountain. It can be hard not to approach the middle or shoulder of the road when the road is curvier than it is straight.) The rental also had some driver-assist feature coupled with the cruise control that turned the wheel according to the road surface marking detected by its radar. Consequently, it handled curves well and had a good fuel economy. The only “negative’ was that road noise seemed more significant in this lighter automobile. 

Here is the question. From whence did my sudden discontentment arise?  It is not as if there is a need for a new automobile. Yet, driving a new car for a few days made me feel like I was missing out on something. It may be, too, that I was subconsciously acknowledging my desire to change something (anything) in my life. However, the problem with that thinking is that it reflects a lack of gratitude for my current blessings. Were I to go and buy a 2021 Corolla tomorrow, my happiness would be short-lived. Those elated feelings might last a few months or a year, but the pleasure would fade. What’s worse is that I would end up making myself more miserable by saddling myself with new debt as I paid off the car over several years. Indeed, discontentment is not a problem solved by material gain. 

Our emotions are complex. Indulging the lust of the eyes and flesh and the boastful pride of life may act as a placebo, obscuring the underlying problem. Still, there is no cure for discontentment besides gratitude and acceptance. As Paul reminds us, God supplies our every need (Philippians 4.19). Thus, we should be content with food and covering (1 Timothy 6.8). Should God bless us with more, it is a sign He expects more from us (Luke 12.48). And we are to be looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2.4). Therefore, “while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6.10 NASB1995). 

When you realize you are a citizen of another country and have your provisions as you make your way home, you, too, will feel contentment. It will certainly give you greater peace of mind. Then comes the realization that salvation and a loaf of bread are worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. Yes, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” 

 

What Messages Are We Sending?

What Messages Are We Sending?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

Brent Pollard

The website Live Science recently published an article about our attempts through the years to communicate with extraterrestrial life. The piece, written by Isobel Whitcomb, is entitled “What messages have we sent to aliens?” We think of World War II as ushering in the concept of “little green men” with reported citings of UFOs (i.e., foo fighters) during aerial combat over Europe and the Pacific. Indeed, in the postwar years, Hollywood began churning out science fiction flicks like The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951.  

Yet, people were thinking of the possibility of life “out there” before the mid-twentieth century. You may recall that H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds in 1897. Whitcomb mentions that Austrian astronomer, Joseph Johann Von Littrow, conceived the idea of digging trenches in the Sahara Desert and filling it with kerosene to set ablaze to send a message to otherworldly observers. Von Littrow envisioned this plan which never saw fruition in the early nineteenth century! 

From this point, Whitcomb points out the progressively advanced plans made and executed by humanity as our technology advanced. In 1962, Soviet scientists directed radio waves at Venus containing “peace” in Morse code. Eventually, in the late 1970s, the United States sent out two spacecraft which they hoped would be discovered by extraterrestrials in interstellar space. Yes, governments have spent millions of dollars to be greeted only with silence. (Another Live Science article by Mindy Weisberger posits that aliens ignore us after observing us like animals in a zoo.)  

Rather than worrying about messages that will never receive a response, we ought to concern ourselves more with messages we send to terrestrial and celestial beings. As Edgar Guest famously reminds us, most people would rather see a sermon than hear one. Indeed, our lives are sending out a message to others.  

  • We are sending a message to our spouses. Do husbands, specifically, love their wives as Christ loves the church? (Ephesians 5.25) Have wives been encouraged to love their husbands? (Titus 2.4) Do the husband and wife recall that they are not to separate what God has joined? (Matthew 19.6)  
  • We are sending a message to our children. Children see whether mom and dad seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6.33). Are fathers bringing up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6.4)? Are mothers doing as Eunice and instilling a sincere faith in their children? (2 Timothy 1.5) 
     
  • We are sending a message to our neighbors. Do they see someone who strives to live peaceably with others to the extent to which it is possible? (Romans 12.17-19) Do they see someone following the “Golden Rule”? (Matthew 7.12) Do they know you love them as you love yourself? (Romans 13.9) 
     
  • We are sending a message to our enemies. Do they see someone who loves them despite being their enemy? (Matthew 5.44) Do they see one turning the other cheek to them? (Matthew 5.39-41) 
     
  • We are sending a message to the lost. Do the lost see one whose lack of self-discipline disqualifies the Gospel preached? (1 Corinthians 9.26-27). Do they see someone ashamed of the pure, unadulterated Gospel message? (Romans 1.16) 
     
  • We are sending a message to God. Our ways lay before the eyes of God, and He is watching all our paths (Proverbs 5.21). He will judge us according to even the secret things we have done (Ecclesiastes 12.14). Since God knows the heart, He knows who merely gives Him lip-service (Matthew 15.8-9). 

