The Worth of One’s Word 

The Worth of One’s Word 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

Brent Pollard

I am not seeking to get into a debate about the outcome of the 2020 general election. However, everyone can agree that Trump has insisted that he won the election and has a team of lawyers trying to prove it. Again, whether he is correct is not my point. However, I wish to point out that Trump’s lawyers offer the affidavits from a few hundred people as evidence of voter fraud. For example, there are 220 affidavits in Michigan alone. I understand that most news outlets have moved on and ignored Trump’s legal team’s efforts.  

Yet, lying on an affidavit is perjury. It is as if you have lied on the witness stand in court while under oath. Perjury is a felony. In many states, felons cannot even vote. So, in Michigan, and other States, hundreds of people testify something that, if false, would make them criminals and, ironically, prevent them from voting in an election in the future. Here is the question. Do people care about lying anymore? We have a former President who was impeached but not convicted for committing perjury because the subject matter of his lie concerned sexual relations with his intern. People dismissed it as political maneuvering by Republicans about a private matter, “just sex.”  

To say, “A man’s word is his bond,” is no longer fashionable, it seems. When did you last have a “verbal contract” with someone? So, it would not surprise me that people would ignore the affidavits of hundreds of people. We are so accustomed to people lying for political expediency that we believe people would become felons to achieve their political goals.  I would hope that Christians give greater value to their words. Indeed, Jesus told us that our testimony is our bond.  

In Matthew five, Jesus discusses how the men of his day diluted their promises with unnecessary verbiage. In reading about the culture of first-century Judea, I noted that if a man wanted to create a loophole for himself, he would swear by something temporary, like his head’s hair. However, if he were making a promise he intended to keep, he would swear by the Temple or something invoking God. Jesus says, “But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.” (Matthew 5.37 NASB) Jesus reminded them that the principle they were violating was that one must keep his vow to the Lord (Matthew 5.33).  

The wise man of God reminds us that it is better to make no promise at all than to promise and fail to keep our word (Ecclesiastes 5.4-5). Under the Old Law, Moses commanded, “If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to put himself under a binding obligation, he shall not break his word; he shall act in accordance with everything that comes out of his mouth” (Numbers 30.2 NASB). The judge, Jephthah, learned this the hard way. Jephthah made a foolish vow to God that he would offer as a sacrifice whatever met him at his house when returning victorious from battle (Judges 11.30-31). Little did Jephthah know that it would be his daughter who would first greet him upon his return. Judges 11.34 states that Jephthah’s daughter was his only child. Thus, Jephthah grieved when she greeted him.  

To her credit, Jephthah’s daughter told her father to keep the promise made with God (Judges 11.36). Given God’s feelings about human sacrifice (cf. Jeremiah 32.34-36), one wonders if Jephthah had to take her life. Jephthah’s daughter’s request was to bewail her virginity with her friends. Women of antiquity, sadly, established their worth by having children. She would be childless. Therefore, there is the possibility that Jephthah’s daughter lived a life of perpetual virginity since that is the emphasis of the last verses of Judges 11. There is no mention of her death.  

Yes, Jephthah kept the promise, understanding the worth of one’s words. He knew his obligation to God. Therefore, let us observe great care, as Jesus taught when making promises to others. Neither let us seek ways of getting out of our commitments. May our words always carry the weight of sworn testimony before the Judge of the Court of the Most High!  

Sources Consulted 

Hurd, Dale. “Where’s the Evidence of Election Fraud? Trump Legal Team Delivers Opening Arguments.” CBN News, The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc., 20 Nov. 2020, www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2020/november/wheres-the-evidence-of-election-fraud-trump-legal-team-delivers-it

Spengler, Teo. “What Is the Penalty for a False Affidavit?” Legal Beagle, Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Media, 18 May 2020, legalbeagle.com/7642670-penalty-false-affidavit.html

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Encouraging Encouragement

Encouraging Encouragement

Thursday’s Column: “Carlnormous Comments”

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Carl Pollard

Quite possibly one of the most important actions we can do as Christians is encouraging others. With these words we have the ability to build up and unify the church. Encouragement is a very prevalent concept in scripture, but let’s focus on just one passage.
 
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
 
Paul commands us to refrain from unwholesome words. This word, “unwholesome,” would literally be translated as “rotten.” A sane person doesn’t eat rotten fruit or spoiled meat. Why? Because it isn’t safe. It tastes bad. It smells bad. And it’s lost its appeal. Our speech shouldn’t be rotten; that is, our speech should never be filled with words that are bad or unwholesome to the extent of being harmful–words that tear people down. In our new walk in Christ, we should be thoroughly devoted to encouragement, not tearing others down.
 
