Author: Leland Acker

Pastor of Life Point Baptist Church, morning host on News/Talk 102.3 KXYL.

The Opposition

The people who had moved into the land were tolerant of the Israelites who returned to rebuild Jerusalem, but once construction began on the Temple, conflict broke out.

In this message, we evaluate why the people of the land opposed the construction of the Temple, and how that correlates to Satan’s opposition to our daily lives today. This chapter illustrates how Satan actively opposes you and tries to sabotage you as you try to live out God’s purpose for your life.

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…because you never know…

golden-bible

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

-Acts 10:28

Thomas Ryman was no good.

The owner of several saloons and riverboats, he made a living off of others’ sin. He built a financial empire selling liquor, gambling and sin. However, 1885 saw a Spiritual revival break out across the South, and the mass conversion of Southern sinners to Christianity put a dent into Ryman’s business.

So when the man spearheading the revival, Evangelist Samuel Porter Jones, came to Nashville to preach, Ryman decided to attend the revival. Ryman’s plan was simple. Preserve saloon business by disrupting the revival, stopping Jones from preaching.

Ryman’s plan of disrupt, interrupt and corrupt beautifully backfired. Instead of stopping the revival, Ryman wound up converting to Christianity.

So moved by the preaching of Jones, Ryman decided to build a church, a tabernacle, so that all of Nashville could hear Jones preach. The structure, located on 5th Avenue North, would be called the Union Gospel Tabernacle.

Jones went on to hold several revivals in that building, and church services were held every Sunday. Of all the memorable sermons preached at the Union Gospel Tabernacle, none were so pivotal as the one Jones preached on December 23, 1904, as he eulogized Ryman, a man saved under his preaching who invested the equivalent of $2.7 million in today’s currency to build the place where so many would hear the Gospel.

At that funeral, Jones recommended that the Union Gospel Tabernacle be renamed to honor his most benevolent convert, thus the tabernacle was renamed the “Ryman Auditorium.” Yes, that Ryman Auditorium, known across the South as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” home of the Grand Ole Opry, a thrice-weekly country music radio performance broadcast live on WSM 650 AM which ends every performance with a Gospel song.

The Ryman Auditorium, the “Mother Church of Country Music,” was actually a church at one time, hence the stained-glass windows and the wooden pews. The church closed in 1935, but not before thousands heard the Gospel and thousands were saved, all because God allowed one sinner to amass a fortune, before reaching him with the Gospel so that he would use that fortune to reach thousands more for Christ.

Those who knew Ryman before his conversion would probably say, “he ain’t no good,” and understandably so. Prior to his conversion, Ryman was so committed to profiting off of sin that he endeavored to stop the preaching of the Gospel to stay in business.

The preachers of Nashville probably thought he was a lost cause. The righteous of Nashville probably thought he was the worst man to have ever lived. However, God knew the plans that He had for Ryman, and “when the fullness of time had come,” God sent Jones to Nashville to hold a revival, leading to Ryman’s conversion, and the subsequent conversion of multitudes.

You never know what God has planned for others, therefore the Bible tells us not to judge.

In Acts 10, Peter was praying on the rooftop patio of Simon the Tanner when he received a vision of a sheet being lowered from heaven containing every animal that the Jews considered unclean to eat (pigs, catfish, crawdads, lobster, etc). An angel then told Peter, “Rise, kill and eat,” to which Peter said, “Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”

The angel then responded, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”

Later, Peter tells Cornelius that God taught him never to call any man common or unclean. The lesson Peter learned is that while the man before us may live a sinful life, it may very well be that God will soon reach him with the Gospel. And if God knows the man will receive Christ as his Savior, he’s as good as saved already.

In fact, it may be, as in the case of Peter, that God is calling us to reach that man.

So with this in mind, let’s remember a few things. (1) Do not disdain the lost around you. Love them and share the Lord with them. You may see them be converted and go on to do great things for God. (2) Following the example of Thomas Ryman, let’s glorify God by doing what we can to make sure that others hear the preaching of the Gospel. (3) Don’t give up on that wayward loved one who so far has refused to repent. If God can reach a man like Ryman, He can reach anyone.

Praise God for redeeming us and those around us to a lively hope. May God bless you today.

The Art of Redemption

Crucifixion Sunset

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

-Colossians 1:12-14

Redemption.

For some, it means validation. For others, it means to be set free. For others, it is the chance to go back and correct a wrong, or to try again after a failure and achieve success.

Redemption.

