“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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TRY THE CONTEXT!

TRY THE CONTEXT!

Neal Pollard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#7

Resolutions Reinforcements–#7

Neal Pollard

Already, we have looked at six reinforcements for our resolutions: (1) Specificity (Resolutions Reinforcements–#1), (2) Prayer (Resolutions Reinforcements–#2), (3) Tenacity (Resolutions Reinforcements–#3), (4) Hope (Resolutions Reinforcements–#4), (5) Self-Control (Resolutions Reinforcements—#5), and (6) Accountability (Resolutions Reinforcements–#6). I’d like to close this series of articles with one last tool of support. To keep our resolutions rolling, may I suggest “reading.”

Especially if you are not a reader, that may sound like drudgery. However, consider the fact that God thought it important enough to have His will and thoughts written down in a book. Certainly, the Bible will help shape, encourage, and assist us in every noble goal. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” How do we know what God considers to fall within these categories? We must read His Word (cf. Psa. 119:105).

Whatever your goals, there are probably plenty of books devoted to the subject (cf. Ecc. 12:12). If you have financial, physical, relational, or spiritual goals, seek out books by those of proven ability in those areas. Perhaps you can ask people who are excelling in the areas where you wish to improve what books they’ve read and would recommend. Some time ago when he still lived at home, my son Dale passed along a book one of our deacons, Scott Phillips, shared with him on finances, entitled Rich Dad, Poor Dad. One of my elders, Dean Murphy, recently recommended The Speed of Trust for effective leadership. Rick Randall, a faithful member here, recommended a faith-building resource called The Truth Project. Just yesterday, Mike Vestal encouraged me to read a book by Gary McIntosh on church growth that was relevant to a goal I have regarding Bear Valley. Connect yourself to readers in your congregation and your circle of friends.

The point is, resolutions are about making improvements. Often, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel. Usually, you’ll have to spit out some bones. Always, you can mine at least some nugget from a book on a subject of your interest that can help you grow. I encourage you to “study up” on ways to maintain and shore up your resolve. Filter it all through the lens of Scripture. Then, most importantly, don’t be a forgetful hearer but rather a doer (cf. Jas. 1:22).

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Why We Need The Word

Why We Need The Word

Neal Pollard

Many know that Psalm 119 is the greatest, inspired tribute to the Word of God known to man. 176 verses, eight verses under the heading of every Hebrew letter, grace these pages of our Bibles. All but a few verses mention some synonym for God’s Word. So many individual studies can be made of themes and thrusts in Psalm 119, but by reading it one discovers David giving many benefits or needs for studying the Bible. Consider what is no doubt an inexhaustible study.

  • To keep from sinning against God (11)
  • I am a stranger in the earth (19)
  • The influential can be against us at times (23)
  • Our soul often melts from heaviness (28)
  • To keep our eyes from worthless things (37)
  • To have an answer for him who reproaches us (42)
  • It causes hope (49)
  • For comfort in affliction (50, 76)
  • It causes righteous indignation (53)
  • It leads us to seek God’s favor with our whole heart (58)
  • It makes us choose better companions (63)
  • It brings good judgment and knowledge (66)
  • It prevents apostasy (67)
  • It makes us more attractive to the God-fearing (74)
  • That I may live (77, 93, etc.)
  • For revival (88)
  • For greater understanding (99)
  • To be upheld and safe (117)
  • To have a proper sense of self (125)
  • For a proper sense of values (128)
  • For proper emotional investment (136)
  • For righteous zeal (139)
  • For a proper sense of dependency (147)
  • It brings confidence (152)
  • It gives us the proper sentiment toward the world (158)
  • To develop a proper “praise life” (164)

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LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACE FOR JESUS

LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACE FOR JESUS

Neal Pollard
Periodically, we read or hear of “sightings” that unbelievers have a field day with. I refer to “Jesus sightings,” people are claiming in such things as clouds, Cheetos, dental X-rays, cooking utensils, windows, walls, and trees. Wikipedia even has an entry for it (“Perceptions of religious imagery in natural phenomena”). People vehemently defend the idea that these are intentional, divinely sent images. Meanwhile, secular and agnostic witnesses to such claims gather up baby and bathwater together, using such superstitiousness to show how deluded those in Christendom really are. Yet, while responding to superstition in religion would be a fitting use of time, another thing comes to mind when hearing these sad stories. It is a reminder that people are looking for Jesus in all the wrong places.
They want some heavenly sign, some overwhelming feeling, some sensory sensation, and some sort of religious fireworks to create or validate their faith. While God has embedded plenty of these in the marvels of nature and creation, through the product of answered prayer that defies logic or explanation, and by the amazing process of transformation that occurs when people follow Christ, He calls on us to seek for Him in a much less electrifying and cataclysmic place.
When we pick up God’s Word and regularly, intently read, meditate, and study (cf. Psalm 1) it, we see Jesus come alive in powerful, sustaining ways! When we walk with the Lord each day, the resulting relationship built on His character and our trust in Him is powerful! When we actively serve Him and others and put into practice what He teaches us through the Bible, we see Jesus in a vivid way. Daily Christian living, the longer we practice it, brings Jesus into unmistakeable, clear focus. Maybe that is what these “seers” truly desire, and what they need is our help to truly find Him. Let us take that as a challenge and help people really “see Jesus” (cf. John 12:21; Heb. 2:9).

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