Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings
Click here to read archived articles by our former preacher, Jared Hagan.
Trust is the linchpin of every relationship. If it’s there and it’s strong, then the coupling of the relationship will move freely and survive most any strain. But if it’s weak or missing entirely, the relationship will be weak, will fail, or become all-out hurtful.
In his book, Trust, Henry Cloud gives the anatomy of trust. As he sees it, it’s built through five things: 1) Understanding between both parties. Does the other party in the relationship understand me, and do I understand them? If so, we can build some trust.. 2) Knowing intent. Do I believe that the other party wants to do good, even when I disagree with their vision or their methods? If so, we can build some trust. 3) Ability of both parties. Is the other party capable of what I need or want of them? If so, then we can build some trust. 4) Character. Are they a person who embodies honesty, integrity, and humility? If so, then we can build some trust. And 5) A track record. Does the other party have a track record of trustworthiness with other things? If so, then we can build some trust.
Those ideas help me to clarify why I sense varying levels of trust between myself and certain people in my life. But more than that, they make me wonder:
Can GOD trust ME?
He has clearly given me all the reasons I could ever need to trust him. He understands me and my needs, his intents are good all the time, his being all-powerful tells me that he has all abilities, he is of pristine and holy character, and his track record of trustworthiness is as long as history itself.
But can he trust me? Does my relationship to him embody those five elements as it should? These are question that I have to reflect on and pray about today. And I hope that you will take the time to do so as well.
After Abraham had faithfully obeyed God regarding the sacrifice of his son, Isaac, God said to him, “now I know that you fear God” (Gen. 22:12). I doubt that I have the kind of relationship with God in which he could say that—that he trusts me as he knew he could trust Abraham. But that’s who I intend to be. Would you pray about that for me? And I will pray the same for all of you.
- Dan Lankford, minister
God has continually provided all that his people need, throughout all the generations of the world. In Eden, he said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Gen. 1:29). In the wilderness, he provided manna for them exactly as each family needed, so that they never lacked (cf. Ex. 16:18). When they came into the land of Canaan, Moses gave them this reminder: “the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land… a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing…” (Dt. 8:7-9). And then, hundreds of years later, when Christ spoke about what it really takes to follow him and be like him, he had some memorable things to say about trusting God to provide what we need just like he provides clothing for the grass of the field and homes for the birds of the air (cf. Mt. 6:25-33).
Modern believers in denominational circles often speak of the importance of “an abundance mindset.” In my experience, that particular verbiage is not as common among members of the Churches of Christ, but it does speak well of the Bible’s regular emphasis on trusting that God always gives enough. In fact, if we can adjust our view to his way of seeing the world, we will realize that we not only have enough for ourselves and our families, but that there is always enough to share what we have with others. An “abundance mindset” constantly believes that God has given us an abundance and that abundance should be joyfully shared with others. A “scarcity mindset” believes that if we give to others, we will not have enough for ourselves, but from the Garden, God has been giving us rich examples and teachings that show that he always has and always will give enough.
Especially in the season of gift-giving, let’s work on developing a heart that always has a strong sense of trust in God which includes a powerful, joyful willingness to share that abundance with others.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Life presents us with many situations that we wish were different. Whether on a work team, in a neighborhood, at our kids’ schools, in the church that we worship with, in our families, or anywhere else that we regularly find ourselves; there are things that we wish were improved. In any situation like that which each of us faces, we must have the wisdom to assess whether the nature of that situation can’t be changed, can be changed and should be, or can be and shouldn’t be.
There’s a great deal of mental calculating that goes on when determining things like that, and we have to be deliberate with which of those outlooks we take on a given thing. Because some of the things which can be changed will require power beyond our own to affect the change, but we often interpret that as a “can’t be changed.” And so we need to have the wisdom to know the difference.
And this helps us to assess how we approach God in prayer. We wouldn’t pray for a change in our lives that goes against the will of God; that’s not exactly “things that can’t be changed,” but it’s similar in that there is no reason to ask for God to change it. And maybe there are some things that could be changed, but they shouldn’t; mercifully, God often denies those requests when we ask because he knows that we are asking for base reasons (see James 4:3).
But, when there are things in our lives which we want changed and which can be changed (even if requires power more than our own), we can, and we should, take those things to God. Sometimes, the reason that we face unfulfilled desires is as simple as what James said: “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (Js. 4:2)
Let’s be sure to use good wisdom when we approach God in prayer (cf. Eccl. 5:2), and let’s do so from a perspective of hope, trust, humility, and intentional thoughtfulness.