So we must ask, what is good speech and what does it sound like? Simply put, this would be words that build people up, words that help us reach eternity, words that brings unity and peace, and words that help to encourage and exhort.
 
For example, you would say “Georgia is a great team” instead of “they are the worst team ever.” You would say, Carl you’re looking extra handsome today.” On a serious note, we should be saying words that aren’t negative, that are free from gossip and sin.
 
When Scripture talks about our words, it’s talking about positive versus negative. It is not necessarily a word that is bad, but it is focused on how our words are used. So, how are we using our speech? Are people around me encouraged by what I say? Or are they torn down and destroyed?
 
The Christian walk is to be filled with encouraging words. Specifically, Paul says use words that bring about edification (that which builds up) and that fits the need of the one who hears it. He says in verse 29 that our words can bring grace to those who hear. The word grace here is “the showing of human favor.” When we use edifying words we are showing others that we favor them. We care about them and want what is best.
 
Our new life in Christ is defined by our speech. Speech that stands out from the world. Speech that is clearly seen as different and appealing. May we also look for ways to encourage and build up our church family.
Dave Steeves speaking for the first time encouraged the Lehman congregation with his words and his example!
The Silent Influence

The Silent Influence

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard
 
I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday morning and I came downstairs to see dad sitting where he always sat every single morning. He was in his lazy boy recliner drinking what was probably his third cup of coffee, wearing his fuzzy dad slippers and a pair of reading glasses. If I saw that combination, I knew what dad was doing.
 
Every morning he would get up early, grab his coffee, Bible, slippers and glasses, and sit in his lazy boy recliner. And every morning I would see him sitting there reading. When I look back and think about these instances, I now see just how powerful his actions were. He wouldn’t tell us what he was doing, he wouldn’t tell us to join him, he wouldn’t tell us why he was doing it. He would just grab his Bible and read.
 
When I think about influence this is what I think of. A committed man of God. Showing us by his actions how to grow our own relationship with The Father. The silent influence that I saw growing up has shown me the power of actions. Through his actions I saw what his priorities were. I saw what his focus was. I saw who he loved more than anyone else.
 
There’s nothing we should want more as Christians than to have this kind of influence on others. Not preaching at them day and night condemning them and cutting others down, but showing them by our actions what a relationship with God looks like. If we work on perfecting our faith and cultivating a genuine relationship with God, people WILL notice. For others to be affected by our influence we need to get three things straight: our priorities, our actions, and our speech.
 
When we think about winning souls, it’s best to start with our own before looking to others. If we can grow our faith and be fully invested in our relationship with God, people will notice and ultimately glorify God.
 
Matthew 5:13-16
Narcissus and Echo 

Narcissus and Echo 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Greek mythology is fascinating. So much so, in fact, that the Romans co-opted it as their own. As such, the Roman poet, Ovid, tells us the story of Narcissus and Echo within Metamorphoses. You likely recognize Narcissus’ name because of the mental disorder named for him. Narcissism. You may not have known that the phenomenon called an “echo” also derives its name from a mythic figure. Echo was a beautiful, but talkative, forest nymph. She cut off the goddess Juno so much during conversations that the peeved goddess cursed her with the capacity only to repeat the last words spoken by others. 

Without delving too deeply into the mythology, suffice it to say Echo fell in love with the picky Narcissus, whose standard for a consort was so high that none could meet his expectations, including poor Echo. Already cursed, Echo was not able to convey her feelings to Narcissus. On one fateful day, however, Narcissus had sensed Echo’s presence and called out, “Is anyone there?” After she replied in the same, he said, “Come here!” Echo ran to Narcissus as she repeated his command. Echo’s actions repulsed Narcissus. He told her he would sooner die than allow her to enjoy his company. Echo was humiliated and ran away. Yet, she continued to love Narcissus. The vengeful goddess, Nemesis, saw Narcissus’ actions. She cursed him by making him fall deeply in love with his reflection. 

There was no redemption for Narcissus and Echo. Narcissus lingered by the pool of water, looking longingly at his reflection. Echo persisted in her love for Narcissus. As the years passed, Echo’s beauty faded, and her body wasted away, leaving only her voice. Narcissus committed suicide, realizing his impossible love would remain unrequited. A flower bloomed where he killed himself. Yes, the narcissus.  