While these elements can accompany the Biblical meaning of redemption, true redemption goes much further. When the Bible tells us that God redeemed us through Jesus Christ, it tells us that he did more than validate us, set us free, or give us a second chance.

Biblical redemption carries with it the meaning of restoration.

In Old Testament times, slavery was a practice used to settle debt. If a man was in debt without any hope of being able to repay it, he could be sold into slavery. In order to make this dark practice more humane, and in order to teach us about salvation, God wrote into His law several provisions that would free slaves, one of which was redemption.

If a man were sold into slavery for, say, $50,000, and his brother learned that he had been sold into slavery, his brother could go to his master and buy his brother back. The slave master was obligated to sell the slave back to his family at the price he paid, without collecting a profit.

That process was known as “redemption.” The man would return home, a free man, no longer a slave. He would be reunited with his family and be able to farm his land and work his vocation. He was redeemed. He was restored.

Notice that the redeemed man did not become a slave to his brother who had purchased his freedom. Notice also that the man no longer owed the debt. He was completely free, and his life was restored. What an amazing feeling that must have been.

Scripture teaches us that, just like Old Testament slaves were redeemed by their families, God has redeemed us.

Just as that man in the Old Testament was sold into slavery, owing a debt he could not repay, we begin life as slaves to sin, owing a debt we cannot repay. Just as the brother of that man in the Old Testament purchased his brother out of slavery, Christ purchased us from sin, paying our sin-debt by giving His life on the cross.

And just as that man in the Old Testament was reunited with his family and set free, Christ has restored our lives and set us free. Restoration. Without it, there is no true redemption. Freedom. Without that, there is no redemption, for if you have not been freed, you have not been redeemed. You’ve merely been sold.

Therefore, when Christ redeems us, He has made us free indeed! Then, He begins the process of restoring our lives by transforming us into the persons He intended on being.

This concept is illustrated in countless ways in scripture. The redemption Christ offers us teaches us a few things.

First, we should accept the redemption. A man in the Old Testament who was set free could choose to remain a slave. Or, he could take his freedom and return to his family. Have you accepted the redemption offered by Jesus Christ? Have you turned from your sins and trusted Him for salvation? Or do you cling to your sins and trust your servitude?

Secondly, the Biblical concept of redemption rules out the notion that any works are necessary to achieve salvation. The Old Testament slave who was redeemed by his brother owed his brother nothing for his redemption. Nothing. Obviously, he should have been grateful and expressed his gratitude, but as a matter of obligation, owed his brother nothing.

When Christ redeems us, we owe Him nothing for our redemption. Obviously, we should be grateful and express that gratitude in obedience and service, but we have no contractual obligation to Christ in exchange for our redemption. This means that any religion that teaches that one has to live holy, be baptized, speak in tongues, be a faithful church member or give tithes in order to enter Heaven has no understanding of true redemption.

Any religion that teaches that salvation can be lost does not understand redemption.

When Christ redeems you, He sets you free, and you have eternal peace and security from Him that cannot be revoked. Learn to rest in that assurance, and serve the Lord with gladness and not fear.

And finally, this redemption teaches us about how much God loves us, and how priceless we are to Him. A man in the Old Testament would have to love his brother very much to make the financial sacrifice to redeem him from slavery. God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us from the slavery of sin.

The world may have rejected you. Others criticize and judge you. You may feel like society has marginalized you and cast you out of the gates of the city. However, God loves you, sees the things which make you unique, gave His Son to redeem you, and has a place for you at His table. Will you turn to Him?

God paid the price for your redemption. That redemption becomes effective when you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior.

May God bless you today.

The Altar (Ezra 3)

It is significant that when the people began to rebuild the Temple in Ezra 3, they began with the building of the altar, because it was the altar that symbolized their redemption and peace with God.

In “The Altar,” we discuss how the altar symbolized redemption, what that entailed, and how we should respond.

Spring Training

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Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

-1 Corinthians 9:24-25

It’s almost time for those four glorious words to be said, “Pitchers and catchers report.”

I’m not going to lie. I enjoy watching baseball, whether it’s Major League on TV, or at the local city park where my kids have played little league. It’s America’s pastime. Time to relax and enjoy a soda and popcorn.

That is, of course, unless you’re a player. Then baseball season brings with it the rigorous schedule of spring training, physical training, practice, and a long 162-game schedule.

Regardless of the stereotypes of the pudgy ballplayer who earns his pay by knocking a ball over a fence, the modern game of baseball is a highly athletic event. Outfielders need the speed and endurance to chase down high-flying fly-balls that are more commonly being knocked into the outfield.

