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Better Late Than Never

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

You've heard that phrase, right? We frequently use it as an excuse for tardiness, but there's actually a true spiritual principle in it. Jesus even once told a parable which shows, as one of the many lessons that can be drawn from it, that it's better to commit yourself to live and serve your Master at a late point in life than to never come into his service at all (see Matt. 20:1-16). And we could think of many applications of the principle in the way that we live our lives:

  • Better to be a good spouse now, even if you haven't been for a long time, than to continue to put it off.
  • Better to be a great parent now, even if you haven't been for a long time, than to continue to put it off.
  • Better to be evangelistic to a friend now, even if you haven't for a long time, than to continue to put it off.
  • Etc.

In all those cases, it's tempting to think, "Well, I haven't for such a long time… it would be weird or awkward if I started now." And I completely understand that temptation. But on the other hand, if you choose to do the right thing, even late in the game, it would mean that you are doing the right thing. And it's better to be doing that late than never doing it.

Like the workers in the parable, it is better for us to commit late to the right thing and still have time to be rewarded for that choice than to put it off forever and lose all of its possible blessings.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Ever-Present Temptation

Sunday, October 06, 2019

If the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil was going to be forbidden for Adam & Even, why did God put it in the middle of their world? Why not confine it to an obscure corner of the Garden where they were unlikely to find it, much less see it every day? If it had so much potential to cause their moral failure, why was it so eminent to their existence?

That tree shows us just how close we are to temptation in every part of our lives. It’s a sobering reminder that it is always possible for each of us to make a choice that will ruin us. And if you take stock of your daily habits and daily life, you have surely noticed that the urge to sin doesn’t ever fully go away. Even as time and faith make one sin’s allure begin to fade, another one begins subtly drawing us in. The tree is always in the middle of the Garden, and its fruit always looks at least a little bit appealing.

But let me be quick to add a preemptive correction that may prove helpful for some: the Bible does not teach that Christians perpetually live a hair’s breadth away from accidentally losing our salvation. In fact, in the Garden, while Adam & Eve were only one fruit away from death, the fact is that they did not eat the fruit by accident. God had told them what was right to do, and they chose to do otherwise. It was their choice to give in to temptation. And it is our choice too.

The tree was in the middle of the Garden, and it’s in the middle of our lives too. The choice between life and death is always before us. But God has told us how to choose life. Are you making the right choice?

- Dan Lankford, minister

Redirecting The Applause of Heaven

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

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

Live the Right Message

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Last week, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room and noticed a lady coming toward me wearing a shirt with beautifully scrolled letters that said, "It Is Well With My Soul." She was heading for the empty seat next to me. As she sat down, she dropped her phone and also dropped nasty swear word as she did. And you know... regardless of her reasons for that, the inconsistency of it all just didn't sit well with me.

As a believer, it should never sit well with us when we observe blessing and cursing coming from the same life (Jas. 3:7-12). It doesn't make sense for someone who claims to be living a Christian life to swear and curse others and tell crude jokes, even if those things are supposedly done in secret. We ought not make excuses for the language we use—we ought to make changes to the language we use.

While not every sin of your tongue will be heard by someone else, every sin of the tongue is heard by God. And that ought to motivate us to make sure that our speech is "always gracious, seasoned with salt" (Col. 4:6) and that we "speak and act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty." (Jas. 2:12) The gospel that we claim to live ought to be the same gospel that is communicated by our words—that Jesus is the king of our lives and rules over us in every way.

- Dan Lankford, minister


Sunday, September 22, 2019

One of the important qualities found in Jesus’ followers is compassion, caring about other people and their needs. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

A compassionate person is not selfish, but rather is willing to sacrifice personally to help others. And he is not concerned about the praise or credit he may receive from helping. His only motivation is to do what is best for another.

The word, compassion, means “to feel with.” If the other person is hurting, he hurts also. If one is lonely, the compassionate person is there to meet that need. A compassionate person rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Another term that describes this character quality is the Greek word, agape. Translated as “love” in most (maybe all?) of the newer versions, the old King James Version distinguishes between the various Greek terms by rendering agape as “charity.” While that might not be the best word to use in today’s society, it does carry with it the idea of helping others who can’t help themselves because you care about them.

Compassion can be shown in many ways. It might be through a gift, a hug, by spending time with someone or simply through lending a listening ear. Anything that shows love and concern for others is an act of compassion.

- Roger Hills

When Good Morning America Gave Good Parenting Advice for Christians

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Last week, Good Morning America ran a segment on protecting your kids from the influence profane language, from predators, and from various other immoralities that they should not be exposed to. Their focus was the digital realm—the internet and video games. And a good bit of the advice they gave was the kind of thing that Christian parents ought to take special note of.

They talked about getting filters set up on your home internet and your devices, about making sure that kids do not have access to the entire digital world from their own devices, and about specific services you can use to keep that kind of thing under control (link below). Two pieces of advice rose above the rest:

1) Even as you protect your kids from bad influences and temptations, teach them how to avoid and overcome the temptations that will inevitably present themselves.
2) More than anything else, parents must be involved. It takes some extra work for dad and mom to navigate these waters, and it's worth the diligence required of us to do it rightly.

