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faith faithfulness hope persecution

Hope In A Hopeless Situation

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

 

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Neal Pollard

Nadezhda Khazina was born in Russia at the turn of the 20th Century. She met and married the famous poet, Osip Mandelstam, in Kiev, Ukraine, after the Russian Revolution and establishment of communism. The couple saw enough of that system of government to conclude it was destructive and harmful, so they railed against it as they had opportunity. Mandelstam had a wide audience through his poetry, and his 1934 epigram about Joseph Stalin was a work he called “his suicide note” and that has been described as his “sixteen line death sentence.” He was arrested, exiled, and died of exposure and neglect four years later. Nadezhda became even more active in crusading against the tactics used in the Soviet Union, then near the end of her life she wrote a two volume autobiography of her life and work: Hope Against Hope (1970) and Hope Abandoned (1974)(https://spartacus-educational.com/RUSkhazina.htm). What’s interesting is looking up the name “Nadezhda” or the more familiar form “Nadia”; the name means “hope.” In fact, Lois Fisher-Ruge wrote a book by that title in 1989.

Do you see the irony? Her name meant hope, but her life was full of hopes dashed and hopelessness in the midst of her struggle. But, she kept on working because of the hope she felt. 

Peter writes 1 Peter to Christians who were going to see some seemingly hopeless situations in their lives. Some of them lived in Bithynia, a region whose governor, Pliny, famously bragged to the emperor Trajan at the turn of the second century about his pogrom of executing professed Christians for their faith. This was just about half a century after Peter writes this epistle warning of persecution. 

Despite Peter’s warning about the testing of their faith in unfavorable circumstances, he frequently mentions not just the ultimate reward we see for faithfully serving Christ but also “hope.” Five times in the first three chapters, Peter mentions this hope. It’s a living hope caused by Christ’s resurrection (1:3), a complete hope (1:13), a hope in God (1:21; 3:5), and a reasonable hope (3:15). The world around them was hopeless; they lived without hope. They wanted to drag the Christians into that hopeless state, but Peter urges them to hold onto hope. 

Our hopes are tested by times like these, by a world full of sin and iniquity. It’s easy to restrict our focus to this earth and this life. Peter’s words are for us, too! Do not be hopeless! You have Christ. Only those in Him have legitimate hope! 

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Drone photo from Nick Dubree of our drive in service at our new property. 
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Current Events faithfulness

DENNIS RODMAN AND FORGING FRUITFUL FELLOWSHIP

Neal Pollard

The latest twist in the latest Dennis Rodman saga, being admitted to rehab, may help explain what led to his state of mind in his recently-completed “diplomacy trip” to North Korea.  Except for his most ardent supporters, people were left scratching their heads over his extremely friendly overtures and fawning over a regime recently described by Robert Marquand in this way: “The regime is repressive in a way unthinkable in the West. Loyalty to the Kim family is paramount. There is no exile movement, no dissent, no opposition newspaper. Access to South Korean media is outlawed, as is free travel. Famously repressive Cold War states like Albania and Romania were fabulous models of freedom compared to the North today” (via Christian Science Monitor, 1/19/14).  Execution, torture, and starvation is a routine form of population control there, and this is a nation possessing nuclear weapons.  Why Rodman would call its dictator a “beloved friend” and a “very good guy” is beyond baffling.  He seems out of touch with reality.

The Bible warns the Christian against forging associations that hurt the cause of Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Paul addresses the matter of being “bound together with unbelievers.”  Notice what the text reveals.

THE EXHORTATION (14).  He writes, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”  Paul found this matter both urgent and important.  Who we connect ourselves with makes a difference.

THE EXPLANATION (14-16).  Paul says such fellowship is spiritually irrational, showing examples of how non-sensical it is.  He also says such fellowship disregards the fact that we are God’s temple.  We cannot be flippant about that!

THE EVIDENCE (16-17).  Paul cites at least six different Old Testament passages, proof for his point of the destructiveness of these evil associations (Ex. 29:45, Lev. 26:12; Jer. 31:1; Ezek. 37:27; Ex. 25:8; Isa. 52:11).  By doing this, Paul shows that this is a concept—avoiding fellowship with unbelievers—proven by Scripture.

THE ENRICHMENT (18).  When we avoid unrighteous fellowship, we help open the door to fellowship with God.  He welcomes us, adopts us, and forges relationship with us.  The choice of enjoying fellowship with God or the unbeliever seems clear and easy.

I cannot understand guys like Mr. Rodman.  He may be seeking attention.  His motives may never be known.  Yet, when it comes to how we as Christians conduct ourselves with the world, we are going to have the spiritual insight to choose wisely!