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!
What Was Their Secret?

What Was Their Secret?

Gary Pollard

What got early Christians through hard times? What helped them grow? How were they able to thrive when their jobs, families, and personal safety were threatened?

They focused on hope. Biblical hope is confident expectation. God promised us a perfect life after this sometimes stinky one. The early church’s hope for death’s freedom gave courage and comfort (I Peter 1.3). Their hope for a perfect life had the same effect (II Peter 3.13; Romans 8.18ff).

They focused on grace. It keeps us from falling out with God, and it helps keep our motivation high (Romans 7.15ff; I John 1.7)!

They focused on God’s message to humans (I Peter 2.2). We have to view reality through God’s eyes. This isn’t possible without deep, meaningful, and unbiased study! The Bible is a collection of rich, fascinating insights into God’s nature and our future! It’s very helpful to use a version that’s easy to read and modern.

They focused on each other. The early church spent a ton of time together (special circumstance, but still cool: Acts 2.44). Their relationship provided encouragement and strength! Managing conflict healthily is also crucial for the church’s health (Matthew 18).

They focused on selflessness. We aren’t animals, so we should put the needs of others above our own (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8; All of Philippians). A selfless family can get through anything!

Love And Fear

Love And Fear

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

 
How many Christians are afraid of the judgment day? Maybe we are worried we haven’t done enough, or maybe we are thinking of a specific sin that would keep us from entering heaven? It is also a possibility that we may just be plain scared of everything that will take place on that day. 1 John 4:18 is one of the most comforting verses in Scripture. It tells us that if we are a faithful Christian there is no reason to be afraid.
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – 1 John 4:18
 
While this verse can very easily be taken out of context, the true meaning should give us hope and comfort. John tells us three important fact concerning the Christian and judgment day.
 
Love = No Fear
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” This love is strong enough to calm our fears concerning the day of judgment. But what is perfect love? When we hear the word perfect we think of taking something flawed and making it flawless in every way. Does this mean we need to have a love that is flawless in every way? This word perfect is teleos which is defined as “attaining an end or purpose; complete.” This word is best illustrated like this, if your flashlight batteries die and you need 2 AAA, it doesn’t matter if you have an unopened box of AA’s. The used AAA’s in your TV remote are perfect for the job.
 
Our love is complete and perfect when we abide in God. Love cannot cast out our fear of the judgement day if we are loving the wrong things. Our perfect and complete love can cast out fear when we abide in the ONE who is, and always will be, the author and perfecter of love. Perfect love that is found in the Christian who is wholeheartedly abiding in the Creator has no reason to be afraid of the judgment day.
 
Punishment = Fear
 
One of the worst phrases you can hear as a kid when you get in trouble is, “just wait till your father gets home.” The thought and anticipation of punishment brings about fear and dread. 1 John 4:18 says, “For fear has to do with punishment.” The fear we may feel concerning the judgment day stems from the punishment that might come upon us. And it is only right that we should fear the punishment of hell, a very real place that is saved for those who have chosen to do nothing about their sin problem. The thought of hell should scare us. It is a place that will forever torment the souls of those who are lost. Fear has to do with punishment, so will we be punished on the judgment day?
 
Punishment equals fear, but there’s good news for those in Christ. We have NO reason to fear the judgment. The judgment day will be a day of reward for faithful Christians. There is no fear of punishment because God has promised us a place in heaven with Him.
 
