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God (nature) prayer priorities Uncategorized

The Mouse And The Cups 

Thursday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

In the pantry there’s a package of white foam cups. A small gray mouse struggles to carry a cup out into a man’s front yard one at a time. Just one cup and one each day. The man sticks to a normal routine. He goes to work early, and he comes home late. He watches TV, cooks a meal, tinkers on projects in the garage, and goes to bed. It’s mindless, it’s robotic, but day in and day out the cycle repeats itself. He leaves for work and the mouse drags yet another cup out onto his lawn. It isn’t until his yard is filled with foam cups that the man takes notice. What a mess! He walks through the yard and picks a few of them up. As he examines them he says, “What a waste. Perfectly good cups, now useless and dirty. We have a limited amount of foam cups in our package, and there’s a day when the mouse will grab the last one. We better put them to use. ”

If God came to you and gave you the chance to make a single request, what would you ask for? Our prayer lives are usually filled with our personal wants and needs. There are countless things that tug at different areas of our heart as we approach our Father, the Creator of the universe. He can do anything, He has all the power, and in one way or another we all desire some Divine intervention. I would like my family to be healthy and happy. I would like to live out the rest of my days with no more worries or anxieties. I would like the peace that comes with total financial stability. I wish my dog would live to be one hundred and five. I would like to be successful in everything I put my mind to.

There are five hundred wants in my heart, but what do I desire more than anything? The answer to that question is deeply connected to our spiritual life. What my heart chases after, where my time and energy goes, and even what I ask God for spreads my top priorities before me. David writes in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon his beauty and inquire in His temple.” David is known as the man after God’s own heart, simply because his heart was after God. David’s one desire was to form a deep and meaningful relationship with God. He understood what truly matters in this life. He even makes that his specific and singular request of the Lord. He puts his faith in action as he seeks that relationship with God. His life was built around this, and everything else is secondary to him. His seeking was that hopeful expectation— the effort he put in to this pursuit was a demonstration of that belief in God’s ability to grant him his one thing. David spent his time wisely. Almost every day that was granted to him he used as an opportunity to seek His Lord.

God is the Alpha the Omega, the beginning and the end. His eyes can see the very point in time in which He decided to create everything. He can also step back and look at His timeline and see the exact moment in which He will bring all things to an end. The Bible is a gift and glimpse into His mind. In it we can see the powerful beginning to the world we live in. We can see how God works in our present, and we can read about a grand event that will come when the days run out.

What is that one thing you want more than anything else? Don’t let the cups pile up in your yard. Let’s all use the time we have to pursue the only thing that matters.

 

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Categories
counsel prayer wisdom

Who Will You Listen to? (1 Kings 12) 

Wednesday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

I remember it like it was yesterday, I was standing in my brothers’ room while they were trying to convince me that I had swallowed a marble. After enough talking, they finally convinced my 3-year-old self that I had swallowed a marble. A couple of hours later we left the ER after being told by the doctor that there, in fact, was no marble in me. What on earth happened? Well, I’ll tell you what happened. I listened to my brothers and their prank went a little farther than they thought it would. 

This reminds me of an account that is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 12, where Rehoboam listens to some unwise advice from his brothers. The people come to him asking their new king to lower the taxes his father Solomon had placed on them. So Rehoboam reaches out to those who served with Solomon, and they tell him to lower the taxes; but Rehoboam didn’t like this answer. In fact, he wasn’t looking for that answer. So he goes to his friends, the guys he grew up with, and this is what they say, “‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions’”(1 Kings 12:10-11). Rehoboam takes the advice of his younger council, and because of this the kingdom of Israel split. 

When it comes to who we take advice from, it is always best to come at it with all biases aside. Rehoboam was talked into doing something that split the kingdom. The next time we have a decision to make, we must not make the mistake Rehoboam made or what I did in listening to my brothers. Let’s be wise and make our decision after praying with a heart which honestly seeks God’s will. 

