It’s Black Friday, Or Is It?

It’s Black Friday, Or Is It?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

We commonly refer to today as “Black Friday.” Though retailers have begun holding sales before the actual day, “Black Friday” retains its significance as the day when most businesses will finally make a profit for the year, moving from being “in the red” (a deficit) to “in the black” (a profit). It never fails to astound me that a nation can go from offering thanks to God for their gifts to enjoying a scuffle over a discounted television in a day. People’s whimsy, however, is hardly unprecedented. Wasn’t Jesus hailed as the Messiah the same week the mob demanded His crucifixion? Humans, admittedly, are inconsistent creatures. 

Some people use the term “Black Friday” to refer to what is also known as “Good Friday,” or the day Jesus bore the world’s sins on the cross. This moniker is because, for a total of three hours, the world was in total darkness. An issue with trying to discern such specifics retroactively is that tradition can often take precedence over Scripture. To pinpoint the year of Jesus’ death in Jerusalem, some have even resorted to using computers and date-calculating software.  

So that I do not fall into the same trap, let me quickly raise a couple of issues that may make a nice and tidy timeline for the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord problematic. In the first place, let me state one undeniable truth. Early on a Sunday morning, the women found the tomb empty (John 20.1). From this one point, we apply Jesus’ words to the evil and (spiritually) adulterous generation seeking a sign: “for just as Jonah was in the stomach of the sea monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (Matthew 12.40 NASB). So, Jesus would be in the grave for three days and three nights. 

A Friday crucifixion would not permit three full days and nights. According to religious scholars, a fraction of a day counts as an entire day. How do we know this, though? It turns into a speculative game. As a result, some argue that the Romans crucified Jesus on Wednesday. This alternative is also a possibility. But first, consider another hint. Because they were preparing for a high Sabbath, they had to bury Jesus quickly (John 19.31). That suggests another vote for Friday. Is that correct? What was the last meal Jesus wished to share with His disciples before His crucifixion? It was Passover (Matthew 26.18). Matthew 26.17 states that Jesus sent His disciples ahead to secure a room to eat the Passover meal on the first day of Unleavened Bread. 

A careful reading of the text reveals that everything from the institution of the Lord’s Supper to the death of Jesus occurred on Passover since it occurred between the span of one sunset to the next (e.g., Leviticus 23.32). This coincidence is apropos, given that Jesus was the Lamb of God (John 1.29). Moreover, according to Leviticus 23.5-6, Passover was immediately followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. But note Leviticus 23.7. The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was a holy convocation on which keepers of Moses’ Law were not supposed to work. In other words, it was a special Sabbath. Aha! 

So, the high Sabbath that led to the quick burial of Jesus was not a typical Saturday Sabbath. This truth creates an intriguing scenario, and the Gospels do provide hints. A regular Sabbath may have fallen after a special Sabbath. Take note of what the Gospels say about women. They went to see where Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus before returning home to prepare spices and perfumes to anoint Him (Luke 23.55-56). These women, according to Luke, kept the Sabbath. But then Mark says something that skeptics say contradicts Luke. After observing the Sabbath, the women purchase spices for Jesus’ anointing (Mark 16.1). But instead of contradiction, it more likely indicates a two-Sabbath week. Whatever the reason, the women could not attend to Jesus’ body as they had hoped until Sunday morning. This day was when they discovered the empty tomb. 

Our conclusion may not please those insisting on specifics, but I believe it allows our Lord’s words to be proven. He spent three days and three nights in the tomb, as He said because that was the sign. It was not an hour or two here and there, coupled with two full days. So, those of you better with math and willing to consult astronomical computer programs can give me a date based on those variables, but until then, we hear the words of Jesus to Thomas Didymus: 

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed (John 20.29 NASB). 

