“Created for His Enjoyment? “

“Created for His Enjoyment? “

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

While in college, I accompanied a friend to Chattanooga to pick up her car from her parents. Both of us were from rural Appalachia and shared a love for nature. Thus, learning that the Tennessee Aquarium was our rendezvous point did not surprise me. It was my first visit to this establishment, and I was impressed. Among the permanent exhibits, there was a temporary one featuring jellyfish. I thought that was lackluster from the sound of it. As I discovered, jellyfish can be quite beautiful. 

There were varieties of jellyfish (i.e., comb jellyfish) looking like UFOs, filled with running lights. I felt like I was watching a science fiction movie as the jellyfish slowly moved through the water. If you have seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you may recall the scene where the aliens converge on Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. The “men-in-black-types” atop Devil’s Tower used musical tones associated with colored lights to “communicate” with the extraterrestrial visitors who replied with the same notes and colors. That is what I recalled watching those jellyfish.  

I suppose there may be a sense in which I was watching ambassadors from another world. These are creatures that humanity does not usually get to see, outside of a documentary such as the BBC’s Blue Planet. I suppose prey are attracted to the light. However, a blind mechanism, like evolution, would not have given them the beauty I witnessed. Intelligence must have designed them this way since a single glowing color would be sufficient to attract their meals. Jellyfish would not need a rainbow of colorful lights. Indeed, these comb jellyfish spoke to me of an unseen God (cf. Romans 1.20). 

Isaiah 43.7 informs us God created Israel for His glory. I wish to treat this passage with great care since Christians sometimes use it to give rationale to God’s creation of all humanity. Yet, God made it clear that He picked an insignificant group on purpose (Deuteronomy 7.7). To what end? He could show the world His power and bring salvation through their seed (cf. Genesis 3.15; 22.18). That said, we may safely conclude that God created everything with a purpose. When one can view amazing spectacles, usually observed only by an omnipresent God (cf. Psalm 139), it is hard not to suppose God made things also for His enjoyment.  

In addition to these alienesque gelatinous animals, God has other interesting “sights” to which only He has a regular vantage. Beneath the arctic ice, for example, one can find coral with, admittedly, more subdued colors than their kin in warm, tropical waters. Yet, here is something beautiful and unexpected no human typically sees. But God does. What about other aspects of creation that suggest they exist for God’s enjoyment? Some people say platypuses show God’s “sense of humor.” Consider the amalgamation of creatures one sees within the platypus. The platypus is a mammal but lays eggs. Like an avian, platypuses have duckbills and webbed feet. A platypus has a tail like a beaver and otter-like fur. Male platypuses are even venomous! Platypuses are so odd, in fact, that the first scientists examining them felt someone was pranking them. (“platypus”1)   

Yes, God created the universe and all that is in it per His Will. Maybe God makes nations that can show His glory like ancient Israel. Perhaps, God creates organisms for no other reason than His enjoyment, like comb jellyfish and platypuses. But we know God created humanity so He could have a relationship with us. That is why the Father intervened by sending His Son (Isaiah 53.10-11; John 3.16), and why we find our purpose in doing God’s Will (Ecclesiastes 12.13-14).   

Works Cited 

1 “Platypus.” National Geographic, National Geographic Partners, LLC., 21 Sept. 2018, www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/p/platypus/.  

“WHO’S IN CONTROL?”

“WHO’S IN CONTROL?”

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The employees complained that they couldn’t control the temperature in office buildings. A simple and effective solution was set in place by corporate when they secretly placed dummy thermostats in the work area. They were then able to give all  the unsuspecting workers the illusion that they were in control at last. 

Today there are many that believe they can control more than they really can in their lives. Some have even managed to give others the illusion that they have some kind of supernatural ability to change the nation and world. This entirely false reality takes place on the very planet held in the hands of the One who really has all the control. 

In the Old Testament we find that people thought a lot of David— once he proved his worth as a warrior. As he rose in fame he continued to bring positive change for God’s people but all along the way David understood that he was making a difference only because God allowed him to. 

So many are worried about controlling every aspect of their lives and the lives of others, but I’m thankful that I’m not in control. As a human, I’m prone to make mistakes— God knows that. He provides for His faithful exactly what we need. 