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parenting prayer Uncategorized

“Father’s Table Grace”

Monday’s Column: “Neal At The Cross”

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Neal Pollard

In 1960, Otho Jones and Homer L. Sewell wrote a song made popular by Flatt and Scruggs. It’s a song written from the point of view of a man’s oldest son, a son who felt he was old enough to be on his own and leave home. He describes his father as simple and not filled with a formal education, but also as one very devout and the spiritual leader of his home. He describes himself as “young and foolish.” When I listen to this song, I think about the way I could be as a teenager and how I tried my parents’ patience. My dad, a gospel preacher since 1964, has always been a diligent praying man. While I never heard him say these words in my presence, I wonder if he ever prayed them about me in my younger days.

“Our gracious heavenly father we all gathered here today
To give the things for blessings so humble we pray
My oldest son is leaving but I’m sure he knows what’s best
But just in case would you stand by and help him stand the test

Lord he’s awful neglectful about church on Sunday morn
And if he gets with a wrong crowd would you let him hold your arm
And if he flies too high would you clip his wings
But don’t let him fall too hard, I’m sure you can handle things

I’ve tried my best from day to day to teach him right from wrong
And he’s grown to be a fine young man and he always blessed our home
We pray dear Lord for guidance that he won’t build upon the sand
But I won’t worry half as much if I know he’s in your hands

And oh yes Lord it won’t be long till I’ll be coming home
Don’t make me wait too long
We pray dear Lord for guidance please cleanse us from our sins
So we can all be together in heaven in Jesus name amen.”

Those words are neither perfectly autobiographical nor an apt description of my dad (who has much more formal education than I do). But I think a lot of parents who continue to labor over their children in prayer, concerned for their safety as they turn them loose in this world. However large the physical or financial threats may be, what should concern us most are the spiritual ones. We will never outgrow our concern for them. We should never stop being the right kind of example to them. May we never sin against them by failing to pray for them. They need us to be the type of Christians described by James, of whom he writes, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (Jas. 5:16). 

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prayer Uncategorized

Tips For Effective Prayer

Neal Pollard

As Lehman Avenue embarks on a month of specific prayer about our work, future, goals, and events, we may feel a lot like the disciples felt as we examine our prayer life. We may be thinking, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Jesus taught much about prayer, by what He did and said (cf. Acts 1:1). Consider Luke’s record of His teaching and exhortation in Luke 18 for some great tips to help us in our daily prayers.

  • Pray Consistently (Luke 18:1)–“At all times they ought to pray” (Don’t let a day go by without including prayer. As you conquer that discipline, find multiple times throughout the day. That ongoing talking to God will become a part of you)
  • Pray Persistently (Luke 18:1)–“At all times they ought…not to lose heart” (Be patient about the matters you’re praying about. God sees all and knows all. He’s not on our timetable, but He will do what’s best when it’s best. Don’t let seeming silence or unanswered prayers to cause you to give up)
  • Pray Dependently (Luke 18:2-7). Jesus chooses one of the most disenfranchised, powerless persons of the society of His day–a widow–to illustrate our prayers. She petitioned a wicked judge, but we petition a righteous, just Judge and King. See things as they are. We are wholly dependent upon God for everything, but He knows what we need. Yet, He still says to call on Him.
  • Pray Trustingly (Luke 18:8). Jesus ends this parable with a challenging question. “When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Do we trust what Jesus says in the Word about prayer? If so, He will find faith. When death or the second coming stops time forever, be found among the prayerful.
  • Pray Humbly (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus follows up with a second parable, addressed to those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt” (9). We’re far better off to be transparent, penitent, and open with the All-knowing God. We’re better served not to compare our spiritual lives with others, before, during, or after times of prayer. With a “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” (13) mindset, we will more readily find justification and exaltation as we seek to walk in the Light.

“Prayer will change the night to day!” Don’t forget to engage in it today and every day. Jesus promised: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).

