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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

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Need God, Not The Blessings He Gives

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

The first commandment in God’s top ten was: “I am the Lord the your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:2-3) It told the people that God comes first. Period. Obviously, that means that we must never choose that which is evil over God’s things. It also means that we must not allow even the morally good things in our lives to become gods that our hearts are devoted to more than they are to God.

Sometimes, we give far more of our hearts’ energy to the things that God has given us than we do to God himself. Like the Israelites of old, we need to occasionally be reminded not to let all the blessings that he has given us cause our hearts to be lifted up so that we “forget the LORD your God, who brought out of slavery” (see Deut. 8).

I recently heard a preacher and his wife describe the beautiful love that they share by saying, “It’s because we aren’t the most important people to each other. Her love isn’t the thing that fulfills me, and my love isn’t the thing that fulfills her. We love God most, and we’re each totally filled with his love. So it’s like when you go to a buffet and you’re completely full, then you can enjoy something sweet without the pressure of needing it.”

Would that we could think of all of our blessings that way. Would that our hearts were wholly devoted to God, so that whether we have blessings or not, we still feel that we have all we need. Would that we would never need anything more than we need God himself. Would that we would never seek anything other than him to fill our hearts and bring us true happiness.

- Dan Lankford, minister

You Have to Lose to Win

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Of all the themes in the Bible, one that points most directly to the story of Jesus is the theme of losing in order for God to give us a win. Bible narratives in which a person serves their own best interest usually end in disaster (Abram & Sarai’s abusing Hagar, Naomi’s leaving God’s land during a famine to find food elsewhere, King David’s census of his soldiers rather than trust that God would win their battles). On the other hand, when they willingly give up their own self interests and let God work things out his way, he brings things around to a winning outcome for them.

  • When Moses and all Israel stood on the banks of the Red Sea, they had to decide if they would risk losing their lives by walking into it. They did, and God gave them a great victory over Egypt.
  • When under siege, King Hezekiah toward God rather than calling for help from another nation’s military. It might have looked like he was doing nothing, but God sent an angel that killed enemy soldiers and gave the victory.
  • Stephen preached the hard truth about the Jews’ rejection of Christ and was killed for it. Yet the Lord himself stood to acknowledge Stephen’s actions, and Stephen was received into glory for his faithfulness. Indeed, he appeared to have lost, but God gave Stephen the greatest victory that day.
  • And there's no better example than the cross and the resurrection. Jesus was willing to lose to everyone—the chief priests, Pilate, Herod, and ultimately to death itself. But three days, God gave him the first and final victory over death. "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:56-57)

Christ said, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 16:25). Those familiar words from Matthew sixteen summarize the age-old theme in the Bible, and they show us the importance of letting God rule our own lives entirely, because he—not we—will bring about our perfect victory in glory.

- Dan Lankford, minister

In Limbo On Purpose

Sunday, March 24, 2024

When a couple is expecting a baby, they live their lives with a different outlook as the delivery gets closer and closer. They still go about their normal lives—going to work, class, the grocery store the gym. They still spend time with their friends. They still go to church and participate in church life. They maintain most of the same routines as usual. But in all of that, there’s a constant awareness that their whole modus operandi may be dropped at a moment’s notice when it’s time for the baby to come. They spend their waking and working hours knowing that it all might be interrupted soon for them to meet someone they’ve been looking forward to meeting for awhile.

In that outlook, we find a healthy example for how Christians ought to think about the Lord’s return at the judgment day. It helps to understand the continuation of daily life (Jesus prayed: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world” [Jn 17:15]), and it helps us think rightly about that final day, when God’s people—even those who are asleep—will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air (1 Ths. 4:17). Just like a couple anxiously looks forward to the day when they happily drop everything and go be meet the person they have desired to meet for so long, Christians anxiously look forward to dropping everything and meeting our Lord, whom we and our fellow saints have looked forward to seeing face-to-face for these many centuries.

