Categories
Bible study meditation prayer

Meditation: What is it? Why do it? How do I do it?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Daleheadshot

Dale Pollard

The concept of Biblical mediation is viewed as a mystery to many of us. The simple answer to “How do I do it?” can seem frustratingly vague. Common answers are—

“you read a passage that stands out over and over and then you think about it.”

Or maybe…

“you find a verse and then pray about it.”

Here’s what you should know about true Biblical meditation.

Three Facts About Biblical Mediation

1. It does not involve emptying your mind, but rather filling your mind with God’s mind.
2. It’s not a complex ritual in which you must reach a higher “spiritual place” to accomplish. It’s a simple act that God intended for everyone to be able to do— in order to bring you to a better spiritual place.
3. It is an intentional act. You won’t find yourself meditating accidentally. We must make time for God.
Here’s why we should all be doing this.
Four Reasons To Meditate
1. For Improved Worship
2. For Perfect Instruction
3. For Needed Encouragement
4. For Spiritual Transformation
Here’s what you will need to accomplish it.
Three Tools For Great Meditation
OBSERVATION – What does the text say?
INTERPRETATION – What does it mean in context?
APPLICATION – What does it mean for me?

Note: Combine With Prayer before and after for best results.

Here’s what you will get out of it.
Ten Benefits Of Biblical Meditation
1. Proven to lower blood pressure
2. Decrease anxiety
3. Improve heart rate
4. It enables your to relax
5. It brings peace
6. It draws you closer to God
7. It gives us confidence
8. It offers an escape from temptation
9. It provides helpful correction
10. It makes us better Bible students (Psalm 119:11)

Finally, here’s an exercise to help us see the many categories on which we can mediate. Simply answer the questions in your mind, and try to develop a habit of asking yourself personal questions about what you’re reading.

A Meditation Exercise From The Psalms
You could meditate…

On His rules (Ps. 119; look up in the ESV)
• What rules do you tend to break?
• Why do you break them?
• What’s the point behind His “rules”?

On His Promises (Ps. 119:148)
• Which of His promises bring you the most comfort?
• Has God kept His promises to you? How?

On His mighty deeds (Ps. 77:12)
• Which specific mighty deeds has God performed in the history?
• What mighty deeds do you believe God has performed in your life?
• What could God do with you today if you allowed Him to?

On His unfailing love (Ps. 48:9)
• There has never been a moment in your life when God hadn’t loved you.
• What does that tell you? What does it expose about yourself?

I hope this helps clarify what real mediation is— and how it can change your life!

person-prayer-book-bible

Categories
discipline perseverance success work

ROUTINE IS EXTRAORDINARY

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

16174665_10154303308455922_2453812807432667966_n

Neal Pollard

It was my privilege last week to spend an hour or more visiting in my office with Bill Page, a longtime member at Lehman Avenue. He wanted to tell me about his interest and involvement in athletics, and he brought some pictures (including one of him below) to illustrate his interesting stories. There was a theme to everything this 88-year-old Korean War veteran shared with me. It was about routine.

He spoke of how important routine is in his life. Every day, despite being a widower who lives alone, he follows a strict routine from how and when he gets up to his workout regimen to his social calendar. It is not just that he has a routine, but he feels that it is essential to his functioning well physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. He carries that ethic of keeping a routine into sharing his faith with his neighbors, studying the Bible, and teaching as he is given the opportunity. Though he is modest and unassuming, he has lived anything but a routine life. 

He played college basketball at Georgia Southern (then, Georgia Teachers College). Then, he was a marine who stayed to play in Japan and Korea in the mid-1950s. His civilian career was as a school administrator, where he served in public schools locally in addition to many years working with Christian high schools in Houston, Texas, and Miami, Florida. He also maintained his love for sports, coaching basketball. But, as a lifelong member of the church, his routine has almost always included teaching, preaching, and sharing his faith with the non-Christians he has built relationships with.

I could say much more about the great attitude and outlook Bill has, but it’s that commitment to consistency that is so remarkable. What is the road to greatness and achievement? It necessitates a certain amount of talent and knowing what that talent is, but the difference is almost always made by those who have sticktoitiveness. The unwillingness to give up and to keep plugging away is such a difference-maker in success and failure.

Solomon said, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Prov. 10:4). Likewise, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty” (Prov. 21:5). Again, “In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty” (Prov. 14:23). Over and over, Scripture lauds this ethic of steadfastness. Yet, the area where it is most important is the spiritual (Acts 2:42; 2 Tim. 2:15). 

Do you want to be an exceptional Bible student, servant of Christ, person of prayer, spiritual leader, soul winner, etc.? Establish a routine and stay with it. It will lead you to extraordinary results! Thanks for the reminder and the example, Bill!

