4 Lessons from 4 Months of Marriage

By Emily Pollard

Most people will admit to you that marriage is hard. If someone has told you marriage is easy, they’ve probably never been married. Many married couples will also readily admit that they are still learning after 15, 20, even 30 years of practice. That’s because marriage is just plain hard sometimes. Think about what you’re called to do as a spouse…

*Become one with another person

*Love your spouse unconditionally and selflessly

*Help your spouse grow spiritually

*Submit (as the wife) or lead the family (as the husband)

These responsibilities can be daunting but, aside from our own relationship with the Savior, I can’t think of a more rewarding and God-glorifying relationship than a godly marriage. My husband, Carl, and I have only been married for 4 months. So, I am by no means an expert on marriage, but there are 4 marriage-altering lessons that I have learned through trial and error (mostly error) in the short time we’ve been married.

1. Sharing is caring.

Opening up with one another about our deepest struggles and most shameful moments is something Carl’s and my personalities are naturally resistant to. The fear of disappointing your spouse or shame of admitting mistakes/temptations is crippling for many. However, the husband-and-wife relationship is called by God to be unified (Gen. 2:24). A key ingredient in growing as one is knowing your spouse and being known by your spouse. A strong line of communication between a husband and wife eliminates and simplifies so many problems. If you truly care for your spouse, you will work to share every part of life with them, and you will provide the safe space for him/her to communicate openly with you. As brother and sister in Christ, spouses are also called to speak the truth with one another (Eph. 4:25). It is possible to discuss uncomfortable and/or tense matters with your spouse. Hiding matters that need to be shared will hinder unity between you and your spouse.

2. Silence is powerful.

The power your words have over your spouse’s spirit is humbling. It is also easy to abuse. While honesty is always the best policy, being too honest is possible. If you are an opinionated person (like me), it is so tempting to blurt out advice or correction at every turn. While the peanut gallery comments don’t usually come from a mind of pride and hostility, they are discouraging and demeaning to your spouse. We all need correction at times (Gal. 6:1). That isn’t the point. The point is you married your spouse because you love who they are, and you like the way they think. Micromanaging their dishwashing method, the way they brush their teeth, or correcting them in front other people is destructive. In James 3, the tongue is compared to a small fire that can set an entire forest ablaze (James 3:4-6). The words your spouse hears from you can make them or break them. Don’t nag. Even if your spouse is wrong, it doesn’t mean they need you to tell them (James 4:11). Chances are, they already know and would admit it if you gave them the chance. The world is full of judgment and criticism. Your spouse needs you to build them up, not knock them down more (1Thess. 5:14).

3. Respect your spouse’s role.

While the world often describes God’s design for marriage as degrading toward women and partial toward men, anyone who seeks to fulfill God’s roles for men and women in marriage sees firsthand that there are challenges for husbands and wives. While we know this to be true, we still make our spouse’s job harder sometimes by disrespecting the challenges they face in trying to be a submissive wife or leading husband. The bottom line, it’s hard to be the leader (Eph. 5:23), and it’s hard to be submissive (Eph. 5:24). But what makes it easier is dwelling on the different yet often equally challenging commands you are each striving to fulfill. In the midst of an argument or a life-altering decision, remember that you both have difficult roles to maintain. Above all, you are both still in submission to God’s final say (1 Cor. 11:3)

4. Be willing to sacrifice.

A healthy marriage is not without sacrifice from both parties. As a Christian your goal is to love your spouse as Christ has demonstrated love for us in His own life. Christ was aware of what we needed before you and I even existed. Pay attention to your spouse, not just what they say, but their mood or things they may need that they don’t ask for. In order to provide the salvation we needed, Jesus “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7), “humbled himself” (Phil 2:8), and “bore our sins” (1 Pet. 2:24). In other words, Jesus denied His own wants, did so without complaining and fixed a problem we couldn’t fix on our own. Do the same for your spouse. If Christ was willing to endure abuse, mockery, and crucifixion because He loved us, surely we can make trivial sacrifices like helping with chores or letting your spouse pick dinner for once. Christ spent 33 years of His life on earth for us. We can take time out of our day to check on our spouse and provide for their needs.

These are just 4 out of the countless lessons to be learned in marriage. I know Carl and I have a lifetime worth of growing to do together. Praise God for the blessing of marriage!

