BEAUTIFUL FAITH

Neal Pollard

Every day Johnson Kell visits is a good day.  Today was a good day.  Though we were initially talking about some sad and depressing matters happening currently within churches of Christ and particularly a west coast university traditionally affiliated with the church, Johnson cannot help but talk about good and wonderful things he’s seen and experienced within God’s family.  He told the true story of how one positive experience has made such a ripple effect within our wonderful brotherhood.  It centers around a young man steeped in a denomination but dissatisfied with their teaching.  He had a friend, a love interest, who was from Wyoming. She attended a funeral in Casper and was so impressed by what was said and done by the local church of Christ there that she was converted.  She told this young man, who had moved to work on a golf course in Ventura, California, where Johnson and Dorothy was attending at the time, about the church.  He visited. The Ventura preacher, Floyd Davis, studied with Ken, who obeyed the gospel.  Ken went on to marry, not the Wyoming girl, but another young woman attending with him at Harding University.  He went on to get his doctorate degree in Texas and has built a fine Christian home.

That story by itself shows the power of the gospel upon an honest and open heart. When someone is searching for truth, he or she will find it!  If one has no interest in God’s truth, no amount of persuasion or argumentation may be enough.  The gospel still works, however dark our world seems to be getting.

Yet, as beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen is a heart seasoned by decades of trial and triumph.  As Johnson relayed this story to me, he choked up several times in his elation over the conversion of the young woman and the young man.  Never have I known one as touched by the gospel and its positive effects on others as Johnson is.  Get him to talk about the cross of Calvary, heaven’s plan of salvation, the joy of Christian fellowship, or any such similar subject and tender emotion will follow.  Listen to him pray.  Tap into his vast reservoir of memories of the church and you get a transparent view of beautiful faith.  Spend any length of time with Johnson and you know he’s spent lengthy time with Jesus.  Every time we part company, I pray, “Lord, let my faith shine like Johnson’s.”  Hebrews 13:7 seems to be speaking of elders, but the principle applies to this former elder: “Considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (7b).  When it comes to Johnson’s life (and all those like him), that’s my advice!

Taken almost 8 years old, when Johnson (then 88) was teaching our boys to play tennis at the courts on Dartmouth.

FAMILY TOGETHERNESS

Neal Pollard

It was a bit ironic to me as a stood up to preach on the subject of family that I had my parents and two of my children sitting and listening.  How rare and wonderful that, normally separated by a couple of time zones and over a thousand miles, we were all able to be together in the same worship service!  It makes me long for heaven, when we can be in the presence of God in eternal adoration of Him and sweet fellowship with one another.  Being together with family is a blessing many of us take for granted and can maybe only fully appreciate when it tends more toward the exception than the rule.

One of the many incredible facets of God’s perfect design for the church is that He made us a family.  Paul depicts us as fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters (Titus 2:1-4).  He refers to it as God’s house (1 Timothy 3:15).  Christ is the bond that brings us together, with all our diversities (skin, background, income, education, etc.), to be a spiritual family.  The best attributes of family—love, acceptance, encouragement, motivation, understanding, heritage, leadership, unity, sympathy, assistance—come together in God’s family.  This is what has always baffled me when I think of brothers and sisters who can stay away from their spiritual family for weeks, months, and years at a time.  Who could sustain us and fill the vacuum caused by earthly life like God’s children, our spiritual siblings?

When you look at the church, you perceive it a certain way.  I’m convinced you are either drawn to it or repelled by it.  You long for her members or loathe them.  Certainly, there are the indifferent, the lukewarm, and those who are essentially unfeeling toward other members. But these are steadily moving toward abandoning their family.  Their hearts have already done so, if their bodies haven’t yet.  The indifferent and hostile may blame the church for their attitude, but we choose our mindset.  God puts us in this family (Acts 2:47), a plan He gave to help us successfully survive this life and obtain eternal life.  It’s a sign of spiritual health to long to be around, grow closer to, and be in love with the church.  Luke records, “And all those who had believed were together…” (Acts 2:44a).  What a beautiful picture!  We get to enjoy the same blessing today.  May we never take it for granted, but relish it.

pollards-in-georgia

“Go To The Ant, You…DARPA?”

