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Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Click here to read archived articles by our former preacher, Jared Hagan.

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A Christian Response To The Dis-"Respect for Marriage" Act

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Senate, in a vote of 61 to 36, passed what is called "The Respect for Marriage Act," which effectively attempts to redefine marriage by federal law to recognize same-sex marriages nationwide. And you might be thinking, "Didn't the Supreme Court legalize same-sex marriage across the country back in 2015?" Yes, they did. But what we're seeing now is the movement by the entire legislative branch of our government to put that precedent into codified law throughout the land. That the law is called "The Respect for Marriage Act" is profoundly misleading—even intellectually dishonest, because its first outcome is to repeal a previous federal law ("The Defense of Marriage Act" from 1996) that did respect marriage for what it is: the exclusive union of one biological man and one biological woman (although no one felt the need for the word "biological" in that sentence back in 1996). The new law was supported by all Democratic senators and 12 Republicans, had support from plenty of activist groups and even a few religious bodies (including the Mormons, oddly enough), and now all it lacks to become the law of the land is a signature from President Biden, which he will almost surely provide soon. All of it serves to "not only do [these unrighteous things] but give approval to those who practice them." (Rom. 1:32)

How should Christians respond to news like this? What does it mean for our daily lives of faith and for our outlook on reality and for our place in society? Well, those are big questions that probably deserve more long-form writing, but here are four short responses to help us process all of it today:

  1. In our daily lives, we will probably feel very little substantial change right away. But Christians everywhere are already well aware of the not-so-subtle support of all activities and lifestyles connected with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ideologies all around us. It comes to as a gradual process of a few isolated incidents at a time, and we will likely continue to see more of those episodes in the course of normal life. A gay or lesbian married couple as next-door neighbors, more and more LGBTIQ+ characters in shows and movies, a coworker who invites us to witness their marriage to someone of the same sex, a city hall building that hangs a rainbow flag over the front of the building (this example is a current one in Colorado Springs), and more direct promotion of these sinful behaviors targeted to our kids. The challenges will likely continue to increase, and we need to remain resolutely committed to Scripture's teachings that God intended marriage to be the exclusive and sacred union of one biological man and one biological woman for their whole lives. There's a lot more to be said for how we talk about that conviction, but it's nothing that would ever diminish the import of our conviction about God's word.
  2. Christian couples need to value our own marriages and treat both the institution of marriage as well as our own spouses with the utmost honor. The world may enact policies and plans that undermine the integrity of God-ordained marriage and the selfless, holy love that ought to be characteristic of it, but Christians will still shine as lights out of darkness if our marriages demonstrate the love and respect of Christ and his church (see Eph. 5:33). Our examples in that closest of relationships will be one of the many ways that we can shine with Christ's light and let others see the glory of God (Mt. 5:16).
  3. These new developments at the federal level will very likely cause some challenges to religious liberty in the U.S. Back in 2015, when the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision was handed down, Justice Samuel Alito asked the U.S. Solicitor General how he thought that the decision would affect Americans' religious freedom, and he responded, "You know, I don't think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it's certainly going to be an issue." Yeah, it is. There will be challenges for religious schools and other parachurch (i.e. religious, but not church-connected) organizations who attempt to hold their religious convictions consistently (there already have been, and not just for Christians), and there will probably be challenges to Biblically-convicted churches themselves for the teachings they espouse on the subject. What will we do? Well... First, we will not be scared of Christianity being stamped out. Jesus said that the gates of Hell will not prevail against his church (Mt. 16:18), so Christians shouldn't be worried about losing in the grand scheme of history. Second, we should help our communities make decisions in favor of truth. Our votes, letters to the editor, or speeches in the school board meetings may be against the tide of the masses, but if we're speaking the truth, God will see that it's heard. And third, churches and their leaders need to be thinking ahead about how we will continue to hold on the truth, even if it costs us our charters, our tax-exempt status, our facilities, or some of our members when we do so. If things get dramatic enough that we lose everything to persecution, we will still have God, and he will not leave us or forsake us. And so we need to be mentally prepared to hold up the book and stand on truth for God's glory, no matter the cost.
  4. And all of this reminds us why we can't put our trust in anything other than God for surety in this life. If the Proverbs are going to instruct us to trust God more than even our own minds to get us through life (Prov. 3:5), then we for sure want to trust him above any government entity or worldly philosophical view. Only he is trustworthy enough to teach us the truth about every situation and circumstance. Only he can show us how to leave the darkness of error and live in the light of truth. Let's put our faith in him completely and exclusively.

