The Tale Of Two Women

The Tale Of Two Women

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” (1 Samuel 1.11 NASB1995) 

These are Hannah’s words uttered approximately 3,100 years ago. Barren, she cried to the Lord for a son. Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, loved her dearly. But Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, would oppress Hannah because she had born children for Elkanah while Hannah had not. Moreover, Peninnah was jealous of Hannah because she knew Elkanah loved Hannah more despite her barrenness.  

The priest, Eli, mistook Hannah for a drunkard and rebuked her. Hannah assured Eli she was not drunk but earnest in her pleas to the Lord. She said she was pouring out her soul before the Lord. Eli told her to depart in peace, that the Lord would grant her petition. And Hannah went her way, no longer sorrowful but filled with faith. 

In a short time, Hannah became pregnant and bore Samuel, so named because the boy resulted from the request she made of the Lord. True to her vow, Hannah took her son Samuel to the Tabernacle in Shiloh after weaning him. He would be given to Eli to live his life in service to God.  

Fast forward now to the twenty-first century. A worldly woman stumbles upon an article written by Politico. She laments when she hears about a leak from the Supreme Court regarding a possible decision about Mississippi’s abortion law banning abortion after fifteen weeks. The leaked document suggests that the Supreme Court upholds the abortion restriction and overturns the precedents of both Roe and Casey

“They are overturning Roe,” she screams. “How can they do that? Abortion is my right! Why do these politicians, these men, think they can tell me what I can do with my body? How can they intrude on my liberty?” The woman, whose name is unknown to us, calls her Representative and her Senator voicing her displeasure. “It is time to pack the Supreme Court! Limit the tenures of the Justices! The Supreme Court should not hold so much power.” She confers with her like-minded friends, some of whom are biological men who self-identify as women, and goes to the park to protest even though there has been no official pronouncement. Yet, the rumor of this decision has aroused her ire, and she will not rest until obtaining her justice.     

I cannot help but think of all of the world’s Hannahs when I turn on the news and watch recent events. Though I wish that this was abortion’s end, I know not to get my hopes up. The second woman marching in the streets has nothing she must worry about. If the leak is accurate, the Supreme Court is only giving the power regarding abortion back to the States and the people. Nothing more. It seems evident that those States expanding abortion to the third trimester, like New York, will not be limiting the procedure. And I can foresee a booming “abortion tourism” conveying those poor, subjugated women in “backward States” to bastions of “progressiveness,” where doctors will kill the unborn infants even a day before they would otherwise be born.  

Meanwhile, hundreds of Hannahs cry out to God for just one child. One child to love, nurture, and give back to God. There are hundreds of Hannahs filled with natural affection, but who will never have that opportunity to extend those deep-seated feelings because of disease or circumstance. I grieve because hundreds of Hannahs are barren, while the unnamed woman can slaughter a perfectly healthy child growing in her womb in the name of her so-called healthcare and feel no guilt.  

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, not “womb-possessing person’s day.” It is a day to celebrate the women who stepped up and made a lasting difference. I am thankful to God for having my own Hannah. She reared my siblings and me to love the Lord and serve Him during all the days of our lives. Moreover, she is our embodiment of King Lemuel’s mother (cf. Proverbs 31). We call her blessed! It may be that you feel the same for your mother too. If so, rejoice and celebrate her godly influence. 

According to UN statistics, we live in a world comprised of roughly 49.6 percent females. So, undoubtedly, you will encounter at least one woman today. I hope she is like Hannah and not the alternative. But even if she is not, love her with the kind of love modeled before you by your own Hannah. Pray that God will soften her heart and open her eyes so that she may see the truth about His wondrous creation, no matter how small (Psalm 139.13-16).  

Following The Will Of God

Following The Will Of God

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

As we enter chapter 12 the point is, “what are the practical implications of 1-11?” It is the start of a five chapter section on how we can put what Paul has said into action. In the first section of the book we learn that we all have sinned, but through faith we have received justification. This gift of justification should motivate us to faithful service. 

Paul begins 12:1 by saying “I urge,” which is the powerful petition verb (parakaleo). It is always used by Paul to indicate a significant point. 

Here it represents a transition from the doctrinal discussion to the practical. It also represents a key thought, that we must present ourselves to God as a “living sacrifice.” This is in contrast to the dead sacrifices of the Old Testament (slaying of innocent animals that wasn’t enough). 

We must give to God while we are young, alive, and capable of service.

