We Don’t Know How To Pray

We Don’t Know How To Pray

Wednesday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

When I take the time to pause and think about who God is, it blows my mind. He’s all powerful, loving, righteous, faithful, and just. When we look at His character and the perfection that surrounds Him, it can almost seem overwhelming. A God with that much power and glory takes the time to listen to me. He hears the prayers that each of us pray.

If you’re like me, this can be very intimidating. Every time we bow our heads and pray, we are talking to the creator of worlds, the one that spoke everything we see and know into existence. We pause and reach out to God, and He listens to us. The creator listens to the cries of His creation. What a wonderful God we serve.

On our own we could never reach out to God and build our relationship with Him. We lie, cheat, steal, and lust after that which is darkness. God is the Father of light, and darkness cannot be found near Him. But God gave us a way to be justified, a way to petition Him and strengthen our Father to Son relationship.

Have you ever struggled with prayer? Maybe we fail to understand the tremendous blessing that it is. Maybe we fail to set time aside each day to talk with God. Maybe we feel like we aren’t holy enough to pray to God. Or maybe we feel like we don’t know how to pray.

Many Christians already know that it’s important to pray. We’ve heard that prayer is vital in the Christian walk. Thing is, we don’t know how to pray. And there are three main reasons why this is the case.

We are weak. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Paul uses the word “likewise” which tells us that what he is about to say is tied to what he has just mentioned. And so we must ask, what weakness is Paul referring to? In context, the earth is made weak because of sin (18-22). We ourselves have been made weak because of sin (23-25). Therefore since we are not strong, the Spirit helps us pray to God, even in our current state of weakness.

We pray for the wrong things. Continuing on in verse 26, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought…” James tells us something similar in 4:3. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” We have a tendency to pray for the wrong things, and this ties directly into our weakness. We are weak because we pray for the wrong things. We say things like, “take this problem away” instead of saying “help me to use this problem to grow my faith.” We pray for things like, money, physical blessings, and selfish desires. We don’t know how to pray.
We confuse our will with God’s, and expect Him to change His mind and agree with us. We fail to see God’s perfect plan. We are short-sighted and selfish in our prayers. Because of this, we are weak and don’t know how to pray.

We use the wrong words. The last part of verse 26 says, “but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” “Intercede”, “to plead on behalf of another.” We may be weak, we may ask for the wrong things, but the Spirit pleads to God on our behalf. It should be a comfort knowing that one of the Godhead helps us in our prayers to God. Paul gives the Spirit a unique description. He says the Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” When I hear the word “groan” I think of the sound I make when I eat too much food. Or the sound someone makes when their football team fumbles the ball. This word groan is far from this. It means “an involuntary expression of great concern or stress.” The concern that the Spirit has for us is so strong that it cannot be described with words. When we go before the throne of God, we are using the wrong words. There is no way that we can express to God what we feel. The Spirit then intercedes (pleads) on our behalf, expressing so great a concern, that words cannot be used to describe it.

We may not know how to pray, but God in His perfect love has provided for His Children. What an awesome God we serve.

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Why I Attend Wednesday Night Church Services

Why I Attend Wednesday Night Church Services

Neal Pollard

  • I need the fellowship of Christian family in the middle of a week spent exposed to the world.
  • I draw strength from the teaching of God’s Word and the comments others make on the subject being studied.
  • Others need my encouragement and influence, and my presence can be so faith-building to them.
  • Bible class teachers have taken precious time to prepare and deliver their material.
  • I believe God is pleased with my making such a commitment and a sacrifice, though it’s so little compared to all that He has done for me.
  • It builds my interest in spiritual things.
  • I believe it helps contribute to the overall strength and influence of the local church.
  • It is an affirmation of the eldership’s wisdom to have such classes in the first place, where they seek to help give me spiritual food.
  • I live by the philosophy that I make time for what is most important and valuable.
  • My family is guided by my leadership and priorities.
  • I live in a nation that allows me to freely assemble to build and express my faith, and I do not want to take that for granted.
  • I have so many great memories of Wednesdays, and I continue to make them.
  • Though I have often arrived tired and frazzled, I have almost always left rejuvenated and rejoicing.
  • I want to.

What would you add?

