Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings
Click here to read archived articles by our former preacher, Jared Hagan.
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
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
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
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
Next week, we’ll begin a four-day guest speaker series with Kenny Chumbley. Brother Chumbley has a special balance to his preaching that few others achieve: the ability to speak deep, thoughtful truth with clear, understandable simplicity.
There’s an inherent blessing in being able to hear the Gospel spoken by different personalities. In the same way that the different Bible writers’ methods strike chords for different readers, a guest speaker can strike different chords and bestow evergreen insights into the word upon us.
There are a handful of different approaches that people take toward guest speaker events at a church. Here they are, brought out into daylight, for us to consider which is our usual and which is the best approach for us to take to next week’s series:
- We wonder if the speaker “will be any good.” We think that the event’s purpose is to be impressed with a speaker’s ability, and so if he’s great, we consider the event a success. And if not, then we are tempted to think that our time was wasted.
- We expect that a single event will revive our personal feelings of excitement that we have experienced at special moments of spirituality in the past. And so if that doesn’t happen—if the very next Sunday feels like most other Sundays—then we are tempted to think that our time was wasted.
- We expect to learn something new that we’ve never heard before. If we do, then it we consider it a success. But if we cover familiar territory and receive well-timed, needed reminders about faithfully living for Christ… we are tempted to think that our time was wasted.
- If the speaker does his work with excellence and we do feel a sense of revival, we start to develop feelings of envy and a desire for more than what we believe our local church can offer us. This sense of comparison steals joy from the event and from the long-term relationships with our local church family.
- But at the end of the day, if the lessons declare the truth, speak it with clarity and reverence for God, help us live more faithfully for God, and speak with sincere love for God and his revealed word… then we’ll know that God is glorified and that our time is well spent.
Events like these should in no way be treated like an exhibition or opportunity for comparison. We should come to this like any occasion where the word of God is preached: with our hearts open wide to receive the truth as revealed by one of God’s servants.
I can’t wait to share these times of learning and worship with you!
- Dan Lankford, minister
This series of articles has covered most of the basics of Biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality. In fairness to the Bible’s overall teaching, let’s consider this one final discussion in the series: the matter of polygamy (or polygyny), which is the practice of being married to multiple spouses at the same time. This practice hardly needs to be warned against in the cultural moment of twenty-first-century America, first because it’s illegal in all 50 states, and second because the practice seems almost inhumane to us. America’s sensibilities are trained by a Judeo-Christian thought heritage in which the thought of marriage usually carries the idea of exclusivity with it, and we are so accustomed to that thought that we even struggle within the Bible to make sense of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and other men who had multiple wives at the same time.
I don’t want to over-explain something which seems obvious to so many, but it bears saying out loud: Genesis 2:24 says, "Therefore a man [singular] shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife [singular], and they shall become one flesh" (clarifications added). From that statement and plenty more, Biblically speaking, it’s wrong for more than two people to be married to each other, and that’s all that needs to be said in direct address of the matter. But let me make three quick and relevant observations that are slightly more indirectly related to this practice.
First: As mentioned above, we struggle to make sense of the many examples of polygamous unions throughout the Bible, especially by men who are held up as great examples of faith in God. A couple of realizations can help us reconcile this. First, we should pay careful attention to how the stories are written and what those men are actually commended for, because we will search the Bible in vain to find a place where their polygamy is commended. Second, we should keep in mind that those Bible characters are not held up as examples of perfection, but of faith in crucial moments. And that helps us to see that they were imperfect like we are, which makes us all look to the one example of human perfection: Christ. The Old Testament narratives are often not telling the stories of what should have happened, but rather what did happen. They show us the human players in God’s grand drama with honesty; not as morally whitewashed men who did all things right.
Second: You may occasionally hear the term ‘polyamory’ bandied about in the cultural conversation about modern sexual ethics. You should know that this term does not refer to polygamous marriage, but rather to multiple unmarried sexual partners. Obviously, in a world where many are calling evil good and putting bitter for sweet (cf. Isa. 5:20), we expect this behavior from the world and yet we see it for the sin that it is.
Third: There is a lingering thought among many religious people that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints endorses the practice of polygyny. According to official teaching from the church, this is no longer true. It was accepted by that religious organization over a century ago, but it is strongly condemned in their official teachings today, and it has been for a long time. I point that out here for the benefit of any of us who get into conversations about the Gospel with a Mormon friend: we would do well not to criticize their religious beliefs regarding this matter, because while their church once taught that it was okay, the person that you’re talking to probably has a strong belief in one-man-one-woman marriage.
Again, it’s easy to see that polygamy/polygyny is a sinful practice. It appears to have been one of the many things in “the time of ignorance [which] God overlooked” (Ac. 17:30), but it was never given divine approval. And so we are thankful that this sinful practice is largely out of fashion in our time and place, and we pray that our culture will be reformed to see all other sexual and marital sins with the same sort of repulsion with which this one is generally viewed.
