A GLIMPSE OF HOW JESUS DID MINISTRY (Luke 5:12-26)

A GLIMPSE OF HOW JESUS DID MINISTRY (Luke 5:12-26)

NOTE: Brent had surgery today to have a tracheotomy put in place. He’s still very critical and today marks one month in the Trauma ICU at Erlanger’s Hospital in Chattanooga, TN. People from all over have been praying. Thank you! Please continue in prayer for him. I’m filling in for Carl today, who is filling in for Brent tomorrow. Here’s today’s “Preachers Pollard” blog post…

Thursday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

Neal Pollard

I taught the course, The Preacher And His Work, at the Bear Valley Bible Institute for about a decade. At one point during those years, I reworked the curriculum and my approach was that God had one son, and He was a preacher (a famous quote from a 19th-Century Spurgeon sermon). Every one of us who serve formally as gospel preachers have the perfect model of a preacher in Jesus. But, thinking more broadly about the service (ministry) we have as Christians, He serves as an example for all of us. In this paragraph, we have the perfect microcosm of Jesus’ overall approach to service that can help us as we try to serve Him every day.

JESUS SERVED WITH HUMBLE WILLINGNESS (12-15). Jesus has just picked a small group of men to mentor (1-11), and what better way to start their training than by showing them how to respond to those in need? Of course, Jesus’ mission was broader than theirs or ours. He was proving Himself to be the Son of God by “miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through” Him (Acts 2:22). But the “how” of His approach is worthy of our imitation. A man in deplorable condition begs for His help, if He is willing, and Jesus says, “I am willing” (13). Then, He helps Him. But, Jesus is not wanting fame or acknowledgement. He even asks the healed leper not to tell anyone except the priest as he went and obeyed God’s commandment by making an offering for the cleansing according to the Law of Moses (14). Despite Jesus’ desire that this remain a secret, news inevitably spread! Jesus shows us a heart willing to help, but not wanting the credit. What an example! 

JESUS SUPPLEMENTED HIS SERVICE WITH SOLITUDE AND PRAYER (16). This is a remarkable, almost parenthetical statement. Between the leper and the paralytic, as well as others whose stories aren’t specifically shared by Luke, Jesus needed to “often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (16). This phrase is pregnant with meaning. He would go “often,” not occasionally. The perfect Son of God often needed the spiritual recharge He got from communion with God. How much more is that true of us? The word translated “slip away” conveys the idea of retreat or withdrawal, and implies going to a place and spending some time there (BDAG 1043). I wonder how someone doing such prolific and prominent work could manage to slip away, but it must have meant so much to Jesus that He insured that it happened. The more actively I serve Jesus, the more crucial time spent alone with God becomes! I do not want to be so focused on spiritual service that I neglect my own spiritual strength! 

JESUS STRENGTHENED HIS MESSAGE WITH SERVICE (17-26). The bulk of this parable is devoted to the healing of the paralytic, who is aided by the service of his friends. We’re familiar with this story, as friends filled with faith, lower the paralyzed man through a roof for Jesus to heal him. We may forget that the occasion that drew such a crowd was Jesus’ teaching people who had come from near and far, including teachers of the law. The service-opportunity, Jesus being asked to heal the paralytic, was in the middle of the teaching opportunity. Jesus amplified the power and truth of His message by His humble willingness to help. Jesus proves the authority of His work and message, as well as His power to forgive, by healing him. 

Notice how the people reacted (26). They were struck with astonishment. They glorified God. They were filled with fear. They left that day with an unforgettable impression. We understand that Jesus’ mission was unique. His purpose was greater than ours, proving Himself to be God in the flesh, endowed with miraculous powers, and doing all of it with perfect sinlessness. But, His mentality and His ethic is completely reproducible. God needs you and me actively serving Him before a lost and dying world. We have the power to help everyone with their greatest need, but we can support the message just as Jesus did. We can prove God’s love by our willing service. Let’s all do ministry like Jesus did, and we will impact the world just as He did.  

Have you watched “The Chosen”? Very touching series!

ACHIEVING UNITY THROUGH HUMILITY

ACHIEVING UNITY THROUGH HUMILITY

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The late gospel preacher, George Bailey, was known for saying, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.” Truly, there is a little “i” in Christ! Paul exemplifies the way a servant of Christ and steward of the gospel (1 Cor. 4:1) behaves. How can we humbly serve Christ and, through such, contribute to unity in His body? Let’s examine 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:13 for some important keys.