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What To See When False Prophets Speak

What To See When False Prophets Speak

Neal Pollard

Peter has a sobering warning for the church, writing, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Pet. 2:1). He warns them about the model, the methods, and the message of these men. The counterparts of these modern messengers is the false prophets of old.

Jeremiah lived at a time when such prophets flourished, and the result of their work was the destruction of the people. Jeremiah 23 is a graphic depiction of what God helped Jeremiah see as he looked at and listened to these sinful seers. Notice that in Jeremiah 23:9-40), he saw:

  • Tears (9-10)–Jeremiah was heartbroken, trembling, and overcome, because he knew their message was different from God’s Word and it was taking people off course. 
  • Pollution (11-12)–The Lord found their way wickedness, and this pollution made for a slippery path that would make them fall in calamity and punishment. 
  • Offensiveness (13-14)–They looked to the wrong spiritual source and it led the people of God to commit horrible depravity. 
  • Tragedy (15)–Their message was going to cause their own spiritual sickness and death.
  • Emptiness (16-18)–The message is from their own imagination and not from the Lord’s mouth, so they tell those who hate God they’ll have peace and those who walk in stubbornness that everything will be fine.
  • Storms (19-20)–The storm is the tempest of God’s wrath upon the heads of these false messengers. 
  • Audacity (21-25)–They ran, but God didn’t send them; They prophesied, but God didn’t speak to them; God was right there listening when they said, “I had a dream, I had a dream!”
  • Heart Trouble (26-27)–The prophets had spiritual heart trouble, and their message was loved by people with heart trouble. It resulted in both of them forgetting God. 
  • Straw (28)–Just as straw and grain are totally different things, so is God’s message and their false message. 
  • Judgment (29-40)–God’s Word is like fire and a hammer. He is against their Word and against them for misusing their speaking abilities and leading His people astray. They don’t furnish the people with “the slightest benefit.” They cause the people to forget what truth is.  The end result is tragedy. 

So many can have a message that sounds good, makes one feel good, but does no good! In fact, their message contradicts what God said in His Word. As we grow our Bible knowledge, it will help us see these messengers and their messages for what they are. God’s Word is a blessing to us, both now and eternally. But, measure their message against the Master’s. Embrace only the words that are from Him! Reject the words that come from them!

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“Immediately”

“Immediately”

Neal Pollard

The astute reader of the book of Mark finds the word 40 times in 39 verses (the Greek word most often translated “immediately” in Mark is actually found 44 times). It is a key word found consistently throughout the gospel but especially in the first six chapters. Usually, the word is used to quantify the time between Jesus performing a miracle and it taking effect. The point seems to be to show the power and Divine nature of Jesus. It is also a thread that runs throughout the book to highlight key thoughts and main ideas in this second book of the New Testament. The word is used to highlight the Father’s affirmation of Christ following His baptism (1:10), Jesus’ journey into the wilderness to triumph over the Devil’s temptations (1:12), the disciples’ decision to leave their occupation to follow Jesus (1:18,20), Jesus’ entering the synagogue to show unparalleled authority and power (1:21), the news and fame that followed Christ’s teaching and healing (1:28), and the immediate response of the one healed by Jesus–the first of many uses of the word “immediately” to highlight such (1:29-30). The proof for Jesus’ identity was immediate. The effect of Jesus’ miracles was immediate. The impact of Jesus’ miracles and teachings on friend and foe was immediate. Mark’s use of this word seems to indicate how overwhelming and unmistakable the proof of Jesus was.

This is not to say that one should rashly decide about the Lord. The book of Mark is part of God’s way to convince man about who Jesus is. Take the time to read it and learn of Him. Like the other three gospels, Mark contains the miracles, teaching, claims, and events in Christ’s life at the end of which one must ultimately make a decision concerning who He is. Remember, though, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Weigh the evidence, and then decide. Follow the example of so many in the book of Mark and let the power and person of Jesus have an immediate impact on your life and your soul.

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Communication Landmines

Communication Landmines

Neal Pollard

Paul writes two letters of instruction to Timothy, the preacher at Ephesus. As his father in the faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18), Paul wanted the younger man endowed with the wisdom and courage to be God’s man.  Timothy would face pressures and temptations from many different directions. The apostle’s words also provide some common sense to help him do the sometimes difficult task of preaching and ministry.