Fear = Imperfect Love
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
 
If we are afraid of the judgment this could mean several things about our Christianity:
  • Fear shows us that we have room to grow (Our love hasn’t reached its designed end with God)
  • Fear can reveal a possible lack of faith (maybe we are afraid because we doubt the words we read in 1 John 1, or revelation 21?)
  • Fear exposes the sin in our lives (if there is sin in our lives that is continuous and habitual we SHOULD be afraid)
 
With these facts in mind we should take this verse and use it to shape our attitude concerning that day. Let the love of God change the way we live. Let the love of God influence our decisions and actions. Let the perfected love of God give us confidence on the day of judgment.
Tearing Lions And Toeing Lines

Tearing Lions And Toeing Lines

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

He wore a name we know well but accomplished the will of a Name we know better. Samson the judge was the man who dropped a thousand Philistines with a jawbone while dropping the jaws of those who would read these accounts years later.
In Judges 13 through 16 we find the awesome, yet tragic life of the strongest man who ever walked the earth. From the moment of his miraculous conception to those dramatic moments between the pillars, he captivates our imagination. Some tend to idolize his prowess as a warrior and rebel, but the real lessons we can learn from Samson can be appreciated by everyone. What if a mortal human could act in place of God? While impossible, let’s just humor this thought. In a way we get a glimpse of how miserable life would be if we didn’t serve a righteous Lord. When Samson lost his temper, became annoyed, bored, or defiant he would always choose to act in his own self interest. He was empowered by a God he didn’t serve and that is seen time and again in these three chapters. His final act of killing over three thousand Philistines who mocked him in their pagan temple were slain out of revenge (Judges 16:28) and hatred. His eyes had been gauged out and he is led by a servant through a crowd of people who were not even supposed to be living in the same land as the Israelites (Numbers 31:17). In other words, the Philistines were a hole dug by God’s children in the first place. Samson was a tool in God’s hand to relieve His people from the oppression of these ruthless “fish people.”

I’m sure you know many of the accounts from the life of Samson so here are a few things that God intended for us to learn from him.

1. God is infinitely more powerful than His creation (including Samson) and is infinitely more loving and patient than His creation. If Samson had the power of God, his own humanity would provoke him to destroy anyone who irritated or upset him. How many times has God forgiven us and then placed those sins out of His sight? Too many times to count, I’d imagine.
2. God can use the self-seeking people in the world to accomplish His own will. He never lost control of Samson and God hasn’t lost control in the world today.
3. Nothing could make us serve God, even if He paid us a supernatural visit (see Jesus). Samson’s abilities were given to him by the Lord, and yet that wasn’t enough to convince him to dedicate his life to Him. Consider Solomon that was given wisdom in a miraculous way— yet still fell. In the end it comes down to the individual heart, the desire, and the determination to commit ourselves to His service.
4. God’s desire to protect His people is great and His methods are creative. The Israelites could have never dreamed that their savior would be a man like Samson. They were plagued by a race of wicked warriors, but God used one man to turn the tables. When we look at our country today we may think there’s no way that things could be different but let’s not forget how powerful and how creative God is. It doesn’t matter whether or not WE can see a path forward when God has proven that He is more than capable and willing to see us through.

You could ponder over the life of Samson and come up with more great lessons to build your faith. Why not read through Judges 13-16 to remind yourself of God’s control in this world? As a bonus, you’d be treating yourself to one of the most fascinating sections in the Old Testament.

 
“I Will Survive” 

“I Will Survive” 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Gloria Gaynor rose to fame in the late 1970s with her B-side recording of “I Will Survive.” Yes, that is correct. Gaynor secured her musical legacy with a song added as filler. The A-side recording was a cover of the Righteous Brothers’ song, “Substitute.” Yet, who other than an ardent fan even recalls Gaynor’s cover? Rolling Stone magazine included “I Will Survive” in their “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004. In 2016, the Library of Congress added the song to its National Recording Registry to ensure its preservation. I do not mean to diminish the rest of Gaynor’s career, but it is doubtful that her name would be long remembered without her disco anthem.   

The Apostle Paul says something like “I will survive” in Philippians 4.13. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) I realize that this is an oft-abused Scripture. For example, athletes cite it after achieving a difficult win.  We likewise note aspiring Don Quixotes quoting it to rationalize their efforts to obtain their impossible dream. As with many Scriptures, however, the context clues us in on the meaning. The Apostle Paul wasn’t supplying us with a handy aphorism to pull out when needing to boost troop morale. He was letting us know how to survive any and everything. Note the preceding verses where Paul tells the Macedonians that he has learned how to get by with surplus or shortage. In the proceeding verses, Paul tells the Philippians that were a part of God’s Providence that enabled him to do “all things” since they provided financial support.   