What is God’s will for your life? 

He wants you to recognize His power, His control, His compassion, and His desire for all to be saved. I hope that today this served as a simple reminder to let Jehovah take the lead and that we don’t actually want the control that we may think we do. 

Outside Time 

Outside Time 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Our Creator is eternal. Hence, he has and will always exist. Having no beginning, He will never have an end. It hurts our feeble brains to try and comprehend this truth, but we accept it, seeing it with an “eye of faith.” Time is a concept held only by the mortal construct of an immortal God. Time means nothing to Him. Since that is the case, a couple of truth becomes evident.

Since God is outside time, He can work out what is best in our life.  From our perspective, life is a complex picture puzzle with pieces collected over some 70 or 80 years (cf. Psalm 90.10). Since Adam opened “Pandora’s Box” of sin, those pieces of the puzzle handed to us do not always make sense. Sin may cause a single bit even to hurt us. Yet, God’s Providence ensures it works out in accordance to His Divine Will (Romans 8.28). God knows how the completed puzzle picture looks. No piece escapes His observation. So, even if a part was not what He had hoped because sin marred the edges, He still ensures that those pieces fall into the right place. When we leave this world, perhaps, we will see the completed picture too. Like the apostle Paul, we might gain clarity before our departure. Paul had a good grasp of his life as he summed it up for Timothy (2 Timothy 4.6-8). Hopefully, we will speak as confidently as Paul concerning our future when granted the clarity of life’s impending end.

Since God is outside time, He is longsuffering. I do not seek to diminish God’s love in making this case. I merely emphasize what Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3.8-9:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (NASB)

Contextually, the two ideas are related. God’s lack of concept of time equals longsuffering. Can you see how that makes sense? Would it not be easier to be patient with someone if you had no idea of time? We lose patience with others since we feel we can quantify progress with a predetermined amount of time: “I asked you to do this a week ago, and you still have not completed it?” (Can you not hear the frustration in that question? Maybe you even read it in your mind with a voice of exasperation.) Yet, time does not constrain God. He sees the beginning and end of our life simultaneously. Thus, that one becoming a worker at the eleventh hour is paid the same wage as those laborers working all day (cf. Matthew 20.1-15).

We could give other examples to illustrate the benefits of God’s existence outside time, such as how that quality of God enabled prophets to write with 100% about events that would occur hundreds of years after the seer’s lifetime. Hopefully, though, we have considered enough to enrich our faith. Yes, God’s existence outside time enables His Providence to work flawlessly and suffer each of us long. We serve an amazing God!

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Why Doesn’t God Just Kill the Devil?

Why Doesn’t God Just Kill the Devil?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

This is a question that has been asked for centuries. If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He just kill Satan? In order to adequately answer this question we will need to look at a few different aspects of the Devil himself, as well as the attributes of God.
It’s not hard to find evidence of a world filled with sin, and logically it would make sense for God to just destroy the source of the problem…or would it? Let’s notice a few things about Satan.
Where did he come from? In Genesis 1:31, God sees His creation and it says, “everything was very good.” All of God’s work was perfect. From this we can conclude that Satan started off as good and became evil. While Scripture doesn’t reveal his exact origin, it says enough for us to draw a logical conclusion. For example, 2 Peter 2:4, Matthew 12:24, and 25:41 point to Satan as the leader of a groups of angels that have abandoned heaven. So we have to ask, why was Satan cast out of Heaven?
Based on the previous verses and what we read in Jude 6, the angels were created with free choice. And Peter explains that the angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4). We read the phrase “The Devil and HIS angels” so Satan was most likely the leader and instigator of this rebellion in heaven. Satan tried to rebel against God and failed miserably and will face the consequences of his actions (Revelation 20:1-3). Since Satan cannot win against God, he now wants to get payback by taking his anger out on God’s creation.
So why doesn’t God destroy Satan? Aside from the fact that he’s an angel and killing him would be different from killing a human, we run into another issue.
Even if Satan were destroyed, man would still sin. James 1:14 tells us that as humans we are carried away by our OWN desires, and these desires lead to spiritual death. Satan doesn’t cause everyone to sin, at every location on earth, because he doesn’t have this kind of power. Even if God destroyed Satan, there would still be sin on earth.
There is one other aspect we must look at in order to answer this question; What is the definition of good? Without evil, how can good exist? If God is good, then evil must exist. Without darkness, how can we recognize light? There is balance and perfection in everything.
We are given free will, and if there were no other choice except faith in God, we would not have faith by choice. We would have faith by force. I think about when I was younger and got in a fight with my siblings. Mom would force us to hug each other. That hug was not done out of love, but by mom telling us to get it done. Do you prefer to be loved by choice or by force?
Satan will get what he deserves, but God is defined as a God of love. If God took away our free choice (either to serve Him or sin) then He would be a God of Force. God has the power to destroy Satan, but in doing so we would still be in a fallen world filled with sin. God loves us enough that He wants us to come to Him by choice. This is something each one of us should strive to do.
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I Am Not Irreplaceable 