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humility poetry prayer pride Uncategorized

From The Pollard Poetry Archives (III)

Two Prayers In The Temple
Neal Pollard

Up high and proud my boasts I declare
I brag and I crow with my head in the air
Til I look in the corner and see him down there
Why is that poor sinner locked up in despair?

I abstain from eating two days every week
I give money too freely, Thy thanks I now seek.
Why is that man crying, the tears stain his cheek
He’s beating his chest, must be some kind of trick.

Lord, I’m not like the swindler, the philanderer, the cheat,
Or even like that tax collector with whose prayer I compete,
I’m walking out now, Lord, my preening’s complete,
But I’ll see You here next time my boasts to repeat

While scarcely detected a man whispered his plea
His face to the floor, if not on one knee
All the sinner could say was, “Be merciful to me!”
And he left more justified than the proud Pharisee.
(Luke 18:9-14)

(prayJune 8, 1997)

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prayer Uncategorized

Learning To Pray From A Man After God’s Own Heart

Neal Pollard

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), they were asking the most qualified instructor. However, they had a good teacher from the background of their own heritage in David. The book of Psalms is at times a songbook and at other times a prayer journal. Numerous examples of David’s prayers are contained in this beautiful book of Old Testament poetry. In Psalm 141, for example, we have several characteristics of prayer from a man after God’s own heart (cf. Acts 13:22).

First, David’s prayer was urgent (Psalm 141:1). He writes, “Lord, I cry out to You; make haste to me!” David saw prayer, not as a last resort, but as a first retreat. Since David knew God was able to help, he wasted no time in bringing matters into God’s own hands.

Then, David’s prayer was intense (Psalm 141:1b). He continues, “Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You.” You will not hear rote memorization of prayers or lackadaisical lethargy in David’s prayer. David cried out to God. He is pleading with God. These are indicators of a fervent prayer life, which God includes as typical of righteous people of prayer (James 5:16).

Further, David’s prayer was sincere (Psalm 141:2). He treated his prayers as if they were actually offerings or sacrifices. He says, “Let my prayers be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” He was willing to lay open his prayers to the All-Seeing eye for His scrutiny. The entirety of this psalm reflects no superficial piety or pretentiousness. David simply laid his heart before God.

David put obvious trust and hope in the power of prayer. He had confidence in God’s ability and he had cognizance of his own dependence upon God’s ability. Never wait to turn to prayer until the need is desperate. The man after God’s own heart made prayer a staple in his religious diet. So should we.

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prayer Uncategorized

I Sin Against The Lord When I Don’t Pray For You

Neal Pollard

Jonathan Martindale punctuated an unforgettable worship service yesterday morning with one of the most thoughtful prayers I have ever been privileged to be a part of. What made it so effective was the people and issues he prayed about. This is not exhaustive, but here are some of the specific people he prayed for among his beautiful words.

  • Individuals in nursing homes that are facing the end of life (they believe they are prepared for eternity, but are not)
  • Individuals who are in college who are not being adequately equipped for the challenges and skepticism being thrown at them (both those who are fighting for their faith and those who have started to drift)
  • Individuals who are have been rocked by broken families
  • High Schoolers who are dealing with temptation
  • Junior high youth (trying to figure out who they are in life and those dealing with depression)
  • Elementary kids that have not made the decision to follow Christ yet but still need prayers to learn Christ correctly and led to that decision.
  • Those who are in the world who are perfectly content with where they are but still do not have Christ
  • Those who are good moral people but don’t have Christ
  • Those who are in the world and caught up with various vices (drinking, drug use, pornography)
  • Those who have fallen away (and our being visionary and courageous to help them)

That prayer reflected true thoughtfulness, contemplating those who are lost or drifting. While I’ve heard other prayers devoted to groups of people, I cannot remember one exactly like Jonathan’s.

