Grateful Living

Grateful Living

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

There’s a pretty well known quote that people often share on social media. It says, “Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living.” What is gratitude? Being grateful means recognizing our blessings. There are some people that I don’t mind being inconvenienced by. People that I’d happily help if they needed it, and that’s because these people are grateful. They appreciate and thank you for helping them…Then there are people that I don’t exactly enjoy helping. Why? Because they demand your help and almost seem like they feel entitled to your help. You help them and you don’t get a thank you and they aren’t grateful for your sacrifice. It’s interesting that these people never seem to be happy, and there’s a reason. They fail to be grateful for the blessings they receive. 

When we take the time to be thankful for what we have, we don’t have as much time to think about what we don’t have. If we want to find true joy, focus on being grateful for what God has given us. For example, notice what many Christians have today: 

  • We live in America 
  • We worship in a building each Sunday 
  • We don’t have to walk everywhere 
  • We have a roof over our heads 
  • We have a church family 
  • We have food and clothes 

The list goes on and on. We have plenty to be grateful for, yet sadly we focus on the few things we don’t have. 

Being grateful leads to contentment. We won’t feel cheated in life. Being grateful keeps us from having self-pity because we won’t be stuck thinking about how much more we deserve. Being grateful keeps us from having feelings of jealousy and envy. We won’t be constantly comparing ourselves to others. Notice the gratitude of the psalmist in Psalm 118:1, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Skipping down to Verse 29 he says, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” The psalmist begins and ends this chapter reminding us why we are to give thanks to the Lord. It is because His love for us never ceases. Again in Psalm 136 we read the words of a man dedicated to thanking God. 

Notice the breakdown of this psalm: 

  • “Give thanks to God” mentioned three times in three verses. 
    • Why? Because He is good and His Love endures forever. 
  • 26 times the phrase “love endures forever.” 
    • The psalmist repeats this phrase and then shows us how He loved us. 
    • Defeated kings, gave us land, led his people in the wilderness, etc.

Why should we be grateful? Because God Loves us. And He shows us that He cares. Gratitude brings about happiness. Joy in recognizing how great God’s love is for us. 

Gratitude is seeing all the many ways that God had blessed us.

God Doesn’t Hate You

God Doesn’t Hate You

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

“Who does he think he is?”

It’s easy to imagine how the grumbling began among Korah and other religious leaders of the Israelites. Eventually 250 joined and as the grumbling grew so did Korah’s confidence. It all came to a head as the mob approached Moses and the heated accusations start. Korah cries out, “We’re all just as righteous as you are! Why do you stand before us and bark orders?” 

Moses does something unexpected and falls face down. He tells them, “In the morning the Lord will show you all who is holy.” How did those wicked Levites sleep that night? Were they confident that God would deliver them from their “tyrannical” ruler? Maybe they tossed and turned as all sleep escaped them. The following day we read in Numbers 16.32-35, 

“and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”

This wasn’t the end of the line for all of Korah’s family though. We read in Numbers 26.9-11, 

“…Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, chosen from the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, when the fire devoured the 250 men, and they became a warning. But the sons of Korah did not die.”

Some of Korah’s family live on. Now, how would many people feel about God if they had watched their family and possessions swallowed up by the earth? A horrific event like that might make them bitter, angry, and traumatized. What a cruel and selfish God. 

Interestingly enough, the sons of Korah are responsible for writing a few of the Psalms. They aren’t laments reflecting back on how God had treated them unfairly. In fact, it seems as though they had their eyes opened to the character of God. He is holy and they are in awe of their awesome Father. 

Here are a few segments taken from Psalm 84, written by the sons of Korah. 

Verses 1-2 

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.”

Verse 4 

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house; 
    they are ever praising you.”

Really? Blessed? Ever praising Him? 