Time Flies, But We Navigate

Time Flies, But We Navigate

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Ann Turner Cook passed away at her St. Petersburg, Florida, home on Friday, June 3, 2022. She was 95 years old, was an educator, a novelist, a wife, and a mother. Her father was a well-known cartoonist. But you almost certainly know her for a charcoal drawing that was made of her by an artist neighbor, Dorothy Hope Smith. It was submitted for the label of a baby food company and chosen in 1928, then trademarked in 1931. Ann was the original Gerber baby (news report here)! You’ve seen that iconic picture. If you realized she was a real person, you never thought about the fact that this baby grew up and eventually grew old. Or that she would now be dead.

I know nothing about Mrs. Cook’s religious life or spiritual preparation. But I do know that she is part of a universal truth concerning life, and that is that death comes relatively soon for us all. How soon? 

  • Like water spilled on the ground (2 Sam. 14:14). 
  • Like a weaver’s shuttle (Job 7:6; Isa. 38:12). 
  • Like a breath (Job 7:7).
  • Like a shadow (Job 8:9; 1 Chr. 29:15; Ec. 6:12). 
  • Like a flower (Job 14:2).
  • Swift as a runner (Job 9:25).
  • Like a handbreadths (Ps. 39:5).
  • Like a wind that passes (Ps. 78:39). 
  • Like a sigh (Ps. 90:9). 
  • Like smoke (Ps. 102:3).
  • Like a lengthened shadow  and grass (Ps. 102:11; 109:23). 
  • Like a passing shadow (Ps. 144:4). 
  • Like a fading flower or withering grass (Isa. 40:7-8; Js. 1:10; 1 Pet. 1:23-25). 
  • Like a vapor (Js. 4:14). 

With that in mind, shouldn’t we pray with David, “LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am” (Ps. 39:4).

Yes, we can look at the Gerber Baby and see that. Or we can look through our own family albums. The baby, childhood, and young adult photos of our grandparents, parents, or ourselves. The weathering winds of time do sure and quick work, reminding us of the many ways the Bible depicts it for us. Time is short and it passes quickly.

Rather than a depressing inevitability, this should be a respected teacher. We should pray with Moses, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:9). We should take Paul’s inspired advice and “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). Don’t leave undone what needs to be done. Don’t put off what must be done before this life is over. It will be over before you know it. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (9:27). 

“The Most Dangerous Word”

“The Most Dangerous Word”

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Mack Pugh

What is the most dangerous word? Anger, wrath, revenge, retaliation? The most dangerous word doesn’t “sound” dangerous, doesn’t “look” dangerous, it hides its dangerous ability, but it is the great enemy of advancement. It leaves tasks undone, books unread, programs unlatched, and resolutions unkept. It is a very great enemy of the church. It is the great enemy of the soul. It causes people to be lost. It is Satan’s favorite word. If he can get you to say it and say it often, he may not destroy your faith in the Bible or God, but he will definitely win the battle. That word is tomorrow!

Proverbs 27:1 says, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knows not what a day may bring forth.” We’re not even promised the rest of this evening, let alone tomorrow. There are two reasons: You may lose the desire or you may lose an opportunity. There are two scriptures:

2 Corinthians 6:2: “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Hebrews 3:15: “While it is said, ‘Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation.”

You can lose your desire, owing an apology, a thank you note, or something you needed to do. You can lose your opportunity, to see a family member or being busy at work.

The danger of delay and tomorrow is losing your desire and/or opportunity! It is losing the desire and opportunity to become a Christian or dying before repenting. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today!

Joshua 24:15 says, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua said this before the Israelites in the hope they would follow his example with no intention of turning back.

In Acts 26:26-27, we see, “Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not cmad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things…” Then King Agrippa said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

Then, Jesus said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). The same is true with our lives! What about those that do not obey the gospel of Christ? Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment!” If you are willing to live how you’re living, you’ve got to be ready to die in your current condition. If you are not, don’t wait for tomorrow!

Twenty Seconds

Twenty Seconds

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Twenty seconds seems like a short time, yet it is sufficient to kill viruses and microbes from your hands with thorough handwashing. Thus, when the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic began, we were inundated with public service announcements that asked us to wash our hands to stop the spread. Again, it seems like a small step to achieve a beneficial result, but it is effective. 