There is a steady pace to the changes that we're seeing in our society. Many of the proponents of the new law about marriage have said that this is an important first step toward affirming LGBTIQ+ Americans, and that they believe there is more work to do. That's problematic because it forgets that this is not nearly the first step toward affirming those sinful behaviors and also because it warns us that more similar advances of the LGBTIQ+ agenda are likely ahead of us. But, in whatever we face in the present or the future, we know that God is with us, that he is righteous and unchanging, and that our perseverance to the end with him will grant us the reward that he promises.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Reversing Drift

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Heb. 2:1)

The warning from that verse is a compelling one that obviously resonates with many people. It’s a perpetual challenge for all Christians. It’s a subtle process that we often don’t even notice we’re experiencing.

And that’s the key problem with drifting: it’s imperceptible. It’s very much the way that a boat drifts with no anchor. We may start off safely in a wide place where the water is deep enough, and so we go about our business and just enjoy the peacefulness of the water. But after some time passes, we look up and realize that while we’re inattentive, we drifted shallow water or a narrow place where the boat is about to bottom out. 

This is what happens spiritually as well. We often do not notice that we have lost ground, that we’ve developed unrighteous thought processes or habits, that we’ve neglected some important relationships, or that we—like the original readers of the book of Hebrews—simply haven’t grown; we’re spiritually immature long after we should have progressed to spiritual adulthood (see Heb. 5:11-6:12). The process by which all of this happens is subtle. So subtle, in fact, that we usually do not notice when it’s happening.

For us, maybe the drift looks like a little less Bible reading, a little unkindness that we make excuses for, a little blaming someone else for our weaknesses, or a little commitment that we didn’t keep, a little item that we borrowed but didn’t return… And after awhile, all of those little infractions of morality create vast amounts of spiritual drift.

So how do we stop that process? How do we heed the advice from Hebrews 2:1 and “pay closer attention” so that we do not drift away from God and the faith? Consider these three pieces of advice:

First, deliberate growth negates accidental drifting. Seeking God intently through Scripture, through prayer, through Christian fellowship, through worship, and through faithful books will help us become stronger and more grounded, halting the drift.

Second, a regular habit of undistracted, serious self-assessment will help us be aware of our true spiritual condition. Regularly and thoughtfully checking our spiritual lives isn’t always a pleasant experience, but it’s invaluable in our efforts to grow toward God.

And third, learn to desire God; not just to be satisfied with the status quo. Because if we truly want closeness with God, that desire will never allow us settle, but we will be continually working our way closer to him, not drifting away from him.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Quiet Quitters, At Work & At Church

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Have you heard the term "quiet quit"? Articles and advice columns on the 'phenomenon' (I use that term very loosely) of quiet quitting are popping up on business websites, blogs, and newspapers everywhere. And research organizations are busy analyzing and quantifying it. The term has even gone viral on TikTok.

Basically, that's become the modern term for doing the bare minimum requirements when you're on the job. The phrase cleverly labels the behavior or a person who might as well quit because they're no longer going for anything better or more noble than the lowest level. They've checked out of the possibility of growth or advancement or helping others, and now they're just getting by and getting paid.

That problem on the job is at least as old as the New Testament, because the apostle Paul admonished our brothers in Colossae with these words: "obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Col. 3:22-23). We need to make sure that we are learning from Paul's words; that we aren't "quiet quitters" at work. Whether or not it garners any payoff in the workplace, we ought to work as if it's for Christ. And if our work is for him, then it needs to be our very best.

There's also the potential problem of "quiet quitting" on a group of God’s people, and this is a temptation that Christians everywhere face at different points in life, whether they're new to faith or seasoned veterans in the Lord's army. Whatever the reasons, they come to do the bare minimum to remain on the membership of a congregation, but they show no more signs of involvement than that. They don't make connections with other Christians, they attend sporadically, they keep to themselves, they read their Bible infrequently, they know few names their Christian family members, and they turn down invitations to special gatherings like potlucks (or, on the flip side, they only show up for potlucks... kinda funny; kinda not). Churches everywhere have members like this, who do only the bare minimum to remain on the membership.

Having put it in those terms, church starts to seem like the place in life where quiet quitting may be the most prevalent.

