Sailors, Subs, Shipwrecks, Sharks, Sinners, And Salvation

Sailors, Subs, Shipwrecks, Sharks, Sinners, And Salvation

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Only 11 survivors outlived him, as he died on November 4, 2019, at the age of 95. When the USS Indianapolis went down in late July, 1945, Art Leenerman was a 21-year-old radarman. After five nights and four days in the Pacific Ocean, where many initial survivors of a catastrophic torpedo attack were eaten by sharks or succumbed to the elements, rescuers arrived. A Dumbo Catalina patrol bomber rescue plane snatched 56 survivors out of the water, thanks to a heroic pilot, Lt. Adrian Marks. Marks’ aircrew saw Leenerman’s “lifeless body in the raft and attached it by a line to the plane. At least they could return his body to his family” (Indianapolis, Vincent and Vladic, 266). They did not want to take up precious space inside the plane and on the wings of the plane, but they did not want to leave him behind. The USS Doyle ultimately raced to the area to pick up survivors, and one by one the survivors were lifted topside from Marks’ plane to the ship.

“The last Indy sailor to be pulled up was Art Leenerman, whose corpse Marks had been towing behind the Dumbo in a raft. Just as the canvas sling crossed Doyle‘s rails, Leenerman sputtered awake, shocking his rescuers. No one was more shocked than Leenerman, who had passed out lost at sea and woke up wrapped in canvas and flying across the fantail of an unknown ship” (270-271).

Sadly, the dead were left behind in many cases, but this choice to bring back Leenerman’s body was life-altering for many. He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds inflicted during the sinking and his ordeal in the sea. He married in his 40s, had a son, four grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. But it only happened because someone took interest in him even when he appeared beyond hope.

Every day, we encounter those whom Scripture describes as “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) and “dead in transgressions” (Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13). Struggling in a sea of sin, they need to be rescued–from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4), from the domain of darkness (Col. 1:13), and from the wrath to come (1 Th. 1:10). The idea is of pulling from danger and delivering from peril. Soul-winning depicts such a dramatic mission.

When we take the time and interest to share the gospel, we do something more improbable than Marks and his crew did for Leenerman. We “save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:20). One of the most beautiful things to behold is the transforming power of the gospel. Many of those who went from “death to life” not only survived, but they brought others to safety themselves. Heaven’s shore will be filled with those whom God’s people helped deliver from the deep! 

The USS Indianapolis before its sinking.
Rescue The Perishing

Rescue The Perishing

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Dane Entze and his wife were coming back from an anniversary getaway and decided to indulge in a bit of romantic nostalgia. They crossed Johns Hole Bridge in Idaho Falls, Idaho, spanning the Snake River. It was the site where they met for their first date, but on the morning of November 12 it was another sight that caught their attention. Dane’s wife noticed someone was driving their car into the river. They stopped their vehicle, and Dane crossed onto a ramp and began talking to a woman who was in the water, informing him that she was committing suicide. He told her, “I don’t know who you are, but I’m here and I love you and I’m going to help you.” As they talked, she began moving toward shore. But she got to the point where she stopped, saying she did not have the will to live. The air temperature was 19 degrees when Entze jumped into the icy water and brought the distraught woman to shore. He helped her dry off and warm up until first responders arrived. When interviewed, Entze said it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time. He drew on some military training and knowledge of the area, but he gave this advice. “Doing something kind is all it takes. You don’t have to do something dramatic or dangerous to help somebody else. Be vigilant” (Mythil Gubbi, Fox 13 News, Salt Lake City, UT).

Certainly, there is something to be said about suicide prevention. According to the CDC, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in our nation, and over a million people attempted suicide in 2020. While mental illness can play a role, most often it is driven by despair and hopelessness. Love and support can be vital to encouraging those with such tendencies to find the help they need.

