Categories
Bible study meditation prayer

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

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Daleheadshot

Dale Pollard

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

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

Or maybe…

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

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

Three Facts About Biblical Mediation

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

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

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

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

A Meditation Exercise From The Psalms
You could meditate…

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

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

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

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

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

person-prayer-book-bible

Categories
heart soul Uncategorized

Build That Wall!

Neal Pollard

The partisan vitriol ramps up whenever subjects like border security and immigration are mentioned. It is a subject as much a part of the political divide as “Russian Collusion,” tax reform, and affordable health care. Let the politically passionate debate all those topics, but did you know Scripture talks about the importance of having a properly-built, fortified wall? There were walls erected around a city to protect it from external dangers. If the citizens inside were righteous, they were kept safe even against all seeming odds (2 Kings 18-19). If the citizens inside were wicked, no wall, however seemingly impregnable, would hold (Joshua 6).  But, I’m referring to a different kind of wall.

Scripture tells us that the individual must build a wall and properly maintain it, too. The way Solomon put it is, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Prov. 25:28). Words flow without restraint, many of which wound, offend, and separate. Anger and even rage can erupt over even the slightest or even perceived infractions. Personal conduct that indulges the flesh, from overeating to pornography to fornication, can be impulsive and destructive of self and others. Indecent thoughts, fed and fueled by the thinker, can crumble this vital hedge.

What a challenge for me on many levels! How easily do trials and setbacks in the normal functions of life, from standing in line to driving in traffic to dealing with customer service, set me off in unrestrained thoughts, words, and actions? How do I handle words of opposition, face to face, by written correspondence, or through some form of social media? How strong is my wall when I disagree with my mate, children, neighbors, or brethren?

Solomon teaches me that I can have control over my spirit. No cop out or blame game changes that. Whatever sinful thing I allow over that border into my life is guaranteed to be harm me! So, I must build a wall that preserves my spirit. My eternity literally hinges upon it.

170216172849-griffin-dnt-trump-border-wall-lead-full-169

Categories
gospel Gospel of Mark heart Uncategorized

Petrified!

Neal Pollard

Perhaps you have seen the incredible collections of petrified wood in some of our National Parks or Monuments, or maybe you have seen individual examples in any number of other places. A geology site briefly explains how material becomes petrified:

Petrified wood is a fossil. It forms when plant material is buried by sediment and protected from decay by oxygen and organisms. Then, groundwater rich in dissolved solids flows through the sediment replacing the original plant material with silica, calcite, pyrite or another inorganic material such as opal. The result is a fossil of the original woody material that often exhibits preserved details of the bark, wood and cellular structures (geology.com/stories/13/petrified-wood).

There are a few interesting aspects to this process—the burial, the protection, the replacement, and the resulting appearance.

Twice in the gospel of Mark, the writer uses a term to describe the condition of His disciples’ hearts. In Mark six, they have seen him feed the 5,000 men and immediately thereafter they are in the boat in a strong wind when Jesus came walking on the water. They were troubled and fearful, amazed and marveling “for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (52). Ironically, the second incident happened in a boat following Jesus feeding thousands of people again. They misunderstand Jesus’ warning about the leaven of the religious leaders, and Jesus laments, “Is your heart still hardened?” (8:17).

BDAG defines this word, πωρόω, in this way: “To cause someone to have difficulty in understanding or comprehending, harden, petrify, make dull, obtuse, blind, close the mind” (900).  The truth was buried from their understanding, their preexisting, preset points of view blocking its penetration, and the result was their missing the important point. The truth couldn’t get through to their petrified hearts.

Why do we fail to understand basic, vital Bible truths, like the essential nature of baptism, the abrogation of the Law Of Moses (including the Ten Commandments), the emotionally difficult teaching of Jesus about marriage, divorce, and remarriage in Matthew 19, God’s law regarding sexual purity, and the like? Why do we struggle with worry, fear, and doubt? Why do we lack the courage to boldly share Jesus with the lost? Often, the answer to each of these and similar questions is the same as why the disciples feared and faltered.

We should pray for our hearts to stay soft, receptive, and moldable to Jesus. We cannot let our ignorance, resistance, or outside influences to harden our hearts. In fact, that very prospect should make us, well, petrified!

petrifiedwood

Categories
heart thoughts Uncategorized

What Are You Consuming?

Neal Pollard

A 17-year-old girl had a stomach ache so bad that she had to go to the hospital. She had lost her appetite, she could barely walk, and doctors for three years had simply given her pain medicine for her inexplicable abdominal issues. The girl’s family had paid over $7000 in medical tests to determine the root cause. The emergency visit, with two CT scans, finally revealed that the massive “tumor” inside her was actually hair—which had formed into a massive hairball. It was her own hair, which she had been compulsively eating for years. The next doctor visit will be for counseling to see if she suffers from trichotillomania (compulsively pulling out one’s own hair) and trichophagia (eating it) (via opposingviews.com).

Apparently, no one ever saw her doing this. It took time for the problem to grow and develop. Yet, there were symptoms that steadily worsened and became more apparent. It was a problem that required help to solve. It is a problem that will require continued efforts to overcome.

