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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

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What Would We Do Differently?

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Have you ever considered what would happen if a celebrity came to a church service here? Obviously, “celebrity” status is a relative idea nowadays because of different generations’ different levels of attachment to certain public figures. But how would we all react if whoever you think of as a famous personality attended one of these assemblies with us some Sunday? Would we be nervous about what they would think of our “unusual” ways in worship? Would we try to do all of worship activities just a little better than usual so they would see the best version of it? Would we go out of our way to dote upon them in some special way that we don’t do for the regulars?

Or would we simply welcome them into this place and let them see how things are among people who authentically worship God? Would we be comfortable doing what we typically do, knowing that when it is sincerely focused on God, it is perpetually the right thing to do?

Don't get me wrong: I’m not saying that there’s no room for specialness in what we do. On the contrary, I’m saying that we shouldn’t feel the need of any unique behaviors that focus on a guest because we understand the specialness that is always part of our assemblies as we focus on God.

Every time we come together, we bless the high and holy God who created the world and everything in it, who measures the universe with the span of his hand, and who gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him might have eternal life. If there would be a need for increased specialness because of a human visitor, then let’s go ahead and enact that today! Because God is here with us, and the people around us are his people. We are already in the company of persons with far greater gravity than any human celebrity could dream of having.

Let’s give the very best fruit of our lips as a sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15) to God for his indescribable greatness and splendor.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Obedience Because It's Obedience

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Should we base what our beliefs and obedience to Christian teaching on how it will work out? Is law meant to be determined by what is good for the most people? Should the laws of a country, or a household, or a religion be based on the outcomes that experience tells us will come from those laws?

It’s a matter of faith to believe that God’s laws, as written, are to be followed implicitly, whether we expect the outcomes of following them to be good, bad, or  even impossible.

For example: Should we teach that faithfulness in marriage matters because it will bring stability to society (which it will)? Or because it is the will of God for his people? What is our stated reason for obedience? Faith in God regardless of the outcomes, or is it just the expected outcomes?

For another example: Should we be generous to others because it will create bonds and close friendships between the receiver and the giver (which it will)? Or because it is the example and teaching that we have from the King of kings whom we follow? Again, what is our stated reason for obedience? Is it faith in God regardless of the outcomes, or is it just the expected outcomes?

For yet another example: Should we deteremine if a religious practice is appropriate because we perceive how it will work out either like or unlike another religious group's practice? Or will we know because the word of God teaches its rightness or wrongness? Yet again, what is our stated reason for obedience in things like this? Is it faith in God's way regardless of the outcomes, or is it just the expected outcomes?

Let’s be clear within each of our hearts that our reasons for obedience are a matter of our faith in God. Christian faithfulness isn’t mostly motivated by a reaction against others, a societal advancement program, a self-improvement set of habits, or a road to psychological comfort. All of those things are helpful outcomes that likely follow Christian faithfulness, but our obedience to him must motivated, above all, by our sincere belief in him simply for his own sake.

Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Lean Into the Hard Truth

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Playwrights of ancient Greece wrote tragedies and considered them a high art form. Shakespeare did the same. Some of the greatest novels of all time have been gritty forays into the saddest parts of human existence. And while tragedies do not often turn out to be box office superhits, filmmakers today still take an occasional stab at the genre.

Even if these types of stories do not appeal to everyone, why is it that they appeal to anyone? Why are any of us drawn to these dark tales of woe, loss, misery, and sadness?

I think it’s because leaning into the hard realities makes us long for something better.

And that’s the appeal that God makes all the way through the Bible. The accounts of Cain & Abel, Jacob & Esau, Moses & Aaron, Naomi & Ruth, Saul & David, and Ezra & Nehemiah… all show the depth of human weakness and sinfulness, and they all make us long for something better. The Bible writers don’t gloss over or whitewash the misery that sin brings. They are open about death and sorrow. They make us face it, and they encourage us to just sit with that reality, letting it work in our hearts to make us long for someone to repair all of sin’s damage.*

In fact, the Old Testament would be considered a tragedy were it not for its being fulfilled in the New Testament. The long narrative of Israel leaves us with an unrequited desire for God to restore his people to himself. And then that desire is fulfilled in Jesus. But we are only able to fully appreciate his goodness when we have also appreciated the true sadness that comes into this life when we are separated from God.

