Menu
Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Displaying 101 - 110 of 167

Page 1 2 3 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17


We All Have Ministry Work To Do

Sunday, April 30, 2023

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” (Eph. 4:11-13)

In the church, who is supposed to do the work of teaching children, caring for older saints, counseling young married couples, praying with sick people, evangelizing our community, showing hospitality, giving to the poor, helping new saints arrive & get settled and feel welcome among us, taking food to those who are grieving, and many other related activities? Is it the preacher? The preacher’s wife? The elders? Their wives? Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to be doing the work of ministry?

The passage quoted above makes it clear that all Christians are meant to do these works of ministering to others. Obviously, that includes preachers and their wives, elders and their wives… but it includes them simply because they are Christians and ministry is all Christians’ work.

A capable and passionate group of church leaders can accomplish a lot. But a passionate church can accomplish so much more together, and that’s what the Spirit would have us to be. We should all be doing the work of ministry—caring for each other, guiding others to closer fellowship with Christ, and reaching out. Ministry isn’t just what happens in the church building or in our assemblies, so look for opportunities where you can serve as a Christian this week.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Persuasive Evangelism; Lessons from Paul

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Sunday morning’s sermon was likely a paradigm shift for many of us in how we think about evangelism (in fact, I later retitled the message Paradigm Shift: Evangelism). Since evangelism is already on our minds, here’s a little bit of advice about how to be persuasive in gospel teaching, based on how Paul shared the truth in the city of Athens (Ac. 17:16-33). Like we talked about Sunday, it won’t work every time, but it’s worth thinking about what we learn from Paul’s great example.

  • Start where people are. Find some common ground from which you and the other party can start the things that matter most. Paul’s first address to the Athenian crowd was, “I perceive that you are very religious” (Ac. 17:22). We would do well to try to find an understandable, shareable piece of ground on which to begin talks.
  • Address what is known and unknown. What does a person know or not know about God, about the Bible, about Christ, and about salvation? Paul noted all the altars and the altar “to the unknown God” in Athens, which told him a lot about how they understood things already. It’s wise for us to ask questions to someone rather than assuming too much about their beliefs.
  • Bring attention to what doesn’t work to fulfill and save people. Ask, “Do you think that any government… or educational system… or science… or philosophy… or feel-good event… will truly heal humanity and make us what we should be?” And then draw their attention to what does work, saying something like, “But GOD can do that if we seek him.” That’s essentially the message the Paul gives, starting when he says, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” (Ac. 17:23)
  • Tell them about the solution that will work. Paul said that God “will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Ac. 17:31). The solution is Jesus—the one who was raised from the dead, who is the assurance that God’s judgment will be righteous when the end comes. He is the only solution, and the one toward whom we want to direct others’ hearts and their lives.
  • Finally, push them to a decision point. It’s ultimately up to each one and the response that he or she makes to God, but there’s nothing wrong with asking someone in a Bible study, “What do you think you need to do about that?” It’s the same impetus that Paul put behind his words when he said, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Ac. 17:30).

There are plenty of examples that we can look to for advice in outreach (see also Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well, John 4). And so I hope that these thoughts add something to your toolbox and help us make more connections as we teach others to follow Jesus and to understand the word more accurately.

- Dan Lankford, minister

 

PS — Special thanks to church member, Sean Cartaya, for creating the outline of this article and sharing it with me so that I could share it here.

Compliance vs. Conviction

Sunday, April 16, 2023

In the pursuit of any goals, there are two types of attitudes that will get us to the goal: conviction about that goal and simple compliance with what it takes to accomplish it. Both will get the job done, but one is obviously far more effective. And this is especially true in regards to our goals as disciples.

  • Compliance asks, “How much do I have to do to be saved?” Conviction actively tries to serve God better each day.
  • Compliance asks, "What's the minimum amount of Bible I have to know to go to heaven?" Conviction reads and meditates on God's word day and night (cf. Psa. 1:2).
  • Compliance wonders, “Will acting or speaking like this make other Christians judge me?” Conviction plans and then participates in ways to actively bless fellow church members.
  • Compliance asks, “How many services do I have to attend?” Conviction looks for and even creates opportunities to spend time with other saints.
  • Compliance asks, “Do I qualify to be an elder?” Conviction looks for people who have spiritual needs and guides them toward Christ.
  • Compliance stays faithful to a marriage. Conviction continually pours love and joy into that marriage.

You see, compliance isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a base level; the elements of faithfulness that must be there. But if we want to really thrive in Christ’s kingdom, then let’s be looking for ways to grow beyond just that. The apostle Paul gave us this helpful mantra for spiritual growth when he said, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…” (Phil. 3:13-15)

- Dan Lankford, minister

The Three Signs of A Miserable Church Life (part 3)

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

In his book by the same title, Patrick Lencioni highlights The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement. While they have a tremendous impact in a work environment, these challenges can do just as much damage among a group of saints. Last week’s article discussed irrelevance; its symptoms and solutions. This week, let’s look at the third of these three signs.

Immeasurement describes the way that many organizations have little or no measurable ways for employees to know if they are succeeding at their tasks or advancing within the team structure. It’s admittedly a little more nuanced than that, depending on the industry and individual organization, but that’s the basic concept.

