Three Reasons To Work For Each Other

Three Reasons To Work For Each Other

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

In I Thessalonians 1.2-3, we’re motivated to work for each other for three reasons. First is our faith, which is a confidence that Jesus is coming back for us. It’s enough to make us go out of our way for each other. Our love for God is another motivator. We love God because he promised us a life with Jesus forever. Because he showed this kind of love, we show the same love to each other. Our hope is the last motivator listed in this section. A better word for this is anticipation. According to research led by Dr Andrew Huberman (neurobiologist and behavioral scientist at Stanford School of Medicine), anticipation is one of the strongest human emotions. This makes perfect sense, as our anticipation of Jesus’s return is why we live the Christian life. This is almost a word-for-word parallel to I Corinthians 13. 

I Thessalonians 1.4-6 reminds us that God loves us, so he chose us to be rescued. A few thousand years ago, God chose Israel to be his special people. When they were faithful to him, they enjoyed physical blessings and a relationship with him. God chose us to live with him forever. We’re his special people. Paul also points out that we can trust God to deliver on his promise. This will show up again later in the letter. God promised that we’ll live with him forever when his son comes back for us. Faith means confidence or trust. When we trust God to deliver on his promise, we’re demonstrating faith. 

This section also teaches that we can find happiness while we’re suffering. The anticipation we have of Jesus’s return is the only reason this statement is true. If this life is all there is, we’re the most miserable group of people in the world. What makes death, suffering, and anxiety worth the pain? How can we have any semblance of sanity when all the bad stuff happens? We keep going because he promised he’d come back for us, and because this life is short any way! 

Gary Pollard
The Local Preacher (Part 6)

The Local Preacher (Part 6)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

In Acts 20:24, Paul says, “…But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself…in order that I may finish my course.” 

What an incredible attitude. In verse 24 Paul stated the reason he was willing to face the dangers in Jerusalem. He was ready to surrender his life for the gospel. In his epistles Paul often stated his readiness to suffer, even to die for Christ. Paul had completely given his life to Christ. He was willing to die for what he believed. Are we? As ministers we should believe in the word of God so much that we are willing to give our lives for it. What are our lives to us? How much do they mean to us? Do we care so much about our lives that we are willing to preserve them over preserving the word? Those are a lot of questions, but there’s one simple fact that we must remember. A preacher that is not willing to give his life for the cause of Christ is not worthy to preach. 

God’s church, the Bride of Christ, deserves a man willing to lay down his life for the gospel. When Jesus came to Paul on the road to Damascus, He gave Paul his life’s mission. By the grace of God, Paul completed a lifelong service to Him. As ministers, there is not a better life to model ours after, besides Jesus, than the life of Paul. He was selfless to the very end. His body was a mere tool just for the cause of Christ. What does that take? A lifetime of studying and growing our relationship with the Lord. A man with a poor or lacking relationship with God does not belong in the pulpit. 

From the book of Acts we can pull many examples from Paul’s life and apply them to that of the modern day minister. The Bible is 1900 years old, but it is still a practical guide to today’s preachers. We have different challenges that may seem like new issues, but Paul proves over and over again that following Christ wholeheartedly is all we truly need to make it as successful ministers in the church today. Who does the church see in the pulpit? Who does the church need in the pulpit? These are often two very different things. The preacher can act one way in front of everyone, but who he is when he’s alone is what counts. Does he study and pray constantly? A minister should follow closely the example of Paul, and in doing so he will not fail. If every church had a preacher like Paul the church would be a strong and thriving group. 

Carl Pollard
What To Do When Things Seem To Be Falling Apart

What To Do When Things Seem To Be Falling Apart

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

The country seems to be falling apart. What can we do right now in our messed up culture? These are some observations from I & II Peter:

