“Fruitless” Efforts

“Fruitless” Efforts

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Fruitless” Efforts

How many times have you put forth much effort to achieve success in something, only to get to the end and feel like the whole thing was kind of a mess? Maybe things did not really go as you planned or envisioned. Maybe you had a team of people working on it that did not really click with each other. Perhaps it was simply that the results just were not as grand as you wanted it to be. 

This does not just happen in our personal projects or at our jobs, does it? If you have ever been involved in the works of the church, you have probably felt these things regarding congregational efforts from time to time. Putting together projects or collective efforts can be very challenging, and the work of the Church is not any different in that regard. If you have ever put yourself out there and invested yourself in any effort, you know that there is always that potential for “failure”—no matter how much effort you put into it. It is in these moments that we may be tempted to feel disappointed or dejected. After all, you just poured so much of your time and energy into this! It’s hard to justify the work that was required for something that seems fruitless at the end. “Why didn’t more people show up?” “Why didn’t we get more help from others?” “Is this worth trying again, if it’s just going to look like this?” We may start questioning ourselves and the work around us.

We often focus on the evangelistic successes of our predecessors, some of which are borderline miraculous. We think of Peter in Acts 2 preaching the first gospel sermon, he and the other apostles baptizing 3,000 people. What about Paul, who traveled several thousand miles over three missionary journeys and a journey to Rome? The number of churches Paul and his companions helped establish is mind-boggling—and to think that they did this in an ancient pre-industrial world! And all of the literature that were written by all of these inspired men, whose texts have guided billions of souls over the course of human history toward God. It’s easy to negatively compare our own efforts against these giants of faith.

But the Bible is not all success stories of grandeur either. Every exemplary character of the Bible has had their fair share of failures and disappointments, whether they brought it upon themselves, through circumstances, or the evils of others. The prophets of old fought tooth and nail against the influences of pagan gods to guide the people of Israel back to God. Many were persecuted, rejected, and cast out. In the eyes of man, that is an undeniable failure. And yet, people like Jeremiah—to whom God said “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you” (Jer. 7:27)—continued to press on despite the loneliness and the rejections. The apostles and the early Christians were often persecuted by both the leaders and the common people of their time, and yet they still pressed on: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:41-42). Even Jesus, the Son of God, was rejected by the world for the message he brought from the Father Himself: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa. 53:3).

When I think about these examples in the Bible who pressed on even though sometimes their work seemed fruitless and unsuccessful, I think of the very well known anonymous Greek Proverb: “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.” What a wonderful thought. I believe the same applies to the Church today and perhaps has applied for centuries. When we dare to continue planting seeds in soils from which we know we will never eat the fruits, then the Church will grow like it did back in 1st century. God promised that one day that “they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4). God will give the growth and comfort as He promised; but through his perfect mercy and love He desires us to be a part of that process. Our work, therefore, is never fruitless; no matter how futile it may seem sometimes in the perspective of the world. 

As we try to engage everyone—including ourselves—for eternity this year and for the rest of our lives, let us never be discouraged by the standard of success of this world. Rather, let us rejoice in the fact that we have been called to be a part of God’s plan for mankind, knowing that our work is not in vain. For God has given us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:57-58). Let’s kindle our hearts with zeal for God, and continue in fighting the good fight in every front. 

David Chang
The Local Preacher (Part 4)

The Local Preacher (Part 4)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Acts 20:22-24 says, “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” 

From these verses we understand that the local preacher must learn to trust in the Lord to take care of them no matter what happens in their ministry. We read here of Paul and the affliction and imprisonment he faced in every city. Paul had his priorities in order, he did not wish to save his life, but to lose it for Christ (Matthew 10:39; Galatians 2:20). As a local preacher we may face trials in our ministries, but if there is a trust in the Lord to get you through, then there is always hope. 

Notice that Paul says, “Not knowing what will happen to me there…” Another quality we must have as preachers is that we must fully rely on God. Even when we don’t know what will happen to us. Applying this practically, we should rely on God even when we don’t know where our next paycheck is coming from. We must rely on God when we travel overseas to foreign countries. Many in the world react harshly to Christianity and we may not know how they will receive us. Do we trust in God when the world hates us? How will the members of the congregation act when they see a man who puts that much trust in God? It will inspire them to do the same thing. Their trust in God will grow through our example. 

