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The Solomon Who Might've Been

Sunday, August 11, 2019

In this past week’s daily Bible readings, we read large sections of the story of Solomon. It’s a confounding story of what might’ve been: a king who rules God’s people with perfect wisdom but then squanders the chance to fulfill God’s whole plan for the kingdom. He seems to be rising at the same time that he is falling.

One place in the story which embodies this simultaneous rise and fall is in 1 Kings 10:23 thru 11:8. In one breath the writer of 1 Kings says, “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.” This is great news! The king is a voice for God to the Hebrews and all nations! But in the next breath, the writer gives us the foreboding news that Solomon turned back toward Egypt and married many foreign women who turned his heart away from YHWH. And so the whole thing turns out only to be the story of what might’ve been.

Haven’t we seen the same kind of things happen in the lives of people whom we know? Someone becomes a Christian, and their faith seems to take off like a rocket. They are participating in church life, reading the Bible daily, and showing all the signs of total commitment. But then signs of spiritual weakness start to show, and soon their hearts are turned away from YHWH. It’s the same kind of life that Jesus talks about in his parable of a seed that grew up quickly in thin soil and then died out because its roots were weak. All of us need to be reminded: put your faith completely in God. Live by his wisdom. Don’t become a person whose faith might have been great.

It's An Older Problem Than We Might Think...

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

True story: Sometime around 1920, two of my grandfather's cousins got into a fight with another man after church on a Sunday morning. The fight quickly got so out of hand that the two Lankford brothers ended up shooting and killing the other man and their own uncle. They each spent 20 years in prison.

This past Saturday, I asked my grandpa about that story. As he retold it and filled in several of the details that I hadn't known before, he got into a melancholy kind of mood and started telling about other occasions of violence that he had known of in the surrounding rural counties from the 1880's into the 1940's. The most striking one was about a man who got on a horse, rode through town, and killed 12 people before taking his own life. And it made for a very sober connection when I got the news on Sunday of the two shootings in Texas and Ohio.

The stories Grandpa told don't lessen the sadness that I feel about what happened in this past weekend's events, but they do help to put it in context. He reminded me that acts of violence—even acts of mass violence perpetrated against innocent people—are not a new problem. In fact, in the history of the Israelites, there is a story of an act of mass murder perpetrated by two brothers (Genesis 34). The problem precedes any kind of weapon or type of communication forum which will be talked about in the news this week. Because the problem is as old as... well, sin.

What does that mean for how we respond to these situations? It means that we must continue to maintain this one belief: that the only comprehensive solution to these problems is salvation and redemption for all people, in Jesus Christ. And so we continue to teach that all people are made in the image of God. And because of that, all life is sacred. God loves every person and wants to see every person reach repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Murder destroys God's most precious creatures, and so more than anyone else, Christians want to see an end to sin, to violence, and to death itself.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Different Teachers; Same Truth

Sunday, August 04, 2019

One thing that helps God’s kingdom is the blessing of hearing truth spoken by different voices. Some would tout this as a good thing because they believe we should consider all people’s interpretations of Scripture equally valid. I wholeheartedly disagree with that rationale, but I maintain that it’s good for us to hear from various teachers. Here’s why:

No one person is capable of fully plumbing the depths of God’s written word. Therefore, our efforts to dive deeper into Scripture are enhanced when we work together—not to achieve various interpretations, but to achieve a more perfect understanding. I have inevitable blind spots in my search of the Scriptures, meaning that I overlook things—sometimes, important and even obvious ones. This is why I am constantly searching the Scriptures, but it is also why I need others to teach me. The word of God is complete, but my understanding of it will forever be incomplete, and so I need help.

The same is true for all of us. We all need make a regular habit of reading the word, meditating on it, and praying for wisdom from the One who gives to all generously and without reproach (Jas. 1:5). And we need to appreciate the value of hearing what other saints know of God’s will: whether that’s from the pulpit, in conversations over dinner, in Bible class comments, at devotions in our homes, as we talk on the golf course, or wherever. You may be able to teach another, and he or she may be able to teach you. In either case, we are all made better together as we live out the simple, but profound wisdom from Solomon: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Good News, Good Advice

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Can I give you some good advice? Don’t get yourself under too much debt… it’ll really cost you in the long run. Carry a pocket knife every day. And when you have the right of way, take it (this one might or might not be a personal pet peeve).

Now, can I give you some good news? There’s a Savior—Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by many signs and wonders—who gave himself to redeem you from sin, who rose from the grave to set you free from death, and who will guide and strengthen you to live a greater life than you ever could have on your own.

That's the gospel. That's the message we want to share with the lost. That's the message that changed the world. That's the way to the Father. Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

- Dan Lankford, minister

The Spiritual Disciplines; A Reminder

Monday, July 29, 2019

Last year, we talked about having the word of God ingrained in our hearts, our minds, and our lives. It has been awhile, so I wanted to remind all of us to continue pursuing and practicing these simple and powerful routines in our lives. Here are the spiritual disciplines that are highly effectual for ingraining Christ’s way into our lives.

