A Subtle Prohibition

A Subtle Prohibition

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a Roman Catholic list of prohibited Bible versions. Anything other than the Vulgate was illegal to possess. Violations had severe penalties. No lay person would ever want to be caught with a common, modern translation while the Index had force of law.  

While not nearly as dramatic as a forbidden book list, some have inadvertently created similar prohibitions. Their reasons are different, their motives less nefarious, but the outcome is equally destructive. 

Are translations like the ERV and NIV perfect? No! But no one translation is perfect. Read multiple, but be sure to include versions like these in your study. If and when something comes up that seems different, investigate it! Spend some time figuring it out! Look at context, consult multiple translations, see how it fits with the author’s overall message. 

This is a difficult statement, but true: many Christians do not understand the Bible. Some equate memorization with knowledge, but could not accurately elaborate on what a passage means. Secularization and hectic schedules are partially to blame, but difficulty understanding their translations is often the culprit. 

Some examples:

(ESV): Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 

(KJV): God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

(ERV): In the past God spoke to our people through the prophets. God spoke to them many times and in many different ways. And now in these last days God has spoken to us again. God has spoken to us through his son. God made the whole world through his son. And God has chosen his son to have all things. The son shows the glory of God. He is a perfect copy of God’s nature. The son holds everything together with his powerful command. The son made people clean from their sins. Then he sat down at the right side of the Great One (God) in heaven. God gave him a name that is a much greater name than any of the angels have. And he became that much greater than the angels. 

Which was easier to read? Which was easiest to understand? The last probably shed some light on the ESV and KJV. How? It’s translated the way people actually communicate. It removes an obstacle to understanding that formal equivalence has kept in place for some time. 

This quote is famously attributed to Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” The same readily applies to the Bible, which was originally written in the recipients’ common language. 

The translation committee for the English Bible for the Deaf include this statement at the beginning of their work: 

“The main concern of the translators was always to communicate [the message] of biblical writers as effectively and as naturally as the original writings did to people in that time. Faithful translation is not just matching words in a dictionary. It is a process of expressing the original message in a form that will not only have the same meaning, but will sound as relevant, attract the same interest, and have the same impact today as it did thousands of years ago.”

Reading a modern translation that utilizes dynamic equivalence (alongside other translations) in personal Bible study is extremely helpful. Doing so can have no other effect than enhancing one’s understanding of God’s word! 

Launching Audacious Dreams

Launching Audacious Dreams

Neal Pollard

I was too young to remember any of the Apollo missions (the first moon landing was six months before my birth). As a child of the ’80s, I remember the NASA space shuttle missions (there was a total of 135 of them) including the two disastrous ones. In 2021, a new era is underway. This one is being driven, not by government, but by private funding. This new chapter in space flight and exploration is a space race between well-known billionaires, Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), and Elon Musk (SpaceX). I missed Sir Richard’s flight in the rocket plane, Unity, on July 11th. But this morning I watched the entire maiden voyage of Bezos’ rocket, New Shepard, as he reached a height of 66.5 miles in the suborbital flight carrying Jeff, brother Mark, and both the oldest and youngest people to fly into space (Oliver Daeman is 18 and aviation pioneer Wally Funk is 82). From take off to touch down, the flight took 11 minutes.

These new ventures, like their predecessors, are sure to fire the imagination of the next generation, develop new technology, and generate national pride. The new frontier, for now, seems to be to launch space tourism. It dawned on me that those bankrolling these ventures and putting in the time and manpower to realize these goals creates multiple challenges to overcome.

It’s hard. 
It’s expensive.
It’s risky.
It’s frustrating.

Sure, there was a little flight training for the four passengers of New Shepard (classroom instruction, demonstrations, and practice), but the company website adds these facts: “Blue Origin has been flight testing New Shepard and its redundant safety systems since 2012. The program has had 15 successful consecutive missions including three successful escape tests, showing the crew escape system can activate safely in any phase of flight” (Source). Today’s flight was originally slated for 2018 (Source). Fortune Magazine says that Bezos has spent $5.5 billion of his own money on Blue Origin to this point (Source). Why expend the effort, money, energy, and risk? Men like these billionaires have proven they know what sells and how to turn a profit, but it also taps into the daring and adventure of the human spirit.