  1. Focus, first and foremost, on our reward (I Pt 1.3-5). 
  2. View hardship as a way to grow (1.6-9). 
  3. Appreciate our grace, since it gives us sustained innocence in God’s eyes (1.10-12). 
  4. When times get hard, put 100% of our hope in the second coming (1.13). 
  5. We won’t get caught up in our worldly culture, but double down on being moral like Jesus (1.14-20). 
  6. Put all of our confidence and hope in God (as opposed to people) (1.21). 
  7. Practice genuine love for our Christian family (1.22-23). 
  8. Keep the brevity of our lives in the forefront of our minds (1.24-25). 
  9. Get rid of negative character attributes (2.1). 
  10. Spend more time in Bible study (2.2-8). 
  11. Remember that we’re a sovereign nation as God’s people (2.9-10). 
  12. Set a good example, especially around worldly people (2.11-12). 
  13. Submit to all governing authorities, both because it’s what God wants and because it reflects the church well (2.13-17). 
  14. Go through difficulty with patience and grace (2.18-25). 
  15. Husbands and wives can cultivate and strengthen their marriages (3.1-7). 
  16. Make our church family our highest priority (3.8). 
  17. Be good to people who mistreat us (3.9-13). 
  18. Don’t stress about people who mistreat us because of our beliefs (3.14-22). 
  19. Resist the temptation to fall back on sinful habits when difficulty happens (4.1-6). 
  20. Remember that our lives are short (4.7). 
  21. Love our Christian family, take care of them, and be unified in our relationship with God (4.8-11). 
  22. Expect difficulty, and see it as suffering with Jesus (4.12-14). 
  23. Trust God with our lives when things get difficult (4.15-19). 
  24. Give our lives completely to God (5.6). 
  25. Give all of our anxieties to God (5.7). 
  26. Remember that Satan is our true enemy, and he wants us to mess up — don’t let him win (5.8-9). 
  27. Remember that even worst-case scenarios are short-lived (5.10). 
  28. Remember that apostles and prophets predicted that things would get rough toward the end (II Pt 3.1-4; cf II Thess 2.1-3; II Tim 3.1). 
  29. Remember that God is fully in charge of Earth’s destiny (3.5-8). 
  30. Remember that this Earth is temporary (3.10). 
  31. Remember that God expects us to live as if tomorrow’s the end (3.11-12). 
  32. Remember that we’re living for a new earth and sky (3.13, cf Rev 21.1-2; Is 65.17; Mt 19.28). 
  33. “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found without spot or imperfection, and at peace. And consider God’s patience to be salvation…” (3.14-15). 
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.

Good Out Of Tragedy

Good Out Of Tragedy

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Up the road in Ohio County, Kentucky, Beaver Dam native Ray Chapman grew up to be a great baseball player. He was so good, in fact, that he was able to play nine seasons as the Cleveland Indians shortstop. He was renowned at the time for his defense, bunt singles, batting average, and stolen bases, but he is remembered as the only Major League baseball player to be killed on the field in a game. When he played, the baseball could be scuffed and sullied with everything from dirt to licorice to tobacco juice. This not only made it harder to see, but more erratic out of the pitcher’s hand. On August 16, 1920, near twilight at Yankee Stadium in New York City, Yankee pitcher Carl May hit Chapman in the side of the head with a fastball. The errant throw caused fatal brain damage, and Chapman died the next morning. It shook the baseball world.

This tragedy brought both immediate and eventual change to the game. It was because of this incident that umpires began a practice that continues over a century later of replacing a baseball when it becomes scuffed and dirty. The “spit ball” pitch was banned, for similar reasons. While it would take a few decades, the implementation of the baseball helmet is traced back to Chapman’s untimely death. While it would have been better for Chapman, a newly wed and newly expectant father, to have avoided this devastating end, it has likely saved several lives. It’s impossible to know how many might have been harmed by dirty baseballs through the years, but one can find sports articles detailing the likes of Kirby Puckett, Sammy Sosa, Chris Dickerson, and others who may have been spared a worse result by having on the protective helmet.

It is so easy to view tragic circumstances in isolation, especially those that happen to us personally. In light of the many tragedies that can happen in life, I say this with fear and trepidation. But, Scripture has already made that point. Out of various, fiery trials, these can “result in praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7). James said to consider your various trails as a cause for all joy, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (Js. 1:2-3). James even says of the ultimate Old Testament sufferer, “We count those blessed who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (5:11). To make such an application of a man who endured such tragedy is startling! Why does he mention Job? So that we can learn, adjust, and overcome!

Make no mistake about it, we all prefer to avoid heartache, sorrow, and loss. But, when those things come to us, Scripture urges us to adopt a heavenly mindset. See the produce in the pain, the hope on the other side of the hurt. Sometimes, it may be that others witness our faith in the midst of our trial and it may help them in their own walk of faith (Phil. 1:14). Whatever the case, even our own greatest adversity can result in someone else’s advantage. That’s an unintended benefit of suffering.

