Categories
heart worship zeal

“The Frozen Chosen”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Recently, in discussing some extremes on matters like the Holy Spirit, grace, and emotion in our worship services, a brother said that a friend of his referred to churches of Christ as “the frozen chosen.” The man was part of a religious group we’d call “charismatic,” and he had attended the worship of one of our congregations which he apparently found stoic and lifeless. We chuckled at the nickname, but it stuck with me.

It is likely that this man found it strange and lacking to have singing without a band, preaching and worshipping without ecstatic utterances and tongue-speaking, and even members seated and without raised hands. We’d rightly point out that the New Testament specifies singing and that adding mechanical instruments is unauthorized (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), that tongue-speaking belonged to the infancy of the Lord’s church as a means of communicating the gospel to other languages (Acts 2:6-11) and, though a means of proving apostolic truth at that time, was regulated and said to be inferior to other spiritual gifts even in the first-century (1 Cor. 14:1ff). We’d show that it was done away (1 Cor. 13:8-12). We’d talk about the need for decency and orderliness (1 Cor. 14:40). Our comedic observer could be charged with holding to some extreme views.

I don’t know about you, though, but I don’t want to be characterized as being at the other extreme. It hurts to think that I convey a “frozen chosen” persona in worship or in the exercise of my Christian life. Worship that is lifeless, rote and repetitive, that’s so predictable that you can engage in it on auto-pilot, that evidences no emotion–joy, intensity of feeling, enthusiasm, etc.–is not the antidote to our religious friend’s brand of religion. While none of us can read each other’s mind to gauge depth of feeling (or lack thereof), cues like body language, facial expressions, hearty engagement, and the like are noticeable by their absence as much as their presence. Ask song leaders what they see on the faces of those seated before them. Ask preachers the same. Ask members what kind of intensity and interest they perceive in the preacher and song leader. 

We’re not the worship critics or the audience of worship. God is. But as we engage in worship that is according to truth, we need to examine the spirit of it (John 4:24). We do not have to be “Holy Rollers” to avoid the other extreme. As those redeemed from sins which would eternally condemn us, shouldn’t we have melted hearts which overflow with gratitude, praise, and passion? Shouldn’t such be obvious to those who visit our assemblies? Be present, with mind and body. Be involved, from beginning to end. Be engaged, inside and out. I want anyone who is watching my worship (and Christian life away from worship) to at least think of me as the “thawed awed” or, hopefully, the “fervent servant.” I do not want to be part of the “frozen chosen.”

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Categories
prayer

PRAYER: A PRACTICAL GUIDE

TLC is coming August 1, 2020

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

PRAYER: What Is it? Why do it? How do I do it?

Some pray the way they heard others pray in worship growing up while others look for a prayer on the internet. A few pray the way their parents taught them to pray, and still others just kind of make it up as they go along. Over time it develops into a well-known string of words that we can call upon in case of emergency. It’s the prepackaged prayer that we’re comfortable praying when we’re called upon to lead one publicly or “bless” the food. Tragically, this can be an insight into a weak prayer life. This is what Jesus wants us to know about communicating with God— and how we can do it effectively. 

Three Facts About Prayer 

1.Through Jesus we must pray  (I Tim. 2:5)

2. Through Jesus we learn to pray (Matt. 6:5-13)

3. Through Jesus we are able to pray (Heb. 4:16) 

Three Fruitless Prayers  (Matthew 6)

  1. Prayers to glorify ourselves— when they should be Focused On The Spiritual  (v.5)
  2. Prayers for the gaze of others— when they should be said Fervently In Secret  (v.6)
  3. Prayers full of gab— when there must be Forethought and Sincerity  (v.7)

Five Ways To Pray Effectively (According to Jesus) 

“Pray then like this…” 

1. With Reverence 

a. “Our Father” — His authority over ours. 

b.“In Heaven” — His dwelling place is above ours.

c.“Hallowed be your Name” — His holiness needs to be apparent to us. 

2. Seeking Righteousness 

a. “Your Kingdom come” — So I must be righteous 

b. “Your will be done” — In order for me to be righteous 

c. “On earth as it is in heaven” — If heaven is to be my future, I must make        righteousness a part of my present. 