There were times in Paul’s life when he had no idea what the outcome would be. Sometimes he did not even know whether or not he would die, but he kept on in the service of the Lord regardless of his circumstances. That is faith, and that is the kind of faith we need as ministers for the church in the 21st century. We serve a God that promises a great reward if we live a faithful life, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t trust in Him the way Paul did. 

We also learn from verse 24 that the local preacher must put the Word of God first in life. By doing this, the most important piece of life is given the attention that it needs. Many ministries fail because of a lack of putting God’s Word first. We could never help a local church the way it should be helped without God’s Word. Also, ministers must not fret over the physical. Being so focused on what could happen, or what has happened could cause a train wreck for both the preacher and the congregation. Many ministers are focused on what people want to hear rather than what they need to hear. From reading the writings of Paul we can see that he preached and taught some very difficult topics. As preachers today we need to preach an unadulterated gospel. We should teach those hard topics. We should teach even when we may be the only one willing to stand by the scriptures. 

A congregation must feel some growing pains in order to be strengthened. They need to hear the hard lessons and as preachers we need to be preaching to ourselves as well. When we study the Bible, we should be applying the lessons to our lives first. People will not listen to a preacher who is not living what he is preaching. 

Remaining faithful during times of adversity

Remaining faithful during times of adversity

 Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Ohssel Tyson

For the past four years I have been going though what I believe to be the toughest battle I have ever had to face in my life with our warrior princess Kiyomie’s medical condition. God blessed me with my greatest desire and greatest fear as a father; which was to have my daughter; and one of my babies getting sick and me not being able to do anything to make them better.

We decided that my wife would come to the United States in October of 2017 after our homeland was devastated by category five Hurricane Maria. It was a difficult but necessary decision because Kerssel was pregnant and the prenatal care she needed wasn’t available post-hurricane. I joined my wife in February of 2018 and we had flights booked to return home in April of 2018. Before traveling I had set up everything in Kiki’s nursery which was also my office where I did my studies; her crib was right next to my desk, I had so many plans for my baby girl and was ready to bring her home.

What we had no idea of is that we were heading right into another hurricane; one of a different nature. Kiki suffered severe brain injury during birth and this changed our entire life: we could not return home, we had to leave my six year old son Éjiké and our families behind in Dominica which ached our hearts daily. The life we knew was basically over. We had our family’s support but were here all alone, in a foreign land with no one close to come help during the toughest period of our life.

We both had to resign from our jobs. We were forced to sell everything we owned in order to survive here, we went from being one hundred percent independent to one hundred percent dependant on others, we had to seek assistance to pay our monthly bills and purchase the most basic of necessities for our children and ourselves– diapers, wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, bath soap and everything else. We were unable to care for ourselves the way we used to, unable to provide for our children, only going to the doctor or dentist if we were very ill, not purchasing new clothing or undergarments even though we desperately needed them.

Through so many sleepless nights, emergency room visits and hospital stays we managed to keep surviving, by the grace of God. It is hard and lonely but we have no choice other than continuing to be resilient and keep focused on Kiki getting better. (We’ve had so many nights that we got little to no sleep that right now we consider a night of 4 hours of sleep a good night rest)

We didn’t think that our life could have gotten any worse but then on August 10th 2020 we got the dreadful news that my wife’s mom had suddenly passed at only 56 years old. From that day our lives was under a dark cloud; well, that’s how it felt. Mom, as we all called her, was our main pillar of support; our greatest cheer leader and prayer warrior; she sent messages every single day to both Kerssel and I telling us how strong we are and great parents we are and that Kiki will be healed and to remain faithful. That day in August took so much away from us, after mom’s passing everyday just felt like we were going through motions, like robots, just floating around under that dark cloud.

Mrs. Dawn Pitcock had been working with Kiki since she was discharged from the NICU. She and her family became a friend and remained in close contact even after Kiki aged out of the First Steps program. She had mentioned her church and asked if we’d like to visit, but we never did then. We were still under this dark cloud. Sometime after mom’s passing Dawn asked whether we would mind if she and elders from her church come by to visit and pray with us.

