Month: March 2016

Why Is She Buying Her Stairway to Heaven?

Back when I was a rocker, one of my favorite bands was Led Zeppelin, whose most famous song was “Stairway to Heaven.” The song, which was really a series of pieced-together lyrics designed to follow a set of pieced-together guitar riffs and melodies, portrayed a woman who was getting everything she wanted, and had no regard for anyone or anything else. The one lyric that almost anyone can quote from the song is “There’s a lady is sure, all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying her stairway to heaven.”

Follow the sometimes-unintelligible lyrics, and you’ll learn that Heaven for this lady is all the gifts and gold she’s buying. For many people, Heaven is just that… the goodies you can accumulate during this lifetime. How disappointing it will be when we all realize how temporary the things of this world really are.

But, once again, that lyric goes through our heads… “and she’s buying her stairway to Heaven.” How desperately we want to see things go better in our lives. We need a breakthrough. We need a situation resolved. We need a hurt or a brokenness fixed. So, after all else has failed, we turn to the Lord in prayer, and we look to the scriptures for encouragement.

Anyone who is coping with a recent tragedy, a layoff, a loss of income, a foreclosure or repossession, or a missed promotion, will inevitably come to Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” While this verse definitely applies to the struggles we face, we often draw the wrong conclusion from it.

“All things work together for my good,” is often understood as, “So, I didn’t get the promotion. God must be working up a better job for me.” “So, the offer I made on this house was rejected, God must be reserving a mansion in the hills for me.” “So, I just got fired, maybe this lottery ticket is a winner.”

When we take the promises of God and apply them to temporal things like jobs, houses, finances and worldly opportunities, we do two things. (1) We miss the big picture, and (2) we set ourselves up for disappointment and disenchantment, because God is not always lining up a windfall for us.

“All things work together for my good, but I didn’t get the promotion.”

“All things work together for my good, but I’m still unemployed six months later.”

“All things work together for my good, but this lottery ticket was a loser.”

There is no worse place to be in life than to think that God’s promises apply to everyone else, but somehow exclude you. This leads to disenchantment, depression and loss of faith. It was caused by a misunderstanding of what otherwise is a glorious verse.

Romans 8 is not talking about material blessings, earthly wealth, or added prestige. Romans 8 is previewing Heaven for us. When Romans 8:28 says “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose,” it is saying that God is working everything in your life to bring you into His eternal glory. Romans 8:28 tells us that God is working to strengthen us Spiritually, is working to set us up for eternal rewards, and is working to form us into the person he intended on us being.

God didn’t allow you to be laid off so He can get you hired as the CEO of DuPont. He allowed you to be laid off so He can build your faith, so that regardless of your employment situation, you feel confident and secure. He wants to give you the tools to face life’s challenges, the opportunities to glorify him, and to enter his Kingdom hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The comfort of Romans 8:28 is not that there’s a bigger house around the corner. It’s that God’s hand is still on us, even though a storm of life is raging.

All of this is a sub-point to the greater truth that God is pulling out all the stops to bring you into His Kingdom. Romans 8:29-30 say that whom God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, and whom He predestined, He called, justified and glorified. Romans 8:31-39 go on to say that there is no force in Heaven or Earth that can derail God’s love and plan for you. This truth builds our faith because we are reminded once again that salvation is God’s work, not ours. He bought our salvation, He worked our salvation, and He’ll maintain our salvation. All He asks is our repentance and faith.

So, with that in mind, “Why is she buying her stairway to Heaven?” And why are you trying to buy yours? God has already paid for it. Just trust Him as your ascend those golden steps into His Kingdom.

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Buying a New Life

WP_20150406_001Have you ever been burnt out? Tired of the same ole struggle, the same day-to-day routine? Need a change of scenery?

We all get burnt out. We all get tired, and we all want a new life. Why else would one of the top-selling singles from the Rock band “Everclear” be named “I will buy you a new life?”

There comes a time in everyone’s life where they want to hit the “Reset” button. Many actually ruin their lives in search of that reset button. They leave their families, file for divorce, leave a steady job and lose opportunities as a result. Many a regret were born out of restlessness.

