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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

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Tense Conversations & Wise Words

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

In the past 10 days, I’ve been involved in or overhearing close friends in conversations on the following topics: Pride Month, atheism-vs-Christianity, modesty, depression, Christians and martial struggles, Catholicism-vs-Biblical Christianity, and the current state of the Israel-Hamas war. I know I’m stating the obvious here: any conversation on those subjects has the potential for argument, tension, and hurt feelings. They are all places where emotions run high and opinions grow strong.

The combination of all of those has reminded me of the importance of our words. When we speak as Christians, we are called to always speak graciously, with words “seasoned with salt,” so that we have the wisdom to answer each person appropriately in a given situation (Col. 4:6). We’re told that having the thoughtfulness to say the right thing at the right time is like giving the gift of fine jewelry (Prv. 25:11-12). We’re told that speaking the right word at the right time will bring us joy (Prv. 15:23), and that refraining from speaking when it’s right to do that will help us just as much (Prv. 21:23). In any and every situation, Christians are called to be thinking people, so that we will answer in a way that gives true benefit to everyone who hears it.

I’ve been encouraged by the Christians that I’ve heard in these conversations this week. I’ve heard believers speak their convictions, respect the convictions of others, admit mistakes they’ve made, and resolve conflict in healthy ways. I’ve heard them speak up for the truth to others who were holding to spiritual and religious errors. I’ve heard them have the humility to say, “This is what I think, but I could be wrong” when it came to some of the topics listed above. I’ve been encouraged by their examples to speak with wisdom all the time.

I hope and pray that I’ve handled the conversations where I was involved with the grace and wisdom that I should have. And I pray that for all of us—that our speech will always be the kind of gracious, wise, truthful words that Christ himself would speak.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Spiritual Third Culture Kids

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

The ancient city of Philippi was in northern Greece, but it was an outpost of Rome. I was a colony, designed and built by Rome with the architecture, customs, taxes, hierarchies, rulers, and laws of Rome. Everything about Philippi looked and felt like a mini Rome. The people who lived there were not considered Greek citizens. They were Romans, and they were proud of it (see Ac. 16:21).

Knowing that makes it all the more poignant when Paul and Timothy tell the Christians there, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Ph. 3:20). The people who heard that first were living in Greece, and their citizenship was in Rome. In the same way, Christians are living on Earth, and our citizenship is in Heaven. The citizenship doesn’t remove us from the place where we live, but it reminds us that our allegiance, our culture, and our identity are centered somewhere else. More than that, the apostle is reminding them that there is a highest citizenship—one that matters more than all others, and one that overrules all others. Even with the laws and blessings of being Roman, there were more important laws and blessings for those brothers—the ones that God gave.

The same ought to be true for us too. We are Christians, and our citizenship is also in heaven. We are similar to what has been called “third culture kids” — those who have been raised bouncing back and forth between two different countries, making them a child of both cultures in part, but neither culture fully. Our countries are the world and heaven. We are of this world because we’ve never lived anywhere else, but our heavenly citizenship contrasts heavily with our worldly identity. And we are living a heavenly lifestyle, but we must still interact with the world every day. We are spiritual “third culture kids.”

And yet, one of those citizenships defines us much more than the other. The Philippians were more Roman than they were Greek, and yet Paul called them to be more heavenly than either of those. And we must answer the same call: to live in both cultures simultaneous, but with our truest identity being the heavenly one, calling us to live for Christ as we wait for his return.

- Dan Lankford, minister

His Word Above All Others

Sunday, April 07, 2024

In 1 Kings 13, God himself instructed a young prophet to travel across his country’s border and deliver a hard message, then return home without stopping. While he was there, an older prophet found him, lied to him by saying that God had changed his instructions, and in so doing, led the man to his death. It might not have even raised any alarm bells for the young prophet, but it came down to one crucial thing: He had heard the truth from God himself, but instead of staying faithful to that word, he heeded the voice of man who claimed to speak a word from God.

In our pursuit of what is right, we would do well to be aware of the same threat. We would do well to be so attuned to God’s words that even when men claim to speak from him, we can tell the difference and choose to follow him. We would do well to know the Bible thoroughly enough to test men’s ideas against it.

Paul once encountered a group of Jews who willingly listened to his preaching from the Old Testament, and their trust in the Scriptures was so strong that they, “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Ac. 17:11). And the anonymous writer of the letter to the Hebrews knew the importance of paying “much closer attention to what we have heard” (Hb. 2:1).

This kind of thinking requires us to have a high level of Bible knowledge and strong sense of Biblical discernment. Since we live in a time and culture where we have the ability to read and study the word for ourselves, we must each be committed to obedience to God’s word—not only what a man may claim to be true about his word. Our trust is in God; not in ourselves or other people. Let us not be deceived. Let us listen to his voice above all others.

- Dan Lankford, minister

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

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

He's Still On the Throne

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…” (Is. 6:1)

There is a clear and simple truth that we can take away from that opening line of Isaiah’s story: the king might be dead, but THE King still sits on his throne.

And that point resonates loud and clear to the hearts of God’s faithful ones throughout all time: No matter who’s on the throne (or in the White House), God is king of Heaven and Earth. It’s a worthwhile truth to remember all the time; especially in an election year.

But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.” (Ps. 9:7)

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!” (Ps. 123:1)

 

- Dan Lankford, minister

We're A Bible Church

Sunday, March 03, 2024

If you ever find yourself describing this church to a friend who attends a different kind of church, you’ll soon realize that one thing which makes us distinct is the high level of attention given to Bible teaching. It’s been my limited experience that many of my friends’ churches only offer Bible teaching in sermons. Their special events feature famous motivational speakers and authors; not Bible teaching. Kids’ programs have a lot of activities, and not much Bible. The Sunday school classes for adults tend to be poorly publicized and poorly attended; increasingly, they’re not even offered. These are generalizations, and there are exceptions, but this is the average.