Do Not Deceive Yourself (3:18-23)

Paul draws on his contrast between wisdom and foolishness back at the beginning of the letter. The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God (3:19). Why does Paul say that here? In part, it’s to drive home the point that they should not boast in men (like himself, Apollos, and Peter). But it is also to remind them that their glory and worth are tied to their being in Christ and belonging to Him. We wrestle so much with pride in our earthly accomplishments and attributes, but none of those things, of themselves, get us into heaven or bring about unity. Paul drives the point home by quoting from Job and Psalms. Worldly wisdom is a dead-end street. 

Be A Faithful Steward Of The Mysteries Of God (4:1-2)

Instead of being spiritual heroes to be idolized, Paul says that he and other church leaders were servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (1). The mysteries of God is the testimony of God (2:1), God’s once-hidden mystery (2:7) now revealed in the preaching of the gospel (see Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1ff). Paul wanted to be seen as a trustworthy steward (manager) of that unparalleled message (cf. 3:11-15). Here’s the point. Paul knew he had only so much time, energy, and other resources to spend on accomplishing his purpose, and he wanted to be the most effective worker for Jesus that he could be. If that’s how we see ourselves, our purpose and work, it will keep us from focusing on who we are and what we have done. 

Remember Who Is Examining Your Work (4:3-5)

The previous point is made more powerful by the fact that not only should we not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but we need to remember God is examining us. Ignore the idle critic or the armchair quarterback. Don’t spend a lot of time polishing your trophies and reading your “press clippings.” “Wait until the Lord comes” (4:5) and let Him acknowledge you and reward you. He will reveal all the secrets and He will disclose men’s motives. In other words, do the right things for the right reason and you will be richly rewarded by Christ in the end. God will praise you at The Judgment. 

Follow Good Examples Of Humility (4:6-13)

Paul and Apollos did not view each other as rivals, measuring who was more successful, more loved, or more influential among the Corinthians. He urges them to look at their example, and let God’s Word be the measuring stick of success and failure. The end result would be preventing arrogance and rivalry. These servants of Christ had been doing their service to Him at great personal cost–they were a spectacle to the world (4:9), fools  for Christ’s sake (4:10), weak (4:10), without honor (4:10), physically deprived (4:11), reviled, persecuted, and slandered (4:12-13), and, in summary, “we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now” (4:13b). Doesn’t sound like a condition to brag about, does it? Paul is not trying to portray himself as some spiritual superhero. Neither is he whining or complaining. He is trying to get the Corinthians to understand what matters. It’s not about jockeying for the top spot in the kingdom. It’s about being a faithful steward of the gospel and servant of the Christ. Focus so hard on that goal that you can ignore the praise and the persecution, and let Jesus exalt you at the end. A mindset like that kills division and disunity. 

 
Lehman members, led by our young people, putting songbooks and Bibles back in the pews last week.

“Self”

“Self”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Think about what “self” does to some wonderful concepts:

  • Righteousness (“To cause someone to be in a proper or right relation with someone else,” Louw-Nida 451). Jesus despised self-righteousness, “And He also told (a) parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). We should be eager for God to declare us righteous, but slow to do so for ourselves. 
  • Service (“functioning in the interest of a larger public, rendering of specific assistance,” BDAG 230). Jesus proved that service centers around ministering to and helping others (John 13:12-17). Notice the tack which reveals one to be spiritually mature. “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1). 
  • Interest. While the word isn’t found in the New Testament, the idea is there and so translators include it in passages like Mark 8:33, 1 Corinthians 7:34, and Phllippians 2:4,21. Each of these passages urge us to focus on others rather than self. Meanwhile, Scripture warns against selfish ambition (Rom. 2:8; Phil. 1:17; 2:3; Jas. 3:14,16). 
  • Love. There’s a specific word for love in the New Testament that we’re encouraged to demonstrate, toward God (Mat. 10:37; 1 Cor. 16:22) and fellow Christians (Ti. 3:15). But, Paul warns about how dire the world becomes when men become lovers of self (2 Tim. 3:2).
  • Justification (“to take up a legal cause; to render a favorable verdict,” BDAG 249). Scripture often uses this word to speak of God doing this for us through Christ (Luke 18:14; Ac. 13:39; Rom. 2:13). But, it is an ugly thing when we manipulate and distort facts and truth to justify self (Luke 10:29; 16:15). 
  • Will. We are all equipped with a free will, with which we should serve the will of God (John 7:17). Yet, Scripture exposes as wicked those who are “self-willed” (2 Pet. 2:10). Paul warns against appointing a man an elder who is “self-willed” (Ti. 1:7). Such is arrogance. It comes from one who thinks he or she is better than anyone else, looking down on others (Louw-Nida 763).