Russell, Dana and Dawn came one Sunday after service, we conversed for a while, we prayed and we cried; that blessed Sunday afternoon is one I will never forget as it felt like that first ray of sunshine piercing through the dark clouds. We started studying and getting a better understanding of God’s word with the assistance of Russell, Neal and Greg. Our faith started to grow stronger and we began feeling better, our lives felt a little less cloudy day by day. We started attending Sunday service when we were

able to, Kiki’s condition determines whether we can but we kept studying via zoom.

We had discussed baptism a few times but I didn’t feel fully ready until April 6th, 2021, on that day, I called Neal and told him that we were ready. When we got to church building there were several other members of our Leman Avenue family there to support us. Kerssel and I were baptized on that day and man that felt good, it was a new life in every aspect.

Yes we are still going through tribulations. Kiki still has tons of medical complications and has a long way to go. Yes we still seek assistance to cover every single expense that we have. BUT, because our faith in God, and ourselves have grown, our bond with God is getting stronger and our understanding of God’s word and love for us and his purpose for allowing us to go through what we are going through; we are able to better appreciate our situation. God have been right there with us all along, he continues to supply our every need; he has, housed us, fed us, and clothed us physically and spiritually.

In our lives on a daily basis we encounter troubles, problems, adversity; no matter how small or complex they are, they always pose a challenge physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

In these moments we feel weak, we feel defeated and are forced to face problems to great for us to handle; so we turn our attention to God and begin questioning him, WHY? Why am I going through this? Why me? What Lord can I do to solve this problem? During these challenges we are unable to continue our tasks like normal; so we stop, evaluate our situation, ask God for wisdom, obey his word, have faith and trust him to bring the help that we need.

The apostle James had a response to adversity which has helped me through my own troubles.

James 1:2-6

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any doubts, for the one who has doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

When going through these challenging times in life the best resort is to turn to Jesus, I can guarantee without any doubt that no matter what the problem is, you will find guidance to a solution within the word of God. Apply the appropriate scripture, faith and the very best effort you can, to every adversity you face and you will be victorious.

In conclusion I say to you, through every adversity, trial and tribulation seek God for he is always waiting to guide us through our troubles and ultimately draw us closer to him.

Have faith no matter how small it is: Faith in God, faith in yourself, faith that God is greater than your problem, faith that God is helping you through the adversity, faith that you will overcome.

Nurture your faith and watch your faith grow. Mathew 17:20 tells us, “…Because of your lack of faith. I tell all of you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

If you can move a mountain with faith the size of a mustard seed, can you imagine the magnitude of power you would possess with faith the size of a tennis ball or basketball or greater?

I’ll close with some words and verses I recite whenever I’m having a moment of weakness during a challenge and the effect that they have on me is miraculous, I recited them right before coming up here; they are:

I believe that God is with me.
I believe that God is helping me. I believe that God is guiding me.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Thank you for listening, thank you for being our family when we most needed one, thank you for the support given to my family in every single way.

Planning Like Prophets

Planning Like Prophets

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Vision: The ability to think about or plan for the future with imagination and wisdom. 

 In the book of Revelation we read of seven churches that needed to develop different areas of weakness in order to be the church Christ needed them to be. 

The Old Testament is also filled with valuable information and strategies to help congregations develop and execute their visions. Each church family will differ and since that’s the case, each congregation needs custom vision.

Here are two Old Testament passages that give us some insight into the mind of God on the subject of vision planning

  1. A Good Vision Is Visible 

         Habakkuk 2:2-3 

Though Habakkuk’s message was concerning the the conquest of Babylon, this text is invaluable for us today. 

Here we read God’s strategy for successful/effective planning. 

“Write down the revelation 

It should be tangible
    “and make it plain on tablets”

It should be precise 
    “so that a herald may run with it.”

It should be effectiveA vision without legs won’t go far. 

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay.”

 A vision should be lasting. When God spoke to the prophets they would often record things that would happen years in the future. With these future events written down, the following generations could plan accordingly. God is coming back and eternity is coming, we must create a plan so that we and those after us can continue to prepare. 

  1. If It’s Not His, It’s Hopeless 

          Jeremiah 23.16 

“This is what the Lord Almighty says:

God must have a voice 

“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;

The ungodly shouldn’t have a voice when it comes to planning a vision for God’s people
    they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
    not from the mouth of the Lord.”

God must have a voice because the vision shouldn’t be born from the mind of man!

The Pressing Property Of The Power!

