Thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
For I will not contend forever,
nor will I always be angry;
for the spirit would grow faint before me,
and the breath of life that I made.
Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
creating the fruit of the lips.
Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord,
“and I will heal him."
- Isaiah 57:15-19, ESV
I've really been enjoying having two ministers for the past couple of months. Kris is obviously an extremely talented preacher, he exhibits genuine concern for lost souls, and he and I are building a great friendship while we work together between Sundays. I am increasingly thankful to have him as a friend and fellow worker in the Lord.
This past week, a few people have come to each of us and said the same thing: "I think Dan is the intellectual one and Kris is the emotional one." And you know what? We're both good with that as a recognition of our strengths, and we're both thankful to work together with our respective strengths. And here's a tiny little thing to consider in that regard:
God made us whole people—emotional and intellectual creatures. Each one may find he or she has a tendency to be more intellectual or more emotional at various times, but every person made in God's image is both. That's what makes us spiritual: the combination of the mind and the heart that the Bible refers to as the soul. It's part of what makes humans unique from the rest of creation, because it's part of how we are made in God's image.
That's why I like Kris' preaching so much. Because he preaches the word of God, my heart and my mind are being challenged. And I hope the same is true when I preach—that people's minds and hearts are touched by God's words. Kris and I are enjoying working together. Obviously, each one has his strengths, but together, we are both trying to preach the whole gospel to whole people.
"I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also." (1 Cor. 14:15)
- Dan Lankford, minister
The Thanksgiving holiday is a special one for Christians. Historically, it looks back to a time when a group of believers who were making serious efforts to follow only the teachings of Scripture gave thanks to God for the help he had given them in finding a new land in which to practice Christianity as they understood it. But theologically, it looks back way further than that.
When God created the first humans in his image and placed them in the Garden of Eden, God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food." (Gen. 2:29) So why did Adam and Eve eat the one kind of fruit that God had forbidden when they had every other kind of fruit available to them? The simple answer: ingratitude.
While it is certainly true that the underlying cause of every willful sin is pride (when we think our own way is a better choice than God's way), a case can be made that another underlying cause of every sin is ingratitude—a dissatisfaction with the rightful & wonderful blessings God has given us. Ingratitude leads to discontentment, discontentment leads to entitlement, and entitlement leads to arrogance, which gets us right back to the problem of pride that causes us to sin.
What do we do about this? We remember that Paul's encouragement to the Thessalonians is more than a cheap platitude—it is a divine command with the potential to increase our faithfulness and bring us eternal joy. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
In the aftermath of last week’s shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, one news agency played a soundbite of a victim’s mother who said, “I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control and I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers.”
In the aftermath of a natural disaster from a few years ago, one Christian tweeted: “When things like this happen, don’t pray. DO something.” Perhaps even more disheartening was the number of enthusiastic responses he received from other Christians.
Biblically-minded Christians are right to be saddened when we hear these things. We see the inconsistency in directing our hope to God and also refusing prayer. We see the inconsistency in another Christian’s thinking that prayer and action are contrasts when prayer is a most important first action in response to a major event. It hurts us to hear anyone—whether believer or not—belittle something so sacred and so wonderful as a prayer to the God of Heaven.
Because we know that it is more than a magic incantation to distance us from suffering. And we see that, even in moments of deep pain and deep outrage, rejecting prayer is not just a rejection of people who pray; it is a rejection of God to whom we pray. My hope for all of us is that we live and speak in such a way that the world becomes aware of how powerful prayer really is because they see how powerful God really is.
Far from being a simplistic distraction from one’s own pain or a heartless dismissal of someone else’s, prayer is how we approach God in our pain. It is a place to build and enjoy a relationship with God Almighty. It is—and it must always be—faithful Christians’ first response to wickedness and suffering in this world.
