“I’m Begging You, Let Me Work.”

“I’m Begging You, Let Me Work.”

 Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

We take our title from the final words spoken by the productive artist, Osamu Tezuka. As I skimmed his biography written by Helen McCarthy, I came across those haunting words as McCarthy discussed Tezuka’s passing in 1989 from stomach cancer. Frankly, I wonder what Tezuka felt he had left undone. Yes, Tezuka indeed had unfinished manga and animation projects, but his oeuvre includes “170,000 pages of comic art in around 700 different titles, from single-frame comics to epic series. He and his studios worked on more than seventy animated titles, from experimental films to TV series” (McCarthy 248).  

In addition, Tezuka was a  writer, illustrator, and designer. Having seen Mighty Atom (Astro Boy—US), Stanley Kubrick wrote a letter to Tezuka in 1965 asking him to be the art director of 2001: A Space Oddysey (1960s). Tezuka felt his schedule would be unaccommodating and turned down Kubrick’s offer (Artists). Even so, the global community acknowledged Tezuka’s work during his lifetime. He had accolades plenty. Though Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, etc.) has usurped Tezuka’s title of “Japan’s Walt Disney,” biographer Helen McCarthy notes that Tezuka was far more. She suggests that Tezuka was more like “Walt Disney, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Tim Burton, Arthur C. Clarke, and Carl Sagan all rolled into one incredibly prolific creator” (McCarthy 8).   

Was Tezuka merely a tortured artist? The artist often receives low pay and endures long hours, inviting illness and depressed mental states. This lifestyle seems especially true of mangaka and animators of Japan. As an aside, I note how many manga series I have read that went on sudden hiatus due to the mangaka’s health for these reasons. From a Western perspective, the Japanese are workaholics. In the United States, the artists would likely have unionized and gone on strike. Yet, Tezuka longed to keep drawing, even when it wasn’t lucrative or detrimental to his physical health. Since Tezuka has a son now working in the billion-dollar anime industry, it is doubtful Tezuka thought his work was his sole legacy. Yet, something drove Tezuka to keep churning out work. And in so doing, Tezuka not only shaped the “psychology of Japan’s postwar youth” (About Tezuka Osamu) but likewise “laid the foundations for the 21st-century image of a ‘cool Japan’” (McCarthy 12).  

Perhaps it was about identity? Maybe Tezuka could only see himself as an artist. I know many men who do not know what to do with downtime or retirement. These men define themselves by their occupation. This propensity is not necessarily a bad thing. However, such thinking can lead to discontentment and disappointment. If someone or something suddenly took your job from you, what would you do? Can you enjoy the life you have built for yourself through your industry? I realize I am asking deep philosophical questions that have nothing to do with devotional literature on their surface. Yet, these thoughts are pertinent to Christianity. Christianity is vocation number one (Ephesians 4.1). Thus, Christianity should be our identity. The things we do so we may eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10) are of secondary import. As long as one is faithful, it matters not if he is the captain of industry or shovels manure. We might add that our hobbies must likewise take a backseat to our Christian walk (Matthew 6.33). 

Yet, despite knowing, as Solomon concluded, that one’s duty is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12.13), we still have difficulty making an application. Even David and Asaph wrote psalms of an existential nature (Psalm 8 and 73). Perhaps this struggle results from the torture our fleshly bodies meet out upon our spirits (cf. Romans 7.14-8.1). Indeed, we wish to be rid of the flesh and clothe ourselves with our heavenly habitation (2 Corinthians 5.1ff). Hence, Paul understood what gain he had in death but acknowledged he had work to do while he remained (Philippians 1.21-22). Even so, I don’t know if Paul would have sounded like Tezuka, begging to do more work than he had already done when on Nero’s chopping block. All I know is that I hope to have a more cheerful tone when on my deathbed than Tezuka. I want to sound more confident like Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4.7 NASB1995). The only way any of us can accomplish that, of course, is to ensure that we are about our Father’s business today.  

 

Works Cited 

The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, by Helen McCarthy, Ilex, 2013, p. 248. 

“1960s.” Tezuka Osamu World, Tezuka Productions, web.archive.org/web/20080924175809/en.tezuka.co.jp/osamu/annals/1960.html

“Artists.” Modern Japan – Artists – Tezuka Osamu, Japan-Zone.com, www.japan-zone.com/modern/tezuka_osamu.shtml

The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, by Helen McCarthy, Ilex, 2013, p. 8. 

