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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

 

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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

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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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Categories
Bible Bible study Uncategorized

TRY THE CONTEXT!

Neal Pollard

“Big dummy!” That can be a derogatory statement or the description of a large mannequin. Context makes all the difference! So it is with matters of infinitely greater significance. So much religious error exists because of a failure to consider the context of biblical passages.

Our friends in religion who believe that Jesus is a created being rather than one of the three everlasting personalities of the Godhead defend their view with passages such as Colossians 1:15, which says, “He is the firstborn of all creation.” A further study of the use of the word “firstborn” shows that it is used literally (Heb. 11:28) and figuratively (Heb. 12:23) in the New Testament. Context determines the difference. What is it in Colossians 1:15? The context says that Jesus made everything that was made (16-17). Did He make Himself? No, He cannot both be literally, physically born and be the One who created “all things.” Logically, Paul is speaking in a figurative sense, that in His human nature Jesus is “at the head of His class.” He is first in order, preeminent among men (18). As a human, He is above us and first among all of us.

Others of our friends teach salvation by faith only. They appeal to a couple of passages to assert this idea. One passage is Acts 16:31, where the Philippian jailer is told, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” This is given as proof positive that salvation comes at the point of faith. Another text cited, the “golden text of the Bible,” says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This statement is made as part of a conversation Jesus is having with Nicodemus.

In the case of the jailer, who saw the miraculous power of God in opening the jail doors and who asked what he must do to be saved, he is told to believe in Jesus. It is noteworthy to ask, “How much would the average Philippian jailer know about Jesus?” Thus, Luke adds the important detail that before we read of the man’s response, “They spoke the word of the Lord to him” (31). His response is found in verse 32, where he washes Paul and Silas’ wounds and is immediately baptized. This accords with the broader context of Acts, where believers are told to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (2:38; 22:16).

In the case of Nicodemus’ instruction, Jesus’ makes the statement of John 3:16 in a certain context, too, a context that included talk of water (3:5) and an illustration from the book of Numbers. That illustration is very noteworthy for showing that more than belief is necessary for salvation. It concerns the serpents God sent upon the murmuring and complaining Israelites. Numbers 21:9 says, “So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” How did salvation come, simply by believing in God’s plan or by believing AND looking? Likewise, the broader context of scripture shows faith and works joined together. Israel did not earn the saving of their lives by looking any more than we earn salvation from sin by believing and being baptized. Yet, God makes it as essential to obey today as He did during the wilderness wandering. Context bears this out.

Let us never be “scripture isolationists,” those who peel a verse away from its context or who rest our confidence in doctrines that have been thus constructed. God saw to it that we would have His word and will preserved. How wise of us to make sure we properly study it in context!

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Categories
Bible Bible study courage evangelism soul-winning Uncategorized

The Courage To Try

Neal Pollard

About nine months ago, a man walked into our building a day after being immersed into Christ. He had been searching diligently for the truth, a man whose hunger for the Bible caused him to study his Bible for hours every day (including on audio at his job as a metal fabricator). He continues those habits today.

A man whose life is as interesting as his name–Roberto Yrey–has been a blessing to us at Bear Valley.  One of the reasons I’ve grown to love him so much was on full display last night. Each Wednesday, a different man delivers a 90-second devotional talk. Last night, Roberto spoke. Don’t misunderstand. He writes devotions, short sermons, and articles all the time in order to articulate his understanding of a Bible chapter or topic he has been studying. He changed his mind multiple times before settling on the one he delivered last night. If you were there, you know that Roberto was nervous. He has told several of us how difficult public speaking is for him. His only previous public speaking opportunity was a Scripture reading during a devotional back during the holidays.

What he chose to speak about last night so aptly reveals a mindset that makes him so endearing. His message was that you don’t have to know everything to study with someone. Don’t be afraid to tell someone, “I don’t know.” It’s OK if you don’t know or understand everything. He encouraged us, “Say, I don’t know but let me ask someone who might know. Or let’s fellowship and find the answer.”  But his message was to not let the fear of not knowing keep you from talking to someone about the Bible.

I admire the fact that Roberto had the courage, as a babe in Christ, to speak to a room full of people some of whom have been preachers and teachers for decades, teachers in our Bible school for many years, and are mature, seasoned Christians. But I admire him even more for practicing what he was preaching. In our midst last night were two visitors–Estevan (there for the first time) and Sean (who’s become a regular attender with Roberto for several months). He had the courage to invite them. Today, we baptized Sean into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. A young Christian has already brought a friend to Jesus. All it took was the courage to try, to do what anyone can do who is moved by simple, trusting faith to just do what God has told us to do. I don’t know about you, but Roberto’s example helps me have the courage to try harder!

 

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(L) Sean being baptized today by Allen Javellana, who studied with him. (R) Roberto preaching at Bear Valley last night.
Categories
Bible Bible study doctrine indoctrination Uncategorized

Misusing The Bible

Neal Pollard

Ashley Despain now holds a dubious, ignominious distinction. Visiting an inmate in a Nevada, Missouri, jail, Ashley tried to sneak him marijuana and methamphetamines by sticking them into the binding of the Bible. Officials say they have seen many ways used to smuggle drugs to prisoners, but it’s the first time the Bible was the means chosen (via http://fox2now.com/2018/03/29/).

