All things are possible to him who believes; still more to him who hopes; still more to him who loves; and most of all to him who practices all three. All of us who believe as we should and are baptized have taken the first step toward perfection. We will attain perfection if we practice the following principles of Christian conduct.
First of all, we need to be considerate of God in everything we do and say. Our goal should be to become perfect in our adoration of Him throughout this earthly life in preparation for all eternity. We must make a firm resolution to overcome, with God's grace, all the difficulties encountered in a spiritual life.
From the outset of our Christian walk, we should remember who we are and that we are unworthy of the name of Christian, except for what Christ has done for us. In cleansing us from all our impurities, God desires to humble us and often allows us to go through a number of trials or difficulties to that end.
We must believe with certainty that it is both pleasing to God and good for us to sacrifice ourselves for Him. Without this complete submission of our hearts and minds to His will, He cannot work in us to make us perfect.
The more we aspire to be perfect, the more dependent we are on the grace of God. We begin to need His help with every little thing and at every moment, becasue without it we can do nothing. The world, the flesh, and the devil wage a fierce and continuous war on our souls. If we weren't capable of humbly depending on God for assistance, our souls would be dragged down. Although this total dependence may sometimes go against our human nature, God takes great pleasure in it. Learning to do so will bring us rest.
- from The Practice Of The Presence Of God, by Brother Lawrence (c. 1614-1691 AD)
The God of the Bible is the God who sends. He sent Abraham across the East with the imperative, “You will be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2) He sent Elijah, Jeremiah, Haggai and many more prophets to carry “the word of the LORD” to many nations. And he sent the apostles across the known world of the time with the commission that “you will be my witnesses… to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
There are two important lessons to learn from this.
Firstly, that missionary work matters a great deal to God. Church planting, overseas missionary trips, long-term missionary work in foreign cultures, helping brothers & sisters whose basic life needs go unmet… All of these are activities which matter to the God who sends. It was God’s own voice that breathed out request after request for prayer on Paul’s behalf as he stepped into the mission field day after day. He sent visions to his saints in the first century to say “Come over and help us” (Acts 16:9). God has a plan for missional work, and his faithful ones must always be aware of it.
Secondly, all of this demonstrates the great depth of God’s love for the lost. He does not close his eyes to the condemned state of many thousands as though they were unimportant to him. For thousands of years, he has made the initial effort to reach us and save us. And he continues to do the same today. That is why we must teach the lost here in Louisville: we are the ones he has sent to “teach the Gospel to every creature.” And that is why we support those who preach in places where Christianity is sparse or altogether unknown. This is not just our idea of a good deed; it is from the mind of God. So we are grateful for the opportunity to “enter into partnership with [faithful missionaries] in giving and receiving” (Phil. 4:15).
This past week, USA Today published a report titled, Why Having Kids Isn't Necessarily the Best Idea, According to Science. It said, “Being a parent is supposed to be one of life’s great adventures…. But… According to a slew of new research studies, it turns out there are plenty of reasons not to have kids.” According to the report, children are bad for the environment, they affect a mom’s work life in negative ways, they cause strain on adults’ friendships and marriages, and parents are generally less healthy than adults with no children (research shows that parents get less sleep, less exercise, and less quiet time. That much isn’t shocking, is it?).
The last line of the report says, “But for all the reasons not to have kids, there are always a few reasons that make it all worthwhile,” but it does not say what any of those reasons are. And the implication of the whole thing is that “science” tells us that having and raising children is a bad thing.
First of all, should a society which ridicules the Christian sense of what people ought to do really be telling us whether or not we ought to have and raise children? Does this not entirely violate the stated rules of science—to observe the natural world; not to make moral judgments about that world?
Secondly, Christians cannot buy into this as though it had any merit of truth. Our worldview prevents us from seeing this as a valid conclusion. The Psalmist was not just speaking feel-good niceties when he said, “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psa. 127:3). He was speaking the truth from God. Children are a blessing to God’s people, and we would do especially well to remember that in the midst of a culture that sets itself against the well-being of children with perverse practices from the murder of the unborn to poisoning children’s minds with concepts like “gender confusion” to sexualized expectations for youthful girls.