The secret, however, is that new starts, restarts and resets do not come from the afore mentioned options. All those options do is add problems to your current struggles. That said, is it possible to hit the reset button on life? Is it possible to buy a new life?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to hit the reset button, and it is possible to get a new life, but Art Alexakis of Everclear is not the one who is going to buy it for you. Your new life was already paid for, 2,000 years ago, by Jesus Christ.

Now before you roll your eyes and click away, hear me out. You cannot get a new life simply by running from the one you are in. You get a new life by changing the one you are in. That change comes through Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “If any man be in Christ, He is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” The first key to a new life is to change yourself. Become someone greater. Become something more. Become the great individual that God intended on you being. It’s a change that no one can make on their own. It comes by turning from sin, trusting Jesus Christ as your savior, and by allowing Him to work in your life to form you into the person He intended on you being.

The initial change happens at the point of salvation. The continued change happens as you live out that new life. Romans 6:4 says “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” So, if you are a recovering alcoholic who has repented and given his life to Christ, don’t live the rest of your life the way an alcoholic would. Live your life with your new dream and your new purpose. It’s a conscientious choice you must make daily.

The continued change happens as you allow the Lord to work in your life. Romans 8:28 says “We know that all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Accepting Jesus Christ as your savior does not mean that you will no longer have problems. It simply means that your problems are no longer pointless. They now serve a purpose, whether it be resolving an ongoing conflict, strengthening you for the journey ahead, building your testimony to reach others, or placing you in a position where God will later bless you. All of it will set you up to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So, at this point, God has changed the core of who you really are, and He has forged a hope and faith within you through the circumstances in life. But chances are, when you signed up for a new life, you weren’t looking for conditioning, but rather, a new adventure.

May I welcome you to your new life. If you center your life around the Lord as He forges your faith and your character, new opportunities that once seemed impossible will open themselves to you.

When I was saved, a retired pastor told me that my life would never be the same. I doubted him. After all, I still had a job, I still had bills, and I still expected to go to work at the same place and continue to do so until I die.

Today, I still have a job, and I still have bills. However, God has opened the door for me to play a part in the planting of a new church, and this opportunity has opened doors of which I have never dreamed… from the people I meet, to the radio talk show that I do, to the places I have traveled along the way. Back in November 2002, God literally blessed me with a new life. I am a new person, in a new place, with a new mission. The same can happen for you.

Do you want a new life? Repent and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior. Have you been saved, but a new life never materialized? Rededicate yourself to the Lord, center your life around Him, live out your faith, and watch what happens. May God bless you along this journey.

The Old Coot at the Temple

What seemed like a normal day must have taken a strange turn when the old man approached the young couple to adore their baby. Mary and Joseph were on their way to the Temple to present Jesus to the LORD, as required by the Law of God, when Simeon approached them to praise the newborn Son of God.

We don’t know much about Simeon. This was his only appearance in the scripture. All we know about him is that he was just and devout, and was told by the Holy Spirit that he’d live to see the birth of Christ.

Often, we get so excited reading Luke’s account of the birth of Christ that we dismiss Simeon as just an old coot at the Temple. However, Simeon actually holds theological significance. He shows us exactly who we are to be in Christ.

The Bible says in Luke 2:25 that Simeon was “just” and “devout.” He was just in that the Lord had forgiven his sins based on the future crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He had been declared not guilty because God would cleanse him of his sin. He was devout in that he was devoted to the Lord, and he diligently worshiped Him. Like Simeon, the first thing God wants from us is that we trust Him for salvation. If you haven’t turned from your sins and trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, nothing else matters. Without salvation, everything you do is temporary. If there is any doubt in your heart about your salvation, or your eternal destiny, it’s a good time to do what Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:10, to “give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Repent, ask forgiveness, trust God for salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Questions? Email me at LelandAcker@gmail.com.

Simeon also set an example for us in that he was devout. He diligently worshiped God, which means he placed priority on worship, and he put his energy and concentration into his worship. Often, we can fall short in this regard. Many times, church becomes something we go to if nothing else is happening, and often, when we are in worship services, our minds are elsewhere. Then, we leave, wondering why we didn’t get anything out of it.