  • Prayer. When we talk to God, we build our relationship with him. We cast our anxieties on him because he cares for us.
  • Self-examination and confession. It’s easy to go through daily life without ever taking stock of our own hearts. Time spent in honest reflection leads to several healthy realizations—some that spark gratitude and others that lead us to confess our failures to God.
  • Fasting. Have you ever eaten so much that you felt sluggish? Sometimes, our hearts feel the same. Fasting helps us to put away the indulgences of our souls and focus on what we need most: God.
  • Solitude & meditation. There is great soul-restoring value in quality time spent alone with God in deep thought about his things.
  • Sacrifice & giving. Make a way to give in some way that blesses others. They benefit, for sure. But the greater benefit is for you, the giver.
  • Study. Take your mind deep into God’s word. Ask questions and find your answers. Grapple with tough concepts. Challenge your personal thought processes against the truth of his word. As your mind grows in knowledge, your heart will grow in faithfulness.

All of these help us to pursue what we seek most: God’s righteousness. And when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be filled.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Holy Is He!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
The Lord is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name!
Holy is he!
The King in his might loves justice.
You have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the Lord our God;
worship at his footstool!
Holy is he!

- Psalm 99:15, ESV

The Most Stressful Game

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

What's the most stressful game? Answer: the comparison game.

We all face the temptation to compare ourselves to others, and it never truly works out in our favor. We may compare our rise through the ranks of work to the speed of someone else's advancement. We may envy others' lives that we see on social media and are ungrateful for the good in our own lives. We may think of marriages that look wonderful and compare ours to theirs, leading us to feelings of inadequacy or jealousy. We are even tempted to compare ourselves to someone else's spiritual status, which never leads anywhere good (remember Cain & Abel).

Now, here's why this is the most stressful game: everyone who plays it, loses. Either, we end up sacrificing God-given peace because we're focused how we have achieved less, have been given less, or are worth less than someone else... Or, on the other side of the coin, we end up with feelings of supremacy over others, which is pride. When we look to the Bible, neither of those is okay.

So what's the solution? Stop playing the game.

Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to God's way. Do you do his will? Do you believe what he says? Do you pursue his kingdom and his righteousness? If you do, then all that you need will be added to you (Matt. 6:33). And that's not some kind of game. It's just a blessed life.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Simple Math; Tough Choices; Peace of Mind

Sunday, July 14, 2019

You are finite. You don’t have perfected skills in all areas. You will never have unlimited time. There is always at least some limit to the available money. Your energy is finite—everyone has to rest at some point. And you presence is limited—you can only be in one place at a time.

That makes the math pretty simple: If there is only one you and one me, then neither of us can be everywhere, doing everything all the time. And that’s true even when we want to do some of the good works that God created for us to do. The reality is undeniable: you can’t do everything. You and I are not God.

So is it possible to live life peacefully while knowing that you can’t be all-knowing, all-being, and all-doing—even in the areas where you feel that you should be doing something? Yes. But we have to make some tough choices. We have to prioritize things that are truly important and then let go of the less-important things.

And this is where the tough choices have to be made. Most of us intrinsically know what’s most important to us: our faith in Jesus, our families, and our own well-being. It’s easy to give something a higher priority; it’s harder to be at peace while letting go of the things that should be lower priorities. But that’s what must happen. Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)

And when we do that, we can be assured that it will work. And you can have peace of mind when you make choices based on godly priorities… that he is working things out as he knows best. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Church Membership Matters

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

What difference does it make to be a member of a local church? It's not exactly a scriptural requirement, and there are no procedures outlined in the Bible for making it happen. But, there is value to thinking about it for a couple of reasons.

For those of us who are members of a local church, it's good to remember the baseline mentality which that requires. Membership requires us to be deliberate and active in serving. It's far more about giving than it is about demanding or requiring. And it's more than what goes on at the building. Although that's important, it's more about relationships—people you can connect with, encourage, and help through their struggles. Like any relationship, our best and most valuable friendships will happen when we give more than we take (cf. Acts 20:35). In the same way, church membership involves each of us working for the good of our brothers and sisters. And when we set our minds to an others-focused goal like this, the benefits that we often expect to receive from church membership—friendship, support through hard times, accountability access, family feel, and encouragement in our own faith—will largely take care of themselves.

All of these things are also good reminders for our friends or our children who may be considering placing membership with a local church. The relationships we build there are an important part of our walk with Christ, and it's a perfect opportunity to display Christ-like attitudes toward others who love him.

- Dan Lankford, minister

A Place For Doctrine AND Judgment

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The Bible is the authoritative source of all God-given doctrine for true disciples. It contains God’s spoken will, including his promises, his story, and his moral directives for life and religion. Therefore, when God speaks on a subject, we must believe his teaching and respect his will as authoritative and unchangeable.

But in the Bible, God does not always speak in black-and-white morality. In fact, there are times when the Holy Spirit says that a particular thing is a matter of each person’s judgment (Romans 14:1-6). And when that is the case, we must have enough faith in God to believe what he says: that another person’s judgment call is acceptable. As one preacher has said:

“Let doctrine be doctrine, and let judgment 
be judgment. God gave us both.”

What does that mean for us?

Firstly, we need to know the word well enough to tell the difference between matters of doctrine and judgment. That takes a great deal of Christian maturity, which comes from a great deal of prayer and study.

Secondly, it means that our convictions on doctrinal matters must be non-negotiable. This is what we mean when we talk about being “conservative” Christians—that we are people who are firmly committed to what God actually says in the Bible. We believe it.

Thirdly, it means that where God has allowed someone to make a judgment call, we should be willing to do the same. To do anything else denies that God’s word is, itself, fully sufficient to accomplish his will.

- Dan Lankford, minister

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