Three Keys To Better Bible Classes

Three Keys To Better Bible Classes

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard  

The Tompkinsville church family is blessed to have some righteous and knowledgeable elders. In the past week and in separate Bible classes these men have each shed some insight on three different biblical texts. One elder brought a passage of scripture to the table that clarified the difference between anger and sinful anger. Another elder gave a separate take on the dispersion of humanity after the language change at Babel. After a discussion surrounding the blessing that was promised to Jacob, one of the elders broadened the scope and showed how that promise played out in Jacob’s life and in the life of the Israelites. Though the insights they offered in class were contrary to some beliefs in the brotherhood, they navigated the disagreements with grace and tact. These were not matters of salvation and in some cases were simply a matter of opinion.

The biblical text is not always clear in the English translations since there is the cultural and linguistic barriers that must be taken into consideration. Since that’s the case, there are occasionally opposing views that could both be correct. To some degree, speculation and educated guess work will attempt to fill in the gaps. Is there a hard line in the sand that indicates when anger becomes sinful? Certainly. Could God have miraculously scattered the confused people after the Tower of Babel was completed? Yes. God could have also allowed them to naturally migrate to their respective regions. Are there several applications that can be taken from Genesis 32 where we read that Jacob wrestled with God? Definitely. A church family should appreciate an eldership with a heart and mind so immersed in God’s word that they have drawn their own conclusions based on their personal study. Godly men and women express their faithfulness in Bible classes in several ways. 

  • First, they understand that the truth must be spoken in love (Ephesians 4.15). They are able to tell the difference between matters of opinion and matters of salvation. 
  • Second, they are eager to maintain a unity of spirit and a bond of peace (Ephesians 4.3-6). Godly members are not purposefully divisive or quick to start heated debates. 
  • Third, the older Christians recognize the responsibility they have to share their wisdom with the younger generation and the godly youth respect the wisdom that is given from the older generation (Titus 2.2-12). 

When the body of Christ is unified it’s also unstoppable. The church family that respects those God-given rolls that we are all assigned will find that Bible classes, Biblical discussion, and relationships are enriched and strengthened. Knowledge is both shared and received in love and humility. 

Deprivation In The Land Of Plenty

Deprivation In The Land Of Plenty

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

It is likely the most willfully ignorant who would deny that we are entering a period of inflation. Various issues are causing this, such as rising fuel costs and a growing sector of society preferring unemployment to gainful employment. To illustrate this, look no further than our ports. There are dozens of ships parked off our coasts with an insufficient workforce to unload the products at the docks. COVID-19 indeed gets its share of the blame for this but, despite the pundits, cannot account for it all. Thus, we are beginning to see shortages of certain products and empty shelves in stores. For example, we will be running out of certain products again while it sits on a ship just hundreds of feet from our shore. Thus, we may well experience deprivation in the shadow of plenty. 

This deprivation happens with greater frequency within our collective spiritual lives. For example, how many households own unread Bibles? I would venture to guess that there are many. So here we have people sitting in the presence of plenty but suffer for a “lack of knowledge” (cf. Isaiah 5.13; Hosea 4.6). The Israelites ended up in captivity because of a similar choice of ignoring God’s Word. We cannot suppose that a gracious-but-just God would allow those of us living under the New Testament to skate when committing the same offense. Jesus depicted a Judgment scene in His Sermon on the Mount. Do you recall what He said to those crying, “Lord, Lord?” God only allows heavenly entry to those doing the Father’s will (Matthew 7.21-23). And where do we learn of God’s Will? Peter says that God has given us all things about life and godliness (2 Peter 1.3ff). And Paul reminds us that the Scriptures are God-breathed [inspired] (2Timothy 3.16-17). Lastly, Jesus confirms this Word as truth (John 17.17). Indeed, God has left us with a book into which even the angels desire to look (1 Peter 1.12). 

So why do people suffer spiritual want? God’s Word sits like those cargo ships, within reach of those who would profit from it. The problem lies in the lack of readers on this side of eternity’s shore. Oh, there are excuses, to be sure. For example, “I’m too busy and cannot find time to read.” Or “I get enough instruction during church services.” But their stores are increasingly empty of what the spirit most needs. Unlike our current economic situation in the United States, where reliance on imports leaves us in a lurch, there is a different reality in the spiritual realm. Since we refuse to partake of the plenty God has supplied, the devil gladly steps in and stocks our shelves for us with the sensual. Since our focus is on the immediate, we don’t notice we’ve traded our soul for that which will destroy us (Matthew 6.19-21; Luke 9.25; Luke 12.16-33). 

