Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings
Click here to read archived articles by our former preacher, Jared Hagan.
In today’s daily Bible reading assignment (James 4:7 thru 5:18), James makes three encouragements from three Old Testament examples.
- As an example for us to learn endurance through persecution, he looks to the prophets who spoke the word of the Lord and didn’t change their message when they were hated for it (5:10-11). Surely he has men like Daniel, Jeremiah, and Zechariah in mind—men who were rejected, threatened, and imprisoned for the truth they preached. If they continued in doing God’s will, we must too!
- As an example of steadfastness through suffering, he thinks of Job (5:11)—the man whose intense suffering could not force him to lose his blameless faith in God. As Job endured with God in spite of all that he suffered, we must too!
- As an example for us to learn perseverance in prayer, he looks to the prophet Elijah (5:16-18). Elijah was a man of the same nature as Christians everywhere, and yet when he put his faith in God through prayer, the weather patterns of his country were affected for years at a time. As Elijah continued to pray to God in faith, we must too!
The faithfulness of God’s people throughout time ought to encourage our faithfulness today—in persecution, in suffering, and in prayer. May we have belief that is strong enough to serve him as they did, believing that God can and will continue to do great things through his faithful servants.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The check-engine light came on in my truck not long ago. And I did what I think most of us do: deliberately ignored it. When it came on, my first thought was, “Well, that could be something really simple and cheap to fix... or it could be something difficult and expensive. If it’s going to be costly, I just don’t want to know. So I’ll ignore it.”
But then I remembered one of my college buddies who once ignored that light in his car for over three years because he feared what it would cost to fix the problem. Over time, other problems developed. Eventually, when it became practically un-drivable, he took it into a repair shop. They told him that it could be fixed, but it would cost more than the worth of the car.
Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing with your spiritual life? Do you ever read something in Scripture, have a conversation, or hear a sermon that alerts you to a life problem that you should fix? When that happens, what do you do?
The conscience is like a check-engine light for the soul. When it’s trained by the word of God, it will alert us that something—perhaps an easily-fixable problem—is wrong in our lives. And when that happens, we have to decide if we will address the problem right away... or just ignore it because fixing it might come at a high personal cost. A word to the wise: life works like my buddy’s car—it will be more costly to fix the problem later. So, address spiritual issues immediately. Don’t give a spiritual problem time to grow. It will be far more costly in the long run.
“Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Jas. 1:14-15)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Massive change can often happen in a matter of hours. This is true in the lives of individuals, families, organizations, and whole countries. And we’ve seen that happen in the past year with the start of two wars: one in Ukraine and now the one in Israel that started just this week.
It boggles the mind to think of the speed at which the Israel conflict has escalated. The terrorist organization, Hamas, successfully launched a huge-scale secret assault into Israel and killed upwards of 1000 Israeli people. Israel responded with a swift declaration of war and bombing attacks on cities in the Gaza Strip. And even since Israeli retaliation has begun, horrific atrocities committed by Hamas agents have continued to come to light, including the murders of approximately 40 babies in one Israeli town. The combined death toll for both sides is now over 1,500 people. The speed of escalation can be likened the German march into Poland about one hundred years ago or the French march into Russia about two hundred years ago. By any measurement, it is already a violent and tragic conflict.
As individual Christians, our response to these events ought to include at least these four things:
First, sorrow and sincere compassion at the great violence done and the terrific sense of loss that is surely present among the innocent on both sides. Violence fills God’s created earth with innocent blood (cf. 2 Kings 24:4), and we ought to keep our hearts soft enough at all times that they can be broken to see so much life taken.