“About Tezuka Osamu|Tezuka Osamu Official.” TezukaOsamu.net(EN), tezukaosamu.net/en/about/

The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, by Helen McCarthy, Ilex, 2013, p. 12. 

 

RIGHTEOUS OR RAVENS?

RIGHTEOUS OR RAVENS?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Elijah is known as one of the greatest prophets. We’re introduced to him in 1 Kings 17 and God is preparing him to accomplish great things. As God leads him he begins to grow in faith while following His lead. Ahab wears the crown after his father Omri, but he is significantly more wicked. In fact, he’s more wicked than all before him. It’s fitting that during such a terrible time someone like Elijah makes his appearance. 

There’s an interesting event that takes place while the prophet shelters by a brook that God had led him to. Ravens fly in with bread and meat to keep him sustained. The raven was an unclean animal, yet God is helping Elijah grow in several ways during this period. He’s leading, and Elijah follows in faith. He could not deny that God sent him the ravens, yet it went against his upbringing. Even so, he still ate. 

One lesson we can pull from this account is that God can use the unclean for His purposes. God can use the evil people and nations to accomplish His will. An unfaithful Christian can share the gospel and a sinful man can make good and godly decisions, all the while remaining unclean. That’s a humbling lesson. We can act faithful, but we can remain filthy. We don’t want that! It’s my prayer that today we can make a fresh commitment to be faithful to God in all things. He can lead us through even the darkest times, if we have the faith to follow. 

We’ve Not Reached The Judgment Yet

We’ve Not Reached The Judgment Yet

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

Neal Pollard (pinch-hitting for Carl today)

Solomon makes an interesting observation in the book about his grand experiment seeking the meaning of life. In Ecclesiastes 8, he is writing about the “evil man” who is basically living life as he pleases, doing what he wants with no regard for judgment. There seem to be multiple reasons for him to continue living this way:

  • He’s doing evil and is not suffering immediate consequences for it (11).
  • He’s repeatedly doing evil and is even living a long life (12; cf. 7:15).
  • He doesn’t seem to suffer a fate any worse than the righteous, and sometimes seems to do better than the righteous (14). 

Frankly, Solomon is making a timeless observation. Perhaps you have sung the song, “Tempted and tried, we’re off made to wonder why it should thus all the day long, while there are others living about us never molested though in the wrong.” Billionaires, movie stars, professional athletes, politicians, and the like provide public examples of this passage and that song. We can produce more local, if lesser known, examples of those who seem prosper, living so wicked year after year. 

Solomon does not have the understanding we have this side of Calvary, but he ultimately grasps the principle that should guide our lives today. At the very end of Ecclesiastes, he says, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (12:13-14). This is a vital principle for me to internalize and live by.

When I am tempted to live like this world is my home and the pleasures of earth are what life is about, I need to understand that I may not be struck dead while pursuing life on those terms, not even if I persist in it over a long period of time. I may not die a horrible death as the result of pursuing what God calls “evil.” However, Ecclesiastes 8:11-14 does not describe the end. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 does.

If I drift away from fellowship with God and His people, if I live like the world when I am out of sight of the church, if I put someone or something above my faithfulness to God, I probably won’t suffer immediate consequences. God loves me enough to let me know that. He will let me make whatever choices I want, but He wants me to know the results of my decisions. Solomon rightly says, “Still I know it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly” (Ecc. 8:12; cf. 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 12:13). There is an appointment for every one to “be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). It is when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and Paul says we must all do so. Wisdom is living this life preparing for that moment, understanding that judgment is not now but then. Such knowledge should move us to “fear God and keep His commandments.”

Noting God’s Glory on a Cold Day 

Noting God’s Glory on a Cold Day 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19.1 NASB1995)   

A cold wind bit my exposed skin as I walked to the mailbox. Three cats wove between legs desiring a petting. I wanted to hurry back to the house but feared inadvertently kicking one of the lovable, purring furballs. I carefully made my way from the shadow into the direct sunlight. I felt the warming rays of the sun on that same exposed skin. I closed my eyes but could still sense the bright light of that gaseous ball some 92 million miles away. As I coaxed the cats back up to the house, I contemplated our life-sustaining star.  

