Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings
Click here to read archived articles by our former preacher, Jared Hagan.
Midweek FR articles
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
“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
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
“…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
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
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 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
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
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.
So far in our series of articles about marriage & sexuality, we’ve addressed the biblical sexual ethic, the need for permanence in marriage, the problem with adultery, the nature of divorce, and the righteous regulations for remarriage after a death or divorce. In this writing, we’re bringing some of the darkness of human thought into the light of God’s word. We’re talking about lust—a sin of the will which is prone to lead to other sexual sins.
By its simplest definition, the word “lust” only means desire. But in common usage and in Biblical usage, it almost always means an ungodly sexual desire. This is clearly what Jesus was talking bout in these words from the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:27-28) This kind of unholy sexual desire is also what David was experiencing when he saw Bathsheba on a far rooftop and then continued the process that eventually brought them to bed together (2 Sm. 11:2-4). It’s also what the prophets had in mind when they used the word to accuse Israel of their “whoredom” with gods other than YHWH (cf. Ez. 16:36ff, 23:11-17ff, Jr. 2:24ff).
Jesus’ words, quoted above, are the clearest moral statement on the matter to be found in the Bible. Obviously, there is such a thing as temptation which arises, as one author said, “like a hiccup, unchosen and unwanted.” Christ even said in another place that, “temptations are sure to come.” (Lk. 17:1) But in Matthew 5:27-28, he is addressing unrighteous thoughts or fantasies that each person can control—those that indulge in a moment of temptation, choosing to dwell upon what our senses desire even though we know it is unrighteous. That is what Jesus means by looking at someone “...with lustful intent.” (ESV). The unchosen temptation is not inherently sinful; the knowing and willful dwelling upon our desires is. Each of us have to be honest with ourselves and with God about the difference and choose to do what’s right, rather than making excuses for our thought behavior. Especially for those of us who are married, the choice (and it is a choice) to look at or dwell on someone other than our spouse adulterates our faithfulness to him and to his perfect design for marriage. Jesus’ words about “adultery in his heart” should not be taken as an additional exemption for righteous divorce, but they should teach us the seriousness with which we should control our thoughts.
All of this obviously prohibits all Christians—married or single, male or female—from looking at pornography (whether we consider it ‘hard’ or ‘soft’), “checking out” anyone other than your spouse, or allowing our daydreams to circle around an ungodly lust. It should also caution us heavily about watching shows or movies in which characters are dressed such that viewers are provoked to “lustful intent.”
All of this is a matter of keeping our minds and hearts pure for God’s glory. Are we faithful to him in everything, including “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hb. 4:12)?
- Dan Lankford, minister