The 11th-Hour Man

The 11th-Hour Man

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

70 or 80 years we live,

That rule for many holds true

But a guarantee that nobody can give

Is when Christ comes or living is through.

But I saw a man near the end of that span

Heart softened by the truth

Fully obey the gospel plan

Though gone were the days of his youth.

He’d heard God’s Word preached repeatedly

From many able men

Discussed his need, heard many a plea

To arise and wash away his sin.

Loved ones, family and friends

Prayed often for his decision

Wanting his soul purified and cleansed

To see life with heavenly vision.

The persistent concern of a godly man

Who revisited his soul’s condition

Watered much sowing over that man’s lifespan 

Resulting in godly contrition

I heard him confess his faith in Christ

And watched him go under the water

His heart surrendered, his will sacrificed

Christ’s blood was his soul’s sin blotter.

I tell you his story to move your heart

To the power of sharing with persistence

It’s never too late to do your part

To overcome a delayer’s resistance.

Jesus taught a moral tale

Of a landowner seeking for workers

Who paid a fair wage for a job done well

To the finishers, no pay for the shirkers

The householder sought workers all day

Found some morning and noon, yet some late

Despite different hours, they all got the same pay

Which made the more seasoned workers irate

But the master was generous, it was his call to make

The offer was freely taken by all,

The moral is simple, there’s an offer to take

There’s an answer to make to God’s call.

Some respond in the sunrise of living

Others come in the heat of the day

But however late one’s commitment is given

To those faithful at death He gives eternal pay.

This isn’t to encourage delaying

Tomorrow is not guaranteed

But in Scripture it goes without saying

No one’s too old for God’s grace to intercede! 

Determined To See

Determined To See

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

In Luke 19 we are introduced to a man named Zacchaeus. He is described as “a chief tax collector and rich” in verse two. This man’s encounter with the Savior changed his life, and his example can change ours as well. Zacchaeus shows incredible determination to meet the Lord. 

Luke 19:4 says, “So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.” Zacchaeus may have been a tax collector and a dishonest man, but there’s no denying that he had determination. He wanted to know who this Messiah was and he would stop at nothing to see him. He found a way to see above the crowd by climbing a tree. A grown man, a tax collector, climbed up a tree and didn’t even care about what others thought. He wanted to see the Savior so he found a way to do it. 

What excuses do we use today? I would evangelize, but I’m not good with people. 

I would say a prayer or lead a song, but I’m not good at it and there are other people that are better than me. I would read the Bible more, but I just don’t have the time in my busy schedule. We shouldn’t think like this. Instead we should be like Zacchaeus. Have the determination to find a solution. Not making excuses, but doing what needs to be done. Christians would be so strong if we had the determination of Zacchaeus. 

Be determined. Determined to grow in wisdom and knowledge. Determined to bear the fruits of the Spirit. Be determined to spread the gospel with the ones we come in contact with. 

Zacchaeus was vertically challenged, but he was determined to see Jesus and he did just that. 

Sycamore tree entering Jericho (taken by Neal Pollard, 3/11/18)
Come Receive Your Wisdom at Jehovah’s School

Come Receive Your Wisdom at Jehovah’s School

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“This chapter is one of the most excellent in all this book, both for argument to persuade us to be religious and for directions therein,” Welsh Nonconformist theologian and commentator Matthew Henry said of Proverbs 3.1 I agree that it is a practical chapter. And a couple of verses of this section land on my toes. However, Proverbs 3 contains surprises for everyone, such as one verse that tells us that Jehovah has a school. This phrase is used in verse 11 by Lutheran commentators Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch. 2 

I’ve seen different plans for Proverbs 3, but the one I like best right now is to divide the chapter into 8 points. Lady Wisdom tells her students to do the right thing first (1-4). Next, she advises students to believe in God’s plan (i.e., Providence; 5-10). The student is then told by Lady Wisdom not to look down on the “school of Jehovah” (11-12). After that, Lady Wisdom will offer a discourse about the practical applications of wisdom in our lives (13-26). Then, in verses 27 and 28, Lady Wisdom tells people not to put things off. (There go my toes!) Lady Wisdom then tells students to love each other and be patient, and then she tells them not to feel sorry for bad people who get what they deserve (29-32). Finally, lady Wisdom ends by comparing the house of the wicked to the home of the humble and wise (33-35). 