But, I would like us to consider another application. You and I, in traveling down life’s road, encounter so many who are in spiritual danger. They may or may not know it, but they need to be rescued. We benefit greatly from biblical training, but it takes even more than that. It requires us to do something, to be vigilant. They need to know we’re here, we love them, and we want to help them. If there is anything more lasting and impactful than saving a life, it is helping to save a soul.

One who “turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:20). God has given us the life preserver to save them (1 Cor. 1:21; Jas. 1:21). The word of the cross can save the perishing (1 Cor. 1:18), and the Bible makes it clear that God wants no one to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). He saves those drowning in sin through you and me. We need to have our eyes open. We need to appreciate how valuable and necessary that rescue work is. We need to care and be kind. It may require a sacrifice of time, effort, and energy, but nothing is more crucial than rescuing one whom Jesus died to save.

Loving The Lost (Introduction) pt. 1

Loving The Lost (Introduction) pt. 1

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Over the next few blogs I want us to explore one of the Bible’s most powerful chapters, Luke 15. These parables spoken by Jesus transformed the lives of those who heard back then, and continue to do so today. 

I was six years old and had no idea where my parents were. Every time we went to Walmart, mom would tell us to stay by her side. But I saw the coolest toy dinosaur I had ever seen. So I went to go look at it, and got lost. I ran up and down aisles but I couldn’t find her. So I started crying and just stood there. Eventually mom found me, and apparently they had been announcing over the loud speaker that my mom was up at the front, but I never heard. 

It’s a terrible feeling to be lost. We’ve all experienced it before. There’s a very special chapter in the book of Luke. It’s called by many, “God’s Lost and Found Department.” Luke 15 contains three parables that convey God’s love for the lost. If we want to be a true child of God we must love what the Father loves. In this chapter we find three examples of the lost and God’s love for them. In this chapter, one of the things that stands out the most is God’s concern for sinners, but also His overflowing joy for their return. In this chapter we will understand better God’s love for mankind and the value of a soul. The true Christian will try to imitate this same love for the lost soul that is found here in this chapter. 

I encourage you to read Luke 15 with God’s powerful love in mind. See you next week.

1 Peter 1– Hope’s Value

1 Peter 1– Hope’s Value

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

I Peter I – Hope’s Value

The prophets who told us about this rescue were very curious about it. They investigated and obsessed over the identity and timing of the rescuer Christ’s Spirit was telling them about. He told the prophets that he would suffer at first, but would gain everything after. He told the prophets that their writings were for people in the future, not for them. You are those people in the future! Through God’s influence, people told you about our hope for rescue. By the way, even angels are deeply interested in the hope you have right now! 

Since you have this hope for rescue, don’t ever let it go. Everything you do must be influenced by this hope. Make sure you’re mentally preparing yourself for spiritual combat. Make sure you have self-control going into this. We’ll be rescued when we see Jesus, so hang on tight to hope. 

Don’t go back to your old lives. You had those old, unhealthy desires before you knew any better. Instead, you must live like God wants you to. Jesus did! God’s word said, “You have to be morally pure, just like I am.” You know that God will judge everyone without bias. Live like you know this, and let that give you a healthy dose of fear. He didn’t use an unstable asset like money to secure your rescue. He used the most valuable thing in existence: his own flawless blood. 

Jesus’ plan was in motion before we were even created! He recently made his appearance just for us. Because of him, we believe in God, who brought Jesus back to life and gave him recognition and power. We believe in him. We have hope because of God. 

Fragment containing 1 Peter 1:23–2:5 on Papyrus 125 (3rd/4th century).
The Volunteer Fire Department

The Volunteer Fire Department

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments received 36,416,000 calls to respond in 2020. That included over 23 million for medical aid, 1,388,500 for fires, 750,000 for hazardous materials, and 5,938,500 for other hazardous conditions (NFPA Study). While a relatively small percentage of calls are actually to fires, firefighters leave with a mindset to save a life every time they respond to a call. A study by Hylton Haynes finished in November 2017 for NFPA research, there are 29,067 fire departments in the United States (NFPA Study II). With the total U.S. population above 330,000,000, that’s over 11,000 people for every fire department. But, no community would feel safe without trained firefighters living there. If we could pick the way we died, I can’t imagine any of us would choose death by fire. 