Does that mean we are living in limbo? Yes, to some extent. And we are doing so deliberately. Our feet are firmly planted on the soil of the earth, but our hope is anchored in Heaven, from which we await the return of our Savior and King, Jesus of Nazareth. May God give us the wisdom to live well here while we long to be there.

- Dan Lankford, minister

A Name You Know Well

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Growing up, I called three of my grandparents by fairly normal titles—Grandma, Grandpa, and Granddad. But I called one grandmother Nanny, and to this day, when I say it out loud, people give me quizzical looks and I have to explain why I had that special name for her.

And others have had much more out-of-the-ordinary ones than that. For example: Gigi, DeeDee, Memaw, Gramps, Big Mama, Doc, and Mocha.

If you’ve been in a relationship where you use a familial nickname like that, you know that saying it out loud brings curiosity and potential for ridicule. And yet, you find yourself doing it anyway. Even though there is the potential for some social awkwardness when you have to explain it, you use that name nonchalantly because it’s a name that you know well, because the relationship matters so much to you.

As a Christian, I want to be the same way with Jesus’ name. I want to be ready to speak it freely, even if it sounds funny to the ears of other people. Even if it garners curiosity and the potential for ridicule or some social awkwardness, I want to find myself doing it anyway. I want to use his name in a confident and nonchalant way because the relationship between him and me matters so much!

It was in the city of Antioch that Jesus’ disciples were first called “CHRISTians,” a name that they probably received from outsiders who heard them talk so much about a man they called The Christ. Let’s imitate them in freely speaking the name of Christ, the man whom we love with all of our being. Let’s speak of him and our relationship with him—our admiration and our apparent closeness with him. Let’s just own up to the quizzical looks and openly proclaim that he is our master.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Measured By Comparison

Sunday, March 10, 2024

I once heard a man tell about an early experience he’d had in construction work. He was cutting rafters for a house, so he measured the first rafter by a tape measure, and then proceeded to measure the next one by the one that he had just cut—not using his tape measure again. Of course, that practice didn’t make much difference on the first handful of cuts. A careful check would have showed a difference of only small fractions of an inch. But after 100 rafters each cut in comparison to the one before, the difference from the first to the hundredth was over a foot. They weren’t even close to the original.

Don’t we often do the same thing spiritually?

In church life, we compare ourselves with a previous generation and see that we’re just a little different from them. But then, when two thousand years of church history have gone by, we may find that we’re a great distance from Christ’s original intent for his people.

In our personal lives, we sometimes compare ourselves with a previous generation and are satisfied that we measure close enough to them. But then, after generations, we may realize that our standards of right and wrong are far from God’s original intent for his people.

What’s the solution to this problem? Do we find a better generation to compare to? Do we try to just do better than them by comparison?

The solution is to stop comparing ourselves to other people, and just compare who we are to the standard of God’s word and Jesus’ way.

When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Cor. 10:12)

- Dan Lankford, minister

A Healthy Relationship With the News

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

People have said for a long time that the news is only bad news; only telling us about the bad things that happen in the world. But modern news is much more than information. For better or worse, it’s rife with commentary, ideologies, philosophies, and worldview. Some news outlets do their best to dial back most of that, preferring to just focus on information. But others are blatant and open about it, treating what used to be called editorial content as the core of their business model.

So how can Christians have a spiritually healthy relationship with the news? Whether you tend toward conservative or moderate or liberal outlets, whether you watch it on TV or social media or wherever… How can we keep our minds and spirits from being dominated by the constant flow of bad news? How can we keep ourselves centered rather than letting an outsider ideology encroach?