Yes, we are sending out messages. What messages are we sending? No, we don’t have to worry about miscommunication with the “Roswell Greys,” but we should concern ourselves with the message God and our fellow humans hear from us.  

Works Consulted: 

Whitcomb, Isobel. “What Messages Have We Sent to Aliens?” LiveScience, Future US, Inc, 20 Mar. 2021,www.livescience.com/messages-sent-to-aliens.html

Weisberger, Mindy. “Are Aliens Ignoring Us? Maybe We’re Already Their Captives in a ‘Galactic Zoo.’” LiveScience, Future US, Inc., 25 Mar. 2019, www.livescience.com/65063-meti-galactic-zoo-aliens.html.  

Further Reading: 

Janos, Adam. “Mysterious UFOs Seen by WWII Airman Still Unexplained.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 15 Aug. 2018, www.history.com/news/wwii-ufos-allied-airmen-orange-lights-foo-fighters

I Want To Be Happy

I Want To Be Happy

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

I was 16 years old and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a new phone. I was 17 years old and I told myself, I’ll be happy when I get my own vehicle. I was 18 and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a newer phone. I was 19 and I thought, I’ll be happy when I get a newer truck.

At 16 I got a new phone and I was happy, until I dropped it in a hotel toilet a month later. I was 17 and I got my own truck and I was happy, until the transmission went out on the way to school. I was 18 and I got a newer phone, and I was happy until I left it on the roof of my dads car as we drove home from church. I was 19 and I got a truck that was nicer than anything I could ever want. I was happy, until it broke down on an Indian reservation in Arizona.

I thought I knew what would make me happy. I chased after the physical possessions that I thought would bring me joy. The problem that I failed to see was that phones break and trucks aren’t always reliable. My happiness would run out when my stuff would break.

People are constantly searching for happiness. Why? Because they don’t know what will make them truly happy. It’s a daily experiment that never gives them the result they are looking for. There are millions of books, movies, articles, and lessons geared toward helping us find true happiness.

“How to be happy” is one of the most searched phrases on Google, second only to “how to lose weight.” We ask this question because we can’t find the answer. Solomon asked this question in Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity says the preacher.” The wisest man in the world wanted happiness and looked at every possible solution. He looked to money, drinking, and women. Every time Solomon placed his happiness in these things, he was left feeling empty. He finally found the secret to life: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12:13).

Every earthly option was tried, and none of them seemed to work. The bottom line is to fear God and keep His commandments. Why? Because God knows His creation. Do you struggle with finding happiness? Do you want nothing more than to be content? The answer isn’t found in the world. You won’t find true, lasting happiness in anything on this earth.

Happiness is found in our purpose as God’s chosen (1 Peter 2:9), in loving God (Deut. 6:5, Matt. 22:37-39), and in showing gratitude (Psa. 118:1; 136:1; 147:7).

The Silent Influence

The Silent Influence

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard
 
I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday morning and I came downstairs to see dad sitting where he always sat every single morning. He was in his lazy boy recliner drinking what was probably his third cup of coffee, wearing his fuzzy dad slippers and a pair of reading glasses. If I saw that combination, I knew what dad was doing.
 
Every morning he would get up early, grab his coffee, Bible, slippers and glasses, and sit in his lazy boy recliner. And every morning I would see him sitting there reading. When I look back and think about these instances, I now see just how powerful his actions were. He wouldn’t tell us what he was doing, he wouldn’t tell us to join him, he wouldn’t tell us why he was doing it. He would just grab his Bible and read.
 
When I think about influence this is what I think of. A committed man of God. Showing us by his actions how to grow our own relationship with The Father. The silent influence that I saw growing up has shown me the power of actions. Through his actions I saw what his priorities were. I saw what his focus was. I saw who he loved more than anyone else.
 
There’s nothing we should want more as Christians than to have this kind of influence on others. Not preaching at them day and night condemning them and cutting others down, but showing them by our actions what a relationship with God looks like. If we work on perfecting our faith and cultivating a genuine relationship with God, people WILL notice. For others to be affected by our influence we need to get three things straight: our priorities, our actions, and our speech.
 
When we think about winning souls, it’s best to start with our own before looking to others. If we can grow our faith and be fully invested in our relationship with God, people will notice and ultimately glorify God.
 