Jude paints a dramatic picture in verse 24 of his short epistle, calling on Christians to “save others, snatching them out of the fire.” That fire is “the punishment of eternal fire” (7). We are talking about a fire which God prepared for the devil and his angels (Mat. 25:41), but will use to punish the spiritually ignorant and the disobedient (2 Th. 1:7-8). It is unquenchable (Mark 9:43). It is a lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15) that burns (Rev. 21:8). While it is hard to imagine that any would choose that fate, Scripture says the majority will (cf. Mat. 7:13-14; 25:46). So, God enlists you and me as volunteer firefighters. The thing with this fire is that people do not experience tangible warnings of it through their skin or lungs, telling them that this fire is encroaching. The only way to perceive this is with the heart, mind, and the eyes of faith. God is counting on us to appeal to those in danger through these means. God has given us the firefighting equipment we need through His Word and our lives as living examples of that Word. Though many incredibly do not want to be rescued, others do! The exhortation is to “snatch” those in danger of fire, to “grab or seize suddenly so as to remove or gain control; to snatch or take away” (BDAG 134). We cannot forcibly rescue anyone, but we must remain vigilant to pull out of the fire all who would welcome our intervention. 

Society still holds firefighters in high regard and few if any argue against the need for their existence. It is good for us to remember how God regards His children who are firefighters and how much He is relying on us to stay at that job (Dan. 12:3; 1 Cor. 1:21; Jas. 5:19-20)! Let’s keep working on our skills and improving our abilities to “save others, snatching them out of the fire.” Those rescued will be eternally grateful! 

via PxHere (Creative Common)
We Can All Use Some Help

We Can All Use Some Help

Friday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

candela

Steve Candela

Fun fact about myself…  I would be a whole lot more comfortable running into a burning building than I am standing up here speaking.  But just like any situation on a fire ground, the job will get done. 

James 5:19 says,  “My Brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

There have been countless times in my life where help was not only desired or needed, but necessary.  As a Fireman I’d like to tell you that I’m made of iron, nothing can hurt me and I don’t need help from anyone, “I got this”. Problem is, this would be the furthest thing from the truth. In order to get the job done it takes a team. We have guys that fight fire, guys that search for victims, guys that drive the trucks, pump the water, we have guys in charge of the operational strategy, and so on.  We even have guys that their only job on a fireground is to go in and save a fellow firefighter in trouble if they get stuck, disoriented or hurt. This is called a RIT team.  We as Christians work in a similar fashion. Ok, so we don’t have the ranking system, but we all have duties. We all have jobs and responsibilities, right? 

Robert Muszynski was a fire chief in Chicago Ridge, Illinois. He had worked at multiple fire departments throughout his career but this is where he finally decided to retire in 2014 at the age of 58. I do not know specifically if he was a follower of Christ. I do, however, know of his dedication to his work and his firefighters. He was recognized several times in magazines and various fire department-related web articles for his encouraging quotes and respectable works in the fire service. I’d like to share with you a couple of his quotes and how I’ve related it not only to my job but my spiritual life as well. 

 Bob said, “Always stay hungry for the job, and you will never get full.” Complacency causes you to become bored, disengaged, and think that you know it all.  Keeping interest and staying engaged is very important.  You could say for us as Christians to always stay hungry for the word of God, read as often as you can and you’ll never get full. There is always more to learn from scripture. Create discussion among your friends or host a Bible study. Always Stay Hungry for the word. 