2 Peter (Part 2)

2 Peter (Part 2)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of II Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Message is Credible

Family, you have to make sure you’re in a good place when it comes to your relationship with Jesus. If you’re practicing all those qualities we just talked about, you’ll be ok. You’ll make it to eternal life. You know this stuff already, but it’s always a good idea to remind you. You’re already in a good place, but as long as I’m alive, I’ll keep reminding you. I’m going to die soon. Jesus made that clear to me. Because of this, I want to make sure you’ll remember everything I taught you. What we taught you originally is still valid. Jesus is powerful and he’s coming back to us. We weren’t duped into believing an intricate lie. We were firsthand witnesses to his superior nature! One time, the ultimate power – God – validated this by saying, “This is my son. I love him and I think very highly of him.” He said that right in front of us while we were with Jesus on a mountain. His voice came from the sky. This made us confident that we have the right message. Since we’re confident in this message, you should be, too! Focus on what we’ve told you like you’d focus on a light source in a dark room. Hang onto this until the end, when everything will be light and darkness won’t exist. It’s very important that you understand something: we don’t get to decide what a prophecy means. No human has ever produced a legitimate prophecy. Those came from men who were influenced by God’s spirit. 

1 Peter–Part IX

1 Peter–Part IX

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Everything’s about to come to an end. You have to be reasonable and self-controlled for the sake of your prayers. Most importantly, don’t ever lose your love for each other. Love hides all kinds of mistakes. Take care of each other without complaining. Use your assets to help each other, since God helps us in so many ways. If your talent is speaking, speak as if you’re talking for God. If helping others is your talent, do it with limitless energy. This way every aspect of our lives gives credit to God by our dedication to Jesus. He gets all recognition and authority forever! 

Family, don’t let these hard times shock you. Don’t feel like you’ve been targeted. You are suffering like Jesus did, so let that keep your spirits up! When he comes back, we’re going to be indescribably happy! If people insult you because you love Jesus, you’re lucky! The full weight of God’s spirit and power is with you. Just make sure none of you suffer because of something you’ve done wrong, like murder, stealing, practicing morally bad things, or sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. If you suffer because of your faith, though, don’t feel bad! Instead, give all the credit to God. 

We’re about to be judged by God. Since we’re going to be judged first, how do you think it’s going to be for people who rejected God? It’s hard enough for a morally good person to be saved, so what’s going to happen to morally bad people who don’t follow God? Since we’re about to suffer, we have to trust God with our lives. He’s going to take care of us if we’re doing the right thing! 

Since we’re about to face difficulties, it’s very important that your elders lead you carefully. I’m an elder, too, and also look forward to sharing in the recognition we have coming to us. Elders, don’t lead people because you feel like you have to. Do it because it’s what God wants! Don’t lead because you want to get something financially out of it. Don’t abuse your power, but lead by example. When the ultimate leader shows up, your reward will be indestructible! 

Bodmer Papyrus of Peter’s epistles
1 Peter–Part VI

1 Peter–Part VI

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.

I Peter – Part VI

We’re independent of any human government, but don’t use that as an excuse to disobey your governments. You have to see every person as valuable. You have to love each other. You have to obey your government. Employees must listen to their employers. Be respectful to them, even when they aren’t good to you. We don’t do this for them, we do it for God. He thinks very highly of us when – because we love him – we act like we should, even when we’re being mistreated. You don’t get credit for putting up with mistreatment if you bring it on yourself with bad behavior. If you’re mistreated because you’re trying to do the right thing, though, it makes God happy. 

This is why God called us in the first place! Jesus suffered to benefit us. He intended for that to be the example we could follow. He never did anything wrong, he never said anything wrong, he didn’t fire back at people who said hurtful things. He never threatened anyone who put him through suffering. He constantly trusted God, knowing that God judges perfectly. He voluntarily took the punishment for our sin when he physically suffered on the cross. He did that to give us the chance to kill our old lifestyles and live morally pure lives. His injuries healed us. We had no direction, aimlessly wondering around like a sheep. Now we follow the one who leads us and protects us. 

Will You Serve God For Nothing?

Will You Serve God For Nothing?

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Dave Eubank

Recently at the suggestion of some teachers and podcasts I listen to, I took some time and in one setting read through whole books in the Bible. If you haven’t done this I would highly recommend it. Just read through the book not looking for anything or zeroing in on any specific point; just read through the book and let it teach you its main themes and allow it to speak for itself. One of the books I recently read through and want to briefly discuss is the book of JOB. We are very familiar with this book and story and can learn a lot of things from it including sufferings, patience, steadfastness, God’s perspectives, and others. However, I would like to share with you what really stood out and stayed with me as I read through the 42 chapters of this book. Job 1:8-9 says,

Then the Lord said to Satan “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” So, Satan answered the LORD and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?