Infielders need the agility and athleticism to snatch line drives out of the air and make the throw to first. Batters need the quickness to run the bases, stretching singles to doubles, and doubles to triples.

The physical strength, speed and stamina it takes to compete in baseball today is developed through intense physical workouts, not just during spring training, but during the season, and especially the off-season.

Through intense workouts, athletes push themselves to their physical limit. One they hit that limit, they rest, then push themselves to the limit again to see if any progress has been made. The process is painful, trying, tiring and can be discouraging at times, especially if the athlete’s physical shape is not progressing as fast as he thinks it should be.

The athlete does not necessarily enjoy the training process, but he values it, because he knows after all the laps have been run, the weights lifted, the stairs climbed and the balls thrown, he will be a better ballplayer.

He endures the pain, because he values the transformation taking place within him.

In 1 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul likens our Spiritual transformation to sports training. Speaking to the church in Corinth in verses 24-25, Paul writes, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

In those verses, Paul writes how an athlete trains hard, striving for the mastery of his race, being temperate in his consumption and diligent in his work. He endures much in order to run his race well, so that he can win a crown, which is a temporary thing. Likewise, athletes today work to win victories that will soon be forgotten.

On the other hand, Spiritual victories are eternal. Therefore, Paul instructs us to train and run well, that we may obtain an incorruptible crown, a crown of righteousness, that the Lord will give us when we finish our race. So, how do we train and strive for the mastery? That’s the good news! God is the ultimate personal trainer.

You see, you don’t go through Spiritual training and transformation alone. You don’t initiate it. You don’t “make it happen.” You only “submit to it and trust God through it.”

Romans 5:2-5 speaks to this:

we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

These verses can be summed up by saying, “We glory in troubles because those troubles build our endurance, which builds our experience, which builds our hope, which reassures us knowing that God will not leave us ashamed.”

We glory in tribulation, just as the athlete values physical training, because we know it makes us stronger.

Therefore, when hard times hit, pray. Pray that God delivers you and resolves the issue. However, if that does not happen, trust the Lord to go through that tribulation with you, because scripture teaches that He will use that tribulation to build you up, and not tear you down.

And just as that athlete trains hard, hoping that coach will put play him on game day, know that God is building you up to play a vital part in his overall plan.

May God bless you with peace and understanding today.

Making it big

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For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

-Zechariah 4:10

In today’s age, bigger is better.

College and high school grads entering the workforce flock to the big cities, not only because wages are higher there, but also for the amenities the cities offer. A house in the suburbs that provides a small-safe neighborhood within a short drive of the city’s amenities?

Bleh! Today’s young professionals are actually moving into the inner cities, drawn to the theaters, night life, professional sporting events and concerts.

Then, there are the restaurants, pubs and coffee shops.

Cities draw today’s youth because they are big, and offer a wide array of entertainment options. However, it’s not only the size of the city that draws the young professional, but also the chance that the young professional can himself become big.

One trend today is that the professional will select a city, and then seek employment based on where he wants to live, as opposed to the previous tradition of finding employment then moving to the city where that opportunity exists.

Such as resulted in the rapid growth of Austin, San Antonio, Nashville, Atlanta, Washington DC, and even some cities once considered rust belt relics like Cincinnati and Detroit. It’s why, despite the crowds and cost of living, New York and LA are magnets, and Charlotte, NC continues to draw NASCAR hopefuls.

These cities draw young professionals, because in addition to the amenities they offer, they also become a potential springboard to national acclaim. If you’re a newly graduated CPA who dreams of being a musician, you go to Austin or Nashville.

If you want to make it as a TV journalist, you head to Atlanta. Perhaps you have just graduated law school but want to make it as an R&B producer? Atlanta or LA.

If computers are your thing, Austin or San Jose.

Young professionals flock to these areas because they want to make it big, which means national notoriety or acclaim, if not financial success. Today’s youth have stars in their eyes, programmed by endless messages of how special they are. To the young worker today, moving to the suburbs, accruing a retirement account, raising a family and enjoying career success amounts to failure.

To be a success, one has to make an impact. To be success, you have to revolutionize your industry, invent the next iPhone or Facebook, and everyone has to know your name. That, today, is success. Being “big” is the goal. Financial success and security is secondary.

Yet, it is in the small towns and suburbs where the greatest generation, the generation whose selfless sacrifices laid the foundation for the prosperity we enjoy today, raised up generations, providing them with a stable home, a solid foundation, and the tools to succeed in life. The greatness of 21st Century America can be traced back to the parents of the Baby Boomer generation who forewent being “big” in order to create a better life for the next generation.

