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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

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Entertained And Misaligned

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

What do you most like to watch, listen to, or read? Does it fit with your being a sincere Christian?

Christians need to be intentional with the entertainment choices that we make. Streaming shows, books, movies, and social media videos that promote ungodly attitudes and sinful behaviors aren’t the kind of things that ought to characterize our habits. The things that we fill our minds and hearts with—the stories and thoughts to which we ascent—have a profound impact on us. Likable characters warm us up to their way of life, which is really problematic when that way of life is ungodly.

So let’s ask ourselves: Are we choosing to be entertained by senseless or careless violence? Is the loss of human life downplayed in our favorite stories, as though it were unimportant? Are we being led to laugh off certain sins? Is foul, sinful, cursing language used as though it were harmless? Are the things that we find entertaining attempting to make it unclear whether someone doing evil is a good guy or a bad guy, eroding our discernment about what’s right and wrong? Is sexuality portrayed in unholy ways that go beyond the proper love of husband and wife? Are things which God has declared sinful being portrayed as happy, freeing, pleasant, and good?

I recently heard a preacher note that when we allow ourselves to be entertained by something, we’re aligning our hearts with that thing, if only a little bit. There’s a small amount of conforming with its ideals that happens. And thinking about the danger of that reminded me of these words from Proverbs: “My son, if sinners entice you... my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths…” (Prv. 1:10-16) It’s a good reminder not to align ourselves with the world and their ways. Like the Spirit said through Paul, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rm. 12:1)

The reality of living in a fallen world means that we won’t be able to put a full stop to the immorality that we see and hear about. The day-to-day world is full of it, and it finds its way into our lives in so many ways. But there’s a big difference between seeing immorality and seeking it. There’s a big difference between hearing of sins committed and honoring them as entertaining. There’s a big difference between knowing that sin is sinful and wondering if it’s sensible. The problem is not only what we see; it’s what we choose. Let’s make sure that we’re honestly trying to glorify God in everything that we do.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Active, Living Faith

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” (Js. 2:18)

What are some things that you do that are specifically motivated by your belief that Jesus is the crucified and risen Son of God?

  • Does that affect how much you give to those who are in need?
  • Does it cause you to go visit fellow Christians who are sick or lonely?
  • Does it make you hold your tongue from gossip, slander, or lashing out in anger?
  • Does it motivate you to love your spouse exclusively and permanently?
  • Does it drive you to dress in a modest, God-glorifying way?
  • Does it make you responsible with your money: avoiding debt, giving to others, and choosing not to be greedy?
  • Does it drive you to pray about life rather than complain about it?
  • Does it keep you calm when anxiety would threaten to rule your thoughts and feelings?
  • Does it help you see each person’s value with no partiality?
  • Does it cause you to speak about Christ—to tell others what you believe and that they should believe in him too?

James said that if we have faith but that faith doesn’t act, then it’s useless. So let’s have authentic faith, brothers and sisters. Let’s be defined by what we believe and what we do in service to God. Let’s be sure that we are doing the good works God made us for, because that’s how we’ll know that our faith is the real thing.

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (Js. 2:26)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Faith-Building Fridays | Three Demos of Purpose

Friday, February 16, 2024

Last week, we discussed the teleological argument: that a universe which appears to be purposefully designed must surely have a designer. Here are some examples which we believe prove that point.

First: Earth’s placement in this solar system. As many scientists have noted, this is the only planet in the solar system which is suited for carbon-based life forms. Its perfect distance from the sun means we stay warm without baking to death. Its size allows gravity to hold us to the surface without crushing us. Its atmospheric gases are perfectly balanced for countless types of creatures to breathe them. Our single moon has the perfect ratio of mass, distance, and movement to keep the world’s tides moving (which keeps the oceans clean) without destroying life on land. These evident designs point to a Designer.

Second: The nature of many biological systems. Michael Behe coined the term “irreducible complexity” to describe biological systems where the removal of one part would disable the entire system. The principle shows a key problem of Evolutionary Theory, which believes that complex systems come into being one element at a time. But even in single-cell organisms, some things are so complex that they *must* have been designed as a complete system. These evident designs point to a Designer.