The dreams and visions of Joel 2:28-32, fulfilled on Pentecost when the church was established, are the miracles, signs, and wonders by which the apostles proved the truth of their message. In context, those dreams and visions were specific, supernatural demonstrations of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus wants us to share His dream and vision, first articulated in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We call it the Great Commission. He spelled out the game plan for His apostles in Acts 1:8. Start local, move regional, and end up global. Share the gospel. Reach the lost. Grow the church. Over and over and over again! We’re going to have to dream big and conjure of visions of great things. We serve the same God the apostles did.

But, audacious dreams are hardexpensiverisky, and frustrating. They require us to change and grow. They cost us time, talent, and treasure. They may cost us friendships and relationships. They will include failures and misses as well as successes and hits. Yet, we are reaching higher than even outer space. Our ultimate goal is heaven! 

As impressed as I am with these billionaires’ ambitions for outer space, we are children of the Creator and heirs of the Most High. His resources as infinite. His promises are sure. His mission is clear. Let’s launch ambitious dreams for Him. Lost souls are counting on it! 

Creative Commons: January 23, 2019: NS-10
Platform: New Shepard
Location: West Texas Launch Site
Photographer: Blue Origin
A Good Name

A Good Name

My favorite writer really strikes gold here!

Life and Favor (Job 10:12)

By Kathy Pollard

My husband, Neal, and I have this strange habit of turning people’s names into parts of speech and using them in our conversations with each other. For instance, the other day we were discussing a couple of friends who are facing a stressful situation. I said, “We need to Russell them.”  Russell is one of our elders at church and also one of the greatest encouragers we know. We’ve only known him for a couple of years but have received countless texts from him filled with positive vibes. He will send reminders about God’s power and goodness, or thoughtful compliments, or simply tell us he loves us. Neal and I want to follow his example. We appreciate how Russell makes us feel and want to do the same thing for our friends.

Over 20 years ago we stayed in the home of Bill and JoAnn Sharbine in…

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SINGING WITH THE UNDERSTANDING: ‘TIS MIDNIGHT, AND ON OLIVE’S BROW

SINGING WITH THE UNDERSTANDING: ‘TIS MIDNIGHT, AND ON OLIVE’S BROW

Neal Pollard

I love the poetry and melody of the William Tappan hymn, “‘Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow.”  It is also so rich with meaning, but inasmuch as it was written 191 years ago it is possible that its wording gives younger worshippers, new Christians, non-Christian visitors, and a good many of the rest of us difficulty with comprehension.  Good worship requires not only proper actions, but mental engagement and a heart-connection with the lyrics.

The first verse begins, “‘Tis midnight, and on Olive’s brow.” Some may have no idea what that means.  The song is about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the night He was arrested and ultimately led to the cross.  Tappan seems particularly influenced by Luke’s account of the events.  While scripture does not single out the hour of midnight, it does indicate Jesus was there at night (see Lk. 22:56, 66; cf. Jn. 18:3; Mt. 26:31, 34; etc.). Luke 22:39 indicates the garden’s location as the Mount of Olives.  “Brow” would be a poetic, late Middle English word for the top of a hill.  The phrase, “The star is dimmed that lately shown” would simply reinforce the idea of darkness and the anxiety such would add to Jesus’ suffering.

The second verse is pretty self-explanatory, though it might help some to remember that the phrase, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20) appears to be a humble term the apostle John uses to describe himself in his gospel.  “Heeds not” simply means “does not hear”; he had fallen asleep with the rest of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples (Mk. 14:37).

The third verse is also straightforward, though we have another allusion to Luke’s gospel, with “the Man of Sorrows weeps in blood.”  Luke 22:44 tells us that Jesus, “being in agony” was “praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood….” The second line of this verse speaks of Jesus’ kneeling in anguish, which Luke cites in the last part of Luke 22:44, saying Christ’s sweat was “falling down upon the ground.”