Bill Page

Categories
commitment Uncategorized

“EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE A PART OF THE TEAM”

Neal Pollard

As I committed Georgia Bulldogs fan, I grimace to share this. But, Alabama head coach Nick Saban had a great quote in reaction to the student section leaving the Crimson Tide games early. I’ll quote the second part:

“If I asked that whole student section, do you want to be No. 1? Nobody would hold their hand up and say I want to be No. 4. They would all say No. 1. But are they willing to do everything to be No. 1? That’s another question. You can ask them that. I don’t know the answer” (via Saturday Football, Inc.).

With Alabama’s unprecedented success in the last decade, they’ve drawn the best High School players in the nation and they continue to develop them into seemingly unbeatable teams. Current students and those who have graduated for the last several years have just come to expect that on every given Saturday their team will win. They probably tell all their family and friends with swelling pride that they are part of Tide Nation, but for many of them game day has turned into a “ho hum” experience. Winning may not get old, but staying passionate about it must have gotten hard.

When the church is growing, making a difference and daring great things, it draws a lot of excitement. People are drawn to the active youth program, the decisive direction of sound leadership, vibrant worship, big plans, and ministries that meet pressing needs. There may be a tendency to tell everyone how great the congregation is without being very committed personally. We may show up on Sunday mornings, but not for Sunday and Wednesday nights. We may love all that is going on, but feel that affection from a distance instead of from in the midst with sleeves rolled up and hands busy helping. 

The early church was totally invested. The lot of them was “continually devoted…” (Acts 2:42). Their dedication was even measured “day by day” (Acts 2:46) and “every day” (Acts 5:42). In fact, Luke describes them as “of one heart and one soul” in their commitment (Acts 4:32). This contributed to even greater success, numerically and spiritually. Through this personal commitment, they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6, ESV). 

I need to ask myself, “Am I willing to do everything to make the congregation I am a member of ‘number one’ in God’s eyes?” Will I do more occupy a pew for an hour? I know God wants me much more invested than that! There are visitors, shut-ins, sick, college students, teens, new Christians, erring Christians, non-members I can influence, and others who can be reached by members who see themselves as truly part of the team. Paul wrote, “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). Let’s have every individual part working properly to build a great church to the glory of the great God who loves us and gave the very best for us!

nick_saban_jan_2018_1

Categories
Christian living elderly Uncategorized worship

The Tender Tears Of The Timeworn Travelers

Neal Pollard

I suppose I have met more than a few elderly people, including some professing to be Christians, who could be described as “crusty,” “crotchety,” “contrary,” and “curmudgeonly.” These no doubt spent decades developing such a winning personality. But one of the greatest blessings I have received as a member of the church and minister of the gospel is my association and friendship with “senior saints.” Through the years, I have discussed with them the subject of worship. The most frequent topic of that is how precious that public time of communing is to them.

A godly widow recently told me she has spent the last two years focusing more intently on concentrating more on the song service, reflecting on the words and their meaning. Songs she has sung for decades, through this exercise, have become almost like new songs to her. Another older woman, married to an elder, talked about how she finds herself much more apt to be tearful in worship these days. She’s almost embarrassed at how emotional the experience of worship is making her. An elderly man who was a longtime elder and recently passed on to paradise, struggled to pray, sing, or publicly speak in worship without being choked with emotion. I could fill pages of writing about other godly Golden Agers who treasure assembling to worship God. Their hearts are full and their emotions engaged. Their voices may be softened and broken by age, but their spirits are stronger than ever.

When I think of these faithful, aged Christians, I am reminded of Paul’s words: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).  Sometimes, the elderly are made scapegoats of alleged “lifeless” or habitual, but heartless worship. No doubt, there are likely Christians in that age range who struggle with and even fall prey to such (as there is in every other age category). But on the whole, these Christians have walked longer with God, know Him better, and value Him more than their younger counterparts. They are closer on the journey to the Father’s house and are anxious to see His face.

We are heirs of a heartfelt heritage handed to us by these holy hoary heads. To our seasoned brothers and sisters, we thank you for showing us how to walk with and love God as years turns into decades and the shadow of the grave looms larger. As we narrow the gap between our age and yours, we want worship and life in Christ to grow more precious to us, too. Thank you for your trembling lips, your tear-stained cheeks, and your tender hearts. They look great on you!

elderly-parent-e1448857831624

Categories
commitment dedication faithfulness poetry Uncategorized

A Proverb To Ponder

Neal Pollard

Now, not all our attenders are members,
And not all our members are attenders,
But if all our attenders were members,
And all our members were attenders

THEN…

We’d have more trouble menders,
More gospel defenders,
And more true soul-winners!

BUT…

We’d have fewer people offenders,
Fewer spiritual hinderers,
And fewer religious pretenders!

SO…

Let us all render a more tender surrender
To the Commander of a love full of splendor!
As we meander on this earth full of sinners,
Let us engender a life with the Lord at the center.