What is Truth?

By Chelsea Pollard

The topic of truth has been on my mind a lot lately. Seeing where the world is, the confusion and how divided we are, it’s unsettling to me. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because – to a large number of people – there’s no objective truth. Did you know there’s a word for this? I learned this word from Hiram Kemp and it is “post-truth”. 

Oxford’s definition of post-truth: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Basically, feelings over fact. That’s your truth but it’s not my truth. I’ve got to speak my truth. We’ve all heard a variation of this and it’s troubling because we know the truth. 

  • “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me’” (Jn 14.6). 
  • “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (Jn 8.31,32). 
  • “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (Jn 17.17). 
  • “For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth” (2 Cor 13:8). 
  • “Buy the truth and do not sell it – wisdom, instruction and insight as well” (Proverbs 23:23). 

We know the truth and we follow Him. Because of this truth, we have purpose and meaning in our lives! People may want to believe that they have their own truth, but they feel that hole in their lives. I believe that we are made with the desire to know the truth, it’s in our code to know our Creator. There are people out there seeking the truth and it’s up to us to show them. While I was looking for verses on truth, I came across Psalm 25. Please take a minute to read it. 

“In you, LORD my God, I put my trust….Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Ps 25:1,5). 

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Be Still

By Janelle Pollard

I’m so tired.

I’m exhausted.

I would (fill in the blank with some kind of social activity or event you’ve been invited to attend), but I’ve got to get some sleep.

Do any of the above phrases sound familiar? (I’m sure Dale would respond with a resounding “yes,” if I asked him.) I rarely get enough sleep and all too often complain of being tired. Thankfully, this is something I can easily change with a little intention and discipline.

In our day and age, there is so much going on and are so many distractions to fill our minds and time that we rarely get enough (good) rest. But we need rest! Not only do we need quality sleep to be able to function and be happy, but we also need rest. If there is any evidence of how badly we need rest, it can be found in Genesis 2:2.

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”

If our own all-powerful Creator rested, we should definitely be resting too. Of course we need sleep to function. But we need more than sleep. We need rest, to be still. It would greatly benefit us to put away all of our many distractions: TV, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. These things are fine if used sparingly, but not many of us do.

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 46:10, 

Be still, and know that I am God. 

I will be exalted among the nations, 

I will be exalted in the earth!

And in the beginning of 37:7,

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him”

We need to slow down and take time to be still before the Lord. To turn off all the noise and just listen. There’s so much to be gained from quiet time spent with God and we won’t come away from it feeling more tired and drained, but just the opposite. This kind of rest isn’t just good for the body, but good for the soul! If daily Bible study isn’t already a part of your normal routine, try it for a week. Start with maybe 5-10 minutes in the morning and at night. And as you begin to make this a part of your daily habits, increase the time and you will find that it’s never enough! 

Let’s all be still, not busy…

B-eing

U-nder

S-atan’s

Y-oke

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Hallelujah

By Emily Pollard

Oh Lord, dear Lord,
Blessed Creator of all
Compared to Your might,
All quandaries seem small.

The billowing waves,
Though they toss me about
Are to you one raindrop
In the midst of a drought.

In the height of shadow,
In lowliness of heart,
You bring hope, joy, and strength
Before the trials depart.

You are there before,
During, and after the pain.
In the highest and lowest times,
I never cease to praise your name.

Overcome with power,
love, and grace You bestow.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The only words my tongue now knows.

Oh Lord, dear Lord,
Now I see you face to face.
I bow down and thank you
For your mercy and your grace.

The sanctification process
Has led me to Your throne.
I am with You forever.
I am finally home.

For this, You and I labored
together many many years.
Now, here we are in eternity.
It was worth every tear.

Oh Lord, dear Lord
No number of praises
would ever be enough.
But eternity is long, and
I will spend it singing Hallelujah.

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Psalm 73

By Chelsea Pollard

There have been times in my life where I have envied the world. I knew better and a part of me hated that. Ignorance is bliss, right? I wanted to be like them, I wanted to do what I wanted to do and live carefree, not having to worry about a higher power or morality! They just have it so easy, don’t they?