The last verse might cause some trouble, especially without consulting the footnote found under the song in the “Praise for the Lord” songbook.  “‘Tis midnight, and from ether plains is borne the song that angels know,” is, for many, incomprehensible.  “Ether plains,” as explained in the book, is a poetic way to reference “upper regions” or “heaven.”  The song seems to allude to that part of the garden experience where “an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him” (Lk. 22:43).  While this verse of the song seems to strain the meaning of Luke’s words, it is a beautiful thought that angels or even the Father sang to comfort the suffering Son (cf. Heb. 5:7).

We should take the time to understand the words of the songs we sing in worship to God.  This keeps worship from being merely external, without heart, and a disconnection.  Perhaps, too, it serves as a notice that we should explain the meaning of older songs, especially those couched in language we do not use today.  It should also awaken the awareness that we need to incorporate songs in worship that are more contemporary in language and melody along with these beautiful, older songs.

THREE QUALITIES OF A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER

THREE QUALITIES OF A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Two parables and an incident in Luke 18:1-17 reveal three attributes Jesus is looking for in His disciples. As you read through these verses, ask yourself if you struggle with one or more of these. The examples Jesus holds up are all lowly characters–a defenseless widow, a sinful tax collector, and babies and little children. They were all either financially, spiritually, or physically dependent on others, yet these are the ones Jesus tells us to imitate. What are the qualities?

PERSISTENCE (1-8). The parable of the widow and the unjust judge is delivered to his listeners for a specific reason, “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (1). A widow pleaded for legal protection from a judge who neither feared God or respected men (2). She wouldn’t stop coming to him and pleading her case until finally he relented and granted her request out of frustration and annoyance at her continual coming (3-5). Jesus’ point is that the perfect God will bring justice to His elect who faithfully pray to Him (7). He ties this persistence to faith (8). Jesus is giving us insight into God’s heart and desires. He wants to hear from us in prayer, and He is influenced by our prayers. Do we have faith in that? 

HUMILITY (9-14). Jesus launches into a second parable about prayer, to highlight another necessity in the practice of it. He focuses on an unlikely duo, a prominent religious leader and a contemptible tax collector. Both enter the temple, both for the purpose of prayer. Both prayers are recorded. Jesus evaluates them. The first prayer, uttered by the Pharisee, is self-directed (he prayed to himself), self-righteous (God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector), and self-promoting (I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get). He shows no recognition of or need for God. He’s pretty self-satisfied. The second prayer, uttered by the tax collector, is selfless, self-indicting, and self-emptying. Jesus notes his hesitance (standing some distance away), abjection (even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven), emotion (beating his breast), and honesty (his entire prayer is, “God be merciful to me, the sinner”). Jesus’ analysis? The second man was the one who went home justified, not the first. Jesus’ point is explicit: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (14). I may know more sophisticated ways to exhibit my pride and self-righteousness, but the response and result will be the same in heaven. Faithful followers humbly recognize their need of God’s favor. 

RECEPTIVITY (15-17). Parents were bringing their children to Jesus at this time so that He could touch them. We aren’t told why the disciples rebuke them for this, though it could be they were wrestled with pride of position or self-importance. Jesus corrects their course, telling them to let the children come to Him. In fact, He says, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (17). He tells them that the kingdom of God belongs to those like these little children. How so? They were dependent on others (15). They were apparently willing (16). They were open (17). Certainly, this is a great exhortation to us as parents, to bring our children to Jesus in the impressionable years of life. But beyond that, there is an admonition to each of us to keep child-like faith and recognize our need to come to Jesus in order to have a place in God’s kingdom.

Often, we think that being in the kingdom is about us daring and doing great things for God. But, doesn’t it begin with our having the lowliness of heart to come to Him, persistent, humble, and receptive? These three qualities put the focus on His attractiveness, ability, and power. If we allow ourselves to be tools in His hand and recognize that it’s about Him and because of Him, then we’ll be faithful followers. 

We Can All Use Some Help

We Can All Use Some Help

Friday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

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Steve Candela

Fun fact about myself…  I would be a whole lot more comfortable running into a burning building than I am standing up here speaking.  But just like any situation on a fire ground, the job will get done. 