Get to work (2 Timothy2.15)! Grab that Bible and unload its truth into your heart. Don’t suffer deprivation in the shadow of plenty.    

9 Kernel Crop

9 Kernel Crop

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

 
Have you ever seen those little rocking horses that little kids ride? They hop on and rock back and forth, but they never go anywhere. There’s a whole lot of motion and work put in, but there’s never any progress made. Just like we don’t sit in a rocking chair to go somewhere, we need to understand how to work towards growth and maturity in our faith and knowledge.

We can work towards growing as Christians, but if we aren’t studying properly, or have the wrong mindset, our work and effort will never produce the outcome we are looking for. 2 Peter 3:18 tells us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” We are told by Peter through inspiration from God to “grow” and this isn’t a suggestion. It’s an imperative we are commanded to obey.

If you’re like me, this seems like a general command that can be overwhelming. If we want to grow a garden we have to do several things in order to be successful. We have to prepare the soil (no rocks or weeds) in order to give the plants what they need to grow and produce. There’s maintenance work to be done once the plants begin to grow. Keep weeds from choking out the plants, and make sure they are watered. Keep animals and bugs from destroying the plants. Make sure they get enough sunlight. And depending on the type of plant we will need to trim and cut excess leaves and stems to help it produce more produce (see what I did there?). Having a garden takes time, effort and patience.

Gardens don’t just magically appear. But there are some rare exceptions. I was burning some old clothes and furniture last year and I decided to throw some spoiled corn in the fire. When summer came around guess what I had sprouting out of my fire pit? Stalks of corn! And I got a great harvest of about 9 kernels. I ate them and it was pretty good! As Christians we will grow to a point without having to work too hard. We can learn from the lessons we hear at church, we can grow from what our parents teach us, but there will come a time when that won’t be enough. The corn in my fire pit only grew so much before it started turning brown. Turns out the roots were only surface deep because there was a sheet of metal keeping them from growing deeper. This in turn affected the produce that came from the plant. Hopefully as Christians we want to produce more than 9 kernels, and in order to grow properly we need put in the work.

Peter tells us that as Christians we must increase in grace (Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 3:16; 2 Pt. 1:2), grow in knowledge (Eph. 4:15; Col. 1:10, 2:19; 1 Pt. 2:2), and be motivated by a desire to glorify Christ (2 Pt. 3:18).

Our effort should produce results. In order for this to happen we must know the proper steps to take. We should never be satisfied with our knowledge of scripture. There’s no such thing as knowing too much Bible. We should never settle for the small amount of growth we encounter at services 3 times a week.

Am I willing to put in the work?

Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

 
Say that three times in a row. Now that you’ve done that, let’s focus on a very important question. Are traditions splitting the church? To answer this we must look at the source of our traditions. As a church we follow both divine and man-made traditions. The ones from God must be followed and taught in the church, but the ones from man have no authority from God.
 
So, are traditions splitting the church? The word “tradition” means to “pass something down.” Galatians 1:14 says, “and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” Were the traditions that Paul was learning about passed down by man or by God? He labels them as being his “ancestors’ traditions.”
 
We must be careful to determine if a tradition that is being taught is divine or was instituted by our “ancestors.” For example, serving the Lord’s Supper from the front of the auditorium on a table that says, “Do This in Remembrance of Me”, and using brass plates are man-made traditions. This is not found in scripture.
 
There’s nothing wrong with practicing this tradition. The problem is when some try to enforce this and say “if you don’t do this for the Lord’s Supper then you haven’t really done what has been commanded.”
 
This teaching of tradition can split the church and we must be careful that we are enforcing God’s tradition and not our own. To do this we should ask, “Is it a violation of Scripture, or is it a tradition?” It’s okay to go along with traditions, but it is not okay to bind human traditions as a salvation issue.
 
There are some in the church that have taken their man-made traditions to heart. So we must ask ourselves, are we binding man-made traditions on others for salvation? Do we get upset if someone changes up the order of worship? Maybe we get mad when there are only two songs between the opening prayer and the sermon?
 
