Why do you do the right thing? On the occasions when you go out of your way to help someone, or when you consciously choose to resist temptation do what God commands, or when you give a gift… What’s your reason? Do you seek a reward? Do you want to be repaid? Do you hope for notoriety? Are you trying to increase your influence and hold sway over others for some later purposes?
Or do you ever just do the right thing because it’s the right thing?
For Christians, it’s obvious that this is the best tack for all of us to take. Jesus often condemned those who do spiritual things just for the praise, reward, or payment that it might bring them. He said of some of those people that while they may receive glory from men, that’s the only reward they will get—they won’t be rewarded by God in Heaven (Mt. 6:1). In another place, he reminded us that our attitude should be that of a diligent servant who works hard for his master, expecting no praise in return. “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Lk. 17:10)
The church throughout history has been made up of plenty of people who have, in fact, done great acts of service for others without expecting to be noticed or praised. We know the names of some, but just by virtue of their thinking and acting this way, there must be thousands more of whom history has no memory. And yet, the world is a better place because of their godliness. Thank God for that kind of heart.
Do the right thing for the sake of the right thing, even if you do it in secret. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Mt. 6:4, 6:6, 6:18)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Next week's VBS theme—Fully Rely On God—points us to some of God's most reassuring promises. It is the promise that God cares about us and always gives us just what we need. If we rely on him, we will be blessed in what ways he knows are best. Every time. And there are several examples of this and promises spoken about it.
- In Exodus 16, the Hebrew people learned that they had to fully rely on God for bread in the wilderness. He gave them manna—bread from heaven—every day that they needed it until they arrived in the promised land.
- At our Sunday morning service, brother Reggie quoted these words from the Psalmist: "I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing." (Psa. 37:25-26)
- When David courageously stood up to the giant warrior who had defied the armies of God, he made it abundantly clear that his faith with in God. He was not relying on himself, but on God, who had the power to overthrow a lion, a bear, and an uncircumcised Philistine by David's hand (1 Sam. 17, esp. vv. 34-37 & 45-47).
- In his Mountain Message, Jesus told us not to be anxious about the things of this life, but rather, we should fully rely on God who always provides his people with all that we need (Matt. 6:25-34).
- Rich Christians are told not to rely on their riches for hope and security, but rather to set our hope on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17).
God gives different things at different times for our different needs. And the common factor in all of them is that we can depend on him. The God who never sleeps nor slumbers, who cannot lie, and whose generosity is infinite... he can be relied upon to give us all that we need at just the time we need it.
See you next week for more reminders of the deep power in these promises!
- Dan Lankford, minister
Do you ever find yourself in an argument with your spouse, a coworker, or a fellow church member and realize that you’re arguing with a person from long ago instead of the person sitting in front of you? I do this sometimes, and it’s a habit that I’m trying to break. When someone starts to sound like another person that I’ve disagreed with in the past, I reflexively start treating them like the other person—not fully listening, but rather just assuming I know what they’ll say. That inevitably results in us both talking past each other and neither of us talking to each other.
Maybe you’ve experienced something similar. Do you think there is something we could all do to improve our communication skills and overcome these tendencies?
The answer comes in the form of one word, two Bible verses, and one piece of advice that’s become a bit cliche, but still goes a long way if we’re willing to put it to work.
The one word: listen. Listen intently and patiently and selflessly. Listen to the person’s words without judging any underlying motives. Listen with empathy; treat the other person as a person, not just a side to an argument. Listen for a way to reach agreement; not just for a way to “win.”
The first Bible verse: Proverbs 18:2. “A fool takes no pleasure in under-standing, but only in expressing his opinion.”
The second Bible verse: James 1:19. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…”
And the cliche piece of advice that still really goes a long way: “Seek first to understand; then to be understood.”
