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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Click here to read archived articles by our former preacher, Jared Hagan.

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discipleship

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Sober. Vigilant.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

 

Back in early February, after a Chinese balloon had been shot down in American airspace, the commander of NORAD confessed that his organization had a “domain awareness gap” that needed to be figured out. Obviously (and thankfully), knowing what all that will entail for his team is far above my pay grade, but I found the term intriguing. There’s something more significant about it than simply saying a “blind spot.” The term takes ownership of a domain—a realm of responsibility.

Solomon advised his readers to oversee our individual domains with these words: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?” (Pr. 27:23-24) His point was that we should keep a close eye on that which God has given us to oversee. This is especially important for those who oversee a congregation. Two of the qualifications for elders are that they must be sober and vigilant, knowing the condition of the flock well (1 Tm. 3:2, KJV).

But the principle can be applied to every saint. Whether your domain is a family, a work assignment, a church, a department, a class, a neighbor-hood, or just your own heart; we’d better know and understand and guard our domains well. The apostle Peter admonished his readers to be sober and vigilant against the roaring lion who seeks to devour us (1 Pt. 5:8). Even if one's domain is just the thoughts of his own heart, he must to do what he can to prevent awareness gaps.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (2 Cor. 13:5)  Don’t let an awareness gap leave your domain open to attack from our adversary. 

- Dan Lankford, minister

Great Power, Great Peace, Great Practice

Friday, March 17, 2023

In 1982, at the MLB Old Timer's Game, hall-of-famer Luke Appling hit a homerun at the age of 75! Check out the video of it here:

At 75 years old, Appling wasn't able to play the rest of the game the way that young players did. In the video, he just looks like an average man for that age bracket. But it's his swing that impresses. It's a simple demonstration of what's possible when something as seemingly simple as the swing of a baseball bat is practiced and then executed to near perfection.

Appling's swing isn't characterized by power, but smoothness. He doesn't throw out his back because he uses the right muscles and the right strength in just the right ways. It looks practically effortless because, as golfers and baseballers often say, "He lets the bat do the work." He just takes the tools that he has and uses them with such fluidity, simplicity, and easy confidence that it appears he was born knowing how to do it.

I think there's a good lesson there for us about Chrisitan behavior. In many ways, we want the Christian life to be so natural for us that it seems like we were born knowing how to do it. We want to get to a point where, even if we have to take a swing at sin in our own lives or the lives of others, we are well-prepared and well-practiced so that it doesn't fluster or rankle us. We want to be able to live powerfully for God, but in a way that we still maintain a peaceful state of mind and heart.

This must be at least one way of thinking about what Paul described as "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). It's the point where Christian living becomes a second nature to us; where it's so much a part of who we are that we find God is accomplishing powerful things through us without great fits of effort. We want to become like Jesus & his apostles, who radiated God's power in the everyday dealings of life. And if we can do that, then, like a homerun hitter in his mid-70's, I think we will find that we're capable of some surprisingly powerful things, even without great spurts of anxiety and effort and strength. Just by following God and habitually doing what's right, we'll be able to serve powerfully all the way through this life.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Make the Most of the Time

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The admonition not to waste time occurs somewhat regularly in the Bible. For example, Paul admonished the Ephesians to make the best use of their time while alive in God’s world (Eph. 5:15-16), and King Solomon advised that young people should fully claim their youth as a time for serving God (Eccl. 12:1-8). And life is full of areas in which we could put that principle to practice.

Do you have time to be with your spouse, even just a little bit? Make the most of it by bringing them joy, speaking words that build them up, and pouring God’s love into them. Do you have time with a friend whom you love and appreciate? Remember to support them and express your gratitude for their friendship. Do you have time for worship as a regular part of your life? Then put your heart into it and magnify God with all that you have. Do you have an opportunity to teach your kids? Then pray for wisdom from God to know how to teach them, and spend the energy to do it. Do you have time to rest? Then rest, and enjoy the blessing that it is. Do you have an opportunity to share the truth with someone and guide them toward salvation? Then don’t hide the light of the Gospel under a basket, but rather share it while there’s a good opportunity! Do you have a chance to do a good deed and let others glorify God because of it? Then do it while there is time for it.

The reality of being human is that we are confined to time, and so our opportunities often disappear all too quickly. So we ought to joyfully make the most of our time, not just fearing what may be lost, but enjoying what can be gained when we capitalize on the blessings of time and relationships that God is giving us every day.

