The New Testament has several reminders about the work of those who devote their lives to teaching the gospel.
We are to be evangelists. “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:5) The work of evangelism is the work of teaching the lost about Jesus Christ, and it is a crucial part of the preacher’s efforts.
We are to be preachers. “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus... preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:1-2) Our task is to proclaim the words of God to those who know him, to those who don’t know, and to those who have once known him and walked away from him.
And we are to be ministers. “Tychicus... is a beloved brother and faith-ful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” (Col. 4:7) This third aspect of our work reminds us of our need for humility. We are not to think of the terms “evangelist” and “preacher” as positions of exaltation, but rather as roles of service. We are called to proclaim the truth in all of its power, and we are called to do so out of a motivation of care and concern for people that mirrors God’s own compassion for us.
All three of these words refer to the same role. And all three are far-reaching reminders about how we should approach our work. To knowingly neglect any of these is a choice to serve God incompletely.
Several months ago, I listened to a leadership podcast that asked an insightful question for any organization that is doing things well: "If all that we have going today was somehow lost tomorrow, would we know how to build it back up to this point? Would we know what it is that makes this work?"
That's a great question for a church. Because it happens all the time. A new church is planted, and at first, they focus on worshiping God, teaching the gospel, and loving people. And as they do that, they grow and begin to do more things with their building, their classes, and their special events. And all of those can be truly great things. But the important thing for us to remember is that those things are great specifically because they are an effort to worship God, teach the gospel, and love people.
I think this is a good reminder for us as we are taking some big steps. We're getting ready to hire another preacher and to appoint some new elders. We have been so blessed by God, and there is so much positive momentum in our congregation right now. It's a very special group to be with, and I'm thankful. Let's make sure that we continually remember what makes this group great. "If all that we have going today was somehow lost tomorrow, would we know how to build it back up to this point? Would we know what it is that makes this work?" Yeah, we know. The strength of any thriving church is in people who love God, teach the Gospel, and love others. Let's never take our focus off of that.
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." (1 Cor. 3:6-7)
- Dan Lankford, minister
*here is the podcast I was listening to, although I can't remember the episode*
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11)
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4:16)
What a truly wonderful message.
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
It seems that some Christians think of Christ’s church as a very fragile thing. It’s not unusual to hear Christians talk about cultural shifts as though they will be the undoing of Christianity (for example: “We’re going to lose the next generation of Christians because of all this mess about homosexuality and transgender they hear about in the culture”). And it’s not unusual to hear Christians talk about changes within a congregation in fearful terms rather than faithful ones (for example: “We’re thinking about appointing new elders, and I hope it doesn’t cause a big argument or a split”). Obviously, we want to pray about potential challenges and prepare ourselves to face them, but we want to do that from a perspective of faith that God will help us, not fear that he will abandon us.
So let’s not be too anxious about things that threaten to derail or destroy the church. It is certain that the gates of hell will press against the church from outside and inside. Cultural challenges will come, and unpleasant changes may happen in the church. But let’s not be as anxious about what we will lose as we are confident in what God has promised to give. Challenges may come, but the church is not fragile as long as she truly puts her faith in the power and promise of God.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Today is September 2. That means that two-thirds of 2018 is already gone. This is the time of the year that most of us start asking, “Where did the time go?” With that in mind, maybe this is a good occasion to take stock of what you’re doing with your time right now and what you intend to make of the rest of the year.
The apostle Paul said, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16) The verses around that encouragement tell us how.
- First, he says, “don’t be foolish, but understand the will of the Lord” (v. 17). This reminds us of the high priority that Bible study and prayer should have. They help us understand God’s will for our lives.
- In the next verse, he says, “don’t get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” This, too, reminds us that the best use of our time involves filling our minds with the things of God. And one good way to do that: sing songs of the faith (v. 19).
- In verse 20, he says, “give thanks always and for everything in Jesus’ name.” While it might not sound like what we typically think of as time management, it is hard to imagine something more valuable to the mind and heart than a period of introspective gratitude.
You can make the most of your days by putting these practices of the soul to work in your life. They will sharpen your mind, soften your heart, and enhance your time in some truly powerful ways.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In Bladensburg, Maryland, a forty-foot tall cross stands in a highway median as a memorial to soldiers who died in World War I. A group known as the American Humanist Association has recently sued to have it removed since it is on public land. Their claim involves two ideas:
1) Since the land is public, it should have no association with a particular religion, lest it violates the Constitution. 2) Although many advocates of keeping the monument have said, “It’s just a memorial; it’s not a religious statement,” these humanists understand that a cross is always the premier symbol of Christ and Christianity.
It is not my intention in this writing to argue whether the monument should remain, but rather to highlight that second idea: that, even from a perspective that denies God’s sovereignty, a Roman cross is inherently seen as a reference to Jesus Christ and his religion.
This case has already gone through a major appeals court (on its way to the Supreme Court), and the writer of the majority opinion said, "Even in the memorial context, a Latin cross serves not simply as a generic symbol of death, but rather a Christian symbol of the death of Jesus Christ.”
There is something encouraging in the fact that the world must still face the reality of Jesus’ cross. It’s not just a relic of history; it is always the message of “Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:23-24)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Yesterday, USA Today reported that Chris Watts—a 33-yr-old man from Colorado who has confessed to killing his wife and two children—had been having an affair with a coworker and was planning to leave his wife. It was in the course of telling his wife about this that the situation turned extremely emotional, then lethal. Obviously, most people would never assume that a situation like that could turn so violent, but no one argues that his unholy sexual activity made the stakes incredibly high at that moment.