Matthew 5:13-16
“Nomophobia” 

“Nomophobia” 

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

That’s not a typo for another popularly-used term.  It’s actually a “thing,” at least according to a 2010 study by the UK Post Office.  It is short for “no-mobile-phone phobia” (Tim Elmore, psychologytoday.com). There’s even a website called nomophobia.com, and they identify “the four fears of Nomophobia”—broken, lost, stolen, or useless smartphones. While that site operates “tongue in cheek,” there are a bevy of experts more than ready to talk about how this is an epidemic impacting especially youth in our culture.  University of Connecticut School of Medicine’s Dr. David Greenfield has done much work in this study. He points to the problem of a dysregulation of dopamine, “meaning that it motivates people to do things they think will be rewarded for doing” (clever, cutting, or flamboyant Tweets, posts, pics, etc.) and that it can foster people’s addiction to the internet and technology (Madeline Stone, businessinsider.com). Greenfield adds, “That feeling you’re going to miss something if you’re not constantly checking is an illusion — most parts of our lives are not relevant to our smartphones. What happens on our devices is not reflective of what happens in real life” (ibid.).  There are even digital detox programs, in the United States as well as other countries around the world.  Psychiatrist Dale Archer gives this advice, “Stop texting while you’re driving. Don’t take it into the bathroom with you. Have a rule not to use your phone when you’re with your friends. If you’re on a date, make a rule that you’ll both check your phone for a maximum of 5 minutes every 90 minutes. It’s all about setting simple rules that you can follow” (ibid.).

Amateur psychiatrists and specialists everywhere can quickly diagnose this condition in their spouses and significant others, their children, and their friends, but they may be myopic to their own inordinate practice (see every airport, doctor’s office, restaurant, etc.).  Addiction to, or at least habitual abuse of, smartphones and similar technology is simply the latest and a more obvious example of a long-standing human tendency.  Paul told Corinth, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). In context, Paul is beginning a discussion of the sin of fornication after having talked about Corinth’s generally sinful past from which they had been forgiven.  Paul’s desire was not to be “mastered” (ruled, reigned over, Louw 37.48) by anything.  He later writes about the self-mastery and discipline necessary to live the Christian life (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Cell phones are just one possible impediment to this.  There are so many other possibilities we must keep aware of, things which can derail us from our purpose and focus in this life.  So many of them are fine in balance and moderation, but we can allow them to consume and even overtake us.  A fear of being without those things is only one of the attending problems.  Being ruled by anything or anyone other than Christ is the overriding concern.  We are all served well by looking carefully at the things in our lives and make sure we have no master other than Christ.

“Calm Thyself”

“Calm Thyself”

 

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

It’s a jungle out there, so here’s some friendly reminders:

  1. We’re here for a short time, not a long time (James 4.14).
  2. God ultimately controls the outcome of November 3rd (Romans 13.1).
  3. This earth is fallen anyway and we’re looking forward to something way better (II Peter 3.10).
  4. We have more pressing matters to attend to (Ephesians 2.10; 4.11; Matthew 28.18ff).
  5. We’re ambassadors, not crusaders (II Corinthians 5.11ff).
  6. Mercy always trumps a condemning attitude (James 2.11ff). Contextually, this is about not showing favoritism based on appearance or status. A broader application concerning our attitude toward others in general is appropriate.
  7. Our attitudes may well be what condemns or saves a lost soul (Philippians in general, but specifically 2.5-11).
  8. Don’t be rude to people, but especially not to those in our spiritual family (Galatians 6).
  9. What we do about our beliefs speaks far more powerfully than what we say about our beliefs, and that can be amazing or especially harmful (James 2.18).
  10. Revelation 22.20!
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Ten Thoughts Your Church Visitors Are Thinking 

Ten Thoughts Your Church Visitors Are Thinking 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

We’ve all had opinions and reactions in public that never made it from our brains to our mouths. Not all of these were positive, and perhaps that’s why they were never spoken.

Have you ever wondered what visitors who come into our home congregation are thinking? What do they make of the worship service? How do they see the people who fill the building?

I’d like to dedicate this post to the young people I’ve had the opportunity to talk with and who have privately expressed their first impressions of the Lord’s church. These honest thoughts did not come from people who were trying to be disrespectful.

Here’s a list of TEN thoughts (some rephrased) that most visitors won’t openly say. 