It is easy to use Narcissus as an object lesson for us, spiritually.  Both James and Peter quote Proverbs 3.34 from the Septuagint to remind us that God resists the proud (James 4.6; 1 Peter 5.5). A haughty look is something we know God hates (Proverbs 6.17). Our Lord went about doing good (Acts 10.38). Since He is our example (1 Peter 2.21), Paul tells us: “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2.4 NASB) 

But what lessons do we derive from Echo? Her tongue is what initially got her into trouble. Just because the tongue is an unruly member, per James 3, doesn’t mean that we should not seek to control it. There is the talk we must avoid (Ephesians 4.29; 5.4; Philippians 2.14). Besides this prohibited speech, there remains gossip and lying, which both Testaments condemn (Exodus 20.16; Psalm 15.1-3; Proverbs 6.19; 2 Corinthians 12.20; 1 Timothy 5.11-13; Titus 2.3). 

Echo also squandered a precious commodity in her quixotic pursuit of Narcissus, time. We are supposed to take advantage of the time given to us (Ephesians 5.15-17). There comes the point where even preaching the Gospel to the hard-hearted equivalent of a brick wall is like casting “what is holy to dogs” and throwing “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7.6). 

Lastly, Echo loved someone incapable of justifying the precious investment of her heart. The world is like Narcissus in that regard. John reminds us that the world with its lusts will one day pass away (1 John 2.15-17). Even so, how many have laid up treasure on the earth? (Matthew 6.19-21; Luke 12.33-34). We cannot pursue both God and mammon (“wealth” NASB— Matthew 6.24).  

May it be that as you search your heart that you find no kindred spirit with Narcissus and Echo. Focus outwardly upon others’ needs, be mindful of the precious commodity of time, and give your heart—and tongue—to the One Who will best use and appreciate it (cf. Matthew 22.36-38). 

 

Qualities of A Freshwater Drum

Qualities of A Freshwater Drum

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

 

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Carl Pollard
I love catfishing. Nothing beats the feeling of getting that tug on your line and reeling up a big fish from the deep. But lately I’ve been running into a problem, a problem that I never really faced while catfishing. The past couple of times that I’ve gone out and thrown my bait in the water, certain fish keep taking my bait away before any catfish even have the chance to get close to it. The culprit? Freshwater drum. Don’t get me wrong. They put up a good fight, but they don’t taste near as good as catfish. I decided to do a little digging so I could learn more about these fish that have been giving me a headache lately. I found out some very interesting facts that (as redneck as this may sound) can be applied to us today.
Freshwater Drum are always active; no matter the season, weather, or water temperature. Unlike most fish that tend to slow down in the winter, or swim to deeper water in the heat of the day, the Freshwater Drum is always active. No matter the circumstances, these fish will almost always bite. Paul in his second letter to Timothy tells us something very similar. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (4:2). As Christians there is no off season. There should never be a time in our lives where we feel like we can take a break. Freshwater Drum are always active, and New Testament Christians should be given the same description.
Freshwater Drum are unique. It’s the only member of the Drum family that lives it’s entire life in freshwater (hence the name). They stand out from other drum because they thrive in saltless water; a trait that no other Drum has. As Christians we have been called to stand out from the rest of the world. In His sermon on the mount Jesus tells us that we must be unique. He says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬). Freshwater Drum stand out as being different from all other species of Drum, and as Christians we must stand out as being different from the world by letting our lights shine.
The male Freshwater Drum is known for its unique “grunt” sound that it produces. In fact, its scientific name comes from the Latin word grunniens, which means “grunting.” This fish was named after the noise that it’s known to make. Even to this day when fishermen hear about Freshwater Drum they immediately think of its grunt. It’s a distinctive trait that attributed to how it was named. When others think of who we are as Christians, what trait do they immediately recall? The words that we speak will cause others to form an opinion about us. That’s why it’s important for us to guard the “noises” that come out of our mouths. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” May we never forget the power of our words and the effect that they can have on not only our character, but on others.
As strange as this may sound, Freshwater Drum should be an example for us to follow. They remind us to stay active in our faith, to stand out in this sin filled world, and to choose our words wisely.
P.S. Even though they’re a good reminder for us as Christians, I’m still changing my bait up so they’ll quit taking it…
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The Haste Of The Hermandads

The Haste Of The Hermandads

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

In the 1100s, in an effort to protect travelers going from northern Spain over the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Dogs of God, Reston, 50), a military force known as the hermandads (“the brotherhood”) was organized.  Soon, these vigilantes spread across Spain and offered themselves as protectors of roads and merchants.  Eventually appointed as a national police force who could collect taxes and prevent insurrection in every municipality, they would go on to exterminate untold numbers of Muslims, Jews, and other “enemies of the state” during the Middle Ages.  Reston mentions an unsettling “right” granted to the hermandads in the 15th Century, during the famous reign of Isabella and Ferdinand.  He writes, “In a curious turnabout, executions took place first, and trials were held afterwards” (51).

