Sunday Family Report Articles
In this past week’s daily Bible readings, we read large sections of the story of Solomon. It’s a confounding story of what might’ve been: a king who rules God’s people with perfect wisdom but then squanders the chance to fulfill God’s whole plan for the kingdom. He seems to be rising at the same time that he is falling.
One place in the story which embodies this simultaneous rise and fall is in 1 Kings 10:23 thru 11:8. In one breath the writer of 1 Kings says, “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.” This is great news! The king is a voice for God to the Hebrews and all nations! But in the next breath, the writer gives us the foreboding news that Solomon turned back toward Egypt and married many foreign women who turned his heart away from YHWH. And so the whole thing turns out only to be the story of what might’ve been.
Haven’t we seen the same kind of things happen in the lives of people whom we know? Someone becomes a Christian, and their faith seems to take off like a rocket. They are participating in church life, reading the Bible daily, and showing all the signs of total commitment. But then signs of spiritual weakness start to show, and soon their hearts are turned away from YHWH. It’s the same kind of life that Jesus talks about in his parable of a seed that grew up quickly in thin soil and then died out because its roots were weak. All of us need to be reminded: put your faith completely in God. Live by his wisdom. Don’t become a person whose faith might have been great.
One thing that helps God’s kingdom is the blessing of hearing truth spoken by different voices. Some would tout this as a good thing because they believe we should consider all people’s interpretations of Scripture equally valid. I wholeheartedly disagree with that rationale, but I maintain that it’s good for us to hear from various teachers. Here’s why:
No one person is capable of fully plumbing the depths of God’s written word. Therefore, our efforts to dive deeper into Scripture are enhanced when we work together—not to achieve various interpretations, but to achieve a more perfect understanding. I have inevitable blind spots in my search of the Scriptures, meaning that I overlook things—sometimes, important and even obvious ones. This is why I am constantly searching the Scriptures, but it is also why I need others to teach me. The word of God is complete, but my understanding of it will forever be incomplete, and so I need help.
The same is true for all of us. We all need make a regular habit of reading the word, meditating on it, and praying for wisdom from the One who gives to all generously and without reproach (Jas. 1:5). And we need to appreciate the value of hearing what other saints know of God’s will: whether that’s from the pulpit, in conversations over dinner, in Bible class comments, at devotions in our homes, as we talk on the golf course, or wherever. You may be able to teach another, and he or she may be able to teach you. In either case, we are all made better together as we live out the simple, but profound wisdom from Solomon: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Last year, we talked about having the word of God ingrained in our hearts, our minds, and our lives. It has been awhile, so I wanted to remind all of us to continue pursuing and practicing these simple and powerful routines in our lives. Here are the spiritual disciplines that are highly effectual for ingraining Christ’s way into our lives.
- Prayer. When we talk to God, we build our relationship with him. We cast our anxieties on him because he cares for us.
- Self-examination and confession. It’s easy to go through daily life without ever taking stock of our own hearts. Time spent in honest reflection leads to several healthy realizations—some that spark gratitude and others that lead us to confess our failures to God.
- Fasting. Have you ever eaten so much that you felt sluggish? Sometimes, our hearts feel the same. Fasting helps us to put away the indulgences of our souls and focus on what we need most: God.
- Solitude & meditation. There is great soul-restoring value in quality time spent alone with God in deep thought about his things.
- Sacrifice & giving. Make a way to give in some way that blesses others. They benefit, for sure. But the greater benefit is for you, the giver.
- Study. Take your mind deep into God’s word. Ask questions and find your answers. Grapple with tough concepts. Challenge your personal thought processes against the truth of his word. As your mind grows in knowledge, your heart will grow in faithfulness.
All of these help us to pursue what we seek most: God’s righteousness. And when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be filled.
- Dan Lankford, minister
You are finite. You don’t have perfected skills in all areas. You will never have unlimited time. There is always at least some limit to the available money. Your energy is finite—everyone has to rest at some point. And you presence is limited—you can only be in one place at a time.
