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Every Time There Is Mass Violence...

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Sunday morning, there were mass shootings in two mosques in New Zealand. It was yet another example of violence perpetuated by one who's heart was filled with hatred. Like a handful of similar events in recent years, these events somewhat take us by surprise when they happen in free, western, peaceful nations.

It is difficult (and probably somewhat unnecessary) to find anything new to say about events like this. Each time they happen, we are confronted by the the same kind of violence that has existed since Genesis 4, when Cain killed his innocent brother, Abel. Each time, believers see through the secular world's confused attempts to explain evil without believing in a divine power. Each time, we feel sympathy for the families of those who died, we mourn for any who died while in rebellion against Christ, and we remember that it was not God's original plan for us to die—that happened when we chose to sin against him.

And each time we see an event like this, we are reminded that God has made a place for us where "the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-5)

- Dan Lankford, minister

Christian Integrity

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Webster’s describes a Christian as, “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ or one who is a disciple or follower of Christ.” It goes on to describe the word integrity as, “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles of moral uprightness, and the state of being undivided.” To sum up both words collectively, we might say that a Christian is an unwavering follower of Christ who has strong moral principles of uprightness.

 As followers of Christ, integrity should be front and center in every area of our lives. The Bible reads in Proverbs 10:9, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” The moral compass of a child of God should not go off-course just because their situation changes. And let’s face it: we live in an imperfect world where there are imperfect people. So then, how can Christian in-tegrity be found in an imperfect world? Answer: it can be found in Christ.

When we walk securely in the ways of the Lord we can stay on course and not waver. I like the word integrity because of two small words within it. The word in and the word grit. The word “in” means expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else.  The word “grit” means, strength of character.  When we enclose and surround ourselves in the ways of the Lord, our strength of character will be renewed daily. And in being renewed daily, a Christian can walk securely in integrity without wavering.

- Kristopher Sanders, minister

Respect the Boundaries

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

On Sunday, news agencies everywhere learned the story from a zoo in Arizona about a woman who had been attacked and injured by a jaguar in the zoo. The jaguar had not escaped from its enclosure; rather, the woman had climbed over a barrier meant to keep people at a safe distance so that she could get close enough to take a selfie.

There is an obvious lesson for us in that: the importance of respecting boundaries. Healthy boundaries are necessary. They are not just in place to oppress us and rob us of our freedom; they are usually there for our good. This is especially true of the rules, statutes, and regulations laid down in God's word. Yes, they constrain us in some ways, but they do so in order to keep us safe and give us true freedom to enjoy life as God has intended it. (It seems especially appropriate in light of Sunday's news story to point out that the boundaries God has established will keep us safe from a big cat that intends to harm us [cf. 1 Pet. 5:9]).

So appreciate God's boundaries as outlined in the Scriptures. Appreciate that he has given us some "thou-shalt-not's" in order to keep us safe. Know the boundaries. Be grateful for them. And respect them in your daily choices.
- Dan Lankford, minister

[Side note: since Sunday, the woman has confessed her fault in Sunday's incident.]

His Exalted Word

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm #119—a poem that extols the glory of God’s written word. There is a very healthy ideal underlying a composition like that. It’s the kind of thing that God’s people should always aspire to—that we value the words of God as highly as that psalmist. That’s why we are a church who take the Bible seriously. And just a quick survey of our practices, procedures, and conversations reveals that:

  • Instead of studying each year’s newest best-seller from the Christian world, our classes focus on studying the Bible again & again.
  • When we teach about salvation, we do so by opening the Bible.
  • Our goal is to have a pulpit where sermons are defined by appeals to the Bible as God’s final authority on matters of daily life and eternal doctrine.
  • We have a program of daily reading assignments to encourage folks to spend more time in the Bible and let it permeate each of our hearts more each day.
  • We teach our children the stories and doctrines of the Bible.
  • We contemplate God’s words from the Bible before the weekly communion with Christ.
  • When we talk about both morality and religious practice for the modern age, we are primarily concerned with what the Bible says about those things.

All of that probably sounds perfectly normal to most of us. And yet, all of that would cause many in the secular and religious world to ask: “Why?” For many people, the Bible should be thought of more like guidelines than actual rules.

But not for us. We continue to agree with the psalmist’s belief that God’s written word is righteous, healthy, holy, encouraging, empowering and generally wonderful. May it ever be so.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Make The Most of It

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

"...after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them." (Matt. 25:19)

That is the turning point in Jesus' parable about a master who gave differing amounts of his money to three servants so they could manage it on his behalf (Matt. 25:14-30). He gave them a job and the resources to accomplish it, and he rightly expected them to be diligent in making the most of what he gave.

The meaning of the parable seems clear: God is the master, we are the servants, and his money is the resources of our lives. Has he given us time? Then we should use to do his work. Has he given us money? Then we should use it to bless others as he would have us do. Has he given us skills? We should use them for his glory. Has he given us influence? Then we should use it to bring others to him. Has he given us creativity? Energy? Intelligence? Friendships? Then we should be mindful & diligent to use all of it for his glory.

What will the master receive from you when he returns? Whatever the amount of return, will he know that you faithfully tried to make the most of what you were given?

- Dan Lankford, minister

Them Against Us; Us For Them

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Make no mistake: the world is set against Christianity. There is a version of Christianity which it likes, but it lacks the core elements of the one true faith—namely, Jesus Christ and his word. “The world”—that term which the apostles used to describe people living under the slavery of sin—is set against Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

So what are we to do? Since they are against us, does that mean that Christians should be against the people who are in the world?