On the same day, it was revealed that one of the most outspoken proponents of the #MeToo movement is also being accused of sexual assault. Asia Argento—a woman who publicly and strongly criticized Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein for the disgraceful conduct of which he was accused—has been ousted for her own unholy sexual behavior with a minor back in 2013. One major player in the whole ordeal called out Argento for "a stunning display of hypocrisy."
On the same day, the organization Planned Parenthood tweeted: "Students deserve sex education that is medically-accurate, comprehensive, and inclusive. This is not a radical idea!" If you were to familiarize yourself with their stance on a huge number of issues relating to sexuality and reproduction, you would find that their idea here is a very radical one. (You can click here to view my response to their tweet.)
These stories and that tweet capture the spirit of an ever-increasing problem in our society—one that most people have yet to realize is a problem. It is the problem of thinking that sexual fulfillment equates to happiness, and that sex somehow brings more happiness when it has been "liberated" from its classically-enforced bond to marriage. But liberating the idea of sex in this way is like "liberating" a fire from the fireplace into the rest of your house. In its place, it is a wonderful thing: it provides warmth, comfort, and serene joy in the home. But out of its place, it only brings destruction.
The apostle Paul said, "Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body" (1 Cor. 6:18). Christians, we must not only believe this for others; we must live it for ourselves. No matter how tempting it sounds to give in to our sexual urges outside of monogamous and heterosexual marriage, we must believe that God's way is always the best way. "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled" (Heb. 13:4).
- Dan Lankford, minister
The fundamental belief of an evolution-based worldview is: nothing can happen outside the realm of natural processes. Whatever phenomena may exist, the belief is that they are explainable purely through chemical and physical means. We call this a naturalistic belief because it insists exclusively on explanations from the natural world and deliberately precludes the possibility of anything that transcends nature’s usual patterns.
The problem with that worldview is that it does not leave any room for common human morality. If a person has any sense of what another person ought to do, he has gone beyond the limits of naturalism. Chemical processes are, by definition, a-moral (neither right nor wrong). If all things come only from physical processes like gravity, electricity, and chemistry, then when asked, “What is wrong with stealing? With premeditated killing? With assault on innocent or defenseless humans?” the naturalist can give no logical answer.
In contrast to that system, one of the fundamental beliefs of the Biblical worldview is this: one supernatural being, a God named YHWH, created and sustains all life. And among all living things, mankind is uniquely made in the image of YHWH. And one of the necessary conclusions of that belief is that some things are categorically right or wrong. There are major moral implications. There is a need for common human decency. And only the Biblical worldview can teach us the most comprehensively good way to live that out.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Our shepherds announced on Sunday morning that we have hired two new evangelists.
Kristopher Sanders and his family will soon be joining our church for Kris to work as a full-time minister. Kris has been preaching here in Louisville for the past three years, and we are excited to have him working with us alongside Dan Lankford. He has a passion for teaching the lost, and we are excited to see the results of his efforts to reach out to our Louisville neighbors. The Sanders family are: Kristopher (Kris), Dekena (DeeDee), Roman, and Addison.
And Jon Bingham—one of our members—is taking on a new role of part-time employment with our church. Our plan is for Jon to focus on assisting with mission work. He will travel, especially in the summer months, to aid and encourage many of the men we are already supporting to preach the gospel in different states. We are thankful for Jon's enthusiasm, and we look forward to deepening the connections between the church and our missionaries through his efforts.
Our elders informed the congregation of these milestone decisions this past Sunday morning. And they did so squarely in the context of our continual three-part vision: living the gospel, participating in the gospel, and sharing the gospel. We believe that employing these men is the best way that we can utilize the abundant resources with which God has blessed us to take the good news of Jesus to our city and to the world.
Keep these two men and their families in your prayers as they jump into their labors in the Lord’s harvest field (Matt. 9:38). Keep our shepherds in your prayers as they work to keep us firmly rooted in a Biblical vision for the church. And keep our whole church family in your prayers that we will “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15-16)
In our daily Bible reading program, we're marching through the Psalms. this past week’s group of psalms reminded us of the Israelites’ story with God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called these “Psalms of Holy History,” and with good reason. The reminders about God’s deliverance from Egypt, about all the times he answered their cries during Judges, and about his marvelous abundance poured out in Solomon’s time should have reminded the people of their dependence on the one true and holy God—Yahweh. Indeed, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4)
All Christians need a working knowledge of Bible stories, because we need the same reminders. One of God’s frequent criticisms of his people during the time of the prophets was, “You have forgotten me” (Isa. 17:10, Isa. 51:13, Jer. 13:25, Jer. 44:9, Ezek. 22:12, Ezek. 22:35, Hosea 4:6). It wasn’t that they had forgotten that God exists, but that they had forgotten the many stories that manifest his goodness and faithfulness to them in the past. And since they forgot the stories of the past, they neglected to trust him in the present.
On one occasion when the disciples forgot to bring any bread on a journey with Jesus, they were afraid that he would be angry with them. But Jesus asked, “Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand…?” (Matt. 16:9) They and all generations of believers need to remember that God has shown himself trustworthy and good. We must remember our Bible stories because they remind us that we can trust God today with anything and everything that matters.
- Dan Lankford, minister