Divine traditions are what we must follow, and we must not force man-made traditions. Galatians 1:8-9 says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Paul’s point is this: “Who did you receive it from?”
 
1 Corinthians 15:1-3 tells us, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” It is important that we check to see where the tradition came from.
 
Paul got his teachings from Jesus Christ. That is the divine source we must use. Not your preacher or the old wise man. This tradition was divine. Even if it is a tradition that has been around for many years, this does not automatically make it a divine tradition.
 
We must always keep in mind two facts when it comes to tradition.
  1. Divine tradition is binding while man-made is not.
  2. Look for the source of the tradition in order to clarify fact number one.

“Praying The Scriptures”

“Praying The Scriptures”

MONDAY’S COLUMN: NEAL AT THE CROSS

Neal at ATF 2020

Neal Pollard

Yesterday morning, Chuck Raymer prayed an especially beautiful prayer, well-thought-out and earnest, but also filled with quotations of Bible verses or parts of them (near the beginning, he quoted Psalm 100:3)(his prayer begins at about 6:30 of the recording on YouTube of yesterday morning’s service: It starts here). My good friend and former co-worker in Colorado, Corey Sawyers, would often adapt the words of an entire psalm and pray it as he led us in the assemblies. There is something especially powerful about prayers that are Scripture quotations. It’s certainly something biblical.

In Acts 4:23, Peter and John, after having been released from being held by the Jews for preaching Jesus, met with the Jerusalem congregation. They lifted their voices to God with one accord and addressed Him. In their brief prayer (note verse 31), they quoted Exodus 20:11 (also found in Nehemiah and Psalms) and Psalm 2:1-2. They were so full of the Word that it came out even in their prayers. Look at the Levites who led Judah in prayer in Nehemiah 9:4-37. Much at that prayer quotes passages and events found in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). Most powerfully of all, Jesus prayed Scripture at a more difficult moment than any other human being will ever face (Mark 15:34). The praying prophet, Daniel, turned to God in prayer being moved by the words of Jeremiah (Dan. 9:2-3). How will it help us to pray the Scriptures in our own lives, whether in publicly leading prayer or in our private devotional lives?

IT LETS THE GOD WE WANT TO HEAR US KNOW THAT WE ARE LISTENING TO HIM.

Certainly, God knows His Word, but so does He know our every innermost thought, desire, and need. But, there is something about addressing God by including great truth from His Word that can really enrich those prayers. It tells Him we are mindful of His will even as we seek to influence it. 

IT BUILDS OUR FAITH IN THE TRUTH AND PROMISES OF HIS WORD.

Repetition is not just the key to learning, but it can also greatly aid our comprehension and retention. As you pray Scripture, you help reinforce those promises and truths. You will actually be reflecting on them as you pray it back to God. 

IT HELPS US TO APPLY THE WORD TO OUR DAILY LIVES.

Scripture can become more real and meaningful as we make verbalize it in prayer. It can take incidents and teachings in Scriptures and directly apply those verses to what we are going through. So often, we are going through the same exact types of things men and women of the Bible were going through. How can it be more practical than this: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psa. 119:11)?

There are probably several more reasons why we should quote and allude to Scripture in our prayer lives, but these are at least a few. You will certainly never say anything more truthful and right in your prayers than God’s Word. You will also be walking in some very righteous footprints, of those in Scripture who prayed Scripture back to God. 

“Self-Sufficient Study”

“Self-Sufficient Study”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

All gas internal combustion engines require three things to operate: fuel, spark, and compression. If one of the three is working improperly, a number of symptoms can arise. This is an oversimplification, of course, but those three systems must be mostly operable in order to be usable. 

Troubleshooting can be expensive if a person has little or no experience with this common engine type. Learning to maintain a vehicle and enact basic repairs saves an enormous amount of money! Relying on someone else to do it is often very costly. 

We fully understand that not everyone is equipped to be a scholar-level theologian. However, many Christians take this idea and swing the opposite direction. How many have been Christians for decades and have just a basic understanding of scripture? How many multi-generational Christians snore at the thought of advanced biblical studies? How many have only the knowledge they retain from a sermon? How many base their understanding and beliefs on the values held by respected friends or family? 