God honored Simeon’s devotion by immortalizing him in scripture, allowing him to see the newborn Christ, and then giving him eternal life in the Kingdom. If we are devout, if we place priority on worshiping God, and do so diligently, God will honor that. God wants us to worship.

The last lesson we learn from Simeon is that we, too, ought to look forward to the return of Christ. Luke 2:25 tells us that Simeon was “waiting on the consolation of Israel.” He was looking forward to the arrival of Israel’s deliverer, their comforter. He was waiting on the arrival of Christ.

Scripture also teaches us to be looking forward to the return of Christ. In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul wrote that the Lord would not only give him a crown of righteousness, but also “all them that love His appearing.” Faith can be measured by how much you are looking forward to the Lord’s return. Those who desire the Lord to return soon trust that He will establish His Kingdom on earth and bless us forever. Those who wish the Lord would delay are worried that Jesus will get in the way of something happening in the here and now.

Don’t make the mistake of placing the here-and-now before Christ. Look forward to the arrival of Christ, because his arrival will make your salvation tangible. It will set everything right. We look forward to the day when “the struggle” is over and we can live in peace and prosperity in His paradise.

So, let’s take a few lessons from Simeon. Settle your standing with God, worship him diligently, and eagerly await the return of the Lord. Do those three things, and watch God do big things in your life.

The House That Fell Off The Hill

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A few years ago, while house shopping, my wife and I found what we thought would be our dream home. The house was two-story, four bedroom, two bath, and situated on the side of a hill overlooking town. Asking price? $89,000. Well within our range.

What a find! I had never dreamed I’d live in anything nicer than a double-wide on a quarter-acre subdivided lot. Yet, here sat this four bedroom dream home overlooking town, and I could afford it! Quickly, we drove to the real estate office to see about touring the home, and to make an offer.

“Leland, you do not want that house,” the agent told me. “It has foundation issues. The house is literally sliding down the side of the hill, and it will need tens of thousands of dollars invested to properly repair it.” In all honesty, I do well to keep the yard mowed, so, I had to bid farewell to the dream house. (God later blessed me with a nice home in which I am able to raise my family of nine.)

None the less, I was disappointed at the time. How could such a beautiful structure be in danger of falling off the hill? Who would overlook the important step of making sure there was a solid foundation?

The image of the house was brilliant. The stability of the house was in critical condition.

Such was also the case on the original Palm Sunday. You had the brilliant, glorious moment of multitudes of people lining the road into Jerusalem, proclaiming “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!” The people were celebrating the arrival of their King, the promised Messiah, the One whom God promised in Zechariah 9:9, the one and only Jesus Christ!

The roar of the crowd was huge, and if the people would have held their peace, Jesus said the rocks would cry out (Luke 19:40). Israel had their King. They had their deliverer.

Yet, as Jesus approached Jerusalem, he began to weep, and lamented that Jerusalem did not recognize that this was their day. Indeed, Jesus knew that in just a few days, the same people celebrating his arrival would cry out to Pilate, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” With His foreknowledge, Jesus knew that the splendor of the people’s praise was merely surface beauty.

How could the same crowds that celebrated the arrival of their King one day, deny Him and call for His crucifixion another day? Simple. Their emotional response on Palm Sunday was not held up by the foundation of faith.

Serving and worshiping the Lord is an emotional experience. However, if one does not have a solid foundation of faith, that’s all it is… an emotional experience. Emotions without faith can leave one empty. Even worse, emotions without faith can lead one to Hell.

Do you have a solid foundation of faith? Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? Do you trust Him and follow Him daily?

Palm Sunday is about celebrating the arrival of Christ, and evaluating our own faith in Him. Let us all examine our own faith, and make our calling and election sure. May God bless you and keep you.

-Note: The owners of the house went on to repair the foundation, and sell the home. To this day, the house still sits on the side of the hill, proving that you can repair your foundation even after the downward slide has begun. 