Verse 10 

“Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

The language does not reflect a family who has witnessed tragedy brought on by the hand of God. It seems they were spared because the Lord saw something inside them that wasn’t found in the hearts of the others. A heart willing to repent and live differently. God knew they could handle rebuke and had a sincere desire to live righteously. It’s been speculated that perhaps they were too young to understand why their father and the other Levitical leaders were outraged. Maybe they thought they were a part of a just cause? After all, these evil men were in a position of authority. They were their teachers. How could 250 religious rulers be wrong? Whatever the reasons, God proved to be right again. 

There are people in this world who don’t understand the righteousness of the Lord. This lack of knowledge leads to terrible—often costly, decisions, and lifestyles. 

If you ever find yourself questioning God and His Law we should look in rather than up for who’s to blame. History proves time and again that God is never the issue— we are. Sin, injustice, unfairness, and evil are human inventions. God has given us His son as the solution and in Him we find answers. Those answers bring us satisfaction and peace every time. 

Water well dating back to the early 1800s. Location, Valhermoso Springs hotel. 
Lacey’s Spring, Alabama 
“How Do I Love Thee?”

“How Do I Love Thee?”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The English Romantic poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is famed for her Sonnet 43. It is also known by its first line: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” She was reared with privilege, wealth, and the finest education, but her health was compromised by an equestrian accident. Her father was controlling, and when she eloped to marry Robert Browning she was disinherited. She published many works of various types throughout her life, and this allowed her to become independently wealthy though her health made her an invalid. Robert became enamored with her writing, and they corresponded for two years. During this time, she wrote fervently romantic poems showing her love for Robert. For all that she wrote in her relatively brief life, her poetry stands out most of all. Of her poems, Sonnet 43 may be most famous.

The title above Psalm 92 reads, “a song for the Sabbath day.” That connects its words to worship, and this psalm shows the writer’s deep adoration for God. He never uses the word “love,” but his affection for God is obvious. It seems that the writer gives several proofs of that love here. Notice how.

  1. HE GIVES THANKS TO THE LORD (1)
  2. HE SINGS PRAISES TO HIS NAME (1,3-4)
  3. HE DECLARES HIS LOVINGKINDNESS AND FAITHFULNESS (2)
  4. HE PRAISES GOD’S WORKS AND THOUGHTS (5,8)
  5. HE SCORNS THE WICKED WHO OPPOSE GOD’S WAY (6-7,9,11)
  6. HE APPRECIATES THE BLESSINGS OF A GOD-APPROVED LIFE (10,12-14)
  7. HE EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN THE CHARACTER OF GOD (15)

One of the most rewarding exercises you can engage in is to enumerate the ways you love and appreciate God. Do it in your prayer life; spend time praising God and be specific in expressing your adoration and admiration. Think deeply about it. Look around. Look into your life. Consider what looks like His providence in your life and the life of others. Count your blessings, and tell God what you are thankful for. Wait! Did you mention running water, hot water, reliable vehicles, paved roads, coffee, air-conditioning, music, puppies, baby’s breath, eyesight, and brisket? What about the church, salvation, prayer, the Bible, peace, the hope of heaven, His guidance and protection, the elders, deacons, Bible teachers, your spouse, your parents, and your children? 

This will build your love and appreciation for God. It will remind you of how much He loves you and cause you to love Him more. It will humble you and help you focus on the fount of your every blessing! It should make you a better, more obedient servant for Him. How do you love Him? Like this psalmist, count the ways! It will lift your spirit and open your eyes to a harvest ripe with those who need what you have. Get counting!

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

Though scripture doesn’t say, you can be sure David’s sheep had no idea how lucky they were to have a shepherd like him. They were just sheep after all. How could they fully appreciate the extent that David went to in order to keep them safe? Before this begins to sound ridiculous, let’s remember that at least two of David’s sheep were carried off in the jaws of a lion and a bear. When the terrified bleating of an unfortunate sheep is heard by the shepherd, he sprints after the wild animal knowing all the while— it’s just a sheep. It’s just one sheep! Nevertheless, David strikes the predator and saves the sheep (1 Sam. 17.34-35).  