It reminded me of Samuel’s words to Israel after the coronation of Saul. They had sinned against God by rejecting Him as their king. He assured them of God’s care, adding, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23). It seems that, in principle, we can be guilty of sinning against God and our spiritual family by not praying for them. James encourages praying for one another when sin infiltrates our lives (Jas. 5:16). The church prayed for Peter (Acts 12:5). Paul wanted Thessalonica to pray for him (1 Th. 5:25; 2 Th. 3:1). So did the writer of Hebrews (13:18).  So often, Jesus and His inspired spokesmen urged His followers to carefully, considerately pray for each other.

Let’s take every opportunity to do that today. Sit down and make a list of people—especially those who may get overlooked. Then, pray for them. Be as specific as you can about them. Talk with them and find out what they need from us in prayer. What a hedge of protection we may be giving one another by taking the time to pray for each other. What a huge blessing we can be for one another through prayer!

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Bible Bible study devotion prayer Uncategorized

FOURTEEN SUGGESTIONS FOR BUILDING YOUR DEVOTIONAL LIFE

Neal Pollard

Maybe you have resolved repeatedly to become a better, more faithful Bible student, person of prayer, or simply one who truly desires to build a closer relationship with God. While a lot of that will be personal and peculiar to you as an individual, you may lack direction about how to get started or give yourself the best chance to succeed in that goal. Perhaps these few suggestions can prove helpful to strengthening your daily connection with your Creator.

  • Adjust your wake up time. 15 to 30 minutes head start will prove the most vital moments of your day.
  • Find a quiet, solitary place. Distraction can equal detraction.
  • Study and pray with pen and paper or computer nearby. This will aid specificity and memory.
  • Do not rush. Better a paragraph or chapter pored over than ten chapters glossed over.
  • Take advantage of the commute. Pray through it or play the Bible on audio, if you can.
  • Pick a book or topic of interest and drill down.  Pick it for its relevance to your weakness, need, ignorance, or curiosity. Drink it in deliberately and carefully.
  • Be specific and transparent in your prayers. In the solitude of prayer, drop all pretense, denial, and pride. He knows it all anyway.
  • Always seek application in the Bible text you are reading. This is not a history lesson or academic exercise. This is spiritual food, armor, and survival.
  • Create a list of ways you can enact the principles you read from Scripture. See yourself in the text of Scripture, and challenge yourself to think, say, do, and be what God desires of you.
  • Ask questions of the text. Don’t pass over what you don’t understand. Don’t skim the surface. Mine for meaning.
  • Build a prayer list. Challenge yourself and add people that many others may overlook in your local circle—widows, little children, new Christians, struggling folks, those facing an anniversary of loss, leadership, missionaries, non-Christians where you work and play, the poor, etc. This ever-expanding prayer list will bless lives in ways you won’t know here on earth.
  • Mean what you say. When you tell someone you’ll pray for them, have integrity. Make an honest effort (write it down, put it in your phone) and honor your word. Ask the people you encounter how you might pray for them, then do it.
  • Review. Revisit prayer lists or notes from Bible study periodically. Make it live on through reflection.
  • Pray for what to study and study prayer. You will find that these two spiritual strength-building exercises are interconnected. This is about relationship with God. Spare no exertion.

Consider these “jump starters.” You will come up with more and far better ways to help yourself to a closer walk with God. These days, we’re being pulled in every direction and most lead away from Him. You will have to be deliberate to swim against the tide. May God bless you as you let Him bless you through a vibrant devotional life!

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prayer Uncategorized

THE RESCUER AND THE ONE IN TROUBLE

Neal Pollard

In Romans 8:26, speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes, “ In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The Holy Spirit “helps,” lending “a hand together with, at the same time with one” (AT Robertson) and coming to the aid of one (Bauer). This is said in connection with the Christian’s prayer life. It is an acknowledgement that sometimes we need the help of God’s Spirit in particularly agonizing times, times where words like “weakness” and “groanings” describe the struggles in prayer.