- Dan Lankford, minister
PS – I had thought that this article would hardly be meaningful in our cultural context, but then the matters of monogamy, polyamory, and sexual infidelity came up in this article from USA Today on Monday of this week, which just reminded me that these matters of right and wrong are always relevant.
In our recent series of midweek articles, we have discussed the Biblical sexual ethic, the permanence and exclusivity of marriage, and the problem with adultery. Now, it’s time to discuss one of the hardest batches of truth in this series: what the Bible says about divorce.
This is a hard batch of truth for two reasons: 1) Because the Spirit has shown us the where hard lines of right and wrong are drawn on these matters, and 2) because many of us find that these teachings are fraught; emotionally hard to hear and hard to think about for a variety of reasons.
The Bible does have enough to say about this matter for us to clearly understand that divorces have never been God’s intention for married people. When Jesus was asked whether divorce is approved by God, the conversation went like this: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said:
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Mt. 19:4-9)
His words call for little explanation or clarification. They come down to a few core points:
- Divorce is not God’s intention for married couples. It breaks a union that is put in place by God (see Gn. 2:24). The intent was always that they would be joined by God and therefore not separated by mankind.
- Divorces have happened often throughout the history of God-fearing people groups, but they are not an equally valid option in the plan that God put in place. Jesus’ perspective on the Law of Moses’ teaching about divorce was essentially: “Yes, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives under certain circumstances, but that was never what God intended for you.”
- A divorce is always a bad thing. Sometimes, it is the lesser of two (or more) evils that can present a path through a particular situation, but it’s never morally neutral or morally good. That doesn’t mean that every person who experiences a divorce is at fault for it. Nor does it mean that every divorced person has sinned by getting divorced. But it does mean that in every divorce situation, something has gone wrong. It is never a thoroughly good thing in the eyes of God.
Jesus’ teaching on the subject is a concise recapitulation of what we would learn from elsewhere in the Bible. Jesus quoted the words from Genesis and showed how they ought to be instructive to all of his followers. And Malachi said, “the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts.” (Mal. 2:16) And it’s the same in the New Testament. Admittedly, some of what the apostle Paul wrote about marriage and divorce is unclear, especially in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. But even in that context where some things are unclear, the apostle’s underlying assumption is that married Christians will stay together (“To the married I give this charge… the wife should not separate from her husband…and the husband should not divorce his wife.” [1 Cor. 7:10-11]). The choice—and it is a choice—of whether to stick with one’s spouse or not is something about which God has spoken clearly. The command, with one exception mentioned in Scripture, is to stay with our spouses through the whole of life.
Now, there is one circumstance of which the Lord spoke in which a person may divorce their spouse righteously (the exception previously mentioned). It’s this: one who is the innocent party in a marriage that has been adulterated may righteously divorce the guilty spouse. Jesus said this in Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:9, and other passages in the Gospels which repeat these same occasions (cf. Mk. 10:1-12, Lk. 16:18). And it’s important that our awareness of this righteous exception leads us to be compassionate toward our Christian brothers and sisters who have suffered a divorce resulting from a spouse’s infidelity. Theirs is a pain that should be handled with compassion and care by the church. We will address the topic of the difficulty that many of them face in overcoming a perceived stigma from their Christian family in another venue, but for this writing, let it suffice to say that those whose life pathways have led them through this door should NOT be treated as guilty, damaged, or spiritually inferior because of it. They have suffered the consequences of someone else’s sin, and they are not the guilty ones. The Lord said that their divorces are righteous ones.
Divorce is something that married Christians should not even consider as an option, except, as Jesus said, in cases of sexual immorality. Among those of us who are married, our default position should be total devotion to faithfulness in our marriages, with no consideration of a way out. Does that sound like a lot to ask of a person? Yes, it does. And we’re not the first people to think so. The apostles answered Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 by saying, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Mt. 19:10) Essentially, they were saying that if marriage is going to be so permanent, even in bad times, then maybe it’s better to just never enter one. While that wasn’t what the Lord was teaching, it does belie the great weight of commitment that is the warp and woof of godly marriage.
A few other things are worth a quick, passing mention:
- Divorce is a sin of which a person can repent and be forgiven (like any other sin).
- People have often said that, “Half of all marriages end in divorce,” but that isn’t true any more. In fact, it may never have been true. The method used for the initial study that revealed that truth were almost certainly mishandled, and things have actually trended in a better direction in America since that stat was first published.
- Christians should think of being committed to our marriages rather than stuck in our marriages. One can understand why the difference in verbiage would make a big difference in our daily lives.
- Homosexual “marriages” are not something that God recognizes as holy; likely he does not even recognize them as marriages. And so in the case of two people of the same sex who are ostensibly married to each other, when one or both of them come to Christ, that “marriage” would need to be ended, including a legal filing of divorce if that was what was required by the laws pertinent to them at the time. A similar rationale would apply in cases of transgender people’s relationships when they come to Christ and repent of the old ways of their former life.
- If you and your spouse find yourselves struggling to make good things happen in your marriage, and especially if you worry that your only options are either divorce or a life of marital misery, then make some time to click here and listen to this sermon for some good starting guidance toward repairing the relationship.
