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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

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His Word Above All Others

Sunday, April 07, 2024

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

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

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

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

- Dan Lankford, minister

Faith-Building Fridays | The Bible's Own Claims

Saturday, April 06, 2024

The Bible is a collection of things that prophets and apostles wrote over the course of many centuries, all brought together to tell us the story and the system by which humans can come to God through his son, Jesus. It’s a unified work, sewn together with common themes, common purposes, and a common story from beginning to end. And as Christians, we believe that the words contained in it were given by the mind and the mouth God.

We believe that God “inspired” the Bible writers, not in the sense that he just planted a small thought and left it to their best judgment to flesh it out, but that he put his actual words into their minds to be spoken and/or written down for people everywhere. That’s a big claim. One that is hotly contested by many, but one for which there is plenty of evidence.

The first big batch of evidence for this kind inspiration comes from within the Biblical documents themselves. The writers repeatedly state their belief that they are declaring words from the mind of God. Keep in mind that these claims were made by different men from different times and places. They did not claim to have contributed a chapter or a section to the overall work that is the Bible; they just understood that God was speaking a message through them which was relevant to the situation and the people right then. Consider a few examples:

When the Ten Commandments were given, the account began this way: “And God spoke all these words…” (Ex. 20:1)

When the commands in Deuteronomy were being delineated, Moses urged the people to “keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” (Dt. 4:2)

When King David made his final speech, he opened by making the bold claim that “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue.” (2 Sm. 23:2)

The introduction to Jeremiah’s large work begins with how the author got the message which he wrote: he was one “to whom the word of the Lord came.” (Jr. 1:2)

The Bible’s writers often stated their conviction that these words had come from beyond themselves. These words came from God, and that is why they must be heeded and obeyed. We’ll talk more about this same thought in next Friday’s post.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Faith-Building Fridays | Evidence for the Bible

Friday, April 05, 2024

For the past three months, we’ve explored various evidences that point toward God’s existence as Creator and point away from the prevailing explanations for existence touted by other worldviews. It’s our prayer that these have been encouraging to you and have more firmly established your faith in God. Now it’s time to pivot to another area of faith-building apologetics.

In the next three months’ posts, if the Lord wills, we’ll be talking about evidences in favor of the Bible: where it comes from, whether it’s still the same message the apostles and prophets spoke, and why it’s worth following with our whole lives.

We assume that most of our readers are already believers who are committing yourselves to following the Bible, and we hope that these articles will solidify that commitment in your heart.

We also pray that these thoughts will be read and considered by some who don’t know God and the transformative, saving power of his word. And we hope that these writings can bring hearts like those closer to knowing and enjoying the mercy of God too.
In either case, these articles stand as small testimonies to the power of a much greater writing: the spoken and recorded word of the Lord of Hosts.

Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:104-105)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Need God, Not The Blessings He Gives

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

The first commandment in God’s top ten was: “I am the Lord the your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:2-3) It told the people that God comes first. Period. Obviously, that means that we must never choose that which is evil over God’s things. It also means that we must not allow even the morally good things in our lives to become gods that our hearts are devoted to more than they are to God.

Sometimes, we give far more of our hearts’ energy to the things that God has given us than we do to God himself. Like the Israelites of old, we need to occasionally be reminded not to let all the blessings that he has given us cause our hearts to be lifted up so that we “forget the LORD your God, who brought out of slavery” (see Deut. 8).

I recently heard a preacher and his wife describe the beautiful love that they share by saying, “It’s because we aren’t the most important people to each other. Her love isn’t the thing that fulfills me, and my love isn’t the thing that fulfills her. We love God most, and we’re each totally filled with his love. So it’s like when you go to a buffet and you’re completely full, then you can enjoy something sweet without the pressure of needing it.”

Would that we could think of all of our blessings that way. Would that our hearts were wholly devoted to God, so that whether we have blessings or not, we still feel that we have all we need. Would that we would never need anything more than we need God himself. Would that we would never seek anything other than him to fill our hearts and bring us true happiness.

- Dan Lankford, minister

You Have to Lose to Win

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Of all the themes in the Bible, one that points most directly to the story of Jesus is the theme of losing in order for God to give us a win. Bible narratives in which a person serves their own best interest usually end in disaster (Abram & Sarai’s abusing Hagar, Naomi’s leaving God’s land during a famine to find food elsewhere, King David’s census of his soldiers rather than trust that God would win their battles). On the other hand, when they willingly give up their own self interests and let God work things out his way, he brings things around to a winning outcome for them.

