Oise-Aigne American Cemetery Plot E

Neal Pollard

My brother and fellow preacher, Brent Pollard, finds the most interesting historical facts—an ability which makes his preaching illustrations most interesting.  He sent me an article about the Oise-Aigne Cemetery in northern France.  Though I have actually visited that cemetery, I had no idea about the existence of an auxiliary burial plot known as “Plot E.”  While the 6012 military personnel buried in the four main burial plots lost their lives in World War I, the 94 interred in Plot E are infamous, disgraced soldiers who died for their crimes during or after World War II.  These men either murdered fellow soldiers or raped and/or murdered 71 people in England, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Algeria.  “No US flag is permitted to fly over the section, and the numbered graves literally lie with their backs turned to the main cemetery on the other side of the road” (warhistoryonline.com).

These men were supposed to be fighting for the freedoms and rights of American citizens, but instead they were most dramatically undermining the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness of the unfortunate ones who crossed their paths.  For their crimes, they not only paid the ultimate penalty but were buried in disgrace and immortalized with infamy. They are remembered as “the dishonorable dead.”

The book of Revelation refers to the “book of life” (20:12), implying that it is possible for one’s name to be blotted out of it (3:5).  However, those whose names are not found in that book will be “cast into the lake of fire” (20:15). Those who take away from the words of this revelation—and by application any other (cf. Gal. 1:6-9)—“God shall take away his part of out of the book of life” (22:19).  More specifically, John says, “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27).  For the ungodly and disobedient, John lays out in apocalyptic terms how unthinkably horrible it will be to die unfaithful to Christ.  He says, “He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night…” (14:10-11a).

Everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10).  The faithful will receive glory and honor and reward (Mat. 25:34-40).  The unrighteous, however, will go away into everlasting punishment (Mat. 25:46).  No one will deserve heaven, but will go there thanks to God’s amazing grace and his or her conscious effort to walk in the light (1 John 1:7-10). Those who know not and obey not the gospel will endure something eternally worse than a firing squad, a hangman’s noose, or blameworthy burial (2 Th. 1:8-9).  Though the world may believe less and less in the reality of hell, the Bible’s position on the matter has not changed. Knowing the terror of the Lord, may we persuade others and, ourselves, be persuaded (2 Cor. 5:11).

The Holocaust: What Can Be In Men’s Hearts

Neal Pollard

Though mankind can construct a fantasy to explain our origin and propagate it in places like The Natural History Museum, we have a harder time skirting around our moral outrage at the atrocities committed by the Nazis from 1933 to 1945.  I made my third ever visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and, more than ever, I was dumbfounded at how anyone could perpetrate torture and treatment like the European Jews received at their hands.  Words like “wrong,” “immoral,” “evil,” “wicked,” and “barbaric” flow freely from the mouths of the visitors who see pictures or watch videos of the organized pogroms and the aftermath of the death cities they called concentration camps. Witnessing such depravity makes it easier to understand how men could take an innocent man like Jesus and be hardened enough to have Him crucified.  It also helps us appreciate how necessary that sacrifice was.

Hitler, if he worshipped anything, worshipped the occult.  He seemed not to truly acknowledge the existence of God, using His name only as a shield to defend his dictatorial policies.  His regime is an extreme example of what men, apart from God, are capable of doing.  With no sovereign standard to submit to and no transcendent truth to believe in, men become their own gods and write their own laws.  They so often do so without regard for the welfare and lives of other people.  They do as they please and what pleases them so often destroys them but also others.

Jesus warned of such a mindset in Luke 16, speaking to the Pharisees, saying, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (15).  He warned on another occasion that “what comes out of a man defiles a man” (Mark 7:20), including “evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, theft, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, [and] foolishness” (21-22).  When men try to negate the nature of God and escape the existence of God, it leads to the perishing of people and the harm of humanity.  The answer is simple, if demanding: “‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:12-13).  Either way, it’s a matter of the heart! May our hearts get right and stay right.


Neal Pollard

He was named after a World War I general, born in Los Angeles in 1918 just after the American doughboys went “over there.”  There are four men who played Major League Baseball older than Robert Pershing (“Bobby”) Doerr (Mike Sandlock in 99, Eddie Carnett and Alex Monchak are 98, and Carl Miles in 16 days older than Bobby), but his Major League debut was the earliest.  Unlike anybody else among the top 15 oldest living baseball players, Doerr was an everyday player who achieved some notoriety. He’s the oldest living player who is in the Hall of Fame.  But, making his debut in 1937, Doerr is a part of these interesting facts.  He played against Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mel Ott, Hank Greenburg, Schoolboy Rowe, Lloyd and Paul Waner, and Pie Traynor, as well as many other all-time greats.  Jimmy Foxx and Lefty Grove were teammates. Lefty pitched to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker. In 1925, his rookie season, Grove sat across the dugout from Jimmy Austin (age 46), Oscar Stanage (age 42) and Chief Bender (age 41). Sitting in his dugout, though, was Jack Quinn (age 42), who was a teammate of Austin’s on the 1909 New York Highlanders, a team that also included Willie Keeler and Jack Chesbro. We could keep going, but we’ll stop there. Doerr, a man still in his right mind, could tell you all about Lefty Grove and heard who knows how many stories Grove told about players who played in the 1800s, connections to the earliest days of baseball.  Doerr is a link to history (info via baseball-reference.com).

How many have pointed out the interesting facts from the Genesis genealogies, where it is possible that Noah’s grandfather, Methusaleh, may have known Adam?  They were most certainly contemporaries, and that covers a span of 1656 years (https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/timeline-for-the-flood/).  Noah and Seth, Adam’s third son, would have been alive together for 34 years before Seth’s death. To appreciate how incredible that is, consider that 1656 years ago was the year 359 A.D., 4 years before Constantine’s grandson, Julian the Apostate, becomes Roman emperor (http://www.fsmitha.com/time/ce04.htm).