We must present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice that is Holy and acceptable. Holy means we are free from moral filth. Holy means that we are devoted to serving God. Holy means that we are an instrument of righteousness. 

Then we come to verse 2 where Paul says, “Do not be conformed.” As Christians that are wanting to build our character we cannot let the world be our standard when it comes to: 

  • Our morals (the way we act) 
  • Philosophy (the way we think)
  • In context the way we dress and the way we worship. 

Rather than being conformed to the world, we must “renew our minds.” 

  • In intellect (change the way we reason, and think about things) 
  • In emotion (Renew our state of mind, the way we respond to different circumstances)
  • In will power (have the strength to restrain our human impulses) 

Have we found ourselves living without righteous thinking? We must renew our minds. When our gym membership runs out, we renew it. When our car insurance policy period is over, we renew it. When our thinking isn’t in line with God’s, we renew our minds. 

Why do we sacrifice, and renew our minds? To prove/discern: 

  • What the good will of God is
  • What the acceptable will of God is 
  • What the perfect will of God is

And by discerning these things, we can be known as Christians who think righteously.

via Bible Study Tools
1 Peter–Part VI

1 Peter–Part VI

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.

I Peter – Part VI

We’re independent of any human government, but don’t use that as an excuse to disobey your governments. You have to see every person as valuable. You have to love each other. You have to obey your government. Employees must listen to their employers. Be respectful to them, even when they aren’t good to you. We don’t do this for them, we do it for God. He thinks very highly of us when – because we love him – we act like we should, even when we’re being mistreated. You don’t get credit for putting up with mistreatment if you bring it on yourself with bad behavior. If you’re mistreated because you’re trying to do the right thing, though, it makes God happy. 

This is why God called us in the first place! Jesus suffered to benefit us. He intended for that to be the example we could follow. He never did anything wrong, he never said anything wrong, he didn’t fire back at people who said hurtful things. He never threatened anyone who put him through suffering. He constantly trusted God, knowing that God judges perfectly. He voluntarily took the punishment for our sin when he physically suffered on the cross. He did that to give us the chance to kill our old lifestyles and live morally pure lives. His injuries healed us. We had no direction, aimlessly wondering around like a sheep. Now we follow the one who leads us and protects us. 

3 Reasons Vacation Bible School Is Worth It!

3 Reasons Vacation Bible School Is Worth It!

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

This time of the year congregations are planning and preparing for another Vacation Bible School. When and why was this summer tradition started? It seems that even those who aren’t “church goers” still share childhood memories with those of us in the religious world. Across America kids will soon be drinking kool-aid and making Noah’s ark out of Popsicle sticks. They’ll also make memories that will stick with them for their whole lives.

The Hazy History 

 As much as this week means to many of us, one might assume the history to be well documented. However, who started the first VBS and when— is still debated. Some claim it all began in 1870, while others place the date closer to the 1920s. So the “when”’proves to be a little fuzzy, but the “why” seems constant. A thread that can be traced through many a VBS origin story is the reason it’s done. It was always designed with our children’s spiritual growth in mind. The goal was always to provide them wholesome entertainment while at the same time, introducing them to God and the Bible. 

So with that in mind… 

Here are 3 reasons why VBS is a worth the effort: 

  1. Youthful brains need this week. Studies done by Psych INFO, ERIC, MEDLINE, and Google Scholar as well as the University of Virginia library, all seem to agree that kids from 12-18 years old are the most impressionable. Meaning, the things they are taught and their experiences in these years will often impact their worldview for the rest of their lives. Any program within the church that’s geared towards teaching young people about Jesus can only have a positive influence on them. That window is relatively short so it’s crucial that parents do all they can to set them up for spiritual success. 
  2. Church families need this week. VBS takes a lot of work and it’s the kind of work that brings the church together. It’s mainly about the kids, but it’s not all about the kids. This is a time where members have an opportunity to bond and grow closer through the planning and preparation. Work days, crafts, skits, staff/teacher curriculum, decorating, T-shirt’s, and advertising all take teamwork. Team work is good work for good teams. 
  3. Adults need this week. The happiest among us are typically the children. With all of that work, the sweat, tears, and time that’s shoveled into this event— the payoff is the sound of an auditorium filled with energy and excitement. It’s good for adults to spend a week listening to the sound of voices singing loudly and unashamed. It’s good for the teachers and the chaperones to act and look a little ridiculous. There’s value in letting kids see us trade the khakis and neckties for face paint and costumes because it will send a message. To be a christian doesn’t mean to be serious, stoic, or stern— all the time. Those of us who have been members of the church for sometime know this to be true, but children who’s parents don’t think or speak highly of Christianity now have a chance to experience something to the contrary. 

