Everything that we do for God should be done with excellence.
I have been reminded of this recently in studying about Israel's priests. God's commandments for them set a lofty precedent. The way they behaved, the way they taught the law, and particularly the way that they served in worship were all supposed to be of the highest level of moral and practical excellence. When they did not give their best, God condemned them strongly (cf. Mal. 1:6-14).
This is an easy lesson for us to learn from God's instructions for the priests: If he wanted excellence in worship from them, then he surely wants the same from us. So put thought effort into what you do in worship. If you will lead in a service, think deliberately about what job you will do, why you are doing it, and how you can do it best. Pray for God to help give you the right heart and the right abilities to glorify him. Learn from those who do things well, and imitate their skills. Above all, come with a mind set on rendering the quality of service which God deserves.
And even if you are not leading in worship, plan to give your best to God. Sing well, pray sincerely, eat his Supper with joyful gratitude, and have his word on your heart so that you can engage with it even more in Bible class. There are myriad ways that we can improve on our service to him. As he expected excellence from the priests who stood in his presence, we should serve with excellence as we stand in his presence every time we worship him.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In a popular book from the 1990’s, one Christian author imagined the scenario as a saint enters Heaven. He said, “You'll see faces that are waiting for you. You'll hear your name spoken by those who love you. And, maybe, just maybe--in the back, behind the crowds--the One who would rather die than live without you will remove his heavenly robe and… applaud.” And isn’t that a nice vision of entering Heaven? That the divine council of spiritual beings, the saints who’ve gone before, and even Jesus will welcome you with applause and congratulations?
However… for people who truly get what the Bible is all about, I don’t think that’s what we should be looking forward to.
It’s true that the apostle Paul said that the Lord would give him a crown on the day he finished the course of this life (2 Tim. 4:8). And Jesus said that the Lord will welcome his servants with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Mt. 25:21-23) However, neither of those really points to the glory of the recipient. Both are about the glory of the giver.
Brother Kelley’s Monday-night lesson on pride helped me remember that even when the twenty-four elders—the apostles and the tribes of Israel—stand before the throne of God in Heaven, “They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God!’” (Rev. 4:10) And for those whose greatest ambition is to love the Lord with all of our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our strength; our hope is not that the heavenly hosts will applaud us in glory. We know that they will be praising God.
That’s what we look forward to. On the day that God brings you into his glory, don’t expect the praise of heavenly realm to be directed at you. Let’s humbly realize that when we step into the light of glory, all things will praise God. Because it was his power and his grace and his love that got us there.
“Let the treasures of the trial form within me as I go. And at the end of this long passage, let me leave them at Your throne.”
- Dan Lankford, minister
In just about every sporting arena there are rules that govern the games. No matter the sport, in order to maintain discipline and keep order, rules must established and adhered to. In most sporting events there are physical areas designated as out of bounds. This typically means, the boundaries have been set and you can’t go beyond those established areas. If or when one does, it results in penalties and those penalties can sometimes be very costly. We saw this happen recently at one of the world’s largest sporting events.
God has set boundaries for his followers when it comes to his word. In 1 Corinthians 4:6, it reads, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” “Do not go beyond what is written.” This means we cannot add to or change that which is already clearly stated in the word of God. To do so means we have violated the boundary line, and this assuredly will result in penalties that could cost us our soul.
John wrote in 2 John 9, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” What we believe or practice religiously must line up with the word of God. If it doesn’t, we don’t have God and risk losing it all. Let us not gamble on losing our soul by stepping out of bounds and doing what feels good to us religiously. God has set the rules; he will call the fouls and issue the penalties for going outside the boundaries of his word. May we who love the Lord keep his word completely.
- Kristopher Sanders, minister
In Leviticus 24:5-9, we read the Law’s regulations about the bread that was to be placed before the Lord in the Tabernacle. From that passage, we learn these truths:
- The bread of that table was made holy by its being in the presence of God.
- It was prepared by human hands, but it was blessed by the God of Heaven.
- The bread of that table was only for the priests to eat.
- It was prepared every week (on the Sabbath day).
- As long as that covenant (the old one) existed, God intended it to be part of the procedure of the covenant.
- The bread of that table was eaten in the Holy Place—those who ate it knew that God was with them there.
When we partake of the Lord’s supper, so many of the same realities are at work, although in a higher form. We eat a holy meal, sanctified by Jesus in the upper room. It is a meal that is prepared by human hands, but blessed by the God of Heaven. We are the priests of the new covenant, and we eat every week. And as long as the covenant stands, we eat to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.
And perhaps most importantly and most encouragingly, when we eat the Lord’s supper, he is with us. What a privilege to be invited to eat with God at his holy table!
- Dan Lankford, minister
"...the heart of Asa was wholly true to the Lord all his days. And he brought into the house of the Lord the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels." (1 Kings 15:14-15)
The story of those gold & silver vessels becomes a bit of a theme throughout the story of Israel and God. Through the books of Kings & Chronicles, as various monarchs give away parts of the set, we get the impression that they are giving away part of their national relationship with God. And when the vessels are finally taken away by the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-13 & 25:14-15), it is because the people have so fully rejected God that their home and their nation must be wrenched from their hands.