I Am Not Irreplaceable 

Neal Pollard

It is said to have housed between 400,000 to 700,000 scrolls containing essentially everything that had been written up to its point in time. But the Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt, was eventually destroyed. The first residential university, home to perhaps 2000 teachers and 10,000 students from the fifth to the 12th century in Nalanda, India, was destroyed by the Turks and never rebuilt.  In the heart of Germany was an opulent room, a thing of beauty so incredible some called it an eighth wonder of the world and said to be worth $142 million in today’s money. But the Nazis destroyed The Amber Room. The same can be said of Herod’s Temple, the first library of Japan, the first Byzantine encyclopedia, and countless other artifacts, buildings, and writings (via historyofinformation.com). 

How many considered these institutions and items that which would endure forever? Of course, Jesus warned that the things of this world cannot last (Mat. 6:19-20; cf. 2 Pet. 3:10ff). 

Most Christians understand that principle. We know material things cannot and will not last, being eventually effaced by the hands of time. But what about us? We rightly preach how the church needs us and that each of us fills a unique, needed position in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12:18). As long as we have health and opportunity, we need to leverage our talents for the good of the Lord’s kingdom. Wherever we’re planted, preachers, elders, teachers, deacons, professors, directors, presidents, house parents, custodians, secretaries, counselors, etc., we need to give the Lord the best we can for as long as we can. 

But, no matter how effectively we are doing our work and what results we are seeing, we are not irreplaceable. What a horrible day it must have been for the church when Paul and Peter were martyred. Yet, the church continued its work (cf. Dan. 2:44). The same is true today. This will prevent any of us from feeling too big for our britches. It’s also a good reminder for the church itself, who may place too much importance on a single individual. Truly, some people leave big shoes and large holes to fill. But, it shall stand until Christ comes again. Perhaps one’s leaving a work (however that occurs) will force someone (or several someones) to step up and carry on the work. So much good can come from that!

Let’s do our best for as long as we can and trust that God can continue to work through men and women to continue his work after we no longer can!

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Truth Is Truth, No Matter WHO Disagrees With It

Truth Is Truth, No Matter WHO Disagrees With It

Neal Pollard

Today, one of the most famous preachers of modern times died just short of his 100th birthday. Not only did he achieve longevity, his name was almost synonymous with American religion in the 20th Century. He reached hundreds of millions of people through live crusades, radio, and television. He was regularly listed as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.” His website claimed that he preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history (info via FoxNews.com).  His influence on society is unmistakeable.

However, this much loved and now much lamented man used the weight of his name and influence to oppose something which Scripture seems very clearly to teach. In the answer section of his website, he addresses the question, “Is baptism necessary for salvation?” While answering that he believed it to be important and that he had done it himself, he also said, “If baptism were a requirement for salvation, we would certainly say that.” His answer makes clear that one becomes a saved convert before baptism, the thief on the cross being used as proof of that claim. Many of those who left comments under his answer shows how deeply influential and popular his teaching on this was.

I believe in the vitality of the saying, “It’s never a matter of ‘who’s right,’ but ‘what’s right.’” Something is never right because I say it, some other preacher, or even the most famous preacher of the 20th Century says it. Something is right because Jesus and His apostles and prophets said it. Here is what they said:

  • “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Jesus)
  • “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Peter)
  • “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Ananias)
  • “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Paul)
  • “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Paul)
  • “ Corresponding to that (Noah and family brought safely through the water, 20, NP), baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (Peter)

I feel the loss of this renowned preacher is sad and tragic.  I appreciate his vast influence and the way he tried to use that for good in so many regards. Yet, if the Bereans found it necessary to compare the great apostle Paul’s preaching and teaching with Scripture, any of us who preach and teach today should want people to do the same. That’s the only way we will be able to determine what’s right!