Third: The DNA code—a language, written in chains of nucleotides, which is so intricate that were its like discovered in any other setting, we would have no doubt that it had been created purposefully by an intelligent being. This “Signature in the Cell,” as Stephen Meyer calls it, shows another compelling example of purpose in the universe. It is yet another evident design that points to a Designer.

Ultimately, God’s purpose in creation is to glorify himself and share his immense love. He does things on purpose. So, whether we look to the planets and the stars, the cycles of waters and winds, the systems in cells, or our own existence (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), we will continue to see teleology. Reality has his fingerprints on it in so many ways that someone once said, “What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.”

- Dan Lankford

What We Give and What We Get

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Happy Valentine’s Day! Regardless of all the ways that the holiday gets downplayed or dismissed by so many, it’s a time that can remind every Christ-follower who is either dating, engaged, or married to think about how we behave toward our significant other or spouse. For Christians, that question is more specifically, “Am I being the person that God wants me to be toward the person that I love?”

  • Are we kind? Or do we respond with carelessness and harshness?
  • Do we give them the best of ourselves? Or do we leave them with the halfhearted leftovers of our energy and thoughtfulness?
  • Do we encourage them to become the best version of themselves? Or do we fear that their accomplishments will drive a wedge between us?
  • Are we sons and daughters of encouragement, breathing life and peace into their hearts? Or are we continually critical of their behavior, their words, their looks, or their efforts?
  • Do we give gifts and speak admiring words as expressions of love? Or do we just forget and neglect to communicate love?
  • Are we there to help with chores and other meaningful work in their lives? Or do we just ride on parallel life tracks that don’t intersect?
  • Do we believe the best about them? Or do we think that they want to cause us some kind of harm?

The longer I ponder Paul’s words in Ephesians 5, the more their depth amazes me. He said, “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church… “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” …let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (excerpts from Eph. 5:22-33)  Any relationship that is truly loving involves two people who are each humble enough to make it about the other person. Selfishness and pride are relationship killers. The more focus we give to our own needs and what we will get from a relationship, the less gratifying we will find it. It’s only when we learn to truly give that we begin to find the true joy that God intends to give us.

So my encouragement is this: just take stock of what you’ve contributed and what you’ve been given. Thank God for the gifts, and commit to humbly serving; never for our own good, but always for others’ good and for God’s glory.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Just Preach Jesus

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Once, a young preacher was told that he shouldn’t preach the truth straight and strong. No one wanted him to tell them what was right and what was wrong. So he asked an old time preacher what to do. The old preacher responded: “Just preach Jesus, born and crucified and risen from the dead. Preach that he paid for sin with the precious blood he shed. Preach that he is Lord and Savior, King of Kings, Son of God, and Son of Man. Just preach Jesus, son, until Jesus comes again.”

I can’t attest to the literal reality of that conversation; I just heard it in the lyrics of a Southern Gospel song. But I do love the sentiment and the spiritual truth that it encapsulates.

A complete understanding of The Gospel necessarily includes many things: teaching on morality, truth about creation and the sciences and the humanities, training in wisdom, and plenty more. But at its core, The Gospel is always simple: It’s the good news of Jesus Christ. And while it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian, God’s kingdom is built on one thing: Jesus, the Christ.

Paul wrote this to the Corinthians about a year after he’d taught them to follow Christ: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved… that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…” (1 Cor. 15:1-5)

So, when you think about the elements of Christianity, remember that it’s all anchored in who Jesus is. We are the church of Jesus Christ. He’s our all in all. Just preach Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Faith-Building Fridays | Designed With A Purpose

Friday, February 09, 2024

The truth that God created the universe is of utmost importance to the faith. And it’s no wonder that it continues to be so hotly debated. The logic follows perfectly easily: If God is not the creator, then the world is not his and neither are we, which releases us from responsibility of knowing him. Conversely, if God is the creator, then world is his and so are we, which means we’re accountable for serving him. And so this one fact is of truly great importance. Is God the source of existence, life, and human purpose; or is he not?

We are writing these articles because we believe that he is the creator. One of the reasons for this is the apparent design in the world—the fact that everything from the vastness of space to the precise perfection of the subatomic world bears the marks of purpose, design, and seamless fit. There is function and beauty in this reality that cannot have come to be by the atrophy that characterizes natural processes.

