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A Church Marked "FRAGILE"

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not 
revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, 
you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates 
of hell shall not prevail against it.

(Matt. 16:17-18)

It seems that some Christians think of Christ’s church as a very fragile thing. It’s not unusual to hear Christians talk about cultural shifts as though they will be the undoing of Christianity (for example: “We’re going to lose the next generation of Christians because of all this mess about homosexuality and transgender they hear about in the culture”). And it’s not unusual to hear Christians talk about changes within a congregation in fearful terms rather than faithful ones (for example: “We’re thinking about appointing new elders, and I hope it doesn’t cause a big argument or a split”). Obviously, we want to pray about potential challenges and prepare ourselves to face them, but we want to do that from a perspective of faith that God will help us, not fear that he will abandon us.

So let’s not be too anxious about things that threaten to derail or destroy the church. It is certain that the gates of hell will press against the church from outside and inside. Cultural challenges will come, and unpleasant changes may happen in the church. But let’s not be as anxious about what we will lose as we are confident in what God has promised to give. Challenges may come, but the church is not fragile as long as she truly puts her faith in the power and promise of God.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Making The Best Use Of 2018

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Today is September 2. That means that two-thirds of 2018 is already gone. This is the time of the year that most of us start asking, “Where did the time go?” With that in mind, maybe this is a good occasion to take stock of what you’re doing with your time right now and what you intend to make of the rest of the year.

The apostle Paul said, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16) The verses around that encouragement tell us how.

  • First, he says, “don’t be foolish, but understand the will of the Lord” (v. 17). This reminds us of the high priority that Bible study and prayer should have. They help us understand God’s will for our lives.
  • In the next verse, he says, “don’t get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” This, too, reminds us that the best use of our time involves filling our minds with the things of God. And one good way to do that: sing songs of the faith (v. 19).
  • In verse 20, he says, “give thanks always and for everything in Jesus’ name.” While it might not sound like what we typically think of as time management, it is hard to imagine something more valuable to the mind and heart than a period of introspective gratitude.

You can make the most of your days by putting these practices of the soul to work in your life. They will sharpen your mind, soften your heart, and enhance your time in some truly powerful ways.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Evolution & Common Human Decency

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The fundamental belief of an evolution-based worldview is: nothing can happen outside the realm of natural processes. Whatever phenomena may exist, the belief is that they are explainable purely through chemical and physical means. We call this a naturalistic belief because it insists exclusively on explanations from the natural world and deliberately precludes the possibility of anything that transcends nature’s usual patterns.

The problem with that worldview is that it does not leave any room for common human morality. If a person has any sense of what another person ought to do, he has gone beyond the limits of naturalism. Chemical processes are, by definition, a-moral (neither right nor wrong). If all things come only from physical processes like gravity, electricity, and chemistry, then when asked, “What is wrong with stealing? With premeditated killing? With assault on innocent or defenseless humans?” the naturalist can give no logical answer.

In contrast to that system, one of the fundamental beliefs of the Biblical worldview is this: one supernatural being, a God named YHWH, created and sustains all life. And among all living things, mankind is uniquely made in the image of YHWH. And one of the necessary conclusions of that belief is that some things are categorically right or wrong. There are major moral implications. There is a need for common human decency. And only the Biblical worldview can teach us the most comprehensively good way to live that out.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Why Grown-Ups Need To Know Our Bible Stories

Sunday, August 12, 2018

In our daily Bible reading program, we're marching through the Psalms. this past week’s group of psalms reminded us of the Israelites’ story with God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called these “Psalms of Holy History,” and with good reason. The reminders about God’s deliverance from Egypt, about all the times he answered their cries during Judges, and about his marvelous abundance poured out in Solomon’s time should have reminded the people of their dependence on the one true and holy God—Yahweh. Indeed, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4)

All Christians need a working knowledge of Bible stories, because we need the same reminders. One of God’s frequent criticisms of his people during the time of the prophets was, “You have forgotten me” (Isa. 17:10, Isa. 51:13, Jer. 13:25, Jer. 44:9, Ezek. 22:12, Ezek. 22:35, Hosea 4:6). It wasn’t that they had forgotten that God exists, but that they had forgotten the many stories that manifest his goodness and faithfulness to them in the past. And since they forgot the stories of the past, they neglected to trust him in the present.