Second, a reflex to draw the peace that God gives us even closer to our hearts so that we do not fear whatever is to come next. We have hope in God—the kind of hope that expects him to fulfill his promises. And so in times when the ground below our feet seems to suddenly become unsteady, we cling to “the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” (Heb. 6:18-19)
Third, a clear perspective on the end times: I’m not a premillennialist, so I don’t expect to see signs of the impending end of the world. And my hope is that no matter how or when the end of time comes, as Christians, we are already determined to be ready. This is a point that can easily be taken from Jesus’ parables told in Matthew 25. The point in all of them is this: be ready every day, because that day will come without warning. Some believers will inevitably become greatly afraid that these events in Israel are a sign that God is about to write the final chapter of Earth, but we can be ready and not be fearful because we know that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Jesus warned his followers in his day not to be made afraid by every war that started or rumor of a war starting, but to be ready at all times to escape the judgment that would befall Jerusalem (Matt. 24:4-14). And he has warned us to be ready at all times for the judgment that will befall the world, whether or not we think we see signs of its approach.
Finally, increased sincerity in our appeals for Christ to come again quickly. I don’t expect that his kingdom is to be set up again in the land of Israel, but I do expect that his second coming will “cleanse the earth of noisome things,” setting aright all that is wrong. I long for the time when “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11) “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” (Rv. 22:20)
So pray for Israel. Pray for their common people and their national & military leaders. Pray for the innocent people who are in danger in all areas where the violence spreads. Pray for the other nations who get involved in this conflict to have wisdom in doing so. Pray that God will providentially allow righteous justice to be meted out. Pray for peace and resolution and a swift end to war. Pray for Christ to come.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Two Sunday nights back, the question was asked: “Do you think the ideologies of the LGBTQ revolution will continue to have traction in our culture or if that will eventually run out of steam?” Interestingly, The Guardian newspaper reported three days later that among the British public, support for gender ideology is in decline. I will skip the specifics of the study for brevity’s sake, but the general take-away points to reality’s frustrating (to the secular worldview) persistence. It’s just impossible to deny realities that are so apparent. Like the absurdity of believing in the nonexistence of God, it is absurd to believe that unchangeable realities simply bend to our wills. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Rom. 1:19)
So it may be that the moral revolution that our culture is in the throes of is already beginning to abate. If that’s so, then God be praised for even the smallest steps toward a restoration of moral sanity. Every step in the right direction counts!
There is a law found in the Torah that forbids moving a boundary marker on a neighbor’s land (Dt. 19:14). There were imminently practical reasons for that in ancient Israel, but the commandment works well as a teaching metaphor: once you move a significant boundary marker, there’s no other right place to put it down. The only proper place for it is right back where it was. Such is the case with the boundary marker of gender. God knows where it goes. We’d better leave it there.
It may be that our culture is beginning to realize that the effects of moving the boundary marker of gender are more than they bargained for. It may be that reality is starting to dawn on more people. Let’s continue to pray to God for his power to right the world, both in regard to this sin and plenty more.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In his lesson on Monday night, brother Kenny made this excellent and helpful observation: “Justification is free. Discipleship is costly.”
Justification is free. It is a gift of the grace of God. Our only responsibility is to receive it on the terms by which God gives it. But we do not, by any action, earn justification—it’s the gift of a God who is so generous that he has already paid the extremely high cost of that justification. He gave his own perfect son so that justification would be free to us. And when we put our faith in him and receive that gift on his terms, he says to us what he said to the formerly-sinful woman in the Pharisee’s house: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Lk. 7:50)
Discipleship, on the other hand, is costly. Christ had conversations on this topic all throughout his ministry which are especially emphasized in the Gospel of Luke. He reminded his followers through all time that discipleship will sometimes cost us our homes and families, our honor or prestige, our money, our health, and even our very lives. Why would anybody be willing to pay that cost? Is it to earn a place in heaven? No! It’s because we love him. And, “we love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Justification is free. Let us take the time to be properly grateful to God for the immense gift of his love given through Christ to make us right before him. Discipleship is costly. Let us make the firm commitment in mind and heart that we will love and serve him faithfully, no matter what we have to sacrifice to do so.
