He Understands

He Understands

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

One of the cherished tenets of Christianity is the High Priesthood of Christ. Therefore, we relish the Hebrew writer’s assurance that we have a sympathetic High Priest Who endured temptation without sin (Hebrews 4.14-15). Thus, I tend to hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 26.41 and Mark 14.38 a little differently: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Unfortunately, I think many people take that as a rebuke. Yet, compassion is a word oft associated with Jesus in the Gospels. And Jesus knew the hearts of these men. He knew they had a desire to watch and pray but were physically exhausted. 

Now, it is true that remaining diligent in watchfulness and prayer would have better served Peter, James, and John. However, these apostles were ultimately human and needed rest. There is a discernible difference between laziness and fatigue. If Peter, James, and John were sleeping because they were bored or took the situation lightly, would Jesus have credited them with having the willing spirit? Of course, not. Jesus recognized that they wanted to do as He told them.  

Jesus knows well the limitations of the flesh. If you recall the Apostle Paul’s words, he says that Jesus emptied Himself, taking the likeness of man, to become a bondservant (Philippians 2.5-11). His obedience to His Father was so complete that He even tasted of death for every man (Hebrews 2.9). Hence, Jesus sometimes felt tired. So, where do we find Jesus after a day of performing signs and healing the sick in Matthew 8.24? He was sleeping on a boat. Yes, the disciples woke Him up because they feared the storm, but Jesus was resting. Do we think He went to sleep only to show His disciples proof of His Sonship? 

The point here is that Jesus understands. Some saints may experience issues sidelining them from service. It could be one has a chronic illness, advanced age, military deployment, or employers who disregard his pleas to have Sundays and Wednesday nights off from work. I know that I beat myself up sometimes, thinking I should do more.  But I’m not always honest with myself. In my mind, I can do anything I want. However, COPD and my current efforts to walk correctly again after prolonged hospitalization hamper me.  In moments like this, I remind myself of how Jesus looked at the exhausted three in Gethsemane’s garden. His grace says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 

Obviously, this is not something one abuses. Just because Jesus understands the human condition doesn’t mean we can willfully neglect our spiritual service (cf. Romans 12.1-2). As Paul reminds us, grace is not a license to sin (cf. Romans 6.1-2). But take heart when you feel that you are a failure. The Lord knows your heart. Yes, He may remind you of your duty through the Word, but He will acknowledge a willing spirit hindered by the flesh.

Finding Refreshment

Finding Refreshment

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

Lying in a bed for three and a half months will make you feel icky. You can only bathe with washcloths. Some nurses loaded those cloths with water and got me wetter than an Anglican baptism. Those “baths” made me feel better. However, before being discharged, I finally took a shower. That was the best. I felt refreshed. The only downside was seeing my hair come out in clumps as I washed my hair. It seems I am fated to look like the Stooge, Larry Fine.   

Where do you find your refreshment? Is it in a cool drink on a sultry day? Is it standing by a fireplace in winter? Such actions reinvigorate us. This result is what refreshment accomplishes. The sinner can find refreshment in obedience. In his second recorded sermon, Peter says: 

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3.19 NASB1995).

This refreshing comes from being immersed in Christ (cf. Acts 22.16). I would encourage any who have not yet clothed themselves in Christ to allow their faith to lead to this total submission, in which one joins the Lord in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-5). No, it is not a work, nor is the power in the water. It is where we symbolically contact the blood of Christ and express a clear conscience before God (1 Peter 3.21). It is a necessity for salvation. 

Yet, there remains refreshment for the Christian as well. Paul speaks of his desire to meet with the brethren of Rome in Romans 15. He tells them to join him in prayer so his arrival will refresh him (Romans 15.32). That is an interesting word choice. In fact, this is the only time this word, συναναπαύομαι, appears in Scripture. The word means to rest along with, but here implies a spiritual refreshing.  