The Pressing Property Of The Power!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

It has been a good year for tomatoes in our garden. We’ve eaten them, given them away, and preserved a lot of them. In addition to canning them, Kathy decided to use our dehydrator to save time and space in preserving them. A few days ago, she filled the machine with several rows of sliced tomatoes. She would set the temperature and time, then come back when it was done. The fruit would still be wet and tacky. After this happened a few times, she was concerned that our appliance was malfunctioning. It was then that she noticed she had not pressed the tiny start button on the far right side. She pushed it, and after eight hours she came back to perfectly dehydrated tomatoes. All the prep and planning were futile without the power.

How often do we conduct our lives that way? We meticulously make plans and we do our part to try to make them happen, but we neglect to access the power that makes it all work? Do we ever forget what Paul reminded Philippi, that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (2:13)? Paul also said that while we may have a variety of gifts, ministries, and effects, it is “the same God who works all things in all persons” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). We’re told that it is God who will “equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight…” (Heb. 13:21).

How do we hope to do God’s work without God’s help? We need His guidance, His wisdom and instruction, and His help. That necessitates skillfully laboring in His Word (2 Tim. 2:15), leaning on Him in fervent, faithful prayer (Phil. 4:6; 1 Th. 5:17), and relying on His providence in setting our direction (Rom. 8:28). It makes all the difference when we tap into God’s power. Let’s not overlook the one thing that is always essential in everything we undertake! 

The power button is just to the right of the frame of this picture.
The Vale Of Bandits

The Vale Of Bandits

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

The Valhermoso Springs Resort was a gathering place for those seeking treatment from the famous Sulphur and mineral springs. The three springs were even used by the Indians for the same reason— adding yet another vale of mystery to the area. Despite being a place that attracted visitors from all around the world, including European and French royalty, there are only three low quality images of the place. Walking through the dense brush and stepping over toppled stones can give one the impression that this spot is determined to keep its secrets

In the upper room there was a dancing hall with slat boards covered in tile. During the civil war, confederate soldiers were hidden by Mrs. Geirs who was a hot-blooded rebel sympathizer. 

One of many legends surrounding this resort is that of the visit of famous outlaw Jesse James. It’s rumored that a man matching the description of Jesse rode in one night from Huntsville after robbing a bank. He wore two leather bags slung over his shoulder as he dismounted his horse. At some point, it’s unclear how he was discovered, but the law came knocking on the resort’s front door. Jesse’s stealth and cunning kept him alive during the bloody guerrilla skirmishes of the civil war, and they would help him escape the clutches of justice time and again. Legend says he left the hotel in a hurry— without his two leather bags. Did Jesse James stash his stolen goods in a cave or bury it? There’s not even hard evidence that the outlaw made a stop at the tavern, or even robbed a bank in Huntsville. 

In Numbers 13 there are twelve spies who go into the land of Canaan for forty days. Their goal was to make observations that would help them conquer it as well as bring back reports about the kind of land it was. Upon their return only Joshua and Caleb are willing to take on the giant challenges that they’ll need to overcome in order to claim Canaan. Sadly, the message that the people chose to believe was that the giants were even bigger than God. What evidence did they have? Not a shred. God had proven His might and power throughout their time in the wilderness. He’s the one who directed the children toward Canaan in the first place! The fear in the crowd and the report of ten cowardly spies was contagious. 

If we’re not careful, we might end up believing what’s not based in fact, too. We might be tempted to believe that Christians are a weak minority who can’t do a thing to change the culture. We might be tempted to believe that nobody is interested in spiritual things anymore. We might begin to believe that the world is bigger and stronger than the God who spoke the world into existence. Of course, this is simply not true. 

Relics found by Dale and Carl on the site of Valhermoso Springs Resort

“Be Not Dismayed Whate’er Betide”

“Be Not Dismayed Whate’er Betide”

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Our younger and non-U.S. readers may not be able to relate to the economic news that the U.S. economy is experiencing inflation, unlike anything we’ve seen in 40 years. Indeed, this period of “stagflation” (i.e., stagnant economy plus inflation) began even before my birth, noticeably during the Administration inherited by Gerald Ford after Richard Nixon’s resignation.  