- Dan Lankford, minister
For Christian parents, one of the happiest days of the whole parenting experience must surely be when our children decide to commit their lives to Christ. Several years ago, before I had kids of my own, I was with a close Christian friend when his son was baptized. I said to him, "This must be a good day for a dad." And without missing a beat, he said, "This is the best day for a dad."
Here's something to think about in that situation: as a parent, what do you say to your kids after that momentous, eternity-shaping event? What should our first conversation with them be like?
I don't feel like I have a very complete answer to that question, but I've got a couple of ideas as I think ahead to what I will say to my own kids. It will probably involve a long and serious conversation early on. (More likely, it will involve several serious conversations when we sit in our house, and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise.) So as I'm thinking about that now, here are some of the things I will want them to hear from me:
- First, I want them to know that I am overjoyed at the choice they've made! I am thrilled that they have believed in Jesus enough to do something with that faith.
- Second, I want them to start thinking about the power & importance of prayer right away. It's hard to think of anything as powerful for fighting temptation, for overcoming doubt, and for truly enjoying the gift of salvation.
- Third, I want to warn them about the serious and unrelenting nature of temptation. It doesn't go away after you're baptized; in fact, your temptations will almost certainly get stronger. And you don't get to take them less seriously after you're baptized. It can become easy to downplay sin by thinking, "Now, if I sin, all I have to do is pray for forgiveness," but it's not okay to presume upon God's grace like that (Rom. 6:1).
- Fourth, I want to ask them some questions about their friends. Will those friendships help you walk with Christ? What will you be doing to light the way to Jesus for them?
- And finally (for now, anyway), I want to hear that my kids have some actionable plans for spending time with God. A commitment to Bible reading, a prayer time and journaling habit, a devotional study they're having with their Christian friends, or a tangible way to do some good works for others... something to ensure that their faith will be active.
There's probably plenty more that would be good to include in those first days of shepherding our children toward God when they become Christians. But I hope that even this helps us as parents to start thinking ahead and planning to help our kids as much as possible when they make their own choice to walk thru life & eternity with Jesus Christ.
- Dan Lankford, minster
“Virtue signaling” is a term which comes from the psychological sciences, but has worked its way into mainstream thought where it describes those among us who loudly decry an injustice in society because everyone else seems to be doing that right now. It’s what happens when a person who has little conviction on a particular subject suddenly jumps on a bandwagon of outrage to be seen as a good person. And it is easy to see this kind of behavior if one looks for it. Whenever there is a call for public outrage, there will be those who have previously shown no concern but who suddenly want to appear that they are part of the virtuous crowd.
Christians may find this especially tempting because we are right to be appalled (though not surprised) by sin and its filthiness. But while we are right to denounce sin, we do not decry its presence because we want to be seen as good people. In fact, “virtue signaling” may be the modern word for this practice, but our Bibles use a much older word for it: hypocrisy. Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:1) The desire to be seen and praised by others cannot be our motivation for spirituality. Our goal is to do the will of God just for His own sake.
Let’s do our best to just be good people. All the time. In every way. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see... and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
- Dan Lankford, minister
At this past Sunday’s service, in conjunction with our guest speaker series, we appointed two new men to serve our church family as shepherds. We’d like to briefly introduce you to them here.
Scott Boatright has been a member of our congregation since his family moved to Louisville when he was a kid. Scott and his wife, Heather, have been very active members of the church for a long time. It’s no stretch to say that they are the glue that holds a lot of close friendships together, especially among couples their age and younger. Scott has a particular knack for fostering unity and closeness between fellow church members, and that is a characteristic that we are so grateful to have in our shepherds. We’re so thankful that he and his family are willing to take on the responsibility of shepherding the souls of others to Jesus.
Jon Bingham has been an Eastland member for just over three years, and in that time, he and his family have solidified their role as people of integrity and very diligent servants. Jon and his wife, Bethany, have both been great examples of hospitality, opening their home practically every week to members of our church family and others. Jon is also very enthusiastic about evangelism; he is the driving force behind our Meetups calendar and often asks for one-on-one Bible studies with church members or unchurched friends. These two characteristics—hospitable and evangelistic—are the kinds of characteristics that we always hope to have in our shepherds, and we're thankful Jon is willing to serve in this way.
