Longing For Growth

Longing For Growth

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

The apostle Peter reveals to us that we must make several changes if we desire to grow in God’s Word. The first step is to prepare the heart. 1 Peter 1:22 says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” To truly grow in God’s Word we must prepare our heart. Peter’s command is to love one another from a pure heart. 

Scripture is a blessing, but not everyone will receive it with joy. In the parable of the soils in Luke 8 Jesus tells us that not everyone will receive the word. Some will never accept it in the first place, some will show joy at first, but eventually fall away, and some will accept the word implanted with joy and stay faithful. 

For the word to be in us, we must prepare our hearts to accept what we will find. Peter commanded a sincere love from a pure heart. For this to take place we must put others first. The world doesn’t act this way, but is filled with selfish people who are only interested in themselves. God’s Word cannot be in this kind of person. There must be a change of heart to that which is pure. This can all be done by seeing others as more important than yourself. A selfless heart is a saved heart. 

The second step in letting God’s Word grow in us is to have a proper desire for the word. Many Christians recognize the power of God’s Word, but they lack the desire to study and grow. 

1 Peter 2:2 says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” The Greek word for “long” means “to have a strong desire for.” We are to have a strong desire for scripture. By doing this we grow in our knowledge of salvation. 

It is vital that we long to learn more about God. That we desire to know more about our salvation. That we learn more about how we are to live as God’s children. The more we learn the more we will want to read scripture. 

The first time you go to a gym you hate it. You hate the soreness, the fatigue, the sweat. But after a month or two you begin to look forward to that feeling. You look forward to going to the gym. I don’t know, you may call that a mental illness, but it really is true. Just think the next time you open your Bible, you are reading the very words of God. He wanted you to see and learn what He has to say. 

The more you dig, the more you will want to learn. And this is the proper response to scripture. 

Long for it. Desire it. Chase after more than anything else, and you will see the change that comes.

1 Peter–Unconditional Love

1 Peter–Unconditional Love

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 III

Since we’ve decided to follow God, we have to love each other unconditionally. We have to love each other without ulterior motives. We do this because we’ve cleaned up our lives. We weren’t born into a new life through natural means (like babies). Jesus gave us new life, and he’s never going to die. You’ve read this before, “Everything alive is like grass. Its impressive qualities are like the flowers that show up in grass. Grass dies, along with its flowers, but God’s word will live forever.” This is what you were taught already. 

Since you know we’re on borrowed time, sustain yourself with God’s words. Babies instinctively crave what they need to stay alive. We must do the same with God’s words. If we decide that God’s words are good for us, we’ll be rescued when we “grow up.” Before we get to this point, we have to get rid of bad qualities. There’s no room for hate, dishonesty, hypocrisy, jealousy, or attacking character. 

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Lawton, OK)
Good Dirt

Good Dirt

Wednesday’s Column: Third Words

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Gary Pollard

Ephesians 4 describes some spiritual gifts. Their purpose is to allow the church to function as it should. A properly functioning church spends eternity with God. A functional church is on the same page (one mind), has spiritual depth, and is workable (more on that in a bit). 

Ephesians 4.12ff is about members’ roles. What are they for? Everyone serves to equip saints. Saints are people who have pledged allegiance to God. 

We train for morally good works and become stronger through encouragement (12,16). We work toward a unified mindset, knowing Jesus, spiritual maturity, and we pursue the highest standard (Jesus) (13,14). 

We work to avoid immaturity and gullibility (14). We pursue maturity until our mindset emulates Christ’s (15). He is described (multiple times) as the standard we have to imitate. There’s no room for spiritual laziness here. 

Jesus causes growth spiritually, but only if we’ve become soil that can be worked. If our minds aren’t mature, we aren’t workable. Elders are spiritual farmers, our hearts are the soil. If we use Jesus as our standard, we are workable. If not, we’re spiritually dead. 

So, what can we do individually? Make the church strong by pursuing unity, by having spiritual depth, and by being workable. If we work on those things we will spend forever with God. 