So what's to be done about it? What are the remedies? Here are two quick thoughts:

  • First, it’s up to every individual; take ownership and decide not to be a quiet quitter. Find a way to GROW, engage, develop yourself and others. If our answer is, "I can't help anyone, I'm too deep into my own problems," then that is all the more reasons to reach out and engage, because someone in the church can help you. Wherever you are starting from, all of us can move toward deeper engagement and stronger fellowship. Everyone has something to offer to someone else. The Holy Spirit said, "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them..." (Rom. 12:6)
  • Second, it’s up to the leaders to develop a culture of engagement: a place where people have opportunities to build others up (and not just in the assemblies), to see and encourage potential for growth among all, to build authentic connections, and to know that they are valued. The Proverbs writer advised: "Know well the condition of your flocks" (Prov. 27:23), which means that leaders need to be well-connected and well-informed and continually praying for their church members in order to enfold and engage them in fellowship of saints that we are.

The research that’s out there is good for workplaces: It’s so nice when all the elements of an engaging culture are present at work. But especially in a church, people ought to be able to find a vibrant, engaging culture in the group—a place where they know they are valued and where they freely and enthusiastically share that unique value with others.

What can YOU do to make that culture stronger and make sure that no one is quiet quitting on Christ's people at Northside?

- Dan Lankford, minister

Grateful, Not Grumbling

Sunday, November 27, 2022

"And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes..." (Num. 11:1)

Have you been around people who complain regularly? Some people are dependable complainers. No matter the subject of conversation, they'll have some criticism or griev-ance or disappointment or disgust to express. And even when others point out some-thing positive, the response is, "Well, I guess I'm not as optimistic as you are." It's hard to be around people like that for very long because of the sourness that they bring into affairs.

And it's not just us who are challenged when dealing with complainers: God doesn't like it either. The passage quoted above is from one of the many occasions on which Jacob's descendants complained about their lot in the years after God set them free from slavery to Egypt. In the shadow of such great and good gifts—their salvation and freedom from tyranny—it understandably infuriated God that they would complain about petty business of what kind of food they ate thereafter.

Are there legitimate times to complain about something? Well, yes. The Psalms contain many poems that lament the present condition of the poet or of the Israelite nation, and those laments were perfectly justified. But complaining becomes inappropriate when we express dissatisfaction with a gift we've received, when we complain about something small or petty in the shadow of some great and good thing we possess, or when our speech is primarily constituted of complaints and we rarely (if ever) express gratitude and joy about the good things of our lives.

So can you see the good in something? Then say something about that good. Have you received a gift? Then express pure thankfulness to the giver. Is there an occasion to celebrate, then celebrate it. Are there people around us with goodwill, whose intentions toward us are good (even if their execution leaves something to be desired)? Then let's give the benefit of the doubt and bite our tongues with our complaints.

And especially in our outlook on life as children of God, let's be careful not to complain when our hearts and our words should be defined by gratitude. The apostle Paul warned Christians about grumbling like Israel did in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10), and the apostle Peter said that we should show love & grace to others "without grumbling" 
(1 Pet. 4:9). A constant (or frequent) chorus of complaints about the life that God has given us reflects a heart of ingratitude for the blessings that we do have. In the shadow of such great and good gifts as Jesus' redemptive work on the cross, should we be so base as to complain about the petty inconveniences of life? Let's resolve to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess. 5:18) and "do all things without grumbling" (Phil. 2:14).

- Dan Lankford, minister

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24, 2022

To everybody in our church family:

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.” (Eccl. 5:18-19)

Forever Devoted to the Fundamentals

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Coach John Wooden was one of the winningest college basketball coaches of all time. His UCLA teams won 10 national championships during his career there. And while there are many positive things that could be said about him and his coaching methods, one particular thought rises above the others: Wooden was devoted to the fundamentals.

Every new player that joined the UCLA team was taught how to put on their socks and shoes—an education in doing things right from the most fundamental, foundational elements of gameplay. They endlessly ran dribble drills and layups. They were devoted to doing the basic mechanics correctly, because they knew that no amount of athletic prowess could compensate for failure at the most basic levels.

The coach's outlook has a lot of correlation to the ideal outlook of the Christian life. Because the fundamental disciplines and practices of the Christian life are of truly crucial importance. Things like reading the Bible, habitual prayer time, visiting those who are sick and afflicted, participating in church assemblies, and giving to the poor—they may seem like the simplest things, but their importance cannot be overstated. If we're going to shine with Christ's light to those both near and far, then we can't neglect them.