This young lady graphically illustrates a pervasive spiritual problem.  Solomon wrote, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Jesus illustrates this principle speaking of normal, digestible food (not hair) as not defiling a person but rather that which comes from within a person defiling that one. He says that such things as evil thoughts, sexual sins, sinful attitudes, and sins of the tongue “proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:23).

No one may see us engage in it. It may take time for the symptoms to show up in our lives, but they will eventually show up in such things as our attitudes, speech, dress, and conduct. It will not go away by itself without efforts on our part to get rid of it and to stay free from it. Whether we perceive the pain of the problem or not, it is doing damage to us and we must take steps to remove it from our lives.

What are you consuming? Is it consuming you? Get help. Get rid of it. Get over it. The Great Physician stands ready to help, if you will go to Him!

pierre_auguste_renoir_-_portrait_de_julie_manet

Categories
heart mind poetry thoughts

THE HUMAN HEART (POEM)

Neal Pollard

That part of each man crafted by God
But unseen by mortal observation,
That figurative place of our emotions and thinking
Helping our spiritual station.
A place where we alone can nurture and tend,
To work to better or embitter
That directs our whole body and life on a path
That makes us a winner or quitter.
God put in place ways to help our own heart
Stay in tune to His perfect intentions.
To mold us and make us like Him in our thinking,
To stave off man’s wicked inventions.
The Bible, as His mind, He has given to mankind,
A heart monitor as well as a mirror.
It gauges our true selves and guides our footsteps,
If used it will make His will dearer.
He has given us music, a wide world of nature,
And people as living examples,
So much that exists we can see and by seeing
Can resist Satan’s slick sinful samples.
Yes, true, human hearts can be darkened and hardened,
Becoming a frightful container,
That holds in the worst, the depraved and perverted,
That becomes such a wicked retainer.
But such is the work of neglect and of lust,
A struggle that fights a higher objective,
For when in human hearts there’s willing submission,
They become more spiritually selective.
So spiritual battles are lost or they’re won
In a place where no other can see,
Keep your heart, you alone with heavenly help
Will determine your soul’s eternity.

Categories
Christian living influence

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa Your Boat!

Neal Pollard

Unfortunately for folks in southwestern Colorado and several surrounding states, it’s more than a matter of staying out of the Los Animas River.  Due to a mishap by some federally-supervised workers in which there was a blowout in the Gold King Mine in the mountains above Silverton, millions of gallons of toxins that include mercury and arsenic are in downstream water supplies. It has contaminated domestic wells and endangered fish and livestock. It has negatively impacted tourist industries that rely on customers who raft, canoe, and fish in the river.  It has impacted irrigation and city water intake facilities.  All from a single incident in a mine hundreds of miles away from some of the affected areas.

Who knows how this will ultimately be resolved, but a lot of people and money will be thrown at the matter until it is finally resolved.  A problem that started in a relatively small, remote area has finally become a national story.  As the river continues to flow, the troubles continue to compound.

Have you considered the power of your influence?  A single conversation, an impulsive act in a moment’s time, or a thought unchecked and fed all can lead to outcomes that spill into a lot of lives and potentially do damage that could not be anticipated.  David learned this (2 Sam. 11:1-2).  The young lads from Bethel learned this (2 Ki. 2:23-24).  Judas learned this (Mat. 26:15).  So many others in Scripture, from thoughts to words to deeds, learned of the destructive power of negative spiritual influence.  It can cause spiritual babes to stumble (Mat. 18:6), the offender to stumble (Mat. 18:8), the world to blaspheme (2 Sam. 12:14), and so much more.  No amount of remorse, regret, and retreat can undo the toxic damage it does.

If you find yourself in the “clean up” stage, realize that with time and effort you can work to counteract the impact of poor influence.  There may be lingering consequences, but you can mitigate that through genuine repentance.  It doesn’t have to end catastrophically, as it did for Judas.  It can end triumphantly, as it did for Peter.

Keep in mind, too, that positive influence works the same way (Mat. 13:33).  A kind, righteous thought, word, or deed can trigger a powerful effect that leads the lost to be saved and those on the broad way to turn onto the narrow way.  You may never know it in this life or see the end result of it in your lifetime.  May the great power of our influence drive us to our knees and fill our thoughts with how we may use our lives to bless and help the lives of others, knowing that, for good or bad, our lives touch way more lives than we think.

Categories
affection desire heart mind thinking

TURNING HEARTS

Neal Pollard

We often point to the wrong place on our bodies when we refer to the heart.  Frequently, when we mean the thoughts, the inner self, or the mind, we gesture toward our chests.  The more proper place to point is at our heads.  That’s where intentions, desires, and purposes originate.

Scripture sometimes mentions the heart “turning,” whether for good or bad.  For example:

  • Hearts could be turned away from God by human substitutes (Deut. 17:17; cf. 1 Ki. 11:2).
  • Hearts could be turned back to the world (Acts 7:39).
  • Hearts can be turned toward sexual immorality through seduction and temptation (Prov. 7:25).
  • Hearts can be turned back toward righteous conduct (Luke 1:17).
  • Hearts can be turned toward one another in unity (2 Sam. 19:14).