The genesis for this economic downturn started with the decision of President Nixon to take the United States off the gold standard in 1971. It was necessary to prevent the country from defaulting on its debts but was only a short-term solution. Had government become fiscally responsible, they could have gotten the nation out of debt and reinstituted the gold standard. But, rather than curb spending, the government began spending more since they could print more bills. And Ford was honest to a fault, from a political perspective, since he admitted the poor state of the Union in his address in 1975. 

“I must say to you that the state of the Union is not good: Millions of Americans are out of work. Recession and inflation are eroding the money of millions more. Prices are too high, and sales are too slow. This year’s Federal deficit will be about $30 billion; next year’s probably $45 billion. The national debt will rise to over $500 billion. Our plant capacity and productivity are not increasing fast enough. We depend on others for essential energy. Some people question their Government’s ability to make hard decisions and stick with them; they expect Washington politics as usual.”1  

Looking to make a change, Americans voted for the Democrat candidate running against Ford in 1976. Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger swore in President Jimmy Carter on January 20, 1977. However, instead of bringing positive changes to the economy, things grew worse under President Carter. Ironically, candidate Carter had successfully used Arthur Okun’s “Misery Index” in his campaign to highlight the miserable performance of Ford’s economy.Yet, it would not be long until the “Misery Index” became an albatross around Carter’s neck. Carter’s opponent in the 1980 presidential race, Ronald Reagan, even made a point to note that Carter was mum about the “Misery Index” of his tenure.3 I dare say that most laymen still associate the “Misery Index” with Jimmy Carter, not Gerald Ford.  

The CPI (consumer price index) is used to gauge inflation. Unfortunately, it has risen to 8.5%.4 To curb inflation, the Federal Reserve Bank will inevitably raise interest rates. The simple explanation for this is that the Federal Reserve Bank wants to discourage you from spending money. So, with rising interest rates, that new automobile or house will cost even more, and you will decide to make do with what you have. As a result, demand will decrease and theoretically lower inflation. The only positive thing resulting from such an economy is that your savings account will finally accrue more interest. The bad news is that the money you earn will not have the same buying power if inflation is high.  

I was but a child, but I recall the stagflation of the Carter Administration. My father preached for a domestic mission church in west Georgia. He received financial support from a congregation in Tennessee but still had to find other employment periodically to provide for his family. Briefly, my mother even tried to get a job as a seamstress at a Hanes factory outside of LaGrange, Georgia. We lived austerely and had more than one of Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.” However, my father could parlay those savings into later real estate purchases when the economy improved. The point is that even Christians experience lean times, but they don’t last forever. 

Would you believe that this is what Paul talked about with his financial supporters in Philippi? He told them he had learned to get along with much or little (Philippians 4.11-12). Paul said that even meant having to go hungry at times. Yet, he could do it because Christ gave him strength (Philippians 4.13). So, yes, that oft-quoted verse is about money. Though it is nice to think we can tap into our Lord’s power to accomplish difficult tasks, like quitting a bad habit, we should not lose sight of the context, especially in a terrible economy.  

David said long ago that he had never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging for bread (Psalm 37.25). Indeed, Jesus reminds us that God will supply the needs of those seeking Him and His Kingdom first (Matthew 6.33). But our necessities are just that, necessary. Beans and cornbread can sate hunger as effectively as filet mignon and mushroom Bordelaise. So, God is not promising you the “king’s dainties” (cf. Daniel 1.8 ASV). But you will receive enough sustenance to maintain life.  

Moreover, as a Christian, you have the added blessing of your church family. The first Christians saw after one another’s needs, even selling their property to help support their brethren (cf. Acts 4.32-35). I am not suggesting that things will become bad enough today to necessitate such drastic measures, but it is still encouraging to know that we have others watching our backs. Indeed, they will help us with our burdens as we help carry theirs (Galatians 6.2,10). 

Yes, things may get worse before getting better. The younger generations may not know what to make of these things. And we might see people sinning as the post-exilic Jews who robbed God by withholding their tithes to Him (Malachi 3.8-12). In these times, God encourages more generosity, not stinginess. As He told the Jews of old, He is more than capable of opening the portals of heaven to shower us with blessings. Do not lose that faith and trust that as we learn to do without, we might also learn how to properly conduct ourselves when we abound in this world’s goods. 

