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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

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When We Suffer Harm

Sunday, July 02, 2023

The word “harm” gets used with more variety of meaning than most of us are likely to realize. Some examples: “I don’t see any harm in it.” “This could harm his/her prospects of advancement.” “The crash didn’t do any harm to the vehicle’s frame.” “He suffered no physical harm from the incident.”

For Christians, though, a new usage of the word in recent years has probably piqued our interest more than any of those examples. In the last several years, it’s become common to hear any disagreement with a person’s beliefs as “harm” to that person, particularly those living out any lifestyle described in the LBGTQ+ acronym. When some express conviction that those activities and ideologies are wrong, they are said to do “harm” to those who embrace them.

But wise and honest people are able to know the difference between something that is done maliciously and harm that must be inflicted in order to bring about good outcome. Like a surgeon who cuts into the body’s tissues in order for it to heal back to how things should be, truth cuts us so that we will grow better when the cuts heal. Small wonder Luke said that the audience were “cut to the heart” when they heard Peter preach about their sins in Acts 2:37.

So there is value in the “harm” that’s done by the truth, and we need to see that. And that ought to teach Christians two lessons:

1) When we speak the truth that cuts, let’s remember to do it with the proper blend of conviction and gentleness, speaking the truth in love. 

2) If the preaching and teaching of God’s word ever feel like an attack to us, we’d better take a hard, honest look at how we need to change to be more of what God has called us to be in his grace.

The harm that the truth does is for our ultimate good. And maybe some believers need to learn the lessons that we would like our enemies to learn: That when the truth from God feels like a personal attack, we're doing something wrong.

- Dan Lankford, minister

We're Growing!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

For those who are following this blog, you know that it normally just featues Bible and discipleship teaching, typically of a more devotional quality. However, we occasionally want to give a glimpse of some of the goings-on at Northside here as well, so...

We're in the market for a new church building!

Lately, our attendance numbers have ticked up, and we're hitting the capacity limits of our auditorium as well as our parking lot. And since the city codes will not allow to us add any more seats in our current location, we're on the hunt for a new meeting place.

So, if you're a regular guest with us, if you're a member, or if you're just someone who connects with us through the web... we're asking you to pray with us that God will help us make the new facility a reality. We know that crowded spaces sometimes turn people away who could otherwise be encouraged or might need to learn The Gospel, and so we want to be expand and be able to accommodate more people who are eager to know God and join in our Christian fellowship.

Thank you for your prayers! And we'll keep the updates coming if something comes up.

"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. 5:16)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Tragedy At the Bottom of the Sea

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Last Sunday, a submersible with five people aboard set out to visit the Titanic wreckage at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean. It was a tourism trip—an opportunity for people who had paid very large amounts of money to visit something that only a few others have seen. But when the tour group didn’t return on schedule, a global search initiative was started, which lasted for days. But, on Friday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that pieces of the vessel had been found on the ocean floor and evidence had been brought forward from U.S. Navy sonar monitoring that caused them to believe the vessel had succumbed to the deep ocean’s extreme pressure and suffered a catastrophic implosion sometime Sunday, undoubtedly killing all five people aboard.

Tragic stories like these are a regular part of human societies. From cave explorers to high-altitude test pilots to small ships out on the ocean to extreme mountain climbers… the library of humanity is full of stories of people who tested the limits and were overtaken by the natural forces of the world.

How should Christians think about these things? First, we should grieve with those who’ve lost loved ones, being willing to vicariously experience the emotions that they must surely feel now. And we should pray for God to comfort them in this time of grief. It can be tempting to keep ourselves distant from hurt, thinking that others somehow do not merit such authentic concern from us. But that is hardly the attitude of Jesus who looked down with compassion on our broken world and came to comfort and heal us. We would do well to “weep with those who weep,” even with those who are outside the family of faith.

