It's old news now (it's been about 20 days), but the burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dame has continued to loom large in the minds of many people. There are several things that could be noted about it from the background of a Christian worldview. We could ask and respond to the question, "Why would Europe's extremely secular culture care so much about the accidental destruction of a religious structure?" Or we could consider the varying levels of response to the event by people in government, in media, and social media... and how those were or were not justified.
But more than anything else, I have thought over and over again about Jesus' promise to Peter: "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." (Matthew 16:18)
I love that promise. Jesus' words remind us that our finest physical and organizational structures may fail, and we may weep when they do. But the church of Jesus Christ transcends time, space, location, and structures. Because the church is people. It is people connected through our eternal king, Jesus Christ, who reigns from Heaven, world without end (cf. Eph. 3:21, KJV). So while our finest work may crumble, burn, or fade into obscurity, the gates of hell will not overcome or destroy the people who are the church that Jesus built. And we can live every day with confidence because of that promise.
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Matt. 10:28-31)
- Dan Lankford, minister
In light of last night's big game, let's start with a little basketball reference. Coach John Wooden (UCLA, 1948-1975) said of himself, "I don’t think I was a fine game coach. I’m trying to be honest. I think I was a good practice coach." What's the difference? The difference is in the fundamentals. Can you execute the fundamental moves of the game with individual precision, individual determination, and team unison every single time in practice? Then the games will take care of themselves.
That's one of the reasons that our gospel meeting series for next week focuses on the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. For Christians whose faith is not as mature, it helps to establish a strong foundation on which to build a better walk of faith. But even for mature Christians, it works like practice: an effort to help each of us understand Christianity with doctrinal precision, hold our individual sense of determination, and move in unison with our brothers and sisters.
The Holy Spirit told one group of Christians that it was important for them to move beyond the basics and into greater maturity (Heb. 5:11-6:9), but we never truly leave those bedrock ideas behind. Remember that Paul said the most important thing he taught to the Corinthians was about the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4), which is among the basics talked about in Hebrews 6:3. The foundations stay with us, and only when we are strong on those foundations will we be able to grow beyond them.
We have people of all maturity levels in our church, and so we're praying that next week's series will be a blessing to all of us. See you there!
- Dan Lankford, minister
As believers living in a world filled with sin, it can become pretty discouraging at times and hard to escape Satan’s fiery darts. Even at our best attempts to avoid it, we may fall prey to the pitfalls of sin. We turn on the TV and sin is there. It’s at our jobs, in our schools, and even in some churches. In fact, many of us don’t have to leave home to know the impacts of sin. Let’s face it: sin is everywhere, and the troubles of this world will eventually come our way.
Jesus said in Galatians 6.2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” To bear one another’s burdens is a command from God. The Greek word for “burden” means excess burden or burdens. It gives the illustration of something so heavy that it weighs us down. These are things that could crush even the strongest in the faith. When we bear or carry another’s burden, we lighten the load so that a brother or sister can get through whatever is weighing them down.
The word “load” means cargo in the Greek. Can we imagine carrying a load of cargo on our backs alone? Bearing one another’s burden doesn’t mean we get entangled with the load. It means we lend a helping hand so that the burden of the load might be lessened. We are to share in the cares and anxieties of one another with love and compassion. Roman 12:15 reads, “Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep.” At some point in this Christian journey, we will fall under the weight of sin. And when we do, we should never be alone, but look to one another to fulfill the law of Christ.
- Kristopher Sanders, minister
I've really been enjoying having two ministers for the past couple of months. Kris is obviously an extremely talented preacher, he exhibits genuine concern for lost souls, and he and I are building a great friendship while we work together between Sundays. I am increasingly thankful to have him as a friend and fellow worker in the Lord.
This past week, a few people have come to each of us and said the same thing: "I think Dan is the intellectual one and Kris is the emotional one." And you know what? We're both good with that as a recognition of our strengths, and we're both thankful to work together with our respective strengths. And here's a tiny little thing to consider in that regard:
God made us whole people—emotional and intellectual creatures. Each one may find he or she has a tendency to be more intellectual or more emotional at various times, but every person made in God's image is both. That's what makes us spiritual: the combination of the mind and the heart that the Bible refers to as the soul. It's part of what makes humans unique from the rest of creation, because it's part of how we are made in God's image.
That's why I like Kris' preaching so much. Because he preaches the word of God, my heart and my mind are being challenged. And I hope the same is true when I preach—that people's minds and hearts are touched by God's words. Kris and I are enjoying working together. Obviously, each one has his strengths, but together, we are both trying to preach the whole gospel to whole people.
"I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also." (1 Cor. 14:15)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Several months ago, I listened to a leadership podcast that asked an insightful question for any organization that is doing things well: "If all that we have going today was somehow lost tomorrow, would we know how to build it back up to this point? Would we know what it is that makes this work?"
That's a great question for a church. Because it happens all the time. A new church is planted, and at first, they focus on worshiping God, teaching the gospel, and loving people. And as they do that, they grow and begin to do more things with their building, their classes, and their special events. And all of those can be truly great things. But the important thing for us to remember is that those things are great specifically because they are an effort to worship God, teach the gospel, and love people.
I think this is a good reminder for us as we are taking some big steps. We're getting ready to hire another preacher and to appoint some new elders. We have been so blessed by God, and there is so much positive momentum in our congregation right now. It's a very special group to be with, and I'm thankful. Let's make sure that we continually remember what makes this group great. "If all that we have going today was somehow lost tomorrow, would we know how to build it back up to this point? Would we know what it is that makes this work?" Yeah, we know. The strength of any thriving church is in people who love God, teach the Gospel, and love others. Let's never take our focus off of that.
