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.

WHEN THE STORMS OF LIFE ARE RAGING

WHEN THE STORMS OF LIFE ARE RAGING

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

ATF2020 crop

Neal Pollard

When I preached in Livingston, Alabama, Selman Falls would often lead us in singing the song, “He Will Hide Me.”  This M.E. Servoss hymn was in the Songs of the Church hymnal.  Servoss, a woman from Chicago (“Mary Elizabeth”), was a prolific hymn writer.  This was maybe her most notable hymn.  Perhaps no imagery is more graphic in scripture than depicting troubles as a storm (cf. Psalm 55:8; Proverbs 1:27; Isaiah 25:4-5; 1 Timothy 1:19; etc.).  Storms are frightening and damaging.  I sat in a hallway with my head in my lap in Junior High in Franklin, Georgia, during a tornado and my family and I rode out a hurricane in Virginia in 2003.  The unknown of what the storm will do adds to its ferocity.

I read David McCullough’s Johnstown Flood, about the torrential rains that broke the Little Fork dam and unleashed a calamity of its kind unmatched in modern, U.S. History.  People were completely swept away, crushed by debris, drowned, and even burned to death.  The storms of that late May day in 1889 cost 2,209 people their lives.  McCullough tells about Victor Heiser’s incredible survival in this flood.  He climbed into a barn just before the powerful waters blew through the property and he watched the family house (in which his parents were) instantly demolished.  The barn was carried downstream in such a way that it barely missed whole houses, freight train cars, barns, and the like before the then sixteen year old Heiser found refuge with nineteen others in the attic of a two-story brick house commandeered by the flood.  Along the way, he witnessed the deaths of several not so blessed as he.  Heiser made the most of the blessing.  He grew up, became a doctor, and it is estimated that he saved as many as two million lives through the development of the first effective treatment against leprosy.  He died at the age of 99 in 1972.

Most storm survivors are not as acclaimed and famous as Victor Heiser.  So many have taken hold of the hand which calms the storms and have enjoyed the Lord’s guidance as they weathered their own storms of tragedy, trouble, and transgression.  They reached their end, many of them having aided others to escape through Christ!  Spurgeon and a friend saw a weather vane upon which were written the words, “God is love.”  The friend objected, saying, “God’s love is not so fickle and transient.  That vane is not correct.”  To which Spurgeon replied, “No, friend, you have misunderstood its meaning.  It is correct.  It suggests that God is love, which ever way the wind blows.”

Donna Dungan, a wonderful Christian lady who has lived along the Gulf Coast where many fierce storms have blown, wrote a poem to comfort a friend suffering from an unknown virus that eventually took her life.  Her beautiful words may bring you comfort as you deal with your storms.  I close with it.

Though a fierce storm is raging about you
And you fear there is nothing you can do
There’s a place in your heart where He meets you
And in the eye of the storm He carries you through
Don’t let go, don’t try to leave the eye, or the storm will take you in
Nothing will overtake you while you are holding on to Him
There is a place of peace and rest that is safe from the battles of life
A place in your heart where He will shield you from worry and strife
Our Lord never sleeps nor slumbers while His children are in pain
He alone has the power to hold you up until you are whole again
Oh, please don’t let go–just hold on
In the eye of the storm just hold on.

 
1002 Lehman Avenue
Bowling Green, Kentucky 42103
United States of America
Facing The Storm

Facing The Storm

Neal Pollard

Springtime in the plains is a notorious time for storms. I was driving through northwest Texas near the time when three storm chasers were killed southwest of me on Tuesday afternoon. They died pursuing the storm, not directly because of it. They were there because conditions were ripe for tornadoes. 17 people were killed by tornadoes in 2016, but 24 have already died in them this year. Hollywood has captured our awe and fascination with them since The Wizard Of Oz. We view storms as mysterious, ominous, powerful, and frightening. They come in so many forms—hurricanes, floods, blizzards, cyclones, and more. But “storms” are synonymous with fear and sorrow.

Wouldn’t you classify some of the major, traumatic events of your life as storms.  They build and threaten, they strike, then they leave aftermath. The storm may take but a moment, but recovery can take days, months, or even years. Not surprisingly, the Bible uses the storm metaphorically to describe such moments in our lives. David wrote, “I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest” (Psa. 55:8). The man we most associate with such figurative storms, Job, laments, “You lift up the wind and cause me to ride; And you dissolve me in a storm” (30:22). Most frequently, the Bible uses storms representatively to describe God’s judgment. But, as Job and David show, sometimes storms strike the innocent and undeserving.

