Sunday Family Report Articles
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
In various times and in various places, it has been vogue to rebuff the very idea of “doctrine.” Claims are made that to emphasize doctrine is to inherently neglect a proper emphasis on Christ’s love and sacrifice. While of course this kind of neglect can happen, it is not an inherent outcome of a focus on doctrine. In fact, a proper focus on doctrine must also include an emphasis on Christ’s love and sacrifice.
This is illustrated by one verse from Titus. Paul warns Titus that while he is Crete’s preacher, there will be many people who cause him trouble. He calls them “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers,” and he says “they profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.” As a response to this, Paul gives Titus one simple command: “As for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)
What does that include? It includes everything from salvation by Christ’s grace to the necessary moral behavior of the people who are saved. And this is plainly outlined later in the same letter to Titus: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things.” (Titus 2:11-15)
Doctrine keeps us grounded in Christ in every way. This is why sound teaching matters for every Christian.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The Bible’s repeated, clear-cut designation of the Law of Moses as “THE Law” adds a compelling degree of force to its existence. If God saw it as the only Law, it might surprise us to find another Bible passage which would suggest another law’s preeminence. And yet, this is exactly what we find in Hebrews chapters 8, 9, and 10. There, as he expounds the fact that Christ is God’s better plan for redemption in every single way, the writer continually makes passing remarks about The Law’s passing, changing, and fading glory (cf. 2 Cor. 3). In its place, the Bible writers continually elevate what they call “the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21, Gal. 6:2). What is the difference? What does this mean for us?
The difference is simple: Christ.
Christ is the ultimate manifestation of all the necessary tenets of the sacrifice system codified under the Law of Moses. He is the perfected manifestation of moral law-keeping outlined in the Law of Moses. He is the accomplishment of the Laws promises to bless Israel for their faithfulness. He is, in all things, the completion of the Law’s purposes.
And this is why there is a law “of Christ.” Not just because he is the sovereign power behind this law (although he is), but because he is at the center of this law. The law under which Christians live, then, is governed by him as he extrapolates, explains, and fulfills “The Law” that God’s people have lived under for thousands of years hence. This means, of course, that some of our moral obligations have changed to reflect his superiority to the old system—especially, though not exclusively, the need to offer animal sacrifices. But understanding him as the completion of the Law is healthy in that it keeps us from wholesale abandonment of the principles of holiness outlined in The Law for such a long time.
The Old Testament literally contains thousands of years worth of theology as God revealed himself at various times and in various ways, and we would be foolish to disregard it as though it were only a relic of a bygone time. Rather, we revere The Law because we revere the God who conceived it, the Spirit who inspired it, and the Christ who fulfilled it. To be sure, there are elements of it which no longer bear on our behavior as individuals and groups of believers. But equally sure is the value that it has in teaching us to be holy because he is holy.
- Dan Lankford, minister
I was recently asked, “Is it true that the Holy Spirit only works thru the written word today?” Simply and confidently, my answer is, “No.” He is, in fact, active in the lives of believers every day.
First, he is active through the written word. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The word of Christ was clearly and completely revealed through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. His work in revealing the Scriptures brings about faith in those whose minds & hearts are open to the word.
Second, he is active in our lives in a transformative way. This idea should sound familiar to any who are familiar with the hymn that asks God to “be with me, Lord. [For] I cannot live without Thee.” If the Holy Spirit is God [and the Scriptures teach that he is (Matt. 28:19, Eph. 4:4-6)], then believers should understand that God—in his entire personality—is living in us every day. Various passages make specific mention of all three personalities of the Godhead dwelling within the hearts of believers (2 Cor. 6:16, Col. 1:27, 1 Cor. 3:16). And we must believe this to be true, because only when our hearts are filled with the Spirit of God will we bear the proper fruit that comes from a life led by the will and word of God (see Gal. 5:16-25).
Thirdly, he is active in our prayer lives. In Romans 8:26-27, the word says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Indeed, God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is with his people. And as a result, we have a great deal for which to be thankful! Our God is with us!
- Dan Lankford
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
“Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel... And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness, for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring.’” (Deut. 31:19, 21)
Since he is the Creator of music, it should not surprise us that God would make use of song to draw people toward himself—both by moving us emotionally and instructing us doctrinally. This song, penned through Moses, was designed to do both. As it would witness against the children of Israel, it was to teach their later generations of the great evil they would inevitably do by departing from God’s ways. As our songs and hymns are meant to do, it would be used for “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16).
The assembled masses of God’s people must be thoroughly attentive to the quality of the hymns that we sing. If we are aware enough to appreciate them, they will often challenge us, convict us, and therefore sadden us into repentance. In many cases, they witness against us as they teach us and admonish us. And we must let them continue to do this.