- Dan Lankford, minister
- thanks to Barry McCann for the inspiration for this post
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Mt. 7:1-2)
There are at least three types of ‘judgments’ that we make of others. The first is an objective determination that they are either in the right or the wrong, based on clear teachings of Scripture. The second is an informed determination that even if they they aren’t fully in the right or the wrong, they are being either wise or unwise based on Biblical guidance. And the third is a subjective determination that we just do or don’t like what they’re doing.
Jesus is warning his followers not to do the third one at all, and not to let the second one or the third one be treated as though they were the first one. God’s word judges people as right or wrong, but Christ said that it’s not in his followers’ nature to judge others’ behavior and words beyond that standard.
And there’s a personal reason for that: It’s good for us to refrain from judging. Would we who are living a Christian life be offended if someone arbitrarily badmouthed our family life, our spending habits, our friendships, our personality, or our dress? Then we’d better keep ourselves above doing that to them. If we slander others based on life rules that we’ve made up, we should expect them to do the same to us.
Additionally, to speak judgmentally of others behind their backs tarnishes the reputation of the speaker. If others hear me speak judgmentally of a brother or sister, they will easily know that I’m not a safe person to come to when they need to confess or confront something. Why? Because they know that, “He’s pretty judgy. I’ve heard how he talks about other people. I sure wouldn’t want him talking about me like that.”
And so, “judge not that you be not judged.” Jesus commanded that of us, and there are plenty of reasons why we would not only feel obligated to obey him, but we should want to prevent this harmful tendency from damaging our relationships.
- Dan Lankford, minister
At various times and in various places, it’s been a popular trend to rebuff the idea of doctrine or treat it as a term of art, putting it in quotes as though it’s a made-up concept. Claims are made that to emphasize doctrine is to inherently neglect a proper emphasis on Christ’s love. While of course this kind of neglect can happen (cf. the Pharisees), it is not the inherent outcome of a righteous focus on doctrine. In fact, a proper focus on doctrine will always include an emphasis on Christ’s love and sacrifice.
This can be illustrated by one sentence from Titus. Paul warned Titus that while he was Crete’s preacher, there would be many people who would cause him trouble. He called them “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers,” and said “they profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.” As a response to this, Paul gave Titus one simple command: “As for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)
What all does that include? It includes everything from salvation by Christ’s grace to the necessary moral behavior of the people who are saved. And this is plainly outlined later in the same letter to Titus: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things.” (Titus 2:11-15)
The word keeps us grounded in Christ in every way. This is why sound doctrine is important for every church and every Christian.
- Dan Lankford, minister
On Monday, the Denver Post ran the story of a woman whose grown daughter was killed in a mass shooting at an Aurora, CO movie theater eleven years ago. In the time since then, the mother has traveled to the sites of other mass shootings in the U.S. to offer comfort to other victims’ families. She has visited Newtown, Parkland, Uvalde, and other places where a gunman took the lives of four or more people. And she’s had a simple message for those who’ve lost loved ones: “Your grief is real, and you will find joy again.” Over and over again, she has sought out those who are experiencing the deepest pain of loss, who are tempted to pull away from others and mourn alone; and she’s told them that she was tempted to do the same but that helping others has helped her find joy again since her daughter’s death.
It always encourages me to hear of people who, in spite of their own pain, open their hearts to others and think of their good. Their ability to see beyond themselves and do good for others is one of the most admirable character traits. It’s an embodiment of the kind of humility that ought to be a characteristic attitude of all Christians, whether in our times of suffering or of safety, of comfort or of conflict. Our job is to look out for the good of others and to serve them joyfully, finding our joy in the work of bringing joy to them.
This was the example of Christ himself, the man who selflessly washed his disciples’ feet on the night that he was agonizing over his impending death. When he had finished, he told them, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (Jn. 13:15) Let’s learn from his example and from noble examples that we see in the world around us so that we too are always looking for ways to serve others joyfully, believing that through our service to them, we will also be blessed by God.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In the aftermath of a shooting a few years ago, one news agency played a soundbite of a victim’s mother who said, “I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control and I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers.”
On another occasion, in the aftermath of a natural disaster, one Christian tweeted: “When things like this happen, don’t pray. DO something.” Perhaps even more disheartening was the number of enthusiastic responses he received from other Christians.
Biblically-minded Christians are right to be saddened when we hear responses like these. We see the inconsistency in directing our hope to God and also refusing prayer. We see the inconsistency in another Christian’s thinking that prayer and action are contrasts when prayer is a most important first action in response to a tragic event. It hurts us to hear anyone—whether believer or not—belittle something so sacred and so wonderful as a prayer to the God of Heaven.