What made David a good shepherd? It certainly wasn’t his stature. The average male of his day stood around five feet tall. He was also the youngest of his family and often unappreciated (1 Sam. 16.11,17.29,33). It was David’s heart and not his height that made him exceptional. He was a natural shepherd of sheep, and of people. 

David is sent by his father, Jesse, to deliver bread for his brothers who are among Saul’s army. When he arrives on scene everyone, including the king, is afraid and unwilling to take a stand against the arrogant Goliath. But before the giant warrior from Gath meets the shepherd boy from Bethlehem, a few more giants will be faced. 

The first giant was the giant of degradation. 

David’s own brother, Eliab, would greet him with two belittling questions that would make a lesser man feel sheepish, but not this shepherd. Eliab asks, “why have you come down here? And who is watching the few sheep?” David’s brother doesn’t think he belongs among warriors and that he is only capable of handling a small number of dumb animals. 

The second giant was that of accusation.

In the same breath Eliab would accuse and insult David three different times. He claims, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is. You’ve only come to watch the battle.” How wrong he was and how dare he insult such a godly man! It’s interesting to note that David had an answer to each of these questions and accusations, but never attempts to defend himself. His father sent him, that’s why he was there. He was there to deliver nourishment for this dear brother who had, no doubt, worked up an appetite doing absolutely nothing. No retaliation or snarky remark would escape from the shepherd’s mouth because nothing like that was in his heart (Matt. 12.34).

The third giant David would conquer would be the towering giant of indignity.

He didn’t shame his brother and he didn’t let his brothers shaming keep him from shining. 

Shepherds put up with a lot, don’t they? Good shepherds really put up with a lot. Faithful god-fearing elders within the Lord’s church all over the world are faced with giants more often than they should. Sometimes the giants they face are their own sheep. How easy it is to make confident accusations against them, to question their intentions, hearts, and capabilities. That unpaid servant of God is more often than not the first one to come running when the bleating of a wayward member is heard. When we find ourselves in the clutches of our various trials, they attempt to pry us out. At times they earnestly pray over and take on burdens that aren’t theirs to carry. Faithful elders will find themselves in a position where they could make the sheep feel shame, but choose to save the feelings of others because that’s what a good shepherd does. It’s not their height, it’s their heart. The sheep need to love their shepherds, because the shepherds love their sheep!

Praise The Lord!

Praise The Lord!

Neal Pollard

Your version may use the word “hallelujah” to begin Psalm 135. Hallelujah means “praise the Lord.” While it is synonymous with giving thanks, it means to laud a superior quality or act, to acclaim and express joy in doing so. What is so noteworthy is that the psalmist does this in very specific ways, recounting times in history when God demonstrates His power and glory on behalf of His people. As we walk through the psalm, we see this. Why is He to be praised?

  • HIS CHOOSING OF HIS PEOPLE (4)
  • HIS NATURE (5)–Great, Above All
  • HIS WORK IN CREATION (6-7)–Heaven, Earth, Seas, All Deep, Vapors, Lightning, Wind, Rain
  • HIS DEFEATING OF THEIR ENEMIES (8-11)–Egypt, Amorites, Canaanites
  • HIS BLESSINGS (12)–Gave His People A Heritage (Possession)
  • HIS POWER (13)–His Name And Remembrance
  • HIS PROMISES (14)–Compassionate Judgment
  • HIS SUPERIORITY OVER HIS RIVALS (15-18)–Deaf, Dumb, And Blind Idols, Just Like Humans

The writer calls on God’s people to praise and worship Him in song, expressing their adoration (1-3). He ends with a threefold call to “bless the Lord” (19-21). May I suggest that you work through something both in your daily life and in your preparation before every time you assemble to worship? Call it setting the table for fellowship with the Divine. Either meditate on the specific works and ways of God that are worthy of admiration, praise and honor or pray to Him, expressing these matters in specific terms. Focus on how He’s demonstrated greatness in blessing your life and the lives of those around you. Perhaps it’s answered prayer, providence, deliverance, or relief. Focus on His power and might in the affairs of our nation, in the activities of our congregation, and the occurrences within your family and personal life. Let the worship flow as you look around at all you see in nature, from the universe to right out your window. Think about the gift of Jesus for your sins. All of this will surely cause you to echo the writer in Psalm 135 and call out to others, “Praise the Lord!”