How is it that we happened to find ourselves in the “sweet spot” in our proximity from this sphere of hot plasma? Were we any closer, the conditions on earth might prove too hot to support life. Were we any further away, the conditions on earth might prove too cold to support life. If you do any searching into this happenstance, you will encounter the expression “Goldilocks zone.” You may recall Robert Southey’s story of the titular Goldilocks who decided to make herself at home in the house of three bears. She tried the food, chairs, and beds of the absented creatures, finding the baby bear’s things to be “just right.” 

Somehow we found ourselves on a planet in that spot, which is just right. Atheists say that this is the result of chance. I was reading a site contributed to by those departing the Christian faith as they discussed this very topic. The original poster to the forum said that this habitable zone’s existence was a remaining hurdle for him in his desire to cast off the reality of God. Commentors threw out what I would consider a straw man argument, stating that life is possible elsewhere; it is just that evolution would produce a different result. Thus, some other lifeforms would be having this same discussion about how their planet was in the “right spot.”  

Of course, that does nothing to explain how we found ourselves in just that right spot. It was an explosion from nothing (i.e., Big Bang) that scattered the known universe’s material. Gravity also resulted from this explosion somehow. This gravity enabled the cosmic debris to coalesce into the Earth, Sun, and all the tiny dots of sparkling light observable in the night sky. Yet, despite its chaotic beginning, the earth was situated at the proper distance from the sun to allow life to get sloshed together inside primordial oceans.  

Those simple lifeforms, defying every observation today that things go from a state of order to disorder, managed to grow more complex over eons of time. Yes, there were untold dead ends in which mutation brought about disastrous results. But finally, homo sapiens (“wise man”) emerged at the animal kingdom’s apex, the hairless primate, to ponder his existence. With his technology, he created machines that enabled him to communicate over much distance instantly about how the Goldilocks zone is just the illusion of an Intelligent Creator.   

Call me crazy, but I think it takes more faith to believe that pure chance put us into the sun’s sweet spot. It is much easier for me to accept an Omnipotent God created us and placed us inside the Goldilocks zone He made. Thus, the perfect proximity from our star declared God’s glory to me! As such, as I felt the sun’s warmth on a cold day, rather than think of it merely as a hot ball of gas heating me, I could imagine those sun’s rays were the arms of my Heavenly Father holding me in His loving care.   

 

“Does Everything Happen For A Reason?”

“Does Everything Happen For A Reason?”

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard
Have you ever been misquoted? Like when you say something and your friend takes that and runs with it, and they turn it into a phrase that you never even said to begin with. No one likes getting words put in their mouth, especially if they’re harmful or a lie. When it comes to Gods word, it’s no different. God has clearly shown us what He has said, and there’s not any need to add to it. Sadly some people have taken Romans 8:28, a beautiful verse, and have changed it to mean something entirely different.
 
“Everything Happens For a Reason.” You’ve probably heard this phrase used before. This phrase has hurt and angered a lot of people who experience a great tragedy. We often say these words to indicate that God is in charge of all things. Unfortunately, that thought has to be balanced with the knowledge that God created us in his image; therefore, we have free will and the right to choose. 
 
If you’re like me, we won’t always use that freedom correctly. As humans we make bad and harmful decisions, and much of the pain and suffering we experience is a result of a wrong choice. God is in charge of this world, but He has chosen to give us freedom to follow. Often, things happen in our lives because we, or someone else, made a wrong choice.
 
Romans 8:28 is the verse that people will point to when they use this phrase. Let’s take a moment to dig into this verse and see what is being said. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Is God behind every tragedy? Does God cause people to wreck? Does God cause all the good and bad that happens in the world? God doesn’t make everything happen for a reason because of this: He doesn’t control our every decision. We have free choice to live however we want, and those choices are often done out of greed or selfishness or a lack of care and concern for others.
 
So what does this verse mean? Paul is trying to make a very important point. God takes the good and the bad, and uses it to accomplish His will. God causes all things to work together for Good. He doesn’t cause everything to happen;  He takes what occurs and uses it for good. He can take a bad situation and use it to accomplish His will. Bad things happen and the world is filled with sin, but God can take a seemingly terrible situation and something good can come from it. Israel made many bad decisions, but God still used them to bring about the Messiah. God can take the terrible events in our lives, and use them as a way to grow His kingdom.
What’s My Purpose?