- Dan Lankford, minister (*personal note: this is an especially good reminder for me as a father who needs to listen more to his kids, which is why it was posted on Father's Day, 2019*)
Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone, if he listens you have gained your brother”. When it comes to our Christian walk, we must always be willing to forgive so that when we bring our gifts to the altar they are accepted by God. There is a quote that says, “Forgive others as quickly as you expect God to forgive you”. Matthew 5:21-24 reads, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, “ You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement; But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, you fool! Will be liable to the hell of fire. God addresses the one offended and the one doing the offending and the judgement seems to escalate for each offense. For the first offense judgment, the second offense liable to the council and the third offense liable to the fire of hell. Each of these offenses are serious to God and each has its consequences. Sometimes we make unintentional offenses and other times the intent is quite clear. Whatever the reason for an offense the bible tells us in Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense”. As believers we should be ready to give others the benefit of the doubt which is a legal term that means if a jury has conflicting evidence that makes the jurors doubtful, they are to give a verdict of “not guilty”. Is benefit of the doubt our first thought when we are offended? If not, try replacing offended with love and see if forgiveness steps up to replace it. 1 Corinthians 13:7 reads, “Love bears all thing, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.
- Kristopher Sanders, minister
When a couple is expecting a baby (my wife is due to deliver our third son tomorrow, so you can guess what’s on my mind), they live their lives with a different outlook as the delivery gets closer and closer. They still go to work or classes or the gym, they still spend time with their friends, and they maintain most of the same routines as usual. But there is a constant awareness that their whole modus operandi may be dropped at a moment’s notice when it’s time for the baby to come. They spend their waking and working hours knowing that it all might be interrupted soon for them to meet someone they’ve been looking forward to meeting for awhile.
In that outlook, there is a healthy example for how we think about the Lord’s return at the judgment day. It helps to understand the continuation of daily life (Jesus prayed: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world” [John 17:15]), and it helps us think rightly about that final day, when God’s people—even those who are asleep—will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). Just like a couple anxiously looks forward to the day when they happily drop everything and go be meet the person they have longed to meet for awhile, Christians anxiously look forward to dropping everything and meeting the Lord, whom we and our fellow saints have looked forward to seeing face-to-face for centuries.
Does that mean we are living in limbo? Yes, to some extent. And we are doing so deliberately. Our feet are firmly planted on the soil of the earth, but our hope is anchored in Heaven, from which we await the return of our Savior and King, Jesus of Nazareth.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Last Monday's Courier Journal (Louisville's local paper) included a story (you can click here to find it in the Indianapolis Star) about a woman in her 50's, named Kim, who had been adopted to the U.S. as a toddler from a South Korean orphanage. You really should click the link and read the story, because it's a great one. But here's the short version:
When she was 5, little Kim got separated from her family in a crowded Seoul marketplace. With no birth certificate and no way to reconnect with her parents, the police assumed she was an orphan (there were many of those during that time; it was the Korean War era) and sent her to an orphanage. A family from Ohio adopted her, and she lived in the States her whole life since then. But then, in 2018, she took a trip to South Korea and a DNA test reconnected her with her birth parents—now in their 80's—who had continued to look for her all those years, never giving up hope that they would be reunited.
The story is touching, and for Christians, it has some really wonderful parallels to the hope that we have in an eternal Father God who never stops looking for his lost children.
The story adds a small ripple to Jesus' story about a lost son who was found. That son wandered away deliberately, and yet his father apparently never gave up hope that he would return. But in the story from South Korea, a child found herself separated from her parents by accident—through innocent ignorance, wandering away from them because she knew no better. And I think there must be a parallel in that to God's story as well: that there are those who are away from him and know no better (notice how many times the apostles talk about the "ignorance" of unbelievers). But God does not give up hope for them (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). And that reminds us of two things:
1) That would should be grateful that we serve a good God who doesn't give up, who continues to invite his wayward children to himself, and who is always willing to grant repentance and forgiveness through the power of Jesus Christ. He is a truly good God.
2) That we should continue to teach lost people about Jesus. They need him. They need to be reconciled to their father. Many are like the lady in the story: they know little-to-nothing about the Father they are looking for, but their hearts have a void that longs to be filled with knowing Him. Let's do our part to bring God's lost children back to their Father who has never given up on them, no matter how long they've been lost.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The mirror is considered to be one of the greatest inventions ever. While its uses are many, the primary use or function is to aid a person in seeing their physical reflection. Whatever stands before it is reflected, nothing more or less. In the physical sense it’s the ultimate revealer. I was out and about the other day and noticed mirrors everywhere. I then began to realize how convenient it is for people to stop and make immediate fixes to their appearance by simply taking the time to review their reflection in a mirror. While the mirror’s convenience is great, the one function that has eluded it, is its ability to reveal the inner workings of a person’s heart.
