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When an organization or group wants to advertise their product or services, one of the first rules to follow is: "Be true to yourself." If we advertise a product in a way that is inaccurate, it can lead to lawsuits when people experience the real thing. If we advertise a group in a way that is inaccurate, people are inevitably disappointed and turned off when they experience the real thing.
When we represent something publicly, we must know what we want to represent and do it accurately.
In a way, we are called to be walking "advertisements" for Jesus. I don't mean to say that we are out to sell him to the world—most of the time, when people try to sell Jesus, they end up selling out for Jesus. But I do mean that our lives show people a picture of him in hopes they will like what they see and buy in for themselves.
The questions we need to ask ourselves are these: "Do I know Jesus well enough to give an accurate representation? Do I know what he's really like, or do I just know how I would like him to be? Will my representation of Christ leave people disappointed when they really get to know him? How can I be a better witness to his goodness today?"
"You are the light of the world... let your shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:14,16)
- Dan Lankford, evangelist
Resurrection from the dead is a common topic of discussion in religious circles. Any discussion between a Christian and a non-Christian must eventually come to this topic. Belief or disbelief in the resurrection is the single most pivotal step on the path toward the good confession of faith in Jesus. And that might seem like a natural conclusion for anyone to reach. It would seem that belief in Jesus’ resurrection should be easy. What could possibly hold someone back?
Consider some things one must accept to believe in the resurrection.
- Jesus is the only person to ever accomplish this. Others have been raised from the dead, But Jesus’s resurrection is literally on in billions. It’s difficult to believe.
- Jesus was formally executed under the Roman empire. Capital punishment under that regime is well-known to history as one of the most thoroughgoing and excruciating in any culture or time. To overcome such bodily trauma could be nothing short of miraculous. And it’s difficult to believe.
- Consider how difficult it can be—even with modern medicine—to repair a human body that still has the spark of life in it. Then consider the difficulty of repairing the body when it has had no spark of life for the past few days. It is truly an insurmountable task. And it’s difficult to believe.
- Consider the myths and legends that have arisen since the time of Christ about the difficulty and consequences of bringing someone back to life. Dr. Franken-stein’s attempt created a monster, and it was not even the same person he had set out to resurrect. All fictional stories of attempted resurrection eventually end in sadness.
Understanding all of this, it is no wonder that people have difficulty believing in the simple words of the angel: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” Science tells us resurrection is impossible. Medicine tells us resurrection is impossible. Fiction literature tells us resurrection is impossible. Even common sense tells us it is impossible.
And faith tells us that it happened! “He is not here! He is risen!”
- Dan Lankford
For the past couple of weeks, I've been listening to a history of World War I that one of our church members recommended to me. It's been fascinating to hear so much about a war that redefined Europe and redefined warfare 100 years ago.
One item of particular interest to me was the observation that for the first 2 years of the war, soldiers were sent into the battle with no helmets. And you might be thinking to yourself, "What?! No helmets?! Did anyone in a leadership role know what war is like? Why didn't anyone think the men needed some sort of armor?!" And if you are thinking that, know that you're not alone. I can hardly believe it either.
As I thought about that this morning, it occurred to me that when God talks about his people, at least in some places, he speaks of us as soldiers in a war. And when he talks about outfitting us for the conflicts we'll face, there's a good reason he says, "Put on the full armor of God" (Eph. 6:11). God intends to save his people and bring us into his presence, and he knows how to do that! So he equips us to be shielded by righteousness and faith, to attack the enemy with his word, and to be held together with the power of truth. And at the top of the whole picture, he gives us the helmet of salvation—the assurance of his grace to protect our minds.
I'm staggered by the fact that it took 2 years for someone to realize that no helmet meant the troops were vulnerable. But I'm that much more grateful that God has given us all the right tools for the fight; so that we do not have to be vulnerable.
- Dan Lankford
I watched an interesting show this past week. It was called “Brain Games,” and the particular episode showed the typical reactions people have to being mistreated by someone else. Typically, if someone is unkind to us, we will be frustrated and look for an opportunity to take revenge in some way. But the experiment also showed that if someone is exceedingly kind to us immediately after we’ve experienced unkindness, we are far less likely to seek revenge or payback on anyone.
As I watched that, I couldn’t help but think about the Holy Spirit’s exhortation for Christians to “let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (Phil. 4:5). If this were truly the way we lived our lives, we could expect to positively impact the lives of others. Christians should be the first ones stepping into the world to show exceeding kindness. We are the ones whose holy book says, “when you give to the poor…” and, “let your speech always be gracious…” and, “do not repay evil for evil.” We are the ones whom God has called to live like himself. And if he was willing to make the enormous sacrifices it took to show kindness to the people who had rejected him, should we not also be willing to swallow our pride whenever we can and show kindness in the world?
The striking thing about this whole idea is that my decision to show kindness to someone will likely impact the next person he meets as well. I do not mean to say that all the world’s ungodliness can be undone if we will all just be nicer, but it is worth noting that compassion is contagious. It will almost never happen on accident, but it does tend to spread if someone is purposefully showing kindness.
So let’s make a determination to be kind this week. Let someone over in traffic. Go visit one of our homebound members. Learn your waitress’s name and ask about her day. Give to the poor.
A little kindness goes a long way.