So let’s lean into the hard truth of sin’s tragedy. And let it drive us to appreciate the greatness and splendor of God’s grace that he’s given us in our Lord Jesus Christ.

- Dan Lankford, minister

 

*re: repairing all of sin's damage: Isaac Watts understood this when he penned Joy to the World. Consider this stanza: "No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow, Far as the curse is found."

Old Men and Ecclesiastes

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Three obituaries for old men have caught my attention lately. The first was Frank Borman: part of the Apollo 8 team—the first group of humans to ever orbit the moon and see the earth from the vantage point of space. He died in early November at the age of 95. The second was Norman Lear: a TV producer and major influence in the entertainment industry—responsible for the creation of “All In the Family” and other shows, and a moral revolutionary who deliberately pushed American culture in a decidedly liberal direction for a long time. He died last Tuesday at the age of 101. The third was Paul Earnhart: a preacher of the gospel who had influenced the lives of so many by sharing the gospel and by teaching it in its greater fullness, working both in this country and in western Africa since his early 20’s. He died last Wednesday at the age of 92.

Which of those men do you think made the greater impact? Obviously, it depends on how you measure it. One could argue for the astronaut: a man who went farther out into God’s created universe than anyone ever had. Another could argue for the TV producer: a man whose work influenced (even subtly) the thinking of millions of people, leaving ideas planted in many minds that would eventually be passed on to successive generations as an ingrained cultural inheritance. Another could argue for the preacher: a man whose words opened people’s hearts to the eternal love of God in Christ and gave them hope that saves for eternity.

Measured for spiritual value, which is of the highest worth, there is of course no contest between the three. The oracles of God were spoken by brother Earnhart, and the truth of those oracles echos through the halls of eternity.

But what happens to humanity at large now that these three men are gone? Was their impact so great that any of their deaths will change the nature of mankind? Not really. In fact, you may have never heard of some of them—maybe any of them. In Ecclesiastes, the Holy Spirit says, “of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!” (Eccl. 2:16) Three men lived long and made a powerful impact, and then they went on to their eternal fate. As Solomon said, “the same event (death) happens to all...” (Eccl. 2:14) Humanity continues on its endless cycle of trips around the sun, living out life under the sun, seeing and experiencing both good and evil, wisdom and foolishness, pleasure and pain, ups and downs, wins and losses, birth and death.

Does all of that mean that our choices and our relationships are irrelevant? No. Quite the contrary. It simply tells us that we are each very small when compared with the universe, the relentless scope of time, and the enormity of the human population. And yet, even in our smallness, each of us understands that our lives—like the lives of those three men—matter a great deal. Every human life matters, even as small and powerless as we may be. Each of us bears the image of God in a special way, and each of us has the option to let his power work through us to make a true impact in our small segment of reality.

So what impact will your life have, whether you have another 90 years or just a few days to live? You almost certainly won’t change humanity at large, but you can make an eternal impact on even just one person close to you, and that’s a worthwhile endeavor indeed.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Can God Trust Me?

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Trust is the linchpin of every relationship. If it’s there and it’s strong, then the coupling of the relationship will move freely and survive most any strain. But if it’s weak or missing entirely, the relationship will be weak, will fail, or become all-out hurtful.

In his book, Trust, Henry Cloud gives the anatomy of trust. As he sees it, it’s built through five things: 1) Understanding between both parties. Does the other party in the relationship understand me, and do I understand them? If so, we can build some trust.. 2) Knowing intent. Do I believe that the other party wants to do good, even when I disagree with their vision or their methods? If so, we can build some trust. 3) Ability of both parties. Is the other party capable of what I need or want of them? If so, then we can build some trust. 4) Character. Are they a person who embodies honesty, integrity, and humility? If so, then we can build some trust. And 5) A track record. Does the other party have a track record of trustworthiness with other things? If so, then we can build some trust.