So, make a determination to practice the fundamentals. Devote yourself to reading and knowing God's word, to speaking with him daily, and to regularly connecting with his people. If we're consistent with these practices, over time, they will enlighten our minds and enliven our hearts more and more to be the saints that God has made us to be.

- Dan Lankford, minister

A Christian response to mass shooting in our own back yard

Monday, November 21, 2022

By now, the news is known far and wide about the mass shooting that took place at an LGBTQ+ nightclub this past weekend, leaving 5 people dead and 25 hospitalized. For our church family, this one hits very close to home. The crime scene—Club Q—is only a 10-minute drive from our church building. And so, while all events like these stir our emotions, the geographical proximity of this one makes it impossible for us to ignore.

So how should Christians respond to this event? Here's some Biblical perspective that can help.

 First, Christians mourn for the lives that were lost, for the injuries that were received, and generally for the violence that was done. We pray for healing for those who are still recovering in hospitals. We pray for comfort of the families whose loved ones were killed. And we pray that violent events like these can be prevented and that God will hasten the day when things like this don't happen anymore. We care sincerely about those who've been hurt, and we mourn for a community that has witnessed such violence.

Second, Christians acknowledge that the place where this happened is a place where immorality is not only allowed but all-out celebrated. It reminds us of the apostle Paul's indictment of people who do wicked things everywhere, both because they do wicked things and because, "they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them" (Rom. 1:32). I think for some believers, the fact that violence happened here might seem like divine judgment on sinful people and wicked behaviors. But it's just not possible to say for certain whether the violence was brought about by God's providential hand. It is possible, however, to know that God condemns all sorts of actions and beliefs connected with the LGBTQ+ revolution because he has said so.

So the question is: Can we recognize the immorality of the patrons and purveyors of Club Q and also mourn the loss of life and care about those who were injured? Yes. And as Christians, we must do both. We must always care about people, and especially people who are lost. And we must also maintain a firm stance in the divinely-spoken truth about right and wrong. They're both an important part of our calling.

So pray for our community. Pray for the families of the deceased and for those whose injuries are healing. And also, think about how to speak Biblical convictions on matters of right and wrong. Pray for our communities leaders. Don't be calloused to the pain that people suffer, but don't let compassion push us to change our convictions on God's plainspoken truth.

Can Christians do both? Yes. And we must. "...that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life..." (Phil. 2:15-16)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Thankful for the Lord's Help

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Back in 1 Samuel 7, God’s people faced yet another conflict with a continual enemy: the Philistines. The Philistines ambushed them during a time of national celebration, intending to inflict huge numbers of civilian casualties. But God intervened and routed then without much of a battle, and the Israelites only had to pursue the Philistines as they retreated.

As they were chasing them, Samuel the prophet had the presence of mind to perform this seemingly small act: “Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer [which means ‘Stone of Help’ in Hebrew]; for he said, ‘Till now the LORD has helped us.’” (1 Sam. 7:12) That stone became significant enough to the people that they named the place after it for many years to come. But more than that, it showed the people a beautiful demonstration of gratitude. Granted, 1 Samuel 7 doesn’t reference gratitude or thankfulness directly, but Samuel’s monument is a clear demonstration of appreciation. And by the fact that he names the source of their blessings, he shows deep gratitude to God for their blessings.

The Ebenezer stone stands as a reminder for us today. It reminds us that wherever we are in our walk of faith and the transformation that has taken place in us over time, we have GOD to thank for that. The tendency to all humanity toward ingratitude is a bit like climbing a ladder, then standing on the heights and kicking the ladder away and proclaiming, “Look at how great I am for getting here by myself.” It is God who has brought us to whatever heights we’re presently at. “Till now, the Lord has helped us.” Whether each of us have overcome a great personal evil, or developed great influence and vibrant relationships in Christ, or been enabled to raise faithful children, or grown in our spiritual maturity, or been empowered to lead through great trials… thus far, the Lord has helped us.

On Wednesday night next week, we’ll gather as a congregation to return thanks to God for the many things he’s done for us. We’ll spend an hour mostly in prayer, asking him for very little, because we have so much for which we can truly and exclusively express our thanks. I truly hope that you’re planning to be there with your church family.