However, those who do the right thing will avoid many pitfalls into which the foolish repeatedly fall. Sin can have both natural and long-term consequences. Sexually promiscuous people are at risk of contracting a disease. A car accident may kill a drunken driver. When a curious teen tries illicit drugs for the first time, he or she may overdose. Those who do the right thing will avoid these scenarios. Those who do good will also have peace of mind. Their conscience does not interfere with their sound sleep. They also have peace because they have a good relationship with God. Before I go, I’d like to make one more point. Doing the right thing gives someone a sense of purpose (Ecclesiastes 12.13-14). That certainly adds to the quality of life. 

Lady Wisdom advises us to put our trust in God’s plan (i.e., Providence). Following God’s plan leads to our greater industry and avoiding the previously identified pitfalls. Lady Wisdom says wealth results from working in concert with God’s Providence, as opposed to the prosperity gospel’s teaching that faith alone can produce wealth. We trust God for the increase, but we contribute by working. Unlike those who make rash plans, we pray for God’s will to be done (cf. James 4.13-16). We have faith in God’s wisdom. 

We are now at the text portion where Lady Wisdom enrolls us in the “Jehovah’s school.” Interestingly, this passage shows that Keil and Delitsczh change God’s “chastisement” to His “school.” According to their understanding of Hebrew, the word in the original text means “taking one into school.” 3 But isn’t that in line with what God says about His correction elsewhere in the Bible? He corrects us through His love for us to share in His holy nature and bear righteous fruit (Hebrews 12.1-13). Of course, God could let us go without discipline, but that would not be in our best interests. 

Lady Wisdom describes the practical benefits of wisdom obtained through diligence after we enroll in Jehovah’s school. On a much smaller scale, the person willing to apply himself or herself can receive the same information God used to create and sustain the cosmos. No, our wisdom will never be as great as God’s (Isaiah 55.8-9), but it can be significant enough to serve as a badge of honor. Wisdom, once established, also provides a peaceful life. It’s worth noting that Solomon mentions peace twice in Proverbs 3. We could say that wisdom makes life easier, which leads to peaceful outcomes. 

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, what do you do? Anxiety and fear fill your heart. Those thus afflicted shut down and cannot process rational thought, and there is no peace. I jokingly referred to this phenomenon as “panic logic” to my speech therapist. In other words, one loses reasoning and follows the first impulse that comes to mind. I told her about when I stepped into a fire-ant bed as a kid. The ants were already halfway up my leg and stinging when I realized what I had done. My rescuer was watering his garden when he ran over to me with the garden hose. Rather than spraying my legs with water and sending the ants flying, as would have been more logical, he began swatting them away with the hose itself—what a way to add insult to injury. So, I had to contend with stinging ants as well as stinging blows from a rubber hose. A person who follows Lady Wisdom not only has peace of mind because of his relationship with God, but he can also keep his cool in worldly dealings because he “knows stuff.” It’s no surprise that wisdom is valuable! 

And now we come to the part of Proverbs 3 that I need to remind myself of daily. Lady Wisdom instructs us not to procrastinate by using a benevolent illustration. If we are in a position to act and have the resources to do so, we should act immediately. Why? It is because we are easily distracted. Remember how Joseph predicted in Genesis 40 that an imprisoned servant would return to serve the pharaoh as a cupbearer? Joseph requested that the cupbearer communicate his plight to the pharaoh since he had his ear. But the cupbearer managed to forget Joseph. Was it because he was a bad guy? No, not necessarily. We can get caught up in the minutiae of life and lose sight of our responsibilities or promises. Or, if it is a matter of money, it vanishes (Proverbs 23.5). You may intend to assist someone with his financial burden “tomorrow,” but tomorrow arrives with an illuminated check engine light. So, whenever the opportunity arises, do good (Galatians 6.10). 