Second, it should remind us just how small and limited we are in power. For all that humans have done, we have still failed to build a tower to the heavens and to accomplish all the things that we propose to (cf. Genesis 11:1-9). We are severely limited by time, space, the natural forces of God’s created world, and the power that he still has over us. Even the power of the world’s greatest kingdoms is still governed by the far greater power of God who sits on the throne of Heaven (cf. Dan. 4:17, 25, 32). How much more, then, should we expect to be subject to the power of the massive natural world when we are so small in comparison to it and to its Creator?

Should all these things make us afraid? No, I don’t think so. But I do think they compel us to recognize our weakness and to glorify the one who rules over all it. We live in a reality that contains threats to us from every direction—both the infinitesimally small and inestimably huge. And we know a God who is both grander and more intricate than all of it.

The world occasionally reminds us of our own insignificance. Let’s let that lesson have its due effect on us as we consider this past week’s tragedy at the bottom of the sea. May we remember that we are not worthy “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12), but he is!

- Dan Lankford, minister

Cynical Christians?

Sunday, June 18, 2023

“A living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.”
“There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?”
Bible students recognize both of those quotes as inspired words from the book of Ecclesiastes. And that makes us wonder: “How could that be a healthy, godly view of the world? Aren’t faithful people supposed to be joyful, hopeful, and positive?” Well, the answer is yes. We are supposed to be joyful. And yet our joy must be built upon godly wisdom.
Ecclesiastes is written by a man who, to use his own words, “Has his eyes in his head” (Ec. 2:14), which is like our saying that a person has his head on straight. And a person—especially a Christian—who sees the world as it is will understand that some things simply are. People are prone to wickedness, death comes to all, and history eventually forgets almost everyone. Are these grim realities? Yes. But are they realities? Yes.
So how do we process this? Should we become cynical, bad-mouthing the world, its happenings, and its people? Or should we continue to serve our Father, continually trusting that he is working out his ultimately good plans in this world and the next? Christians can hold both perspectives simultaneously: seeing the world as it is and believing that God is working to make it better as we march toward eternity.
- Dan Lankford, minister

What's Really Your Best?

Sunday, May 28, 2023

When is your best not your best?

When you have a powerful, well-trained singing voice, but your voice must blend in the overall harmony of a chorus. You can’t just sing what is your best; your best is what brings about their best.

When you are the fittest and most motivated one in your squad, but everyone must move together to an objective or target. You cannot simply run at your best pace; your best is what brings about their best.

When you could finish a project more efficiently and impressively by yourself, but it’s assigned as a group project. You should not depend only on your efforts; your best is what brings about their best.

When you are a serious student of deep Biblical things, but you are teaching a group of saints whose spiritual maturity isn’t at that same level yet. You can’t always present your best study; your best is what brings about their best.

When you could raise your kids all on your own, but you’re married and your spouse has contributions to make too. You can’t sideline them and just do your kind of parenting; your best is what brings about their best.

When you could make a great name for yourself by hard effort, great charisma, and novel ideas; but you are a servant to Someone greater than yourself. You can’t always do life in your self-empowered way; your best is what shows others His best.

When is your best not your best? When you’re holding back what could be your own greatness in order to be a servant to others. Then that service is the best thing that you can do.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Policing Our Kids' Digital Intake

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Two Sundays ago, we talked about parenting. This past Sunday, we talked about leadership and shepherding. I believe that the two topics fit together seamlessly: As parents, it’s our job to shepherd our children into the fold of the good shepherd. Obviously, that’s a big concept that could be talked about in a myriad of ways, but for today, just consider this one aspect of shepherd-parenting: Setting and enforcing boundaries for our sheep is a way to protect them.

It’s not often in vogue to talk about the boundaries that we set for our kids, but there are eternal reasons that Christians understand as to why we must do that. First, because the boundaries that we teach them will, over the course of time, contribute to the character that defines them. And second, because proper boundaries keep them safe. Like a fence installed near a tall cliff, properly policing our kids’ activities keeps them from wandering into territory where they’ll suffer spiritual (and psychological) wounds that simply could have been avoided.