3. Acknowledging Our Reliance 

a. “Give us this day” — Each day and each moment, a moment God allowed to exist.

b. “Daily bread” — It’s all through Him we move and exist.  

4. In Repentance

a. “forgive our debts” — What do I need forgiven?

b. “As we forgive our debtors” — What do I need to forgive? 

5. With Recognition 

a. “Lead us not into temptation” — God knows the way around what tempts us. 

b. “Deliver us from evil” — God has the power to deliver us, but we should recognize                                that we must follow if He is to lead. 

Six Things To Offer Up, And What You’ll Get

  1. Give Him your praise – He’ll show you why He deserves your praise. 
  2. Give Him your heart – He’ll heal and purify it. 
  3. Give Him your schedule – He’ll organize it for you. He will reveal our most important priorities.  
  4. Give Him your attention – He’ll help you focus. 
  5. Give Him your plans – He’ll perfect them. Any plan God touches becomes holy.  
  6. Give Him your life – He’ll give life eternal.  

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Categories
assemblies commitment faithfulness Uncategorized worship

AREN’T WE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

  • I’ve never heard the avid fisherman say, “Do I have to go back to the lake?”
  • I’ve never heard the shopaholic say, “How often do I have to go to the store?”
  • I’ve never heard the committed sports fan say, “How many games do I have to watch?”
  • I’ve never heard the foodie say, “How often do I have to try a new restaurant or dish?”
  • I’ve never heard the head-over-heels-in-love say, “How many times do I have to see him/her each week?”
  • I’ve never heard the devoted mom say, “How often must I hold my baby?”

We’ve lost the battle when our sermons, articles, and classes center around answering the question, “How often must I assemble? How many times a week do I have to come to church? Are Sunday night and Wednesday night mandatory?”

How unnatural for a disciple, a committed follower of Jesus who is in love with Him and who has such a relationship with Him that He is priority number one, to approach the assemblies in such a way! Must? Have to? You see, the question is wrong. The mentality and approach is where the work needs to occur.

When Jesus and His church are my passion, the thought-process becomes “I get to,” “I want to,” and “I will!” Neither parents, grandparents, spouses, elders, preachers, siblings, nor anyone else have to get behind anyone and push the one who has put Jesus at the heart and center of their lives.

Not a legalistic or checklist mindset. Instead, an outgrowth of what’s happening in my life between my God and me. Church “attendance” is but one evidence of this, but it certainly is an evidence of this. Church and religion are not just a slice of the pie of a committed Christian’s life. Christ is the hub in the wheel of their life, and each spoke of the wheel is attached to that hub. The difference could not be more dramatic!

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Categories
devotion praise worship

Yearning To Assemble

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Yesterday was an emotional day. As expected, our attendance was a fraction of our normal size. The current threat is not yet over, but it was a stride toward what we pray is an imminent return of many more. Even from behind the masks and with the required social distancing, the joy and excitement was palpable. From preschool children to even a few octogenarians, our local brethren once again were able to do as God’s people have done for 2,000 years. We had others, mostly in higher risk categories or in daily contact with those who are high risk, who parked outside and tuned in via FM transmitter. They were in proximity with each other and able to fellowship with those around them and many on their way into and out of the building. A great many at home tuned in to the Live Stream and let us know of the hope and joy they feel that we’ve taken this step, several letting us know that as soon as is medically safe they will be there, too. 

Our godly, wonderful shepherds have agonized over how to “return to normal” legally, wisely and safely. At the heart of most of their discussions and “church business” is how this “layoff” or separation or disruption will effect the faith and dedication of us sheep. Their hope is that we will view this situation as one that, for a time, made us a church full of “shut ins” that we could accommodate through virtual services (and later drive-in services) to help keep us connected rather than seeing this as the permanent arrangement or to excuse choosing other activities over assembling when there is no such crisis in place. 