Ultimately, it comes down to which voices we listen to the most. Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice and follow it. They do not listen to the other voices that call them out of his fold (John 10:4-5). Even if we hear a voice that we think would agree with Jesus, the key is that we turn and listen to Jesus as the supreme guiding voice. That takes commitment and constant practice (cf. Hb. 5:14). And it’s essential that Christians do this, because while the world is full of voices, only one voice speaks the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

So for some of us, the healthiest relationship with modern news is a completely distant one. Some of us need to practice more moderation in the relationship; spending less time hearing and thinking about news. Some of us need to change the outlets that we listen to in order to decrease our exposure to bad ideas and bad behavior. And all of us need to make sure that how we think about the world is entirely learned from God, with the news media taking second place (at best) in our consideration of ourselves and reality.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Entertained And Misaligned

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

What do you most like to watch, listen to, or read? Does it fit with your being a sincere Christian?

Christians need to be intentional with the entertainment choices that we make. Streaming shows, books, movies, and social media videos that promote ungodly attitudes and sinful behaviors aren’t the kind of things that ought to characterize our habits. The things that we fill our minds and hearts with—the stories and thoughts to which we ascent—have a profound impact on us. Likable characters warm us up to their way of life, which is really problematic when that way of life is ungodly.

So let’s ask ourselves: Are we choosing to be entertained by senseless or careless violence? Is the loss of human life downplayed in our favorite stories, as though it were unimportant? Are we being led to laugh off certain sins? Is foul, sinful, cursing language used as though it were harmless? Are the things that we find entertaining attempting to make it unclear whether someone doing evil is a good guy or a bad guy, eroding our discernment about what’s right and wrong? Is sexuality portrayed in unholy ways that go beyond the proper love of husband and wife? Are things which God has declared sinful being portrayed as happy, freeing, pleasant, and good?

I recently heard a preacher note that when we allow ourselves to be entertained by something, we’re aligning our hearts with that thing, if only a little bit. There’s a small amount of conforming with its ideals that happens. And thinking about the danger of that reminded me of these words from Proverbs: “My son, if sinners entice you... my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths…” (Prv. 1:10-16) It’s a good reminder not to align ourselves with the world and their ways. Like the Spirit said through Paul, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rm. 12:1)

The reality of living in a fallen world means that we won’t be able to put a full stop to the immorality that we see and hear about. The day-to-day world is full of it, and it finds its way into our lives in so many ways. But there’s a big difference between seeing immorality and seeking it. There’s a big difference between hearing of sins committed and honoring them as entertaining. There’s a big difference between knowing that sin is sinful and wondering if it’s sensible. The problem is not only what we see; it’s what we choose. Let’s make sure that we’re honestly trying to glorify God in everything that we do.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Active, Living Faith

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” (Js. 2:18)

What are some things that you do that are specifically motivated by your belief that Jesus is the crucified and risen Son of God?

  • Does that affect how much you give to those who are in need?
  • Does it cause you to go visit fellow Christians who are sick or lonely?
  • Does it make you hold your tongue from gossip, slander, or lashing out in anger?
  • Does it motivate you to love your spouse exclusively and permanently?
  • Does it drive you to dress in a modest, God-glorifying way?
  • Does it make you responsible with your money: avoiding debt, giving to others, and choosing not to be greedy?
  • Does it drive you to pray about life rather than complain about it?
  • Does it keep you calm when anxiety would threaten to rule your thoughts and feelings?
  • Does it help you see each person’s value with no partiality?
  • Does it cause you to speak about Christ—to tell others what you believe and that they should believe in him too?

James said that if we have faith but that faith doesn’t act, then it’s useless. So let’s have authentic faith, brothers and sisters. Let’s be defined by what we believe and what we do in service to God. Let’s be sure that we are doing the good works God made us for, because that’s how we’ll know that our faith is the real thing.

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (Js. 2:26)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Me & The Screen | Parenting with Screens

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Many Christians have a pessimistic outlook on raising kids. We believe it’s a risk, saying things like, “We shouldn’t want to bring kids into a world that’s gotten this bad. It’s worse than it’s ever been. It would just eat them alive, destroying their faith.” But the world has always been evil. I doubt that “the world is worse for our kids than it’s ever been.” Perhaps, though, the world’s wickedness comes closer to them, thanks, at least in part, to the presence of smart devices.

