Categories
Bible parables soul-winning truth Uncategorized

Mysterious Seeds

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

In recent weeks, packets of seeds have been mailed to apparently random homes across the country. Dozens of folks received the seeds, which have Chinese labels but have not been confirmed as originating from China. A few days ago, the USDA confirmed that the seeds were harmless but still cautioned recipients not to plant them. The seed packets included mint, sage, cabbage, roses, and other plants. One working theory is that this was part of a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from sellers who then post fake reviews (Joseph Wilkerson, msn.com, “Mysterious China seeds received by Americans identified by USDA”). But, given the current political climate, skepticism–and concern, suspicion, and even fear– abound!

One of the major projects Kathy has begun in our backyard is a “cottage garden.” You can research the origin and history of these gardens, which started in England perhaps as far back as the Medieval period. These gardens have a mix of flowers, herbs, and bushes, and the more elaborate of these gardens have trees, bees, and even livestock. Ours is simpler, with climbing roses on a trellis, boxwoods in the middle, herbs planted throughout, but included among the many packets of seeds planted was a mix called bee feed.  It has been fun to see a variety of mysterious seeds appear, like California poppies, Chinese forget me not, Coreopsis, and Sweet Alyssum. We’re not sure where the tall fringed bluebells came from, but it’s incredible to see such an eclectic mix growing and thriving and demonstrating Genesis 1:11 before our eyes. 

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches several parables involving seeds. In one, a man sows wheat seed in his field, then his enemy sows darnel, a weed resembling wheat. Only after they started growing could the two be differentiated. The landowner instructs his slaves to let them both grow up and separate them at harvest time (Mat. 13:24-30). This parable illustrates the lives of the righteous and unrighteous, whose destiny will be sorted out at the judgment (Jesus explains the parable in Mat. 13:36-43). It certainly can apply to true and false teachers (lawless stumbling blocks), who can seem similar but are also distinguishable to the discerning.

Jesus also teaches the parable of the mustard seed (Mat. 13:31-33), which shows God’s power to do great things through seemingly humble deeds attempted in true faith. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the parable of the sower, the soils, and the seed. Luke 8:11 identifies the seed as the Word of God. The soils represent the different conditions of heart, three of which are futile and one of which is fertile. The sower is the one who spreads the word to people. 

Then, there is the parable of the seed (Mark 4:26-29). A man casts seed on the soil, and then gets to behold the marvel of how it transforms from seed to sprout, the soil producing it from blade to head to mature grain in the head. Then, he harvests it. The power is not in the sower, who is not around (or, in the parable, awake) when the seed produces. The growth of the seed is a marvel even to the sower. Where is the power? In the seed!

There are certainly some malicious ideas and teaching out there in the world. Sometimes, even truth can be shared from improper motivation. But, God’s Word is a seed which can produce incredible things in a heart and life that is good and fruitful. Have you ever seen someone who seemed like a poor candidate to become a Christian, much less become a force for good in God’s Kingdom? How does that happen? We can talk about planters and waterers, but God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). You may not be an eloquent, sophisticated Bible teacher or soul-winner. You may feel you are unskilled.  But, when you share God’s Word with others, you will see the wonders of this mysterious process. It has been said that persuasion happens in the absence of the persuader, as the Word gets to work on a heart. The power is in the seed! Let’s be about planting it however, wherever, and to whomever we can, then witness the marvel of the seed producing in the recipients’ lives. It’s God’s plan! It works in mysterious ways! 

seeds

Categories
Bible Bible study

Study The Bible!