The Biggest Losers Are Those Who Lose Their Losses

Have you ever watched the show, “The Biggest Loser?” Contestants who are (what doctors would refer to as) morbidly obese put themselves through rigorous exercise while limiting themselves to a strict diet for the purpose of winning the contest by losing the most weight. Right before your eyes, people are transformed from 300 pound couch potatoes to 150 pound athletes. Some literally become half the man they used to be. However, without the proper lifestyle changes, that lost weight can find itself back on the bone, and all weight loss can be, well, lost.

You see, going back into a world where you were once severely overweight, but now are in prime health, can give you a false sense of confidence. Sure, I can eat just one bacon cheeseburger. No, I can miss a workout. Next thing you know, BOOM! You’re right back up to 300 pounds. Before you notice, you have lost all the ground you gained, and regaining that lost ground will be even harder the second time around as your body’s metabolism has adjusted to your new, more refined diet.

Anytime television crews follow up on a former Biggest Loser contestant who has gained the weight back, many wonder, “why would they do that?” or “How could they let themselves go like that?”

The fact is, we all tend to do the exact same thing, yet, on a Spiritual level. Romans 5:20 says where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. That grace is the payment Jesus Christ made when He died on the cross. You see, Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Not only that, He paid more than the price for the sins of the world. His grace abounded, and continues to this day.

This ample payment for sin, coupled with the free gift of salvation, led some cynics to ask in Romans 6:1, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Or, in laymens terms, “Does that mean we can sin all we want since Jesus paid it all?” The question stems from the same gluttonous roots that say, “We need to stuff ourselves at this all-u-can-eat buffet to make sure we get our money’s worth.” Jesus paid it all, so many people want to make sure they can ride they payment of sin for all they can. I once knew a man who lived openly in sin, and bragged that he could get away with it, because “once saved, always saved.”

The Apostle Paul answered this question very strongly in Romans 6:2, “God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” If you are casually reading the Bible, you might miss the first two words. “God forbid.” This is because we have become so used to people taking the Lord’s name in vain that we no longer recognize when a Biblical command of the Lord has been declared. When Paul said, “God forbid,” it was neither an interjection nor an expletive. He was literally saying, “God forbids it.” In other words, God forbids our continued lifestyle of sin.

Keep that in mind. God forbids sin. Sin is sin because God forbids it. It’s not just a thing we do that He tolerates. It’s something we do when we rebel against Him.

When my kids go outside to play, often they get dirty. Sometimes, they get downright filthy. Sometimes, they find a mud-hole and all bets are off. I do not forbid my kids’ outside play, and getting dirty and muddy is a healthy part of childhood. I tolerate their filth, send them to the showers, and put their clothes in the laundry. No big deal.

My kids do not play in the dirt out of rebellion against me. They play in the dirt because that’s what kids do.

However, my kids do know there are rules to outside play. Do not leave the yard without permission. Do not throw things at the house. Do not leave the door open. No fighting, and under no circumstances are you to strike your sibling. All of these rules have purpose. When these rules are broken, consequences must be levied to stop the behavior. I cannot, for the sake of the children, tolerate them playing in the street, wondering off without me knowing where they are going, throwing rocks through the front window, or inflicting personal injury onto each other. I have to discipline them. The filth comes from innocent play. The broken rules come from a conscious decision to buck dad’s authority.

Our sin is not the filth that comes from innocent play. It is a conscious decision to buck God’s authority. God forbids it, therefore God will discipline the believer who goes into sin.

So, we should not sin because God forbids sin. Paul then provides common sense reasoning, finishing verse 2 up with “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

Paul spends the rest of Romans 6 making the case that it makes no sense for a believer to continue in a sinful lifestyle, because God has broken us free from sin’s stranglehold, and has freed us from the shame of our sins. If God has freed you from that which held you prisoner, why would you put the shackles back on? If God has given you new life, why would you return to the destruction of the old life? If God has given you hope, why would you return to the hopelessness of before?

Sin is not to be trifled with, not to be played with, and not to be dabbled in. Sin is to be avoided, and repented from.

Don’t lose your lost shame and hopelessness. Fully embrace the blessings of God by living for Him.