One way to do this: Christian parents need to be particularly mindful of our kids’ digital intake. What apps do they use? Who do they contact? What do they send and see and hear? What sort of messages—good or bad—are they getting on a regular basis? Parents, we would do well to either 1) set up digital boundaries that fully prevent them from access to much of the internet world, or 2) regularly check for ourselves what they are seeing and hearing. There are plenty of reasons for all of this, both from the realm of psychology and from the realm of spirituality (again, I offer the same Biblical advice from this past Sunday: “Know well the condition of your flocks” [Prov. 27:23]). And if we don’t know how to do these things with the technology that our children own, then we’d better learn or get the help of someone who does know. There is too much at stake for our kids to not invest in protecting them.

I know that many of you already do things like this, and I applaud you for it, because even if our kids resent us for a time because of the decisions we’ve made for them, we know (and God knows) that it’s the right thing to do. Each godly mom and dad will have to use some wisdom to know exactly how we will protect and guide our kids through these issues (so be sure to have some grace with other parents who make different judgment calls than you do), but godly wisdom dictates that some boundaries must be set and enforced. It’s a matter of disciplining them into being disciples of the Lord. “For [our parents] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” (Heb 12:10)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Not Preaching Too Low

Sunday, May 21, 2023

“The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly.” (Ecclesiastes 12:10, NASB)

I sure wish that I could say I’ve always spoken words of truth correctly and that they were spoken in a way that was delightful to my listeners. But I haven’t. My preaching has often been filled with far too much of my own thoughts on the world and far too little of the words of truth that God has spoken. May God help me do better.

“The Preacher” that’s mentioned in the verse above is King Solomon, who did his best to share the wisdom of God with audiences from all over Creation. And yet, even in the life of Solomon, there must have been times when he gave a teaching and then later realized that there was a better way that it could have been spoken. But the point of the passage is that he tried to do it right, for the glory of God.

And that’s what all faithful preachers do: We try to speak for God in a way that gives befitting honor to his own spoken words. We try to give knowledge, clarity, motivation, and inspiration to our hearers so that they will turn their hearts toward God and glorify him all the more with their lives. This is a tall order for fallible men to fulfill, but if that’s the way that God’s determined to disseminate his message, we’d better do it right.

One evangelical teacher has well said, “No [minister] lives up to what he preaches. If he does, he is preaching too low.” To fix that, we dare not lower the level of God’s oracles to make them easier for us to attain. Rather, we’d better learn to teach the truth in its righteous height and depth, with words of truth spoken in a divinely delightful way.

- Dan Lankford, minister

It's In The Research & Also the Bible

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

 

A recent report by the Pew Research Center, who study all sorts of trends connected to faith and religion, noted the following: “About a third (35%) of U.S. parents with children under 18 says it’s extremely or very important to them that their kids have similar religious beliefs to their own as adults… But attitudes on this question vary by the religious affiliation of the parents. White evangelical Protestant parents are twice as likely as U.S. parents overall (70% vs. 35%) to say it’s extremely or very important that their children grow up to have religious beliefs that are similar to their own. Some 53% of Black Protestant parents also express this view.” The report continues: “Parents who attend religious services weekly or more often are more than three times as likely as those who attend less often to say it’s important to raise children who will share their religious views (76% vs. 21%). Overall, parents are more likely to say it’s important that their children share their religious beliefs as adults than to say the same about their kids’ political views.”

Several things came to mind when I read the report. Here are just a few observations:

First, the data isn’t very surprising in many ways. Regardless of black or white, it’s not surprising that those who are regular church-goers care deeply about sharing their faith with their kids. If anything, it’s surprising that the percentages aren’t actually higher, because those who regularly attend Christian church services are, in the main, the ones who believe that the teachings of Christianity are truth. And if we believe that these things are true, then we necessarily must believe in the need to share them with our kids. If we believe that Jesus is the singular way, truth, and life (John 14:6), then we will want to share the good news about him with everyone and see all people come to follow him… especially those of our own household!