  • When Moses and all Israel stood on the banks of the Red Sea, they had to decide if they would risk losing their lives by walking into it. They did, and God gave them a great victory over Egypt.
  • When under siege, King Hezekiah toward God rather than calling for help from another nation’s military. It might have looked like he was doing nothing, but God sent an angel that killed enemy soldiers and gave the victory.
  • Stephen preached the hard truth about the Jews’ rejection of Christ and was killed for it. Yet the Lord himself stood to acknowledge Stephen’s actions, and Stephen was received into glory for his faithfulness. Indeed, he appeared to have lost, but God gave Stephen the greatest victory that day.
  • And there's no better example than the cross and the resurrection. Jesus was willing to lose to everyone—the chief priests, Pilate, Herod, and ultimately to death itself. But three days, God gave him the first and final victory over death. "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:56-57)

Christ said, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 16:25). Those familiar words from Matthew sixteen summarize the age-old theme in the Bible, and they show us the importance of letting God rule our own lives entirely, because he—not we—will bring about our perfect victory in glory.

- Dan Lankford, minister

When Human Stuff Collapses, Christ Still Stands

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the news about the bridge in Baltimore’s harbor that collapsed in the middle of Monday night. A Singaporean tanker ship lost power, leaving it on a collision course that it simply could not correct. The bridge will take months (possibly years) to rebuild, making commuting and shipping a much bigger hassle than before. The wreckage is currently still laying across the harbor, completely blocking millions of tons of freight that typically go through the port every day. City, state, and national leaders at many different levels are scrambling to fix the enormous infrastructure problems that this one incident has surprised us with. And then, more personal and tragic than any of it, there were lives lost in the incident itself, and many bodies of the dead still haven’t been recovered from the floor of the harbor. The scene is a mess, and the scale of such a singular incident boggles the mind.

As I’ve thought about the story, it’s reminded me of times in the Bible when humans were surprised to find that the things we’ve built are subject to failure and collapse. The failure at the city and tower of Babel must surely have left many people wondering, “How could this happen?! How could we lose something so grand and important so quickly?” The Israelites who lived either in the Northern and Southern Kingdom’s capitol cities when they were each sacked must have wondered the same: “How could this happen? We didn’t even realize we had so much, but now we see just how much we’ve lost!” The people whose loved ones died with the tower of Siloam fell on them and killed them (see Luke 13:4) must have been wondering, “How could such tragic destruction and loss happen so fast and hit so close to home?”

It all just reminds us that even while humanity may accomplish great things, we are still small, frail, and finite. We are often at the mercy of forces and events greater than ourselves. And so while we learn to live with the good things that we have, we remind ourselves continually not to depend on them, but rather to depend on God. So that if humanity’s defenses or towers or communication systems or political entities or economies or bridges collapse… our hope is still “built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

- Dan Lankford, minister

In Limbo On Purpose

Sunday, March 24, 2024

When a couple is expecting a baby, they live their lives with a different outlook as the delivery gets closer and closer. They still go about their normal lives—going to work, class, the grocery store the gym. They still spend time with their friends. They still go to church and participate in church life. They maintain most of the same routines as usual. But in all of that, there’s a constant awareness that their whole modus operandi may be dropped at a moment’s notice when it’s time for the baby to come. They spend their waking and working hours knowing that it all might be interrupted soon for them to meet someone they’ve been looking forward to meeting for awhile.

In that outlook, we find a healthy example for how Christians ought to think about the Lord’s return at the judgment day. It helps to understand the continuation of daily life (Jesus prayed: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world” [Jn 17:15]), and it helps us think rightly about that final day, when God’s people—even those who are asleep—will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air (1 Ths. 4:17). Just like a couple anxiously looks forward to the day when they happily drop everything and go be meet the person they have desired to meet for so long, Christians anxiously look forward to dropping everything and meeting our Lord, whom we and our fellow saints have looked forward to seeing face-to-face for these many centuries.

Does that mean we are living in limbo? Yes, to some extent. And we are doing so deliberately. Our feet are firmly planted on the soil of the earth, but our hope is anchored in Heaven, from which we await the return of our Savior and King, Jesus of Nazareth. May God give us the wisdom to live well here while we long to be there.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Faith-Building Fridays | The Signature in the Cell

Friday, March 22, 2024

When archaeologists discover markings on walls, tablets, or papers at a dig, how do they determine if what they’ve found was put there by intelligent life or it’s just naturally occurring? How do they know whether what they’re seeing was carved or it’s just striations in a rock? The answers comes down to a combination of two fundamental criteria.