- Dan Lankford, minister
This past Sunday afternoon, the Skyview Church of Christ in White House, TN held their final service. The group reached a point where membership status and the cost of the facility were incommensurate, so it was time to disband at that location. And while I know that a congregation permanently closing their doors isn’t a super unusual event, it means a lot to me because that was the first church where I served as the preacher. So their closing up has had an impact on me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. With that being the case, here’s my tribute—simple as it is—to Skyview.
60 Christians. Then 90. Then 60 again. 2 elders. 4 or 5 deacons, depending on the year. 3 and a half years. 3 VBS’s. 7 gospel meetings. Approximately 160 sermons. An unknown number of Bible classes. And one tremendous experience for me and my wife.
The Skyview church was planted in May of 2001 by Wilson Adams and a handful of other Christians. Wilson preached there for approximately five years, then Shawn Bain preached there for approximately five years, and then I came. I started working there 10 days after Kaitlin and I got married, and we were there for three and a half years, long enough to bring our first son into the world. The church members supported us so well through those early days of marriage while we adjusted to life and work together. They put up with some hilariously bad preaching mistakes. They humored many of my ideas that had no business seeing the light of day. They rebuked and corrected in a near-perfect spirit of gentleness. And they encouraged the good that they saw in me and my wife, making us far better when we left there than we had been when we arrived. I’m grateful to all of them, and tempted to mention all of their names here so that they receive some the thanks they deserve. I'm thankful, also, for Bobby Blackburn, who preached at a nearby church and took me under his wing and helped me minister to my wife and to the church in more ways than he'll ever fully realize. I’m especially grateful to John Case, Tom Reed, and Paul Porter—the elders whom I was blessed to know and work with there. They took a significant downgrade in preacher skill level when they hired me to follow Wilson and Shawn… and by doing so, they did me so much good. I can only hope that I did their spirits some good in return.
I know that there are always transitions in life. Solomon said that there is “a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1), and he went on to describe how the path of life often takes us through times of great effort, then times of the opposite effort. Derek Kidner noted how these verses teach us that, “We have to dance to a tune not of our own choosing.” Such is the case with Skyview closing up. It is “a time to pluck up what was planted… a time to break down… a time to cast away stones… and a time to lose.” And yet, as Wilson said in the final sermon preached there this past Sunday afternoon: “A church isn’t brick and mortar. It’s not a building. It’s not an address. That’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is SOULS.” And so I am assured that the saints—the SOULS—who faithfully served God together at Skyview will continue to serve him wherever they worship now. The thing that stays constant while many other things change is the command to, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13), and I feel certain they will continue to live up to that divine mandate.
I think the history of a church is important. Our individuals stories, family stories, and church stories matter. A lot. I’m grateful to God that I was able to be part of the Skyview church story for those years. To all of you whom we worshiped with and who loved us then and continue to now: Thank you. And God bless you. I love you.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Next week, we’ll begin a four-day guest speaker series with Kenny Chumbley. Brother Chumbley has a special balance to his preaching that few others achieve: the ability to speak deep, thoughtful truth with clear, understandable simplicity.
There’s an inherent blessing in being able to hear the Gospel spoken by different personalities. In the same way that the different Bible writers’ methods strike chords for different readers, a guest speaker can strike different chords and bestow evergreen insights into the word upon us.
There are a handful of different approaches that people take toward guest speaker events at a church. Here they are, brought out into daylight, for us to consider which is our usual and which is the best approach for us to take to next week’s series:
- We wonder if the speaker “will be any good.” We think that the event’s purpose is to be impressed with a speaker’s ability, and so if he’s great, we consider the event a success. And if not, then we are tempted to think that our time was wasted.
- We expect that a single event will revive our personal feelings of excitement that we have experienced at special moments of spirituality in the past. And so if that doesn’t happen—if the very next Sunday feels like most other Sundays—then we are tempted to think that our time was wasted.
- We expect to learn something new that we’ve never heard before. If we do, then it we consider it a success. But if we cover familiar territory and receive well-timed, needed reminders about faithfully living for Christ… we are tempted to think that our time was wasted.