Sources Cited 

1  Ford, Gerald. “President Gerald R. Ford’s Address before a Joint Session of the Congress Reporting on the State of the Union.” Gerald Ford’s 1975 State of the Union Address, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/speeches/750028.htm

2  Phelan, John. “The Return of the ‘Misery Index’.” American Experiment, Center of the American Experiment, 27 Jan. 2022,www.americanexperiment.org/the-return-of-the-misery-index/

3 Ibid 

4 McCormick, Emily. “Inflation Rises by the Most since 1981 as CPI Jumps 8.5% in March.” Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo!, 12 Apr. 2022, finance.yahoo.com/news/consumer-price-index-cpi-inflation-march-2022-123202319.html

The Fruits Of Restoration

The Fruits Of Restoration

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

There is nothing like the satisfaction of completing a task that was especially hard-fought and challenging. But, there was Judah in Ezra’s day in Ezra six after Haggai and Zechariah’s message propels them to the finish line concerning the temple (14). After earlier opposition from their neighbors, Judah is assisted by the most powerful nation on earth “with all diligence” (13). It was not nearly as glorious as the original temple (3:12; Hag. 2:3), but it was rebuilt and available for Judah to use to worship God as before the captivity.

Consider some of the fruits of their obedient, faithful efforts from Ezra 6:13-22. These are the some of the fruits of restoration.

Joy (16,22).

In a world where everybody just wants to be happy, few know genuine joy. The happiness for the people here is so intense and deep-seated because God is the source and reason for it. They celebrated the dedication (16) and Ezra says “the Lord had caused them to rejoice” (22). There is a unique, genuine joy available to those who are seeking to build their lives and religion according to the Lord’s pattern (Rom. 15:13). 

Faithful Worship (17-20).

Following the revealed instructions from God through His leaders, the people were now enabled to dedicate the temple (17), appoint the priests (18), and observe the Passover (19-20). They have returned to the proper place, people, and practice of worship. That is the epitome of restoration. When we submit to the instructions of the New Testament regarding who leads (1 Tim. 2:8,11-12), where we participate (Heb. 10:24-25), and how we worship (cf. Col. 3:16-17), faithful worship, when done in proper spirit, follows (John 4:24). 

Purity (20-21).

The ones who could participate in the Passover were those who had purified themselves. That started with the leadership (19) and extended to the rest of the participants (19-20). It mandated separating from “the impurity of the nations of the land” (20). They could come before God with pure and holy hands (cf. 1 Tim. 2:8). Think about what Peter tells believers: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:22-23). 

Divine Aid (22).

Do your best and try your hardest, but you will fall terribly short without this factor. God’s providence paved the road and opened the door to restoration. The Lord “…had turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of God.” “The Lord had caused them to rejoice.” One of the fruits of seeking to restore God’s will and ways in our public and private lives today is this assurance. Jesus promises, “I am with you always” (Mat. 28:20). “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you so that we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper…” (Heb. 13:5-6). 

Be body builders, building the Lord’s church the Lord’s way. Let’s go all the way back to the Bible. The end result is a multitude of blessings (Eph. 1:3) like those mentioned in Ezra 6:13-22. 

The Lord Will Provide

The Lord Will Provide

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Harold Nicks

In Genesis 22, we have the story of Abraham where God instructs him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. We know from the text that God was testing Abraham and we know that God stopped him and then provided a ram to sacrifice instead. Because of God’s provision Abraham named that place THE LORD WILL PROVIDE! Three months ago, a tornado devastated many parts of Bowling Green affecting some of our own members, as well as many others in the community.

We have witnessed the outpouring of help and concern by the aid and donations made over 100 congregations and individuals – giving their money and their time to help those who have lost their homes and possessions. God has used us as the facilitators of this aid and used it as an opportunity to show His love and tell people about Him. We can honestly say THE LORD WILL PROVIDE.

I want to keep with the theme of God’s provisions but change the verb tense to THE LORD HAS PROVIDED!

THE LORD HAS PROVIDED us with a magnificent world to live in. In Genesis 1 we read that everything he made was good and He has provided everything we need to enjoy a fulfilling life. As Spring approaches (my favorite time of the year) we will see God’s handiwork as the trees begin to bud and flowers bloom and He created it all for us.

David wrote in Psalms 8 : “when I consider your heavens the work of your fingers, the moon, the stars you have set in place What is man that You are mindful of him.” He loves us and has made this world for us to enjoy.