James 5:19 says,  “My Brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

There have been countless times in my life where help was not only desired or needed, but necessary.  As a Fireman I’d like to tell you that I’m made of iron, nothing can hurt me and I don’t need help from anyone, “I got this”. Problem is, this would be the furthest thing from the truth. In order to get the job done it takes a team. We have guys that fight fire, guys that search for victims, guys that drive the trucks, pump the water, we have guys in charge of the operational strategy, and so on.  We even have guys that their only job on a fireground is to go in and save a fellow firefighter in trouble if they get stuck, disoriented or hurt. This is called a RIT team.  We as Christians work in a similar fashion. Ok, so we don’t have the ranking system, but we all have duties. We all have jobs and responsibilities, right? 

Robert Muszynski was a fire chief in Chicago Ridge, Illinois. He had worked at multiple fire departments throughout his career but this is where he finally decided to retire in 2014 at the age of 58. I do not know specifically if he was a follower of Christ. I do, however, know of his dedication to his work and his firefighters. He was recognized several times in magazines and various fire department-related web articles for his encouraging quotes and respectable works in the fire service. I’d like to share with you a couple of his quotes and how I’ve related it not only to my job but my spiritual life as well. 

 Bob said, “Always stay hungry for the job, and you will never get full.” Complacency causes you to become bored, disengaged, and think that you know it all.  Keeping interest and staying engaged is very important.  You could say for us as Christians to always stay hungry for the word of God, read as often as you can and you’ll never get full. There is always more to learn from scripture. Create discussion among your friends or host a Bible study. Always Stay Hungry for the word. 

He also said, “Good firefighters will know their job. Great Firefighters will also know the job of the person above them as well as teach their job to the people below them.”  As an Engineer I am in between the ranks of firefighter and captain. I have a great relationship with my captain. He’s been a fantastic guide, teacher, mentor, and leader of our crew. I know his job and what it entails, and I strive to be in that position someday. As with the firefighters below me I try to be that role model that teaches them everything it takes to become an engineer and give them ample opportunities to come to me for guidance. A good Christian will know what it takes to be a good Christian, but is that where it stops? No. To be great Christians we need to be aware of what our elders and deacons have in the works. They do so much for us already; maybe there’s something you can help with? Take a task off their plate so they can work on the next important project. What about the people who need saving? You might not see yourself as a great teacher, but there is something inside every one of us that we have to offer to someone else. By creating conversation with our visitors you might reveal their needs. You could be the one to lead them to where they need to be and teach them something along the way. 

As hard as it is to admit, sometimes a Fireman can use a little help.  Christians can too.  Leading up to the scripture reading above, James has been talking to fellow believers in Christ, encouraging them to never give up faith. It’s so easy today for us to stumble and fall. We have people and priorities tugging and pulling us in every direction away from God. James knew this. He makes it clear that we are to help our fellow Christians who may wander from the truth and become worldly. It’s our job to help them get reconnected with God. Like addressing and correcting poor behavior in the firehouse this can be a difficult assignment. We need to be careful in how we complete this task so we don’t fall into the same sin or come across as too “high and mighty” (Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”) This means be tactful not attacking. Genuine love and care must be the tactic. 

Steve interviewed last year by NBC about the walk to honor firefighters who died on 9/11.
Never Give Up

Never Give Up

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

I ran across an illustration on Facebook the other day that went like this:

“During a BRUTAL study at Harvard in the 1950s, Dr. Curt Richter placed rats in a pool of water to test how long they could tread water. On average they’d give up and sink after 15 minutes. But right before they gave up due to exhaustion, the researchers would pluck them out, dry them off, let them rest for a few minutes – and put them back in for a second round.
In this second try – how long do you think they lasted? Remember – they had just swam until failure only a few short minutes ago…How long do you think? Another 15 minutes? 10 minutes? 5 minutes? 60 hours! These rats swam for another 60 hours before they gave up. The conclusion drawn was that since the rats BELIEVED that they would eventually be rescued, they could push their bodies way past what they previously thought impossible.
If hope can cause exhausted rats to swim for that long, what could a belief in yourself and your abilities, do for you?”

While this illustration was made to show the value of believing in yourself, as Christians it’s more than just a belief in yourself!  How much more could we endure if we hoped in the Almighty God?