Photo credit: Kathy Pollard
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was featured in the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland was the original performer. I will provide the song’s setting without spoiling the film since it is pertinent to our topic. 

Circumstances cause the family patriarch depicted within the film to declare that the family is moving to New York. He is alone in wanting to make such a move. Everyone else is content to stay in their current hometown, especially with the upcoming World’s Fair that St. Louis will be hosting in 1904.  

The youngest daughter, Tootie, took the news especially hard. Judy Garland’s character, Esther, tries to console Tootie by singing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The original lyrics, which you’ve likely not heard unless you’ve watched the movie or listened to an older cover of the song, were “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” Garland also sang, “Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.”1 

We can credit Frank Sinatra for changing a melancholy Christmas song into a happier one. He told the song’s writer, Hugh Martin, in 1957 that his album was called “A Jolly Christmas.” So, he asked the songwriter if he could “jolly up” that line for him. The songwriter obliged, changing the lyric to “Hang a shining star atop the highest bough.” “Next year…” likewise became “From now on all our troubles will be out of sight.”2 

We cannot say that every Christmas season is as great as those experienced in our youth. As we get older, economics impact our celebrations. We take note of those missing. Perhaps, we no longer have good health. Or an every-hundred-year-pandemic might decide to come along and interfere with our plans. For those Christmases, we must “muddle through somehow.”  

At least one time in David’s life found him “unmerry” from life’s circumstances. And David likewise had to muddle through until things could get better. This occasion was when David was fleeing for his life because of his son Absalom’s political coup. David and his retainers found themselves in a position where they were “hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” (2 Samuel 17.29 NASB1995) What David did during this muddling remains an example for those finding it difficult to be joyous today. 

First, David did not isolate himself, having the company of his retinue (2 Samuel 17.22). People tend to isolate themselves when depressed.  But it is not the isolation causing difficulties. It is the resulting loneliness often found in isolation. People may think they are all alone in the world or that the world is against them. God said it is not good to be thus isolated (Genesis 2.18; Ecclesiastes 4.9-12). So, reach out to others, if necessary, since the assistance others give enables them to fulfill Christ’s law (Galatians 6.2). 

Second, David accepted the kindness of others (2 Samuel 17.27-29). I do not think it an exaggeration to say David could not have defeated Absalom without the aid of such people. Christians must be kind and tender-hearted to one another (Ephesians 4.32; Colossians 3.12-15; 1 Peter 3.8). And since we must extend such love and kindness to others, we must learn to receive these same overtures in return. That seems to be tricky for some people to realize. Muddling through is easier with brethren!  

Third, David wisely used his time of muddling (2 Samuel 18.1ff). David counts the number of able-bodied men with him who could fight. Then, he divides them into companies and appoints men over thousands and hundreds. The result, of course, was an army capable of battling Absalom. Despite resulting in the death of Absalom, the battle ensured that David could return to Jerusalem. His muddling days were over. In like manner, perhaps now is not an excellent time for us; we are muddling through life. But do what you can, with what you have, where you are. During these difficult times, the plans you make may result in a later victory.  

So, as others seem to be having “…the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” you may find yourself unable to experience that coveted merry time. Emulate David’s example. If you see a family member or friend muddling through, ensure they are not lonely, providing them whatever aid is needed.  In so doing, may we all note, Lord willing, that “Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.” 