But for all of these ways “self” can get in the way of God’s plans and desires, self is not always a qualifier of destructive behavior. Notice what else Scripture says. There is “self”:

  • Denial. It is indispensable to spiritual discipleship (Luke 9:23). 
  • Sacrifice. It is integral to spiritual transformation (Rom. 12:1). 
  • Discipline. It is imperative to spiritual survival and eternal reward (1 Cor. 9:27). 
  • Control. It is included in spiritual fruit-bearing (Gal. 5:23). 

Further investigation into God’s Word would no doubt reveal more examples like these, but here is the point. Our old self is to be crucified with Him (Rom. 6:6). It is to be laid aside (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9). When this truly occurs within us, we will not place self above God and others. We will devote ourselves to the kind of lives that reach the lost, strengthen the saved, glorify God, and ultimate save ourselves (Acts 2:40).

Word Study: “Meekness”

Word Study: “Meekness”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

If a person is described as being meek, we often picture a kind but timid, submissive, hand-wringing, non-confrontational, or powerless individual. Our idea of meekness doesn’t really work well with the biblical idea. Here are a few ways πραΰς (prah-oos) is used.

  1. Not thinking too highly of self (Matthew 5.5; II Timothy 2.25; James 1.21) is one way to understand meekness. It doesn’t mean we undervalue or demean ourselves, but it does mean we keep our egos in check. In James 1.21, meekness means we have the good sense not to fight what God says and allow his Word to be part of us.

  2. Meekness is also used to describe Jesus (Matthew 11.29; II Corinthians 10.1). If meekness is the absence of power, we have a problem. In contrast to a Pharisaical attitude, Jesus is gentle (πραΰς). Instead of summoning an angelic army to punish those who were about to kill him, Jesus allowed everything to happen (II Cor. 10.1).

  3. Meekness is an attitude we must have when we face the unpleasant task of correcting a member. In Galatians 6.1, correcting is described as “fixing/mending” and must be done with a gentle disposition.

The word is used in several other passages, but we should understand it to mean “gentle” or “humble” or “lenient” (context is important). Meekness is when we value others above ourselves. A meek person is not necessarily a powerless person, but is one who doesn’t misuse the power they have.

Breaking The All-Time Assist Record

Breaking The All-Time Assist Record

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The FIBA basketball glossary defines an assist as a pass to a teammate that directly leads to a score by a field goal (a basket scored on any shot). When I was in High School and college, Duke University had a guard named Bobby Hurley who would break the all-time NCAA record for assists with 1076 in 140 games (sports-reference.com). That means an average of almost eight times per game, he gave up the ball to a teammate whose three-point shots, slam dunks, or other baskets made the crowds stand up and cheer. While knowledgeable enthusiasts of the game appreciate the importance of the “assist man,” the average fan may miss the vital contribution of the one making that assist. But the very concept suggests unselfishness and one with a team mentality. For them, satisfaction and enjoyment comes in a well-timed, well-placed contribution that allows others to get recognition and praise.

Scripture places a great premium on the person who assists others. Our first thought may be financially. Paul tells the Ephesian elders that he had taken care of his own financial needs (and of those with him) while doing missionary work, recalling words of Jesus not recorded in the gospels that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In the matter of “giving and receiving” (Phil. 4:15), Paul encouraged a mindset that applied to more than just monetary things. It was not a mind which sought “after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (2:21). It was a “humility of mind” that could “regard one another as more important than” themselves, that could “look out” not merely for their “own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:3-4). It is the Christ-like heart that chooses to “please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-3); cf. 1 Cor. 10:24,33). Oh, to say with Paul, “So then we pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another” (Rom. 14:19).

Would you like to be the assist-leader in your home, in your congregation, and in your community? Look for ways to put others in the spotlight for their efforts and kindness. That may mean reorienting how you see life, looking to give glory and not needing to have it. What a righteous revolution would occur when our focus would be on how to make others look good, helping others to be appreciated and recognized, and setting others up for praise and admiration. It will in no way hinder us from receiving the highest accolade of all, given by the most important witness–the One who sees all with perfect perspective (Ecc. 12:14). A “well done” from Him has eternal implications (Mat. 25:21,23). What more do we need than that?!