On one occasion when the disciples forgot to bring any bread on a journey with Jesus, they were afraid that he would be angry with them. But Jesus asked, “Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand…?” (Matt. 16:9)  They and all generations of believers need to remember that God has shown himself trustworthy and good. We must remember our Bible stories because they remind us that we can trust God today with anything and everything that matters.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Roll With The Punches

Sunday, August 05, 2018

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before 
its shearers is silent, so he opens not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they 
know not what they do.’” (Luke 23:34)

“Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on 
the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)


“Roll with the punches.” That phrase comes from the realm of boxing, where competitors are taught to pull their bodies in the direction that an opponent’s punch is thrown in order to lessen the blow and therefore allow the fighter to endure a little longer.

While Jesus does not use that same imagery, he does give us some related encouragement to endure the blows that life will inevitably deliver. In the verses above, the Holy Spirit encourages us to press on in a life of faith even when you must suffer. Obviously, these verses are meant to encourage Christians in the toughest times: when you or your loved ones are threatened, attacked, or killed for believing in Jesus. But if we are being encouraged to roll on through the punches in those hard times, how much more should we endure our smaller sleights and struggles? Can’t we learn to “roll with it” sometimes?

My encouragement to you is this: Don’t take too many things personally. Find peace in forgiving others. And when life delivers a hard blow: roll with the punch, admit that it hurt, and keep on fighting the good fight.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Conversion Changes What You Want

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Consider Paul’s words about the human heart before and after Christ: “ have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:21-24)

When our lives are transformed—which we often call ‘converted’—by Christ, a change takes place at the core level of existence: the heart. This is why we must always recognize the difference between a person’s need for conversion and his need to “learn the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). We need true conversion; not just moral improvement.

Look again at Paul’s words. Do you see the contrast between “deceitful desires” and “renewed in the spirit of your minds”? Conversion means more than living a better moral life; it means changing what we want. Does that mean that we will no longer be tempted? Of course not. But it does mean that we no longer dwell on those desires—the ones that corrupted our lives and robbed us of salvation and joy in God.

For those of us in Christ, our prayer should be that God would transform our minds, that he would make us altogether new people, and that our desires for that which is holy will grow ever stronger. I pray that every person who names Christ is truly converted to be a Christian at every level, down to a change in the heart.

- Dan Lankford, minister

A Very Dramatic Rescue

Sunday, July 15, 2018

This story is truly astonishing: in Thailand, a team of teenaged soccer players went for a hike in a cave they visit often, and a flash flood trapped them and their coach on a narrow ledge with nothing but the clothes on their backs. With incredibly diligent search efforts, it took 10 days for divers to find them. Once they were found, they were given flashlights, food, and letters from their families who were anxiously waiting outside the caves. After four more days, all of them were rescued by a complicated and very risky underwater extraction plan. They are in hospitals recovering, and all are going to be completely fine.

The story is compelling even if its details are told in a dry, facts-only way. It is dramatic, it is heroic, and it is so joyful!
It was interesting to note that news reports about the rescue efforts repeatedly emphasized the boys’ needs and how they were met: the first divers who found them gave them lights. Then they brought them oxygen so they could breathe. Then the rescuers brought them food. Then they brought them letters from family members.

And as reporters kept repeating those four things—light, breath, food, and family—I couldn’t help but see parallels to God’s plan of salvation. God came to us when we were stuck in darkness, and he brought us light (John 1:1-14). He brought us breath—the same Greek word which is translated “Spirit” in many places (Acts 2:38). He has told us about a family of people who care about us and wait to welcome us after our rescue (Eph. 2:19-22). And he has brought us food to sustain our souls eternally, calling himself “the bread of life” (6:48).