While there might be mixed feelings about VBS within the church, there’s no denying it’s potential to effectively introduce Jesus to the young and young at heart. 

A picture of a Wyoming VBS from several decades ago.

Your Dash

Your Dash

Tuesday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

(pictured with his dad and brother to his right)

Caleb Fudge

About a month ago I was sitting at a funeral, my dad was doing the ceremony, and he said something that stuck with me. A guy named Ron Tranmer wrote a poem, and said to sum it up: “When we go to a gravestone we often look at the dates on the stone, but we should look at the dash. The dash serves as an emblem of our time here on earth, although it is small, the dash has touched so many on this earth between our years.” I had never heard this before my dad quoted it, and I think there is a bigger message in this poem.

I want you to take a moment to think about your dash….. Most likely you thought of a big moment in your life, or even a sad time or a time you wish you could redo. As I was thinking of my dash I got caught up thinking about all of my accomplishments and accolades that I forgot about how much I’ve affected others with my dash. I think about Jesus and how he affected and helped so many people. One of the moments that came to mind was when Jesus feeds the 5000 (Mat. 14:13-21). Jesus went out of his way to do something for others. 

One thing that comes to mind when reading this passage was the tornado. I can remember coming here to BG (Bowling Green) after the tornado hit. I had no idea the destruction that was done, because I was in my house when it hit. But when our group was driving around the community and giving some water, food, clothes, or anything to someone that needed it, they were so thankful and relieved that they were getting food. I imagine the 5000 people were grateful when Jesus brought them food.

Our dash also is going to have some times where we wish we can go back and redo a bad decision. Just recently I had a Blue Stars Camp for DCI in March, and one of the teachers said this statement that I will always remember. “Every single time you do a rep of something you make a green marble and a red marble from how that rep was. Whenever it comes to showtime and you are about to do a show, you have the bag of all of these marbles, and for that show your run will be based on either the green or red marble that you chose.”

If we think about our life and how many decisions we make daily, that would add up to be a lot of marbles. Other people are going to remember you from those decisions, green and red. When you pass away and someone looks at your gravestone and looks at your dash, what do you want them to remember? Is it going to be a green or red marble?

The Church’s First Unity Test

The Church’s First Unity Test

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

One of the most chilling phrases to church leadership might be, “a complaint arose” (Acts 6:1). Unhappiness, dissatisfaction, or feelings of unfairness all threaten distraction and difficulty among the body of believers. We can quickly break down this problem this way:

  • The quibble. The Hellenistic Jews were being overlooked in the daily serving of food in the Jerusalem church (1). 
  • The quandary. Who should take care of this problem? The apostles responded, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables” (2). The proposal ultimately allows them to do just that (4-7). 
  • The qualifications. The apostles recommend finding seven men from among them, “men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…” (3). The people chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas” (5). 
  • The quelling. “The statement found approval with the whole congregation” (5). The people were able to get back to the business of spreading the word and increasing the number of disciples (7). 

Every problem we face among us in congregations can be settled the same way today. Identify the problem, the biblical solution, and the right people to address it, then peace and success follow. Never again do we read about this problem arising within the Jerusalem church. 

It is interesting to see that the men who were chosen to deal with a physical or material problem were spiritual men. Stephen, one of the “table waiters,” is described as “full of grace and power” (8), a man “with the wisdom and the Spirit” (10), even a man described as having a “face like the face of an angel” (15). These opponents of Christianity are trying to undermine and put down the growth of Christianity (7), and they are willing to go to any lengths to do so (11-14). Yet, Stephen, who has already proven his worth by his compassionate, efficient handling of the Jerusalem church’s internal issue, is able to go on the offensive in sharing the Word.

Acts six does not call these men who wait tables “deacons,” but there are some strong parallels. They are both servants (6:2; 1 Tim. 3:8). They both needed to meet spiritual qualifications (6:3; 1 Tim. 3:8-12). They both could “obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” by serving well (6:8ff; 1 Tim. 3:13). 