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“He sends forth springs in the valleys; They flow between the mountains”

“He sends forth springs in the valleys; They flow between the mountains”

Neal Pollard

This statement in Psalm 104:10 is spoken literally of God’s physical provision for His creatures. But, have you ever thought about how that is true for you and me when we find ourselves in the valleys of life? In between the mountaintops of successes and happy days, we can find ourselves seemingly down in the valley of the shadow of death (cf. 23:4). I am so thankful that in those moments that might seem dry and thirsty, God sends forth springs in the valleys of life. Whatever creates the valley for us, it can seem like a deep place hard to climb out of. How does God send forth spiritual and emotional springs for us, even in the valleys of life?

  • The church is a spring in the valleys of life. Other Christians lifting and encouraging us can be the medicine we need to take the next step through the valley. No wonder the church is such an expression of God’s wisdom (Eph. 3:10-11).
  • Prayer is a spring in the valleys of life. Pouring out our hearts to a God who understands us and knows our situation perfectly strengthens us.
  • Our family can be a spring in the valleys of life. Those of us who have Christian parents, siblings, children, and other relatives have a double blessing, family twice over. They can be the support and encouragement we need to keep moving.
  • Spiritual blessings are a spring in the valleys of life. Ephesians 1:3 says in a general way what the rest of the New Testament enumerates in a specific way. God is blessing us in so many ways because we are in His Son. Never do we appreciate that more than when we struggle.
  • The Bible is a spring in the valleys of life. There is wisdom and insight on every page, guidance for our journey. God has revealed the road map to help us traverse the narrow way to heaven. The narrow way will not keep us from traveling through valleys, and often it has valleys the broad way does not.
  • Faith or trust is a spring in the valleys of life. Like Paul, who often camped in the valleys of life, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). My eyes may be wet with tears in the valley, but my eyes of faith see with crystal clarity.
  • Hope is a spring in the valleys of life. It anchors the soul (Heb. 6:18-19), but it also helps lift us up. Because I face the future with confidence, no setback will keep me discouraged but so long. Tomorrow will be a brighter day!
  • Christian service is a spring in the valleys of life. Maybe nothing leads me through the valley any more than finding a fellow sojourner to help out of their valleys. When I focus outside of myself on other strugglers, I soon forget my unpleasant experience.

Many years ago, I heard Franklin Camp talk about the valleys of his life and how he overcame. His young daughter accidentally burned to death in a brush fire. He faced other huge losses in life, but brother Camp through it all was a man who had his eyes fixed on the ultimate mountaintop experience. In the valleys of life, let us look for the springs God sends. They will refresh, renew, and relieve us until our journey is complete.

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Coping With Thorns

Coping With Thorns

Neal Pollard

Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). He is the author of audacity, and he showed it first in Eden. He is at work today through temptation and suffering to try and dismantle our faith. He is a presence in our personal lives (1 Pet. 5:8). If there’s hurt, he’s happy. If there’s sin, he’s satisfied. He can’t force anyone to sin (Js. 1:13-15). He can’t make us fall away (John 10:28-29). But, he’s at work. Paul writes about something that has long mystified the Bible student, in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. In that passage, we have:

  • The reality of the thorn (7)
  • The reproach of the thorn (7)
  • The reason for the thorn (7)
  • The result of the thorn (7)
  • The response to the thorn (8-10).

Paul reveals Satan’s involvement in that thorn. This troubles me. I have never asked for a thorn in the flesh and I have no reason to think Paul asked for his, but he got one anyway. What do you do when you have a thorn in the flesh? Consider at least three things Paul teaches us in this powerful passage.