Right there is the true question: “Will you fear and serve God for nothing.” It is not only a question that Satan asks the Lord referring to Job, but it is also for us today. Satan was assuming that Job would have a transactional relationship with God, that as long as he was doing what was righteous that Job would assume that he has earned his blessings or somehow God is obligated to bless him. Do we fall into this mindset that Satan is stating her is verse 9? Is it easy to fear and serve God while things are going good in our life or for fear of punishment? Do we have this transactional relationship that says I have done all these righteous X’s so I deserve these Y’s (blessings)? Would we serve God if everything (wealth, family, health) in an extremely short period of time was taken from us and we were in the situation Job found himself in? Satan is saying that taking comforts of this life away will push even the strongest to curse God to his face. Satan states this in Ch 1:11 and notice that as early as 2:9 Job’s wife actually uses the same language when she tells Job, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Sometimes bad things happen because we make bad decisions and we must deal with those consequences. However, Job shows us that sometimes bad things happen outside of our decisions and we do not know all like our Creator GOD. God lays this out in his answer to Job out of the whirlwind in Chapters 38-42 basically stating that, “I created everything and have it all under My control, I AM GOD, even when you don’t realize it and so you must trust Me no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.” In chapter 42 we read exactly what Job did in response to God’s challenge to Job. Now as he repents and fears God he is in dust and ashes. This is the definition of serving God for nothing. Every worldly comfort had been taken from him and he had nothing, not even physical health, and nothing as of yet had been restored to him. But he through great tribulation feared God for nothing except he is God the creator and sustainer of everything.

We do need to serve God just because he is God and the creator of all things but the good news is we don’t serve him for nothing. Read Job 19:25: For I know that my Redeemer lives, and he shall stand at last on the earth; Just as we read Job and see his longing for a mediator between him and God, we now have that through Jesus. God gives us eternal life that can be found in Christ our mediator, not because we deserve it like a transactional agreement but because He is a benevolent, gracious and loving God.

Remembering

Remembering

https://www.wetrainpreachers.com/extension-news/2022/3/1/breaking-news-from-ukraine

Remembering:

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

My first foreign mission trip was to eastern Ukraine in the Spring of 2002. I returned in 2003, and each time we flew in and out of Kharkiv (which is under siege as I type). We worked with the Bear Valley Bible Institute’s first foreign extension school, but also worked with brethren in the village of Slavyanogorsk.

I took this picture of Slavyanogorsk from the monastery overlook.

We held Bible studies and taught English using the book of Mark and enjoyed success especially with young people and young adults. The influence of the Russian Orthodox Church was strong among the locals, but there was a congregation of about 30 there.

Russian Orthodox monk at the monastery in Slavyanogorsk.
Having fellowship with the brethren at Slavyanogorsk. The local preacher at the time, Victor Semikoz, is barely in view (right). Terry Harmon, at the time the director of the Bear Valley extension, is wearing the tie.

On my second trip, Kathy was able to go with me along with several other members of the Cold Harbor Road congregation in Mechanicsville, Virginia, where I preached at the time.

Members of the Cold Harbor and Pikeville, KY, congregations at the Kharkiv airport. Do you see Kathy?

The memories we made together and with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine have left a lasting impression on my mind and my faith. Though I had always known that the church existed in places outside the United States, this was my first tangible experience with them. While we were separated by language and cultural barriers, we were drawn together by our common faith and hope. These first few trips increased my desire to teach and evangelize not only those in other nations, but also motivated me to try harder to do so locally. Those travels to Ukraine were extremely faith-building.

Right now, those brethren are displaced, distressed, and disturbed by the Russian invasion well underway. Their relatively modest houses and apartments have been at the center of fighting between Ukrainians and Russian separatists, with many of the cities in that region controlled by those separatists. They are in the crosshairs of danger, facing an uncertain future.

As I read the New Testament, inspired writers addressed congregations and asked them to care about, pray for, and provide the needs of brethren who faced various crises. There were the poor and needy saints of Jerusalem, whom Paul tells Rome that Macedonia and Achaia had financially supported (Rom. 15:26; cf. 1 Cor. 16:1). The writer of Hebrews told his audience, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (13:3). He praised them earlier in the letter for showing sympathy to the prisoners (10:34). We never know when similar circumstances might befall us. As Paul told Thessalonica, “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost” (1 Th. 2:14-16). While their suffering was primarily spiritual persecution, Paul urged empathy and endurance.

What can we do for our brethren who are at ground zero of this awful conflict? We can better inform ourselves of the specifics there (https://christianchronicle.org/ukraineexplainer/). We can pray, congregationally and individually (daily!). We can listen for opportunities to assist our brethren. Heaven will be filled with saints from every nation (Rev. 7:9). These brethren are part of our “household”; let us stand ready to do good for them (Gal. 6:10). Remember them as they suffer!

Having tea in our sister, Luba’s, apartment on a rain-soaked evening in Slavyanogorsk.