Tap Root

Tap Root

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard
There’s a tree in the Sonoran Desert called the Mesquite. This is a very hardy, drought-tolerant tree. It survives the harsh climate by drawing water up from the water table through its taproot. This root has been measured to reach upwards of 190 feet long.
 
How does a desert tree with a tap root apply to us? In Colossians 2:6, 7 there is a command to walk in Christ. How do we walk in Christ? Paul through inspiration explains that the one who walks in Christ is:
 
  • Firmly rooted
  • Built up in Him
  • Established in faith
  • Overflowing with gratitude, and
  • Rejects False Doctrine
Being firmly rooted (I’m talking a super-long taproot) in what you believe is an important part of how to walk in Christ. How would we know how to walk in Christ if we didn’t believe in what we…believe?
 
Being built up in Christ, is like finishing a building that already has a foundation. If we are firmly rooted, then we must continue to build. It’s like buying a night at a hotel, and trying to stay a week. You can’t do that. We either keep paying the fee, or we’re kicked out. Or, applying it to Colossians two, keep studying and growing closer to Christ.
 
Being established in faith, we have the faith that the sacrifice of Jesus will keep us holy and blameless before God.
 
Overflowing with gratitude is a very important part of this. There is a saying that goes, “Some Christians don’t want to pray in the cafe. Dogs wag their tails when they get food, and pigs grunt. But what does man do?” Are we showing gratitude for what God has done for us? Can people see it in us?
 
Making sure no one takes you captive with false doctrine can be very hard. 2 Peter 3:17 warns, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” False doctrines can be tempting because they appeal to what we want, and not what God wants. Rejecting these teachings takes a knowledge of the word, and a desire to do what God wills.
 
Today and every day, let’s practice walking in Christ using these principles from God’s inspired word.

The Church Is A Family

The Church Is A Family

Thursday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

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Kason Eubanks

A few months ago, Lehman and a bunch of other churches went to church camp. During that week, I got to think about family. A quote I read once by Lisa Weed said, “Being a part of a family means you are a part of something very wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life.”

Let me start off by defining family. According to Webster’s dictionary, one definition is “the group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit.” That kind of family can be shown through the illustration of a loving husband giving his wife some facial masks on Christmas Morning. As she opened the gift, her 5-year-old daughter asked what they were. The Mom replied, “It’s a present to make me beautiful.” After the mom applied one of the facial masks, the little girl looked at her mom and replied, “Mom, it didn’t work.”

Another definition Webster’s gave is “all the descendants from a common ancestry.” To me, that sounds like the relationship God has with His church. 2 Corinthians 6:18 says, “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. Ephesians 5:25-27 defines the church family as being without blemish. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” 

Thankfully, God has given us the opportunity to be part of a perfect family. Maybe you’re not a member of the church family, and you would like to put Christ on in baptism or you want us to pray with you and for you so you can get your life on track. Whatever your need, please reach out to God’s perfect family. 

Lehman on last day of camp this year.
But Grow In Grace And Knowledge…

But Grow In Grace And Knowledge…

GUEST WRITER: Charlie Smith

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“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:18

Peter writes this letter knowing that he’s going to die soon (2 Peter 1:14), and he wants the church to remember his teachings after he’s gone (1:15). This illustrates how deeply invested Peter was in the church’s success:

  • He had been on the ground floor of Jesus’s ministry, literally walking off the job site, leaving everything behind, to become a fisher of men
  • He had seen the crucifixion, the empty tomb, and the pierced side of his resurrected savior
  • He had helped the church grow from 120 to untold thousands covering the entire known world in one generation

And now Peter realizes that he’s soon going to be gone and the church will not have the direct guidance of the apostles but instead will need their indirect guidance through the New Testament writings. What are the last words of this apostle, his final thoughts for the church that he loved so dearly, which continue to echo down to us today as the spiritual successors of those first-century Christians?

Always keep growing!

First, he asks us to grow in the grace of Christ. When we obey the gospel, our sins are completely forgiven; God forgets them; we are “saved to the uttermost,” according to Hebrews 7:25, and when we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins (1 John 1:7). So how can we grow in something that is complete?