As God’s people, we want to protect ourselves from the evil of divorce. God’s intent was that a man and a woman become one flesh, cling to each other through all of life, and that mankind does not separate what God has joined together.
- Dan Lankford, minister
A familiar Christian hymn says, “This is my Father's world: He shines in all that's fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.” And a familiar psalm says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Psa. 19:1-2) The earth and its fullness all demonstrate part of the glory of the God who created them.
But this is an important distinction that right-minded Christians must retain: that even while it speaks volumes, creation “speaks” only part of God’s glory. Truly, even the apostle Paul noted that the natural world demonstrates God’s eternal power and his divine nature (Rom. 1:20), but this knowledge barely scratches the surface of what can be known about him. The natural world tells us that there is a transcendent creator God, but it leaves us wondering as to his nature, his personality, and the nature of his relationship to humanity.
So how can we come to know him further? Is it only through the observations we make about the natural world? No. To know him more fully (though never exhaustively on this side of eternity), we look to the sacred texts in which he has revealed himself—the inspired writings contained in the Bible. And if we want to see him fully, we listen, not just to hear him pass in the rustling grass, but to his son, of whom he said, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).
All creation speaks to the glory of God, but only the word and The Word that became flesh speak in all fullness of the God whose handiwork surrounds us every day.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The Bible speaks clearly about the importance of faithfulness to a marriage covenant. As long as it is within our power to do so, those of us who are married are commanded to be enduringly faithful to our spouses, as the traditional vows say, “forsaking all others.”
This is a simple truth stated by Christ himself when he said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mt. 19:6) And unfaithfulness is one thing for which God gives very strong criticism of his people during the time when they were rebuilding after Babylonian exile. In Malachi 2, he said, “the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant… So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (Mal. 2:14-16) And in many of the prophets’ words, the idolatry of God’s people is held up as a parallel evil to the unfaithfulness of a spouse who forsakes their marriage vows by committing adultery (cf. Ezk. 16 and Hos. 3).
There are a few notable exceptions to the permanence of a marriage that God proclaims to be righteous, but this writing is focused on what ought to be the rule among Christians: that in attitude, in action, in word, and in prayer, we are devoted to healthy, lifelong, exclusive marriages.
This requires a high level of devotion, akin to the devotion that is called for in a life of faithfulness to God. It reminds us that marriage is a commitment of the will to the other person, regardless of how our emotions toward them may undulate over time. This requires us to protect our hearts and our marriages from flirtation with others, from lustful intent, and from all-out adultery. It requires us to be willing to repent of our own sins against a spouse and to forgive a spouse’s sins against us. It means that we should pray for God to give us all the good blessings that come from a righteous marriage. It requires that we must each make up our minds from the very beginning that we will truly “forsake all others” and cling to our spouse, putting a hand to the plow and not looking back (cf. 9:62) as God has called us to.
Again, there are a few notable exceptions in which the permanence of marriage may be undone with God’s approval, but let’s be clear that they are exceptions—not the rule. And so may God bless his people more and more with married couples who keep the vows that we make to him “until death parts us.”
- Dan Lankford, minister
There are some ideas within the framework of Biblical Christianity that long-time believers assume everyone among us just knows. And yet, if we aren’t deliberate about teaching the whole counsel of God (cf. Ac. 20:27), we may find that some among us simply don’t know certain Bible doctrines that we had assumed to be common knowledge. Additionally, when commonly-accepted doctrines are questioned or rejected by the world, some Christians can become convinced to go the world’s way unless we periodically make plain statements of Biblical truth.
So, in the interest making sure that the the whole counsel of God is spoken with conviction among us, consider these straightforward reminders of some basic morality of Christians’ sexual behavior.
The Bible is clear that sexual activity is right in only one relationship: a righteous marriage between a biological man and a biological woman. This is implicit in the creation story (cf. Gn. 2:24-25), and it is made explicit in the Ten Commandments (cf. Ex. 20:14) as well as many of the laws that God gave to the Hebrews after they left Egypt (cf. Lv. 18 & 20:10-21). With only a very few exceptions, these rules are restated by the Apostles in the New Testament (and good arguments can be made in favor of the unmentioned ones), with the apostles often just assuming the righteous ways in which Christians would behave in these ways (cf. 1 Cr. 5:1, Rm. 7:1-4, 1 Cr. 7:15, and other examples).
The bottom line is this: According to the Bible, sexual activity outside of a righteous marriage between a man and a woman is sinful. That means that a dating couple sleeping together before marriage is sinful. It means that homosexual activity by either gender is sinful. It means that sex with someone other than a person’s spouse is sinful. And the Lord himself added to all of that a prohibition against lustful thoughts about a person of the opposite sex, noting that such sexualized thoughts are also sinful (Mt. 5:27-28).
Does all of this really matter? Yes. A great deal. And we’ll talk in another writing about the many deep reasons why that is, but it’s one area where Christians ought to be exceedingly clear and convicted about who we are and how we are to faithfully serve God our king.
- Dan Lankford, minister