In a congregation, immeasurement is essentially manifested where there is little or no help for growth. When church leaders and members think that the status quo must be accepted, when they look at talent or spiritual potential as static rather than dynamic, when they settle with the saved and stop seeking out the lost; then church members will feel a sense of immeasurement. That is, they will begin to subtly believe that there is no way to grow, no benefit to growth, and therefore no reason to grow. This line of thought can be so discouraging.

But the New Testament sets a precedent of personal growth that knows no limits. Paul said, “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…” (Phil. 3:13-14) As long as we fall short of Christ’s own perfection, we have room for spiritual growth. This is true of God’s people as individuals and as congregations.

So, consider a few things that can help us overcome this challenge together.

  • First, believe that you can grow in the Lord. Believing that there’s no hope of anything better is a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if each of us believe that we are capable of more, then we will have the motivation to pursue more.

  • Second, look for mentors who can guide and teach you, and ask them for their help. Mentoring doesn’t have to be a systematized thing through a church program or effort. Usually, the greatest spiritual growth comes when one person encourages another (remember that Barnabas went and sought out Saul of Tarsus to begin his work as The Apostle Paul [Acts 11:25-26]). Seek out someone who can be your Barnabas and ask them to help you grow.

  • Third, be ready to step out of your comfort zone. Growth always comes with some discomfort, so expect that to be the case with spiritual growth too.

  • Fourth, remember that measurable spiritual growth isn’t necessarily accompanied by praise and accolades. But that shouldn’t be the reason that we want to grow spiritually anyway. Jesus instructed us to simply be satisfied with serving God well, even if we aren’t praised for it (cf. Lk. 17:7-10).

  • Fifth, set the right goals for spiritual growth. Maybe you should set a goal to be qualified as an elder, or to be a blessing like Tabitha was for the early saints, or to improve in your ability to lead in worship, or to be a better teacher to kids, or to be better at reaching out to the lost, or to show hospitality in a better way… In any case, make a plan to grow in some way that will give glory to God. And trust me, your efforts will be noticed, either by God or by man. It will not all be in vain.

If we can all work on these things and encourage each other in them, we’ll find that those discouraging feelings of immeasurement start melting away to make room for ever more joy and fulfillment in Christ and in his church.

- Dan Lankford, minister

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

The Three Signs of A Miserable Church Life (part 2)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

In his book by the same title, Patrick Lencioni highlights The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement. While they have a tremendous impact in a work environment, they potentially present even greater challenges among a group of saints. Last week’s article discussed anonymity; its symptoms and solutions. This week, let’s look at the second of the three signs.

Irrelevance causes a person to feel that they have little or nothing to contribute. It often happens within a congregation when Christians compare themselves to others whose talents are easily observed in assemblies and classes: those who speak, teach, or lead in a public way. Those comparisons—which, unfortunately, are often subconsciously reinforced by the preaching and other voices of leadership that they hear—can make a person think that if their own talents are of a lesser degree or different nature, then they don’t matter. Because of how they hear others talk or see them behave, they may feel that the church as a whole would not even notice if they were no longer part of things.

Surely, all of us can understand why this problem is detrimental to a church family. It causes a perceived separation between those whom Christ has joined together. It shows partiality, whether from looking down on our spiritual siblings or from being intimated by them (cf. Jas. 2:1-9). And it shows a lack of faith in God’s promises, forgetting that he has brought us together in the body of Christ as he sees fit so that it will function at its best. If we judge, whether consciously or subconsciously, that some among us do not compare in talent or ability and are not worthy to be among us (that is, they are “irrelevant”), then we have contradicted the will of God and we need to repent.

So what can be done about it? Here are some Bible-based reminders as solutions:

  • First, remember that Christ’s church is his family (cf. Eph. 2:19). In an ideal family, everyone knows they are loved and valued. Not everyone’s family experience has demonstrated that, but it’s the universally understood ideal, and that’s what we should all strive for in our congregation.
  • Second, remember that believers don’t belong in the world, but we do belong among believers. We are outcasts from the world, and they’re surprised when we don’t join them in their wickedness (cf. 1 Pt. 4:4). But in Jesus’ church, people who seek him always belong. Differing levels of talent, of attractiveness, of sociability, of book smarts & street smarts, or of competency in any given area… they don’t divide us. As one of our hymns says, “No one is a stranger here. Everyone belongs.” We don’t belong in the world. The only place where we do belong is the church.
  • Third, remember that great Christians are those whose names are largely unknown, but who serve God faithfully anyway. I doubt that many would list Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43) as one of the most influential figures in the Bible, but her presence among her Christian community—particularly in the lives of many widows—was powerful. In fact, when she died, an apostle came to her town and raised her from the dead! That tells me that her role in the church mattered a great deal! In the same way, I can’t imagine that any of you have heard of Bertha Baggett, Eugene Pemberton, Gus Lowe, Brenda Crowder, or a host of others who stood firm in the Lord. But I could wax eloquent about their influence in the kingdom and the “well done” that they received from their master when they went home to glory. They weren’t public figures in the church, but they were anything but irrelevant because they served God and others faithfully. Even if you think your gift is only a small thing to offer to a fellow church member, it matters. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another” (1 Pet. 4:10).

No one in a church family is irrelevant! It’s a terrible shame when Christians feel that, and so let’s all do our best to notice and appreciate each other’s natural genius—the gifts that each can offer to be a blessing in God’s kingdom. Let’s work together and be deliberate to fight agains these signs of a miserable church 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

Displaying 101 - 110 of 167

Page 1 2 3 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17