I think a key is found in 2 Cor. 12:7-9. Paul has been given this thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment him, and he prays three times that the Lord will take it away. But God tells Paul that His grace is sufficient. It was enough that Paul was a Christian; Paul did not need any particular problem taken away; God’s grace sufficed.

Likewise, no matter what we face in this life, it really doesn’t matter if we’re a Christian.  God’s grace is enough. It takes effort and maturity, though, to gain this perspective. We need to keep growing in the grace of Christ!

Second, Peter asks us to grow in the knowledge of Christ. This is an easier interpretation: We must go to The Book! In my experience, and from what I’ve observed in others, those who grow as Christians are those who study the Bible on their own, digging in to see for themselves what God says. The preacher who baptized me told me one time that, in addition to his other study, he read a chapter a day from Proverbs and the gospels because he wanted to remain connected to the wisdom of God and the heart of Jesus; this is the attitude of someone who, know matter how much they know about the Bible, is still striving to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

May we all have this desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We’ve been blessed to have the Smiths at Lehman since last August. Charlie begins work as an economics professor at Freed-Hardeman next month. We’re so sad for us, but very happy for them. What a wonderful family!
Sprouting Our Wings

Sprouting Our Wings

Dale Pollard

The kit comes with everything you need to raise your very own Sea Monkeys. I remember the very first batch of these strange creatures I grew when I was a young boy. A small package of tiny brown eggs are dumped into purified water and then after two weeks they’ve hatched into real swimming organisms. That change is fascinating and it’s almost mesmerizing to watch them all dart around inside their aquarium. In the animal world the process of metamorphosis is very common and we’re not too surprised when it happens. It’s interesting and exciting, but it’s expected. We aren’t confused when a tadpole turns into a frog or when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, because it’s natural. 

In Romans 12:2 we read that as Christians we are to undergo a drastic spiritual transformation by the “renewal of the mind.” The Greek word used for “transformation” here is where we get the word “metamorphosis” from, and that’s very telling. The idea is that the transformation process we are to undergo is not a small change like getting a haircut or getting contacts, but a dramatic and radical change. We are to have an entirely different mind, heart, and outlook on life. We have been transformed into someone and something entirely different. In the animal world there is an essential process involved in metamorphosis. If the caterpillar never spins a cocoon, then it could never hope to sprout wings. If the caterpillar leaves the cocoon too soon then it can’t expect to be as developed and healthy as it needs to be. There is a natural time allotted for the change to occur. Christians are expected to grow but not to be completely transformed overnight; we, too, have a process. This shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not be proactive in growing our faith, but it should be a reminder that if we’re not working toward this transformation we will remain in the same state in which we are now. That is unnatural.

Why does that caterpillar slowly climb that tall tree or take the time to painstakingly wrap itself in that cocoon? Because it knows it wasn’t meant to be a caterpillar forever. The work it takes to be transformed and to sprout the wings of a great and mature faith is a difficult process, but it’s worth it. That’s what God expects from us and He has the power to help us make this amazing change. Our prayer lives and our time spent in His Word are crucial to our development. We should let the end goal be the motivation to press on and allow ourselves to be completely transformed. One day that effort will show when we see our new bodies (Philippians 3:21) and we’ve reached our final glorious destination. We will live forever with the Savior who transformed us. 

Being Kind

Being Kind

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Most readers can hopefully state to themselves, “I haven’t murdered, stolen, committed adultery, etc.” While we know that forgiveness can be had for all of our sins, humans in general typically want to avoid practices that harm others. 

We have brief encounters with others constantly. Most of those encounters will not leave much of a lasting impression on anyone involved. Two types of encounters definitely leave a lasting impression, though: good ones and bad ones. Bad ones seem to stick the longest. 

So when people encounter us, do we leave a lasting impression? If we do, is it positive? If someone doesn’t walk away thinking, “Man, they were so nice!!!” we have room to grow. As an aside, I’m talking exclusively about normal interactions with others. The Christian and Self-Defense is a study for later. 

While we avoid practices that bring physical harm to others, do we invest in being kind? How do we treat staff at restaurants, people who are obviously different from us, people who may be under us in an authoritative chain or over us? 