None of us knows the future, and it is hard to predict how every individual will respond post-pandemic. But, the heart of each of us will be at the heart of the matter as we prayerfully decide the timetable for our return. To shape and guide us on that spiritual journey, God has given us insight into the hearts of His saints through the centuries to influence our spiritual hunger. Here is but a sampling:

  • David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord'” (Psa. 122:1; notice also Psa. 27:4).
  • Zechariah: “The inhabitants of one (city) will go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go (some versions: “Let me go too!”)'” (8:21; the whole chapter is beautiful)
  • Luke: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42; context shows them together day by day publicly and privately)
  • Hebrews’ writer: “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (10:24, in the context of the assemblies).

But it’s the sons of Korah’s words in Psalm 84 that I want to close considering.

  • He saw assembling as “lovely” (1)–Appealing!
  • He saw assembling with “longing” (2)–Attractive!
  • He saw assembling as “logical” (3)–Appropriate!
  • He saw assembling as “lasting” (4,10)–Advantageous!
  • He saw assembling as “lavishing” (note “how blessed” throughout)–Abundance!

The separation and disruption was not of our choosing, but it might have and adverse effect upon us and cause us to forget the blessings of being together in praise and worship to our God. May the inspired words from saints like these help us fortify our souls as we anticipate the time when we are able once again meet each other in His presence for worship! 

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Categories
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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Categories
character Christian living Uncategorized worship

Better Living 

Neal Pollard

We find ourselves often bobbing in a sea of religious confusion. Many groups claim to be the best religion and point to their ingredients as reasons for such claims. Several years ago, our boys played basketball in a league hosted by a huge community church in the Denver area.  Their church’s campus includes a K-12 school, two restaurants, a gymnasium half the size of our church building, a coffee shop, and a hundred social program. Other groups would make their claim as “better” or “best” based on their numeric size, the number of programs they have, or how socially active they are.

Our religious attitude ought to be one of humility, which does not boast of our achievements or compare ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12).  Genesis 4 is not just about two kinds of worship, but also about two ways of living life. Cain is mentioned by three Bible writers after Moses introduces him in Genesis. The writer of Hebrews calls Abel’s offering more excellent than his (Heb. 11:4). John calls Cain’s works evil and his allegiance “of the wicked one” (1 Jo. 3:12). Jude implies that the way of Cain is the wrong way to go (11). Let’s make a few brief observations from Genesis four and see if we can find the elements which make for a better way of living today.

  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY AGE (1-2).  By birth order, Cain came first. He was the first person to be born in the natural order of childbirth. He was the very first newborn to be held in his mama’s arms. She didn’t realize that her cooing, sweet infant was a future murdering, and she was proud of him. She called him “a man child with the help of the Lord.” This depicts such a bright, optimistic future, and by contrast Scripture says, “Again, she gave birth to his brother, Abel” (2). Abel began in his brother’s shadow, first known to us as “his (Cain’s) brother.”
  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY OCCUPATION (2). When we look at these brothers, what they did for a living was not the determiner of the quality of their lives. While what they did had an indirect bearing on the events of this account, the fact of their occupation was spiritually neutral—Cain farmed and Abel tended sheep. One can reap blessings from tilling the ground (Heb. 6:7), but they may have to fight thorns, thistles, and weeds doing it (Gen. 3:18-19). Tending sheep may be done by slaves (Luke 17:17), kings (1 Sam. 17:34), or apostles (John 21:17). God’s pleasure or displeasure was not connected to either’s occupation.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY WORSHIP (3-4). Moses says both brought an offering to the Lord. He also says God responded to bother offerings, accepting one and rejecting the other. That very notion is foreign to many people in our society today, even those in religion. Many make worship nothing more than taste, preference, and personal inclination. But, Moses shows us (1) Not all worship is equal: God had regard for Abel’s, but not Cain’s. The words “had respect to” signify in Hebrew to look at something with a very serious glance. God tells us how He wants worship done, in attitude and action; (2) The worshipper and the worship rise and fall together: God had regard for Abel AND his offering and did not for Cain AND his offering. That’s a sober reminder for me that my personal relationship with God is hindered or helped based on the way I worship God. Can I offer God vain and ignorant worship, and have God reject it but accept me? We are not earning God’s favor by getting worship right. At the same time, are we tempting God and hoping we stay in His favor while disobeying His commands for worship? People have tried to make this an “either-or” proposition, that Cain and Abel’s offering was either about getting the worship right or was about the nature of the person offering the worship. In other words, is it sincerity or obedience, our both sincerity and obedience? To thoughtfully ask the question is to answer it!
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ATTITUDE (5-7). Cain reacts to having himself and his worship rejected by God by burning with anger and his face taking on an ugly look. He sounds like a small child in the throes of a tantrum or a teenager huffing and sulking in anger. God warns Cain of the recipe for disaster he was making through his attitude. He told Cain that his tempestuous attitude was an invitation for sin to pounce on him, but He told him he could master it! You can have a positive attitude without prosperity, education, or earthly success, but you cannot have a positive attitude without mastering self.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ACTION (8-16). Improper worship and attitude preceded and precipitated improper action. The first time “sin” is used (Gen. 4:7), God was looking ahead with perfect foresight to what Cain would do to his brother. He does the unthinkable, killing his own brother (cf. 1 Jo. 3:11-15). His deeds and ways were a recipe for disaster: He is rebuked by God, punished by God, and separated from God. Sin promises a good time and fulfillment, but it’s not true.