What’s My Purpose?

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

As humans we want our lives to have direction and meaning. We want to wake up and know what our goal is for the day. Having purpose is what keeps us from feeling like we are spinning in place, it gives us a reason to live. When our lives lack purpose, what does it look like?
 
There will be confusion. When we don’t have purpose our goal in life is unclear. We will ask questions like, “why am I here?” And “what have I accomplished?” A lack of purpose leads to confusion, a lack of clarity, and direction.
 
Without purpose there will also be doubt. We will find ourselves second guessing every decision. If there’s no purpose, then we will begin to doubt the choices we make.
 
A life without purpose contains uncertainty. As humans we want to know for sure that we are making the right call. When we make those important decisions we want to be confident that it was the right choice. If there is no purpose, we will have no ultimate goal to base our decisions on.
 
A life without purpose is a wasted life. So what is our purpose?
 
1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
 
As Christians we are described as:
 
  • Chosen Race (God chose you to be part of something far bigger).
  • Royal Priesthood (we no longer have to be a Levite to gain access to God).
  • Holy Nation (set apart and useable by God).
  • Owned By God (a part of The Creator’s possessions).
 
Because we are chosen, royal, holy and owned by God, we have a purpose to fulfill. Peter tells us that our purpose is to proclaim the excellence of God, the one that called us out of darkness and into light (10).  
 
Our life now has a purpose. We have a calling that is greater than anything else we could set out to accomplish. We are a part of God’s plan.
 
He needs us to help Him. Our purpose in life is to help change the eternal outcome of those trapped in sin. We have meaning and direction.
 
We no longer have to worry about what we should be doing with our lives. God had told us our purpose, and we can find true happiness in serving God.
“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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I Am Not A Preacher

I Am Not A Preacher

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

We don’t know that much about the life of Christ between the ages of twelve and thirty, but many of us have this image of Jesus in our minds doing the work of a carpenter with His father, Joseph. 

One Hebrew scholar, by the name of James Fleming, makes the argument the word “carpenter” in Mark 6:4 and Matthew 13:56, could actually be a bad translation of the Greek word “Tekton.” Fleming points out that the homes in Nazareth were largely made of Stone, not wood. We also know that the Herod at the time, Antipas, spent a great deal of energy making the city of Sepphoris (Zippori) his “Jewel of Galilee” by giving it a total makeover. This developing city was located only three miles away from the hometown of our Lord. 

There was a rock quarry half way between Nazareth and Sepphoris where Jospeh, and perhaps Jesus, could have spent their time cutting stones for the Herod’s great project. An undertaking of this size would have likely employed all the surrounding builders, including those in Nazareth. Of course, Jospeh and Jesus working as stonemasons is pure speculation.

 Scripture doesn’t give us a detailed account of Jesus’ childhood, but Luke 2:52 tells us that He, “…grew in favor with God and men.” This passage indicates that Jesus was well liked by those who knew Him growing up, but when you compare this verse with Matthew 13:57, that “favor with man” isn’t there anymore. Matthew records, “And they took offense at Him.”

 In both Matthew and Marks account of Jesus’ returning to His hometown, the locals ask the question, “Is this not the son of a carpenter?” After Christ is questioned, He doesn’t perform any great miracle for all to see, but He heals a few of their sick. He doesn’t try to argue with them, but He goes through the town teaching. The gospels don’t tell us exactly what He was teaching, but there’s a simple lesson here for all of us. 

Don’t be a carpenter. 

Jesus lost favor with many when He broke out of their social mold and when He did things they weren’t accepting of. People no longer liked Him when He also began teaching things they weren’t used to hearing. The identity of Jesus was not wrapped up in the job He was trained to do, He was and is much more than that. If you’re a follower of Christ, your identity is not your profession. 

Jesus is not the son of a carpenter, He’s the Son of God. He’s given us a new identity, and we should never cheapen who we are by seeing ourselves as doctors, engineers, truck drivers, preachers, teachers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. We’re Christians. 