In a letter full of the theme of godliness, 1 Timothy, Paul gives him some intriguing encouragement in the sixth chapter. He says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (6:3-5). In this brief admonition, he gives Timothy several tips to help him be a useful communicator of God’s truth. He urges Timothy to avoid:

  • Compromise. Not only here, but throughout the letter, Paul urges Timothy to teach the pure doctrine of Christ, those sound words and that godly doctrine. If we bow to pressures and change the revealed word of Christ, we become deadly communicators.
  • Conceit. Ironically, the conceited often look down upon others. Yet, Paul ties the arrogance to ignorance (“understands nothing”). When we encounter one who condescendingly communicates, we are prone to tune them out even if they are telling the truth. It is incongruous to have a pompous preacher speak of the lowly Jesus. It’s a credibility killer.
  • Controversy. We live in the age of controversy. It is splashed all over the traditional media and social media. It is often manufactured, and it is the mark of a morbid (literally, “sick”) mind. The controversialist will be found at the heart of disputes, ever seeking to dig up something, hash and rehash it, and keep it going. We can be accused of that for simply trying to communicate God’s will, especially when unpopular, but some are never far from contention. It is characteristic of them.
  • Constant friction. This is listed last among several other results of controversy, along with envy, strife, abusive language, and evil suspicions. Have you ever been around someone who keeps up an atmosphere of tension? The chip is always on the shoulder. Their communication is always confrontational. It appeals to the depraved and deprived, according to Paul.

Paul was so bold that he would die for preaching the truth (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-8). Yet, he urged Timothy to be peaceable, kind, adept, patient, and gentle when communicating it (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Is it possible to courageously stand with the Christ but do so using the precise scalpel of Scripture (Heb. 4:12) rather than the reckless explosives of excess? Yes, and each of us must predetermine that we will do so no matter how others act and react.

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Teachers’ Aids

Teachers’ Aids

Neal Pollard

Several of our classes have assistants to the Bible class teacher.  She (or perhaps in select cases “he”) serves in a support role, helping students do handwork, find Bible verses, or occasionally keep order.  These are vital roles, and often a teacher’s aid later actually becomes a teacher.  Teachers’ aids are part of a great team and education system that benefits everyone in the classroom.

There is a constant, pressing need for more teachers’ aids.  I don’t mean in the actual classroom during the “Bible class hour.”  These aids are needed Sunday afternoons, late Wednesdays, Saturday afternoons, and/or opportune moments between these times.  These aids have even more power than those helping the teacher in the classroom.  They are the parents and care-givers of the students.  There are several ways they can “aid” the teachers who put in hours of preparation time and tons of energy and emotion into the task of teaching.

Aid teachers by making sure your children do their homework.  Most teachers give homework, memory work or activity sheets.  This is a vital supplement to the actual lesson taught in class.  When children come to class with their homework done, teachers are elated and made to feel that their efforts are appreciated.  They feel that their students take the class as seriously as they do.

Aid teachers by asking about what they have learned.  Ask your children what they talked about in class that day.  Ask them to review as much as they can.  Ask them what they learned and how they can make application from the class.  What better topic of conversation can parents and children discuss on the way home from services?

Aid teachers by making sure they feel appreciated.  One way to do this is by making sure you practice the first two suggestions.  However, having the child send a thank you note or by personally thanking your child’s teacher, you are aiding through the means of encouragement.  Everyone likes to feel appreciated.  Teachers are no different.

The qualifications are simple enough.  To be this type of teacher’s aid, simply do all you can to partner with the efforts of your children’s teachers.  Your child, your home, and your child’s teacher all will be blessed by it.

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Learning About Worship From Children

Learning About Worship From Children

Neal Pollard

Thom Vaught gave the “elders remarks” last night after the Young Lions participated in their annual program of Scripture reading, song leading, prayer, and preaching. The fourteen first through six graders obviously listened well and learned much. Thom noted how we look at the Christian life as a marathon, but these boys (and the seventeen God’s Precious Daughters who hosted a tea in the fellowship hall at 4:00 PM yesterday afternoon for 80 Christian women!) were actually the next leg in a relay race.  Everybody seemed to leave the assembly last night so spiritually full and energized. Perhaps that was because of what we had seen (and learned) throughout last evening’s service.