All of it reminds Christians that we have a responsibility toward those who are vulnerable—in this case, children. We have a responsibility to welcome the children whom God has given us in our homes, to defend the unborn, to protect children from the devil’s attacks against their bodies and their minds, and to make sacrifices for their well-being.
In this case (and unfortunately many others), the world’s “science” is completely bogus; the conclusions being drawn carelessly. It is a good thing for parents to have and raise children. In fact, it is very good, as it has been from beginning. “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it...’ And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:28, 31)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:4-8)
Jesus’ recurring notion, “abide in me,” can carry an array of meanings. It can convey the importance of memorizing scripture & biblical wisdom—are we allowing our hearts to abide in the teachings of Jesus? It can reflect on the moral quality of our lives—are we making choices that show we are living in Jesus’ example? Jesus himself will go on the context to remind us of the importance of our relationships—are we godly toward another person because that’s what Jesus would do and we live in him?
In John 15, Jesus finishes the whole section about “abiding” in him with this: “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) For the Christian, there should be no greater joy than that found in Jesus. Can you imagine a scenario in which a king would invite you to live in his house and be part of his family? People dream of things like that—can you imagine the elation you would feel if it actually happened? The offer is already there for you to abide in with the King of kings; the one who eternally sits on David’s throne. You can abide in him and be partaker of all the joys of knowing him and being known by him.
Do you want that kind of joy? The question is: do you live in Jesus?
- Dan Lankford, minister
This week unavoidably places several unpleasant realities on our minds. Floodwaters are still keeping thousands of people out of their homes in Texas, a violent hurricane has battered our Caribbean neighbors and is now a major threat to Florida, and tomorrow is the sixteenth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever in this country.
When the apostle Paul wrote one of his letters to our Corinthian brethren, he listed the major ordeals he’d faced in his lifetime, and then added, “apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:28) Even if his own state of affairs had been good, the weight of what others were facing would have continued to put serious pressure on Paul’s mind. And while we might suppose that he could just ignore those concerns, he was not able to do that. Why? Simply because the well-being of those people mattered to him.
Such should be the case with us this week. It is a struggle to bear the weight of so much concern spread so many directions. It is perhaps an even greater struggle to carry so many concerns to our prayer closet and feel that we have fittingly addressed them all before God. Surely, there is a temptation toward deliberate ignorance—“If I don’t think about it, it’s like it’s not even happening.” But that mentality comes from selfishness—not true concern for the well-being of others. The godly see the better path is to face the facts instead of run from them. And when they do face life’s unpleasant realities, the godly are able to deal with them in light of the assurances of God—the only source of true, lasting comfort.
- Dan Lankford, minister
This week's major news headline is the violence and hatred perpetrated by many in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. It is disturbing to all truly spiritual people to see so much ill will demonstrated in such flagrant fashions. Here are a few thoughts from the word of God that will help us all to keep a clear vision of what has happened.
"The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell... It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." (from Jas. 3:6-12)
"There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers." (Prov. 6:16-19)
"Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Gal. 23-29)
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also... You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:38-39, 43-45)
To this day, when my dad is asked, “What do you want for a Father’s Day gift?,” he will say something like, “It doesn’t have to be a brand new truck, but something in that price range would be fine.” And even while I shake my head at him, I still think it’s funny every year.
Another father says something more attainable and more profound when asked the same question: “Prove that you know me.” That’s it. He wants his wife and kids to demonstrate that they truly know and appreciate him, and to let that be the motivation behind their gifts.
For the Christian, every day is our Father’s day, and we have an opportunity to give him a gift every day. And God’s hopes for gifts from his children are the same as that dad mentioned just above: “prove that you know me.” Inherent within that request: prove that you respect me.
In Malachi 1, the Lord says to his people, “A son honors his father… If then I am a father, where is my honor? ... When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? ... Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.” (Mal. 1:6-10) Does a second-rate gift prove that God’s people know him? That they respect him? The answer is an obvious and resounding, “No.”
When you give a gift to your dad, don’t take my dad’s advice—it doesn’t have to be expensive. But do remember to show dad, by your gift, that you know him—what he appreciates, what he loves, and what he hopes to be in his life. And even more than that, make sure that the gift of your whole life shows that you know all the same things about our Heavenly Father.