Outside of the example of benevolence, how does this relate to the overall procrastination problem? When given a deadline or promise to do something, it is easy to become distracted by other things or waste resources, such as time. As someone who has written many term papers in the final hours before they are due, I can tell you that procrastination is not a good idea, even if you claim that you need the adrenaline rush to finish projects! 

At the end of the chapter, our other lessons from Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 3 now flow together. Solomon says God gives people what they deserve and sometimes uses men in His Providence. As a result, we can be blessed by others while also becoming a blessing to others. We should maintain good relationships with others and avoid arguing with anyone without justification. When we come across someone who is suffering as a result of his foolishness, we are to leave him alone. That may appear harsh, especially considering Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19.10). However, God explains it to us by making it clear what He means when He speaks of the fool. Remember that a fool is someone who lacks moral character. As a result, a fool is rebellious and stubborn. When people rejected the message, Jesus told His disciples in the limited commission to shake the dust from their sandals and walk on (Matthew 10.14). So, we preach the Gospel to the world (Mark 16.15-16), but we recognize when it devolves into throwing pearls before swine or giving holy things to dogs (Matthew 7.6).  

Finally, there is a clear distinction between these two paths. Those seeking wisdom live in homes where God’s grace has healed their wounds and declared them righteous. The foolish scoffer will live in the filth of his own dishonorable home. God will laugh when he sees his house. Are you paying attention to Lady Wisdom? Do you refrain from disparaging Jehovah’s school? All the decisions you make today and the effort you put in to become wise will make all the difference. 

Sources Cited 

1 Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Biblestudytools.com, Salem Media Group, www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/proverbs/3.html

2 Keil, Karl, and Franz Delitzsch. Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament. Worthy.Bible, Worthy Ministries,www.worthy.bible/commentaries/keil-delitzsch-commentary/commentary-on-proverbs-3

3 ibid 

“The Most Dangerous Word”

“The Most Dangerous Word”

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Mack Pugh

What is the most dangerous word? Anger, wrath, revenge, retaliation? The most dangerous word doesn’t “sound” dangerous, doesn’t “look” dangerous, it hides its dangerous ability, but it is the great enemy of advancement. It leaves tasks undone, books unread, programs unlatched, and resolutions unkept. It is a very great enemy of the church. It is the great enemy of the soul. It causes people to be lost. It is Satan’s favorite word. If he can get you to say it and say it often, he may not destroy your faith in the Bible or God, but he will definitely win the battle. That word is tomorrow!

Proverbs 27:1 says, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knows not what a day may bring forth.” We’re not even promised the rest of this evening, let alone tomorrow. There are two reasons: You may lose the desire or you may lose an opportunity. There are two scriptures:

2 Corinthians 6:2: “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Hebrews 3:15: “While it is said, ‘Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation.”

You can lose your desire, owing an apology, a thank you note, or something you needed to do. You can lose your opportunity, to see a family member or being busy at work.

The danger of delay and tomorrow is losing your desire and/or opportunity! It is losing the desire and opportunity to become a Christian or dying before repenting. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today!

Joshua 24:15 says, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua said this before the Israelites in the hope they would follow his example with no intention of turning back.

In Acts 26:26-27, we see, “Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not cmad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things…” Then King Agrippa said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

Then, Jesus said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). The same is true with our lives! What about those that do not obey the gospel of Christ? Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment!” If you are willing to live how you’re living, you’ve got to be ready to die in your current condition. If you are not, don’t wait for tomorrow!

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.

louis_armstrong2