I like that idea of “resting with”, though, especially as it applies to Christian fellowship. We spend our weeks in the world and get beaten up by the forces of the adversary. How refreshing is it when we pause and rest with our brethren in worship and Bible study? I know I have gone to services feeling poorly, physically, only to find myself reinvigorated on my way back home. It has the same effect mentally and, most importantly, spiritually. Unfortunately, my recovery prevents me from joining the brethren currently. Still, you better believe that I eagerly await the day I can rejoin them even more than when I wished for a shower.  

It is sad when brethren find excuses to avoid refreshment since it is one of the blessings we receive in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1.3). Earthly diversions cannot reinvigorate the spirit as can God. Oh, it might bring temporary happiness, but the participant of earthly delights is left feeling empty, needing entertainment and diversion yet again. Services are not a chore when one comes seeking to worship God and rest beside their brethren.  

“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10.24-25 NASB1995) 

Don’t you want to find your refreshment? 

YOUR JUNK DRAWER

YOUR JUNK DRAWER

 

Sunday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Dale Wiley

 
I read recently that one of the fastest growing business is storage units, closely following the Dollar General Stores. People have more ‘stuff’ than places to put them.
 
In our house, we have storage units we like to call  ‘Junk Drawers’. If we have an unexpected visitor we’ll do a swipe of stuff into the nearest drawer to hide all remnants of our ‘clutter’. I recently performed an ‘uncluttering’ and found some interesting items I forgot still existed. 
 
Items included:
  • 10 old TV remote control batteries that I hoped would regenerate but found that it wasn’t meant to be. 
  • 62 ink pens, each representing one of our many banks in the area. 
  • A 5 year old receipt from Auto Zone on a lawn mower battery with a 24 month guarantee. 
  • Some eclipse glasses from our big one 3 years ago. We have to be ready for the next one.
  • A receipt from Jim Fuqua Appliance Repair dated 1987. Although we don’t have the washing machine and Jim has since retired, a lifetime guarantee was promised and I holding him to it.
  • And finally, a love letter from my fiancé from 1972. After 48 yrs of marriage, She was disappointed to find it was in the junk drawer, but is now happy to have it framed and hanging on our bedroom wall.
 
You know, it’s hard to throw away old stuff and our old ways.
Eph 4:21-24 says to get rid of the Old Self and to put on the New Self.
Col 3:9-10 says to lay aside the Old Self and put on the New Self.
 
It could be that the drawers represent our lives. What we put in the drawers or leave in the drawers is up to us. We have the freedom to fill our lives with ‘junk’ or rubbish or with whatever the world gives us, or we can make sure we put  ‘in the drawer’ The things of Christ. 
 
Paul, in his letter to the church of Ephesus, pointed out some things that may be in the drawers of our lives, that we need to make a conscious decision to avoid, to lay aside, and to clear out. Look to Eph 4:17-32. Especially clear out  deceit, falsehood, anger, unwholesome words, bitterness, wrath, slander, and malice. But what happens if we just clear out the junk and then put the drawers back into the cabinet, empty?  How long will that cabinet stay empty? 
 
A 17th Century philosopher wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in every person that can only be filled by the Creator and He is made known through Jesus Christ”. 
 
So, we just can’t leave the drawers of our lives empty…because something or someone or specifically the devil is always ready to creep in and fill it up again.  First Peter 5:8 reminds us to be vigilant against that adversary waiting to devour us..
 
Find the open, self-explanatory solutions to our ‘Junk Drawer’ dilemma in Col 3, 8-17.
 
  • Verse 8…To put them aside.
  • Verse 10..To put on the new self.
  • Verse 12..have a new heart.
  • Verse 13..To forgive.
  • Verse 15..Let the peace of Christ rule your heart.
  • And especially, “Beyond all things, Put on Love”. The perfect bond of unity, doing all things in the name of The Lord Jesus (Col. 3: 14-17). 
Comfort For The Hurting

Comfort For The Hurting

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

dalejanelle2021

Dale Pollard

 
Many emotions run through different individuals when faced with the loss of a loved one or dealing with intense pain. These emotions can present themselves as questions: 
  • Confusion: “Why did this happen?”
  • Sadness: “How will I go on?” 
  • Anger: “Who allowed this to happen?” 

Who can answer these questions? 