Who does God want to utilize to solve the practical dilemmas that threaten the church’s unity? Spiritual men, servant-hearted men, and skillful men! Men like Stephen and Philip, who are multitalented–humble enough to get their hands dirty and holy enough to get the gospel out to those in need of it. 

Stop Kicking

Stop Kicking

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

The stats are in, and depression and suicide rates are up. For example, 7.8% of all U.S. adults experienced one episode of major depression within the last year. Suicide rates nationally have been up by 30% since 2000, with the most significant surge coming over the last decade.1 Naturally, the pandemic gets its share of the blame for a part of these trends, but can it explain it all?  

I humbly suggest it does not. These problems stem from more than being cooped up in houses and having routines upset. People are more dissatisfied. A poll conducted in 2020 found only 14% of the respondents were happy. 2020 was the first time the percentage dipped so low since the General Social Survey started tracking those numbers in 1972. 2 

Let us consider all the changes ushered in since Y2K. First, social media was born and has brought considerable changes to the culture and how we disseminate information. Who had heard of Twitter in 2005? Trick question. Twitter wasn’t even a thing in 2005. Though there was a Facebook (2004), it still limited who could use its platform. I could not waste my time watching cute cat videos in 2004. YouTube did not roll out user-submitted video streaming until 2005. 

And let us not forget the technological advancements this millennium has witnessed. For example, Steve Jobs’ iPhone gave us “an app for that” in 2007. In 2008, Google gave us the open-source Android OS for smartphones. What kind of internet speeds did you enjoy over a decade ago? AOL was still around in the early 2000s, having people call in over their telephone lines accessing blazing internet speeds allowed by their 56k modems. (Obvious sarcasm there.) It was only a minority that had access to broadband internet in 2005. And can you remember the early 2000s when you started hearing all those businesses you patronized talk about checking out their website?  

How about the state of politics and civil discourse since 2000? “Not my President!” That slogan began in 2016 with protesting against the outcome of the election, isn’t that correct? But, no, people were saying that about President Bush, too, after the whole hanging-chads debacle in the 2000 election. And oh, what noise in the “streets!” Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, MAGA, and Proud Boys. In some respects, we’ve regressed to the tumultuous Vietnam War era of the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

Now, I am aware that correlation is not causation. However, I think that the one wishing to connect the dots can demonstrate how all these things we have mentioned have stoked the fires of depression and discontent. The fake perfection of social media makes people think they are unattractive and have unfulfilled lives. The disinformation and propaganda of the internet arouse our righteous ire against our enemies, foreign and predominantly domestic. And the technology puts all this information in our hands nigh instantaneously. Then, we can easily share our misery or righteous indignation with everyone around us. 

The question is, how do you respond to all of this? I advise you not to react like a particular man from Turkey’s Mersin province when the contagion of Christianity began turning his world upside down. His zeal caused him to persecute the Christian sect. He was willing to dedicate his entire life to Christianity’s eradication, traveling even a great distance to ferret out its adherents living among the populace of a province that was not even his home. Finally, on that fateful road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to this man and made a profound statement. “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26.14 NASB1995).  

What is a goad? There was a time when cattlemen moved their livestock by poking them with a sharpened stick. That sharpened stick was a goad. So, if our man from Turkey, Saul of Tarsus, was like one of God’s cattle on a thousand hills (cf. Psalm 50.10), he was stubborn. Rather than accept the direction of his master’s prodding, he pushed back against the sharpened stick, injuring himself. That is what self-righteousness does. A person can be a crusader for many things, some of which seem very important, but when he runs contrary to the will of God, he only causes self-harm.  

Polls show that the United States has effectively “democratized” Christianity. In other words, nebulous “spirituality” is up while “organized religion” is down. People think they can “swipe right or left” as they do with a dating app when engaging with God. This mindset was becoming ensconced even before COVID-19. I would add that governmental regulation to close our assembly halls during the pandemic and our well-intentioned compliance with them enabled the creation of a “virtual faith” among some of our members. The result is that people have lost the sense of community and purpose that the church provides.Hence, people are depressed and dissatisfied. 

Now that fear has subsided, and SARS-CoV-2 is not the killer it once was, thanks to treatment regimens borne amid fiery trials and this virus reaching an endemic state, things are opening back up to pre-pandemic conditions. And people are ecstatic to be returning to a semblance of normalcy. Yet, something is still inexplicably missing. Young people particularly notice it. There is an empty void even with involvement in social issues or opportunities to contribute to a good cause.  