He also said, “Good firefighters will know their job. Great Firefighters will also know the job of the person above them as well as teach their job to the people below them.”  As an Engineer I am in between the ranks of firefighter and captain. I have a great relationship with my captain. He’s been a fantastic guide, teacher, mentor, and leader of our crew. I know his job and what it entails, and I strive to be in that position someday. As with the firefighters below me I try to be that role model that teaches them everything it takes to become an engineer and give them ample opportunities to come to me for guidance. A good Christian will know what it takes to be a good Christian, but is that where it stops? No. To be great Christians we need to be aware of what our elders and deacons have in the works. They do so much for us already; maybe there’s something you can help with? Take a task off their plate so they can work on the next important project. What about the people who need saving? You might not see yourself as a great teacher, but there is something inside every one of us that we have to offer to someone else. By creating conversation with our visitors you might reveal their needs. You could be the one to lead them to where they need to be and teach them something along the way. 

As hard as it is to admit, sometimes a Fireman can use a little help.  Christians can too.  Leading up to the scripture reading above, James has been talking to fellow believers in Christ, encouraging them to never give up faith. It’s so easy today for us to stumble and fall. We have people and priorities tugging and pulling us in every direction away from God. James knew this. He makes it clear that we are to help our fellow Christians who may wander from the truth and become worldly. It’s our job to help them get reconnected with God. Like addressing and correcting poor behavior in the firehouse this can be a difficult assignment. We need to be careful in how we complete this task so we don’t fall into the same sin or come across as too “high and mighty” (Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”) This means be tactful not attacking. Genuine love and care must be the tactic. 

Steve interviewed last year by NBC about the walk to honor firefighters who died on 9/11.
Salvation

Salvation

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

gary and chelsea

Gary Pollard

We don’t typically associate salvation with death. Normally the opposite is true! In the New Testament salvation normally describes forgiveness of sins (Acts 4.12, for example). Escaping spiritual death is how the word is primarily used. The exception to this rule is fascinating and sobering. 

Human instinct compels us to avoid unpleasantness, suffering, and death. When faced with danger or difficulty, our default response is avoidance at all cost. This was a great temptation for many in the early church. 

Peter wrote to Christians who were about to face some awful hardships. He encouraged them by promising salvation, but it was a hard message to swallow. In the following examples, Peter used “salvation” to mean something different (it would have been understood to mean this because of context): 

  1. I Peter 1.5 – Death
  2. I Peter 1.8ff – Death
  3. I Peter 2.2ff – Death

How is death the same thing as salvation? For those who were suffering and stayed faithful, death was the ultimate salvation. For those whose lives were upended because of persecution, being with God forever was salvation. For those who lost their family members, salvation meant reunion. The ultimate result of faith is eternal life with God. 

How do we view difficulty? Do we compromise faith to avoid suffering? At worst, suffering leads to death. At best, suffering leads to death. Nothing can slow a faithful Christian down! We have salvation in this life (guilt does not weigh us down), and the end of this life is salvation. We have an awesome God. 

The Burden Bearer

The Burden Bearer

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

 
There’s a fact that we must understand about our Christianity:  we can’t make it through this life if we don’t let God help. God has offered His hand to us. He wants to help us. Problem is, we don’t always accept. When we refuse the help of God, we open the door to stress and anxiety. When we try to handle life on our own we are quickly drowned in helplessness and worry. But God wants to help us.
 
In 1 Peter 5, we are told a comforting fact about the Creator. In speaking of our humility in submitting to the leaders of the church, Peter tells us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (6-7). 
 
Peter tells us how we can show humility to God, by casting our anxieties on Him. And most of the time we refuse help because of our pride. We don’t need directions because our pride keeps us from admitting we are lost. We don’t need the user manual because doing so means accepting that we don’t know how to build a dresser.
 
Accepting help takes humility. Peter tells us that in order to show humility toward God we must accept the fact that without God we are lost. We are told in Scripture that God bears our burdens, but an important question we must ask is, “How do we let God bear our burdens?”
 