One of the unique challenges of Christian parenting in our day is handling screens wisely in our families. So, here’s some advice to Christian parents for helping our kids serve Christ when surrounded by screens.

  • Regulate their time on screens. Encourage intentional, tangible activities like conversation, engagement, reading, work, and generosity. Set a whole-family ‘fast’ from your tech once in awhile.
  • Set parental blocks. Gateways on your wifi routers, blocked-out apps, time limits, etc.
  • Unapologetically invade their privacy for the sake of spiritual accountability. There isn’t anything unbiblical about doing that, so long as it’s truly for their good and not justification for us to be on a power trip. Check their browsing histories, texts sent and received, downloads, and apps. Let them know from the outset that this kind of accountability will be standard procedures with your family.
  • Finally, talk openly about what you’re doing as a parent and why. Caveat: be wise enough with in those conversations not to accidentally tell them how to find ungodliness (a mistake that I’ve heard preachers and parents make more than once), but for older kids, do let them know the purpose behind your decisions. Remind them that you’re trying to foster a true, abiding love for God in their hearts.

Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Mt. 6:22-23) Parents, let’s be wise and diligent to keep our families’ hearts full of God’s light.

- Dan Lankford, minister

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[images sourced from Storyset.com]

Faithful Reading: Love & Respect

Sunday, January 28, 2024

One thing that Christians sometimes neglect to include in their efforts toward spiritual growth is the reading of faithful books. Obviously, the works of uninspired men are not of the same caliber as the inspired word of God when it comes to guiding our spiritual growth. But, just as we listen weekly to godly teachers & preachers who offer their insights into the word of God, there have been many authors down through the centuries who have faithfully expounded the Scriptures’ meaning in some really helpful ways. So, on Sundays in January, these articles will recommend spiritual books that can help us more clearly see God’s plan and our place within it.

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Love & Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs, is about godly marriage. Specifically, it’s about following God’s plan for marriage as laid out in one short passage from the book of Ephesians. The Holy Spirit’s point runs from Ephesians 5:22 thru verse 33, but verse 33 is the summary of the whole thought: “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Eggerichs notes how the Beatles sang, “All you need is love,” and so many books on marriage agree with them. And yet, there is more than love in God’s plan for healthy marriages: there is love and respect in Ephesians 5.

The author, speaking out of years’ worth of experience as a professional marriage counselor, helpfully describes what he calls …The Crazy Cycle. Simply: “Without love, she reacts with out respect. And without respect, he reacts without love.” And going thru this cycle makes both spouses frustrated. This simple articulation probably rings bells in many of our minds—that we have each sometimes felt the lack of these important things from our spouses, and we know that we have often denied our spouses what they truly need from us.

The book is like a long sermon based on a single Bible phrase, and it’s filled with elaboration on this simple concept. Some helpful pieces of advice from the book are as follows:

  • “You can be right but still wrong, when you say it at the top of your voice.”
  • “The Greek word Paul uses for love in this verse is agape, meaning unconditional love. And the wording of the rest of the passage strongly suggests that the husband should receive unconditional respect.”
  • “Often, we focus on our own needs and simply overlook the needs of the other person.”
  • “The more I meditated on these two passages of Scripture, the more I realized that if a husband is commanded to agape-love his wife, then she truly needs love. In fact, she needs it just as she needs air to breathe.”
  • “[As a marriage counselor,] Sarah asked this wife a question that she asks many women who arrive at our conferences full of contempt for their husbands: ‘What if your son grew up and married someone like you?’ The woman’s mouth fell open.”
  • “A husband is to obey the command to love even if his wife does not obey the command to respect, and a wife is to obey the command to respect even if the husband does not obey the command to love.”

If you and your spouse are struggling to find peace and enjoyment in your relationship, and if you’re ready to work together to change that and make your relationship into the kind that God intended, this book is a really good place to start.

-Dan Lankford, minister

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