Sources Consulted 

1  “Judy Garland- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Lyrics.” AZLyrics, AZLyrics.com,www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/judygarland/haveyourselfamerrylittlechristmas.html

2 Willman, Chris. “How ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ Became One of the Season’s Most Beloved Songs.” EW.com, Meredith Corporation, 22 Dec. 2006, ew.com/article/2007/01/08/history-popular-holiday-song/. Updated December 23, 2020 

Four Waves On The Sea Of Life

Four Waves On The Sea Of Life

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

For whatever reason, I have been fascinated with stories of maritime disaster. I have read about the Titanic, but have even read more closely about the Lusitania, the Edmund Fitzgerald, the HMS Hood (for more, click here), and more. Perhaps few things could conjure up more fear than the thought of being thrust into a cold, deep ocean with no way to stay afloat, subject to attack and almost certain drowning. Poets have drawn upon such imagery, but so do the psalm writers. Read Psalm 42:7 or Psalm 69:2, 14-15 or Psalm 88:7. It is also the way Psalm 130 begins.

It seems to me that the writer is depicting the rolling waves we encounter in life, the ups and downs and the good and bad. How will I respond when I am in the storm, whether a literal storm, a storm others bring upon me or a storm I bring upon myself? What will I do when the winds have subsided and the storm has passed? Let’s look at this psalm as depicting four successive waves. 

APPREHENSION: Our Cries And Supplications (1-2)

(Wave One)

We find the writer in a watery valley, looking up at a high, but descending, wave. It causes him to cry out and voice his pleas and supplications. The crisis may be financial, medical, familial, personal, or spiritual. It may seem like the world is crashing in on top of you. Do you sink in waves of worry, fear, and doubt? Or do you cry out to God for help? The writer sets an example for us, when we feel like we will be buried by trouble!

TRANSGRESSION: Our Iniquities And Unforgiven Sins (3-4)

(Wave Two)

Though the writer moves away from the metaphor, the idea continues. When you wade in the ocean and reach a shelf, you can no longer put your feet on the bottom. You can sink or swim, but you cannot stand. Verse three asks, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” The question is rhetorical, but a lifesaver is thrown! “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” Perhaps better imagery is to see the Omnipotent Hand of God reaching into the deep, grabbing our outstretched, up- stretched hand! Perhaps self-inflicted trouble, our sins, cause us to sink deeper than any other trouble. 

EXPECTATION: Our Waiting And Hoping (5-7a)

(Wave Three)

Perhaps we could envision this as one floating to the top or having their head come up out of the water. The writer uses two significant, connected words–“wait” and “hope.” Help is coming! Just wait. Hope. You’re trusting, praying, studying, serving, and enduring. Maybe you feel like you’re holding onto a splintered plank that’s separating in the aftermath of your shipwreck, but you hear the sound of the rescue vessel humming on the waters. You know Who is at the helm, so you hang on!

REALIZATION: Our Mercy And Redemption (7-8)

(Wave Four)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could be coaxed off a massive barge onto a rickety rowboat. But, most of us would make the exchange in the opposite scenario. Yet, the world clings to the leaky carrier of lostness when the ship of salvation is within reach. The writer calls heaven’s help “lovingkindness” and “abundant redemption.” This is the way I want to view the tumultuous waves of this world, from the safety of God’s saving grace. Resting in His everlasting arms, I can experience confidence and assurance at life’s worst while keeping my focus on Him at life’s best! 

You are probably facing, enduring, or looking back at one of those first three waves right now. We sometimes singing, “Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea; Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treacherous shoal, chart and compass came from Thee, Jesus, Savior, pilot me.” We are echoing the sentiments of the psalmist in Psalm 130. Wherever you are in life, be sure you are letting Him lift and lead you! It’s the only way to reach eternal safety (John 14:6)! 

Ascending Hearts And Hills

Ascending Hearts And Hills

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

Fifteen consecutive psalms (120-134) are so-called “Psalms of Ascent.” They were given this name because they were songs designated for the Israelites to sing on their way to worship in Jerusalem. Moses had instructed them at the giving of the Old Law, “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God” (Ex. 34:34). You can imagine how especially those who came a long distance to Jerusalem (it’s over 100 miles from Mt. Hermon and Beersheba, for example) might benefit from a reminder of why they were making this lengthy journey. As most would walk, this would help pass the time while preparing their minds. This is not a bad idea for us even on a 10 or 20 minute drive to the church building on Sunday morning. 