- Dan Lankford
In Sunday morning's sermon, I made a passing reference to the Islamic faith's belief that people need to do enough good to outweigh the bad they've done so they can go to heaven. An aspect of that faith which I did not mention was that their holy book (the Quran) does not tell them how much "weight" certain good deeds have and how much "weight" certain bad deeds have. As a result, many Muslims are forced to admit that while they value their faith, it does not offer ANY assurance that they will be saved.
In stark contrast, Christianity clearly teaches that my salvation is not by my own merit, but that it is a gift from God. And as a result, when I seek him, he is for me (Rom. 8:31). I can be assured of my place in the presence of God because I have faith in his salvation, because he has chosen to have a relationship with me, and because he is a God who keeps his promises.
There are two applications I want you to think about from understanding this huge difference. Firstly, we can talk to our Muslim friends about that difference. We do not have to be condescending or hateful, but we can open the door to a conversation that offers them true hope and an eternal assurance by faith. We can talk to our Muslim coworkers and neighbors about how God offers what their faith cannot offer—the chance to believe in the saving grace of God. Secondly, I encourage you to stop what you're doing and PRAY — thank God for his saving power in Jesus. Thank God for the assurance of salvation. Thank God for the faith he delivered once for all who would find redemption in him.
- Dan Lankford
Religion is always going to be a hot-button topic in this world, because we generally do not like to be told what to do or how to think. However, we are God’s people, and we are therefore going to be religious people. So it is imperative that we remember a couple of important things that religion is not and a couple of things that it is.
Firstly, our religion is not meant to be a cafeteria-style experience. Choosing a church primarily for its good music, its child-care programs, or its traditional feel puts the focus in the wrong place. We cannot choose a church like we would choose dinner off a menu—just looking for a collection of my favorite things. Our religion is not meant to be a cafeteria-style experience.
Secondly, our religion must not be a auditorium-style experience. It is admittedly much easier go to church and watch a performance of “church music” than it is to actually participate in the worship. Even among the many of us who worship with a cappella music in our churches, we must be careful that we do not choose this primarily because “I like the sound of a cappella so much better.” Worship is not meant to be a performance targeted at the audience.
In both cases, what you find missing is God. The cafeteria and the auditorium styles both glorify the worshiper—not God. Our efforts must be deliberately focused on bringing glory to God, the Father. It’s not a matter of impressing anyone or just finding what works best for me. Rather than asking, “What kind of experience do I want?”, let us ask, “What does GOD want from me?” And rather than choosing to watch a performance, let us determine that we will glorify God together.
“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame…” (Psa. 25:1-3)
- Dan Lankford
"...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thess. 5:18, ESV)
I'm pretty sure that most of the times I've talked about that verse, I've thought more along the lines of, "But what about when the situation is difficult?" In doing that, I'm pretty sure I missed the main point of the teaching.
• How many times has God done something for me that he didn't have to do? And how many times have I neglected to thank him for that?
• How many times has God given an extravagant level of ease and luxury in my life? And how many times have I worried that I would lose it... rather than thanking him for it?
• How many times have other people—my parents, my church, my spouse—been unbelievably kind to me? And how many times have I taken that for granted—assumed that I had deserved that from them anyway?
How many times could I actually give thanks to God or another human being every day if I would only be humble enough to actually appreciate how blessed I am?
- Dan Lankford
When a person becomes a Christian, the Bible says that person is added to the church. In Acts 2, the Lord was adding people to the church daily (Acts 2:47). Once they came to be in Christ, they were naturally added to the group of people who are in Christ. This point might seem so simple as to almost be superfluous, but I believe we may have missed one important aspect of it.
At special events—youth lectures, Bible camps, vacation bible schools, and others—young Christians are sometimes told that they are the future of the church. This is—they are told—the reason they must soon begin to take their faith responsibilities seriously.
But, if we assume the young Christians are the future of the church who will soon take their faith seriously, should we also assume that elderly Christians are the past of the church who no longer need to take their faith responsibilities seriously?
Neither of these ideas can be supported biblically. When the Lord added people to the church daily, some of them may have been in their younger years, and yet they were added to the church like everyone else. Some of them may have been well into their older years, and yet they were added to the church like everyone else. In both cases, they were called God’s people regardless of their age. And they all had responsibilities toward Jesus.
Let’s be sure that our church is a church at work. Not just that a certain segment of our church is at work, but that Christ is living and active in all of us. We might have different abilities at different stages of life, but the work of taking the light to the world must be shared by people of all ages. If a person is in Christ, his or her responsibilities to serve the Lord matter in the present—not just in the future or in the past. If you are a young Christian, you are a Christian now, and you must behave like one. If you are an older Christian, you are a Christian now, and you must behave like one. Christ’s church exists in the present. Let’s not put our service for him just in the future or just the past.
- Dan Lankford
This past Sunday morning, as we studied Ecclesiastes 1 in the adult class, we were confronted with some sobering realities. The realities that much of life is out of our control can be a frightening thing for us, and this is one of the great challenges of Christianity.
Part of the uniqueness of God's plan comes from the fact that it asks us to overcome by relinquishing control. Typically, we think we will gain the upper hand by controlling all the other hands. And so we look for ways to mold our lives so that they meet our wants and satisfy our cravings. And yet, it is when we acknowledge that we'll never have perfect control... when we acknowledge that only God has that much power... when we acknowledge him as a perfect God who will faithfully meet all of our needs... It is then that we are able to relinquish the reins and live by our faith in him. "This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for part from him, who can eat or who can have enjoyment?" (Eccl. 2:24-25)
- Dan Lankford