The Prodigal Cat 

The Prodigal Cat 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Our beloved cat, June-bug, returned home recently. He had been absent for over a year. We assumed he was dead. Yet, the “power of love” drew him back to the house. Oh, no, it was not his love for us. He could sense a female that has entered estrus. And that is why he is back. Will he stick around? We shall see. However, I cannot help but notice the toll his “prodigal living” has had on him in the interim. Before his departure, he began having irritation in his left eye. It wept a lot. It would sometimes seal his eye shut. He now looks like a human with ptosis (i.e., drooping eyelid). Frankly, that is how I was able to identify him since his coat is darker and matted.  

Otherwise, he seems as if he has eaten well. He was always a good hunter. The earlier generations of cats that took up with us were better hunters. These newer cats have become so accustomed to humans providing food that I wonder how well they would fare if on their own. The saddest part of June-bug’s return is noting how feral he has become. Previously, June-bug liked when we pet him. Now, he will not come near us, despite acting as if he still faintly recalls us. 

Have you ever encountered a brother or sister now living prodigally? It can be heartbreaking, correct? Sometimes the toll sin has had upon them is obvious. Hard-living might make them look haggard and aged beyond their years. The Bible paints this picture as well. What happened to the “original” prodigal? Given his hunger, we might infer he had become gaunt. He was so desperate that he was willing to eat pig slop (Luke 15.14-16). His poverty likely reduced his apparel to rags. What sight must he have presented to the awaiting father?  

And what does Solomon elsewhere say of the drunkard?  

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine.” (Proverbs 23.29-30 NASB1995) 

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20.1 NASB1995) 

Yes, sin can often devastate on this side of eternity as well. Things like substance abuse will alter a person’s demeanor, cause them to injure themselves while in a stupor, or pick fights with others.  

Beyond the physical difficulties encountered because of sin, we must likewise consider the psychological toll, particularly guilt. The psalmist refers to a sinner’s inability to stand within the assembly of the righteous (Psalm 1.5). While their lifestyle would strip them of their desire to be within the Christian community, their guilt would not permit them to endure such association for long. Seeing others striving to walk in the Light(1 John 1.7) would remind them from whence they had fallen.  

Yes, a prodigal can be a sad sight to beyond, whether a cat or especially a human being. The Father shows us how to treat those humans who have strayed. Once they have repented, we show them love and acceptance (Luke 15.20-24). It is the extension of the same grace we would all hope to receive under similar circumstances. It is not our place to punish the erring brother or sister for the time they have wasted in the far country of sin. We need to create a pleasant home environment in which they will desire to remain. Then we can all enter into the joys of our Master.  

GOD BENT DOWN, BUT THE PEOPLE BENT AWAY 

GOD BENT DOWN, BUT THE PEOPLE BENT AWAY 

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The story of Hosea is a microcosm of the human experience. In chapter eleven, God appeals to the people to understand how much He loved His people. God loved Israel, but the people loved the Baals (1-2). God healed them, but they did not know that He did (3). He held them with cords of love (4), but they preferred the bonds of Assyria with their swords and their fires (4-7). One way God depicts this is by saying, essentially, I bent down to feed them, but His people were bent on turning from Him (4,7). 

Have you ever reached down to feed your child only to have that child bend away in disgust and disapproval? Especially is this true when the food is good for them but does not taste good to them. Hopefully, in the process of training and development, they get over this tendency. Yet, God paints the picture of His children doing the same thing as they reject their Almighty Creator for a world that hates them.

When Hosea says God “bent” down, he uses a word found over 200 times in the Old Testament. Often, when referring to God’s outstretched hand, the writers are referring to it being extended in judgment against man (especially in Isaiah where we see the repeated phrase, “His hand is still stretched out,” several times in chapters 9 and 10). But that mighty hand is gently reaching down to care for, love, and hold His wayward people. But what do they do when He bends down? With rigid posture, they stubbornly turn away. They call Him “God Most High” but they do not honor Him with submission and obedience.