Big is exciting. Big is seductive. Big offers adventure. But God never called us to be big.

In Zechariah 4:10, The Lord said, “ For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.”

Those words came after the foundation of the Temple was laid in Ezra 3. The people of Jerusalem, having been in captivity for 70 years, were freed to return home and rebuild the Temple. After constructing the altar, they began work on the Temple, laying the foundation first.

When the people of the city saw the foundation, some cheered the progress, while others wept, seeing its small size, and remembering the glory of the former Temple. However, those mourning the new Temple’s small size missed a key point. The very construction of a Temple was proof that God’s hand was moving.

That new Temple would usher in a new era for Jerusalem, and set the stage for the coming of Christ. God promised in Zechariah that Zerubbabel laid the foundation, and that he would finish the Temple, and by that all would know that God was with them.

The Spirit of God was moving, and God would accomplish great things. Those great things would come through the construction of the “small” Temple.

It’s understandable that the people of Ezra’s day would want a big, elaborate Temple. It’s understandable today that people want to make a huge impact to improve their world.

Still, let’s not forget the power of small things. Let’s not forget how God can move in great ways through the selfless acts of fathers, mothers, neighbors, and friends, living in small towns, suburbs, working thankless jobs, while attending small churches.

In Zechariah 4:10, God said, “Who hath despised the day of small things?” One modern translation of this verse says “Who dares to despise the day of small things?”

You are not wasting your life if you are doing what God wants you to do.

The Altar

Jerusalem Reconstruction

Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening.

-Ezra 2:2-3

It is significant that the first thing built as the Israelites began the Temple reconstruction project was the brazen altar, because it is at the altar that peace is made between God and man.

Peace with God… that’s a rare condition in this world. Many who think they have peace with God really only have a cease-fire. There is a difference between peace with God, and a ceasefire with God. While the ceasefire pauses the obvious signs of a struggle, it lacks the safety and security of true peace.

In the aftermath of World War II, America made peace with Japan. In the years following, the United States worked to rebuild Japan, which went on to become a world economic power, the dream that the emperor had for the country to begin with. In that peace, two opposing sides agreed to stop fighting, to reconcile, to become partners, and both became stronger as a result.

The Korean War ended with a ceasefire. Technically, the two sides are still at war, and neither feels safe or secure at the moment.

Sadly, many people today have opted for a ceasefire with God, electing to tune out the conviction of His word and Spirit, and deadening their spiritual sensors so they can enjoy the life this world offers. Many times, God gives them up, and allows this to happen. The man in this state thinks he has peace with God, but he remains in rebellion against God, and will still face His judgment.

What you really need is peace with God, which only comes through surrender to God. This involves repenting (turning from sin) and faith (trusting the Lord to save you). It’s one monumental decision to trust Jesus Christ as your personal savior. Once that happens, the Bible teaches that you have peace with God through Jesus Christ your Lord (Romans 5:1).

Then, God begins to transform you into the person He intended on you becoming. He builds you, cares for you, and provides for you, giving you a peace and security that does not come through a mere ceasefire. Then, He gives you the eternal blessing of a place in His Kingdom. You become a new person, and all things become new.

So, peace with God, which comes through your conversion to Christ, is of the utmost importance, which is why the people of Ezra’s day built the altar first. The altar is where peace was made with God.

The altar had four horns fashioned on the corners. These horns represented the judgment of God for sin. When a worshiper brought a sacrifice to the altar, that sacrificial lamb was tied to one of those horns.

Now, it is important to remember that the sacrificial lamb was a picture of Christ. Just as the lamb at the Temple was killed to bring peace with God over sin, Jesus Christ was killed to bring us peace with God once and for all. That’s why John the Baptist referred to Jesus as “The Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).”

Back to the Old Testament temple, when this lamb was tied to the horn of judgment, it demonstrated that God’s judgment would be passed from the worshiper to the lamb, just as His judgment was passed from us onto Christ.

Then, the lamb was slain, and his blood was placed upon the horn of the alter, thus the blood of the lamb covered the judgment for sin. The blood of Jesus Christ covers the judgment for our sin.

At that point, the body of the lamb was placed on the altar. In some sacrifices, such as the peace offering, the worshiper would eat part of the cooked meat to signify restored fellowship between him and God.

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ restored our fellowship with God.

So, in the reconstruction of the Temple, with the people facing mounting pressure from their enemies, it should come as no surprise that the altar was the first thing to be built. They understood their need to be at peace with God.

Do you?

Offerings

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And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.