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." (1 Cor. 3:6-7)
- Dan Lankford, minister
*here is the podcast I was listening to, although I can't remember the episode*
“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.”
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
"All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white fence post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post." (G.K. Chesterton)
Chesterton's illustration is a good reminder of the need to constantly teach the word of God in a way that allows it to be fresh, living, active, and powerful. If the church is going to be just like the first-century church in things like faith, evangelism, and love for one another, then we cannot be on auto-pilot. If you want it to stay the same as when it was new, you have to re-NEW it all the time. It takes constant effort to refresh, restore, and rejuvenate the group that God is saving.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." (2 Cor. 4:16)
- Dan Lankford, minister
*this concept came to my attention from a sermon by Wes McAdams*
I am going to take a break from writing these articles for a period of time. Thank you for reading them.
"As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ." (2 Corinthians 8:23)
The cooperation seen so often in Paul's life demonstrates one of the great imperatives of God's kingdom: that his people can and must work together to accomplish his purposes. Whether it was with Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, or several others mentioned in his letters, Paul shows us the value of kingdom cooperation.
Obviously, we believe this is an important idea for evangelists. It's why we are financially supporting two men who are working together to plant a church in Harrisburg, PA. It's why our elders encourage our minister to spend time with other preachers often. It's why we bring in guest speakers and have some of our men preach on occasion. There is value in fellowship and cooperation between those who preach. As Paul said of Titus, we are partners and fellow workers for the benefit of God's people.
But the verse has value for everybody who lives in Christ. We are recreated (2 Cor. 5:17) in Christ to be in community and fellowship with each other. As Paul and Titus were fellow workers, we are all fellow workers toward the same goal: the glory of Christ. I encourage you to think about some good that you can do for God's glory. And then think of some other saints you can get involved in that. Make an effort to be fellow workers and partners in the gospel, so that in all things, Christ may be given the glory that he deserves.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Many churches have a significant percentage of their members who are single. Excluding children, many of the adult members are not married. There are a number of reasons for this ever growing demographic in the Lord’s church.
- Human lifespan is longer – there are more widows and widowers
- The divorce rate is higher – sometimes even among Christians.
- Many never marry – some are unasked; some are unanswered. And a higher percentage than ever either decide not to marry or else they are waiting until later in life to marry.
I realize that this can be very discouraging to some who fall into this category and who would love to be married if the right situation would arise. Some are content in their singleness and have made a conscious decision not to marry.
But I am afraid that there are too many single Christians who feel that they cannot serve the Lord effectively because they are single and so, as a result, as powerful force is left untapped in many congregations.
There are many positive and valuable things that a single Christian can do and I would like to remind you of some of those things in the hopes that we can mobilize a group of disciples who can make a huge difference in the life of a church in the here and now and a great difference in other people’s eternal destiny.
1) Do not become discouraged.
Being single is no reason to have a low self-esteem. Singles sometimes ask, “What’s wrong with me?” Nothing is wrong with you, except perhaps that you are focusing on the wrong thing. Look to your strengths, talents, and abilities. (Married people who concentrate only on what they can’t do or don’t have will never be happy either.)
There are many great men and women of God in the Bible who were single (either never having married or having lost a spouse). In the Old Testament, some of them were Elijah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Mordecai. In the New Testament, we have Paul, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, John the Baptist, Timothy, Barnabas and, of course, Jesus.
When you find yourself feeling lonely, do something for someone else to take the focus off of your aloneness. Visit with friends, enjoy the children of others (buy them things; take them places you would like to go, like the zoo, a museum, etc.). Just keep busy doing something.
2) Recognize your opportunities.
The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, recommends the single life. He is not forbidding people to get married (1 Timothy 4:3), but he wants you to realize that you are definitely not a second class Christian if you are unmarried.
The fact is that marriage divides a person’s interests into two areas – serving the Lord and being with your mate. An unmarried person has the time to do things for God that married people often cannot do. Notice this passage from 1 Corinthians 7:32-35:
“But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord – how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world – how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world – how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.”
He continues on to discuss one who does not give his daughter in marriage and says that such a one have chosen what is better. There are some advantages in being single over being married. (There are also advantages in being married over being single. It is not all one sided in either direction.)
Some advantages a single Christian has are:
- Can be more spontaneous
- Freer to come and go
- No one to answer to about time
- More time to study the Bible and pray
- Have get-togethers at your place (make it a potluck)
- More time to attend gospel meetings in other places
- Often in a position to contribute more than average to the church
- Galatians 6:10
3) Maintain sexual purity.
This is very important. A single Christian must work very hard, with the Lord’s help, to keep himself or herself pure.
There are two important things to watch out for – your friends (1 Corinthians 15:33) and your activities (Ephesians 5:11).
Remember that you are be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Don’t let your unmarried status be an excuse to sin it up. Think about the example you are setting for others.
4) Help others.
One of the biggest problems of single Christians is turning inward, only being concerned with self. Give of your self to others (Acts 20:33-35; Matthew 20:25-28).
Matthew 19:10-12 speaks of those who refuse marriage (“make themselves eunuchs”) for “the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” Being single often gives you more time to help others.
- The needy – James 1:27
- Sick, hungry, lonely people – Matthew 25:31-46
- Spiritually weak – Galatians 6:1-2
- The lost – Matthew 4:19
If you find yourself in this situation, by choice or by circumstance, use it to the glory of God. The church has a huge army of single, godly men and women out there who need to be mobilized in His service. Realize that this is an opportunity to serve God and the church and the world around you in a way that will make a difference in the lives and eternity of others. May God richly bless you.