No one is perfect; the more a person learns through deep bible study, the more they are confronted with their own inadequacies. But a dedicated student of the scriptures also gains this: 

  1. A profound appreciation for grace and its role in our practical lives. 
  2. Mind-blowing discoveries and realizations about the nature of God and eternity that bullet-proof our faith. 
  3. The full emotional and intellectual impact of biblical principles. 
  4. A deeper understanding of the goals, message(s), meaning, and practical applications of a book. 
  5. A heartwarming and emotion-eliciting  appreciation for the role of The Word, Jesus, and His hand in creation, sustaining the genetic line that brought about His physical death, the timeless sacrifice He made by subjecting Himself eternally to the Father, and the role He plays today on our behalf.
  6. An ability to defend the faith, refute false doctrine, convert a lost soul, and build faith in others. 
  7. An ability to avoid sin more effectively. 
  8. A far lesser likelihood of accepting false doctrines or harmful practices.  
  9. Excitement, joy, and fulfillment about being a Christian! 
  10. A great disdain for arguments over petty issues that are weakening the church, and the ability to shut them down and refute them soundly. 

As a bonus, learning to read and translate Greek or Hebrew (at least with the help of a lexicon, a decent understanding of rules of each language, and their proper application in each context) will give even more profound insight into words and concepts we read in our native translations. 

Relying on what others tell us is not sufficient! We may find that the cost, eternally, is far steeper than what we would pay to the most expensive mechanic for repairs we could do at a fraction of the cost. Not only will we gain a great appreciation for what we know and live by becoming true Bible students, but it also greatly enhances our ability to live a faithful Christian life. 

 

Study Is Serious

Study Is Serious

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
Lies closest to the truth do the most damage. It can be easy to deceive the average person because many simply will not question what they hear or read. Whether the subject is politics, science, religion, or urban legends, many have opinions based primarily on a cursory understanding of the subject matter.
 
In most areas of life, this lack of investigation or study is benign. Our eternity is not remotely impacted by (erroneously) thinking that Kalashnikov’s rifles are inherently inaccurate.
 
When it comes to our faith, however, we are left without excuse. Christians have an obligation to investigate what is taught (Acts 17). In order to effectively do so, we must have the desire to become serious bible students.
 
Depth of study is not just for theologians! The ability to analyze and accurately draw meaning from God’s word is something each Christian should pursue. Phrases like, “That’s too smart for me,” or, “Not everyone’s a preacher,” or, “It’s all Greek to me,” or any other excuse we may use will not fly at judgment.
 
The Spirit expects us to be knowledgeable enough in His words that we could teach on the subject (Hebrews 5.12). Teachers are proficient or expert in their subjects, not just vaguely familiar with them.
 
A great place to start in one’s journey to proficiency is to take the responsibility of learning seriously. We expect those who work with nuclear power to have some knowledge in their field because of the risk potential. With the Bible, souls and eternal destinations are at stake; if we appreciate this, it should drive us to become dedicated students of the word.
 
What Does The Bible Say?

What Does The Bible Say?

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

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

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

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

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“It’s all Greek to me.”

“It’s all Greek to me.”

Tuesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

This is a familiar phrase to most of us, usually used when responding to something so difficult to understand that it warrants saying. Advanced math brings this phrase to my mind (no one should never mix the alphabet with numbers, by the way). For most people, any topic or conversation with very difficult-to-understand components will prompt, “It’s all Greek to me.” We understand that it is used in good humor and not as a slight against Greek, but I believe that it has also discouraged the “average” Christian from studying the original language of the New Testament. 

Before I continue, allow me a disclaimer: I am not a scholar, by any means, in the use of the Attic/Ionic-based ancient language known as Koine Greek. I am an enthusiastic student of the language, but not an expert. The purpose of this article is to hopefully knock down some of the myths surrounding the language and hopefully encourage us all to pursue a knowledge of it. 

Myth #1: Greek Is Super Hard to Learn

This could not be further from the truth. Greek makes a lot more sense than English! This is not to say that it is easy (learning any language is difficult), but it is most certainly attainable. Start with the Greek alphabet and memorize it. Once you can sound out words, try memorizing as much vocabulary as you can. If you can, find a Greek New Testament with a lexicon in the back and memorize those. With that base, learning the more complex grammar rules and language structure becomes significantly easier. 