Twenty seconds is also the time required to receive health benefits from a hug. For example, a study conducted in 2003 found that twenty seconds spent in a warm embrace increased oxytocin levels and decreased cortisol levels. 1, 2 Oxytocin is also known as the “love drug,” “love hormone,” and “cuddle hormone.” 3 Believe it or not, the primary function of oxytocin is to facilitate childbirth by causing uterine contractions. However, within adults, especially for a couple, it increases feelings of attachment.  

As a cautionary note, we might cite this to instruct our youth to limit their physical contact with their dates before marriage since the creation of oxytocin can blur the lines between true, agape love and eros love. As oxytocin is considered a “feel-good hormone,” parents should guide their offspring to create it instead through singing with a group and exercise.Otherwise, like with any drug, one might seek it out just for the pleasant feelings it brings without considering the complications.  

But what of our spiritual lives? What can twenty seconds do to help that? I did an experiment using the Lord’s model prayer to find out. First, using the NaturalReader Dotcom website, I copied and pasted the text from Matthew 6.9-13 from different Bible translations. Next, I selected a variety of A.I. voices offered by the website, both American and British. Then, I used a stopwatch to see how long it took for the computer-generated voice to read the text. You might be surprised to learn that the model prayer only took 21 to 28 seconds to read. However, when I removed the final sentence that some academics say is missing from the various manuscripts consulted to create modern English translations, the reading time was between 18 and 20 seconds.  

Paul tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Unfortunately, our prayer lives may suffer because we think we must dedicate a lot of time to pray and thus cannot find time for it within our busy schedules. Yet Jesus shows us that we can say a prayer encompassing most of our needs with about twenty seconds! What often “pads out” our prayers are the needed expressions of thanksgiving and the petitions we lift on behalf of others. But when confronted by temptation or needing to check our temper, twenty seconds of prayer might make the crucial difference.  

Consider this a friendly public service announcement for Christians. It only takes twenty seconds to clean your heart and deepen your love for God.   

Sources Cited 

1  Alloway, Tracy. “What 20 Seconds of Hugging Can Do for You.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 19 Jan. 2022,www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/keep-it-in-mind/202201/what-20-seconds-hugging-can-do-you.  

2   Grewen, Karen M, et al. “Warm partner contact is related to lower cardiovascular reactivity.” Behavioral medicine (Washington, D.C.) vol. 29,3 (2003): 123-30. doi:10.1080/08964280309596065 

3  Watson, Stephanie. “Oxytocin: The Love Hormone.” Harvard Health, The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 20 July 2021,www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/oxytocin-the-love-hormone

4  Ibid. 

Timeshares

Timeshares

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Not much is worse than investing time, emotion, and resources into something that doesn’t pay off. Like spending days working on an engine, only to have the transmission give out. Parents with small children are familiar with the frustration of cleaning their house, then having it trashed nanoseconds later. Or putting time, financial risk, and great sacrifice into starting a business, only to have a terrifically mismanaged pandemic destroy it. 

In each of these examples, a person’s reaction to negative outcomes is rarely positive. Having invested so much in something, we hope to have good outcome. 

Jesus invested heavily in Judas, only to be betrayed by him. He healed people, brought dead loved ones back, fed people, and gave them hope. He worked very closely with his apostles for  years, only to have them miss the point the entire time he was on earth (Acts 1.6; Mk 8.14-32). 

I am grateful that he isn’t like us. He doesn’t give up on us when we mess up (I Jn 1.9). He has immense patience with us (II Pt 3.9; I Tim 1.16). But it isn’t blind acceptance of dysfunction — God is patient with our flaws to give us a chance to change (Rom 2.4). God doesn’t make decisions the same way we do! 

From our perspective, humanity was a terrible investment. Jesus invested something we aren’t capable of investing, only to have most of humanity reject him. But he didn’t scrap the car, yell at the kids, or harbor resentment. He gives us his patience, his love, and time. It’s up to us to make the most of those things while we’re here!

How Many Blades Of Grass Are There?

How Many Blades Of Grass Are There?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

How many blades of grass are there?
According to one study, there are approximately 418,000,000 blades of grass for every person on the planet.