It would not take a lot of digging around in our congregations to find individuals who provide us a link to church history.  Consider Bear Valley for a moment. Johnson Kell had Hugo McCord stay in his home one summer several decades ago, the two even going on a long run together.  Converted as a soldier during World War II, Johnson would have been in the church when great preachers like Marshall Keeble, N.B. Hardeman, and others were helping the church grow so much.  Harry Denewiler grew up in the church, and at nearly 90, could have been in the assemblies when great preachers of the 1920s were filling the pulpits of the midwest.  Two of our members, Jean Wilmington and Maurya Fulkerson, were baptized by Rue Porter when they were school-age girls. No doubt others have recollections of the church that reach back to the 1920s and 1930s, like Neva Morgan, Carolyn Barber, the Brennans, and others. Many conversations I had some years ago with Rooksby and Bea Stigers centered around their recollections of those who spoke of the establishment of the church in the Denver area.

As a lover of history, I am thrilled in my soul to think that we are linked to great men and women of God who helped start and build up the Lord’s church.  When I was seven years old, my family and I visited in the home of Zana Michael, a then 100-year-old sister in Christ who was a member where dad was preaching in Barrackville, West Virginia.  She was four years old when the church there was established. Some of the great preachers of the 19th Century traversed the bergs and valleys around Barrackville and sister Michael heard several of them. We got to hear her, regaled by her clear recollections, and linked through her to such wonderful history.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 9.53.39 AM
Zana Michael is the lady in the middle

Isn’t it thrilling to think of ourselves as being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1), sometimes getting to hear from those who heard from those who take us further back in time toward the beginning of the church?  This afternoon, as Carl and I sit and watch the Rockies and Cardinals lock horns on the baseball diamond, we’ll get another chance to join the historical continuum of a grand old game. Every Lord’s Day, as we engage together in worship to God, we join in the grandest historical continuum of all, linked ultimately to Peter, Paul, John, and the rest. Until we exult in heaven some day, what could exceed that thrill?

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!

The Three Survivors Of HMS Hood

Neal Pollard

On May 24, 1941, the fifth salvo of the German battleship Bismarck sank the British battlecruiser HMS Hood. The hit split the ship in two and it sank in three minutes!  1,415 members of its crew perished.  But, three survived—William Dundass, Bob Tilburn, and Ted Briggs.  Dundass survived by kicking out a starboard side window and swimming away. The two other survivors praised him for helping keep them awake and alive as they awaited rescue. Tilburn was a gunner, spared by his gun’s splinter shield. But two fellow sailors at the post with him were killed and he witnessed this.  This horrible sight made Tilburn sick and he was leaning over the side of the ship when he saw it sinking.  This allowed him to wind up safely in the water and, after some harrowing entanglements with debris, he paddled over to the other two survivors.  Briggs, a signalman and only 18, was near the bridge when the ship began to roll.  He was sucked under but somehow propelled back up to the surface. He found a small raft—”biscuit float”—and was joined by the other two survivors on their floats. They were in the frigid waters of the Denmark Strait three hours before being rescued by a British destroyer (info via UK Telegraph, H.M.S. Hood Association, and wikipedia).

Death came violently and quickly for the overwhelming majority of the crew.  The three who did not die survived through a combination of skill, determination, and fortunate circumstances.  In the aftermath of surviving the sinking, they leaned on one another to live through it all.  It is profoundly sad that so many men lost their lives in this one action and intriguing that three were saved.

From the beginning of time, the Bible has revealed that the overwhelming majority are going to be lost.  Jesus teaches that few will find eternal life (Mat. 7:13-14).  We see this principle of “few” in Noah’s days (Gen. 6-8), in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19), among the nation of Israel (2 Ki. 17; 2 Chr. 36), and the idea is conveyed by Jesus’ teaching about the end of time.  In our case, we are looking to help others survive.  We should not only be concerned with our own survival, but look for anyone else we can reach!  We may not be able to save many, but our work is to help anyone we can (cf. Mat. 28:19-20)!


Neal Pollard

Anna Reid has written a gripping book chronicling one of the least talked about devastations of World War II.  From 1941-1944, the Russian city of Leningrad, along with surrounding villages, were besieged by the German army.  Leningrad, being encircled, was cut off by land and water from adequate resupply of food.  This created a famine that cost hundreds of thousands of Leningraders their lives.

One of the survivors of this prolonged plague was Dmitri Likhachov, a Russian scholar who would live to be almost 93 years old.  He chronicled one of the most detailed accounts of the siege, both the heroic and horrible actions of people facing starvation and death.  Reid shares one of his quotes:

I think that real life is hunger, and the rest a mirage. In the time of famine people
revealed themselves, stripped themselves, freed themselves of all trumpery.
Some turned out to be marvellous (sic), incomparable heroes, others–scoundrels,
villains, murderers, cannibals. There were no half-measures. Everything was real.
The heavens were unfurled and in them God was seen… (Leningrad, 194).

It is truly hard to imagine the kind of hunger and privation these Russians endured, even reading it in detail.  But, what Likhachov says about the extremes of starvation seems to apply to people in times of any tragedy or death.  Adversity brings out the best and worst of people, or rather it has a way of “stripping away” the facades people project to reveal what is beneath the surface.

Jesus taught, “And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23).  So, while controlling our actions is always a spiritual necessity, Jesus urges us to achieve an inside-out makeover!  We may or may not ever endure tragic circumstances in our lifetime, but the Bible tells us a day is coming when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:16).  Let us take greatest care of that part of ourselves which, though “stripped” and “freed…of all trumpery” will reveals us to be “marvellous, incomparable heroes” of faith!