So, is God promising us in Philippians 4.13 that we can do whatever it is that we have set our hearts to do? Of course not. But God is letting us know that He has our back. We can count on Him and His Providence. We might wear thrift store clothing and supplement our groceries with Dollar Tree items, but God will provide our needs in keeping with His promise (cf. Matthew 6.33).  Hence, we can move forward with boldness as we do the Father’s Will. We can survive, whether that be with little or much. That is a beautiful message to lean on as we face the uncertainty of this world.   

As I travel US 129 in White and Hall Counties, I note handmade signs that have popped up along the shoulders of the road, presumably in the wake of COVID-19. The placards state, “We will be OK.” I appreciate those signs. They speak to us truthfully whether we are talking about pandemics or uncertain election results. Because of God, we will survive. We might even say that we will do more than survive. We will thrive!      

Sources Cited 

“I Will Survive.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Nov. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Will_Survive

 

“WHO’S IN CONTROL?”

“WHO’S IN CONTROL?”

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The employees complained that they couldn’t control the temperature in office buildings. A simple and effective solution was set in place by corporate when they secretly placed dummy thermostats in the work area. They were then able to give all  the unsuspecting workers the illusion that they were in control at last. 

Today there are many that believe they can control more than they really can in their lives. Some have even managed to give others the illusion that they have some kind of supernatural ability to change the nation and world. This entirely false reality takes place on the very planet held in the hands of the One who really has all the control. 

In the Old Testament we find that people thought a lot of David— once he proved his worth as a warrior. As he rose in fame he continued to bring positive change for God’s people but all along the way David understood that he was making a difference only because God allowed him to. 

So many are worried about controlling every aspect of their lives and the lives of others, but I’m thankful that I’m not in control. As a human, I’m prone to make mistakes— God knows that. He provides for His faithful exactly what we need. 

What is God’s will for your life? 

He wants you to recognize His power, His control, His compassion, and His desire for all to be saved. I hope that today this served as a simple reminder to let Jehovah take the lead and that we don’t actually want the control that we may think we do. 

Do You Focus On Your Strengths Or Weaknesses?

Do You Focus On Your Strengths Or Weaknesses?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

My wife, my parents, and I took a personality test tonight just for kicks. It was a simplified test, nothing too in-depth, but was very entertaining and insightful. There were two sections to the test: one with a row of strengths under four different personalities and another with a row of weaknesses for those same personality types. 

For all of us, it took quite a while to complete the strengths sections; it took probably less than a minute to complete the weaknesses section. It’s a lot easier to readily admit and focus on our flaws and faults than it is to honestly acknowledge our strengths. 

Maybe it’s because we’re hesitant to praise ourselves (this isn’t always a bad thing, but we tend to overdo it). Maybe it’s because it’s easier to see our glaring weaknesses than our helpful strengths. Weaknesses usually sound something like, “I am… ” or, “I have…” or, “I can’t…” or, “I’m not…” followed by a negative attribute. 

Focusing on our weaknesses is detrimental for two primary reasons. 

First, focusing on weakness restricts growth. Even when pointing out some major issues with the church at Philippi, Paul lays on the praise heavily before exposing flaws. When he wrote to Timothy to rebuke him (II Timothy) he made sure to point out his strengths, too. We have to be balanced as we look to improve ourselves. We can acknowledge the presence of a weakness, but focusing on it will likely destroy any effort we make to grow past it. 

Secondly, focusing on our weaknesses can be selfish. We can place a disproportionate emphasis on ourselves when we criticize self or lean on weakness as a crutch/excuse. It can also be selfish because while we’re overanalyzing and criticizing ourselves, we can easily overlook growth opportunities. 