How many fish are in the sea?
Scientist admit that it’s nearly impossible to know the answer to this question but that hasn’t stopped several educated guesses. One study estimated around 3,500,000,000,000 as their total.

How many cars are there in the world?
There are around 1.446 billion cars total. America has approximately 350 million vehicles and Antarctica has about 50.

Psalm 90.12 states, “So teach us to number our days so that we might apply our hearts to wisdom.”

This verse has nothing to do with the actual length of our individual lives but it does deal with the human perspective of time. Nobody can accurately determine how many days or years they’ll be around for. That’s not for us to know and something we don’t have to concern ourselves with. This Psalm seems to point us all in a different direction. Instead of trying to count how many days we have left, we should view each day as our last. Here we see the connection between time management and our spiritual lives. Since we can’t know the exact day of our death, our time is best spent chasing His wisdom and the application of it. We’re essentially asking God to teach us to view our mortal lives the way He does and that only happens when we dedicate our ways to His words.

Where Is He?

Where Is He?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

It’s tempting to run with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, “But of that day and hour no man knows…only the father.” We might think we’re all set or that he won’t come in our lifetime. I Thessalonians 5.1-3 reinforces the surprise nature of his return. II Peter 3 says the same. For sure, we won’t know when, but it’s good to be reminded that we aren’t promised tomorrow. 

The Patriarchal Age lasted roughly 2500 years, the Law was in effect for around 1500 years, and we’ve been in the last age for nearly 2000 years. No one can point to a day, but there’s nothing wrong with living as if He’s coming back in our lifetime. 

“Since all of these things will be destroyed, what kind of people should you be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hurrying God’s return?” (II Pet. 3.11). 

“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (I Thess. 5.1-3). 

TIME

TIME

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Our lives are based on time. Everything we do is on a schedule. We all have limited time, we waist time, we spend time, we invest time, we make time, the world is on a clock. 

God has the title of the Creator. 

He created 

  • You
  • me
  • the world 
  • Galaxy 
  • Universe 

He was and is and ever will be, the Alpha Omega beginning and end. 

He is the God of history, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He is God of the present, and God of the future. 

God is the originator of time; He invented it, it’s His. 

Here are three quick thoughts to consider about this precious commodity.

  1. Money and time share similarities. Don’t waste it. Spend it wisely. Invest it in the future. 
  2. All good things come to an end but thank God that the best thing, heaven, will never end.
  3. With the proper perspective we can clearly see that we’re all on God’s time. 

What will we do with the time God gave us today?

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. – 2 Peter 3:8 

All the Time in the World 

All the Time in the World 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

1969 was a landmark year in many respects. Most notably, the year saw a man walk on the moon. Of much lesser note, 1969 witnessed George Lazenby take on his sole (some say, forgettable) performance as the iconic spy, James Bond. I am not a Bond fan, seeing as nothing is entertaining about an unrepentant philanderer. Yet, I do enjoy music. Thus, I am familiar with this Bond movie because of its soundtrack, which featured a Moog synthesizer for the first time in its main theme. Louis Armstrong recorded the love theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The song was titled, “We Have All the Time in the World.” It was Armstrong’s last studio recording. 1Sadly, he was too weak to play the trumpet during the piece, performing only the vocal. 2

The love theme belies the movie’s sad ending well. Music composer, John Barry, chose Louis Armstrong to do the vocal for the love theme precisely because he felt that Armstrong could deliver the titular line with irony. 3 The song’s title is Bond’s last spoken dialogue in both the Ian Fleming book and the film of the same name. I doubt I am spoiling a movie that is 50 years old by revealing its ending but provide warning that there is spoilage ahead.