- Dan Lankford, minister
While it is arguably the most influential book ever written, the question does linger in many people’s minds: “What if someday, it turns out that the Bible was just put together by a bunch of men somewhere and not by God at all?” Asking this question does not reveal that one is derelict in their spiritual duties or wayward in their faith—it reveals that one is thinking and willing to reason with God (cf. Isa. 1:18).
For the believer, there is a justifiable uneasiness in the thought that the Bible might not be from God. After all, the Bible claims to be both divinely inspired (spoken by God himself) and inerrant (with no flaws or failures). If either of these claims proves false, the credibility of the whole thing is destroyed, and “we are of all people most to be pitied.”
However, there is ample evidence to support belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible. Firstly, the Bible is a unique collection. It was written by approximately forty authors, from three different continents, over a span of 1500 years, and yet it contains a thematic unity “that defies naturalistic explanations.” (Gregory Boyd) Secondly, the Bible’s pages are lined with foretold events which actually proved true. From the prophecies of the Messiah and their miraculously accurate fulfillments to the predictions of progressive world empires which all proved true. Thirdly, the Bible’s historic accuracy continues to stand. Again and again, archaeological evidence corroborates the truth of the Bible’s history, giving credit to the fact that it was not just made up by men, but it is actual truth recorded by someone supremely interested in truth (“let God be true though every one were a liar” Rom. 3:4).
Christians can rest surely that the Bible is in fact the word of God—the only message of salvation in the only one who saves.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Everything that is considered a living thing is inherently designed to grow—all plants, all animals, and all humans. God created life on the premise that it would grow and thrive. And if growth is not present, we are aware that something has gone wrong.
This simple concept gives us all the reason we need to pursue growth, because it is an essential component of true life. When our bodies cease to develop, they begin to regress—we don’t stay stagnant for long. When we fail to challenge our minds and grow our intellects, we have greater difficulties learning. And when we neglect the spiritual growth of a church, it doesn’t take too long for the results of decline to begin to show.
This is why growth must be purposeful at every level. This is why our vision is to Rise Up & Build; not to just sit back and enjoy. This is especially important for those in leadership positions, for no group ever rises above the level of its leadership. For the elders, that means continual improvement in leadership, in Bible knowledge, and in fellowship with the sheep. For the husbands in the church, that means continual growth in our love for our wives, in our concern for their souls, and in our ability to bring the Bible to bear on their lives. For the fathers in the church, that means continual growth in our knowledge of our kids, in our understanding of Biblical parenting, and in our vision for adulthood toward which we lead our kids. For the teachers in our church, that means continual improvement in our bible knowledge continual improvement in our knowledge of the students’ needs, and continual efforts to improve our techniques and content of our classes.
Leadership sets the tone for everything we do, and so if you’re in a position of leadership, set a tone for continual growth! Because growth is inherent in the design of life. For the life of a family, for the life of a church, and for the life of every soul; make sure that you continue to grow so you can lead others to do the same!
- Dan Lankford, minister
Satan tempted Eve to take of the fruit God had forbidden. In response, Eve clearly stated God’s warning: “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” In response to this, the serpent claimed, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” (Gen. 3:3-5)
It is curious that Satan’s first attempt to convince Eve was to undermine a word from God (“you will not surely die”) and his second was to credit a position like God’s (“you will be like God”). These two phrases are at the heart of everything which tempts. Ultimately, we wish to be like the Divine. However, our problem is that we wish this in a way that misunderstands the true nature of the Divine.
In our hopes to be like the divine, we usually seek the unlimited knowledge and the power of words with which Satan taunted Eve. We want to become sovereign over ourselves, our comrades, and our world. But while these might make us like a god, these are not the most important attributes that will make us like YHWH God.
Crucial to our God’s existence is his unadulterated holiness and continual self-sacrifice for the good of others. The cross is the grandest manifestation of this, and it gives us a target to shoot for in our daily living. Again and again, we are given the opportunity to behave in holiness and humility. It is in doing this—not in grasping for our own power—that we will truly be like the one true God.
- Dan Lankford, minister