Transfer Your Concern.
 
Peter tells us in verse seven to cast our anxieties. This word “casting” is a very interesting word. It literally means to “transfer from one person to the next.” It is the act of handing off something to someone else. I want to pause and analyze a very intriguing and complex game. It’s called “hot potato.” Now it can be hard to understand the goal and purpose of this game so I’ll try as best I can to explain it. You take a hot potato and toss it around to other people…And that’s the game. When it comes to our anxiety that is exactly what we are told to do. Toss it like a hot potato because you don’t want it or need it.
 
When Peter tells us to cast our anxieties on God, he is telling us to get rid of it completely. Not just tell God about what’s worrying us, but literally transfer our concerns and worries over to God. We sometimes will tell God about our anxieties in prayer and then continue to worry and stress over our situation. If we do this we aren’t fulfilling the command given. God bears our burdens by taking what we transfer to Him. If we never give it to God He will not have it. 
 
Pinpoint Your Anxiety.
 
Verse seven also says, “Casting your anxiety.” What is anxiety? The word here is speaking of an emotion characterized by feelings of tensions. It’s worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure and weight gain or weight loss.
 
Peter is talking about the emotions we deal with when it comes to stressful situations. The emotions we feel when trying to solve an issue we are worried about. The situations we lose sleep over, the problems that are constantly in the back of our minds eating away at our joy and contentment. Those feelings are the ones that God wants to take from you. Those are the emotions that God wants to bear for us. But we must pinpoint what it is that is causing anxiety. What stress am I dealing with? More importantly, what am I doing about that stress?
 
Understand God’s Care.
 
Then verse seven says, “Casting your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” Why do we transfer our concerns to God? Because He truly cares. What concerns us concerns God. In letting God bear our burdens we must believe the fact that God truly cares about us (Psa. 40:17; Jn. 10:11ff). It is plainly shown to us in Scripture that God cares. But it’s interesting to notice that in His earthly ministry Jesus was often asked a question. For example, in Mark 4:38 the apostles are on the Sea of Galilee and a storm comes upon them. The waves are crashing down, the wind is beating on the boat, the Savior is sleeping, and the apostles lose their faith in God. They come to him and ask, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
 
In Luke 10:40, Jesus enters the house of Mary and Martha. Mary sits at His feet while Martha is distracted by serving and being hospitable, and Martha says to Jesus, “Do you not care?” We find ourselves in the storms of life and Jesus is nowhere to be seen and we immediately ask “Do you not care?” We get distracted and our problems aren’t getting fixed and we cry out “do you not care?” It is a question we tend to ask God, and we still fail to see the care of the Savior.
 
“Oh, yes He cares I know He cares. His heart is touched with my grief. When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.” Do you understand that God cares for you? Or have you found yourself asking the same question the disciples asked Jesus? Do you fully understand the love that God has for you?
 
If we ever doubt God’s care, just think of Christ hanging on the cross taking your sin. Receiving the punishment for my sin. Does Jesus care? The answer is a resounding yes! And we can know that He cares.

The Lifeboat Baby

The Lifeboat Baby

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

While many today have no idea who Jesse Roper Mohorovic is, he was a celebrity from the moment of his birth on March 30, 1942, off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The United States had entered World War II only a few months before, and German U-Boats “prowled the Atlantic sea lanes, and the waters off the Virginia-Carolina coast were ‘the most dangerous on earth'” (C. Brian Kelly, Military History, 9/05, 74). In fact, the Germans killed twice as many seamen in their U-boat campaign off the east coast than died at Pearl Harbor. 

Jesse’s mother, Desanka, was 8 1/2 months pregnant, traveling on a passenger freighter that was torpedoed. She faced peril after peril, from getting out of her cabin to the harrowing escape in a lifeboat to an overnight storm. In the middle of all of it, the freighter sunk and her doctor injured in their dramatic escape, she gave birth in Lifeboat #4 to a baby boy at 2:30 A.M. Two days later, they were rescued by the Navy destroyer Jesse Roper. 