In the event that our hymnody were to become unidimensional so that we we lost sight of the true exhortation and “witness” we are to receive from them, I fear we would incur a perspective from God similar to that which he described in the time of the prophet Amos. While the nation’s souls morally decayed into idolatry and injustice, they continued to sing songs of praise and self-confidence to God. And God said, “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen” (Amos 5:23).
Hymns which only validate us—even while we are in our sins—do a disservice to the true power God would exhibit through song.
Let us then be judicious in choosing hymns for worship assemblies and in actively participating in our hymns. Because we need them to accurately praise the Lord of hosts. And we need them, on occasion, to witness against us and pull us back into his glorious presence.
- Dan Lankford, minister
I love African American spirituals from the pre-Civil-War era of this country. They are an important American cultural artifact. They demonstrate a very Biblical mindset of a people who had been displaced from their homes and who were longing to be freed. And yet, they clung tenaciously to their hope in God and their desire to serve him even in the hardest stations of life. One song, written in the old style of those spirituals, holds my attention for its sentiment:
“Lord, I keep so busy praising my Jesus... Lord, I keep so busy serving my Master... Lord, I keep so busy working for the Kingdom... I ain’t got time to die! Because it takes all of my time! If I don’t praise him, the rocks gon’ cry out, ‘Glory and honor!’ I ain’t got time to die!”
That was the same attitude as the apostle Paul when he wrote, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:23-26).
The reality was that there was a GREAT work to do for the Lord! And Paul knew it so deeply—and he was committed to it so fully—that even while he knew death would bring him to the presence of the God he loved more than anything, he also knew that there was much he could do for the Lord still in this life!
How many of us have ever come close to exhibiting this level of devotion? How many of us would be willing to say that even Heaven itself could wait because we are so committed to our service to God—to our work in his kingdom?
May God give us the strength to work so diligently for him in this life. May our love for him be so strong that we just “ain’t got time to die” because we are just so busy working for our Master!
- Dan Lankford, minister
In Jesus’ story of the lost and found son, the younger son demands his inheritance from his still-living father, he goes to a far country, and he wastes his fortune. And Jesus says, “when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:14-16).
It took a fall to the depths to make him realize the true heights he had enjoyed while still with his father. And the young man’s story of deprivation and degradation must surely remind us of our own lives.
Unfortunately, our best perspective on the heights of good comes when we fallen to the depths of evil. For us, the depths may come in the form of infidelity, financial hardship, physical sickness or disability, or any number of other strains which life places upon us.
It’s there that our minds become intuitively aware of not only the possibility but the absolute certainty that there must be something better. Our sense of the divine allows us to perceive a benevolent God’s presence through the created world and even hard-wired into our own consciousness (see Rom. 1:20, Eccl. 3:10).
When the darkness is so thick that it can almost be felt, we long inexpressibly for light. When the emotions are so heavy we can barely stand them, we want support the most. When we are so hungry as to genuinely be starving, we need food all the more urgently.
As the son in Jesus’ story realized his dire need for his father when he bottomed out in life, we often realize the true extent of our need for God the Father when we are at our lowest points.
If that’s where you are, you should know that there is something better. There is a Father who will welcome you with open arms. And there is a whole family of His children at this place who will do the same! In the depths, look to the heights, and know that God can—and will—save!
- Dan Lankford, minister
This past week, I read an essay which presented a contrast between some of Christianity’s character truths which are traditionally understood as feminine (gentleness, caring, meekness, etc.) with the traditionally understood virtues of manhood from virtually every culture in history (toughness, dependability, struggle to overcome, etc.).
The essay was exploring answers to the question, “Is Christianity an inherently feminine religion?” And the writer’s conclusion was correct: Christianity does call us to uphold the finest examples of gentleness, caring, and meekness; AND it calls us to uphold the finest examples of toughness, dependability, and the struggle to overcome.
Christianity, it seems then, teaches each gender to fulfill the very best of its own created nature. While some of the characteristics may seem, at first glance, to be mutually exclusive (toughness & gentleness, for example), the single religion of Christianity purports to teach them all simultaneously. How is this possible?
The answer to that question goes back to what the Bible teaches about origins. “God created man in his own image... male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Since the whole of humanity is made in the image of God, it naturally follows that the whole of image of God should be able to be seen in us. Just as any invention bears the fingerprints of its designer, humankind bears the fingerprints of our divine Designer. And so our very natures as men and as women are hard-wired in by the Almighty.
This means that we are all responsible for giving the BEST exhibition of our respective natures. Women who truly seek God will strive to be the finest example of God’s nature created within them. Men who truly seek God will strive to be the finest example of God’s nature created within them. Is Christianity a feminine religion? It is not that alone. It is a religion for both men and women who are made in the image of God to fulfill the best of their God-given natures by his power. Do you want to be a godly and feminine woman? Strive to be the kind of woman God calls you to be. Do you want to be a godly and masculine man? Strive to be the kind of man God calls you to be.
- Dan Lankford, minister