Thursday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

I doubt that many of us would question the importance of knowing our Bibles. We talk about this a lot as a church family! While some Christians may approach Bible study with the mentality of loading their theological guns with argument-ending ammunition, others consider it a duty of their Christianity.
Few of us would argue that the Bible is always simple and easy to understand. This life, our faith, and many questions we have about our day-to-day lives require answers far too complicated to get from a cursory study of scripture.
So why is it important to study our Bibles, and how can we do it effectively (that is, to walk away from Bible study with more knowledge and faith than when we entered it)? It is important to study the Bible because ignorance of what it says is a major underlying cause for any problem a church might face. Do we want unity? Study the Bible. Do we want peace among ourselves? Study the Bible. Do we want strong, faithful Christians? Study the Bible. Do we want godly attitudes? Study the Bible. Do we want wisdom to know when to practice righteous judgment and when to keep silent? Study the Bible! Effective Bible study – when practiced by the majority of a congregation – will effectively strengthen and grow that church. So how do we effectively study our Bibles?
First, have a purpose to your study. Winning an argument with a friend, coworker, acquaintance, or contact on social media is rarely a good reason to approach the word of God in study. It is too easy to allow our pride or ego to get in the way of honest truth-seeking. Instead, approach your study with purpose. Are you seeking to grow your faith in God? Study accordingly. Are you seeking to understand how to respond to something in your Christian walk? Study accordingly. Are you trying to cope with grief, tragedy, or frustration? Study the Psalms and the end of Job. Whenever you sit down to read, have a purpose.
Secondly, study like a scholar. There is a time and place for covering as much text as you can (like reading the Bible through in a year). However, this should not be our primary method of study. Spend time in a small section of scripture. Look for key words (words that repeat themselves in your section of study), ask questions of the text when something does not make sense, look for words like “therefore,” “but,” and phrases like, “I urge.” See how they fit into the context of your passage. Use multiple versions in your study to gain a better understanding of the “feel” of the passage. As much as you can, look to the original language for definitions or insights. If you have a smartphone, download an app called Logos Bible Software. It will give you access to tools that will help you understand the meaning of words in their original language, even if you cannot read Hebrew or Greek. Avoid commentaries if you can at all help it. They are often (though not always) platforms for the writer to voice an opinion and rarely explain the meaning of the text with accuracy.
Thirdly, study frequently. I recommend printing out the passage you are interested in studying and complete one printed section per day. This is arbitrary, of course, but will still help to create some consistency. Use colored pencils/pens/highlighters to make the text come alive and to aid in recognizing patterns.
Finally, share what you have found with your friends in the church! If you have a group of friends studying the same passage, find ways to share what you observed in the text in your daily bible reading. This not only creates accountability for reading daily, but will also grow your faith and knowledge when you understand that passage so very well!
If you take up Bible study like this, you will be amazed at how much closer you will grow to God and to your church family. If all of us approach study this seriously and with this much commitment, we will grow as a church family in unity, faith, knowledge, love, patience, grace, and wisdom.
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Categories
Bible

What Does The Bible Say?

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

Most people have very strong convictions, pro or con, about religious matters.  Many who claim to be religious form opinions and draw conclusions with very little if any biblical consultation.  How ironic is it to claim to follow God while ignoring and even rejecting His very revealed will?

Many religious people, church attenders and not, are guided by their feelings, desires, opinions, preferences, and consciences (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3; Prov. 14:12).  Perhaps they have a favorite preacher or other religious figure they implicitly trust.  Their religion may be submitted and subjugated to the message of the culture or even the media. It may be based on convenience and comfort.  Throughout time, man has attempted to serve God on his own terms and based on what he thinks is right.  Whether ignorantly or defiantly, he puts himself on a throne upon which only Jesus belongs (Mat. 28:18).

How long could religious error survive if potentially divided parties could lay aside personal interests and objectively study the sacred text?  So often, the religious world is divided because of man-made doctrines and traditions.  Instead of looking to the Bible to answer the important questions of time and eternity, men often come up with the answers they want and then go looking for Bible verses to support their predetermined views.  Consider that some of the most popular religious ideas—salvation by saying the sinner’s prayer, premillennialism, speaking in tongues, women worship leaders, once-saved, always-saved, and instrumental music—are not practiced or believed based upon their being taught in Scripture but instead their being the beliefs and views of mankind.  How thrilling it would be if we could unite every religious person in the desire to come to the text, the glasses of prejudice or sectarian beliefs removed, and let God tell us what to believe and how to live!  That is possible, but it begins with each of us humble, sincerely asking, “What does the Bible say?”

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Categories
Bible Bible study direction guidance

The World Is Desperate

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Generalizations are almost always wrong. For example, just because you’re from Colorado doesn’t mean you smoke weed, or just because you’re homeschooled doesn’t mean you’ve never seen a person before. Just because you live in Alabama doesn’t make you an Alabama fan. Just because many people fall into a category, doesn’t mean that every person is the same.

There is one generalization that is true: the world is desperate. Without Christ, many issues in life go unsolved. Family problems are harder to overcome, job issues get blown out of proportion, and questions go unsolved. Over the next few weeks I’d like to look at three major issues that the world has no answer for. But these three topics are easily explained through God’s Word.