The Bible says similar things with different language, but the point is dramatic.  Hearts can change.  Negatively, they can grow dark, callused, hardened, and rebellious.  That appears to have happened through various influences in the current culture.  The hearts of men embrace and defend what would once have been widely rejected and condemned.  Such hearts have no tolerance for what God’s Word says on a variety of eternally important matters—abortion, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, pornography, true worship, the exclusive salvation through Christ, etc.  Positively, hearts can be softened, opened, and receptive, too.  The gospel is still the power of God (cf. Rom. 1:16).  The saving message of the cross still reaches hearts (1 Cor. 1:21).  Many hearts may ultimately be unreachable, but our task as Christians is to turn as many hearts to Christ as we can!  Hearts won’t be changed without our getting out the message.

All the while, each of us has a stewardship over our own hearts.  We cannot allow the darkness of sin to eclipse the Son.  We must keep our hearts sensitive and soft to the voice of God through Scripture, dependent on Him through prayer, and trusting in Him as He providentially leads us each day.  God through Moses promised blessings if His people were obedient to Him, “But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish” (Deut. 30:17-18a). May we take this to heart!

Categories
purity

PURER YET AND PURER

Neal Pollard

While this song is not one of our “toe tappers,” it is meant to be reflective. What a challenge it presents to us, too! Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote the poem during Napoleon’s heyday and Anne R. Bennett translated the lyrics a full decade before the Civil War, but the words are perhaps more timely today than they were in her place and time. While the song is about more than just holiness and purity, the idea is about aspiring to greater, better service to God. Goethe’s original poem had four verses, talking alternately about finding duty dearer, calmness in pain, peace and confidence in God, greater nearness to God, running the Christian race swifter, and the like. All of these endeavors are tied together, but I want to focus on that first phrase: “Purer yet and purer, I would be in mind.”

Do you feel like you are doing pretty well at purity of thought and heart? May I encourage you to take Goethe’s challenge to heart and make his prayer your prayer? Do you ever have feelings, however “small” or infrequent, for someone other than your mate? Do you ever look at things and people in web sites, advertisements, magazines, commercials, or an immodestly or provocatively dressed person of the opposite sex without looking away or in a way that produces lust or inappropriate thought? Do you ever find yourself harshly judging motives or drawing conclusions in your mind about people without sufficient knowledge of the person’s heart or situation? Do you ever envy another’s situation, their job, popularity, wealth, or home or marriage situation? Do you ever harbor a grudge toward someone, feeding those unhealthy feelings?

Obviously, that is just a starter list designed to create a host of similar questions. Purity of heart and mind is a daily challenge. Just because you defeated those purity foes yesterday does not give you respite from today’s battles. In fact, we know that since these challenges often arise when we least expect it, so we have got to keep the battle implements close at hand. Will you take the challenge of Goethe’s writing? Will you have as your goal absolute purity of heart? Being pure in heart will not inherently bring wealth, health, or fame, but it pays off in the highest and best way. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

Categories
Uncategorized

A Head Transplant?!

Neal Pollard

An Italian Neuroscientist, Sergio Canavero, announced this week that human head transplants are now possible!  I will spare you the gory details except to say it could happen within two years and should involve, in his opinion, someone who has a fully-functioning brain but who suffers from a severe bodily malady like progressive muscular dystrophies or genetic and metabolic disorders (“The Independent,” via Times Of India, 7/3/13).

We could debate the ethics of this, ponder whether Italian neuroscientists just have too much time on their hands, or discuss how realistic the possibility of this is.  We might also ask whether or not we should do something just because we have figured out how.  While the news out of Italy may seem like science fiction, there is a spiritual need for us to change our “head.”

Too many are riddled with guilt and beset by negative thinking and pessimism.  Christians ought not be fatalists.  That is a worldly point of view.  We have hope (Rom. 5:2) as well as the power of God (cf. Eph. 1:19) to help us cope.

Too many are consumed with lust and fleshly desires.  Christians should not be enslaved to such passions.  This is deadly and destructive.  God can help us, as we will it, to have a clean heart and new spirit within us (Ps. 51:10).

Too many are weighted down with jealousy and envy.  They cannot trust, even when they have no reason to suspect and distrust.  God can help us cope with these feelings and whatever drives them (cf. Gal. 5:24-26).

Too many are eaten up with anger, hatred, and bitterness.  The reverses of life, both real and imagined, can ruin our character.  We can feed our grudges until they become a gargantuan monster that turns on us and devours us.  God can help us cultivate a forgiving mind, letting go of resentment and allowing Him to transform us (Eph. 4:31-32).

You get the idea.  In our own individual ways, we are all “head cases.”  We have spiritual struggles in our hearts and minds, things that need changed into the image of Christ. Thank God that He is the Great Physician who has been successfully doing His superior kind of “head transplants” since the beginning of time!