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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

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Living Life Skillfully

Monday, June 10, 2024

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.

That bit of wisdom, attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, is engraved in the marble on the walls in the Library of Congress. It’s a reminder of the wholeness of someone who wants to live life skillfully. It’s good wisdom for anyone, and especially for Christians, who want to live life skillfully according to God’s wisdom for all cultures and times.

Reading is an important spiritual discipline for the child of God. When we allow it, God’s word will saturate our minds with divine truth, love, and wisdom. It gives us the vision to see the world, ourselves, and others as we truly are. It lets us hear from God himself.

Conversation—what Bacon calls “conference”—is also an important spiritual discipline. It’s in conversations that we practice articulating the truths of The Faith so that we become more prepared to “make a defense to anyone who asks” about the hope that gives us purpose (1 Pt. 3:15).

And when it comes to communicating doctrine correctly, I find that writing helps me achieve clarity more than anything else. Writing encourages us to choose words that are just right for the occasion, for the audience, and for the subject matter. With a subject matter as important as the Gospel, shouldn’t we want to communicate it with accuracy and care?

The skill with which we walk thru life will be greatly enhanced by these three disciplines. These are elements of how many of God’s faithful ones have lived with wisdom for millennia. Let’s learn from their wisdom and from God’s to do the same things today.

- Dan Lankford, minister

One Body; Many Members

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit."  (1 Corinthians 12:12)

In this chapter, the apostle begins to use an analogy that will help us understand how the church is designed to function. He places before us a human body, and draws lessons from it all through the rest of the chapter, as to its parallel with the functioning of the Body of Christ. It is more than a mere figure of speech to say that the church is the Body of Christ. God really takes that seriously.

That is where Paul begins. Just as the body is one and yet has many members, he says, so also it is with Christ. As men and women, children, younger and older Christians; we may have different functions, but in order for the whole to function, each part is absolutely necessary. I went over two months with a broken finger. My body was not whole and it limited what I could do. When a part of the body is not functioning, other parts of the body must do extra work. Without you, I cannot be whole; without me, you cannot be whole. God’s church is at its best when God’s children are joined and working together, united in Christ, supporting one another and growing as each part of the body does it work. At our church in California, we had an elderly gentleman that seldom said much—you would be amazed if you got whole sentence out him. But he was there any time the doors were open. What an encouragement just to see.

I have been asked many times while as a member of this family worshiping here by younger folks asking if they can be of help to me or asking how I am doing or feeling. That is encouraging or helpful to make feel a part of a family.  

The church is not just a group of religious people gathered together to enjoy certain mutually desired functions. It is a group of people who share the same spiritual life, who belong to the same Lord, who are filled with the same Spirit, who are given gifts by that same Spirit, and who are intended to function together to change the world by our actions. That is the nature and work of the church.

Picture a body in motion with each part of the body in sync with the rest, all parts working toward the same goal reaching toward the fullness of Christ.  It is important that we know each other, and we should all be trying to help each member feel important and help each other to grow and be even stronger.

"So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other." (1 Cor 12:25) Division was a problem that the church in Corinth dealt with. We should ask the Lord to help us gain greater facility by working together. A body isn’t made up of a whole bunch of tongues, or feet, or hands, or eyes or ears; but instead it’s made up of a combination of each of the parts of the body—one of this, a couple of thes, and some of those. You see even though God insists on unity he complicates the matter by also insisting on diversity.

God didn’t make us identical at the first birth and I don’t think he intended to make us identical at the second birth. To listen to some people all Christians ought to look alike, dress alike, think alike, have the same haircut, read the same translation of the Bible, enjoy the same type of music and raise their children the same way. But using our individual gifts and abilities is what makes us complete. God gave us the family to grow together, to weep and rejoice together, so that we can grow in unity.

So the questions we should ask ourselves, whether young or old, male or female, are: "Where am I at?  What role I will fulfill? What member of the body I will become? What function will I perform?" How will you help to make the body whole and function together? As with any body, we grow with hard work, in service to others.  Some may think we reach unity and maturity through Bible study alone, however Paul says that attaining the fullness of Christ involves serving others.

- Tim Bormann, Northside church member
 

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

"In the Abundance of [Printed] Words"

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Normally, the world of academic publishing—the kind of thing that includes periodicals, peer-reviewed papers, and long, detailed studies on very specific subjects—doesn’t get the attention of the general public. Actually, if we’re honest, most Americans would rather read just about anything but academic journals and papers! But this past week, this was the news from one company in that industry:

Wiley, an academic publisher, has announced that it is closing 19 journals amid a massive influx of fake papers, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The publisher has retracted more than 11,300 “compromised” studies over the past two years. The Journal reported that at least two other academic publishers also have retracted hundreds of fake studies each.