There is quite a bit of uneven terrain, mountains and valleys, in the area around Jerusalem, and the temple required a steep climb as there were three valleys surrounding Mount Zion and the temple complex. So, people coming from every direction would have to “go up to Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:17; John 2:13; 5:1). But, it was more than a physical ascent, this trip to the temple. It was more significantly a spiritual ascent, an effort to get closer to God. While we can and should draw near to God daily in our personal devotion, there is still great significance and benefit when we join each other in the presence of God to worship Him and fellowship with Him and each other (Heb. 10:24-25). Each time, this should be an ascent for us! 

Notice the repetitive use of “will” in Psalm 121. The word is used eight times in these eight verses. The word points to the future and indicates either anticipation or trust. The writer is confident, especially of what he expects God will do. Such assurance had to take his heart higher!

I WILL LIFT UP MY EYES TO HIM (1)

He starts with what he will do. The writer will look up to God, seeking help and strength. A heart ready to worship is one who sees things as they really are. I am spiritually destitute and needy, and I depend on God for everything. When that is my mindset, I am prepared to praise, thank, and petition Him!

GOD WILL HELP ME (1-2)

Whatever problems, distractions, struggles, and temptations are weighing me down and wearing me down, God will help me! His power is proven. Just look at the creation (2). He has not lost an ounce of strength from that moment to now.

GOD WILL NOT LET ME FALL (3)

The terrain around Jerusalem is often rocky and uneven. I suppose it is easy for anyone’s foot to slip on those roads up to the holy city. But, spiritually, it is a different matter. If I fall, it will not be God’s fault (John 10:27-29). If I hold to God’s unchanging hand, I will successfully complete my journey.

GOD WILL NOT FALL ASLEEP ON THE JOB (3-4)

Night and day, moment by moment, God is alert. He sees everything I do and everything that is done to me. How comforting to know that the All-seeing eye never droops or closes. He does not nod off, even for a moment. 

GOD WILL GUARD AND PROTECT ME (5-8)

Half of this psalm is devoted to this idea. God is not just passively involved, watching me. He is actively involved, keeping me (5,7), providing me shade (5-6), protecting me (7), and guarding me (8). Our God is not inanimate! He is involved! It is why we pray. It is why we trust in His providence. It is why we serve and obey Him. As we love to sing, “There is a God! He is alive. In Him we live and we survive.” The writer of Hebrews quotes three Old Testament passages (Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; Psa. 118:6) to convey two promises: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (13:5-6). 

When you enter to worship, enter with the heart and faith of the righteous pilgrims on their way to the temple for one of the annual festivals. Come with your heart ready, and come with a heart full of faith and trust in the object of your worship. You will leave rejuvenated and resolved.

Our God Is An Awesome God!

Our God Is An Awesome God!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Are there songs that really pump you up in your faith? While there are several that strike that chord in me, none do that more than the song, “Our God is an awesome God.” I know the melody helps, but just that short, sweet, and profound reminder puts wind in my spiritual sails. It reminds me that I can overcome because of who He is.

Psalm 104 is a much more detailed, exhaustive song that lays out how “very great” our God is. It is exciting to think about who we are serving, and sobering to think of the cost of rejecting Him. Look at the awesomeness of God.

LOOK UP (1-4)

My boys call me “sky guy.” I am known to take some pictures of sunrises, sunsets, and skies in general. I remember a night at the Ngorogoro Crater with our oldest son, Gary, when the sky looked, as the late Andrew Connelly once described it, like diamonds laying on black velvet. I remember looking over the Caribbean Sea with Kathy in Cozumel, Mexico, with the moon above us and reflected in the water as yellow as gold. But, I get the same sense on many nights when I cut off the porch light and walk out my front door. God did that!