Whether one attributes Blaise Pascal or Augustine with the credit for first articulating the existence of a “God-shaped hole” within us, it indeed exists. Per Jesus’ statement about unclean spirits, we know evil fills an empty void (Matthew 12.43-45). If not “evil,” per se, definitely self (cf. Romans 1.25). If people continue in their self-righteousness and ignore the gentle prodding of the Savior through His Word, they will continue injuring themselves, feeling depressed and dissatisfied. Yes, they kick against the goads. It is time to stop kicking and move forward in the direction He intends.   

Sources Cited 

1    Ronsisvalle, Dr. Mike. “Dr. Ronsisvalle: Depression among All Age Groups Is Swelling; Treatment Is the Best Solution.” Florida Today, Florida Today, 26 Apr. 2022, www.floridatoday.com/story/life/wellness/2022/04/26/professional-treatment-can-save-loved-ones-mental-health-issues/7413927001/.  

2  Associated Press. “Americans Are the Unhappiest They’ve Been in 50 Years, Poll Finds.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 16 June 2020, www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/americans-are-unhappiest-they-ve-been-50-years-poll-finds-n1231153.  

3  Dallas, Kelsey. “The State of Faith.” Deseret News, Deseret News, 22 Mar. 2022, www.deseret.com/faith/2022/3/21/22981634/the-state-of-faith-american-religion-research-marist-poll.   

The Commands Of Scripture

The Commands Of Scripture

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

In Romans 12:9-21, Paul reveals to us what a true Christian looks like. He gives a list of actions we should always strive to accomplish. This list is totally different from the message we hear from the world. The apostle tells us that as true Christians we: 

  • Have genuine love 
  • Hate evil 
  • Hold on to what is good 
  • Love one another 
  • Outdo each other in showing honor
  • Have zeal
  • Have a Fervent spirit 
  • Serve the Lord 
  • Rejoice in hope
  • Are patient in tribulation 
  • Pray constantly
  • Contribute to the Saints 
  • Are hospitable 
  • Bless our persecutors 
  • Do not curse our enemies 
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice 
  • Weep with those who weep 
  • Live in harmony 
  • Aren’t haughty 
  • Associate with the lowly 
  • Don’t think too much of ourselves
  • Don’t repay evil with evil 
  • Do what is honorable in the sight of everyone 
  • Live peaceable 
  • Don’t take revenge 
  • Care for our enemies 
  • Don’t let evil overcome us
  • Overcome evil with good

That’s a whole lot to remember. But if we love God, we will try our best to follow these commands. Christianity is practical because it gives us the best life on this earth and the one to come. 

We know what’s truly important. We have a purpose and we know how we are to act, speak and think. We know why we’re here on earth and we know where we are going if we are faithful to God’s word. This list in Romans 12 gives us practical tips on how to handle the situations that come up in life. We have the key to a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life. We follow the Bible because it is practical. It contains wisdom and knowledge that is found nowhere else on earth. It provides a map to salvation and it gives us the answers to life’s problems. 

The story is told of an old man who was wandering in the desert looking for water. He approached an old shack and on the porch area he found a water pump. 

Next to the water pump he saw a one gallon jug. A note on the jug said, “Use all the water to prime the pump.” The man’s instincts said to drink the water and not trust the pump. Nevertheless he poured the water into the pump and began pumping until an abundance of cool water came to the top. The Bible is like the note on that water jug. Sometimes the instructions contained in the Bible do not make sense to us, but it is always right. The commands given to us from God are practical. He knows what is best for His own creation. They help us in our decisions, and they teach us how to act and think. We can have confidence in knowing that our lives are based on the perfect commands of Scripture. 

1 Peter– Part V

1 Peter– Part V

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

I Peter – Pt V

I say this because I love you: stay far away from unhealthy desires. They’re the sworn enemies of your souls, and they attack without mercy. Remember, this isn’t your permanent home. You’re strangers and outsiders on this earth. Remember this when you’re around earthly people. Make sure you behave like you’re supposed to. They’ll treat you badly and say horrible things about you since you don’t act like everyone else. Maybe they’ll notice your awesome morality and follow God themselves! 

Speaking of people on earth, God wants us to obey whoever’s in charge of us (as long as it isn’t sinful). If it’s your president, obey him. Anyone acting on the president’s behalf is just as in charge. God uses them to punish bad people and praise good people. By doing what they tell us, we’re doing what God wants. Maybe we’ll even shut down the ignorant things others say about us!