Given our country’s constitutional concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” this practice seems both backward and barbaric.  How useful is a trial to present facts about a case after the defendant has been executed?  What if the deceased was found innocent? What if there was no proof of guilt?  Of course, the “facts” of every case incredibly supported the punitive action that preceded it.

While we may find such a practice appalling, how often do we do the same with our tongues?  Through rash anger, reckless gossip, and rabid prejudice, we can serve as judge, jury, and executioner of the reputation and actions of another.  How often do we jump to conclusions and assassinate another’s character, but later revelations prove our actions both premature and unjustifiable?  Unfortunately, the damage having been done, nothing done by way of reparation can fully undo the effects upon the victim.

What we need to see is the spiritual danger we face who “execute” before “trial.”  Solomon wrote, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13).  A few verses later, he says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (21a).  That New Testament “wisdom writer,” James, adds, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;  from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (3:8-10).

Be very careful!  Even when we think we have the facts about another, let us post a guard outside the door of our lips (cf. Ps. 141:3).  Better to deliberate and reserve judgment than to execute before the trial has been held!

σαπρός (Unwholesome)

σαπρός (Unwholesome)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

 

Yesterday Carl and I smelled something absolutely awful in his house. Bailey, his trouble-making Carolina dog, had just been let back in; she had evidently rolled around in the remains of an animal that recently reached putrefaction and it showed. We were gagging and gasping for air while attempting to find the source of the odor traumatizing our olfactory lobes. The deceased animal outside was found (kind of) and Bailey was forced into the bath. The sheer power of that stench was incredible.

Our words can have the same effect on a person’s ears that the decaying body of roadkill has on the nose. Ephesians 4.29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only words good for encouragement according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

I want to focus on the word “unwholesome” here. When we hear “unwholesome,” we might think of a dirty joke, curse word, or some other graphic form of speech. That can be included in this word, for sure, but we need to take a closer look at what it means in scripture.

The word is σαπρός (sapros) which means, “to be of such poor quality as to be of little or no value,” or, “bad or unwholesome to the extent of being harmful.” It generally described something that was rotten or decayed and completely useless. That really widens the range of words we can describe as being unwholesome. In modern Greek, σαπρός means “putrid” and is used to describe the same putrefaction process Bailey unfortunately rolled in. It was awful to smell, and putrid words are awful to hear.

The next time we speak to someone, let’s put our words through a simple filter. Let’s ask ourselves, “Is this rotten? Is it going to be beneficial to the person hearing this? Does it encourage?” If our words are closer to rotting flesh than graceful encouragement, we must rethink them before they escape our lips. It’s not just a good idea, it’s certainly imperative to godly living.

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People Skills From God

People Skills From God

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Some people just seem to be born with great people skills. Perhaps their personality type just naturally draws others to them. While natural ability may give some a leg up, the great news is that anyone can learn to work well with others and you can develop better interpersonal skills. In fact, it’s really a biblical command! The church is made up of all kinds of people and that being the case, we must all be in the people business. Thankfully, our Lord doesn’t leave us high and dry to try and figure these things out on our own. 

Dispersed throughout the Bible we find several sections of scripture that teach us how to communicate, empathize, and get along with others effectively. God’s interpersonal skills cannot be matched. As the Creator, He understands exactly how humans think and behave. Here are twelve insights on interpersonal skills sent to us from above.

 

  1. Speak evil of no one (I Thess. 5:14) 
  2. A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1) 
  3. The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21)
  4. Be gentle and show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:2) 
  5. Do good to everyone (Gal. 6:10) 
  6. Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)  
  7. As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31) 
  8. Discern your own thoughts, identify your intentions (Heb. 4:12) 
  9. Treat others like you would treat Jesus. How would you interact with Him? (Matthew 25:40) 
  10. Season your speech with grace. It’s the saviors All-Spice for every relationship building goal (Col. 4:5-6) 
  11. Praise God and be joyful, it attracts people (Psalm 100:1-5)
  12. Be ready for every good work, speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, be gentle, show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:1-15) 

Notice how many passages in the Bible command us to speak differently than everyone else? All of these insights can be simply summed up in just one sentence. Talk, walk, and live more like Jesus. He was perfect in every way and that includes how he interacted with others. Modeling ourselves after the Savior will not only improve our relationship skills with others, but also with Him. Jesus also teaches us that no matter how gentle and loving we are, we’ll still make some people upset. That’s alright! As long as we’re acting like the Lord in all things. 