Even when He lost some positive popularity, Jesus looked for those who were willing to be healed and willing to hear. This is exactly what should be filling our time as well. Who do you know that needs to be spiritually healed by Jesus? Who do you know that needs to hear the wonderful soul-saving truth about the real Identity of Jesus? 

I’m a Christian— not a preacher. 

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A Big Blip

A Big Blip

Dale Pollard

A family decided they didn’t want their little puppy anymore and for whatever reason they decided to dump this dog on the side of the road after tying it in a black plastic bag. At some point there was a woman who was driving down that road and she just happened to notice that something wasn’t right. When she discovered that there was a dog inside the bag she took it to a vet and then, eventually, to an adoption shelter. One day I decided to walk into the pet store to simply look around— and that’s when I saw him. Huddled in the back of his crate, a shaggy and skinny puppy with tan fur sat quietly, while it seemed every other dog in that store was madly barking. I opened the crate and he timidly came out— there was nothing I could do. This dog was mine. I named him “Bro” and to this day he continues to provide loyal companionship and plenty of laughs. The fact is, I’ve never been more attached to another animal and I’d never even think about giving him away. 

Solomon was a man determined to find the purpose of life. In Ecclesiastes we can read about these lavish experiments that he conducts all in the name of research. In the first two chapters he writes in a very depressing manner all the while Divine inspiration drives him toward the answer to life’s greatest question. He acknowledges the fact that everybody in every generation is just a small blip on earth’s timeline. The rich, poor, wise, and foolish all must embrace the same fate. They will all die and will eventually be forgotten. Solomon is concerned that everything, his wealth and kingdom, will be left to a fool after he’s gone, and that’s exactly what happened. Rehoboam, his son, proves to be an awful king and heaps destruction on God’s people. So, what’s the point? None of it matters. Well, without God nothing matters! The word most associated with this book is the word “vanity,” which means “useless or futile.” Without God, your life is worthless and it will amount to nothing. Solomon’s discovery of this unchanging truth will remain true throughout every age because it’s a truth that comes from the Creator of life. 

It’s unlikely that not a single person on earth values your life. Still, even if that were the case, because God’s hand guides you and touches all that you do, you have everything. My dog is not an expensive pure bred beauty, but to me there is no dog that could take his place. Apparently someone didn’t think too highly of him in the past, but that mangy thing lucked out and found the right owner. Who owns you? If money owns you, you’re getting left on the side of the road. If anything in the world owns you, you’re getting left behind. If God doesn’t own your life, you’ll never find purpose or lasting joy in this life— or the next. It could be that you feel like you’ve been placed in a trash bag and the world has mistreated you your entire life. Maybe that’s crushed your confidence and taken your sense of self worth, too. Though our lives are just a blip in the grand scheme of things, God can make your life a big blip by providing you with not only purpose, but with a love far too great to comprehend. The God of heaven has given us a mission and if we accept His invitation we’re going to make a lasting mark on this world— and enjoy lasting bliss in the world to come. 

Bro today
How To Be Worthy

How To Be Worthy

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Nothing is worse than washing your hands only to find that there aren’t any more paper towels. A paper towel roll with no towels is completely worthless. You can’t dry your hands with the roll (trust me I’ve tried), and you’re left feeling grumpy as you wipe your hands on your clothes.
 
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus tells us that we “are the salt of the earth.” Why are we given this description? The Greek word for salt is “halas” and its definition will blow your mind…it means salt. Jesus is talking about literal salt, so why would He tell us that we are a high sodium white crystalline substance? Salt adds flavor, it preserves food, and in small amounts can fertilize land. The Christian is salt because we add flavor to the world in the form of the gospel. We are able to preserve people’s souls through Christ. We help people grow with the help of God’s Word. That’s our job. We are the salt of the earth.
 
But what happens if we lose our flavor? We become worthless. Salt loses flavor when it comes in contact with moisture. If we become exposed to the world and let it take away our Christianity, what are we good for? We can’t add flavor, preserve, or even be fit to throw on some dirt. A paper towel roll with no towels does nothing. It can no longer be used for the purpose it was made for. The Christian who doesn’t live for Christ is deserting their purpose, and God sees them as worthless.
 
What are we showing the world? Are we carrying out our duty as followers of Christ? Don’t let it be said of us that we have lost our flavor. Don’t let God look at our life and say it is worthless to Him.