Each one of us has had these thoughts before. Every single person ever born at some point will have these questions. So number one, the world is desperate for Guidance (Psa. 119:105). Ever been lost? It is amazing how easy it is to get turned around. I’m terrible with directions, and even with maps up on my phone, I still find a way to get lost.

The world feels the same way–they’re lost. They don’t have direction in life. They float around going from one thing to the next looking for guidance. As Christians, our guide is God’s Word. It gives us a map for life. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, has to do with guidance. Each section in this chapter covers different aspects of keeping God’s Word. In the first eight verses, the psalmist says things like, “blessed are those who walk in the Law of the Lord,” and “I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.” The rest of the chapter sticks with this pattern.

If you ever find yourself questioning why you follow scripture, study this chapter and you will find reason after reason. Looking at verse 105, it says this, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Are you anxious? Turn to God’s Word. Are you hurting? Turn to God’s Word. Are you afflicted? Turn to God’s Word (119:107). Has your family disowned you? Turn to God’s Word. Have your kids left the Church? Turn to God’s Word. Did you lose your job? Turn to God’s Word. See, the world doesn’t turn to scripture when it faces these problems, and they are left without a guide, without comfort, and without something to rely on. There’s a reason God inspired men to write the Bible, and that reason is so that flawed man can have a guide through life.

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As my dad and Wes Autrey demonstrated in Yellowstone Park, you also                    need to know how to use a roadmap to avoid getting lost.

 

Categories
Bible grace Uncategorized

The Bible Is Not Boring (“Grace”

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Another of the episodes Gary, Dale, Carl, and I recorded in Fort Payne, Alabama, recently. In this episode, we discuss an often misunderstood, misapplied, but absolutely vital Bible subject. This topic is anything but boring.

Click here for audio

Categories
Bible Bible study Uncategorized

the Bible is not boring (episode one)

Click above to hear a sample of our latest project. We’re working on a new program which will air on the Gospel Broadcasting Network (watch GBN here) in the future. The premise is just as the program title suggests: “the Bible is not boring!” It is exciting and fulfilling to drill down and study God’s Word. Each episode will follow the same format, a general topic which the four of us (Gary, Dale, Carl, and myself) will break down and discuss. Our aim is to help encourage Christians and open a door for those who may be searching for God’s truth out there. This first episode explores how to approach the Bible itself. We hope you enjoy!    –Neal

 

Categories
Bible Bible study canon faith inspiration

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard III

I believe that God exists. I believe that He communicated with His creation by direct contact, messengers, and a series of ancient texts. I believe that He wants His human creation to be with Him after they die. I believe that He expects those who claim to be His to act within the guidelines He set in those ancient texts. I believe that there is life after death and that where we go depends on whether or not we follow this God.

Why do I believe this, though? What reason do I have to believe in something I cannot experience with my senses? I was not there thousands of years ago when the prophets and Hebrews talked to God. I was not there when God came among men and taught. I was not there when the Spirit-inspired authors of the original texts delivered their writings to the early church. The ancient texts translated into English sometimes do not effectively communicate the emotion of the words and concepts in the original language. So why do I believe these things? Why do you believe these things?

Think about this carefully.  From Genesis to Revelation the message is clear; God wants His people to exist with Him after time is destroyed. This message was communicated to an impossible variety of people, sometimes separated by hundreds of years, thousands of miles, culture, kingdom, race, and language. There are tens of thousands of manuscripts of these ancient texts in many, many different languages. There are some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts or fragments that are separated by about a thousand years, at least 8 different languages, hundreds (if not thousands) of miles of geography, and many different cultures. Yet, they are at least 95% accurate to each other. The remaining 5% do not contain a single contradiction; rather, they are spelling errors, slips of the pen, writing on the wrong line, or minor variances (“God said” vs. “He said” or “and” vs. “but”).

Of the rich libraries we have of ancient literature, none can hold even the dimmest candle to the profound accuracy and unity of the scriptures. They could not have been produced by man alone. There had to be Someone not confined by time supervising each person as they wrote. Keep in mind, these ancient cultures did not have the advantage of modern communication. They were almost totally isolated from each other and would have known little of the others’ existence, much less what they experienced or wrote from God. Our Bible has supernatural origins and its contents reveal the nature of our Creator. What I believe comes from this book because I know it is God’s message to mankind. I encourage those who have not already done so to do an in-depth study of the origin of scripture. It is one of the most faith-building studies anyone could undertake. When you know with certainty that what you are reading contains the actual thoughts and desires of God, it bolsters your faith in ways I could not begin to adequately describe.