It’s been said that the lineage of Cain gave us murder, cities, polygamy, musicians, metal workers and poetry, but not one who walked with God! Thanks to his legacy, a descendant repeats his violent ways (Gen. 4:23). Abel seems to leave no physical lineage, but he still speaks after death. His was a life of faith, generosity, good works, righteousness, and obedience. We get to choose the kind of life we want to pursue. If we choose well, we will be satisfied, others will be blessed, and God will be pleased.

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Categories
culture singing worship

SCATTERED THOUGHTS ABOUT “OUR SONGS”

Neal Pollard

Disclaimer: I clearly recognize my own fallibility and potential short-sightedness on this and all matters.  Please be assured that the following is written with deepest love for the Savior, the saved, and the lost sinner. Prudence, wisdom, and Christ-like love should characterize all such discussions as these, and that is my intention. 

  • There is wisdom in an evangelistic congregation looking for more psalms, hymns and spiritual songs written in the late 1900s and the 2000s.
  • Our congregations need to be seeking talented people to write words and music for new songs that connect in melody and wording with those living today.
  • The songs in our songbooks (other than those directly quoting Scripture) are neither inspired nor infallible.  To note any archaic or befuddling words, lyrics, or tunes is not inherently sacrilegious.
  • Proper respect should be maintained for members, old or young, who love and are edified by our older songs.
  • Proper respect should be maintained for members, old or young, who love and are edified by our newer songs.
  • “Newer songs” do not automatically equal spiritually inferior or unscriptural songs.  “Older songs” do not automatically equal spiritually superior or scriptural songs.  Of course, the opposite is true of both types of songs.
  • It is neither wrong to sing every verse or omit one or more verses of a song.  A few songs make less sense, however, if verses are omitted.
  • Greater attention should be paid to the “horizontal aspect” of our singing; As our singing is to “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16), we must be sure that we pay attention to this dimension of congregational singing.
  • As always, our task is not to judge the worshipfulness of anyone else but to be sure we are constantly striving to worship in song in spirit and truth, with understanding (John 4:24; 1 Cor. 14:15).
  • It’s just as wrong to refuse to sing as it is to add to the command to sing.
  • While we never want to be fake or contrived in our emotions and expressions, we should give thought to what we convey as we sing in worship—enthusiasm or boredom, joy or consternation, interest or apathy, etc.
  • Suggestions for improving our singing in worship does not equate to a  “liberal agenda.”
  • Projecting songs is not a panacea for most of these issues.  However we read our songs, we must strive to focus on praising God and teaching each other.

Categories
motivation selfishness

Are You A Taker Or A Giver?

Neal Pollard

  • Are you sure to take credit for works that are done or do you seek to give credit for them?
  • Are you more apt to take others’ time or to give your time to others?
  • Do you take joy from others or give it to them?
  • Are you quicker to take the attention or to give it?
  • Would others better know you as a taker of happiness or as a giver of it?
  • Is your reputation as one who takes others’ help or who gives yourself to help others?
  • Are you prone to take advantage of someone or give an advantage to someone?
  • As you take God’s blessings, do you give yourself as a blessing to others?
  • Would you be better known as a taker or giver of encouragement?