Repetition and complexity show intention. If a picture on a cave wall repeats the actual appearance of an animal or person, then we can tell it was done by an intelligent being. If symbols repeat often in a series of symbols, then we can tell that they’ve been put there deliberately. Additionally, a certain kind of complexity shows intelligence. Simple up-and-down, side-to-side repetition rock strata align with the natural process of gravity, but to find right angles and stacked stones at a dig site shows more complexity than natural processes achieve on their own. 

It's this combination that shows signs of intentionality. And in the natural world, one profound example of this combination points to God’s intentionality in creating it: DNA.

DNA is an incredibly complex code that provides the written language by which every living cell is designed, is built, and functions. It carries all the biological information needed by an organism—colors, shapes, sizes, and process instructions. It does this in a language that biologists are only recently decoding and finding to be remarkably clever. With a vocabulary of 20 amino acids, an unfathomable number of combinations are available, and they all communicate so much intricate design.

The DNA code’s patterns for all of life point backward to the Intelligence which wrote the code, just as the discovery of a written language in archaeology points back to its intelligent writers. It reminds us that all life bears the fingerprints of an intelligent Designer. The signature of design is present in the repeatable and variety-laden language of every cell of every living thing. When we look to the DNA code, we see yet another reason to say with the psalmist: “Your hands have made and fashioned me…” (Ps. 119:73)

- Dan Lankford

A Name You Know Well

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Growing up, I called three of my grandparents by fairly normal titles—Grandma, Grandpa, and Granddad. But I called one grandmother Nanny, and to this day, when I say it out loud, people give me quizzical looks and I have to explain why I had that special name for her.

And others have had much more out-of-the-ordinary ones than that. For example: Gigi, DeeDee, Memaw, Gramps, Big Mama, Doc, and Mocha.

If you’ve been in a relationship where you use a familial nickname like that, you know that saying it out loud brings curiosity and potential for ridicule. And yet, you find yourself doing it anyway. Even though there is the potential for some social awkwardness when you have to explain it, you use that name nonchalantly because it’s a name that you know well, because the relationship matters so much to you.

As a Christian, I want to be the same way with Jesus’ name. I want to be ready to speak it freely, even if it sounds funny to the ears of other people. Even if it garners curiosity and the potential for ridicule or some social awkwardness, I want to find myself doing it anyway. I want to use his name in a confident and nonchalant way because the relationship between him and me matters so much!

It was in the city of Antioch that Jesus’ disciples were first called “CHRISTians,” a name that they probably received from outsiders who heard them talk so much about a man they called The Christ. Let’s imitate them in freely speaking the name of Christ, the man whom we love with all of our being. Let’s speak of him and our relationship with him—our admiration and our apparent closeness with him. Let’s just own up to the quizzical looks and openly proclaim that he is our master.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Faith-Building Fridays | The Timeframe Problem

Friday, March 15, 2024

My youngest son is about 18 months old, which happens to be the perfect age to start donning those super-cool dinosaur t-shirts. I pulled one out of his dresser the other day when I was getting him dressed. Tan shirt, dinosaur green lettering, white T-Rex skeleton in the center – classic. Then I read the writing, “40 ft long… 7 tons… Could run 20 mph… 60 razor sharp teeth… Lived 65 million years ago.” Ah, there’s the evolutionary propaganda!

One of the most fundamental pieces of evolutionary theory is its immense timeframe. If all the complexity of life on Earth came from one common ancestor, then you need millions and billions of years for those changes to develop. With enough time, anything can happen, right? So, evolutionists claim that life has been billions of years in the making, but how could anyone know that? Prove that? 

How could anyone know that the T-Rex lived 65 million years ago?

Carbon dating is the answer we’re given. Carbon dating is key to the claim that the Earth is billions of years old, and it proves that the T-Rex on my son’s shirt is 65 million years old… or so we’re told. Unfortunately, we’ve not been given the whole truth about carbon dating. 

Did you know that carbon dating is totally ineffective once too much time has passed? Did you know that carbon dating has an expiration date after which it becomes completely unreliable? And did you know that its expiration date is about a few thousand years?

Consider what the renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins, had to say about the limitations of carbon dating, “It is useful for dating organic material on the archaeological/historical timescale where we are dealing in hundreds or a few thousands of years, but it is no good for the evolutionary timescale where we are dealing in millions of years.” 

Evolutionary theory requires an extraordinary chunk of time to back up its claims, but the dating method it uses to establish that time frame is more suspect than a gallon of milk that’s been sitting out on your counter since 2018. I’m not sure they could fit all those words on my son’s shirt, but it’s far more honest than declaring that T-Rex lived 65 million years ago.

- Jonathan Banning
 

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