Categories
church church (nature) church attendance church growth church of Christ evangelism Uncategorized

Dying Villages (And Dying Churches)

Neal Pollard

Liza Zhakova and Dima Zharov have written an extensive expose of a phenomenon I was totally unaware of—the depopulation of villages throughout the Kostroma region northeast of Moscow, Russia. 200 villages have been abandoned and 20,000 villages have faded away, a remarkable, mystifying fact for a vast region—it counts merely “660,000 residents for its 23,000 square miles” (source). Factors contributing to this include “low living standards, high unemployment, and a lack of housing and public services” (ibid.).  The ones who have remained are an odd assortment who either prefer isolation or cannot see another way.

Appreciation for salvation, the power of the gospel and the beautiful simplicity of the restoration plea, the exalted mission of the church, and much more should cause the church to spread and grow across the nation and throughout the world despite the opposition of the darkest forces against it. But, especially in America, the statistics show a decline in total number of members even as the nation’s population rises. Last Spring, Christian Chronicle reported that over 100,000 fewer souls were members of the church in 2015 than in 1990 (source). The United States’ net population increase over that period was 70 million (source). My experience in visiting churches in various parts of the country and in visiting with brethren from all over is that most churches are not experiencing growth. Some have seen an increase in attendance, almost always as the result of transfer from other congregations (over doctrinal issues, lack of resources and activities, or even churches that have to close their doors). But instances of churches that are taking the gospel into their communities and winning souls should, per the factors cited above, have us growing like wildfire.  In especially “mission fields” and rural areas, the church is often fighting for survival. My parents and brother, for example, work in a ministry called Carolina Outreach. Through their exposure to churches in the Carolinas, they witness and work with tiny congregations fighting to keep their doors open. They lack funds and workers to get the gospel to the souls in need of the truth in that part of this nation. I have spent over 20 years as a local preacher in states that are typically considered a mission field, outside of the traditional “Bible Belt” (i.e., Virginia and Colorado). In these and surrounding states, I have been saddened to hear about churches closing their doors or simply fighting just to “keep their doors open.”

As the Lord looks down at these shrinking parts of His glorious body, His heart must be breaking. Yet, He gave us the blueprint to address this problem and to reverse this trend when He gave us the New Testament. It is not more vibrant youth programs. These are wonderful and beneficial, but many of us faithful to Christ today grew up in small churches with virtually non-existent youth programs (including Kathy and me). It is not big, beautiful buildings. These can at times cause more problems than not. It is not extremism, whether to the right or the left. Building on the foundation of man is sand (Mat. 7:24-27). It is a resource available to everyone, in rural and urban areas, in depressed or booming economies, in north, south, east or west. In a word, it is “commitment.” The first commentary on the first church begins, “They were continually devoting themselves…” (Acts 2:42). Christianity meant everything to them in their daily lives. They were dedicated to seeking the lost, dedicated to helping each other, dedicated to following their Lord and Savior. They were dedicated in prosperous and perilous times. Their living hope was so strong (1 Pet. 1:3), they persisted even in dire persecution (see the rest of 1 Peter).

What a challenge this is to me. My dedication and commitment has room to grow. My complacency and apathy must decrease and His importance in my life must increase. If the church all over catches hold of this, the familiar phenomenon of “dying churches” will be a bad memory. May God grant us the strength and courage to reverse this tragic trend. May it begin with me!

zhakovazharovdesert-16

Categories
Christian living Christianity spirituality Uncategorized

The “Nothings”

Neal Pollard

What the child is always doing, despite evidence to the contrary (“nothing”). What is wrong with one’s spouse who sits nearby, quietly and tightlippedly fuming (“nothing”). What the interrupted person was going to say (“nothing”). The word which defines itself is “nothing.” The Bible teaches, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:4).

Those low in self-esteem think of themselves as nothing. Children and spouses who are constantly told so think of themselves as nothing. Those not as wealthy as their friends or neighbors often conclude themselves to be nothing. Those unrecognized for their accomplishments can feel like they are nothing. But the inspired apostle refers to some who think themselves to be something who are actually “nothing.” The Bible makes mention of that arrogant family, The “Nothings.” They are a haughty, proud, self-involved, earthly-minded crew.

Meet The Nothings.

There Are The “Good For Nothings.” Jeremiah introduces them. He says, “This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing” (Jer. 13:10). They were unaware of problems they had. They were evil, spiritually deaf, selfish, and idolatrous. He compares them to a good for nothing, straight from a hole in the ground, dirt-soiled belt!

No one is inherently worthless, but we can choose a lifestyle that is wicked, lukewarm, or indistinct (cf. Mat. 5:13). Christians, by our distinctive nature, are of great value to God (1 Pet. 2:9). Yet, by surrendering our Christian influence, we can become “good for nothing.”