But here at Northside, things are different.

We have Bible classes offered twice every week for kids and grown-ups. Sermons are based in the Bible every single time. Special events are focused on Bible teaching. Scripture is read publicly often. There’s a devotional talk based in the Bible every Wednesday night. There are articles published twice weekly that reflect on the Scriptures’ teachings for our lives. And we have a daily Bible reading program that we encourage everyone to participate in.

Why so much emphasis on the Bible?

Because it’s the message that God speaks to mankind, and there is no better word that we can hear. Peter once asked Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68). There’s nothing more life-giving for us than to hear the Spirit speak in this way. It’s a blessing the defies valuation, so we continue to seek it day after day, week after week, and year after year.

Now, please don’t hear this as self-congratulatory or condescending toward others, because neither of those is helpful, and Jesus warned against them both (cf. Lk. 18:1 & Mt. 7:1-5). Rather, this is spoken as a statement of conviction and as a commitment to our high view of Scripture. We want to be committed to being a Bible church, and ready to share that with others. We want to have the humility to realize that while we are a very Bible-forward group of people, we still have so much room to grow in our own level of Biblical discernment. We ought to be increasingly engaged in the opportunities we currently have to connect with the Bible (classes, daily readings, home studies, etc). We want to be hear the Spirit of God speak more and more through the written word.

We’re a Bible church, and we’re going to stay committed to that, because there is no-one else we can turn to but God to hear the words of eternal life.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Awed by Jesus

Sunday, February 25, 2024

In this past week’s daily Bible reading schedule, we read through Luke chapter 8 and its collection of powerful moments from the life of Jesus. The chapter tells us about Jesus as a powerful teacher (vv. 1-18), a powerful unifier (vv. 19-21), a powerful God (vv. 22-39), and a powerful healer (vv. 40-56). Individually, each event is the kind of thing that we come to expect from the Lord when we’ve been around religious settings and the Bible for awhile. But when viewed all together, they show us just how truly great he is, and they remind us to occasionally stop and be wowed by Jesus.

It’s easy to get a little desensitized to how fearful and awe-inspiring the presence of Jesus could be at times. The occasions of his kindness and compassion are sometimes difficult to align with the occasions of his great miracles and hard sayings. We readily hear the sweetness in his voice as he tells the adulteress woman, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (Lk. 8:48), but we sometimes forget that it’s the same voice who simply rebuked an intense storm and caused it to retreat from him (Lk. 8:24). Neither his softness nor his firmness nor his fearsomeness is everything that we need to know about him. We must understand and appreciate the whole picture of Jesus.

And so, let’s allow our hearts the requisite amount of breathing room to be properly awed by Jesus sometimes. Let’s be awed at his power as a teacher, as a unifier, as a healer, and as God. Let’s appreciate the fact that people who knew him well still feared him, even as they loved him. And let’s appreciate the fact that even in all of his greatness, splendor, and power; he loves us and calls us to himself.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Just Preach Jesus

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Once, a young preacher was told that he shouldn’t preach the truth straight and strong. No one wanted him to tell them what was right and what was wrong. So he asked an old time preacher what to do. The old preacher responded: “Just preach Jesus, born and crucified and risen from the dead. Preach that he paid for sin with the precious blood he shed. Preach that he is Lord and Savior, King of Kings, Son of God, and Son of Man. Just preach Jesus, son, until Jesus comes again.”

I can’t attest to the literal reality of that conversation; I just heard it in the lyrics of a Southern Gospel song. But I do love the sentiment and the spiritual truth that it encapsulates.

A complete understanding of The Gospel necessarily includes many things: teaching on morality, truth about creation and the sciences and the humanities, training in wisdom, and plenty more. But at its core, The Gospel is always simple: It’s the good news of Jesus Christ. And while it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian, God’s kingdom is built on one thing: Jesus, the Christ.

Paul wrote this to the Corinthians about a year after he’d taught them to follow Christ: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved… that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…” (1 Cor. 15:1-5)

So, when you think about the elements of Christianity, remember that it’s all anchored in who Jesus is. We are the church of Jesus Christ. He’s our all in all. Just preach Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Faith-Building Fridays | The Bible's Evidence For A Creator God

Friday, January 26, 2024

When making a case for the existence of God and his creating everything, we tend to default to evidence outside the Bible. So we begin—as we’ve done in this series—with premises like “design is evidence of a designer” and “morality is evidence of a moral originator.” Maybe this is because we feel that defending religious things from the Bible is circular reasoning, and so we shy away from it. But if there is sufficient evidence to the Bible’s legitimacy (which we intend to discuss in articles later this year), then its claims about God himself ought to be taken seriously. Neither its antiquity nor its obvious religious bias give us reason to disregard its claims wholesale.

And so, for this Faith-Building Friday, consider some of the many places where the Bible’s writers stated that the world was created by God. These statements, while not the whole case, are valid evidence to the truth of his existence and creative work.

  • “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gn. 1.1)
  • “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Ex. 20.11)
  • “You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.” (Nh. 9:6)
  • “For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” (Ps. 95.3-5)
  • “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jr. 32.17)
  • “long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” (2 Pt. 3.5)

To be sure, there is an abundance of extra-biblical evidence to the facts of his existence and creative work. But let’s not skip the spoken truth of these things inside the Bible. The claims made there are sincere, powerful, and faith-building in their own divinely-spoken right.

- Dan Lankford

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