  1. “I guess I came underdressed for this church.”
  2. “Why do you stand for some songs and not the others?”
  3. “Why are the communion plates gold?”
  4. “I didn’t understand the purpose of the invitation.”
  5. “Nobody smiled much until after the service.”
  6. “I’ve got too much baggage for you guys.”
  7. “I didn’t even know this church was here.”
  8. “How much money was I supposed to put inside the plate?”
  9. “It’s a nice congregation, but there’s not a lot of people my age.”
  10. “Sorry for bringing my drink into the sanctuary.”

While these comments and questions may seem negative, I’m thankful that they’ve given us their perspective. As His church, we should be thoughtful about who we are, and what we’re engaged in when we come together.

We’re either involved in offering our Father praise and worship, or we’re enjoying the sweet fellowship that we have in Christ. God is our life, God is the One who gives every blessing, and God is the one who saved us from ourselves. With this in mind—

Here’s a list of FIVE things we can do to let visitors know what we’re all about. 

  1. We should carry ourselves with an attitude that expresses our joy and thankfulness. They may not understand everything about the service or the practical aspects of our traditions, but they see a group of people who have been given the greatest gift ever given.
  2. Let’s not place too much emphasis on the location of worship, but the worship itself. There’s nothing holy about the “sanctuary” but there should be something holy about the acts being done and the people in the pews.
  3. Even though we may have been to worship countless times, we shouldn’t assume that everyone completely understands what’s going on. There should be an effort put into briefly explaining why we’re participating in each act of worship, as well as who it applies to. For example, visitors are not required to give. We shouldn’t assume they already know this.
  4. We’re all in need of Christ’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. God is the God of second chances…and beyond! Do the visitors know this? We’ve all got varying amounts of baggage, but even a small pocketbook full of sin is enough to eternally condemn us.
  5. No matter how odd things may appear to a first time visitor, if we can show them the love of Christ, what was once strange to them— just might become beautifully familiar.

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An Evangelist For An Unworthy Gospel?

An Evangelist For An Unworthy Gospel?

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

I convinced my parents to watch a show I enjoyed with me. I doubt I converted them to watching the same kind of programs as I like but I was happy they enjoyed what we watched together. I was acting as an evangelist, wasn’t I? I told them about something that I felt fervently about, convinced them to look into it themselves, and then encouraged them to commit to following through with it. As I enjoyed the afterglow of the moment, I was hit by a realization. Why is it easy for us to tell others about a book or movie but not about the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I suppose one answer is fear. If a friend thinks my movie suggestion is stupid, then he will just think I have bad taste in movies. At worst, he won’t ask me my opinion about movies again. The Gospel is different, though. We’re putting ourselves out there. What we present doesn’t just require the forfeiture of an hour and a half, but a lifelong commitment. What we fear is the loss of that companion since we feel as if we are requiring something great from them. The truth, however, is that it is not we who put forth the requirement. God does. We merely relay the information. Thus, regardless of a negative reaction, if we’ve spoken the truth in love (Ephesians 4.15) we’ve done what we are supposed to do in letting them hear what God requires of them (Ezekiel 3.17-19).

I suppose another answer is shame. I don’t fear what my friend thinks about my secular choices. However, I am reminded of the adage that one never publicly discuss religion and politics. Certainly, we have seen with the latter how divisive of a subject it can be. People unfriended me following the last Presidential election simply because they knew I supported the candidate for whom they didn’t vote! Imagine how that person will take the news that the cherished religion of his grandmother was not one that was true to the teaching of the New Testament? The Thessalonians felt their world had been turned upside down (Acts 17.5-8), and I am sure that my friend would feel the same way too.

Yet, that is not the truth, either. I have no power to condemn any grandmother to hell or grant her access to Heaven. God’s Word is truth (John 17.17). If the truth turns one’s world upside down, the fault lies within the worldview that was turned the wrong way, to begin with. As brother Keeble used to say to such a one bothered by the fate of grandmother, “If she had been taught what you’ve been taught, how do you suppose she would have reacted?” Just the fact that discussing religion in polite company is frowned upon is insufficient to dissuade the one genuinely loving his neighbor.

The next time you find yourself excitedly chattering on about something you’re zealous about to a friend, remember that it is possible to talk with them about Jesus that way as well. The only reason that we don’t is that we feel that we cannot. Love casts out fear (1 John 4.18). And if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father (Matthew 10.32-33). Hobbies are great, but may we not find ourselves more energized by them than by the Living God.