THE LORD HAS PROVIDED each of us with talents, abilities, and opportunities to serve….and He expects us to use them to serve Him, as well as our fellow man. The Bible instructs us to use our talents and gifts to the best of our abilities as pointed out in Matt 25 in the parable of the talents and again In Romans 12: 6-8, Paul says, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy with cheerfulness.”

THE LORD HAS PROVIDED us with a peace in times of trouble. Those who do not know Him can’t really understand. With Covid and all the political turmoil in our country and the war in Ukraine we can still have the assurance of God’s love and understand HE is in control.

We read in Philippians 4:6-7 to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. His assurances are also given to us in Romans 8. Verse 31 says, “If God is for who can be against us. In verse 38 and 39 Paul encourages us with these words “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

THE LORD HAS PROVIDED us with a way to live with Him for eternity through Jesus. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

He has provided reconciliation through Jesus – He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Col. 1:22).

He has provided redemption through Jesus – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:7).

God has provided many things for us, but most of all is the way to live with Him forever. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

If you are searching for peace and a way to be with God for eternity, He has provided a way.

Talking About Fear

Talking About Fear

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Travis Harrison

The fear I’m talking about is not the kind that tells us be cautious or keeps us from harm, it’s the kind that fills our hearts and minds with doubt, apprehension, and anxiety. When this fear keeps us from doing things that please God, things that he expects from us and commands of us, it is a big deal. 

When preparing for this I was given the advice that we should speak about things we are familiar with.  I say that because fear has kept me for a long time avoiding opportunities such as this. I have never given a devotional before tonight. It is because of that Fear I mentioned. This type of fear convinces us of things that aren’t true.  It convinces you that you’re not good enough to get up here and speak. You are not qualified or educated enough to speak to a group of people; you care too much about what people think of you and the things you say. It convinces you that you are terrible at public speaking, you won’t speak well, or say the right things. This is my personal fear, but all of us here tonight deal with fears that keep us from doing what God wants us to do and what pleases him.

A great biblical example of this is:

  • Moses,  in Exodus 3: 8-10 when God called him to go lead Israel out of Egypt and speak to pharaoh. 
  • In vs 11 you can tell he is afraid because he says, “who am I that I should go to pharaoh and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” God is quick to reassure Moses “I will certainly be with you.” 
  • He continues in chapter 4:1 to make excuses to God “what if they will not believe me or listen to my voice” So, God sent miraculous signs to help convince the people. 
  • In 4:10 he basically said I can’t speak “I’m not eloquent, I’m slow of speech and slow of tongue.”  So, God reminded him who made man’s tongue, have not I?! He then said He would be his mouth and teach him what to say. 
  • And finally in vs 13 he even asked the Lord to send someone else. We should never get to this point. 
  • We should always look to God, put our faith and trust in the Lord, because fear is not from God. He is a God of love and fear does not have to consume us. 
    • We should always trust in God when we are afraid. If we draw near to God, he will cast out that fear. In Isaiah 41:10, God reassured Israel – “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”
    • II Timothy 1:7 reminds us that “God gave us a spirit NOT OF FEAR, but of power and love and self-control”.
    • “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So, we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” in Hebrews 13: 5-6
  • Ultimately, we can’t let fear keep us from doing what God has commanded of us – we are to go into all the world to spread the gospel with everyone. How can we do that if we carry around the burden of Fear. 
  • In closing tonight, I want to ask each of us to think about what gets us out of our comfort zone when it comes to doing the will of God? Is it speaking to someone about Christ? Is it inviting our friends or co workers to come to worship service with us? Maybe having a Bible study with a complete stranger? Perhaps leading a devotional for the first time, or maybe leading singing. 
  • Whatever those things are, we should set aside our fears, put our trust in God, let our hearts be full of Love, not Fear. We should be on fire for God as Jeremy said last week.  We as Christians are capable of much more than we realize but how will we ever know those capabilities if we are too afraid to try. 
  • Philippians 4:13 doesn’t say I can do some things….it says I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.
  • How amazing is it that we serve a God that loves us so much, and says he will always be with us, that he will never leave our side. He tells us time and time again we have no reason to be afraid. 

(From Travis’ first-ever devotional delivered at Lehman on Wednesday night, 2/16/22)