Because we know that prayer is more than a magic incantation to distance us from suffering. And we see that, even in moments of deep pain and deep outrage, rejecting prayer is not just a rejection of people who pray; it is a rejection of God to whom we pray. My hope for all of us is that we live and speak in such a way that the world becomes aware of how powerful prayer really is because they see how powerful God really is.
Far from being a simplistic distraction from one’s own pain or a heartless dismissal of someone else’s, prayer is how we approach God in our pain. It is a place to build and enjoy a relationship with God Almighty. It is—and it must always be—faithful Christians’ first and most trusted response to wickedness and suffering in this world.
- Dan Lankford, minster
“…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue…” (2 Peter 1:5)
In contrast to the writings of past centuries, there is much less discussion of virtue in today’s psychology and self-help literature than there used to be. The cultivation of virtues like humility, wit, diligence, patriotism, courage, moderation, justice, and piety was a chief aim of past generations’ parents, philosophers, and schools. And so it should still be among Christians.
So if you had to boil it down, what would you say is the chief virtue that Christianity should instill in us? Among many that could be listed—purity, self-control, love, diligence, patience, kindness, humility, etc—I believe that righteous love is the greatest. Love like God’s own pure, righteous, passionate, and intense love ought to be the defining characteristic of all of our relationships. Paul told the Colossians to create habits and hearts defined by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, peace, and thankfulness (Col. 3:12-13, 15). And then he said, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14)
But from the way that many Christians talk and act, one would think that the chief virtue of Christianity is caution. We can be hindered from helping the needy by “what someone might think” if they saw us associating with them. We can be hindered from offering passionate, whole-self worship to God by “what someone might think” if they saw us exhibiting more than stoic assent in a church assembly. We can be hindered from teaching the fullness of truth about God’s grace by “what someone might think” if they hear hear that message and misunderstand its true nature.
The chief virtue—love—often tends to act in ways that are more risky than they are cautious. So, are we cultivating the virtue of love above all else? When it’s wise to exhibit both love and caution, we should do that. But when one of them must serve the other, let’s give priority to the one that most deserves it.
- Dan Lankford, minister
“But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask… she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” (Mt. 14:6-8).
Herod’s banal lusts led to the cruel death of one of God’s greatest servants. Simple lasciviousness corrupted his decision-making faculties and led him to the rashness that opened the door for such violence. And that ought to remind us to pay attention to how we encounter the lusts of the flesh (1 Jn. 2:16) from both sides of the equation.
The first reminder is that a Christian ought to be deliberate not to dress and carry himself or herself in a way that incites the lusts of someone other than his or her own spouse. There is a divinely blessed wonder to sex that should be enjoyed by married couples (read the Song of Songs), but it is meant to be entirely exclusive to that relationship. We should not be paranoid about others’ baser thoughts, but we should be intentional enough to keep ourselves from lascivious dress and behavior. This is one of the most obvious ways in which Christians are called to shine as lights out of darkness—to behave differently from the world around us.
And the second reminder is that we ought to guard our hearts from sensual lusts toward anyone other than one’s own spouse. We should be seriously warned not to look or think beyond the moment that a temptation arises. The lust of the flesh grow in intensity when we dwell upon them, and so we must turn our eyes from gazing on the baseness of lust and train our hearts to gaze on the holiness of God.
These are two sides of the same coin that describe our responsibility toward lascivious thoughts and behavior. King Herod let his lusts get the better of him. We’d better be intentional about preventing the same thing in our lives.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Do you ever feel lost in life, unsure what value you have or what your purpose is? I suppose that most people go through some level of that thought process at some point. When we do, we have a tendency to think that the solution is to increase self-esteem; to look inside ourselves for ways to think more highly of ourselves.
But the solution to those crippling feelings isn’t inside of ourselves (cf. Jer. 10:23). In fact, the more we turn our thoughts inward, the more powerful those negative feelings tend to become. We need listen upward to what God has spoken about who we are and what our value is.
If you’re struggling with such thoughts, consider a few things that God says about all people:
- You are made special in the image of God (cf. Gen. 1:26, Ps. 139:13).
- Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Mt. 10:29-31) That means that God values YOU!
- Remember that God values you enough that Christ was sent to offer redemption and salvation for you.
- We are made special and called to a special purpose, and if we believe that, we’ll find ourselves living more purposeful, more assured, more giving, more satisfied, and more joyful lives.
We often think that the solution to negativity is to look deeper within and manufacture more positive feelings. But the reality is that God has already spoken life-giving truth about who we are. The question is: Do we really believe him?
- Dan Lankford, minister