File that under “truth is stranger than fiction.” As incredible (and audacious) as that sounds, Ashley was not the first to misuse the Bible. How many have tried to use the Bible as a means of enriching themselves? Peter speaks of false teachers who exploit listeners with false words because of the teachers’ greed (“make merchandise of,” KJV, 2 Pet. 2:3). How many have tried to use the Bible as a means of defending personal sin or a sinful lifestyle? How many have tried to use the Bible as a billy club to pound their own hobbies, convictions, and opinions over the heads of others? How many have tried to use the Bible to peddle some false doctrine? Peter experienced that, too (2 Pet. 3:16). How many have tried to use the Bible to manipulate others into doing things they themselves aren’t doing? Jesus warned against that very thing (Mat. 23:4). How many have tried to use the Bible to tempt others into disobeying God? That’s literally a Satanic trick (cf. Mat. 4:6).

James warns potential teachers to be careful, examining themselves in light of the judgment (3:1). This is not meant to scare potential Bible teachers away, but instead should help us consider carefully how we use the Bible. Paul mentions some that misused the Bible, even if what they said was true. From prison, he writes, “ Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment” (Phil. 1:15-17).

Like Paul, we have a stewardship (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:1-2). Let’s be faithful stewards! None of us will probably try to smuggle drugs with a Bible. But, in every sense, let’s be sure to be “accurately handling” it (2 Tim. 2:15)!

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Categories
accountability Bible Bible study salvation Uncategorized

The Benefits Of Finding Ourselves In Scripture

Neal Pollard

Given his job, the Ethiopian of Acts 8 was one of that country’s most important people. Yet, he was more than important. He was very religious, apparently a proselyte (convert) to the Jewish faith. He didn’t restrict his religion to the assemblies. He read his Bible even when he was going about his secular tasks (Acts 8:28). Though he could not enter the assembly of the Lord (Deut. 23:1), he made the long and grueling trip from northern Africa to Palestine and was returning home. Many of us are familiar with the Old Testament passage he was reading when Philip joined him in his chariot. Reading Acts 8:32-33, we recognize the place as Isaiah 53:7-8. The Eunuch was trying to find out about who Isaiah wrote about, “of himself or of some other man” (Acts 8:34). Philip preached Jesus to him and he became a Christian (Acts 8:35-39).

Those are essentially the facts. Yet, I wonder how coincidental it was that the Eunuch was reading from that part of Old Testament scripture. This African official likely had a scroll containing the entire prophecy of Isaiah, which was not divided into the individual chapters like they are today. It would seem that the context in which Isaiah 53 occurs would be of particular interest to this man. Flip forward a few chapters to Isaiah 56. Isaiah is telling foreigners and eunuchs not to look down on themselves (3-5).

This official of Candace was very likely not some hopeless non-Jew looking for a crumb from the Jews’ table. He had the great hope and promise of Scripture. Perhaps this portion of Isaiah was of particular motivation and inspiration to him. For Philip to explain that the time of that prophecy had now been fulfilled, that access to this promise was now available, certainly led the Eunuch to urgently respond and enthusiastically react. Jesus was the One referenced in Isaiah 53, but he (the Eunuch) was the one referenced in Isaiah 56. No, not just him, but all like him–one from the “all nations” of Isaiah 56:7 who could reap the benefits brought by the “Sin-bearing Servant” of Isaiah 53 and the one who would “sprinkle many nations” (52:15).

I hope that you read your Bible with the same hunger and expectation. Perhaps there are portions that bring you greater hope and expectation, that speak with greater poignancy to your life’s circumstances. The Bible is a book filled with wonderful, relevant promises. Trust them. Let them bear you along through the rough spots of life. God designed the Bible to be a book of hope and inspiration, but it cannot do us any good unless and until we consult it! Find yourself in the Bible!

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Categories
Bible guidance instructing truth Uncategorized

Learning A Lesson From A Lantern

Gary Pollard III

For some reason, I’m a big fan of old fashioned lighting. I’m especially drawn to old kerosene lanterns because they’re simple and just cool. I went to light one of my lanterns (I might have a few of them…) and the flame wouldn’t stay alive for more than a few seconds. I thought, “Maybe the vent is covered in carbon and there isn’t enough oxygen for the flame.” So, I took it apart, cleaned it out, and put it back together. I was sure that it was the vent.

To my chagrin, the flame died within seconds even after the lantern was cleaned. Next, I trimmed the wick because it seemed too dark; perhaps having a fresh wick would allow the flame to stay alive. It wasn’t a stopped vent, so it had to be the wick. Sure enough, the flame died even with a fresh wick.

At this point I was stumped, so I gave up. The next day it occurred to me while putting gas in my car: the lantern was just out of kerosene! It was obvious to the extreme. I knew Chelsea would never let that one go. When I got home I put the kerosene into the lantern which, of course, was the solution to a simple problem that I overcomplicated.

This is a mundane example of a profound truth: we make mistakes as humans. Worse yet, some people put words in God’s mouth that He never used. “My God is a God of love– He wouldn’t condemn me just for this one little sin.” “God doesn’t care if we live the way we want.” Some use phrases like this with great confidence while overlooking an obvious truth: God has told us what He does and does not care about in His word. If we aren’t in the word listening to God and allowing Him to change us, our solutions will end in failure. There was only one solution to keep that flame going in my lantern. There is only one right way to follow God, and He’s told us how to do that! Life will be so much easier for the one who looks to God for answers before relying on his/her own wisdom.

Gary serves as youth minister for the Hope church of Christ in Hope, Arkansas.

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