- Dan Lankford, minister

The Three Signs of A Miserable Church Life (part 1)

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

In his book by the same title, Patrick Lencioni highlights The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement. And while they work well as indicators of job fulfillment, the principles also serve as healthy admonitions about the quality of church relationships.

  • Anonymity: A person feels that he or she is not known or cared about. Others don’t know them well, don’t ask about them often, and seldom make an effort to understand their life struggles or victories. Others often let social awkwardness or intimidation or other forms of prejudice create distance and prevent close friendships from forming. As a result, they feel like an anonymous presence—not well-known or well-cared-for by their fellow Christians.
  • Irrelevance: A person feels that they have little or nothing to contribute. Within the church, they compare themselves to others whose talents are easily observed in assemblies and classes and determine that if their own talents are lesser, then they don’t matter. Because of the way that they hear others talk or see them behave, they come to to feel that the church as a whole would not even notice if they were no longer part of things.
  • Immeasurement: Basically, this comes down to a lack of growth or even the opportunity for growth. It happens at work when there are no measurable skills or trackable achievements to indicate success. It happens at church when there is a prevailing belief is people just are who they are and little (or nothing at all) is done to help them grow. People feel immeasurement at church when they aren’t experiencing encouraging fellowship or spiritual leadership that pushes them toward faithful Christian living.

Surely, all of us can understand why problems like these are detrimental to a church family. So what can be done about it? I’d like to take this and the next two midweek articles to offer some solutions.

Anonymity can be fixed by all of us making an effort to get to know others. Getting to know others comes with inherent risks, but those risks are worth taking. We’ve all had awkward interactions with fellow Christians when we don’t know each other, but let’s not let those experiences stop us from trying as we should. Right now, our congregation is growing, but we’re still small enough that we could all know each other well (a blessing that many other congregations don’t have), and so we should work diligently toward that. Don’t settle for just knowing a few people; be a blessing to everyone around you. Risk the potential awkwardness and make sure that no one around you is left feeling unknown or forgotten. And if you’re a person who feels this anonymity… I encourage you to believe that those feelings will fade the more that you help others overcome the same feelings. The better you know them, the better known you will be.

These things can’t be fixed by one person or by a select few. It’s up to all of us as a church. So, ask authentically how others are doing and support them through the life things that they’re experiencing. Show hospitality to other Christians. Learn people’s kids’ names. Learn what talents others have and how they are a blessing in the world. Remember that “church” means people, and remember that being involved in church means being involved with your fellow Christians. And all of us can do that.

Overcoming the signs of a miserable job depends largely on the management team at that job. But overcoming the ‘signs of a miserable church life’ depends on the whole church. The problem of anonymity can creep into our relationships if we aren’t carefully guarding against it. So let’s work together at pouring ourselves out for the good of others, and we’ll see the power of God at work within us to do more than we ask or even imagine.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace…” (1 Pet. 4:8-10)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Guest Speaker Series w/ Dennis Allan — Reflections

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed our time this past weekend with Dennis & Benita Allan. I enjoyed it, and I was greatly encourage by them. Here are just a few of my reflections on the event:

  • First, I was encouraged by your interest in the presentation about Brazil on Saturday. It did my heart good to know that so many among us are concerned with the state of the church in other parts of the world. That’s a characteristic of Christians that we share with our earliest brothers and sisters in the faith — the saints from Jerusalem, Corinth, Galatia, and Antioch who sent care and aid to their brothers and sisters at various times all throughout the New Testament. Let’s keep praying for the Allans and for our Brazilian brothers and sisters.
  • Second, I was actually encouraged by thinking about how long it can take for God’s kingdom to grow. Hearing our brother describe the wonderful numbers of people who’ve become Bible-believing Christians, and then in the next breath hearing him say that those represent such a tiny fraction of all the contacts that they make, and then hearing the general sense throughout  his talk that there is every intention of persevering in the work of discipling the Brazilian people… It all reminded me that we have every reason to be evangelistic—to keep teaching others, even if it seems like we are getting few conversions or little interest. Because the word of God does work to change people’s hearts, and so we—Christ’s faithful ones—will continue to serve him faithfully by sharing the good news over and over and over again. Because it can take a long time for God’s kingdom to grow in this world, but it will grow
    • You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:14-16)
  • Third, I was tremendously encouraged by the sermons that our brother presented. He pointed us to the word and then humbly stepped aside so that we could see its truth clearly. And more than that, he subtly reminded us of the importance of the whole of God’s word by bringing us lessons from Old Testament passages which we otherwise might rarely contemplate. There are rich lessons to be learned from the moments when someone tears the clothes in the Bible, from the ending(s) of Judges, and from something as simple as the number of ox carts that God assigned to a group. And I’m glad that we had someone to shine the light on those for us.

