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Christians Are The Church of the Present – Not The Future Or The Past

Sunday, July 19, 2015

When a person becomes a Christian, the Bible says that person is added to the church. In Acts 2, the Lord was adding people to the church daily (Acts 2:47). Once they came to be in Christ, they were naturally added to the group of people who are in Christ. This point might seem so simple as to almost be superfluous, but I believe we may have missed one important aspect of it.

At special events—youth lectures, Bible camps, vacation bible schools, and others—young Christians are sometimes told that they are the future of the church. This is—they are told—the reason they must soon begin to take their faith responsibilities seriously.

But, if we assume the young Christians are the future of the church who will soon take their faith seriously, should we also assume that elderly Christians are the past of the church who no longer need to take their faith responsibilities seriously?

Neither of these ideas can be supported biblically. When the Lord added people to the church daily, some of them may have been in their younger years, and yet they were added to the church like everyone else. Some of them may have been well into their older years, and yet they were added to the church like everyone else. In both cases, they were called God’s people regardless of their age. And they all had responsibilities toward Jesus.

Let’s be sure that our church is a church at work. Not just that a certain segment of our church is at work, but that Christ is living and active in all of us. We might have different abilities at different stages of life, but the work of taking the light to the world must be shared by people of all ages. If a person is in Christ, his or her responsibilities to serve the Lord matter in the present—not just in the future or in the past. If you are a young Christian, you are a Christian now, and you must behave like one. If you are an older Christian, you are a Christian now, and you must behave like one. Christ’s church exists in the present. Let’s not put our service for him just in the future or just the past.

- Dan Lankford

What If God Is Thinking, "That's What I Said!"?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

If you grew up in the south, chances are that you could finish the line written above. “That’s what I said, Bunny Bread!” Grammatically, the jingle doesn’t make much sense, but I admit that I still sing it (often aloud) every time I see one of their trucks or notice their logo on the wall at Cracker Barrel. My wife laughs at me for singing something so silly, but she laughs at me for a lot of things too... I'm getting used to it.

I bring it up because I imagine there must be times when God looks down upon our lives and our hearts and thinks, “That’s what I said!” Sometimes, we talk or read so much about God’s word that we forget to look at God’s word. One popular evangelical preacher taught in a sermon that baptism saves us, and he was bombarded with questions from his church about why he would teach something so seemingly un-spiritual. His answer: “Did you read your Bible? That’s what God said!”

It is crucial for Christians to be deeply aware of what God says in his word. And it is crucial for Christians to simple take God at his word. In Jesus’ mountain message, he said, “When you give to the poor…” Our tendency is often to ask questions like, “When should I give? How much? When should I stop? How do I know when giving becomes enabling?” But then we see someone being a cheerful giver and giving to the poor, and we think, “I should do that more.” And all the while, God has been looking from heaven and thinking, “That’s what I said!”

Let’s be especially mindful of what God says on a topic and not just what we think it means. What does God say about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11? What does God say about giving in 1 Corinthians 16? What does God say about the death of his saints in 1 Thessalonians 4? What does God say about how to become saved? What does God say about loving our brethren?

We cannot accurately talk about the meaning of Scripture until we know the actual content of Scripture. “…give attention to reading…” (1 Tim. 4:13).

- Dan Lankford

A Warning: Do Not Quarrel On The Way

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Then he sent them on their way, and as they departed, he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel on the way.’”  (Gen. 45:25, ESV)

That simple admonition Joseph gave to his brothers is an appropriate warning to any group of people on a journey together. Bands who tour together often break up when they quarrel on the way. Sports teams often struggle on the field when the quarrel on the road between games. And military troops who are not at peace with each other in their journey often find an extra element of danger in combat because of their lack of unity.

But God’s people are perhaps the greatest example of this. Jesus said that we will be known as disciples because we love each other. But the Holy Spirit later spoke to a church who was not living that principle. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you… for it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you” (1 Cor. 1:10-11).

Satan is the master of dividing and conquering. He hunts like a ravenous lion—isolating the sick and weak for an easier kill. He creates dissidence, discord, and distance between us. And soon, individual members begin to separate from the group, walking directly into his clutches.

Joseph’s instruction to his brothers was more than a passing farewell. It embodied a grand principle which would keep them safe on the journey back to their father in the promised land. There is safety in numbers.

As God’s people, we are travelers. The holy scriptures remind us that we are strangers on this earth. Our home is with our Father in the promised land of rest. Let’s heed the warning of Joseph—the warning that Jesus echoed when he taught us to love one another. Let us do our very best to live at peace with our brothers and sisters. Let us be sure that as we make this journey toward God’s presence, that we do not quarrel on the way.