Who can provide comfort? 

Who can guide your heart through the heartbreaking moments in life? 

Is it not the Creator?

 Here’s a quick reminder to help give those who are dealing with loss and tragedy some perspective. 

Though “end” is a very human term,  

100 years from now I’ll be alive and so will you. 150, 200 years from now I’ll be alive and so will you. 

Since we are made in the image of God, that means… 

  1. When God breathed into you the breath of life He gave you a piece of Himself called the soul which will live forever…somewhere. 
  2. When God created you in a more intimate way unlike the beasts of the field and the birds of the air He gave you free choice. 
  3. He gave you the ability to reason.
  4. He gave you the ability to contact Him and be contacted by him. 

How sad and how tragic it would be to live your life with no hope. God offers wonderful and comforting news even at times where such news seems to be missing. 

God loves you more than anyone can. 

God loves you more than you can comprehend.  

Though many cry for and with you when you hurt, that love falls short of the one who expresses His love in a way that’s perfect and unfailing. 

You will and perhaps you currently experience feelings you can’t put into words, but God feels them and understands them. 

God can walk you through the hurts. Life doesn’t have to be impossibly tragic and void of purpose. 

God created the heart. He can heal yours. God created the mind. He can sort yours out. God made the soul. He can save yours. God created the body. He can give you rest. God created the eyes. He can wipe your tears away. God created the shoulder, but His are the only shoulders capable of bearing the weight of all those who lean on them. 

BLESSED BY THE BEST

BLESSED BY THE BEST

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

sunset and sweetie

Neal Pollard

Paul is writing about the second coming, trying to straighten out the misinformation of false teachers, whose message threatened to shake the faith of some newer Christians. He makes a transition after exposing their teaching and warning about the outcome for such men. There is a contrast in tone and message for these who embrace and follow the truth. As hopeless as the end will be for those who believe a lie and are condemned, there is great hope for the righteous believer. As we strive to be such today, we stand to benefit in the same way.

We have been chosen (2 Thes. 2:13). God intended from before time to bless those who believed in the truth. He loves those who go against the tide of popular opinion and embraces what He has to offer, and He sets us apart! We are special to Him. The word “chosen” here indicates “to choose or select for the purpose of showing special favor to or concern for” (Louw-Nida, 360).

We have been called (2 Thes. 2:14-15). This word means “choose for receipt of a special benefit or experience” (BDAG, 503). The benefit identified is “the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The way we “obtain” it is by the gospel and “the traditions” given by apostolic teaching. This word tradition simply means teaching handed down, but it means something binding and originating from God. The point is that God reserves His benefits and blessings for those who believe and obey His gospel! Read Ephesians 1 or 1 Peter 1 for a small sample of these!

We have been given consolation (2 Thes. 2:16). This is the idea of emboldening someone to believe or do something. When there is opposition and false teaching, we need encouraged to follow what’s right. What gives us encouragement and hope? God’s grace! To know that God gives us what we don’t deserve, but the very thing we need, will keep us going in the hardest times. It should lift our spirits to know that the worst we face in this life cannot keep us from the best God has to offer. 

We have been given comfort (2 Thes. 2:17). While the word entailed the “setting aside of grief,” Paul speaks of God’s unchanging nature and character. So He’s more than able to set aside whatever grief we feel. Yet, it’s more than removing a negative feeling. He encourages and establishes us so that we can accomplish His will, “every good word and work.” A few sentences later, he elaborates that this involves being strengthened and protected from the evil one (3:3). Seeing the havoc he can wreak, that’s practical comfort every faithful Christian needs!

Do you feel deflated, discouraged, defeated, and dismayed? Here’s a passage you can return to repeatedly! It will remind you of what you mean to God and how He proves it! It’s the substance that can help you weather the worst Satan throws at you this week! Will you remember how much you mean to Him, then show Him how much He means to you? 

But Grow In Grace And Knowledge…

But Grow In Grace And Knowledge…

GUEST WRITER: Charlie Smith

smith20web20column_2

“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

carl-pic

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

image

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

81121814_2462862270639428_5746232403106463744_n

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