There Are The “Brought To Nothings.” After referring to the danger of making decisions based solely on human reasoning, Jeremiah prays that God will not bring him to nothing (Jer. 10:23-24). God will rename some the Brought to Nothings, those who believe man’s ideas over God’s facts. Paul warns that God will “destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Cor. 1:19; Isa. 29:14). The wisest and most scholarly man who discounts God’s Word will be a regretful member of the Brought To Nothings someday.

There Are The “Need Of Nothings.” These are the overly comfortable, spiritually out of shape members of the Nothings clan. They live their lives saying, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and they do not know that they “are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). They aren’t really bad people, but they aren’t all that good either. They’re just quite satisfied with what they have done for Christ, which isn’t all that great and not too bad. They merely yawn through their spiritually lives, only occasionally stirring from spiritual sleep (cf. Eph. 5:14). They half-heartedly do just enough to deceive themselves into thinking they’re pleasing the Lord.

Unrelated to these Nothings are some good folks, like the Ashamed In Nothings (Phil. 1:20), Terrified By Nothings (Phil. 1:28), Anxious For Nothings (Phil. 4:6), and the Wavering In Nothings (Jas. 1:6, KJV). But the Nothings family mentioned above are black sheep in God’s family. No one should want to “take after” them.

256px-nothing_is_nothing

Categories
faithfulness involvement priorities

A LOOK AT SOME GREAT MEMBERS

Neal Pollard

Anything special, big and worthwhile a church attempts, be it a new program, evangelism, visitation, the Bible School, or a lectureship, will fail if it rests only on the shoulders of the elders, preachers, or select few. The late Wendell Winkler was fond of saying, “Programs do not work. People do.” Programs are only as effective as the people in the local church work to make them.  It is estimated that nearly a gazillion little things must be done for something of any magnitude to go smoothly, and the active, tireless labor of as many as possible makes all the difference.

Active members are so crucial to a church being successful, in God’s eyes. Here is a tribute to some very special members of a congregation:

The REMEMBERS: These are the folks who don’t “forget” events on the church’s calendar, who don’t say “Oh, was that this week?”  As you involve yourself in the church’s work, you take seriously the ever-relevant principle, “But you shall remember the LORD your God…” (Deut. 8:18). God does not like to be forgotten (Psa. 42:9; Jer. 2:32; Ezek. 22:12).

The DISMEMBERS: These are folks who are willing to sever themselves from their normal routines, preempting other events, to support an activity or event.  Such are living out Matthew 6:33 and Romans 12:1-2. God richly blesses Christians who make such decisions.  You are those who know it is better to “cut off” anything that keeps you from doing what you can for the Lord (cf. Heb. 12:1).

The EMBER MEMBERS: These are members who are involved, supporting the works and activities of the church. You have your fire lit. You want to be a better child of God. Keep the fires of enthusiasm, rededication, and determination burning brightly. We see your glow. It encourages all of us. You can help smoke out spiritual enemies even better through your faithful participation.

God bless every faithful member of His church. Your support for good works is overwhelming.  Let us use each event and opportunity to make the church, with its every member, stronger.

Categories
dedication endurance evangelism faithfulness priorities religion

“What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

 

Neal Pollard

This is not just something Janet Jackson once wondered.  The late summer and early fall of each year, college football programs have alumni, boosters, and fans asking head coaches the same thing.  Companies ask the same of employees, and stockholders ask it of companies.  While it can be an unfair question, it cannot be unfair if God asks it.

God has a perfect view of our lives, knowing not only what we’ve done for Him in our past but what we are doing now.  As He looks into our lives, could He be wondering, “What have you done for Me lately?”

  • “Have you won a soul to Me lately?”
  • “Have you been in My Word lately?”
  • “Have you been to My throne room in prayer lately?”
  • “Have you and I been close lately?”
  • “Have you been involved in My Son’s work lately?”
  • “Have you been the spiritual leader of your family lately?”
  • “Have you watched your example and attitude lately?”
  • “Have you been the source of unity in My Son’s body lately?”
  • “Have you encouraged a hurting, lonely soul lately?”

These and other questions are ones He has already asked in principle, when He addresses our hearts (Mat. 15:8-9), teaches us our responsibilities (Mat. 7:21), talks about our relationship with Him (Mat. 22:37), and examines our lifestyles (Mat. 5:13-16).  We may have studied with several people in the past, taught a Bible class at some point for a long period of time, and been very close to and in love with God in days gone by.  But how is it now?  Is that really a thing of the past or does it describe the current state of things?  The wonderful news is that you can start right now, building a better relationship with Him and serving Him more effectively.  Today is as “lately” as it gets.  If your zeal is zapped and your fruit has shriveled, get busy right now restoring that.  Obviously, God will see it and He will bless you for it!