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Uncial 220 (fragment of Romans 4:23-5:3)
Categories
Bible exegesis interpretation Uncategorized

“Weaponizing” The Bible

Neal Pollard

While politicians have quoted the Bible as far back as the founding fathers, have you noticed the trend especially in the last 20 years or so to use Scripture to push a policy or score a point? Perhaps it’s to pander to a group or to reinforce one’s position. During the historic impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, the Bible was “weaponized” by both sides of the aisle in embarrassing, repulsive ways. One side compared the impeachment trial of the President to Jesus before Pilate, producing a tasteless, horrific analogy. The other side ripped Romans 1:25 from context to admonish the President’s supporters as worshipping the “creature” more than the “Creator”–I wonder if this extremely liberal politician bothered to read the very next few verses? The God of heaven must be filled with righteous wrath over such misuses of His Word!

Unbelievers have long tried to weaponize the Bible against those who believe God’s Word is inspired. A favorite “go to” is Matthew 7:1 (“judge not that you be not judged”) as a shield for any number of immoral deeds which Scripture itself condemns. This is often an effort to turn what people claim to follow (the Bible) against them to defend their actions. John 8:7 (“let him that is without sin cast the first stone”) is a close second and used similarly 

Yet, each of us needs to be careful not to remove a Bible verse from its context to make it say what it is not saying. Peter warned that “the untaught and unstable distort” the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). Often, it’s a general ideas like “God wants me to be happy” or misuses of Scripture like “where two or three are gathered together in my name” to have it say what it does not mean.  Perhaps we defend our actions with our physical or Christian family by appealing to wonderful Bible concepts like grace, love, and freedom, but in effect weaponize them to suit our lifestyle choices. Scripture itself says these concepts can be misappropriated (Jude 4, 1 Cor. 13:4-7, Gal. 5:13, etc.). 

Scripture is a powerful weapon which God intends for us to use in spiritual warfare (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:14-17). But, as with every weapon, it must be handled properly (2 Tim. 2:15). I must understand that God will be displeased if I misuse this omnipotent tool. Used properly and in context, Scripture is powerful. Used otherwise, we will hurt ourselves and probably others!

221b Baker Street

Categories
authority Bible pattern Uncategorized

THERE IS A PATTERN OF TEACHING

Neal Pollard

The Bible claims to hold the answer to your greatest problem. Not only that, but it helps you to identify what that problem is which you may or may not even know about. In Romans 6:16-18, Paul talks about a “form of teaching” given to those at Rome. 

Paul writes this powerful epistle to emphasize that salvation is by faith and not by works of law, but faith in what? One might say, “Faith in Jesus,” and Paul makes that point repeated in Romans (3:22; 3:26, for example). But how do we have faith in Jesus? He says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (10:17). 

Elsewhere, Paul reminds us that there is “one faith” (Eph. 4:5), so a purely subjective faith (what we think we should believe) is not the faith commanded in Scripture. So, we’re looking a t a faith produced by reading, learning, and following God’s Word.

No wonder, then, that Paul emphasizes the importance of obedience in this text. Does God want you and me and everyone else to obey the same thing? Or can you pick what you want to obey while I pick what I want to obey and everyone else do the same? Paul talks about an objective standard of teaching that is for everyone, everywhere, for all time. Look closer at what he says in this brief passage of Scripture and what it means for us today.

THE FACT OF THE PATTERN (Rom. 6:17)

Paul talks about a form, a kind, class, or thing that suggests a model or pattern (BDAG 1020). It is the word used in the Greek Old Testament in Exodus 25:40 and quoted by Stephen (Acts 7:44). Translators chose the word form (“standard,” ESV, or “pattern,” NIV) in this verse. 

For those who pour concrete, you use “form boards” to cause it to conform to their shape in width, length, and height. Without some way to hold the concrete, what a waste of time and money! The concrete would be totally useless. It’s the same concept for those who bake and use cake moulds, muffin pans and cookie cutters. If you put dough or mix into a round pan, you don’t expect a rectangular finished product. 

