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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

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You Don't Want Me To Pray?

Sunday, November 05, 2023

In the aftermath of a shooting a few years ago, one news agency played a soundbite of a victim’s mother who said, “I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control and I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers.”

On another occasion, in the aftermath of a natural disaster, one Christian tweeted: “When things like this happen, don’t pray. DO something.” Perhaps even more disheartening was the number of enthusiastic responses he received from other Christians.

Biblically-minded Christians are right to be saddened when we hear responses like these. We see the inconsistency in directing our hope to God and also refusing prayer. We see the inconsistency in another Christian’s thinking that prayer and action are contrasts when prayer is a most important first action in response to a tragic event. It hurts us to hear anyone—whether believer or not—belittle something so sacred and so wonderful as a prayer to the God of Heaven.

Because we know that prayer is more than a magic incantation to distance us from suffering. And we see that, even in moments of deep pain and deep outrage, rejecting prayer is not just a rejection of people who pray; it is a rejection of God to whom we pray. My hope for all of us is that we live and speak in such a way that the world becomes aware of how powerful prayer really is because they see how powerful God really is.

Far from being a simplistic distraction from one’s own pain or a heartless dismissal of someone else’s, prayer is how we approach God in our pain. It is a place to build and enjoy a relationship with God Almighty. It is—and it must always be—faithful Christians’ first and most trusted response to wickedness and suffering in this world.

- Dan Lankford, minster

The Highest Virtue

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue…” (2 Peter 1:5)

In contrast to the writings of past centuries, there is much less discussion of virtue in today’s psychology and self-help literature than there used to be. The cultivation of virtues like humility, wit, diligence, patriotism, courage, moderation, justice, and piety was a chief aim of past generations’ parents, philosophers, and schools. And so it should still be among Christians.

So if you had to boil it down, what would you say is the chief virtue that Christianity should instill in us? Among many that could be listed—purity, self-control, love, diligence, patience, kindness, humility, etc—I believe that righteous love is the greatest. Love like God’s own pure, righteous, passionate, and intense love ought to be the defining characteristic of all of our relationships. Paul told the Colossians to create habits and hearts defined by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience,  forgiveness, peace, and thankfulness (Col. 3:12-13, 15). And then he said, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14)

But from the way that many Christians talk and act, one would think that the chief virtue of Christianity is caution. We can be hindered from helping the needy by “what someone might think” if they saw us associating with them. We can be hindered from offering passionate, whole-self worship to God by “what someone might think” if they saw us exhibiting more than stoic assent in a church assembly. We can be hindered from teaching the fullness of truth about God’s grace by “what someone might think” if they hear hear that message and misunderstand its true nature.

The chief virtue—love—often tends to act in ways that are more risky than they are cautious. So, are we cultivating the virtue of love above all else? When it’s wise to exhibit both love and caution, we should do that. But when one of them must serve the other, let’s give priority to the one that most deserves it.

- Dan Lankford, minister

A Healthy Two-Way Warning

Sunday, October 29, 2023

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask… she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” (Mt. 14:6-8). 

Herod’s banal lusts led to the cruel death of one of God’s greatest servants. Simple lasciviousness corrupted his decision-making faculties and led him to the rashness that opened the door for such violence. And that ought to remind us to pay attention to how we encounter the lusts of the flesh (1 Jn. 2:16) from both sides of the equation.

The first reminder is that a Christian ought to be deliberate not to dress and carry himself or herself in a way that incites the lusts of someone other than his or her own spouse. There is a divinely blessed wonder to sex that should be enjoyed by married couples (read the Song of Songs), but it is meant to be entirely exclusive to that relationship. We should not be paranoid about others’ baser thoughts, but we should be intentional enough to keep ourselves from lascivious dress and behavior. This is one of the most obvious ways in which Christians are called to shine as lights out of darkness—to behave differently from the world around us.

And the second reminder is that we ought to guard our hearts from sensual lusts toward anyone other than one’s own spouse. We should be seriously warned not to look or think beyond the moment that a temptation arises. The lust of the flesh grow in intensity when we dwell upon them, and so we must turn our eyes from gazing on the baseness of lust and train our hearts to gaze on the holiness of God.

These are two sides of the same coin that describe our responsibility toward lascivious thoughts and behavior. King Herod let his lusts get the better of him. We’d better be intentional about preventing the same thing in our lives.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Listen Inward? Or Listen Upward?

Monday, October 23, 2023

Do you ever feel lost in life, unsure what value you have or what your purpose is? I suppose that most people go through some level of that thought process at some point. When we do, we have a tendency to think that the solution is to increase self-esteem; to look inside ourselves for ways to think more highly of ourselves.

But the solution to those crippling feelings isn’t inside of ourselves (cf. Jer. 10:23). In fact, the more we turn our thoughts inward, the more powerful those negative feelings tend to become. We need listen upward to what God has spoken about who we are and what our value is.

If you’re struggling with such thoughts, consider a few things that God says about all people:

  • You are made special in the image of God (cf. Gen. 1:26, Ps. 139:13).
  • Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Mt. 10:29-31) That means that God values YOU!
  • Remember that God values you enough that Christ was sent to offer redemption and salvation for you.
  • We are made special and called to a special purpose, and if we believe that, we’ll find ourselves living more purposeful, more assured, more giving, more satisfied, and more joyful lives.

We often think that the solution to negativity is to look deeper within and manufacture more positive feelings. But the reality is that God has already spoken life-giving truth about who we are. The question is: Do we really believe him?

- Dan Lankford, minister

Perseverance Times Three

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

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

A Problem You Can Fix Now

Sunday, October 15, 2023

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 

A Christian Response to Israel and Hamas

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

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

In Denial Of the Truth

Sunday, October 08, 2023

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

The Cost of Salvation & Discipleship

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

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

A Church Closed Their Doors This Week. One That Mattered A Great Deal To Me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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

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