It’s easy to be indifferent. For some, it’s easy to be rude and unlikeable in general. Christians must put energy into being kind to others. Give other people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume bad intentions. Even in the face of persecution, Christians are commanded to respond rationally and with meekness and fear (I Peter 3.15,16). If we’re supposed to be that composed in the face of persecution, shouldn’t we be all the more kind in everyday encounters? 

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them” (I John 2.9-11). 

“Childhood Fears”

“Childhood Fears”

TUESDAY’S COLUMN: “DALE MAIL”

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Dale Pollard

Do you remember what your childhood fears were? Maybe you never really grew out of those fears. I can remember a number of phobias I had as a child, one of which was not arachnophobia. In fact, my younger brother and I would collect spiders from the backyard and put them all in a container in our bedroom. At night we would put a flashlight behind our clear cage and watch all the spiders make their webs— occasionally fighting each other. I don’t believe our mom ever discovered this little secret. For some reason, as I grew older (more mature) I developed a fear of spiders despite having played with them often as a young kid. Fears can be funny like that. They can come from bad experiences or just somewhere in the back of our minds.

There’s a lot of fear in the world today! One of my favorite psalms in the Bible is Psalm 46. We read about what seems to be the worst case scenarios, but God still reigns over all. What if the earth gives way? What if the mountains are thrown into the sea? What if the wrong man becomes our new president? What if this virus never goes away? Even so, we have no reason to fear. God is bigger than our fears. Know we serve a Being with that much power should fill us with courage. What are you afraid of?

 
DAFFODILS THAT DON’T BLOOM

DAFFODILS THAT DON’T BLOOM

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Like the robin, daffodils are a harbinger of spring. They begin blooming in late winter and create anticipation for the pretty spring flowers following. We planted our place in Appalachia with daffodils nearly 30 years ago. Today, we get few flowers in places where we planted them. We do have healthy-looking, green blades but no blooms. By their nature, a single daffodil bulb becomes an entire colony of bulbs within a few years because it reproduces by dividing at the bulb. Once so many bulbs are packed into a small space, the plant cannot receive enough moisture or nutrients to produce the desired flower. So, on the one hand, it’s great because just a few daffodil bulbs can yield an entire daffodil garden in a few years. On the other hand, to keep daffodils flowering one must periodically dig up these new bulbs and space them out so conditions remain conducive to their overall health.

When we think about Jesus’ parable of the sower, we likely think of the various soils presented therein. We pray we find the good soil as we go to plant the seed but realize since few are finding the strait gate and narrow way (Matthew 7.13-14), most of our seed falls on the other three poor soils. Of those poor soils, Jesus highlighted a group in whom the seed never produces fruit since they become choked by thorns (Luke 8.14). These thorny-soiled hearts didn’t recognize how detrimental their thorns were since they took the form of the cares and riches of the world. In like manner, we don’t see the problems posed by a bunch of healthy-looking, green blades where our daffodils ought to be. We keep hoping they will put on blooms, bringing us the testimony of God’s wondrous creation. Yet, conditions underground won’t allow for that.

Might I suggest those possessing thorny-soiled hearts can have a similar problem as the daffodil? It may be they don’t just wither and die (i.e. fall away). It may be they are sitting on the pew, where we planted them, looking as if they hold promise, but never producing blooms. Why? It may be their fruit is being crowded out by conditions at their root. We see no prickly thorns gathered around them. Yet, there are cares and concerns on the inside choking out God’s Word all the same. It is confounding since they may even greet us with a smile on their faces while being inwardly consumed by such things as anxiety.  If we do nothing, though, the results will be the same as if it were thorns.

It may be we need to lift these unproductive Christians to help them settle in a better environment conducive to their growth. We need to help them remove all the things choking their heart. We need to nurture them. Though we’re more considerate of the newborn in Christ, the overcrowding of the heart is a challenge potentially taking place even in the one who obeyed the Gospel years ago. Be your brother and sister’s keeper (Galatians 6.1; James 5.19-20). If you see a pretty green blade that never flowers, dig a little deeper. If one’s heart is being crowded out, help him find the space to bloom (Hebrews 3.13).

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