There are surely more contrasts along these lines, but consider this regarding them all. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b).  Much of this is a matter of selfishness or unselfishness.  As unappealing as the prospect is, each of us does well to look closer at which we are.  We may grab a temporary spotlight, get a short-term advantage, or have the fleeting praise of men, even while taking, but the Lord’s view is different.  He says of takers, “They have their reward in full” (Mat. 6:2,5,16).  How much better to give (cf. Lk. 6:38)!

Categories
praise prayer

PRAISE IDEAS FOR PRAYER

Neal Pollard

Prayer is a very personal exercise, a life built between an individual and God. Thus, these suggestions may of themselves feel intrusive or foreign to some.  However, through the years, I have heard many express some difficulty in knowing how to praise God or what to say in praise to Him when in prayer.  Leah, in naming Judah, was the first to articulate the idea (through his name), “I will praise” (Gen. 29:35).  Moses resolved the same at the head of his song in Exodus 15:2.  The remaining six times the phrase appears, the psalmist pens the words (Ps. 22:22; 35:18; 69:30; 109:30; 145:2; 146:2).  Twice in the Psalms we learn that “praise is becoming” (33:1; 147:1). In fact, it makes little sense to make the case for the importance of praise to anyone who professes a belief in God and has seen His blessings and assistance in his or her life.

Having said all of that, what are some specific things one can praise God for in the exercise of prayer?

  • Praise Him for His attributes (eternality, limitlessness, superlativeness).
  • Praise Him for the wonders of creation (try praying under a starry sky, as the sun is rising, or out in the midst of nature’s beauty—words of praise will flow like water).
  • Praise Him for His blessings.
  • Praise Him for His sovereignty and superiority.
  • Praise Him for His promises.
  • Praise Him for His desire to have relationship with you.
  • Praise Him for His providence.
  • Praise Him for His plan of salvation, giving thought to its component parts.
  • Praise Him for the glorious future He has prepared for you.
  • Praise Him for the victorious work of Christ and the spiritual benefits that brings you.

Obviously, this is just a primer list of ideas.  Contemplate God, His nature, His work, His personality, and you will have an ever-growing, ever-changing, and ever-deepening “praise component” to your prayer life.  It is good to thank Him and petition Him, but take sufficient time to exalt Him by infusing your supplications with praise to Him!  As David urged Asaph and his relatives to proclaim, “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised” (1 Chr. 16:25a). Amen!

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Bear Valley church of Christ Current Events Daily Bread Neal Pollard Pollard blog Uncategorized

A Beautiful Tribute

Neal Pollard

Kathy and I attended the funeral of Mildred (Millie) King, Larry’s mom and relative to several Bear Valley members, this morning at the Loveland church of Christ.  Ron Lauterbach, the local preacher there, delivered a fine tribute to the godliness of this woman.  So many kind things were said by Ron as well as family members about her faithful Christian life.  It was all very inspiring.  However, the crowning moment of the service was her widower’s words in her honor.  Ron saved these words for last, and they were touching.  He spoke of his “sweetheart” of 62 years, reflecting on how she put Jesus Christ before anything and anyone else.  Then, he spoke about what a devoted mother and wife she was throughout these many decades.  It was touching to hear about this wife who dedicated her life to raising faithful children and standing faithfully behind and beside her man.  When the service was over, Kathy whispered to me, “I don’t know her, but I want to be just like her.”

Is there any better tribute that can be paid than a life lived well?  She served at times as a preacher’s wife, but mostly a school teacher’s wife.  She made many a meal and sent many a card to others.  Her service was very well attended, especially for a late Thursday morning.  All of this honored her, but nothing more than the ones closest to her lavishing such praise about her spiritual maturity and service.  And the one closest to her of all people, Leland King, spoke most tenderly, fondly, and cherishingly.  No praise outshines the genuine admiration and affection of one’s spouse, the person with the most intimate knowledge of that one.  This kind of legacy lives on, even after that one dies (cf. Heb. 11:4b).