I don’t mean to sound like I think the events in Thailand these past few weeks were somehow orchestrated to demonstrate God’s plan of saving mankind. But if you thought that story was dramatic and joyful, how much more should God’s salvation of humanity excite us and fill us with joy? It is astonishing to fully realize how lost we are without him. And yet, it is even more astonishing to realize the herculean efforts which God himself has put forth to save each and every person. “you are… a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

- Dan Lankford, minister 


*one additional parallel realized after initial publishing: the rescued boys were brought safely through water—an exciting parallel to 1 Peter 3:18-22*

Staying 'Live' In A Virtual World

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Whether it is a computer, a phone, an iPad, or a TV; the average person spends several hours per day either working or playing in the realm of digitized information. Is this is a bad thing? Is it a good thing? In reality, all digital devices are amoral—neither right nor wrong. What matters is who we use them. So consider a few admonitions:

  • Don’t allow yourself to be distracted from what’s important in front of you by what is happening through the screen world. There are times when work and social connection can and should be made to wait.
  • Don’t believe someone who uses a lot of technology has automatically disconnected. Sometimes, a phone call or text or FaceTime is the most authentic connection available, and it’s a good thing we can have that.
  • It’s important to connect directly and deeply. Especially among Christians, we need to be able to talk about the ins and outs of life, even when that is personal and painful. Of course, we must balance that with the Bible’s warning not to be a busybody (2 Thess. 3:11), but we do need to be able to connect enough to share in matters of faith.
  • Be honest about how you are approaching your relationships. Are you texting because it’s too uncomfortable to talk face-to-face? Then you probably need to talk in person. Are you using time on Facebook to fill the void of loneliness in your marriage? Then put it down and talk to your spouse. Does Instagram help you gain a sense of self-worth? Go read about God’s love for you and see your worth in that.

Stay live. Always care for people. Make the most of the time (Eph. 5:19).

- Dan Lankford, minister

Success, Rest, & Reward For Their Labor

Sunday, July 01, 2018

In John chapter twenty-one, Peter and six other disciples are fishing on the sea of Galilee. When the sun comes up, they see the resurrected Jesus waiting for them on the shore. When they all arrive on land, they find that Jesus has already kindled a fire and made breakfast for them.

The whole scene is very sweet, especially in its place at the end of the Gospel story. After all that has happened to Jesus himself and to his disciples through their years of traveling and ministering together, and after all the times they have faced opposition and rejection together, the Lord affords them the tranquility of breakfast and a rest from their diligent labor.

That occasion fits seamlessly into a pattern that Jesus sets in plenty of other places in the Gospels. He frequently talks about giving rest to his people, and he gives them rest in many ways. It is one of his most famous promises to all generations: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

That promise is a major part of the Gospel message, and obviously, it is a much more significant gift than the breakfast prepared and served to the apostles. But, small as it is, that meal teaches us that Jesus cares about us when we are tired, when we feel aimless, and when we need repose. And if we are looking for him, he is always willing to meet us where we are with just the right offer of splendid, sweet rest.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Champions by God’s Power

Sunday, June 24, 2018

VBS starts today, and it is an exciting week for learning Bible stories in fresh, exciting, and memorable ways. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year for our church family because I like seeing the joy that it brings kids and grown-ups to worship and learning the stories of God’s plan to save us.

This year’s theme—Circle Of Champions—gives us a chance to look at people who did more than they could ever have accomplished on their own. David wasn’t strong enough to overcome Goliath on his own, Joseph didn’t get out of prison by his own smarts, and Daniels’ friends didn’t live through the fiery furnace because of a superhero ability to withstand flames. All of this week’s stories are about people who did something truly great, but they did it by God’s power.

That’s why we’re studying these stories: to remind us that through God’s power, amazing things still happen in the lives of his people. I hope your goal is to live a life that could put you among the greats of Hebrews chapter 11. Because “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” and our goal should be to follow their examples.

All the characteristics of champions that we’ll talk about this week—a champion’s courage, or obedience, or endurance, or relationships, or joy—come down to whether we believe in God. The important thing is to remember that while we may be able to stand as champions with the great heroes of the Bible, it will be because of the great power of Jesus Christ. “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered!” (Rev. 5:5)

- Dan Lankford, minister

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