The evident problem with all of this is that these vessels were used for worship, and to see the people giving them away shows the extremely low value that they place on that worship. It reminds us that honest, heartfelt worship should always have a place of prominence in our lives. When we love God, we worship him. And conversely, when we do not worship him, it indicates our lack of love for him. King Asa's addition to the vessels of worship speaks to his deep appreciation of God's worthiness, and it is a lesson for us. To neglect worship is to neglect God himself. We dare not treat our worship with the same negligence as Israel's kings treated the Temple vessels.
- Dan Lankford, minister
There’s a new show premiering on February 12, called Miracle Workers. The cable channel on which it will run offers this description: “A comedy set in the offices of Heaven, Inc. When God plans to destroy the Earth, two low-level angels must convince their boss to save humanity. They bet him they can pull off their most impossible miracle yet: help two humans fall in love.”
It is fascinating (and usually disheartening) to see how the secular world thinks about YHWH God. As evidenced by the quote above, we are tempted to think of Him much like the ancient Greeks thought of their gods: flighty, untrustworthy, and sometimes dangerous. Gods like that play with human lives like a child plays with dolls. We think of them simply as more powerful, more aloof versions of ourselves.
But that’s not at all what the God of the Bible is like.
He does not toy with humanity. He does not throw us into chaos or suffering on a whim. Even at times when he responds suddenly or harshly to humanity, he is never at the mercy of his temper. No, the God of the Bible is solid, steady, and unchanging (Psa. 102:26-27). He does not sleep or slumber (Psa. 121:4), so he is always able to help when we need him. He gives us difficulties, but that is because, like any good father, “he disciplines us for our good.” (Heb. 12:7-10) And most importantly, he loves us (John 3:16).
YHWH God is not petty, flighty, or puny as unbelievers might think of him. He is good, he is loving, and he is holy. And we praise him.
- Dan Lankford, minister
To this day, when my dad is asked, “What do you want for a Father’s Day gift?,” he will say something like, “It doesn’t have to be a brand new truck, but something in that price range would be fine.” And even while I shake my head at him, I still think it’s funny every year.
Another father says something more attainable and more profound when asked the same question: “Prove that you know me.” That’s it. He wants his wife and kids to demonstrate that they truly know and appreciate him, and to let that be the motivation behind their gifts.
For the Christian, every day is our Father’s day, and we have an opportunity to give him a gift every day. And God’s hopes for gifts from his children are the same as that dad mentioned just above: “prove that you know me.” Inherent within that request: prove that you respect me.
In Malachi 1, the Lord says to his people, “A son honors his father… If then I am a father, where is my honor? ... When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? ... Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.” (Mal. 1:6-10) Does a second-rate gift prove that God’s people know him? That they respect him? The answer is an obvious and resounding, “No.”
When you give a gift to your dad, don’t take my dad’s advice—it doesn’t have to be expensive. But do remember to show dad, by your gift, that you know him—what he appreciates, what he loves, and what he hopes to be in his life. And even more than that, make sure that the gift of your whole life shows that you know all the same things about our Heavenly Father.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The following thoughts were presented by one of our senior brothers to draw our minds to the cross before the Lord's Supper this past Sunday morning. They are shared here for their excellent quality of thought.
"Then he said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.' He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:34-36)
I am sure that most of us can, in some small way, indentify with what Jesus was feeling. We have fallen to our knees in agony, praying to God, "Hear my prayer," or "You can do anything," or "take away this pain," or "lift this terrible burden."
Maybe we weren't even asking on our own behalf. Perhaps we were praying for a loved one, or a dear friend, or a child, or a companion or a parent. The fact that we were praying for another person hardly made the anguish any easier to bear. We may even have begged, "Father, if someone has to bear this burden, let it be me. Take it from that person and let it be me who bears it."
Usually, it is a great comfort knowing that God is almighty. But there are moments when that knowledges adds to the agony. "All things are possible for you." The question isn't "if God?" But "will God?" And that leads us to ask, "why God?" If God can, then why doesn't he?
This question has been a major stumbling block for those who do not believe. If God can end suffering, why doesn't he? If he is all-powerful, why doesn't he stop tragedy, or feed the hungry, or do something about cancer or aids? Why must men drink so deeply and so often from the cup of pain and suffering? I DON'T KNOW.
But we do know that at one great moment in history, the Son of God came to earth to take the world's burden upon himself. We know that he fell to the ground beside us in Gethsemane, bearing the pangs of impending doom and death in his heart. We know this Lamb of God wrestled in agony, despising the shame that loomed ahead, crying, "Abba, Father! All things are possible for you; remove this cup from me."
Above all this, we know that Jesus uttered his prayer in unwavering trust in the Father's will: he said, "YET NOT WHAT I WILL BUT WHAT YOU WILL."
His faith could hear a promised of glory despite the awful silence of God that weighed so heavily in the garden. His faith enabled Jesus to see beyond the grave to the joy set before him. And because of this, we know that when we fall to the ground in our Gethsemane, WE ARE NOT ALONE BUT HE IS THERE WITH US. Having overcome death, he sits at the Father's right hand making intercession for us.
- Jim Largen
“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