Paul talks about a teaching that conforms to a certain form or pattern, having definite, identifiable structure. So, the Romans received teaching that was meant to produce the same result in every case. A growing number of people look at the Bible as basically shapeless and formless. They reject the idea of pattern theology, the very thing Paul appeals to in Romans 6:17. The alternative to there being a pattern for salvation, worship, church leadership and organization, sexuality, morality, gender roles, and all teaching is that we have no pattern.

Without a standard to appeal to, how do we determine right and wrong? Historically, when humanity rejects an absolute standard, we choose what we think is right and wrong (cf. Jud. 17:6). This is a fatal way to live (Prov. 16:25), and it destroys societies (Prov. 14:34). But everyone is going to appeal to something as the final say and authority, even if it’s only self. There is a “standard of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13). It must be retained and it carries with it the authority of Christ Jesus.

THE FRUIT OF THE PATTERN (Rom. 6:17-18)

Since there is a pattern of teaching, what are the consequences? Paul implies that we must obey it and commit to it, just as the Romans did. The end result of such obedience is that we become slaves to the right master. Everyone will inevitably be enslaved, whether to sin or righteousness. This pattern shows us the right choice to make. We’re not just talking about information, but rather information which leads one to do something and become something. 

THE FREEDOM OF THE PATTERN (Rom. 6:18)

Ironically, those who reject the idea of pattern theology claim that such unfairly restricts and inhibits us. But, Paul draws a different conclusion. Obeying the form of teaching and committing themselves to it led them to be free from sin. Sin brings spiritual death (5:12), condemnation (5:16), enslavement (6:6), and deception (7:11). If we understand the true nature of sin (which biblical teaching defines), we will want to be free from the burden of it.  The form of teaching shows us how to do that. Anyone who wants freedom from sin can have it, but anyone who wants freedom from sin must follow the pattern. 

Obeying Christ’s teaching is not legalism. It is faith in His power, but also submission to His will. There is truth. We can know it (John 8:32). We must obey it (Rom. 6:17). It will free us (John 8:32)! 

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Categories
Bible inspiration Scripture Uncategorized

WHAT DOES IT REQUIRE TO ACCEPT INSPIRATION?

Neal Pollard

It is of no little concern to me that men who are supposed to be gospel preachers, many of them men tainted by a corrupted higher education at denominational theology schools, have a poor opinion of the doctrine of inspiration. Like little hungry lambs, these men are led by their “scholarly” shepherds who are eager to bring them to the poisoned waters of the “Q” theory and the documentary hypothesis. They consume the rancid food of deutero-Isaiah and trito-Isaiah.

Their erudite educators push them to believe extrabiblical theories rather than internal claims. Where they get their sermon material and on what they preach would be quite interesting to know, and to what authority they appeal even more so. What does it take to simply accept that the Bible is completely, inerrantly, and plenarily from God through inspired men?

A Belief In A Personal God, Able And Willing To Communicate With Man. If we can accept that the Creator God continues to care and be interested in us and what becomes of us, can we also trust that His love would lead Him to accurately, honestly communicate His will–a will He would accurately supervise from beginning to completion and preserve through the process of transmission through the ages?

A Belief In Divine Omnipotence. Is God powerful enough to give us the Word as the Bible claims and is He loving enough and of character sufficient to let the Bible be what it claims to be? Could He provide for us in the 21st century His complete will? Do we have trouble with the idea that God is able to breathe out His Word to and through men and then preserve it for all time?

A Belief That The Bible’s Claims Take Precedence Over Man’s Criticisms. Humanistic thought is quick to accept man’s opinions and conclusions over what the Bible simply says. What qualifies any man to do that? Are we better off to accept the claims made by the most tested, assaulted, yet exonerated book of all times, which, when followed, leads man to the greatest and highest life, or the claims made by men, which repeatedly prove to lead man to emptiness, misery, and hopelessness?

It is frustrating to hear arrogant, though feeble, frail, finite, and flawed men taking cheap shots at scripture, undermining the divine inspiration of the Bible. Herein lies a very critical rub. John 12:48 says the words of Christ will one day judge us. Revelation 20:12 speaks of the books and the book of life being opened, judging mankind.

What will be the standard of judgment? The words of Q, deutero, and JEDP? It just does not make sense, and swallowing such a low view of inspiration will undermine the faith of many. May we have the humility and trust to accept the Bible at face value, believing it to be what our capable God claims that it is!

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