Now that we’ve all got a little bit more personal connection with the Allans, I hope that you will feel an increased interest in the work that they do and that you will include them regularly in your prayers. If you’d like to share his lessons with others, you can find them on our website. Thanks to our elders for putting together this opportunity for all of us to hear and grow.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Fierce & Gentle

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mt. 10:16)

When Jesus sent out his apostles to teach the lost sheep of the house of Israel, he gave the admonition quoted above, and it’s a very provocative way to make the point. Snakes have a fierceness about them that manifests in their ability to get into tight spots and exploit the weaknesses of their prey. More than just ruthless hunters, they’re very clever. But on the other side of the coin you have doves, who do no harm to anything or anyone. It’s a wonderful ideal for Jesus’ apostles: a group of men, delivering a message that would reshape the world, and doing it with both the unassailability of truth and the sincerity of truly caring for the eternal condition of others.

How do we engage the world like with that same balanced approach? How can we “tear down strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4) and also become “all things to all men” so that we might save them (1 Cor. 9:22)?

It starts with speaking the truth. In the modern world, this is where most believers go wrong. We are often gentle as doves, but not wise enough to tell people the hard truths they need to hear. We must be willing to say, “That’s not right. You shouldn’t do that. You can’t be saved or find true joy in anything other than Jesus.” And then, once we’ve learned to speak the truth, we can start mastering the art of dove-like gentleness. And if we do that, then people will hear and they will turn toward Christ, just as when they heard his apostles teach.

When we can put those two ideals together, we’ll not only convict the world of their sin—we’ll turn their hearts toward the God who will save them.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Let's Just Be Christians

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am just a man.’” (Acts 10:26)

An astonishing aspect to the spread of Christianity is the lack of notoriety sought by the apostles. When Peter had an opportunity to receive veneration by new Gentile converts, he refuses it. Paul and Barnabas likewise exhibited this aversion to worship and honor. The Gentiles were prepared to treat them like gods, and they had the humility and sincerity to reject the offer and weep at the confusion of the Gentiles (see Acts 14:12-15).

Unlike almost every other religious movement in the history of the world, the leaders of the early church clothed themselves with humility and equality to those who they were teaching and leading. How did Christianity spread? It spread by honest, servant-hearted leaders who sought to conform themselves to Christ’s character. No efforts to venerate themselves or get their way—Christians put Jesus on a pedestal, and all of us gathered as one at His feet.

Tired of religious corruption and scandals? Me too.

Let’s just be Christians.

For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.” (1 Thessalonians 2:5-6)

- Scott Beyer. Minister for Eastland Church of Christ in Louisville, KY. Shared with permission.

Comprehensive Preaching

Sunday, February 12, 2023

“How do you come up with fresh sermons week after week?” “How do you decide what to speak on?” “Is there some sort of template or guideline for what subjects or passages to preach about?”

It’s kind of surprising how often churchgoers ask questions like those to their preachers. I think part of the reason is that they’re just curious about the nature of the job. But for those who really think about it, there’s an opportunity for deep spiritual thinking in that question.

The content of gospel preaching matters a great deal, because our job is to accurately represent God’s will for humanity. Sometimes, that requires sermons that are more evangelistic—helping people get saved. At other times, churchgoers need to hear messages that help them live faithfully and make good moral choices as Christians. Other times, it’s got to be about eternal truths that transcend daily life and transcend time itself—things like the nature of God and the supreme importance of truth in reality. So how do you do it all?

The complexity of it means that there ought to be vision and forethought and prayer as these things are being planned. But the simplicity of it lies in 1) always drawing from the infinite well of wisdom in God’s word, and 2) trusting God to use our efforts to bring him glory.

Paul was diligent to present “the whole counsel of God” during his ministry at Ephesus, and we ought to do the same whenever possible. God’s plan is both deep and wide, and as his people, we ought to be continually drawing nearer to a comprehensive understanding of the whole Gospel.

- Dan Lankford, minister 

 

*This essay was published in our Sunday Family Report as accompaniment to the sermon: "How To Get Saved." That message talks about the Biblical idea of "faith" in similar terms [i.e. "comprehensive"] to how this article talks about preaching.