Neal Pollard

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was formed in 1958 for technological advancements and has been responsible for so many of the gadgets and conveniences we enjoy today. They use a variety of means to “both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research” (darpa.mil). SRI International, one of the agencies DARPA partners with, “has taken inspiration from the giant mound of insects, to create their own swarms of tiny worker robots that can put together mechanical assemblies and electronic circuits” (Michael Trei, dvice.com). The military has given thought to using these robots to rebuild and repair, even in the midst of battle.  Who can foresee where this technology may show up in our daily lives?

People can be incredibly brilliant and innovative.  There is no limit to our imagination and invention.  Yet, this (and many other examples) points up to God in at least two ways.  First, our intelligence points to an intelligent designer. Moses informs us that we are made in the very image of our Creator (Gen. 1:26-27).  Second, our brightest developments and designs are drawn from what God’s created world.  Solomon once admonished, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8).  They say imitation is the highest form of flattery.  How ironic that in a world growing more unbelieving, mankind keeps paying tribute to the wisdom and power of the One who made it all.

Where’s Greg Reynolds Today?

Neal Pollard

Being a Rockies’ fan has its ups and downs—historically, there have been more downs than ups, I’m afraid.  Being no-hit last night by Dodger’s pitcher Clayton Kershaw was pretty low!  While it was only the third time in franchise history that no Rockies’ hitter got a hit in an official baseball game, there was a particular pain to the “no no” last night.  Kershaw was picked by the Dodgers with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 Major League Draft.  That means he was available when the Rockies used the second overall pick to take right-hander Greg Reynolds out of Stanford University (via http://www.baseball-reference.com).  While Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher baseball has seen this generation, Reynolds is duking it out in Japan’s professional baseball league with the Saitama Seibu Lions.  So far, he’s notched a very mortal 6-11 record in America’s professional baseball league. He’s 0-5 with a 5.52 ERA with the Lions (bis.npb.org.jp).

This is not intended to be a rip on Greg Reynolds or even Colorado’s front office, though the local fan base may like to see it.  Nor is it simply an opportunity to vent frustration against our local diamond dwellers. It is, however, a great illustration of something that can happen elsewhere in life.  Reynolds was selected so high in the draft because of potential, a record of achievement he had compiled to that point, and certain tools and traits that seemed to scouts and organizational brass like a “can’t miss” opportunity.

How often are we reminded that superior intellect, physical strength, charisma and charm, and abundant material resources alone are insufficient?  Whole nations like Edom, Canaan, Egypt, and even Israel learned this in the Old Testament.  Individuals with such potential, whether Samson or Saul or the Rich Young Ruler, prove that performance is the ultimate measurement over potential.  “Almost” is an unsatisfactory and incomplete idea, as is nearly, close, and “could have been.”  The graveyard is littered with stories of those who did not parlay potential into performance.  History’s pages portray so many figures who flirted with greatness without getting there.

The stakes are different for us.  It’s not millions of dollars, All-Star status, or the Hall of Fame (or even being able to stick on a Major League roster).  Intentions are insufficient.  Action is all-important.  When we are thinking about God’s commands and considering that eternity is at stake, we must have more than tools and talents.  We must, simply, do (Mat. 7:21; Luke 6:46).

 

No, THAT is not Reynolds. Guess who it IS?

From Disinherited To Inheritors

Neal Pollard
When Greek politician Andreas Papandreou died in 1996, he left his entire hefty estate to his third wife, Dimitria Liani. His three sons and a daughter, who had married a politician who was Papandreou’s political enemy, were disinherited when she and her siblings’ refused to ostracize this enemy. It was contested in Greek court for years, but so far that will has apparently not been overturned. Certainly, money can bring out the best and worst in people. The children’s point of view is almost certainly that they, as blood relatives, have as much or more right to their father’s inheritance than a woman he married in the last decade of his life (information via Ray Moseley, Chicago Tribune, 9/29/96).


In the New Testament, sin is legitimate grounds for the Heavenly Father to disinherit us. Paul tells the Corinthians this in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. But his message is one of good news. With God, it is possible to go from disinherited to inheritors. He tells them, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” This passage reveals several important truths.
First, there is a pertinent fact. “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He repeats the thought in verse 10. That phrase indicates missing heaven and all the reward of it (cf. Mat. 25:34).
Second, there is a potential fraud. “Do not be deceived.” How vital that message is for our current culture! There is so much deception about the consequences of sin that it is impossible to keep up with, document, or catalog it.
Third, there are the particulars framed. Notice the sinful individuals enumerated—”fornicators…idolators…adulterers…homosexuals…sodomites…thieves..covetous…drunkards…revilers…extortioners.” Each of those lifestyles and behaviors merit greater study, but these are the ones who are disinherited by the Father. It is His estate and, as such, His call to make.
Then, there is a past forgotten. Human beings can carry vendettas and grudges to their graves, but the living God is not prone to such weakness. He does require repentance, implicit in the phrase “such were some of you.” Because they changed, God put the guilt of their sins in the rear-view mirror.
Finally, there is a purification forged. Paul concludes, “But you were washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” God does not just leave us to wallow in our sins. He provides a way of escape. If we take it, He will make those past sins as if they never existed!
In other words, we can go from disinherited to inheritors!