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The Mouse And The Cups 

The Mouse And The Cups 

Thursday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

In the pantry there’s a package of white foam cups. A small gray mouse struggles to carry a cup out into a man’s front yard one at a time. Just one cup and one each day. The man sticks to a normal routine. He goes to work early, and he comes home late. He watches TV, cooks a meal, tinkers on projects in the garage, and goes to bed. It’s mindless, it’s robotic, but day in and day out the cycle repeats itself. He leaves for work and the mouse drags yet another cup out onto his lawn. It isn’t until his yard is filled with foam cups that the man takes notice. What a mess! He walks through the yard and picks a few of them up. As he examines them he says, “What a waste. Perfectly good cups, now useless and dirty. We have a limited amount of foam cups in our package, and there’s a day when the mouse will grab the last one. We better put them to use. ”

If God came to you and gave you the chance to make a single request, what would you ask for? Our prayer lives are usually filled with our personal wants and needs. There are countless things that tug at different areas of our heart as we approach our Father, the Creator of the universe. He can do anything, He has all the power, and in one way or another we all desire some Divine intervention. I would like my family to be healthy and happy. I would like to live out the rest of my days with no more worries or anxieties. I would like the peace that comes with total financial stability. I wish my dog would live to be one hundred and five. I would like to be successful in everything I put my mind to.

There are five hundred wants in my heart, but what do I desire more than anything? The answer to that question is deeply connected to our spiritual life. What my heart chases after, where my time and energy goes, and even what I ask God for spreads my top priorities before me. David writes in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon his beauty and inquire in His temple.” David is known as the man after God’s own heart, simply because his heart was after God. David’s one desire was to form a deep and meaningful relationship with God. He understood what truly matters in this life. He even makes that his specific and singular request of the Lord. He puts his faith in action as he seeks that relationship with God. His life was built around this, and everything else is secondary to him. His seeking was that hopeful expectation— the effort he put in to this pursuit was a demonstration of that belief in God’s ability to grant him his one thing. David spent his time wisely. Almost every day that was granted to him he used as an opportunity to seek His Lord.

God is the Alpha the Omega, the beginning and the end. His eyes can see the very point in time in which He decided to create everything. He can also step back and look at His timeline and see the exact moment in which He will bring all things to an end. The Bible is a gift and glimpse into His mind. In it we can see the powerful beginning to the world we live in. We can see how God works in our present, and we can read about a grand event that will come when the days run out.

What is that one thing you want more than anything else? Don’t let the cups pile up in your yard. Let’s all use the time we have to pursue the only thing that matters.

 

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God Reigns Over America In 2019

God Reigns Over America In 2019

Neal Pollard

I do not mean to suggest that God is pleased with this nation today. Scripture would indicate that He is anything but happy with our immorality, materialism, and hypocrisy from the highest levels of government on down to the citizenry (cf. Prov. 14:34). From 2008-2016, He put Barak Obama in the White House. In 2016, He put Donald Trump there.  The very idea of both of these statements has managed to put a lot of people, including Christians, into a whipped up frenzy for the last decade-plus. But Scripture reminds us, “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8).

In Romans 13, Paul reveals some startling, difficult truths:

  • The authorities that exist are established by God (1)
  • Resisting them is resisting God (2)
  • Governmental authority is a minister of God to you for good (4)
  • It is necessary to be in subjection to such (5)

It is disheartening to see so many good people of God sidetracked and distracted by the world of politics, especially in the fevered pitch of the activities currently ongoing. Without true insight into what’s really going on, from “deep state” to “abuse of power,” too many are up at verbal arms metaphorically going door to virtual door in search of a fight about all of this. Wherever we see ourselves on the political spectrum, as we face seeming corruption from both sides of the political aisle, we should ask ourselves a question. Why is this happening in our land today?

God reigns over the United States today. He is at work. Is all of this His means of refining or judging us? I do not purport to know with certainty.

Does God want us to spend our precious time debating politics, fighting our philosophical foes on it? Does He want us to hitch our precious influence to crusading for or against impeachment and its endless tributaries? Or does He want us redoubling our efforts to seek and save the lost, being salt and light in an unsavory, dark world?

God is going to settle the matters swirling in and around D.C. in accordance with His sovereignty. Meanwhile, we must keep our focus on the eternal souls of humanity helping to prepare them for the inevitable appointment before the King of kings and Lord of lords (Mat. 25:31-33; 1 Tim. 6;15). While we don’t know what He has in mind in these matters, we do know what He has in mind at the end of time. 

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