-Ezra 2:68-69

Thirty-nine cents might not seem like a big deal, however, back in 1996, one could supersize their fries and drink at McDonalds for that additional 39 cents.

In the mid-1990s, America was a fast-food nation, but we hadn’t yet become preoccupied with large food portions. Therefore, it often took the suggestive sale of the cashier to get the customer to agree to the 39-cent enhancement of their meal. As a result, it became a standing directive for fast-food order takers to ask customers, “Would you like to supersize that?”

Why would McDonalds build so much strategy into earning an additional 39-cents per customer? Simple.

Quora.com reports that the average McDonalds restaurant serves up to 5,000 customers per day. If each customer were to up-size their meal by 39 cents, then that individual McDonalds would earn an additional $1,950 per day, or $711,750 per year.

Across the entire corporation, McDonalds serves 68 million customers daily. That 39-cent upgrade would earn McDonalds an additional $26.5 million, or $9.6 billion in a year. Back in the 1990s, McDonalds understood that small amounts added up to big things.

It’s a strategy also employed by Texas Dairy Queens, which promote the fact that if all of their drive-thru customers would donate 25-cents per visit, then DQ could donate $5,000 per restaurant to Children’s Miracle Network.

Or, as my sales manager back at KYYK would tell me, “all those nickels and dimes add up.”

In Ezra 2, the Israelites were returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. As they arrived, those that had the ability gave offerings to the Temple. Some were able to give big offerings, others could only give a little. Therefore, “They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.”

God took the offerings of the people, and blessed it in a big way, using it to fund the reconstruction of the Temple.

The concept of “giving according to your ability” is a totally scriptural concept. It’s why God set the tithe at 10-percent, and why the Old Testament law ordered giving to be set by the ability of the worshiper to give.

When it comes to giving, there are those who have the ability to give a lot. There are those who can only give a little. However, if you give God something to bless, He has shown the ability to bless it into something big.

In Ezra, they wanted worship restored at the Temple, which needed to be rebuilt. In our time, we want to see revival in our land, and the Gospel spread throughout the world. If we want God to bless that effort, we have to give Him something to bless.

Imagine what God can do.

If McDonalds can turn 39 cents into $9.6 billion, and Dairy Queen turn 25 cents into $5,000, and these being secular organizations, imagine what God can do with the offerings we bring Him. May God bless you, as you bless Him.

So, when you worship God at your church this weekend, don’t forget to bring Him something to bless. One day, you will find out just how big of a difference you made.

Consider Your Ways (Haggai 1)

Haggai’s prophetic ministry took place after the Babylonian Captivity of the nation of Israel was coming to a close. People began to trickle back to Jerusalem, having secured enough provision for the journey home.

As Jerusalem slowly began to be repopulated, the people began rebuilding their homes, businesses and streets, all while the Temple remained in ruins. Seeing his house remain ruined while everyone else’s was being rebuilt prompted the Lord to say, “Consider your ways.”

In calling the people to consider their ways, God called them to consider their priorities, their worship, and their faith. The lesson is as relevant to us today as it was in Haggai’s day. We all need to consider our ways, to make sure our priorities are in line, that our worship honors God, and that our faith is in tact.

The above-posted episode of The Point will bless you with encouragement.

It’s time to worship

Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. -Haggai 1:8

God is good. All the time, God is good; God is good all the time.

In Haggai 1, the prophet spoke to the people who had been brought out of the Babylonian captivity back into Jerusalem. God had followed through on His promise to return them home, to rebuild the Kingdom, to establish a new covenant, and to prepare the place for the coming of Messiah.

Yet, even with the fulfillment of God’s promises in progress, the people forgot to return their praise to the Lord. Because they had quit building the Temple, and thus quit worshiping, God allowed financial challenges to arise in order to get their attention (Haggai 1:9).

His exhortation in verse 8 was to rebuild the Temple so that worship could resume. God’s promise in verse 8 was that if they built the Temple, God would take pleasure in it, and be glorified.

God has been good to us. He has made eternal salvation freely available through our repentance and faith, He has given us a place in His Kingdom, and He has promised deliverance from the struggles of this life.

That is the hope that drives us forward as Christians.

God has provided for us, protected us, and blessed us. What can we give God in return?

Scripture is pretty clear. What pleases God is when His people trust Him, and show others His glory.

As He said in Haggai 1:8, if they built the Temple, He would take pleasure in it.

You can give back to God. You can make Him happy. Isn’t it time you did that?

Worship the Lord. Praise God for how good He is. Show others how good He is. God will be honored and blessed by your worship.