No one is immune from thorns. Who’s talking in this text? The great apostle Paul, a man God gave revelations, who’s preaching across the world, converting so many, and achieving name recognition for the best of reasons. If you ever thought anybody would be sheltered for doing right, it would be him. But Paul says there was given to him a thorn in the flesh. That makes me uncomfortable. I need spiritual lessons about God and myself, as Paul and even Job, who Satan was allowed to buffet, did. If a great Old Testament patriarch and great New Testament preacher had thorns to deal with, I know I am not immune.

Sometimes, God lets the thorn stay. We may have to accept that our given affliction may never come to an end as long as we’re on this earth. A recurring or chronic illness, constant adversary, or irreversible limitation may not be removed. I wish I knew why God told Paul “no” and why he sometimes tells us “no” when we ask for our thorns to be removed. But, even if we keep the thorn, God’s grace is sufficient and He can use that very thing to accomplish good through us for the Kingdom. God uses thorns to supply us with humility and grace. If our thorn comes and stays rather than comes and goes, God will use it for our good and to accomplish good if we will properly view it.

Thorns are growth opportunities. If we remain faithful to God through our thorns, we will spiritually grow. Satan is rebuffed and defeated, as he was with Paul and Job. But, for every Paul and Job, how many have let affliction and adversity destroy their faith? We know God’s power eclipses Satan’s. But don’t underestimate this enemy (2 Cor. 2:11; 11:14; 12:7). One of Paul’s final points in the letter is about God’s great power (13:4). Paul was weakened by affliction, but he could endure because of faith. God is more powerful than Satan and Paul’s thorn is but one proof of it. Lyte wrote,

As woods, when shaken by the breeze, take deeper, firmer root,
As winter’s frosts but make the trees abound in summer fruit;
So every Heaven-sent pang and throe that Christian firmness tries,
But nerves us for our work below, and forms us for the skies.

Is it a trial or a blessing in disguise? Doesn’t it depend on how we view it and what we do with it? Satan wants to use afflictions to destroy us, but God is greater. He can transform our tragedies into triumphs. Trust Him through the thorns. The roses will appear!

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Remarkable Statements, In Historical Context

Remarkable Statements, In Historical Context

Neal Pollard

AD 30—Tiberius, who became cruel and mad, was the Roman Emperor when the church was established. Under his reign, right around the time of Pentecost, Rome was filled with terror after the murder of his once trusted advisor turned traitor, Sejanus (tribunesandtriumphs.org). Sanderson Beck comments that he was “preoccupied with sexual and sadistic perversions” the last several years of his life (he is believed to have been murdered)(san.beck.org). Jerusalem was directly governed by Rome. Acts, though probably written in the 60s, begins its historical chronicle around AD 30.

  • Acts 2:41—“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”
  • Acts 4:4—“But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”
  • Acts 5:14—“And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.”
  • Acts 6:7—“The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
  • See also Acts 12:24 and Acts 19:20,

AD 62-63—Nero, described as licentious, cruel, tyrannical, murderous, criminal, arson, vain,  perverse (tribunesandtriumphs.org) and, by historian Donald Wesson as a “cross-dressing exhibitionist” (ancient.eu), spearheaded the first organized persecution of Christians (N.S. Gill, ancienthistory.about.com). Tacitus says he blamed the Christians for his own burning of Rome. Many are the accounts of the cruel ways Nero put them to death (eyewitnesstohistory.com). Eusebius reports that Nero put both Paul and Peter to death (Church History, Book 2, Ch. 25). Before his death, Paul would report of such rapid growth throughout Nero’s reign. Peter’s outlook could not have been brighter.

  • Colossians 1:23—“if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”
  • 1 Peter 1:3—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

AD 90s—Domitian, best remembered as “the evil emperor who murdered thousands of Christians” (tribunesandtriumphs.org), reigned when John wrote his epistles and the book of Revelation. He was notorious for his cruelty and detachment from reality. John writes Revelation in large part to steady the Christians to withstand the onslaught of persecution caused by Domitian. His message to the Christians during the reign of Domitian was consistent:

  • 1 John 4:4—“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
  • 1 John 5:4—“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
  • Revelation 1:6-7—“He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”

How bad did things look, from an earthly perspective, during the reigns of evil rulers like Tiberius, Nero, and Domitian? The thing is, the early Christians did not look at things from an earthly perspective. As those trying to walk in the footsteps of New Testament Christians, will we imitate their faith and that perspective?

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