God’s garments are splendor, majesty, and light (1-2). He stretches out heaven like a curtain, rides the clouds, and walks on the wings of the wind (2-4). How can anyone look up and fail to see God?

LOOK AROUND (5-23)

Where is the most beautiful place on earth? Often, we could say it is wherever we are at the moment. Creation’s beauty is so diverse and its complexity is so incredible. Look at its order and durability (5). Think back to how He changed it all through the flood, using water to raise up mountains, form valleys, and then prevent it from ever happening like that again (6-9; Gen. 9:11). Look at how he sustains us and all creation with water (10-11,16), food (13-15), habitat (12,17-18), seasons (19), and daylight and darkness (19-23). The earth is full of His possessions (24), the sea (25), animals (25), the sea and its wonders (26). He sustains and provides and He shows His power (27-30). On the first hike my family ever took as residents of Colorado, in Rocky Mountain National Park, we met a young woman on a trail. We had in common the fact that we had all just moved there from out of state.  We told her why we had moved, to work with the church in Denver. She, though very polite, said that she moved out there to get away from God. We were all standing, facing such incredible grandeur, and I thought, “Good luck with that!” Where do you go to get away from God when His fingerprints are everywhere? 

LOOK BEYOND (31-32)

As the psalmist begins to wrap up this tribute to God’s awesomeness, he speaks of God’s unlimited power. He makes earth tremble and mountains smoke (32). It gives Him glory and gladness (31). Really, this point is made throughout the entire psalm. Everything we see is a reflection of the One who is above all, through all, and in all (Eph. 4:6). 

LOOK WITHIN (33-35)

In a psalm paying tribute to creation, what should be my response? How should it change and shape me? I will sing to Him as long as I am (33). I will meditate about Him (34). I will be glad in Him (34). I will follow Him, knowing what awaits the sinner and the wicked (35). Listen to the psalmist’s summary: “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!”  What I see above, around, and within me should melt my heart in praise. It should leave me singing every day, “Our God is an awesome God!”

(taken near the summit of Torrey’s Peak, 2018)
Make Like A Tree And “Leaf”

Make Like A Tree And “Leaf”

Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

The Redwood National Park in California is home to the world’s tallest tree. Standing at over 380 feet tall this tree is incredible to look at. The California Redwood is estimated to be able to reach a staggering 425 feet in its lifetime. It continues to grow all its life and there’s a reason it gets so tall, as the lifespan of this tree is up to 2,200 years. Think about that! There are redwood trees that are still growing today that were planted 200 years before Christ was born.
The California Redwood is massive. It is over 29 feet in diameter and has a root system that spreads over three miles underground. These trees are truly incredible. But like most trees, the key to their growth is water. California redwoods consume over 56,000 gallons of water each year or 150 gallons of water each day!
 
In Psalm 1:1, we are given this description: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” This person is blessed when they avoid the progression of sin. Notice how the psalmist describes the progression:
 
  • Walk not in the counsel of the wicked.
  • Nor Stands in the way of sinners.
  • Nor Sit in the seat of the scoffers.
 
These steps illustrate what people do when they are tempted by sin. They walk among it, noticing the wicked and their deeds. Once they walk among it, their curiosity gets the best of them and they begin to pause and spend time in the presence of sinners. Finally they are fully drawn into sin and they sit down and practice the evil that they have observed.
 
Rather than walking, standing and sitting with sinners, the righteous man delights in the law of the Lord. Verse two says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The choice is obvious for the righteous man. He avoids the sin and chooses the Word of God over anything else.
 
Verse three reads, “He is like a tree that is planted by the waters that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in all he does he prospers.” The source of life for this tree is water. Just like the California Redwood needs water in order to grow, the saved man spends his time next to the source of life. What is this water? John 4:14 reveals, “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” For the Christian, our source of life comes from Christ. We are able to grow and thrive on the words of God.
 
Let’s make the decision daily to be firmly planted in the words of life. That way, we too can be counted as righteous!
General Sherman (Sequoia National Park)