Did you know this is in the Bible? Of course it is, there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9)! But I didn’t know that growing up while I was struggling to build my own faith. As a Christian, I knew life wasn’t going to be easy. I knew there were going to be struggles and that I would be tempted because of my own desires. I knew better, but that didn’t make it easier. The level of comfort I had when I read Psalm 73 is hard to describe. I wasn’t alone! I believe God put this in His Word because He knew we would struggle against ourselves.

Psalm 73 was written by a man named Asaph. Asaph was frustrated because he saw that the world was evil, but they prospered. Boy, does that sound familiar. Asaph said he envied the arrogant because they had no struggles, they’re free from common burdens, they are prideful, violent, and they have evil imaginations and callous hearts. They thrived and mocked God for it.

Asaph felt afflicted and that everything he was doing to keep his heart pure was in vain. He continued in verse 16 saying “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply, till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” When Asaph entered God’s house, he understood the fate that awaited those who are not faithful to God. In verse 27 he said, “those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.”

He says in verse 21, “when my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” He was wrong for envying evil people and he knew that. In verse 23, “I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Asaph’s psalm hits home for me because I have been guilty of the same jealousy and ignorance. Asaph went to God when he struggled with this. That is actually where I need to be and what I need to do when I am struggling. Look to the God of all comfort, “who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Cor 1:3,4). He takes care of us and loves us more than we could imagine. We are on the winning side, we are exactly where we need to be.

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell all of your deeds” (Ps 73:28).

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Do More of What Makes You like Jesus

By Janelle Pollard

It would not be an exaggeration to say that I love notebooks. I’ve always had a slight obsession with notepads, journals, and anything colorful and pretty to use for note-taking, to-do lists, and doodling. I probably definitely have more notebooks than I will need for the next few years (but this comes in handy when giving gifts!). Not too long ago, I bought a notebook because it had three sections, separated by the prettiest pastel-colored pages. This would be perfect for an all-purpose notebook. I could use one section for sermon & class notes at church, one for grocery/shopping lists, and one for miscellaneous/to-do lists. It was a done deal. There was only one problem. The phrase on the cover said, “Do What Makes You Happy.” While, of course, there is nothing wrong with being happy, it seems like this mentality is all about ME. 

It is so easy to become too focused on ourselves. We live in a society where we are conditioned to think that it’s normal and appropriate to put ourselves before everyone else. However, this goes against what Scripture teaches.

Society: “If it makes YOU happy, do it.” (Focus: ME)

Scripture: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:4 (Focus: Others)

The less we focus on ourselves, the more we will be like Jesus. Which, by the way, will make us happier than living with a self-centered mindset. It’s a WIN-WIN!

If we let it, society and the culture that surrounds us today can and will shape who we are and who we are becoming. It takes intention and daily effort to go against the grain. But that is what we are called to do as Christians. We aren’t supposed to look like everyone else. Having an “it’s all about me” mentality makes us look and think like the world. Jesus was not conformed to this world, so neither should we be.

“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.” Romans 12:2

While Jesus lived on this earth, His focus was always on others. 

Healing others. Giving His time and energy to others. Loving others. Encouraging others. Guiding others. Comforting others. Praying for others. Dying for others.

There is so much to be learned by the example Jesus gave throughout His life. The more time we spend meditating on His Word, the more His example will impact and shape our mindset, which will in turn, shape our actions. We must make it a priority to allow the Bible to influence us instead of society. We must strive daily to be more and more like Christ.

In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul could not have stated this more simply:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

1 Cor. 11:1

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A Good Name

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 Texas. Even though our time with them was brief, they left a huge impression on us. They treated each other so sweetly. They held hands, smiled at each other, laughed together, and were especially patient with each other. Ever since then, any time Neal or I do something particularly thoughtful or loving to each other, we say, “Aw, I feel so Sharbined!” Bill and JoAnn have no idea that their name has been part of our vocabulary all these years.

An old friend of ours named Dave had an endearing habit. Whenever someone would compliment him (usually about his song leading in worship), he would say, “Huh?,” because he wanted you to repeat the compliment. We always laughed and teased him about it. To this day, whenever I say something nice to Neal and he (acts like he) doesn’t hear me, I say, “Okay, Dave…”

“A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1). 