Now, that’s an especially interesting series of events when the entire discipline of academic writing is set up specifically to prevent plagiarism and to make absolutely sure that only truthful, accurate information makes it to the printed page. But to find out that the mistakes, the corruption, and the lies are so widespread makes the shock that much more surprising.

It reminds me of this little bit of wisdom from Solomon: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Prv. 10:19). Basically, Solomon was warning us that the more you talk (or, in the case of Wiley publishing, the more you write), the greater the chance that you will say something wrong. Whether that’s because you are deceitful, deceived, or delusional... it’s a problem that can often be fixed by simply measuring our words—saying, whether by spoken or written word, only things that we are sure are true.

So think about that before the next time you post or re-post an opinion about politics or society on social media. Think about it before the next time you point the finger at someone and claim to know why they did what they did. Think about it before the next time you presume to diagnose a problem in the life of another Christian. Think about it when you teach your children, when you teach outsiders, or when you teach a segment of the church family. Just stop and ask yourself, “Am I as sure as I can be that this is true?”

That academic journal let tens of thousands of articles go out into the public sphere that didn’t contain the information they claimed to contain. That record looks really bad for them. Don’t let your record end up looking just as bad.

- Dan Lankford, minister

It's Fishing Season

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Jesus’ first disciples were professional fishermen, and Jesus called them away from their jobs to go with him and learn his way of life, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). From then onward, his people—when we really serve him as we ought—have been on a mission to ‘catch’ people and bring them into the same kind of disciple relationship that we have with him.

A brother who knows our church and our city very well recently told me, “It seems like it’s fishing season in Colorado Springs!” He was commenting on the many opportunities that we have here at Northside: our connections in the local schools, our community’s very active public sports and activities programs, the strong military presence here, and even the favorable location of our church building. That, plus the sincere faith of people here, the passionate Bible teaching that happens here, and the growing connections between members of our congregation all come together to give us great opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus and bring others to know him! Our brother was right: It is fishing season here in Colorado Springs!

Someone has said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing for the weather you have.” In the same way, there’s no bad season of life for evangelism; only excuses about evangelism in the season that we’re in. We might multiply excuses for not sharing the gospel with others, but let’s put a hard stop on those and get busy doing God’s will together! Even if we’re clumsy about it at first, let’s try to save the people whom we know! We have great opportunities to share the gospel with the people in this community and lead them to being saved. Let’s go fishing, y’all!

- Dan Lankford, minister

"I Just Don't Know What Else To Do"

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Surely we’ve all experienced the frustration of doing things right and not seeing positive results from it. We pray for someone but don’t see the prayers answered. We eat healthy and exercise but the number on the scale doesn’t seem change. We take to heart a new batch of marriage advice, but the tension stays in our relationship. We train and re-train someone on the job, but see no change in their work. And here’s one of the big ones: We discipline and teach our kids, but they just don’t seem to be getting any of it and growing into the people they should be.

In cases like that, our frustration with lacking results often leads us to look for new methods. We look for the newest diet fad, the latest marriage advice, the latest psychology of training, or yet another new parenting book. And eventually, after many methods, we look back over our efforts and think, “I just don’t know else to do.”

I think that there’s a subtle, but important fault in that thought process. It’s that we’re looking for something else to try, instead of continuing in what is known to be good.

Now, that principle is a truism in lots of areas of life, but since today is Mother’s Day, here’s how it applies to parenting: Let’s focus less on new ideas for parenting and increase our commit-ment to the old wisdom from God for raising them. The list of passages given below will help us stop looking for what else to try and to stay committed to what works. Is that tough? Yes. Perseverance is harder than novelty. But by our faith in God’s grace, we can do it, and we’ll be better off for it in the long run of life and eternity.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Deut. 6:5-7, Prv. 22:6, Prv. 19:18, Prv. 23:19, Prv. 29:17, Heb. 12:5-8, Eph. 6:4, Col. 3:21

Denomination Or Not... The Real Issue Is Biblical Conviction

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

This past week, the United Methodist denomination became the latest religious body to change their position on homosexuality. Just about a year ago, the governing body of the denomination had declared that they would uphold the Biblical teaching about such matters. A year later, all of that was changed at a conference in Charlotte, NC.

Obviously, this has been big news, even in nationwide media sources. But for most Bible-believing, non-denominational Christians, the news isn’t really that big, since we have seen the way that so many denominations have been trending away from the Bible for decades. That, coupled with the mass exodus of many Methodists from the denomination in the past six months basically told us that this sort of thing was coming. For us, the big story is not entirely about the denomination’s decision, but about how it’s being reported.