…That genuine enthusiasm is infectious.
…That worship should be characterized by purity.
…That you cannot easily fake sincerity.
…That sometimes truth gets told most poignantly and effectively from such an innocent heart.
…That it is encouraging to see someone overcome their fears to lead.
…That we appreciate seeing those who lead us unashamedly show us their hearts.
…That worship should be joyful.
…That we should carry the experience of worship out the door with us into our lives.

When Thom asked those present last night who had formerly been through Young Lions and God’s Precious Daughters to stand along with the 31 children involved this year, it was overwhelmingly encouraging to see so many scattered among our healthy crowd last night who had received this wonderful training. The leadership training they have received through the years has contributed to the teenagers and young adults they have become, serving Christ and others. Some of them are married now. Others have graduated from preacher training schools or are students there. Others have gone on to Christian Colleges. They lead us in every phase of our worship regularly and effectively. We appreciate the men and women who came up with this program and all those who have served through the years. All of us are the better for it. Last night was a reminder of something Trent Woolley, who helped lead this year’s program, said to us, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3).  I pray we will carry these lessons learned into worship with us next week and the weeks beyond that!

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Should We Let The Devil Make The Rules Of Engagement?

Should We Let The Devil Make The Rules Of Engagement?

Neal Pollard

Thanks to the hospitality of my good friend, Jason Jackson, I had the opportunity to visit beautiful AT&T Park in San Francisco, witnessing a rarity (a Rockies win) against his beloved Giants.  It was LGBT Night at the old ballpark, an annual sponsorship of “SF Pride.” It was also the day of the historic Supreme Court decision mandating the recognition of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The crowd was enthusiastic about that event in Washington, D.C., cheering when it was proclaimed over the P.A.  The videoboard featured gay and lesbian couples for its “kiss cam.”  While San Francisco is renowned for its “sexual progressiveness,” the city of Denver has earned a reputation for similar liberality of thought regarding homosexuality. In a growing number of places in our nation and especially among those under a certain age, there is welcoming, sanctioning language for homosexuality and vehement intolerance for the least word of condemnation of the behavior as sinfulness.  Even among those professing to be Christians, there is a changing posture in how or if it is dealt with.  Understanding that no sin is worse than any other, that it is not right to display an ungodly attitude in addressing any sin, and that there should not be an inordinate amount of time, attention, and energy given to any sin to the exclusion of the other, I wonder if even some of our Christian brothers and sisters have become unwitting pawns of the prince of this world regarding this matter.  The devil is at war against the Word and will of God, and he is at war against anyone loyal to such (Rom. 13:12; 2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:10ff; etc.).  He wants his cause, the ultimate end of which is the spiritual destruction of all men, to succeed, and he wants the cause of Christ to be overthrown.  We know that his mission will ultimately fail, with there being those who are welcomed by our Lord to heaven (1 Cor. 15:24; Mat. 25:34-39). Yet, most will follow him to everlasting punishment and destruction (Mat. 25:41-46).  He has the bulk of the resources and influence of this world, as he almost always has had in every generation. He has powerfully allies and mouthpieces from Washington to Hollywood and most media and education outlets in between.

  • Who is behind the idea that we are not loving the sinner when we speak of homosexuality as sin?
  • Who would have us believe that we are mean-spirited or unrighteous if we use terms like “unnatural” (Rom. 1:26), “exceedingly grave sin” (Gen. 18:20), “ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:6), “gross immorality” and “going after strange flesh” (Jude 7) to describe homosexual behavior?
  • Who would sell us on the idea that loving the homosexual means keeping quiet about their practice of it, failing to warn them to repent (Ezek. 33:8)?
  • Who would seek to equate a behavioral choice (1 Cor. 6:9) with one’s race or skin color (Acts 17:26; Acts 10:34-35)?

What happened in our nation’s highest court last Friday may have been necessary to shake the church out of its general lethargy and indifference regarding evangelism.  What happened there will ultimately be overruled in the highest court there is (Mat. 25:31ff).  What happened there should not become our obsession, but neither are we wrong to take note of how this is a significant societal erosion.  Jesus implies how intolerable it would be for Sodom and Gomorrah at the Judgment (Mat. 10:15). The Lord overthrew them in “in His anger and in His wrath” (Deut. 29:23). Homosexuality is not the only sin there is nor is it the chief sin, but may we not be intimidated away from calling it what it is—“sin.”