I imagine this verse is a warning to guard your character and reputation. It’s more important to have honor and integrity than to compromise those things to gain a dollar. But it always makes me think of people I know who have a good name. When I hear their name, I automatically associate it with something good.

I can’t help but wonder…what do people associate my name with? If someone were to use it as part of their vocabulary, how would it be used? Regardless of how I want people to think of me, my overall demeanor will determine that. Do I have a complaining spirit? Am I overly critical of others? Am I self-absorbed, generally negative, or quick to play the role of victim? If so, then I can just imagine this conversation taking place somewhere….

Wife: <griping about every little thing>

Husband: “Why are you so Kathy today?”

Ugh, I don’t want people to associate my name with anything like that. But sometimes the toughest part is being aware of our own tendencies. I remember being challenged one time to go a whole week without criticizing or correcting my husband. I thought it’d be pretty easy but I blew it the first day. I didn’t want to admit that I’d become overly critical and I sure didn’t want to see myself that way. But “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).

What is your heart full of?

To get some real insight, we can pay special attention to our words this week. How often do we complain, nag our spouses, or point out the flaws and disappointments of others? How often does our speech build up others (Eph. 4:29-32) or speak with gentleness, humility, patience, and compassion (Col. 3:12-14)? Perhaps we can go so far as to mentally catalog our words (neutral, negative, positive) to get a true idea of our demeanor.

What comes to mind when people hear your name?

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Cast Down Your Bucket: the Key to Impacting Society

On September 18, 1895, Booker T. Washington addressed a crowd at the Cotton
States and International Exposition in Atlanta concerning racial progress in the South. In
what has been named one of the most influential speeches in American history, Booker
T. Washington talks to white and African Americans about how equality and progress
can be achieved peaceably. His proposed solution is summarized in one phrase, “Cast
down your bucket where you are.”
This statement comes from an illustration Washington recited in his speech, “A
ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the
unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, ‘Water, water; we die of thirst!’ The answer from
the friendly vessel at once came back, ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ A
second time the signal, ‘Water, water; send us water!’ ran up from the distressed vessel,
and was answered, ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ And a third and fourth
signal for water was answered, ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ The captain of
the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came
up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.
Booker T. Washington’s instruction to “cast down your bucket where you are” is exactly
what Christians are called to do in the Bible. In John 4:35, Christ asks his disciples, “Do
you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?’” Then He corrects
them saying, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for
harvest.” Christ wanted His disciples to see the immediate opportunities that were ready
and within sight. As Christ’s disciples now, we must “lift [our] eyes, and see that the
fields are white for harvest.” There is work to be done, opportunity to help others, and
it’s all around us if we will only lift up our eyes and cast down our buckets where we are.
Each day, when you’re in the grocery store, at work, at church, or at home, look up and
see the souls around you. Cast down your bucket where you are, and you will find it full
of opportunities to speak hope (1 Pet. 3:15), act in love (Mt. 22:39), share truth (1 Cor.
9:16), and spread kindness (Eph. 6:10).
The sailors in Washington’s story and the disciples in John 4 were both thirsting
for opportunity. Their problem…they failed to realize that the opportunities were right in
front of them. It is so easy to miss the forest for the trees when it comes to making an
impact on society. We see the whole of humanity as broken, or we see ourselves as too
insignificant to make a difference. But Booker T. Washington says if you want to
positively influence society start with where you are, with the people around you. More
importantly, Jesus says the same thing! The fields are white and ready for harvest. Our
communities are full of opportunities just waiting for us to lift our eyes and cast down our
buckets where we are. Start sewing and start reaping (John 4:36-38)!

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Eternal Life

By Chelsea Pollard

When I was at the Bear Valley Bible Institute, I took a class on the Gospel of John. I was always interested in this book, but I quickly fell in love with it! This class was the first one I chose and it was a blessing because I needed it. I needed to develop my own faith. I needed to build my personal relationship with God. I desperately wanted to know Him. John does a wonderful job at helping us know Him!

The gospel of John isn’t like the other gospels. It was written a little later and is more interested in the spiritual side of Jesus’ time on earth. When you’re reading through the gospel of John, it seems like John focuses more on the humanity of Jesus.

The purpose of John is in 20:30-31, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Both the Gospel of John and I John show us that we can know God. I John 2 says, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar…” If we want to know God, we have to make what he wants us to do a part of our lives.