Some news outlets have reported the change as “United Methodists lift 40-year ban on LGBTQ+ clergy” (USA Today). Another headline read “United Methodists begin to reverse longstanding anti-LGBTQ policies” (AP News). The verbiage being used reveals their belief that these doctrinal matters are just “policy” and that they basically only go back 40 years.

But faithful Christians know that these convictions are not just a matter of policy, nor are they only a few decades old. They are a matter of Biblical truth, and they go back to when God spoke them by the prophets and the apostles. As Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). They aren’t just political issues; they are issues of sin and righteousness, holiness and faithfulness. Regardless of our beliefs and the Bible’s teachings about denominations, let’s commit ourselves to standing on more than policy. May our stance be firmly rooted in the word of God as the ultimate authority for who we will be and what we will do.

- 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

Their Faith Was REAL... Ours Better Be Too

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

In this week’s daily Bible reading through 1st Thessalonians, we’ve seen an apostle’s description of what conversion really looks like. It shows us the remarkable power that plain Gospel teaching has—that through it, Christ will completely transform people’s lives and lead them out of darkness and into the light of a life lived for God.

Here’s what God saw from our brothers in Thessalonica as the process of their becoming our brothers.

  • “We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.”
  • “…you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
  • “…you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia (northern Greece) and Achaia (southern Greece). The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere!”
  • “…you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven…”
  • “You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.”
  • “…when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is — the word of God! — which is indeed at work in you who believe.”

The change that they went through wasn’t small, and it couldn’t have been easy, especially since they were all essentially first-generation Christians. And yet, it was this group that Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote to with such affectionate and admiring words. Were they the perfected picture of mature, long-term Christianity and deep knowledge? No. But their faith was real, and that is what really matters to God.

Whether we’re new Christians or we’ve been around the faith for our whole lives, we must live, talk, and think in such a way that the same things could be said to commend us: that we too live out an example of active, life-changing, joyful, humble, Biblical, real faith.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Better Bible Reading

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Tm. 4:13)

Have you ever noticed how it seems like people are always reading aloud to kids, but that it happens a lot less for grown-ups? As we grow, we become less accustomed to hearing stories, poems, and speeches read to us. We hear lines in plays and shows and movies, we hear song lyrics, and we hear people make presentations or speeches… but it’s much rarer that we hear someone read to us. I find that this is also true of the Bible. Whereas historical church gatherings were characterized by lengthy, thoughtful, well-practiced readings of holy scripture, modern church assemblies typically feature few readings, and usually only short ones. We typically give much more time and attention to someone’s commentary on a passage than on the text itself. The reason for this has typically been chalked up to people’s short attention spans, but surely when it comes to God’s own words, we can do at least a little bit better.

So how can we improve our general attentiveness to God’s words? I believe that it starts with better public readings. So, here are some tips for the men—both young and old—who read in our assemblies:

  • Read the text beforehand so that nothing about it catches you off-guard. Especially if it has difficult words or difficult names, think ahead and be ready for those so that you don’t fumble them.
  • Know what the main events are in the narrative or what the main points are in a discourse. Make a mental note if the passage is building one point upon another, contrasting two ideas, or has a growing intensity as it builds to its final point. In a narrative, notice what the most significant events are, when the story takes a surprise turn, or when the speed of the story accelerates and decelerates.
  • Let your voice reflect the feeling that accompanies each of those things. If a text is sweet and inviting, speak it with the gentleness that reflects that. If it’s a reprimand, let your voice reflect the sternness. If it’s a joyful concept, let the joy be felt in your tone. If it’s angry, let the anger be felt. Don’t be overly theatrical or dramatic, as it tends to cause the hearers to tune out. But a little emotional awareness goes a long way.
  • Do your best to read a text in such a way that its most basic meaning will not need to be explained when you’re done. I’ve often laughed when listening to my old sermons where I read a story from the Bible, then immediately felt the need to tell the story again. I’ve since realized that if I read the story well enough, my audience will catch its meaning. When all is read and done, your audience should also understand what God says on the first pass.

In our assembly on March 31, four whole chapters of the Gospel of John were read aloud, and they were meaningful all on their own, with little to no extra commentary. That can be the case with passages from all over the Bible as long as we take the time to prepare ourselves and we put in the effort to read God’s words well. Let’s take Paul’s advice to Timothy as a guide for ourselves, and ‘devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture.’

- Dan Lankford, minister

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