Whose Voice Should Be Heard? Another Look At 1 Timothy 2:11-15

Whose Voice Should Be Heard? Another Look At 1 Timothy 2:11-15

Neal Pollard

Paul averred that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NIV). Its source is God. Its value is exhaustive.  Its result is practical.  That is how the all-wise God intended it.

In the first letter to Timothy, Paul gives his thesis statement that all he wrote in the epistle was to give the young preacher knowledge of how the church was to conduct itself in various matters (1 Tim. 3:15).  One of several matters addressed in the letter was what role Christian women were to take in “the household of God” (the church) in matters of teaching and leadership.  We read about that in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.  Here is what we find:

  • The Christian woman must receive instruction with entire submissiveness (11).
  • The Christian woman is not allowed to teach or exercise authority over a man (12).
  • The Christian woman is to remain quiet (12).
  • There are biblical reasons for this, reasons that go all the way back to creation (13-14).
    • The order of creation (13)
    • The deception of the woman (14)
  • The Christian woman has an honored role to help the church thrive and grow (15).

What is remarkable is the lack of ambiguity regarding this teaching.  It is clear and straightforward.  No cultural issues or problems are stated to occasion these words.  One does not find contradictory instruction in another New Testament context to offset or clarify the words here. Perhaps it is the straightforwardness of the words that have chaffed many who appear desirous of bending truth to fit the culture.  Such bending is not limited to this issue, but as the culture regresses from truth more and more matters are getting reexamined in order to change truth to fit the culture.

We must understand that all such efforts, in effect, place human beings as the authority in place of God and Scripture.  It causes people to say, “You have read this, but I say unto you.”  The problem is that it is not our place to say that Scripture does not mean what it says.  That authority belongs to Christ, and He exerts that authority through the men who wrote down His will in the New Testament.  It is His voice and their voices that need to be heard.  Whoever they say should teach and lead is whose voices need to be heard.  Any other voice is speaking without the utterance of God (1 Pet. 4:11).

Ten Important Words With Good Illustrations

Ten Important Words With Good Illustrations

Neal Pollard

I–nteresting (illustrations are to grab attention or make the point memorable; beware of being one-dimensional–always quotes, poems, sports, etc.)

L–asting ( the preacher joke is that you can re-preach most sermons, you’ve just got to change the illustrations.  Why?  We remember good illustrations.  An illustration can help make a Bible lesson live on in people’s hearts)

L–earning (the purpose of the illustration is to aid in teaching the lesson; the illustration is not an end in itself.  It is a means to an end)

U–nderstandable (in that [a] people understand why the illustration was used where it was; does it fit & help establish the point?; [b] especially older illustrations or illustrations taken from those who speak formally or loftily need to adapted to your vernacular and way of speaking and not sound like you copied it out of an illustration book)

S–upportive (Don’t overdo illustrations; it’s not about the illustrations, but about the Bible lesson you are delivering; Some get this concept backwards)

T–ruthful (Be careful that your illustration will pass the truth test; Some people are jaded about “preacher stories,” finding them hard to believe or learning themselves they aren’t true; Verify as best you can the illustration you use and if you cannot verify then be careful not to pass it off as a “true story.”)

R–ealistic (In addition to truthful, make sure the illustration is “reasonable,” something people can relate to; Ex.–In cross-cultural situations, especially in 3rd-world countries, illustrations about extravagances or items said to cost “X” when the same item is either much cheaper there or is so extravagant that your audience can’t relate)

A–ssorted (Vary types of illustrations: poem, current events, historical events, quotes, parables, fables, jokes [in moderation], Bible accounts)

T–asteful (avoid overly shocking, graphic, suggestive, morbid, salacious illustrations; Wendell Winkler once said, “Avoid creating in one’s mind what you are trying to condemn” [Ex.: illustration about sexual immorality or the like])

I–lluminating (The purpose of the good illustration is to shed light on a Bible truth; It should help produce an “aha” that drives home your point)

O–pportunistic (Take advantage of current events, congregational situations, holidays, etc.  Use wisdom, common sense, and discernment to know what is and isn’t off-limits; Note: Concerning “congregational situations,” only in exceptional circumstances would I use a “negative” one rather than a positive or neutral one).

N–ecessary (Without them, lessons are dry and lifeless; Like windows without curtains; They can make all the difference in whether or not the point sinks in, convicts, and moves the heart of the hearer).