Faithful Reading for Teens: Do Hard Things

Sunday, January 29, 2023

One thing that Christians often do not 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 sit weekly and listen to godly teachers offer their insights into the word of God, there have been many authors down through the centuries who have opened the scriptures and faithfully expounded their meaning in some really helpful ways. So, for the Sundays in January, these articles will be making recommendations for some spiritual books that can help us to see God’s plan and our place within that plan more clearly. Read them with a discerning mind that is informed by God’s word, and be grateful for the guidance that he offers through his servants.

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Do Hard Things, a book written by teenage believers and for teenage believers, deliberately breaks the mold of books that expect teenagers to do things that are morally wrong and to accomplish few things of consequence. In fact, that is one of its stated purposes: to energize teenagers’ own expectations for themselves, and to instill a drive within its readers that makes them yearn for maturity. It bluntly teaches teenagers that some things in life are hard, and rather than avoiding the hard things, we should move toward them and want to do them.

The authors, who were teenagers at the time of publishing, highlight five types of hard things that each person needs to own—that is, don’t wait for someone else to get you to do them; you make the decision to do things like this.

  1. Things that take you outside your comfort zone. It’s important to do things that don’t come easily or naturally. We’re often tempted to think that a feeling of fear about something means we can’t do it. But think about Moses, who believed that he had no public speaking talent, and yet God chose him to speak one of history’s greatest messages of freedom. So you too, plan to do some hard things that take you out of your comfort zone.
  2. Things that go beyond what’s expected. Don’t just finish the paper—do the research and write something great. Don’t do the bare minimum at the job—be early and be the best. Why not your best? And why not your best all the time?
  3. Things that are too big for you to do alone. Is there some good and faithful growth that you can effect in your community, your school, or your church? Maybe you can’t accomplish it by yourself, but you can be the spark that ignites a fire in others and your combined efforts will see something great done to give glory to God.
  4. Small things that don’t pay off immediately. Things like making your bed, working out, reaching out to someone who is sick, and doing the mundane, regular activities of life with excellence. They’re tough because they’re monotonous, but they’re worth doing, and they’re worth doing right. It’s the small efforts of discipline like those that make us ready for the grander and even harder things of life.
  5. Things that go against the crowd. Out of all of these, this one may be the most Bible-based idea, because Christians—and especially young Christians—are called to stand against the tide of the world and resist its influence. And it’s no secret that it’s hard to do that sometimes. So the question is: Can you do it, even when it’s really, really hard?

Overall, this book is about one thing: responsibility. The authors tell many true stories to illustrate their points and make the read enjoyable, but they never lose sight of their one main goal: to remind you to do own the responsibility of doing what’s right and good in your life, even when that means doing some really hard things.

Click here to get it in paperback, or click here to get it on Kindle.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Parenting. Let's Do It, & Do It Right.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4)

"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." (2 Tim. 1:5)

Moms and dads, by default, we will be the most influential figures in the lives of our children. That doesn't mean that they will always follow our prescribed paths for them, but it does mean that we—by divine appointment—have an outsized influence upon their thinking, their habits, their words, and their life story. And because that's true, we have a responsibility to be deliberate with that influence. The instruction to fathers and the example for mothers that are quoted above remind us of the simple truth that those who believe in Christ have a God-given commission to teach our faith to our children.

So, here are a few pieces of advice in that regard.

1) Don't abdicate your responsibility to the school, to the internet, or even to the church. They may be valuable supplements to their lives, but non of those are a substitute for godly parenting—not even good things like Bible classes or involvement with other young Christians. No matter who instructs them, you must choose to be their most present and most well-connected teacher. Guide them into a love for God's word, guide them into a commitment to excellence in all that they do, show them the importance of selflessness and humility in relationships, and instruct them in truth so that they readily recognize and repudiate falsehood.

2) We need to be aware of trends in the world. Because the world is often not shy about their desire to interrupt the influence that parents have on kids, particularly for Christians who actually hold Biblical teachings with conviction. (Here's one piece of evidence to back up that claim.) So just be aware. Listen to the educational philosophy of their schools and to new rules and policies that are put into place. Paranoia is very seldom helpful, but alertness is always good. “Be sober-minded; be watchful.” (1 Pet. 5:8) So let's pay close attention and make sure that we can maintain our God-given charge to be the primary influences that they need.

Ultimately, this is about us doing our dead-level best to bring up children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. That's a project of epic proportions that God has given to us, and so we'd better be devoted and prayerful without ceasing if we're going to get it right.

- Dan Lankford, minister

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