Admittedly, it seems a little bit hypocritical to hear this advice from a left-leaning media network… one that occasionally promotes the spectrum of the LGBTQ+ agenda and other unwholesome ideas to kids in other segments and on some of its other channels. But in spite of the inconsistency, Christian parents ought to realize that if those folks can see the value in protecting children from unwholesome and dangerous influences while they are young, how much more should we be diligent in doing that?

*they recommend for filtering/guardian options on video games*

Their Poverty; Our Lesson

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The stories that we're reading this week sound like they could be from some sort of post-apocalyptic movie plot. A low-level politician is murdered by a mob, there is a certain degree of martial law, real justice is scarce, and everyone in the story is either part of the oppressive enemy or living in abject poverty. Is this what God intended life in the promised land to be like? Not. At. All.

The harsh reality of what's now happened to Solomon's powerful, wealthy, and respectable nation makes for a great demonstration of what happens to people who rebel against God. Think of how much they lost—culturally, spiritually, economically, politically. Lives were taken. Their national identity was destroyed. Even their land, a permanent home which once flowed with milk and honey, is now a desolate strip of earth playing host to people who are, for all practical purposes, homeless. And why did all of that happen? Because they rebelled against God.

Sin always comes at a high cost. Especially for those who know what God's way truly is, the tradeoff between God's goodness and sin's deception is never, ever worth it. The writer of Hebrews talked about that in a way that reminds us that it is never worth choosing sin when we know what God's will truly is. Take his words to heart, and stand firmly with God in your words, in your actions, and in your heart.

"For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation."  (Heb. 6:4-9)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Do Good Work

Sunday, September 08, 2019

“What do you do for a living?” It’s a standard question when getting to know someone new because our jobs have an important place in our lives. Working a job is not unique to Christians, but believers are called to work in a unique way. God wants us to do everything with excellence.

Paul instructed the Thessalonian Christians “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thess. 4:11-12)  He told them in a later letter: “you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day.” (2 Thess. 3:7-8)

Our work—and the quality of it—matters to God. Whether we are employed to teach children, to prepare and serve food, to provide medical care, to build, to administrate, or to mediate justice… Christians ought to be diligent to do all things well, giving God the glory for our best efforts.

And so while it might just seem like good advice, the reality is that if we live out the good news, we will be reliable employees. We will be there when we are expected. We will not leave jobs unfinished. We will look out for the interests of others in the workplace. We will think about contributions we can make to our organization’s goals. We will be honest with our employers’ accounts (cf. Lk. 16:1-13). We will not be idle. As Christians, we will always do good work.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Practice Now; Excel Later

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

It's football time again everywhere. The NFL regular season kicks off next Thursday night, the NCAA season is already underway, and high schools everywhere are celebrating the start of their season this Friday (I'm in Alabama right now — football is literally everywhere). But while the games are just getting started, there is already a huge backlog of competitive sports' most important element: practice.

Practice and training happen in an environment where the pressure is low to build the skills necessary for the moment when the pressure is high. When the quarterback has to think fast and get it right, when a receiver has to read the ball and defense at the same time, and when a running back needs the extra boost of strength or stamina or speed... that's when the level of training is make-or-break.

The same is true for Christians. Your level of spiritual strength in life's crucial moments is dependent on your spiritual training in all the rest of your life. When the pressure of life and temptation are on, you depend on the strength you've developed in the moments when the pressure was low.

So make sure that you're training all the time. Put Paul's words to work: "Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Tim. 4:7-8)  Spend time praying specifically about the temptations you face. Memorize scriptures that will be helpful in your life. Read the word often and thoughtfully. Keep a strong practice of attending worship assemblies. Work hard in life's low-pressure moments so that you're thoroughly prepared when the high-pressure moments come.

- Dan Lankford, minister

A Problem You Can Fix Now

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The check-engine light came on in my truck last week. And I did what I think most of us do: deliberately ignored it. When it came on, my first thought was, “Oh no. That could be something really simple and cheap to fix… or it could be something difficult and expensive. If it’s going to be costly, I just don’t want to know. So I’ll just pretend that I don’t even know it’s there.”

One of my college buddies once ignored that light in his car for over three years because he feared what it would cost to fix the problem. Over time, other problems developed. Eventually, when it became practically un-drivable, he took it into a repair shop. They told him that it could be fixed, but it would cost more than the worth of the car.

Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing with your spiritual life? Do you ever read a verse, have a conversation, or hear a sermon that alerts you to a life problem that you should fix? When that happens, what do you do?

Your conscience is like a check-engine light for your soul. When it’s trained by the word of God, it will alert you when something is wrong in your life—even if the problem is a small one. And when that happens, you have to decide if you will address the problem right away… or deliberately ignore it because it might be costly to fix. A word to the wise: your life will work like my buddy’s car—it will be more costly to fix the problem later. So address spiritual issues immediately. Don’t give a spiritual problem time to grow. It will be far more costly in the long run.

Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Jas. 1:14-15)

- Dan Lankford, minister

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