That makes the math pretty simple: If there is only one you and one me, then neither of us can be everywhere, doing everything all the time. And that’s true even when we want to do some of the good works that God created for us to do. The reality is undeniable: you can’t do everything. You and I are not God.
So is it possible to live life peacefully while knowing that you can’t be all-knowing, all-being, and all-doing—even in the areas where you feel that you should be doing something? Yes. But we have to make some tough choices. We have to prioritize things that are truly important and then let go of the less-important things.
And this is where the tough choices have to be made. Most of us intrinsically know what’s most important to us: our faith in Jesus, our families, and our own well-being. It’s easy to give something a higher priority; it’s harder to be at peace while letting go of the things that should be lower priorities. But that’s what must happen. Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
And when we do that, we can be assured that it will work. And you can have peace of mind when you make choices based on godly priorities… that he is working things out as he knows best. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28)
- Dan Lankford, minister
The Bible is the authoritative source of all God-given doctrine for true disciples. It contains God’s spoken will, including his promises, his story, and his moral directives for life and religion. Therefore, when God speaks on a subject, we must believe his teaching and respect his will as authoritative and unchangeable.
But in the Bible, God does not always speak in black-and-white morality. In fact, there are times when the Holy Spirit says that a particular thing is a matter of each person’s judgment (Romans 14:1-6). And when that is the case, we must have enough faith in God to believe what he says: that another person’s judgment call is acceptable. As one preacher has said:
“Let doctrine be doctrine, and let judgment be judgment. God gave us both.”
What does that mean for us?
Firstly, we need to know the word well enough to tell the difference between matters of doctrine and judgment. That takes a great deal of Christian maturity, which comes from a great deal of prayer and study.
Secondly, it means that our convictions on doctrinal matters must be non-negotiable. This is what we mean when we talk about being “conservative” Christians—that we are people who are firmly committed to what God actually says in the Bible. We believe it.
Thirdly, it means that where God has allowed someone to make a judgment call, we should be willing to do the same. To do anything else denies that God’s word is, itself, fully sufficient to accomplish his will.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Why do you do the right thing? On the occasions when you go out of your way to help someone, or when you consciously choose to resist temptation do what God commands, or when you give a gift… What’s your reason? Do you seek a reward? Do you want to be repaid? Do you hope for notoriety? Are you trying to increase your influence and hold sway over others for some later purposes?
Or do you ever just do the right thing because it’s the right thing?
For Christians, it’s obvious that this is the best tack for all of us to take. Jesus often condemned those who do spiritual things just for the praise, reward, or payment that it might bring them. He said of some of those people that while they may receive glory from men, that’s the only reward they will get—they won’t be rewarded by God in Heaven (Mt. 6:1). In another place, he reminded us that our attitude should be that of a diligent servant who works hard for his master, expecting no praise in return. “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Lk. 17:10)
The church throughout history has been made up of plenty of people who have, in fact, done great acts of service for others without expecting to be noticed or praised. We know the names of some, but just by virtue of their thinking and acting this way, there must be thousands more of whom history has no memory. And yet, the world is a better place because of their godliness. Thank God for that kind of heart.
Do the right thing for the sake of the right thing, even if you do it in secret. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Mt. 6:4, 6:6, 6:18)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Do you ever find yourself in an argument with your spouse, a coworker, or a fellow church member and realize that you’re arguing with a person from long ago instead of the person sitting in front of you? I do this sometimes, and it’s a habit that I’m trying to break. When someone starts to sound like another person that I’ve disagreed with in the past, I reflexively start treating them like the other person—not fully listening, but rather just assuming I know what they’ll say. That inevitably results in us both talking past each other and neither of us talking to each other.
Maybe you’ve experienced something similar. Do you think there is something we could all do to improve our communication skills and overcome these tendencies?
The answer comes in the form of one word, two Bible verses, and one piece of advice that’s become a bit cliche, but still goes a long way if we’re willing to put it to work.