Those ideas help me to clarify why I sense varying levels of trust between myself and certain people in my life. But more than that, they make me wonder: 

Can GOD trust ME?

He has clearly given me all the reasons I could ever need to trust him. He understands me and my needs, his intents are good all the time, his being all-powerful tells me that he has all abilities, he is of pristine and holy character, and his track record of trustworthiness is as long as history itself.

But can he trust me? Does my relationship to him embody those five elements as it should? These are question that I have to reflect on and pray about today. And I hope that you will take the time to do so as well.

After Abraham had faithfully obeyed God regarding the sacrifice of his son, Isaac, God said to him, “now I know that you fear God” (Gen. 22:12). I doubt that I have the kind of relationship with God in which he could say that—that he trusts me as he knew he could trust Abraham. But that’s who I intend to be. Would you pray about that for me? And I will pray the same for all of you.

- Dan Lankford, minister

An Abundance Mindset

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

God has continually provided all that his people need, throughout all the generations of the world. In Eden, he said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Gen. 1:29). In the wilderness, he provided manna for them exactly as each family needed, so that they never lacked (cf. Ex. 16:18). When they came into the land of Canaan, Moses gave them this reminder: “the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land… a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing…” (Dt. 8:7-9). And then, hundreds of years later, when Christ spoke about what it really takes to follow him and be like him, he had some memorable things to say about trusting God to provide what we need just like he provides clothing for the grass of the field and homes for the birds of the air (cf. Mt. 6:25-33).

Modern believers in denominational circles often speak of the importance of “an abundance mindset.” In my experience, that particular verbiage is not as common among members of the Churches of Christ, but it does speak well of the Bible’s regular emphasis on trusting that God always gives enough. In fact, if we can adjust our view to his way of seeing the world, we will realize that we not only have enough for ourselves and our families, but that there is always enough to share what we have with others. An “abundance mindset” constantly believes that God has given us an abundance and that abundance should be joyfully shared with others. A “scarcity mindset” believes that if we give to others, we will not have enough for ourselves, but from the Garden, God has been giving us rich examples and teachings that show that he always has and always will give enough.

Especially in the season of gift-giving, let’s work on developing a heart that always has a strong sense of trust in God which includes a powerful, joyful willingness to share that abundance with others.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Can I Pray About That?

Friday, November 24, 2023

Life presents us with many situations that we wish were different. Whether on a work team, in a neighborhood, at our kids’ schools, in the church that we worship with, in our families, or anywhere else that we regularly find ourselves; there are things that we wish were improved. In any situation like that which each of us faces, we must have the wisdom to assess whether the nature of that situation can’t be changed, can be changed and should be, or can be and shouldn’t be.

There’s a great deal of mental calculating that goes on when determining things like that, and we have to be deliberate with which of those outlooks we take on a given thing. Because some of the things which can be changed will require power beyond our own to affect the change, but we often interpret that as a “can’t be changed.” And so we need to have the wisdom to know the difference.

And this helps us to assess how we approach God in prayer. We wouldn’t pray for a change in our lives that goes against the will of God; that’s not exactly “things that can’t be changed,” but it’s similar in that there is no reason to ask for God to change it. And maybe there are some things that could be changed, but they shouldn’t; mercifully, God often denies those requests when we ask because he knows that we are asking for base reasons (see James 4:3).

But, when there are things in our lives which we want changed and which can be changed (even if requires power more than our own), we can, and we should, take those things to God. Sometimes, the reason that we face unfulfilled desires is as simple as what James said: “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (Js. 4:2)

Let’s be sure to use good wisdom when we approach God in prayer (cf. Eccl. 5:2), and let’s do so from a perspective of hope, trust, humility, and intentional thoughtfulness.