In the same passage, Paul says the Spirit “intercedes,” a picturesque word of rescue by one who ‘happens’ on one who is in trouble and ‘in his behalf’ pleads with ‘unuttered groanings’ or with ‘sighs that baffle words’” (Reinecker 367). What graphic imagery! When I am in real trouble, no one can help me like God can. Sometimes, only God can help me when I am in trouble. Paul teaches that there is no depth of struggle or trial in prayer too complex or incomprehensible for the omniscient God. As the Psalmist once wrote, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications” (Ps. 130:1). Paul is saying, “The Lord does hear and is attentive not only to my voice, but even to the unspoken, unutterable fears, desires, and longings in my heart that cannot be formed into words on my lips when I pray.

Our God is a God of rescue (Ps. 18:19; 116:8; 136:24). He has rescued man in dramatic ways, from the Red Sea crossing to Jericho to Gideon’s tiny army to Calvary’s cross. He has demonstrated that He wants to help us and will freely extend Himself to do so. But, He wants us to reach out to Him and appeal for help. Even when the words will not exactly come to us, He knows the intent and desire and He looks with an eye toward aiding His children (1 Pet. 3:12). Do not only come to Him when in trouble, but do come to Him when in trouble. You do not have trouble too big for Him to come along and rescue you from it.

Trust that!

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hymns prayer salvation Uncategorized

Ebenezer!

Neal Pollard

No, not Scrooge (though my favorite version starred George C. Scott)!  That Ebenezer is the one even most Christians are more familiar with. The Ebenezer I’m referring to is from the Bible. You’ll read about it between 1 Samuel 4-7. The first two references are to an existing village (4:1; 5:1). But, it’s the last reference that Robert Robinson makes use of in his well-known, 1758 hymn, O Thou Fount Of Every Blessing.

In the thread of Jewish history, Eli is rejected as High Priest for the corruption perpetrated in his house against the people in their priestly functions. Samuel is chosen to be his replacement. Due to the terrible leadership of Eli’s sons and their influence over the people (2:24), God allows the Philistines to rout them in battle (4:2). The Israelites try to form their own solution by bringing the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh to Ebenezer as an icon of power (4:3-4) and perhaps to intimidate the Philistines (4:6-9). This backfires, the Philistines steal the ark (4:11), and keep it in the house of their god, Dagon, for seven months (5:2; 6:1). This brings what might have been Bubonic Plague on the Philistines until they, desperately, return the ark to Israel (6:12). Except for the over 50,000 people of Beth Shemesh who look into the ark when it was returned to them and were destroyed (6:19), things were much improved for Israel.

By now, Eli’s successor has been named. Eleazer cares for the ark, safeguarding it for 20 years at Kirjath Jearim. Samuel leads a Restoration Movement to free Israel from Philistine oppression. The people repent when they gather at Mizpah. The Philistines hears of Israel’s prayer meeting and prepare to fight them.  Samuel urges prayer and sacrifice (7:8-9). It was then God made His appearance and confused the Philistines so much that Israel utterly defeats them. There, between Mizpah and Shen, Samuel takes a stone and laid it on the ground, calling the place Ebenezer. This means, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (7:12). Israel regains cities lost to Philistia and were relieved from their oppression. The place where Israel had been defeated twice became the place where God helped His people win with finality!

Why would Robinson use such a relatively obscure Old Testament moment to talk about God’s guidance and assistance? First, Israel had to come as far as they could from wickedness to salvation. But, it was not by their goodness or power that they were delivered. Far from it! God “thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines.” The Lord “confused them.” So, Samuel sets up a memorial in an attempt to remind Israel of their dependence on Him.

Because of human nature, we still need that reminder today. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of dependence, a continual reminder of our need for a substitute sacrifice to save us from hell. Prayer is an inherent reminder that we’re preserved only by the Lord’s help. Even our bodies remind us we are finite. When we look at the incredible world of nature, our souls sing out, “How Great Thou Art!” The next time you sing that Robinson hymn, remember that “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22).

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