The one word: listen. Listen intently and patiently and selflessly. Listen to the person’s words without judging any underlying motives. Listen with empathy; treat the other person as a person, not just a side to an argument. Listen for a way to reach agreement; not just for a way to “win.”
The first Bible verse: Proverbs 18:2. “A fool takes no pleasure in under-standing, but only in expressing his opinion.”
The second Bible verse: James 1:19. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…”
And the cliche piece of advice that still really goes a long way: “Seek first to understand; then to be understood.”
- Dan Lankford, minister (*personal note: this is an especially good reminder for me as a father who needs to listen more to his kids, which is why it was posted on Father's Day, 2019*)
Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone, if he listens you have gained your brother”. When it comes to our Christian walk, we must always be willing to forgive so that when we bring our gifts to the altar they are accepted by God. There is a quote that says, “Forgive others as quickly as you expect God to forgive you”. Matthew 5:21-24 reads, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, “ You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement; But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, you fool! Will be liable to the hell of fire. God addresses the one offended and the one doing the offending and the judgement seems to escalate for each offense. For the first offense judgment, the second offense liable to the council and the third offense liable to the fire of hell. Each of these offenses are serious to God and each has its consequences. Sometimes we make unintentional offenses and other times the intent is quite clear. Whatever the reason for an offense the bible tells us in Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense”. As believers we should be ready to give others the benefit of the doubt which is a legal term that means if a jury has conflicting evidence that makes the jurors doubtful, they are to give a verdict of “not guilty”. Is benefit of the doubt our first thought when we are offended? If not, try replacing offended with love and see if forgiveness steps up to replace it. 1 Corinthians 13:7 reads, “Love bears all thing, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.
- Kristopher Sanders, minister
When a couple is expecting a baby (my wife is due to deliver our third son tomorrow, so you can guess what’s on my mind), they live their lives with a different outlook as the delivery gets closer and closer. They still go to work or classes or the gym, they still spend time with their friends, and they maintain most of the same routines as usual. But there is a constant awareness that their whole modus operandi may be dropped at a moment’s notice when it’s time for the baby to come. They spend their waking and working hours knowing that it all might be interrupted soon for them to meet someone they’ve been looking forward to meeting for awhile.
In that outlook, there is a healthy example for how we think about the Lord’s return at the judgment day. It helps to understand the continuation of daily life (Jesus prayed: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world” [John 17:15]), and it helps us think rightly about that final day, when God’s people—even those who are asleep—will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). Just like a couple anxiously looks forward to the day when they happily drop everything and go be meet the person they have longed to meet for awhile, Christians anxiously look forward to dropping everything and meeting the Lord, whom we and our fellow saints have looked forward to seeing face-to-face for centuries.
Does that mean we are living in limbo? Yes, to some extent. And we are doing so deliberately. Our feet are firmly planted on the soil of the earth, but our hope is anchored in Heaven, from which we await the return of our Savior and King, Jesus of Nazareth.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The mirror is considered to be one of the greatest inventions ever. While its uses are many, the primary use or function is to aid a person in seeing their physical reflection. Whatever stands before it is reflected, nothing more or less. In the physical sense it’s the ultimate revealer. I was out and about the other day and noticed mirrors everywhere. I then began to realize how convenient it is for people to stop and make immediate fixes to their appearance by simply taking the time to review their reflection in a mirror. While the mirror’s convenience is great, the one function that has eluded it, is its ability to reveal the inner workings of a person’s heart.
The bible records in Hebrews 4:12-13 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”. For the Christian our mirror is the word of God, and while a physical mirror reveals what the outward man looks like, the spiritual mirror, the word of God discerns the thoughts and intentions of every heart.
In God’s mirror we can see a true reflection of who we are because we are completely exposed. One mirror feeds the outer man while the other feeds the inner man. Church family let us continue to stay in the word of God and be doers of his word by making corrections or adjustments when needed. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:23-24). Amen
- Kristopher Sanders, minister