Myth #2: You Need to Be an Expert to Get the Benefits of Greek Study

Regardless of what anyone says, the New Testament really comes to life when you can read it without the third party that is translation. You get the full emotional and intellectual impact of a writer when you can read his words first-hand. You do not have to be a Greek scholar to get some of that impact! Technology today can be an incredible tool. One such tool is Logos Bible Software. It is a free app that allows anyone to look up a word in the New Testament and understand more about its meaning. Another resource is a good lexicon like BDAG. This can be had (in an earlier edition) on abebooks.com for a couple of dollars. 

Why study Greek? It will help you grow immensely in your spiritual life. It will help you understand truths more clearly. It will give you even more joy and excitement in your study. It will give you a better grasp of the English language. It will give you a firsthand look at scripture without the bias sometimes present in translation. This is not, by any means, necessary for salvation or even spiritual growth and maturity. It is, however, one of the most incredible tools any Christian will have for in-depth bible study. As an added bonus, you can chuckle a little more anytime someone says, “It’s all Greek to me.” 

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SNAPSHOTS

SNAPSHOTS

Neal Pollard

During our recent move from Colorado to Kentucky, I sifted through several boxes and shelves and found paper and digital photographs all the way from Kathy’s and my childhood to our sons when they were small. It’s incredible to witness the dramatic transformation they reveal. We’re still taking pictures, which will be snapshots we look back on in years to come.

As I try to get to know the Lehman Avenue congregation better, I have been given recent church directories. Did you know that we have directories going back to 1955? That one has no photographs in it. The first one that does have photos is from 1978. There are not many in that directory who still worship here today, though you will see entries with the last names Bruner, Daniel, Dickerson, Dunning, Ennis, Gilbert, Hunt, Nicks, Phelps, Raymer, Tabor, and no doubt others including those who may have a different last name today. Do you think the 1978 picture looks like the 2019 person? There are resemblances, but also changes. 

That 1955 directory does give a snapshot of a different kind. In the forward is written the following: 

“The purpose of this directory is three-fold: To give a brief history of the beginning, development and progress of the Lord’s church in Bowling Green; to perpetuate a list of charter members forming the Lehman Avenue congregation; and to better quaint the members of this local congregation with one another, in order that we may work together in the best way possible.” 

I appreciate that the compilers of this directory went to the trouble to trace the history of the church’s establishment in Bowling Green. Eugenia Hayes’ research is included in this first edition. She says that Stone and the Campbells were here, helping to establish the church. The first congregation established here was in the mid-1840s, with six members meeting each Lord’s Day and eventually meeting in a house build on a property on College Street. When threatened by digression in the late 1800s, the church here was aided by such men as M.C. Kurfees from Louisville, Daniel Sommer from Indianapolis, and James Harding from Nashville. A building was built on Twelfth Street in 1899, and Lehman was established from this congregation in 1955. Roy J. Hearn was the first preacher. 

From these “newborn” and “infant” photographs, we can trace our “development and progress.” More “snapshots” are being made constantly, and not just those which show up in the latest directories or on social media. In encouraging Timothy to embrace his ministry and gifts, Paul urged, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to the teaching…” (1 Tim. 4:15-16a). “Take pains” means to improve by care or study, practice, cultivate…” (BDAG 627). “Be absorbed” is better translated “be in them” but conveys the idea of being involved in or devoted to (BDAG 284).”Progress” means “to change one’s state for the better by advancing and making progress” (Louw-Nida 154). “Pay close attention” means “to be mindful or especially observant” (BDAG 362). Put it all together. Improve, involve, and observe yourself in order to make progress. 

When we sit for family portraits, we normally put on clothes we think will flatter us, we give attention to grooming, and we attempt to look our best. What Scripture calls for goes beyond just skin deep. God wants us to focus intently on our “inner man” so that, even as our outer man is decaying, we can “look better” to God each and every day (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16). Look at snapshots of your spiritual past. Look at yourself today. Progress? Regress? “No-gress”? Which is it? Take heart! There’s still time to make changes that will look good to God (and you), so that we can look back with gratitude and satisfaction that we took pains with our spiritual appearance! Strike a Christlike pose! 

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