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3 (Part Two)

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3 (Part Two)

 

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
1 Peter 3.8ff is a passage with tons of application. What I’d like to do is simply break it down and apply as we go.
 
3.8 –   Is addressed to every Christian, as opposed to the gender-specific commands of the previous section. Christians are told to have a unified mindset, understanding of the needs of others, affection for each other, compassion for each other, and a sober view of self.
 
3.9 – In the context of being ridiculed or outright persecuted for faith, we’re commanded not to stoop to a hostile person’s level. Instead, we are only to say good things to and about them. The word for “bless” here would be like us giving a glowing review of someone, even when they’re hostile to us. Why? Because God promised us a glowing review, even though our lifestyle was hostile to Him before we were faithful.
 
3.10-12 – If we want to have good days, we have to control our tongues, reject evil, and actively do beneficial things for others. If we do, God looks at us with approval. If not, He is against us.
 
3.13 – If we pursue doing good things with energy, no one can say anything against us. Who can assault the character of someone passionate about bringing good into others’ lives?
 
3.14But even if they do is a contrast not as plainly seen in English. This verse starts with a powerful contrastive (αλλα) that points to how we should act in the face of totally unwarranted hostility. Even if our pursuit of good gets us in trouble, we can still be happy! Even in this life we cannot lose. We cannot let fear dictate our behavior, and we cannot let anyone’s intimidation cause us to react with hostility.
 
3.15 – Instead, we should make the most special place in our heart God’s place. We don’t serve fear, we serve God. If someone shows hostility to us when we’re doing good, we have to be ready to give a rational explanation for our hope with an attitude that proves our supernatural allegiance. Our fear of God must be greater than our fear of man.
 
We do this because our goal is to bring others to God! It’s hard, but we can only do it when we remove self from the equation. People tend to attack what they do not understand. By using reason and by restraining our emotional response, we can help save their souls. We were all hostile to God at one point, but we now have mercy. Being controlled and rational while under “attack” is not a normal human response. Our response can mean the difference in someone’s eternal destination!
“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
We’re going through I Peter in the college class at Lehman Avenue and we most recently studied part of chapter three. This chapter further discusses the theme of submission (giving up our power willingly to another) frequently appearing throughout the book. Christians are essentially told, “It’s not about me,” that we should get rid of certain behaviors, and an explanation for why we give up certain behaviors or power is given.
 
For example, we should get rid of hatred, taking advantage of others, hypocrisy, jealousy, and character assassination (2.1), because we know that God has shown us mercy (2.9, 10). That’s hard. We should listen to our government, even when we disagree with them (as long as it doesn’t violate God’s word), because God uses them to maintain some semblance of law and order (2.13-17). That’s hard. We should be good employees, even when our bosses aren’t fair, because Christ suffered, too, and God looks at us favorably when we suffer for doing the right thing (2.18ff). That’s hard.
 
In the same way – that is, keeping with the theme of surrendering our own power and doing something difficult for the sake of goodness – Peter addresses women and men specifically in chapter three.
 
This is an interesting study because it sheds light on a controversial topic: wives being submissive to their husbands. Let’s look at the text:
 
  • Γυναίκες (wives/women): Submit to ιδιοις (your own) husbands. Not all men, just husbands. Peter is not saying that women are inferior and should submit for that reason.
  • Ινα (in order that): For the purpose of cultivating godliness and influencing a fallen husband. It’s not for the purpose of manifesting inferiority, but to influence a lost husband! This involves a difficult task – as in 2.18 – which demonstrates the power of the word.
  • Δια (through/by): γυναικών αναστροφής (womanly or “wifely” conduct). Through her submission to her husband and through an emphasis on timeless inner beauty, she can save his soul. “Men and women have different ways of expressing godliness. Peter is showing how women can powerfully influence their husbands, which is by submitting to them” (Edwin Jones).
 
This sensitive topic is nonetheless a powerful one. Wives are not told to submit because it’s “just what women should do,” or because of a belief that women are somehow inferior, but are told to submit because it can save souls. Men are told to assign value to their wives and to be respectful and considerate with them if they want to be right with God (3.7), followed by a general set of commands for all Christians to act a certain way for the sake of godliness (3.8ff).
 