Strengths allow us to do for others. Focusing on what we can do and we are good at doing empowers us to help others. Obsessing over our weaknesses can make us too internally focused; capitalizing on our strong points allows us to focus more on other people. 

When we do a mental self-checkup to see where we can improve, let’s focus more on how we can use our strengths to help others and less on how flawed we are. Of course we’re flawed – but we can also do a lot of good for others and we have the blood of Jesus to keep us pure (I John 1.7). As a wise man once told me, “If you focus on your strengths, your weaknesses will take care of themselves.” 

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Walking with God In a Fallen World

Walking with God In a Fallen World

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

God’s desire from the very beginning of creation was to walk with man. Scripture tells us that He would walk in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). This was all undone when sin entered the world and created a chasm between God and mankind.
The theme of the Bible is the salvation of man, through Christ, to the glory of God. From the moment sin entered the world, God has been proactive in seeking a relationship with His creation. Through the perfect sacrifice of Christ, that relationship has been restored, and we are once again able to walk with God.
Even though we have peace with God again, at times it feels like we don’t have peace in our everyday lives. We turn on the news and watch as courthouses are set on fire, and a widespread virus continues to harm and kill people that we love. Yes, we have peace with God, but where is the peace in our own lives?
These are questions that most everyone has asked. But there’s one question I want us to focus on for a few moments; how does God want us to react to the events that are going on today? Let’s examine three encouraging verses that tell us how we are to conduct ourselves each day.
Proverbs 15:3. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” God sees the violence, the grieving families, the struggling Christian. But God also sees how His children respond. God is in every part of His creation, at every moment in time. We may feel like He doesn’t see, or that He is indifferent to what’s going on, but His eyes are on the evil and the good. We respond in love because we know that God is watching.
Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” God not only sees what is going on, but He is with His children. The greatest of Christians still struggle with feelings of loneliness (Elijah in 1 Kings 19). Even though we walk through the shadow of death, we don’t fear the evil that we encounter because God has promised that He will be with us. We may see the hate, the hurt and the helplessness of mankind, but the comfort of God gives hope to His people.
Matthew 28:20. “…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is a promise first given by Jesus to His apostles, a promise that we as Christians sometimes fail to remember. The world isn’t perfect because sin has corrupted what God has made perfect. People will do you wrong, they’ll hurt you, and they’ll do whatever they feel like doing. We have a command to fulfill, and it can only be carried out with the presence of God.
Showing love to a world that’s full of hatred can seem impossible at times, but if we will remember who we are and Whose we are, we can and will get it done. Remember that God loves you, and the church loves you. Let’s be an example to those who are without this love.
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Who Is God to Me? (Psa. 46:1-2)

Who Is God to Me? (Psa. 46:1-2)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