- If the speaker does his work with excellence and we do feel a sense of revival, we start to develop feelings of envy and a desire for more than what we believe our local church can offer us. This sense of comparison steals joy from the event and from the long-term relationships with our local church family.
- But at the end of the day, if the lessons declare the truth, speak it with clarity and reverence for God, help us live more faithfully for God, and speak with sincere love for God and his revealed word… then we’ll know that God is glorified and that our time is well spent.
Events like these should in no way be treated like an exhibition or opportunity for comparison. We should come to this like any occasion where the word of God is preached: with our hearts open wide to receive the truth as revealed by one of God’s servants.
I can’t wait to share these times of learning and worship with you!
- Dan Lankford, minister
This series of articles has covered most of the basics of Biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality. In fairness to the Bible’s overall teaching, let’s consider this one final discussion in the series: the matter of polygamy (or polygyny), which is the practice of being married to multiple spouses at the same time. This practice hardly needs to be warned against in the cultural moment of twenty-first-century America, first because it’s illegal in all 50 states, and second because the practice seems almost inhumane to us. America’s sensibilities are trained by a Judeo-Christian thought heritage in which the thought of marriage usually carries the idea of exclusivity with it, and we are so accustomed to that thought that we even struggle within the Bible to make sense of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and other men who had multiple wives at the same time.
I don’t want to over-explain something which seems obvious to so many, but it bears saying out loud: Genesis 2:24 says, "Therefore a man [singular] shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife [singular], and they shall become one flesh" (clarifications added). From that statement and plenty more, Biblically speaking, it’s wrong for more than two people to be married to each other, and that’s all that needs to be said in direct address of the matter. But let me make three quick and relevant observations that are slightly more indirectly related to this practice.
First: As mentioned above, we struggle to make sense of the many examples of polygamous unions throughout the Bible, especially by men who are held up as great examples of faith in God. A couple of realizations can help us reconcile this. First, we should pay careful attention to how the stories are written and what those men are actually commended for, because we will search the Bible in vain to find a place where their polygamy is commended. Second, we should keep in mind that those Bible characters are not held up as examples of perfection, but of faith in crucial moments. And that helps us to see that they were imperfect like we are, which makes us all look to the one example of human perfection: Christ. The Old Testament narratives are often not telling the stories of what should have happened, but rather what did happen. They show us the human players in God’s grand drama with honesty; not as morally whitewashed men who did all things right.
Second: You may occasionally hear the term ‘polyamory’ bandied about in the cultural conversation about modern sexual ethics. You should know that this term does not refer to polygamous marriage, but rather to multiple unmarried sexual partners. Obviously, in a world where many are calling evil good and putting bitter for sweet (cf. Isa. 5:20), we expect this behavior from the world and yet we see it for the sin that it is.
Third: There is a lingering thought among many religious people that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints endorses the practice of polygyny. According to official teaching from the church, this is no longer true. It was accepted by that religious organization over a century ago, but it is strongly condemned in their official teachings today, and it has been for a long time. I point that out here for the benefit of any of us who get into conversations about the Gospel with a Mormon friend: we would do well not to criticize their religious beliefs regarding this matter, because while their church once taught that it was okay, the person that you’re talking to probably has a strong belief in one-man-one-woman marriage.
Again, it’s easy to see that polygamy/polygyny is a sinful practice. It appears to have been one of the many things in “the time of ignorance [which] God overlooked” (Ac. 17:30), but it was never given divine approval. And so we are thankful that this sinful practice is largely out of fashion in our time and place, and we pray that our culture will be reformed to see all other sexual and marital sins with the same sort of repulsion with which this one is generally viewed.
- Dan Lankford, minister
PS – I had thought that this article would hardly be meaningful in our cultural context, but then the matters of monogamy, polyamory, and sexual infidelity came up in this article from USA Today on Monday of this week, which just reminded me that these matters of right and wrong are always relevant.