We submit and suffer as Christians to save souls and to remember that, “It’s not about me.”
(Gary teaching 1 Peter in the college class at Lehman Avenue)
Narcissus and Echo 

Narcissus and Echo 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Greek mythology is fascinating. So much so, in fact, that the Romans co-opted it as their own. As such, the Roman poet, Ovid, tells us the story of Narcissus and Echo within Metamorphoses. You likely recognize Narcissus’ name because of the mental disorder named for him. Narcissism. You may not have known that the phenomenon called an “echo” also derives its name from a mythic figure. Echo was a beautiful, but talkative, forest nymph. She cut off the goddess Juno so much during conversations that the peeved goddess cursed her with the capacity only to repeat the last words spoken by others. 

Without delving too deeply into the mythology, suffice it to say Echo fell in love with the picky Narcissus, whose standard for a consort was so high that none could meet his expectations, including poor Echo. Already cursed, Echo was not able to convey her feelings to Narcissus. On one fateful day, however, Narcissus had sensed Echo’s presence and called out, “Is anyone there?” After she replied in the same, he said, “Come here!” Echo ran to Narcissus as she repeated his command. Echo’s actions repulsed Narcissus. He told her he would sooner die than allow her to enjoy his company. Echo was humiliated and ran away. Yet, she continued to love Narcissus. The vengeful goddess, Nemesis, saw Narcissus’ actions. She cursed him by making him fall deeply in love with his reflection. 

There was no redemption for Narcissus and Echo. Narcissus lingered by the pool of water, looking longingly at his reflection. Echo persisted in her love for Narcissus. As the years passed, Echo’s beauty faded, and her body wasted away, leaving only her voice. Narcissus committed suicide, realizing his impossible love would remain unrequited. A flower bloomed where he killed himself. Yes, the narcissus.  

It is easy to use Narcissus as an object lesson for us, spiritually.  Both James and Peter quote Proverbs 3.34 from the Septuagint to remind us that God resists the proud (James 4.6; 1 Peter 5.5). A haughty look is something we know God hates (Proverbs 6.17). Our Lord went about doing good (Acts 10.38). Since He is our example (1 Peter 2.21), Paul tells us: “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2.4 NASB) 

But what lessons do we derive from Echo? Her tongue is what initially got her into trouble. Just because the tongue is an unruly member, per James 3, doesn’t mean that we should not seek to control it. There is the talk we must avoid (Ephesians 4.29; 5.4; Philippians 2.14). Besides this prohibited speech, there remains gossip and lying, which both Testaments condemn (Exodus 20.16; Psalm 15.1-3; Proverbs 6.19; 2 Corinthians 12.20; 1 Timothy 5.11-13; Titus 2.3). 

Echo also squandered a precious commodity in her quixotic pursuit of Narcissus, time. We are supposed to take advantage of the time given to us (Ephesians 5.15-17). There comes the point where even preaching the Gospel to the hard-hearted equivalent of a brick wall is like casting “what is holy to dogs” and throwing “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7.6). 

Lastly, Echo loved someone incapable of justifying the precious investment of her heart. The world is like Narcissus in that regard. John reminds us that the world with its lusts will one day pass away (1 John 2.15-17). Even so, how many have laid up treasure on the earth? (Matthew 6.19-21; Luke 12.33-34). We cannot pursue both God and mammon (“wealth” NASB— Matthew 6.24).  

May it be that as you search your heart that you find no kindred spirit with Narcissus and Echo. Focus outwardly upon others’ needs, be mindful of the precious commodity of time, and give your heart—and tongue—to the One Who will best use and appreciate it (cf. Matthew 22.36-38). 

 

Maybe Nobody’s Right?

Maybe Nobody’s Right?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Wasted potential is a terrible tragedy and this could not be more true when it comes to those who squander their potential in the church. Consider two common examples we find in many congregations today. There may be an older man who uses the respect, earned by his lengthy life experiences, as a platform to give strong opinions— disguised as gospel truth. Or, what about the young woman who has been labeled as a liberal? She has these new and fresh ideas, but many aren’t Divinely authorized in scripture.