What do we do when facing a storm? We heed precautions. We take shelter.  We wait and endure. We ask for and trust God’s protection.

The world is full of people riding out storms today. That includes Christians. These storms are assaulting their bodies, bank accounts, relationships, spiritual strength, and spirits. Some feel safely sheltered, while others feel as if they are barely holding on. How do we face our storms?

* Seek help from others (Heb. 12:12-13; Ecc. 4:9-10).
* Search for possible benefits from it (Psa. 66:10; Rev. 21:3-4; Js. 1:2-4; etc.).
* See God’s power to help in it (Psa. 18:19; Rom. 8:28-38; 2 Pet. 2:9a).
* Shelter in the place of safety (Exo. 33:22; Psa. 91:1; Mat. 7:24-27).

God doesn’t cause evil or sin, but He allows it. We will always struggle with the “why” of this. But, we can grow our dependence on our great, perfect God when we are being battered. He is faithful. He wants to help. Lean on Him through your storms!

b3d-814151_960_720

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).

Blown By Storms

Blown By Storms

Neal Pollard

Yesterday, several of us traveled from Siem Reap out to Tonle Sap Lake to visit two of the graduates from the first class at the International Bible Institute of Siem Reap, one of our Bear Valley extensions.  They live on a raft and operate a water filtration system capable of servicing dozens of locals each day.  The lake is over an hour from Siem Reap, and they have yet to establish a congregation so our visit was to encourage them.  After visiting, we were having a devotional—singing songs and having a short lesson.  During the lesson, the winds started to blow and the raft started to pull against the ropes tied to the dock.  Suddenly, hard and heavy tropical rains had replaced sunny skies and we were in a storm.  The dock was damaged by the raft tugging against it, and quickly we were tethered by only one rope.  Currents were moving downstream in this, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and the surge flow produced fast-moving water intensified by the rains.  In short, the visit could have ended much more dramatically and dangerously.

There were things that struck me about that storm—it was sudden, powerful, and intense.  It is hard to think of disciples in a boat during a storm without thinking of the events recorded in Matthew 8:23-27.  A storm arose, the boat was covered with waves, the seasoned fishermen and boatmen were frightened, and Jesus was asleep onboard.  They awake Him, He rebuked the wind and the water, and then He rebuked them.  Their faith was not as firm as the fracas.  After yesterday, I am even less critical of their reaction.  It’s easy to feel small and helpless when such a storm arises.

The Bible compares our trials and difficulties to storms.  Job and David, among others, call them “tempests” (Job 9:17; Psa. 55:8). Jesus calls them floods and torrents (Luke 6:47-49). Solomon likens them to storms (Pro. 1:27).  We appreciate the imagery!

These storms can blow us off course and can even make us drift. We can find ourselves barely hanging on and wondering how much more we can take.  Let us remember that Jesus is still with us (Mat. 28:20), so no matter how fierce the storm we will ultimately survive.  “Ultimately” may not mean being spared from physical death, but it does mean that we will preserve our spiritual lives.  May our faith be strong enough to remember that as long as our Lord is near, we are more than conquerors (cf. Rom. 8:31).

We were “fodder” for makeshift foreigners’ photography. Here’s how I’m getting even. 🙂

 

Saran is one of the men in the water trying to set poles to help tie down the raft.

Our ultimate “rescue.”

And The Rain Fell

And The Rain Fell

Neal Pollard

You’re building your house for life, not a day
By all that you do and everything you say
But more important than roof or even the walls
Is your foundation, for there’s coming floods and squalls.

Today the sky may be sunny and fair
And life may seem easy with no burden or care
But the clouds can gather with little or no warning
And strike with fury late at night or mid-morning.

If you’re building on sand, storms will still surely bombard
Whatever your strengths, deluges come steady and hard
The foundation will matter, it determines the outcome
The variables of your life surely influence the sum.

Great men of earth, building on other men’s acclaim
Must face life’s storms and its floods all the same
The beautiful people, who on this factor construct
Cannot escape how the gale forces strike and deduct

The theories and teachings of man’s own device
May seem like safe bedrock and sound very nice
But however solid they look or how long they may stand
At the end they’ll be seen for what they are, shifting sand.

You’re building your house for life, not just now
Take heed what you’re building on, why, where and how
For there’s coming a storm for which all must prepare
It will be all or nothing, no rebuild or repair.

But there is a material, failsafe and unbending
Proven by torrents, it’s trustworthiness is unending
That foundation is Christ, the only One of all
Shown to be eternally safe when the rain starts to fall.

(Matthew 7:24-27)