As a Christian, remember what you’re capable of. Remember why you’re here. Remember the hope that is placed within us. Never give up. When you face ridicule for the godly choices you make, don’t give up. When you start to lose zeal and the fire begins to die. Don’t let it go out.
When life seems overwhelming and you’re drowning in stress, don’t quit. When health issues plague your body, don’t give up. Never give out, never give in, and NEVER give up. Remember the cross, remember the hope, remember the eternal home that will soon replace this temporary dwelling.

As a wise fish once said in a cartoon movie, “just keep swimming.” And we are given a beautiful reason why. In Philippians 3, Paul gives every Christian our motivation. Our reason why we should never give up. We stay motivated by pressing on (14).
What lies ahead? The goal, the prize, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
We press on by holding fast (16). Once you’ve got it, don’t let go. Look to those who have set the example (17).
Imitate the mindset of Paul and ignoring the enemies of the Cross. Paul pleads to them with tears (18). Don’t get distracted and don’t follow the wrong example. Finally we never give up by letting go (20). Let go of this world and what ties you to it. Our true home is in heaven.

We can find motivation and comfort in recognizing what we can accomplish and endure through Christ.

Much More Better

Much More Better

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Jesus wants us to have a perfect eternity with him because he sees us as family (Heb. 2.11-14). He took drastic measures to make sure anyone who wants to could easily get a passport to heaven. 

  • He took a 33 year demotion to save us (Heb. 2.9). The engineer and fabricator of reality stepped down to an entry-level position so His own creation could abuse and kill him. 
  • An immortal being allowed Himself to die. He did this to experience what all of us have to experience (2.9). 
  • The best pulmonologists have a respiratory disorder (or a family member with one). They empathize and know from personal experience what works. Jesus was the perfect person to give out freedom because He personally experienced what we go through. If someone’s going to be in charge of handing out grace, who better than someone who can empathize with our struggles (2.10; 17,18)? 
  • He makes us perfect in God’s eyes (2.11). 
  • He brags on His family to the father and to the faithful dead who are hanging out with Him until judgment (2.11-13; 12.21-23). 
  • Death is scary and uncertain, but not for Christians. Satan used our fear of death against us (2.14; cf Rom. 8.15), but Jesus confiscated Satan’s power.  
  • He made God very accessible, which makes it easy to stay faithful (4.16). 
  • He’s better than ancient human priests – and even they were gentle/patient with ignorant and weak believers (5.1,2). If they were patient with ignorant, weak believers, He’s even more patient (5.5-10). 
Teens stand for Scripture reading at recent Summer Youth Series (Chase Johnson reading)
Jesus Loves The Little Children 

Jesus Loves The Little Children 

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Those who lived on earth while Christ was here in the flesh would have described Him differently, depending on their experiences with Him. 

Many of the wealthy people would have called Him a “demanding person” (Matt. 19.22). 

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and most Roman officials would have labeled Him a “trouble maker.” 

All of the folks who were healed by Jesus would say that He was a powerful man, but I believe that a great many would say that He truly cared for children. 

He calls the peacemakers “children of God” at the beginning of His first recorded sermon (Matt. 5.9). He heals a boy with a particularly vicious demon inside him (Matt. 17). But in the next two chapters He will show this love toward innocent children in a way that can touch the heart. 

In chapter eighteen, the disciples of Jesus ask an ignorant question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

It’s after this question that Jesus places a child in front of them. This must have been a little confusing for the disciples, but a powerful point is made. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” 

In chapter nineteen, Jesus is teaching on the subject of divorce. It’s a lesson that didn’t sit very well with His listeners then, and it still doesn’t sit well with many people today. At some point in His lesson, women begin to bring their infants to Jesus so that He can bless them. This was a tradition done by Jewish people but the disciples started to rebuke the parents because they thought this was a job below their great leader. Again, Jesus shows us His love for children by saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” He then goes on to lay His hands on them and then leaves. Did He have more to say to the crowd that had gathered to listen to Him? Was He finished with His lesson? Apparently this visual illustration was a great way for our Lord to end. 

The point is, Jesus loves children. Not just little children, but adult children, too. He compares the innocent nature of children to how we can be in the sight of God once we are added to the kingdom. It’s a beautiful picture and something we should all crave. Innocence. When Jesus lays “His hands on us” when we follow the plan of salvation, He has the power to change our sinful ways into something pure and holy. Jesus loves the little children, and the big children, of the world.