- Dan Lankford, minister

- thanks to Barry McCann for the inspiration for this post

So That You Won't Be Judged

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Mt. 7:1-2)

There are at least three types of ‘judgments’ that we make of others. The first is an objective determination that they are either in the right or the wrong, based on clear teachings of Scripture. The second is an informed determination that even if they they aren’t fully in the right or the wrong, they are being either wise or unwise based on Biblical guidance. And the third is a subjective determination that we just do or don’t like what they’re doing.

Jesus is warning his followers not to do the third one at all, and not to let the second one or the third one be treated as though they were the first one. God’s word judges people as right or wrong, but Christ said that it’s not in his followers’ nature to judge others’ behavior and words beyond that standard.

And there’s a personal reason for that: It’s good for us to refrain from judging. Would we who are living a Christian life be offended if someone arbitrarily badmouthed our family life, our spending habits, our friendships, our personality, or our dress? Then we’d better keep ourselves above doing that to them. If we slander others based on life rules that we’ve made up, we should expect them to do the same to us.

Additionally, to speak judgmentally of others behind their backs tarnishes the reputation of the speaker. If others hear me speak judgmentally of a brother or sister, they will easily know that I’m not a safe person to come to when they need to confess or confront something. Why? Because they know that, “He’s pretty judgy. I’ve heard how he talks about other people. I sure wouldn’t want him talking about me like that.”

And so, “judge not that you be not judged.” Jesus commanded that of us, and there are plenty of reasons why we would not only feel obligated to obey him, but we should want to prevent this harmful tendency from damaging our relationships.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Doctrine Always Matters

Sunday, November 12, 2023

At various times and in various places, it’s been a popular trend to rebuff the idea of doctrine or treat it as a term of art, putting it in quotes as though it’s a made-up concept. Claims are made that to emphasize doctrine is to inherently neglect a proper emphasis on Christ’s love. While of course this kind of neglect can happen (cf. the Pharisees), it is not the inherent outcome of a righteous focus on doctrine. In fact, a proper focus on doctrine will always include an emphasis on Christ’s love and sacrifice.

This can be illustrated by one sentence from Titus. Paul warned Titus that while he was Crete’s preacher, there would be many people who would cause him trouble. He called them “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers,” and said “they profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.” As a response to this, Paul gave Titus one simple command: “As for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)

What all does that include? It includes everything from salvation by Christ’s grace to the necessary moral behavior of the people who are saved. And this is plainly outlined later in the same letter to Titus: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things.” (Titus 2:11-15)

The word keeps us grounded in Christ in every way. This is why sound doctrine is important for every church and every Christian.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Bringing You Joy Brings Me Joy

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

On Monday, the Denver Post ran the story of a woman whose grown daughter was killed in a mass shooting at an Aurora, CO movie theater eleven years ago. In the time since then, the mother has traveled to the sites of other mass shootings in the U.S. to offer comfort to other victims’ families. She has visited Newtown, Parkland, Uvalde, and other places where a gunman took the lives of four or more people. And she’s had a simple message for those who’ve lost loved ones: “Your grief is real, and you will find joy again.” Over and over again, she has sought out those who are experiencing the deepest pain of loss, who are tempted to pull away from others and mourn alone; and she’s told them that she was tempted to do the same but that helping others has helped her find joy again since her daughter’s death.

It always encourages me to hear of people who, in spite of their own pain, open their hearts to others and think of their good. Their ability to see beyond themselves and do good for others is one of the most admirable character traits. It’s an embodiment of the kind of humility that ought to be a characteristic attitude of all Christians, whether in our times of suffering or of safety, of comfort or of conflict. Our job is to look out for the good of others and to serve them joyfully, finding our joy in the work of bringing joy to them.

This was the example of Christ himself, the man who selflessly washed his disciples’ feet on the night that he was agonizing over his impending death. When he had finished, he told them, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (Jn. 13:15) Let’s learn from his example and from noble examples that we see in the world around us so that we too are always looking for ways to serve others joyfully, believing that through our service to them, we will also be blessed by God.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Displaying 51 - 60 of 167

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