- Dan Lankford

The Songs Of My Mother

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Many musicians have noted the importance of a mother’s voice in their formative years. While a woman may have no formal training in music, she can instill a love for learning and music in her children just by acclimatizing them to her songs. It is my opinion that my mother’s singing—which she did for me in abundance—is largely responsible for my love of music and my love of the Lord to this day. Day by day, I heard what was important to her— the joy of singing and the joy of singing to the Lord.

Hannah—one of the great women and great mothers of the Bible—is also connected with song. When God blesses her with a son after an emotional road to motherhood, she pens the following:

My heart exults in the Lord;
My strength is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.
There is none holy like the Lord;
there is no besides you;
there is no rock like our God. (1 Sam. 2:1-2)

The Bible doesn’t give us any indication that Samuel heard his mother’s song. But later in the same book, he says, “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your hear. For consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Sam. 12:24). Whether or not Samuel was directly influenced by the song of his mother, he grew into a faith that expressed the same kind of praise and passion for the God about whom she sang.

Moms, can I encourage you to share what’s important to you with your kids—even with your grown children? Share the joy of knowing the Lord. Be the kind of woman in whom they can see and hear a genuine passion for God. Be the kind of mother whose life personifies a song of praise to him.

- Dan Lankford

God Is Alive, And So Is The Faith!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

In the 1920’s, a British publishing group called “The Thinker’s Library” produced a number of essays and magazines supporting two ideas. Firstly, they entirely backed Charles Darwin’s theories of macro evolution. Simultaneously, many of the same writers spoke of the racial supremacy of Western Culture and Westerners because we were supposed to be “more evolved” than other cultures. Those ideas of racial superiority fed the Holocaust mentality, even though there was no real science to back them up. The views were bogus and harmful to humanity in the long run, even though they were held by the prevailing intellectuals of the day.

One modern writer recently pointed out that those atheistic philosophies aimed to show that the secular West is the model for a universal civilization, and atheism is doing something similar today. They are simply using different vehicles. Where the ideas of evolutionary secularism used to give cause for extolling the sins of racial prejudice and mass murder, the same ideas are used today to extoll the sins of homosexual behavior and many other perversions of the God-ordained family order.

What does it mean for Christians? Among many other things, it means that Christianity is not dying! It means that God is alive, and so is the faith! While the philosophies of the world come and go, Christianity continues to stand on the same principles upon which it was founded. Where other religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam—morph over time because they must necessarily adjust their core values to the needs of their people, Christianity continues to change people because we must necessarily conform to the core values of holiness.

It is important that Christians realize this. As the world’s voices grow louder and more adamant that secular, human-focused thought is the only right way to live, Christians may stand with a quiet confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Gamaliel, a Jewish rabbi in the time of Paul, once spoke up for the apostles. Their lives were being threatened for teaching about Jesus. And while he might have been on the wrong side of understanding the situation, he wisely gave this prophecy about Christianity: “…if this plan is the undertaking of man, it will fail. But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrown them. You might even be found to be opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39, ESV).

Have no fear, brothers and sisters! Our God cannot be overthrown by mankind! No worldly philosophies, no Supreme Court rulings, and no level of immorality on TV can stop the power of the risen Savior! People may leave the Lord, but the Lord will not leave his people. Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his plan. Let us view the world’s attacks with the confidence that for all the changes of life, God is alive! And so is the faith!

- Dan Lankford

Synthetic Or Organic God?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

A lot has been said about the vast differences between synthetic and organic foods. There are ongoing debates about which is better: is it the stuff that goes through man-made processes and manufacturing or the stuff that’s delivered to the table basically like God made it? I don’t want to discuss that here, but I do think the question is a good one to ask about God himself.

Do we want a god who has been manufactured and processed? Or do we want the natural, organic God; the God who is unaffected by human reasoning, processing, and reshaping?

The problem of changing God is more fundamental than one might think. In Romans 1, while the apostle Paul does attribute many problems of sensuous people to their behavior, he points out that their most fundamental mistake was exchanging the glory of the immortal God for an image (Rom. 1:23). This mistake—this simple attempt which could have easily started as an attempt to “make God more accessible”—led to a host of other problems. He goes on to say they were filled with “all manner of unrighteousness” simply because they had refused the real God and accepted a synthetic god instead.

This is why idolatry is such a problem for God’s people today. We tend to think of it as a problem native to primitive cultures with statues in their homes and shrines. But the problem is not just to do with statues—it is a problem of rewriting our picture of God. When we say, “I can’t believe in a God who would send someone to hell,” we have replaced the true God with an idol. When we say, “I can’t believe in a God who would ask me to…”, we have replaced the true God with an idol. The problem is as simple as the difference between the organic God and a synthetic reproduction of him.

Let’s make sure that we know the real God. Not just the god our parents taught us, the god our church leaders talk about, or the god we hear about in religious books. Let’s get to know the organic, original God of the Bible.

- Dan Lankford

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