The bible records in Hebrews 4:12-13 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”. For the Christian our mirror is the word of God, and while a physical mirror reveals what the outward man looks like, the spiritual mirror, the word of God discerns the thoughts and intentions of every heart.
In God’s mirror we can see a true reflection of who we are because we are completely exposed. One mirror feeds the outer man while the other feeds the inner man. Church family let us continue to stay in the word of God and be doers of his word by making corrections or adjustments when needed. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:23-24). Amen
- Kristopher Sanders, minister
Understanding YHWH God presents a challenge to all imperfect, finite creatures. Our sinful imperfection makes us incapable of understanding the full depths of his holiness, and the limits of time and space in which we live make it impossible for us to fully understand a God who is eternal, all-present, and all-knowing. But this is the Bible's description of YHWH. Other gods may have some similar elements of his nature, but YHWH is alone in his infinite, holy splendor. "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God..." (Deut. 10:17)
Seeing this helps to understand why so many of us—even believers—find ourselves thinking, "I can't believe that God would..." We may struggle with the depths of God's love & grace. We may struggle with the fierceness of his wrath. We may struggle with the length of his patience. We may struggle with the immutability of truth in him. We may struggle with believing in his supernatural powers. People struggle often and and seriously with God's personality, will, power, and word.
In light of this, there are two responses we must continually offer—one toward God himself and one toward our fellow man. First, we must accept God as he describes himself in the word. Doing this may exceed our faculties of pure logic at times, which is why it depends on faith. And understanding that helps us with our response toward mankind: be patient with others who struggle. Stay convicted in the truth about who God is, but be patient in helping non-believers or troubled believers understand him better.
The righteousness that leads to eternity is an outgrowth of God's own perfect nature. Believing in him as he has revealed himself is a foundation to all saving faith.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Integrity does not need to fear transparency. It’s true that a righteous person does not need to toot his own horn (cf. Mt. 6:1), but he will also never need to be afraid of people seeing behind the curtain of his life. That fear only comes when we try to foster some sort of secret sin.
We deceive ourselves when we think that sin may be secret or that we will be able to hide it in the long run. Several Bible passages remind us that God sees all things—our thoughts and our actions. In one such passage, Moses said to God, “our secret sins [are] in the light of your presence.” (Psa. 90:8) And it is not just God who will know about sins which we attempt to keep secret: other people will too. Paul told Timothy, “The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.” (1 Tim. 5:24-25)
So what do we do about that? The answer is simple, even if it isn’t always easy: do the right thing all the time. If your life is truly pure and holy, there is no need to fear discovery of anything nefarious. For instance, a financially responsible business manager has no fear of an audit because his books are clean. An honest and diligent student has no fear of being caught plagiarizing. A faithful husband has no fear of being caught with pornography or in an affair. A fair judge has no concern about bribes being discovered, because he hasn’t taken them.
In all these areas and plenty more, the lesson is that if we want to live with peace of mind and without a fear of exposure, then we should simply determine that we will have nothing to hide from God or from man. Integrity does not need to fear transparency.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Yesterday's Bible reading (Num. 13-14) covered one of the most important stories in Israel's history. The story of their 40 years of wilderness wandering is a key to understanding their national identity: they are a people to whom God has promised rest, but instead of receiving his promises, they ignore his word and make a choice that keeps them in the wilderness. It's an important story about them, and it has an important lesson for us as Christians when we knowingly choose sin over God's ways. Think about it this way:
God sets us free from sin and destruction when we pass through the waters (baptism), just like he did for Israel when they passed through the waters (the Red Sea). In that, he promises peace when we live by his will, just as he promised peace to Israel if they would live by his will and just enter the land. But just like they willingly chose to reject his will and remain in the wilderness, when we willingly sin, we choose to remain in the wilderness of sin instead of entering the land of peace that God has promised us.
It's a simple object lesson, and a powerful reminder: when you know God's will, do God's will. His ways will lead us to peace with him. Sin will only leave us wandering, miserable, and empty-handed. So when it takes courage, when it's difficult, and when it's costly... do the right thing. Stay true to the will of God.
"See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God... And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it." (Hebrews 3:12, 3:18-4:1)
- Dan Lankford, minister