No. In fact, if we follow Jesus, we are not against the world, but we are in fact for those same people—we want what is truly good for them.

Like our God, who loved the world enough to send his son to give them everlasting life (John 3:16), we are to show love to evil people toward the goal of teaching them about everlasting life. Like our Lord Jesus, who opened not his mouth when he was reviled, we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered (Psa. 44:22, Rom. 8:36) because we do not return blow for blow when the world attacks. And like our ancestors in this faith, we remember the words of the apostle Peter, who told persecuted Christians, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9)

The world is working to bring death to us, but we are working to bring good news to them. They are against us, but God is for the salvation of all (2 Pet. 3:9), and so we are too.

- Dan Lankford, minister

The Power In the Story — The Great Flood

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

This week, we're reading the story of the flood that God sent to cleanse the earth. Here are a few stand-out ideas to look for as you read that story:

  • The depths of human depravity are astounding. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul described sin's deep consequences, and we can look around at pockets of our world where sin has been allowed to take a firm hold. But we ought to be thankful that we do not live in a world that is so completely engulfed in it as Noah did. There are imperfect, but good people around us, and we ought to thank God for them.
  • The salvation of Noah and his family from that depraved world was a masterful plan by the Master of Heaven and Earth. When the scale of destruction was so massive, it is remarkable to think that God took notice of one man and his family and gave them the gift of new life. It reminds us that he really does love us—pitiful as we are—and that he has made salvation available to us again and again throughout time.
  • God's power through water is nothing short of awesome. In the flood story, he uses it to destroy evil, to cleanse the earth, to purify humanity, to save the faithful, and to restore life. All at the same time. And that power correlates very strongly to the way that God uses water to simultaneously accomplish several things in our lives at the moment of baptism (cf. 1 Peter 3:18-21). It just reminds us again of God's amazing grace toward those who believe.

As you read the story, keep your eyes firmly fixed on what God is doing. Tremble at his power and wrath, and worship him for his glorious grace.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Pray For Your Church Leaders

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

It occurred to me last week as I was studying my lesson for our "Kingdom Leaders" class that one of the most important elements of leadership in God's church is prayer. Leaders—especially shepherds & ministers—must be men of prayer (cf. Acts 6:4, 1 Tim. 4:13). They should be men who constantly seek help and favor from God in everything that they and the church strive to do together.

In addition, a church who wants to be all that Jesus calls us to be should pray for our leaders. Someone has said, "A church will get the leaders that they deserve." And while that isn't exactly a quote from Scripture, it does make us think: have we asked God for leaders who will truly care for our souls? Jesus spoke for the Father and said, "Ask, and it will be given to you," and this is one area where we can have every expectation that God will give us what we ask for.

In the same sentence where the Holy Spirit reminded us to pray for our national leaders, he said, "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people." (1 Tim. 2:1) That certainly applies to the leaders of the church.

  • Pray especially for the shepherds, the preachers, and the deacons.
  • Pray for the shepherds to care about each soul individually.
  • Pray for the preachers to understand the word rightly and speak it plainly.
  • Pray for the deacons to be godly servants and teachers.
  • Pray for their families.
  • Pray for their physical health.
  • Pray for their mental health.
  • Pray for their integrity.
  • Pray for their work ethic not to wain.
  • Pray for their peace in Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for their salvation & holiness as you pray for your own.

I know that you will, and I thank you for that.

- Dan Lankford, minister

The Torment of Regret

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Jesus talked a great deal about the eternal fates of mankind: both the good and the bad. In Luke 16, as he told the story of two men—one in heaven and the other in torment—he gave the impression that those in torment suffer from a peculiar kind of clarity regarding life on earth. The rich man in that story requested: “I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Luke 16:27-28) He knew truly who was to blame for his bleak status, and he knew exactly how bad it would be for his brothers were they to come there too.

One preacher recently said to me, "I think a big part of hell will be just the burden of KNOWING what you did wrong and what you missed out on.” The torment of regret probably rings a faintly familiar tone for many of us.

How many times have you laid awake at night regretting something you did that you should have known better? How often have you found yourself trying to quell a stomach that churns with regret? Do you ever catch yourself sighing out loud as a regret-filled memory flits through your mind?

If we understand those feelings on that level, can we even imagine how deep the pain of regret will be where the punishment is so severe and when we have eternity to ponder it? Let’s make a determination to live every day with no need for shame about the way that we have walked with God. Believe in his forgiveness, live with integrity, and be free from the fear of death and hell’s regret-filled darkness.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Faith Leading To Sight

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face."
(1 Cor. 13:12)  

"...for we walk by faith, not by sight."
(2 Cor. 5:7)  

"And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight."
(Horatio Spafford, from the hymn It Is Well With My Soul)

In this life, we must believe in things that we have not seen. We have not seen Jesus (1 Pet. 4:8), but we believe in him and we love him. And Jesus said that we are very blessed indeed when we believe in him without seeing him (John 20:29).

But won't it truly be a wonderful thing when we will see the things that we have previously only had faith in? Won't it be wonderful to see heaven—the great city that he has told us about and we have believed in? Won't it be wonderful to see the host of those whom God promised to save and we believed that he would?  Won't it be wonderful to see God in all of his glory? The God whom we have believed in through this life in spite of the fact that our eyes have not and will not behold him?

As our hearts long for eternity, we gladly echo Mr. Spafford's prayer: "Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight."

- Dan Lankford, minister

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