The Lord continues to be good to our church family, and we continue to be thankful for all of his goodness. We would ask you to pray for all of our shepherds, for our ministers, for our deacons, and for all who work to do the Lord’s will and bring others to the only Savior for all mankind, Jesus the Christ.
This past week saw several violent outbursts. Saturday, a man walked into a synagogue and ruthlessly murdered 11 people. On Friday, a man was arrested for mailing at least a dozen explosive devices to major political figures whom he disagreed with. And last Wednesday, our own community was rocked by a demonstration of racism that played out as a double-murder shooting at the Kroger in Jeffersontown.
Why does this kind of thing happen? How should Christians understand events like this? And what should we pray about in response to these things?
Bottom line, these things happen because we live in a broken world. Sin is present, and it has the power to break the human mind so that violence looks like the best option for some. It is the presence of sin that manifests in negative exterior influences and in the internal motivations of each person.
So Christians should respond to these things the same way that God's people always have: by keeping our faith in Him that all of this will eventually be overcome by the grace of God. God will punish evil, he will rescue his faithful ones, and he will be acknowledged by everyone as the sovereign king of time and eternity.
So what should we pray about? We should pray all the more that evil hearts are transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should pray for success for those whose job is to put a stop to violence. We should pray for the humility & righteousness to love our neighbors as ourselves (regardless of race or religion). We should thank God for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones when we escape the violence. We should pray that God helps us to love those whom we fear. We should pray for increasing faith and hope in Jesus Christ.
And we should pray for the day when, "at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:10-11)
- Dan Lankford, minister
In Ephesians 5:15-17 the Bible reads, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The King James Version reads in verse 16: “Redeeming the time, because the day are evil.” Paul here is cautioning Christians to use their time wisely because God expects the time He has given us not to be wasted.
The word for ‘redeeming’ in the Greek can mean to buy up, ransom, or rescue from loss. I heard it put this way: we need to rescue from loss the time that remains in our lives.
James tells us in James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Once time has slipped away we no longer have it and yet many are foolishly making plans without God in their future. What happened yesterday is gone and cannot be redeemed, and tomorrow is not promised. The time given to us should be spent glorifying God in every area of our lives. It should be manifested in our worship to God, our treatment of one another, our speech and in everything we do. When we rescue or redeem the time that God has given us, we are saying to Him, “Father your grace has not been wasted.” I personally know there are areas in my life where I could do a better job as it relates to my time. What about you? How are you redeeming the time God has given to you?
- Kristopher Sanders, minister
Several weeks ago, this space was used to remind us that it’s important for us to remember basic Bible stories, even (and maybe especially) as adults. Now, let’s add another brick in that same wall: it’s important for us to look for God in those same stories. As children, we usually learn moral lessons from the human characters, and that’s very healthy. As adults, we would also do well to focus on the theological lessons—what YHWH is doing and what that can teach us.
Consider the story of David & Goliath. David’s bravery and faith are encouraging examples to us. But look deeper at what God does to his enemy: he turns things inside-out. Goliath’s head is removed with his own sword, so that the very thing he depended on to rebel against YHWH was turned against him by YHWH’s servant.
Or consider the story of Moses’ striking the rock when he should have spoken to it. Moses’ arrogance is a great reminder for us to be humble. But we can also look in the same story and see what God is doing: using imperfect servants to accomplish his perfect plan. Moses is disobedient to God, and yet the water still flows for the people, because YHWH, who is our God and theirs, is merciful.
This simple transition in our thinking can open doors to things we’ve never considered in God’s great book. One Bible teacher commonly reminds his students: “The Bible is one unified story that points to Jesus.” Looking for God’s activities in classic Bible stories can help us to see the unity of that story and God’s great plan through all of it.
- Dan Lankford, minister