But more than that, I hope that you will establish an Ebenezer in your life: a commitment as solid as a rock to be thankful to God for the help that he has given you. Maybe it's a date on a calendar, a journal where you write those things, a group of people that you pray with, or just a time of solitude on Thanksgiving each year in which to pray. Whatever your method, give God thanks for helping you thus far.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Surprised when God's way works?

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Do you ever find yourself surprised when God's way works? Of course none of us ever should if we trust him perfectly, but that's precisely the problem, isn't it? We don't trust him completely, and so even when we do what God says, we don't always expect things to work as well as they actually do.

The example that brought this to mind recently was an article in the Wall Street Journal that reported research which indicates that married couples are approximately four times wealthier than their cohabitating counterparts. Those who live together without getting married do not have the same financial advantages that married people do, even when they share their lives and have been together for similar amounts of time. The crucial line in the article says, "As of 2019, the median net worth for cohabiting couples age 25 to 34 was $17,372, a quarter that of the $68,210 for married couples of that same age range."

Why is that? Well, the article reveals some of the answer, and Christians who think with Bible-guided wisdom know the rest. Part of the answer is purely economical: tax benefits and the increase of compound interest for a married couple's combined accounts. But the real reasons are much more philosophical and yes, theological.

According to one sociology professor, many couples now regard marriage as a capstone event in life: the final piece that gets put into the arch once all the other pieces below it are set. Past generations would have thought more of marriage as a cornerstone life event: the one upon which many of life's most meaningful other elements are built. This view from past generations is much more in line with the Biblical view which elevates the joy and blessing of a godly marriage. The family—much more than the individual—is the foundational building block of a society. And marriage is the cornerstone of that building block.

So we must ask the question again: Do you ever find yourself marveling when God's way works? Of course, none of us should if we trust him perfectly. But even Christians occasionally look to this kind of research and, rather than finding it satisfying to see the unique ways that God's wisdom works, we wonder if it's right. Or perhaps we think to ourselves: "That's strange; I wouldn't have thought that it makes any difference." In any case, we would do well to be grateful to him when we see God's good plans leading to good results. And we should not let incredulity reveal that in our deepest hearts, we didn't trust God's ways after all. God's way works. Period.

Do we really, truly believe that?

- Dan Lankford, minister

Accountability

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

The final section of Sunday's message featured several pieces of advice for enduring the various temptations that we face. I'd like to take the opportunity to add one more idea that will can be very helpful in working toward faithfulness:

Make yourself accountable to someone for your spiritual behavior.

James 5:16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." This is what accountability is all about: someone in whom you can confide when temptation discourages or when you make the choice to sin. The idea is that each Christian would have someone in his or her life who cares deeply about their spiritual well-being and who will correct, rebuke, and exhort us through the struggles of living faithfully (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2). And while it can obviously be really hard to face the reality of our sins as we confess them to someone else, the rebuke and correction and accountability will ultimately compel us to grow—to be more faithful to God and stronger to bear our temptations.

"Accountability partners" can be a close friend in the faith, a church leader, or just a stalwart example of faithfulness that you believe you can depend on. You may agree with them to regular phone call check-ins, a routine meal time and which you talk and pray together, or just someone who is okay with your sending them a text to say, "I'm struggling right now. Can you say a quick prayer for me?" Do whatever arrangement works for both of you, just as long the ultimate goal remains constant: That we're learning to walk more faithfully with God.

There are a few caveats and bits of advice that should accompany our thoughts about accountability:

  • First, we have to notice that the advice is to make yourself accountable to someone for your sins. This is different than saying, "I need to find someone who will hold me accountable for when I sin." If we put the responsibility on someone else, we will not grow from as we should. Even when we ask for help, each of us still needs to take responsibility for our own spiritual walk.
  • Second, if you're going to ask someone among God's people to have these difficult conversations, make sure that it's someone who is mature.
  • Third, your accountability partner needs to be of the same gender as you. Period.
  • Fourth, it's not advisable to make yourself accountable to someone who faces the same struggles that you do. Those conversations can sometimes turn into two people excusing each other's behavior rather than correcting it.

Is this THE solution to our problems with giving in to temptation? No. But it is an option that helps some people as they're trying to live faithfully for God. Along with the other advice given on Sunday morning, it's something that God can use to provide us the way of escape so that we will be able to bear our temptations.

- Dan Lankford, minister

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