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Youth In Action 

Youth In Action 

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl preaches for the Hebron church of Christ, Grant, AL

Carl Pollard

One of the first verses that we tend to think of when it comes to youth being active in their faith is I Timothy 4:12. Most teens have heard, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness” at some point in their lives. What about the second half of the verse? In I Timothy, Paul had been instructing Timothy on how to deal with men like Alexander and Hymenaeus. These men had been blaspheming and teaching false doctrine. Paul clearly states that the goal of their instruction should be love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith (1:5).

Skipping down to chapter 4, Paul tells Timothy that no one should look down on him because of his age. Timothy is charged to teach the gospel and handle the men that have been teaching false doctrine. To do so, he can’t let others’ views of him cause him to stop doing his job. When Paul says “youthfulness,” the original text uses a word that could be ascribed to someone as old as 30. Paul’s main point is that in “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” This is what Timothy should have been doing. Forget your age, forget what other men are saying, and LIVE as an example. Paul wanted Timothy to be a “tupos” or “type” that men could follow. Timothy could do nothing about his age, so his effectiveness was to be rooted in his example.

So, young Christians today, what can we do to be an example? There are five ways that we can do this.

First, your speech. This is external. People can hear the way you talk in your everyday life; Make sure it is blameless and pure. Don’t give someone a reason to reject you because of how you speak in your private life.

Second, your conduct. Once again this is external. Having proper conduct is vital if people are to see you as something more than just a youth. Be a man/woman of God whether you’re being watched or not.

Third, in love. This is more internal than external. This love is an agape love,  sacrifice for others at the expense of your own good. This also goes back to 1:5 and “love from a pure heart.”

Fourth, in faith. This is also internal. Work on your own faith. Build your own relationship with God.

Finally, in purity. Be pure in your relationships and in your life when no one else is around. Do these things as “an example (type) to those who believe.”

Paul continues on in verses 4:13ff to discuss other ways he can be an example: giving attention to the public reading of scripture, exhorting and teaching, and using his spiritual gift he had been given by the Holy Spirit. Paul wanted Timothy to be a living example. When these men were looking down on him for his age, Paul didn’t tell him to focus on his experience, but on the source. Focus on your own spiritual life, your own personal reading of God’s Word, your own prayer life. Don’t blame others or use them as an excuse. Be an example they can respect and follow. Show them what a true Christian looks like.

Timothy had a hard job on his hands; he was facing false teachers and blasphemers that were tearing apart the church. He had to work and be the proper influence for the Christians there at Ephesus. As teens today, you also have a hard task ahead of you. Many in the church think that you don’t need to be working yet. God says otherwise. You can and should be an example for others to see. Each one of you have your own group of friends that only you can influence. So, be the example. In your speech, in your conduct, in your love, your faith and your purity. Show them the truth, and never neglect your own Christianity

How Will We Be Remembered?

How Will We Be Remembered?

Neal Pollard

Seven churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Each remembered for an overall characteristic. The same is true for individual Bible characters, isn’t it? Most remember Moses, Samson, David, Jeroboam, Jonah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Judas, Peter, Paul, and John for a particular attribute, whatever else could describe their lives. That’s more than fascinating. It’s sobering.

What about you and me? Is there a word others–those we attend school with, work with, live near, attend church with, or share family ties with–would use to describe us? Here are some possibilities:

  • Grumpy
  • Disagreeable
  • Dishonest
  • Hot-tempered
  • Unreliable
  • Divisive
  • Worldly
  • Gossiping
  • Selfish

Such attributes are the cumulative result of the attitude, words, and actions that we portray each day we live. Everybody has good days and bad days. But, there is an overall tenor and flavor to our lives that cause people to associate something with us. However, the word might be different:

  • Gentle
  • Patient
  • Loving
  • Kind
  • Serving
  • Sacrificial
  • Unselfish
  • Humble
  • Uniting
  • Faithful
  • Courageous

That, too, is being built moment by moment, day by day.

With both groups of words, we can think of people who epitomize characteristic above. But I want to know, “Which one would best describe me?” Don’t you want to know that about you?  The good news, if you don’t like the answer there’s time to change that. Dickens’ Christmastime novel about Ebenezer Scrooge is written to make that very point. Infinitely more importantly, the Bible is written to make that point. We can be transformed through the influence of Christ in our hearts and lives (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:18). How will you be remembered? 

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