The media covered many of the early milestones of his life, and even documented his interests and favorite baseball team. He later appeared on the TV shows To Tell The Truth and I’ve Got A Secret. He earned a law degree, served in the Navy, and had a career in marketing. He died of lung cancer about two years after his 2003 retirement (via JOC.com). 

It is no wonder that “The Lifeboat Baby” would become such a sensation, especially given the real drama behind his birth. Perhaps he would have been part of anonymous tragedy if he and his mother had been among the 5000 who perished, but his birth and life became a symbol of hope and victory. Indeed, “Newspapers heralded Jesse as living proof the Allies could not be defeated” (Kelly). 

We live in increasingly grim times. Our current battle is spiritual in nature, as sin and immorality seem to have the upper hand. Souls are perishing in infinitely greater numbers (cf. Mat. 7:13-14). While we cannot save them all, we need to be in search of those we can reach with the gospel. We must muster greater courage to share the good news and help those searching reach safety. They need to know there is hope and victory possible, and that Christ will ultimately win (1 John 5:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:24-25).  These babes in Christ are unlikely to capture the attention of the media, but each of them have the rapt attention of heaven. God is counting on you and me helping to deliver them, regardless of how stormy things may be. Each individual matters to God. How wonderful that we might partner with God and His Word, and help a soul be one whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27)!

 

Photo via Naval History and Heritage Command
A Saved Life Saved Hundreds More

A Saved Life Saved Hundreds More

Neal Pollard

Ray Wallace, a great preacher friend of mine in Bayfield, Colorado, sent me an article about an incredible, heartwarming rescue. It happened late at night in Fresno, California, in 1971. Rick Freund was driving home when he saw a house going up in flames. Outside the house were three little girls and their mother, who was desperately crying for her baby trapped inside his bedroom. Firefighters had not arrived, so the slender, 24-year-old Freund was hoisted into the window, where he found the infant smiling in his crib. He rescued the baby, then simply walked away. Just minutes after the rescue, fire collapsed the ceiling and destroyed the bedroom. Little did he know that the family he helped would track him down 46 years later. The baby boy he saved, Bobby Magee, grew up hearing about this daring rescue and because of that has devoted his life to saving others. Now 47 and the father of three, Bobby has saved hundreds of lives by organizing a large blood drive over the last 18 years. Freund and Magee kindled a friendship built upon an incredible bond. Incidentally, Freund has also rescued a choking stranger by performing the Heimlich maneuver. On yet another occasion, he administered CPR on an elderly woman who had a heart attack at a funeral (Carmen George, The Fresno Bee, 2/5/18).

In the early 1990s, one of my elders in Mechanicsville, Virginia, Russell Young, studied with and baptized a man named Tom. Tom would influence his ex-wife, ex-daughter-in-law, future wife, and daughter, Debbie, to obey the gospel. Debbie would help convert several of her co-workers, including Shannon. Shannon and her husband, Michael, obeyed the gospel the same night. Shannon and Michael have gone on to go on several mission trips. Only eternity will tell how many souls have been saved through those. Who knows how many of those converted in these mission fields have reached others and how many have been reached? That is just one case I personally know about. Many people can share similar stories of dramatic rescue! It is a modern demonstration of 2 Timothy 2:2.

As we go about our daily business, God has us here on a rescue mission. We can never know, when we care enough to share Christ with a lost soul, where it will end. The person may seem humble and ordinary, but they may influence many more to be saved. And those saved ones may save many more. It’s truly exciting to think about this wonderful chain of rescued souls standing on the Lord’s right side at the Judgment! Let’s be heroes of the highest kind! A saved life may save hundreds more!

JRW BABY RESCUE 1
Rick Freund (L) and Bobby Magee