Second, I occasionally hear Christians say things like, “The faith isn’t hereditary. Each generation must have their own faith.” And while I understand the sentiment behind that, a report like the one from Pew should probably increase our awareness of the fact that the Bible does intend for faith to be hereditary in some sense. Yes, each person must come to a point of maturity where they take ownership of their faith, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater in saying that “Christian faith isn’t hereditary.” Because each generation is also supposed to teach the faith to the next generation. That was explicitly stated in the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4-9), and there are plenty of examples or allusions to the same thing happening among Christians in the New Testament (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5). Our faith is supposed to be a gift from one generation to the next, and so it is “hereditary” in that sense, and we should be diligent to make it so.

Third, let’s make sure that we each establish a conviction in our hearts as to whether our religious practices are simply a matter of preference (“I believe in this religion, but I wouldn’t want to make anyone else feel like they have to believe it, and I wouldn’t want to pressure my kids into thinking they have to believe it just because I do.”), or if it’s a matter of conviction (“I believe that Christianity’s teachings are the will of God that he spoke thru his servants and that he verified by raising Jesus from the dead. They aren’t just ‘my personal beliefs…’ They are truth.”). Our kids will know the difference when they see it work its way out in our lives. And more than that, the Lord will know the difference, because he knows what’s in our hearts.

I hope these ideas are helpful in your thinking as a supplement to Sunday’s sermon about parenting, and I hope that in our individual hearts and in our families, all of us are growing more and more into the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13).

- Dan Lankford, minister

He Made THEM In His Image

Sunday, May 14, 2023

The following words from Genesis 1 are familiar to most Bible believers. But read them here, and take note of how often God talks about humans in plural terms.

Let us make man[kind] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion… So God created man[kind] in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Gen. 1:26-28)

It’s important to see in this passage that when God created humanity, he imbued both men and women with his divine life and image. It was not good that the man should be alone, because without the helper whom God gave to him, he was unable to fully bear the divine image. Mankind is made in the image of God, meaning that both man and woman are made to shine with his glory.

One of the most important ways that this truth can be observed in creation is in the different abilities of male and female parents in raising kids. A father’s firm guidance and discipline are demonstrations of God’s nature, and a caring mother’s gentle provision for a child is also a powerful demonstration of God’s nature.

I’m reminding us of these truths today because it’s Mother’s Day, and it’s important that moms are occasionally reminded that the work you do is a demonstration of God’s own love for his children! Mothers, I hope it’s encouraging to you to remember that your lovingkindness to your kids matters a great deal in the scheme of eternity. God bless you, moms!

- Dan Lankford, minister

Making An Eternal Impact

Monday, May 08, 2023

On Wednesday night, we heard a lesson by the title you see above. It was the plain and powerful reminder that while our lives are limited to time, our choices can affect eternity both for us and for others. So, if we want to have an eternal impact, there are four things that we must do:

Believe courageously. Paul said that the most important thing that we can attain to is the resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3:7-17), and so we must forget what lies behind and strain forward toward that eternal goal, believing all along the way in the one person who has already been resurrected and perfected—Jesus, our Lord.

Love impartially. In James’ letter, believers are given a straightforward warning against showing partiality to others (Jas. 2:1-9). We must love all people in the same way that Christ would love them—seeing that they are a soul with the same greatest need as ourselves: to attain to the resurrection of the dead.

Pray fervently. Several New Testament passages could be referenced to teach us that the power to convert hearts and change the world does not come from within ourselves, and so we should pray to God seriously and frequently for his power to continue to work in his good world.

Speak consistently. Making an eternal impact means continually sharing the gospel with others, because their eternity depends on their having authentic, obedient faith in Christ.

The activities of our workaday lives matter a great deal, but let’s not let the immediate overshadow the importance of the eternal.

- Dan Lankford, minister

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