But then I consider my circumstance. Through Christ, God made the ultimate gesture of reaching down. Jesus allowed Himself to be lifted up on the cross, but this was God extending Himself and His love to me (Rom. 5:8; Gal. 2:20). In my daily life, what do I do with His outstretched hand. Am I ever determined to turn away from Him by my rebellion and self-will? I need to see how utterly foolish and self-defeating that is, and I need to see it for what it is. I am rejecting the love, the help, and the grace of the Omnipotent One who longs to be in a relationship with me. What do I hope to get anywhere else that can even compare to that? Thank God that His Word draws me back and reminds me of what He’s done for me and what He wants to do for me! May I be wise and humble enough to reach up when He reaches down! 

The Price Of Flight

The Price Of Flight

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The cost of leaving God’s presence is more than many fully realize. 

It’s interesting how the phrase “away from the presence of the Lord” is used twice in Jonah 1:2-3. 

Leading up to the second mention, the text states that Jonah “paid the fare.” In the very next verse we read of a terrible storm that would end with the beginning of Jonah’s three day stent in solitary confinement within the belly of a great fish. 

He paid the fare— but the price was a little steeper than he thought. It’s expensive to flee from the presence of the Almighty. Too many Christians run away from the responsibilities that God has given us only to discover that the dark waters of sin and separation just aren’t worth it. 

Some discover this when it’s too late, but others are fortunate enough to realize this truth and return to the safety of God’s presence. May we learn from Jonah to go where the Lord leads and not make our own alternative routes. 

“But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah‬ ‭1:3‬ 

 
 
Shipwreck

Shipwreck

Neal Pollard

The hope of finding survivors on the cargo ship El Faro has severely dwindled, as one of two lifeboats, severely damaged, has been discovered as well as one body.  While the other lifeboat from the ship, with a capacity for 43 persons, has not been found in the ocean waters off the Bahamas, the 735 foot long ship sent a distress signal Thursday from near the eye of Hurricane Joaquin as it battled 20-30 foot waves.  The Coast Guard is hopeful, but the realistic expectation is that this will soon be a recovery rather than rescue mission (info from cbsnews.com and reuters.com). Out of all the frightening ways to face death, being lost at sea has to be near the top.  There’s the foreboding strength of battering waves, the immense, liquid darkness of the deep, the mystery of what lies beneath the surface, the horrific experience of drowning, and the overall helplessness in the face of a fierce overwhelming force.  Since maritime history goes back for millennia, people both ancient and modern have faced the terrors of shipwreck. Dating at least as far back as the ship found off Dokos, Greece, dating back to 2700-2200 B.C. carrying a cargo of pottery (read more at http://www.mhargolid.nl/data/webb1992.pdf), mankind has experienced the sinking of ships.

No wonder New Testament writers seize on this common situation of life. Luke records (Acts 27:14) and Paul looks back on (2 Cor. 11:25) literal shipwrecks the apostle survived.  How fitting that he is the one who describes those who lose their faith as those who have “suffered shipwreck” (1 Tim. 1:19). Preventing shipwreck, according to Paul, necessitates.

  • A fighting (1:18). Just as crew members must strain at their tasks on deck, despite weathering difficult winds and choppy seas, we cannot be passive and yielding in spiritual storms. Paul warns Ephesus against being “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (4:14).  Faith is vital to equipping one for the spiritual fight.
  • A keeping (1:19). You can imagine someone clinging to ropes and rails or staying at the helm or rudder as they weather the storms of life. But the lifelines to which we must cling in such torrents is faith and a good conscience (see 1:5). Our spiritual constitution and fortitude spell the difference between survival and lostness.
  • A teaching (1:18-20).  Training often spells the difference in surviving out at sea.  Certainly, keeping a cool head and being able to use, when needed, that which has been previously learned is vital!  Paul says as much regarding the survival of spiritual shipwreck.  He mentions an entrusted command (1:18), prophesies (1:18), and being taught (1:20). The best teaching may not help the literal sailor in storm-tossed seas, but heavenly teaching is guaranteed to rescue those so equipped even in the face of the most seemingly insurmountable difficulties of life.

We had the feeling of finality of those lost at sea.  Thankfully, as long as one lives, he or she can be recovered from spiritual shipwreck. But, they must come back from such depths and take hold of God’s life preserver, His Son Jesus Christ! Let us do our part to rescue the perishing, snatching them with pity from sin and the grave (2 Pet. 3:9).