This is the principle of teleology. It’s the principle that says, “If a thing appears to have been designed with a purpose, then there must have been a mind behind that purpose.” This principle stands in direct opposition to naturalistic philosophy, which believes that all reality can and should be explained by unintelligent happenstance in the natural processes.

Evidence of a telos is abundant in the natural world. It is wonderfully ironic that many efforts to discredit divine creation lead us again and again to clearer evidence for its truth.
It’s no wonder that Paul said there are truths about God that can be known by observation of the natural world (Rm. 1:19-21). It’s no wonder that Job was left speechless as God enumerated the unknowable but clearly intentional workings of the natural world (Jb. 38-39). It’s no wonder that Jeremiah felt right in comparing God’s unwavering love to the predictable orderliness of the sun and the moon and the ocean’s rolling waves (Jr. 31:35-36). All of these, and many more besides, show that the function and beauty of reality are the work of an intelligent mind. Do they teach us his will for our lives? No. But they do stand as testaments to his existence and creative work.

- Dan Lankford

Faith-Building Fridays | A Cause for the Uncaused?

Friday, February 02, 2024

Every effect has a cause. That’s just common sense, isn’t it? We intuitively understand that whenever something happens (e.g. an apple falls from a tree), the event was caused by some force that acted upon it (e.g. the apple falls due to gravity). Every effect has a cause. In scientific circles, this is known as the Law of Causality.

Those who believe in God lean heavily on the Law of Causality. Just like apples don’t fall from trees without a cause, neither do universes explode into existence without a cause. So, we argue, the Law of Causality points to God. In response, some nonbelievers have raised an interesting objection,

“If God created all of these things, then who or what created God?”

It’s an intriguing question to be sure, but it has a simple answer – nothing created God. He is eternal, uncreated, and uncaused. Perhaps that answer seems like a cop-out to you, but I’d urge you to recognize that it makes a lot of sense. You see, while the Law of Causality holds true in the natural world, philosophers and thinkers have pointed out for millennia that in a world of cause and effect something or someone must be the first cause. There must be some force whose existence isn’t dependent on some other cause. Think about it this way…

Imagine that our world is like a long trail of dominos being knocked over. Every domino falls because it is struck by the previous piece (every effect has a cause), but if you trace your way back through the fallen dominos, you’ll see that something had to knock over that first domino. In that trail, something must have knocked over that first domino without having been knocked over by a domino itself. Something must have been ABLE to knock over that first domino without NEEDING to be knocked over by a previous domino.

Logic demands that there must have been an eternal, uncreated, uncaused first cause that set our world in motion. Christians call Him, “God.” God is not just another domino. He is the force that was ABLE to create this world without NEEDING to be created Himself. And that’s exactly how the Bible presents Him, “He is the Alpha and the Omega… who is and who was and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8).

- Jonathan Banning

Me & The Screen | Parenting with Screens

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Many Christians have a pessimistic outlook on raising kids. We believe it’s a risk, saying things like, “We shouldn’t want to bring kids into a world that’s gotten this bad. It’s worse than it’s ever been. It would just eat them alive, destroying their faith.” But the world has always been evil. I doubt that “the world is worse for our kids than it’s ever been.” Perhaps, though, the world’s wickedness comes closer to them, thanks, at least in part, to the presence of smart devices.

One of the unique challenges of Christian parenting in our day is handling screens wisely in our families. So, here’s some advice to Christian parents for helping our kids serve Christ when surrounded by screens.

  • Regulate their time on screens. Encourage intentional, tangible activities like conversation, engagement, reading, work, and generosity. Set a whole-family ‘fast’ from your tech once in awhile.
  • Set parental blocks. Gateways on your wifi routers, blocked-out apps, time limits, etc.
  • Unapologetically invade their privacy for the sake of spiritual accountability. There isn’t anything unbiblical about doing that, so long as it’s truly for their good and not justification for us to be on a power trip. Check their browsing histories, texts sent and received, downloads, and apps. Let them know from the outset that this kind of accountability will be standard procedures with your family.
  • Finally, talk openly about what you’re doing as a parent and why. Caveat: be wise enough with in those conversations not to accidentally tell them how to find ungodliness (a mistake that I’ve heard preachers and parents make more than once), but for older kids, do let them know the purpose behind your decisions. Remind them that you’re trying to foster a true, abiding love for God in their hearts.

Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Mt. 6:22-23) Parents, let’s be wise and diligent to keep our families’ hearts full of God’s light.

- Dan Lankford, minister

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[images sourced from Storyset.com]

Faithful Reading: Love & Respect

Sunday, January 28, 2024

One thing that Christians sometimes neglect to include in their efforts toward spiritual growth is the reading of faithful books. Obviously, the works of uninspired men are not of the same caliber as the inspired word of God when it comes to guiding our spiritual growth. But, just as we listen weekly to godly teachers & preachers who offer their insights into the word of God, there have been many authors down through the centuries who have faithfully expounded the Scriptures’ meaning in some really helpful ways. So, on Sundays in January, these articles will recommend spiritual books that can help us more clearly see God’s plan and our place within it.

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Love & Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs, is about godly marriage. Specifically, it’s about following God’s plan for marriage as laid out in one short passage from the book of Ephesians. The Holy Spirit’s point runs from Ephesians 5:22 thru verse 33, but verse 33 is the summary of the whole thought: “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Eggerichs notes how the Beatles sang, “All you need is love,” and so many books on marriage agree with them. And yet, there is more than love in God’s plan for healthy marriages: there is love and respect in Ephesians 5.

The author, speaking out of years’ worth of experience as a professional marriage counselor, helpfully describes what he calls …The Crazy Cycle. Simply: “Without love, she reacts with out respect. And without respect, he reacts without love.” And going thru this cycle makes both spouses frustrated. This simple articulation probably rings bells in many of our minds—that we have each sometimes felt the lack of these important things from our spouses, and we know that we have often denied our spouses what they truly need from us.

The book is like a long sermon based on a single Bible phrase, and it’s filled with elaboration on this simple concept. Some helpful pieces of advice from the book are as follows:

  • “You can be right but still wrong, when you say it at the top of your voice.”
  • “The Greek word Paul uses for love in this verse is agape, meaning unconditional love. And the wording of the rest of the passage strongly suggests that the husband should receive unconditional respect.”
  • “Often, we focus on our own needs and simply overlook the needs of the other person.”
  • “The more I meditated on these two passages of Scripture, the more I realized that if a husband is commanded to agape-love his wife, then she truly needs love. In fact, she needs it just as she needs air to breathe.”
  • “[As a marriage counselor,] Sarah asked this wife a question that she asks many women who arrive at our conferences full of contempt for their husbands: ‘What if your son grew up and married someone like you?’ The woman’s mouth fell open.”
  • “A husband is to obey the command to love even if his wife does not obey the command to respect, and a wife is to obey the command to respect even if the husband does not obey the command to love.”

If you and your spouse are struggling to find peace and enjoyment in your relationship, and if you’re ready to work together to change that and make your relationship into the kind that God intended, this book is a really good place to start.

-Dan Lankford, minister

Faith-Building Fridays | The Bible's Evidence For A Creator God

Friday, January 26, 2024

When making a case for the existence of God and his creating everything, we tend to default to evidence outside the Bible. So we begin—as we’ve done in this series—with premises like “design is evidence of a designer” and “morality is evidence of a moral originator.” Maybe this is because we feel that defending religious things from the Bible is circular reasoning, and so we shy away from it. But if there is sufficient evidence to the Bible’s legitimacy (which we intend to discuss in articles later this year), then its claims about God himself ought to be taken seriously. Neither its antiquity nor its obvious religious bias give us reason to disregard its claims wholesale.

And so, for this Faith-Building Friday, consider some of the many places where the Bible’s writers stated that the world was created by God. These statements, while not the whole case, are valid evidence to the truth of his existence and creative work.

  • “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gn. 1.1)
  • “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Ex. 20.11)
  • “You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.” (Nh. 9:6)
  • “For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” (Ps. 95.3-5)
  • “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jr. 32.17)
  • “long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” (2 Pt. 3.5)

To be sure, there is an abundance of extra-biblical evidence to the facts of his existence and creative work. But let’s not skip the spoken truth of these things inside the Bible. The claims made there are sincere, powerful, and faith-building in their own divinely-spoken right.

- Dan Lankford

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