Can I give you some good advice? Don’t get yourself under too much debt… it’ll really cost you in the long run. Carry a pocket knife every day. And when you have the right of way, take it (this one might or might not be a personal pet peeve).
Now, can I give you some good news? There’s a Savior—Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by many signs and wonders—who gave himself to redeem you from sin, who rose from the grave to set you free from death, and who will guide and strengthen you to live a greater life than you ever could have on your own.
That's the gospel. That's the message we want to share with the lost. That's the message that changed the world. That's the way to the Father. Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Last Monday's Courier Journal (Louisville's local paper) included a story (you can click here to find it in the Indianapolis Star) about a woman in her 50's, named Kim, who had been adopted to the U.S. as a toddler from a South Korean orphanage. You really should click the link and read the story, because it's a great one. But here's the short version:
When she was 5, little Kim got separated from her family in a crowded Seoul marketplace. With no birth certificate and no way to reconnect with her parents, the police assumed she was an orphan (there were many of those during that time; it was the Korean War era) and sent her to an orphanage. A family from Ohio adopted her, and she lived in the States her whole life since then. But then, in 2018, she took a trip to South Korea and a DNA test reconnected her with her birth parents—now in their 80's—who had continued to look for her all those years, never giving up hope that they would be reunited.
The story is touching, and for Christians, it has some really wonderful parallels to the hope that we have in an eternal Father God who never stops looking for his lost children.
The story adds a small ripple to Jesus' story about a lost son who was found. That son wandered away deliberately, and yet his father apparently never gave up hope that he would return. But in the story from South Korea, a child found herself separated from her parents by accident—through innocent ignorance, wandering away from them because she knew no better. And I think there must be a parallel in that to God's story as well: that there are those who are away from him and know no better (notice how many times the apostles talk about the "ignorance" of unbelievers). But God does not give up hope for them (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). And that reminds us of two things:
1) That would should be grateful that we serve a good God who doesn't give up, who continues to invite his wayward children to himself, and who is always willing to grant repentance and forgiveness through the power of Jesus Christ. He is a truly good God.
2) That we should continue to teach lost people about Jesus. They need him. They need to be reconciled to their father. Many are like the lady in the story: they know little-to-nothing about the Father they are looking for, but their hearts have a void that longs to be filled with knowing Him. Let's do our part to bring God's lost children back to their Father who has never given up on them, no matter how long they've been lost.
- Dan Lankford, minister
This week, we're reading the story of the flood that God sent to cleanse the earth. Here are a few stand-out ideas to look for as you read that story:
- The depths of human depravity are astounding. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul described sin's deep consequences, and we can look around at pockets of our world where sin has been allowed to take a firm hold. But we ought to be thankful that we do not live in a world that is so completely engulfed in it as Noah did. There are imperfect, but good people around us, and we ought to thank God for them.
- The salvation of Noah and his family from that depraved world was a masterful plan by the Master of Heaven and Earth. When the scale of destruction was so massive, it is remarkable to think that God took notice of one man and his family and gave them the gift of new life. It reminds us that he really does love us—pitiful as we are—and that he has made salvation available to us again and again throughout time.
- God's power through water is nothing short of awesome. In the flood story, he uses it to destroy evil, to cleanse the earth, to purify humanity, to save the faithful, and to restore life. All at the same time. And that power correlates very strongly to the way that God uses water to simultaneously accomplish several things in our lives at the moment of baptism (cf. 1 Peter 3:18-21). It just reminds us again of God's amazing grace toward those who believe.
As you read the story, keep your eyes firmly fixed on what God is doing. Tremble at his power and wrath, and worship him for his glorious grace.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
For I will not contend forever,
nor will I always be angry;
for the spirit would grow faint before me,
and the breath of life that I made.
Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
creating the fruit of the lips.
Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord,
“and I will heal him."
- Isaiah 57:15-19, ESV
Whenever I get the opportunity to baptize someone into Jesus Christ, my emotions are all over the map. It's a combination of sincere, heart-deep joy and panicky, clammy-handed nervousness. Here's why:
In the past, a big part of my nervousness has been over petty stuff. I get nervous about sounding silly or looking silly. Admittedly, I have an ongoing fear that I'm going to drop somebody in the water. Irrational and silly? Yes. But true? Unfortunately, yes.
But in my better moments, when all of that is gone, rather than fading, the disquiet is often even stronger. My heart races and my hands often tremble as I realize the gravity of what is happening at that moment:
- I'm witnessing the moment that God saves someone's soul from Hell.
- I'm seeing the moment that God transforms someone's heart.
- I get to be a spectator to death of the old life and resurrection to new life in Jesus.
- I'm witnessing God's forgiveness of a lifetime of sin.
- I'm watching as God fulfills so many of his promises at once.