Dr. Dan Owen said about John 3:16, “[This verse] is the ‘why’ for verses 14 and 15. It explains previous verses. John 3:16 is how we know love. He laid down His life for us. It was a willing, giving action toward us because he loved the world so much. God loved, so God gave.”

John 17:3 is Jesus’ definition of eternal life: to know God and to know Christ.

Let’s put all of this together: John was written so that we can believe. I John was written so that we can know God. God is love, so God gave us Jesus. We want to know God and have eternal life, so we do what He wants us to do and we love like Jesus did.

Brotherly Kindness

By Janelle Pollard

One of my favorite things about my husband is how much he loves his brothers, how close they have always been (even when living states apart), and how much they value each other. In today’s day and age, it’s not the most common thing, sadly. Dale and his brothers have always been very close, and I love how much they mean to each other. I hope and pray that if we have a few boys one day, they will share that same kind of bond. For a close-knit family like his, loving your own family that much doesn’t take much effort.

Recently, I studied the topic of “brotherly kindness” for a ladies’ Bible class. I began to realize that I had never actually spent much time on this topic on my own time. I already knew that as Christians, it is important to love our brothers and sisters in Christ (the church) and treat them with love and kindness, but I had to admit that I didn’t realize just how seriously God takes this and what is actually required. It’s usually easy for us to love our own family and sometimes even be very close to them just like Dale is with his brothers. However, the kind of “brotherly kindness” that we are commanded to show to our Christian brothers and sisters requires dedication, intentionality, and a heart that wants to please God.

The English Standard Version refers to this as “brotherly love” and “brotherly affection” in Hebrews 13:1 and 2 Peter 1:7, respectively. 

According to John 13:34-34, Jesus isn’t offering a suggestion on how to treat our brothers and sisters. He says this brotherly love is a new command:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The ultimate test of one’s love for a brother (or sister) is in 1 John 3:16-18:

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

It isn’t hard to say things like “I love you” or “I’d do anything for you” or “let me know if you need anything” but do we really mean those things every time we say them? We shouldn’t have to say those words for others to know how we feel. We must strive to live out those words through our actions. The Bible says very clearly that if a brother or sister is in need and we do nothing to help them, we are lacking in the love that gives evidence that we are truly children of God. This verse says that we must be willing to give up our own life!

We also read of this command for love in Matthew 22:37-39:

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor a little bit less than yourself.”

Except, that’s not what that verse says…

39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This command—obviously very important for us to live out—is recorded many times, not just by Jesus, but also by several of the apostles:

1. Paul refers to this “new commandment” in his letter to the Galatians, in Gal. 6:2:

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

2. Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 1:22:

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,”

3. James instructs us in James 2:8:
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

4. John warns us in 1 John 3:11, 14-15 (refers to those who hate their brother as a murderer!)

    Also, 1 John 2:8-10:
8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 

We are able to see just how crucial brotherly love truly is…
– evidence of Christ’s true followers (John 13:35)
– the law of Christ fulfilled (James 2:8)
– assurance of our salvation (1 John 2:8-10)

So, what are some PRACTICAL ways we can show brotherly love?

1. LOOK for areas of need (ex. cook a meal for someone who is sick, has experienced a loss, or is tight on money; offer to babysit for free so a parent can have a needed break; clean the house or mow the yard of an elderly person who could use a hand!)
2. ASK for specific things we can pray about for someone—and continue to be in prayer about this; follow up on how things are going throughout the days or weeks we’ve begun praying for them
3. TAKE NOTICE of others who are striving to live faithfully & let them know how it has encouraged us/that we are thankful for their example—be the person known for genuinely lifting others up, not for gossiping or pointing out others’ faults
4. VISIT a widow who may be lonely and take a card game or dominos & get to know them better
5. SEND a greeting card or care package to someone in college with words of encouragement and Scripture
6. SPEND TIME with a member in the hospital or nursing home
7. INVITE a new member or family to a group lunch or coffee to get to know them better and help them feel welcome
8. TEACH a Bible class & before each class meets, pray for those who attend
9. PRAY for the youth group & always set a Christ-like example for those who are younger
10. GIVE your time and comfort when a member experiences a loss of any kind, (sometimes just being there, without words, is all they may need!)