Heaven Really IS For Real

Neal Pollard
While so many in religion and even the media latch onto sensational tales of traveling to the “other side” and coming back with stories about heaven (they do not ordinarily wind up going the other direction), these individuals often claim (necessarily without proof) to have seen or heard things from God, Christ, and other heavenly inhabitants. Sadly, much of what they claim to have experienced is at odds with or even contradicts what God communicated to us through His Word. Despite the high-drama and mystical tales, these undoubtedly sincere folks are right about something incredibly important. Heaven IS for real!

The Bible describes it (Rev. 21-22). Jesus is preparing it (John 14:1-4). The Father lives there (Mat. 5:16; etc.). Those who travel the “narrow road” (Mat. 7:13-14) and are faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10) are going to be allowed to dwell there forever (cf. Ps. 23:6; Mat. 25:46; 1 Th. 4:13ff). The Bible communicates that it is a place reserved for those who believe and obey the will of God (2 Th. 1:5ff). It is not for those who refuse to submit to His authority (Gal. 5:19-21; etc.).

Heaven is described as a place where treasure is (Luke 18:22). It is described as a place where our citizenship can be (Phi. 3:20). It is a place where our hope can be laid up (Col. 1:5). It is a place where our name can be reserved (Heb. 12:23). It is a place where we can have an inheritance (1 Pe. 1:4). It is a place described as that which will be new (Rev. 21:1).

I suppose it is human nature for us to want to have blanks filled in and details more fully supplied. That’s why claims of going to heaven and back have long captivated people. Perhaps it strikes the chords of our hearts and imagination more than words, howbeit Divine words, on a page. Yet, those words produce living hope to those who are staking everything on the truth of those words (1 Pe. 1:3). They are neither fairy tales nor wisps of wishes. God has given us enough to know, as we measure the claims alongside His providence and answered prayers, that His Word can be trusted. We don’t have the full picture yet, but we know it will be more glorious and joyous than we are able to understand in this body confined by time. Thank God that Heaven really is for real!

The Munchkin’s Legacy

 

Neal Pollard

Ruth Duccini died in January at the age of 95, the last surviving female munchkin from the Wizard of Oz leaving only Jerry Maren left of the original 124 little people from the film.  All her life she was associated with the classic and made numerous appearances at festivals celebrating the movie. Given her stature, at 4 feet, 4 inches, and the fact that she lived in Santa Monica, she likely had someone remind her of her starry past each day.  But if you asked her what she was most proud of and what she wanted to be remembered for, she would give one answer.  She would say that it was her role as “Rosie the Riveter.” She worked on airplanes at a defense plant during World War II.  She helped her nation through this patriotic work.  Whenever her name is mentioned by the press or her picture is seen in a book or on a website, it will likely be associated with her brief work in that cinematic effort.  But she preferred to be known for her service (http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2014/01/16/wizard-of-oz-munchin-dies/4542745/).

I find that more than patriotic.  It is both admirable and exemplary.  Rather than longing to be “seen” and “out front,” Ruth wanted to be behind the scenes working hard.  Her preference was a few years of difference-making work rather than decades of recognition.

This is a reminder that none of us can choose how we will be remembered.  We know that our decisions and actions collect together like raindrops to form the pool of our legacy.  Looking down, we can see a reflection of who we really are.  But others look at our lives and form their own impressions.  Usually, whatever we desire to be most known for is exactly what we become most known for.  Yet for what do we want to be most known?  Our looks?  Our wit?  Our wealth? Our talents?  Our notoriety?  Or, do we desire to be known for our godliness, service, encouraging, courageous, loving, faithful, persevering, or similar spiritual quality?

Whether or not we log 95 years on this earth, we are leaving daily impressions.  May we leave the kind that help people go to heaven and that keep us on the path that leads there, too.  Make yours a legacy of love for the Lord!