Both of these individuals could not be any different, yet both have caused severe damage in their local church families. The older man clearly has a commanding presence. When he speaks, people will listen. What a gift! He could build up and strengthen the church in numerous ways— if he put his mind to it. He owns the power of persuasion, a talent others deeply desire. The young woman also has talent. She’s outspoken, energetic, and inspiring to many of her peers. She’s loving, gentle, and full of life. With so much to offer, how could she throw it all away by pushing her modern, but unbiblical views?

The elderly may argue that the problems we find in the church today are on account of young minds with liberal beliefs. The younger generation have become disenchanted with “church” because they believe it’s outdated, hypocritical, legalistic, and impossibly demanding. While there is truth to be found on both sides of the fence, it’s also true that talent is a tool that is often misused.

The elderly bring experience and wisdom. The young bring energy and enthusiasm— though I do acknowledge that these stereotypes may occasionally be seen in members of both groups. If there are thoughtless accusations, without thoughtful solutions, you end up with a congregation full of members fighting for the spoon which stirs the pot. A serious solution can only be scriptural. After all, God made people and He knows how to fix them.

Maybe we need to go back to those basic and foundational principles that we find in that thriving first century church. Despite adversity and an overwhelming hostile environment, they had Jesus’ power over the world (John 16:33). Since this is the case, may we never fool ourselves into believing the lie that the strange darkness of our time is too dark for The Light that is Christ. When this poison is digested, the devil smirks, and droves of people stumble into eternity unprepared all on account of a literal and tragically damning lie.

God has allowed us to discover hope, experience growth, and uncover a calming peace when simple Christianity is practiced. It’s this beautiful simplicity that makes God’s will a rewarding journey to seek and follow. The power of God can turn a struggling congregation into a thriving one, but there must be a radical transformation in the heart of each individual that makes up that Body. It’s radical, but it’s not complicated. It will take prayer, a reliance on God, courage to act, and a willful determination to follow Jesus wherever He goes (Luke 9:57-62).

So where do we begin? With a dedication to the understanding of Him, and those made in His image.

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When You Need To Let Go

When You Need To Let Go

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Today was a momentous and somber day for me: I am now bald. After removing my hat – a constant companion – I saw that the battle was lost and shaved my head. ‘Twas a truly humbling moment; I now understand what the greatest youth minister of all time – Brett Petrillo – felt when he, too, bid a final farewell to his hair. We never know what we have until it is but a wishful yearning for yesteryear.
Being a minister in a family of ministers, I must allegorize this milestone before the tombstone. I fought to keep something that was not only lost, but that should have been let go long before now. Instead of seeing the writing on the wall I thought, “Maybe I can keep it.” Or, “Maybe no one will notice.” Or, “Maybe I can make it seem like something it isn’t.”
We do this a lot in our spiritual lives, too. We might hold onto grudges, bad attitudes, sin problems, past hurts, pet peeves, or guilt. Holding onto these is hopeless and counterproductive.
Are we holding onto a grudge? Jesus said in Matthew 5.23, 24, that we shouldn’t even worship if we have something against a brother/sister or if they have something against us. Matthew six tells us that forgiving others is a condition of receiving forgiveness.
Are we nursing a bad attitude? Paul, writing to Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4, addressed their attitude problem bluntly. The first part of chapter two commands them to embody traits such as encouragement, consolation, affection, and compassion. He gives an example of the selflessness of Jesus – something driven by His attitude. He put others above Himself, even though He didn’t have to. In Philippians 2.12, Paul even states that attitude can determine where we will spend eternity! If we have a bad attitude, we need to shave it.
What about guilt? Perhaps nothing is so tragically difficult to let go of as guilt. Sometimes guilt is necessary to help us see our faults and seek forgiveness. Just as often, if not more so, guilt is a weight that holds us back from spiritual growth. We must understand, internalize, and have gratitude for the gift of grace. The whole purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice was to give us grace and access to God. I John makes it very clear that a forgiven Christian who continues to live his/her imperfect life in pursuit of God is perfect in His eyes. If guilt while under grace is present and weighing us down, we need to shave it. It is one of Satan’s most powerful weapons against the Christian. It will hamstring any effort we make to grow spiritually, as our minds focus more on our past than on our infinitely more important future.
Certainly more could be said on the subject but while we have some time on our hands, we might do a little introspection and see what we can let go of. It will be uncomfortable, it will be uncertain, and it will be worth the effort. Shaving what we needn’t hold onto will not only bring greater joy, it will also bring a healthier relationship with God and our Christian family.
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