With the sixth Bond installment, Bond is finally allowed to fall in love and marry. In the closing moments of the story, however, the antagonist kills Bond’s wife as they are heading out on their honeymoon. The movie’s love theme, as an instrumental, Armstrong’s vocal performance, and several reprises play prominently throughout the film’s score. Hence, this pretty false promise crashes down under the weight of reality in the end. Not even spies saving the world have time promised to them.  The atypical Bond ending makes it more of a cult favorite among fans of the franchise. It didn’t do well at the box office. Of course, that may likewise be attributable to Sean Connery’s absence from the screen. Critically, the movie is well received, with at least one reviewer considering it the third best film of the franchise. 4

I think this subject strikes a chord with me more because of it being Armstrong’s last recorded song than for anything otherwise related to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Armstrong is a man of declining health singing about having all the time in the world. I wonder if Armstrong had a sense that he was nearing his departure. In the final years of his life, Armstrong battled poor health but went against the advice of physicians by continuing to tour and perform. 5 I suppose one may chalk that up to dying doing what one loves?

But what of us? Do we ignore the stark reality of James 4.14? We are like the morning fog burned away by the rising noontime sun. And sometimes our lives are such that even if lengthy we may sound as Jacob speaking to the pharaoh: “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life…” (Genesis 47.9 NASB). Even so, we act as if we have all the time in the world. Jesus reminds us that we have but a small window in which to do what we must (John 9.4). Yes, the night is coming. Perhaps, you have been putting off those things you know must be done to save your soul or improve your example as a Christian. Don’t listen to Satan’s sweet melody telling you about the time you do not have. Your only time is now.

“Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6.2b NASB).

 

REFERENCES

1 “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Soundtrack).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Her_Majesty%27s_Secret_Service_(soundtrack).

2 “We Have All the Time in the World.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 July 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Have_All_the_Time_in_the_World.

3 ibid

4 Hausmannsgate. “All 25 Bond Films, from the Best to the Worst.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 21 Nov. 2015, www.imdb.com/list/ls055107293/.

5 “Louis Armstrong.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Aug. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Armstrong#Death.

louis_armstrong2

Outside Time 

Outside Time 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Our Creator is eternal. Hence, he has and will always exist. Having no beginning, He will never have an end. It hurts our feeble brains to try and comprehend this truth, but we accept it, seeing it with an “eye of faith.” Time is a concept held only by the mortal construct of an immortal God. Time means nothing to Him. Since that is the case, a couple of truth becomes evident.

Since God is outside time, He can work out what is best in our life.  From our perspective, life is a complex picture puzzle with pieces collected over some 70 or 80 years (cf. Psalm 90.10). Since Adam opened “Pandora’s Box” of sin, those pieces of the puzzle handed to us do not always make sense. Sin may cause a single bit even to hurt us. Yet, God’s Providence ensures it works out in accordance to His Divine Will (Romans 8.28). God knows how the completed puzzle picture looks. No piece escapes His observation. So, even if a part was not what He had hoped because sin marred the edges, He still ensures that those pieces fall into the right place. When we leave this world, perhaps, we will see the completed picture too. Like the apostle Paul, we might gain clarity before our departure. Paul had a good grasp of his life as he summed it up for Timothy (2 Timothy 4.6-8). Hopefully, we will speak as confidently as Paul concerning our future when granted the clarity of life’s impending end.

Since God is outside time, He is longsuffering. I do not seek to diminish God’s love in making this case. I merely emphasize what Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3.8-9:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (NASB)

Contextually, the two ideas are related. God’s lack of concept of time equals longsuffering. Can you see how that makes sense? Would it not be easier to be patient with someone if you had no idea of time? We lose patience with others since we feel we can quantify progress with a predetermined amount of time: “I asked you to do this a week ago, and you still have not completed it?” (Can you not hear the frustration in that question? Maybe you even read it in your mind with a voice of exasperation.) Yet, time does not constrain God. He sees the beginning and end of our life simultaneously. Thus, that one becoming a worker at the eleventh hour is paid the same wage as those laborers working all day (cf. Matthew 20.1-15).

We could give other examples to illustrate the benefits of God’s existence outside time, such as how that quality of God enabled prophets to write with 100% about events that would occur hundreds of years after the seer’s lifetime. Hopefully, though, we have considered enough to enrich our faith. Yes, God’s existence outside time enables His Providence to work flawlessly and suffer each of us long. We serve an amazing God!

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