So far in our series of articles about marriage & sexuality, we’ve addressed the biblical sexual ethic, the need for permanence in marriage, the problem with adultery, the nature of divorce, and the righteous regulations for remarriage after a death or divorce. In this writing, we’re bringing some of the darkness of human thought into the light of God’s word. We’re talking about lust—a sin of the will which is prone to lead to other sexual sins.
By its simplest definition, the word “lust” only means desire. But in common usage and in Biblical usage, it almost always means an ungodly sexual desire. This is clearly what Jesus was talking bout in these words from the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:27-28) This kind of unholy sexual desire is also what David was experiencing when he saw Bathsheba on a far rooftop and then continued the process that eventually brought them to bed together (2 Sm. 11:2-4). It’s also what the prophets had in mind when they used the word to accuse Israel of their “whoredom” with gods other than YHWH (cf. Ez. 16:36ff, 23:11-17ff, Jr. 2:24ff).
Jesus’ words, quoted above, are the clearest moral statement on the matter to be found in the Bible. Obviously, there is such a thing as temptation which arises, as one author said, “like a hiccup, unchosen and unwanted.” Christ even said in another place that, “temptations are sure to come.” (Lk. 17:1) But in Matthew 5:27-28, he is addressing unrighteous thoughts or fantasies that each person can control—those that indulge in a moment of temptation, choosing to dwell upon what our senses desire even though we know it is unrighteous. That is what Jesus means by looking at someone “...with lustful intent.” (ESV). The unchosen temptation is not inherently sinful; the knowing and willful dwelling upon our desires is. Each of us have to be honest with ourselves and with God about the difference and choose to do what’s right, rather than making excuses for our thought behavior. Especially for those of us who are married, the choice (and it is a choice) to look at or dwell on someone other than our spouse adulterates our faithfulness to him and to his perfect design for marriage. Jesus’ words about “adultery in his heart” should not be taken as an additional exemption for righteous divorce, but they should teach us the seriousness with which we should control our thoughts.
All of this obviously prohibits all Christians—married or single, male or female—from looking at pornography (whether we consider it ‘hard’ or ‘soft’), “checking out” anyone other than your spouse, or allowing our daydreams to circle around an ungodly lust. It should also caution us heavily about watching shows or movies in which characters are dressed such that viewers are provoked to “lustful intent.”
All of this is a matter of keeping our minds and hearts pure for God’s glory. Are we faithful to him in everything, including “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hb. 4:12)?
- Dan Lankford, minister
“What does [mankind] gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Eccl. 1:3)
Philosophers and those who seek wisdom are in a constant pursuit of answers to the biggest questions of existence and reality. “What is the origin and purpose of mankind?” “Are we just animals? If not, what makes us something more than them?” “What is the highest and best state of existence for a person, a community, or a society?”
The Bible offers us a comprehensive set of answers to those questions, and one core element of that is the above quote from Solomon. In one simple and probing question, he reminds us that while humanity is special, there is still so much that eludes us. Namely, he asks us to consider: What ultimate good does mankind, as a collective, accomplish? What qualitative, documentable advancements have we made in the overall state of humanity down through the centuries? Have we stopped wasting time, hurting others, falling prey to sickness and death, or repeating our mistakes? Have we achieved international peace thru technological advancements, multi-national pacts, or worldwide educational systems? Have we learned to speed up or slow down time, stop the aging process, and remove the threat of death? No. We go around and around the sun, year after decade after century after millennium… and so much of humanity stays the same. It’s rather depressing to realize that we have not permanently fixed so many of the common challenges that humanity has faced for centuries.
So should we resign ourselves to hopelessness, a belief that nothing good will ever happen to humans? No. Because we have been told that thru the power of God—not our own power, but his—Christians can make positive, enduring impact on humanity. As Christ said, “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” (Mt. 5:13, 14) Our job is to be faithful to God and believe that he will bring about the good that all humanity needs.
- Dan Lankford, minister