- I'm right there as God breathes life into a person's soul like he did to the first man he created.
- I'm seeing a testimony to the fact that the Devil has been defeated.
- And I'm rejoicing with the angels that one more sinner has repented.
And as all of that starts to sink, the thought that is always in my mind is, "How do I say something that even comes close to describing this marvelous reality? How do I communicate how astoundingly powerful God has made this moment?" I know what I usually say. And I know what I will probably say in the future. But I also know that those words fall far short of the real significance of the moment.
So, until the power and splendor of baptism into Jesus Christ fades from the scope of reality, I guess I will have to continue being nervous.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In the midst of his grander point in one of Sunday's lessons, I found a great deal of wisdom in one of brother Tack's short asides. Here's a quick reminder of his point and then a reflection on it from me:
To deviate to the right side of the path of faithfulness to God is to wander into legalism; the belief that you must be good enough to redeem yourself from sin and its consequences. And to deviate to the left side of the path of faithfulness to God is to wander into libertine religion; the belief that God's grace will freely cover even the sins we commit willingly—that we should continue in sin so that grace may abound.
Of course, neither of these is the God-given, Biblical path to redemption, and the reason they both fall short is a fundamental truth that both of them misunderstand in the same way.
What do both liberalism and legalism have in common? They both underestimate the horror of sin. Legalism purports that sin's contaminating power is small enough that I have the power to overcome it on my own. Liberalism imagines that sin is not really all that bad in the first place, so its consequences toward us are negligible. Both misunderstand the compulsory life-debt incurred by sin and imagine that it is something small.
Which leads to the other problem with both deviations from Biblical truth: by downplaying the gravity of sin, both erroneous philosophies trivialize the grace of God. It's either not necessary at all (the legalist), or it is just a cheap band-aid for a petty problem (the libertine). Neither is the case when we look at what the apostle Paul says about the grace of God.
"...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith." (Rom. 3:23-25)
- Dan Lankford, minister
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 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
The following thoughts were presented by one of our senior brothers to draw our minds to the cross before the Lord's Supper this past Sunday morning. They are shared here for their excellent quality of thought.
"Then he said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.' He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:34-36)
I am sure that most of us can, in some small way, indentify with what Jesus was feeling. We have fallen to our knees in agony, praying to God, "Hear my prayer," or "You can do anything," or "take away this pain," or "lift this terrible burden."
Maybe we weren't even asking on our own behalf. Perhaps we were praying for a loved one, or a dear friend, or a child, or a companion or a parent. The fact that we were praying for another person hardly made the anguish any easier to bear. We may even have begged, "Father, if someone has to bear this burden, let it be me. Take it from that person and let it be me who bears it."
Usually, it is a great comfort knowing that God is almighty. But there are moments when that knowledges adds to the agony. "All things are possible for you." The question isn't "if God?" But "will God?" And that leads us to ask, "why God?" If God can, then why doesn't he?
This question has been a major stumbling block for those who do not believe. If God can end suffering, why doesn't he? If he is all-powerful, why doesn't he stop tragedy, or feed the hungry, or do something about cancer or aids? Why must men drink so deeply and so often from the cup of pain and suffering? I DON'T KNOW.
But we do know that at one great moment in history, the Son of God came to earth to take the world's burden upon himself. We know that he fell to the ground beside us in Gethsemane, bearing the pangs of impending doom and death in his heart. We know this Lamb of God wrestled in agony, despising the shame that loomed ahead, crying, "Abba, Father! All things are possible for you; remove this cup from me."
Above all this, we know that Jesus uttered his prayer in unwavering trust in the Father's will: he said, "YET NOT WHAT I WILL BUT WHAT YOU WILL."
His faith could hear a promised of glory despite the awful silence of God that weighed so heavily in the garden. His faith enabled Jesus to see beyond the grave to the joy set before him. And because of this, we know that when we fall to the ground in our Gethsemane, WE ARE NOT ALONE BUT HE IS THERE WITH US. Having overcome death, he sits at the Father's right hand making intercession for us.
- Jim Largen
Consider the following excerpts from Psa. 109 as if written from the perspective of Jesus on the night of his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion:
“For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.”
Consider these words as if they were a prayer against Judas Iscariot for his betrayal of Jesus:
“Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! May his days be few; may another take his office! May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil! May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation! For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted, to put them to death. He clothed himself with cursing as his coat; may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones!”
Finally, consider these words as if they were from Jesus’ eternal perspective on the cross—knowing that the Lord’s will is being done in spite of the appearance of evil’s predominance:
“Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it! Let them curse, but you will bless! They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad! May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak!”
These words, penned by King David over 700 years before Christ and Judas, give a clear understanding of God’s perspective on both good and evil. He always watches over his holy One and his saints. And, in His time, he will always punish evil.
- Dan Lankford