We are obsessed with our phones. A new study has found, that the heaviest smartphone users click, tap or swipe on their phone 5,427 times a day. Now that’s the top 10 percent of users, so we would expect it to be high, but even the average smartphone users still tap their phones almost half that many times a day. This means that some of us will touch our phones a couple million times a year (Adam Alter study).
The majority of the time we are on our phones is spent on social media. A place of fake relationships. We spend hours being “social” but this time spent never builds true relationships. The world is hungry for true and meaningful relationships. They waste hours online trying to get close to someone, but it always leaves them emptier than when they began.
As Christians we have a relationship with each other because of Christ, but even more, we have a relationship with God. The creator of this world. Let’s spend some time looking at this relationship we have with God. Who is God to me? Psalm 46 is a psalm of encouragement. The psalmist tells us to trust in God, to have hope in the relationship we have with Him, but this psalm also answers the question, Who Is God to Me?
He’s My Refuge/Strength. Verse one says, “God is our refuge and strength…” In my relationship with God, He’s my refuge. A place I can run to in times of need. He’s my strength, giving me more than I could ever have on my own.
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, a famous strongman, recently broke the world record deadlift pulling 1,104 pounds, breaking the previous record by 2 pounds. When I think of strong, this is what I think of. Lifting half a ton from the ground up to your waist, as mind boggling and impressive as this is, Hafþór still isn’t strong enough. None of us will ever have enough strength on our own. We may be physically strong, but spiritually God is the only one strong enough to help us walk the Christian walk.
The Hebrew word for refuge conveys the idea of a protective shelter (HALOT 571). God is a place of safety, a shelter that no one can break into. Thieves will break In and steal our possessions, but no one can ever take away our relationship with God. He’s our refuge, a place of safety. The word “strength” further builds onto the description of God. God is a strong refuge. And even more, He gives us that strength and refuge to help us in our walk. The strongest man is weak when compared to God. The most impenetrable of places pales in comparison to God. Who is God to me? He’s my strength and place of refuge.
He’s My Help. Verse one continues to say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Trouble is something all of us will face. We run into opposition in almost every area of life.
“Good help is hard to find.” You’ll hear businessmen say this all the time. It’s a struggle that every restaurant, business, and church will run into. Who can we count on? We want people that are reliable. That’ll show up to work, get their job done, and be responsible. We need help. And the psalmist here tells us that God is our help.
God’s help is not hard to find. It is a help that is always there for us when we need it. Even more, God wants to help us. We all know people that when you ask for help, they’ll help you, but they really don’t want to. God wants to help his children, and that’s who God is to us.
He’s My Courage. Verse two says, “Therefore (because he is our refuge, strength, and help) we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” God is my courage because He helps me not fear what happens to me.
According to the DSM, specific phobias typically fall within five general categories: fears related to animals (spiders, dogs, insects), fears related to the natural environment (heights, thunder, darkness, fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues (injections, broken bones, falls), fears related to specific situations (flying, riding an elevator, driving), and other (choking, loud noises, drowning) (University of Pennsylvania study).
The world is full of fear. It is an ever present problem. I can’t stand heights and it all started when I had a nightmare where I was stuck by a belt loop at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Ever since I’ve been deathly afraid of heights.
My relationship with God gives me the choice to have courage instead of fear, hope instead of dread, joy instead of worry, and peace instead of anxiety. Though the earth gives way, though our world falls apart around us, we have courage instead of fear.
How does this help us? We need courage in so many areas: evangelism (we have a loving God to proclaim, but it isn’t always easy), confrontation (no one likes to call out a brother living in sin), family (courage to lead them to heaven, to make the hard calls), as a church (since we are called to live like Christ, we will make enemies), and Christian living (living righteously takes courage).
Who is God to Me? He’s my refuge, my strength, my help, and my courage. We spend hours each day on our phones, trying to be social or just wasting time. If our relationship with God was turned into a survey, how many times would we contact him? God wants a relationship with us, and sadly we tend to spend more time on social media than we do building our relationship with Him. Who is God to you? Is He your strength? Do you turn to him for help? Building and strengthening our relationship with God is the most important thing we will ever do.
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David’s Prayer In the Cave (Psalm 142)

David’s Prayer In the Cave (Psalm 142)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

It was in one of the lowest points in his life that David finds himself hiding in a cave praying to God. He says, “With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord” (Psa.‬ ‭142:1‬).

David describes the circumstances that have caused him to feel discouraged. He says in verse 4, “Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.”

How often do we find ourselves feeling this same way? It could be the people we work with that don’t see the value of our Christianity. It could be friends at school pushing us to break our Christian values. It could even be our own families that don’t care for our souls.

David felt the loneliness of desertion with his own son, he felt betrayal from Saul, and he even willfully separated himself from God when he went after Bathsheba.

Many times we find ourselves in the cave. It could be that outside circumstances have put us there, or we sinned and are feeling the consequences of those choices.
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Put yourself in his shoes, hiding in a dark, desolate and damp cave feeling alone and deserted by everyone. Everyone except God. David never lost sight of God, and he knew that God would answer his prayer.

When we find ourselves in the dark, feeling deserted and alone, don’t lose sight of God. He will never turn His back on a struggling Christian. He cares for your soul.

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