Evangelistic

Running the Race

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nThe New Testament book of Hebrews was written to remind us that salvation comes by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ, and that no works on our part are involved in securing our salvation. Hebrews makes the case that our salvation was secured completely by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In making this point, Hebrews points to the lives of the Old Testament heroes, like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Moses. Hebrews 11 chronicles how their lives were all driven by faith. By faith, Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice. By faith, Noah moved with fear and prepared an ark to the saving of his house. By faith, Abraham offered up Isaac, accounting that God was able to raise him up again. By faith.

Whenever you see that phrase, “by faith,” it means that the one who performed the action did so because they trusted God completely. Their trust in God, their faith, motivated their action.

Faith is what gives you access to God’s salvation. It is what moves you from God’s wrath into His Kingdom. Faith is what saves. Actions, or “works” are merely an expression of that faith.

It is on that note that Hebrews 12 begins:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1 says we are compassed about (surrounded) by a cloud of witnesses. We are surrounded by the legacies of the Old Testament heroes listed in Hebrews 11. These were men and women who lived their entire lives by their faith in God… from Abel all the way down to Rahab, and then on to King David and the prophet Isaiah.

Because of their faith in God, they believed the impossible, stood against insurmountable odds and foes, and did great things, whereby we remember them today. Some of these heroes won earthly victories, some had to wait to enter eternity to receive their reward, but the end of Hebrews 11 is clear, one day those of us who know the Lord as our savior will be resurrected and glorified with those Old Testament heroes. We will all reap the reward of our faith.

So, with that in mind, Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to live up to our Christian heritage by living by faith. This involves laying aside every weight (things that come between us and God) and the sin that so easily besets us, and running with patience (endurance) the faith that is set before us.

Throughout the course of this week, we will explore what it means to run the race before us, and to live by faith. May God bless you this week.

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Who? Me? Dealing with doubt on “The Point.”

 

When we pray to God to work out situations in life, often we wish that He would just wave a magic wand and fix things for us. Sometimes He does. Other times, He calls us to be part of the solution. That’s when things get daunting, just as they were for Moses when God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

SERMON NOTES: That Day is Coming

WP_20141002_003What’s the point of rebuilding when you’ve already lost everything?

That’s a question the prophet Zechariah likely faced on a daily basis as he continually encouraged the people of Israel to rebuild Jerusalem and, more importantly, the Temple. As one of the first Israelites to return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity, Zechariah saw first hand the devastation that was left after the Babylonian conquest.

The rubble, the wreckage, and the devastation must have been an extremely disheartening sight for those returning home for the first time in 70 years. Zechariah’s prophecy taught the Israelites that reconstruction was more than a matter of national pride. The Israelites needed to rebuild to set the stage for the coming of the LORD.

In Zechariah 13, Zechariah told the Israelites about the coming of the LORD.

  1. In the day of the Lord, the false prophets would be shamed.
  2. In the day of the Lord, we will see Jesus.
  3. The day of the Lord is coming because of what Christ accomplished on the cross.

False prophets, false teachers and unGodly activists will one day be ashamed of their words and works. Zechariah 13:2 says:

And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.

Imagine a life without crime, social unrest, drug abuse, illness and temptation. That’s what the world will look like after Christ returns and cleanses the land of idols, false prophets and unclean spirits.

When Christ returns, He will cleans the world of evil. When that happens, we will no longer be troubled.

Those who taught false doctrine, who spoke against Christ, and who promoted unGodliness will be ashamed of their words and their works, for they shall be their condemnation. Zechariah 13:4 says:

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:

Knowing the false prophets will be judged, do not allow yourself to be deceived.

The day is coming when we shall see the Lord. Zechariah 13:6 says:

And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

The One with the wounded hands in this verse is Christ. He appears in Zechariah 12:10, where the people “look upon Me whom they pierced,” and mourn. That mourning sets of a series of events in the latter part of Zechariah 12 and in early Zechariah 13 where the people regret their sin, mourn the lost fellowship with God, and then prosecute the false prophets who taught them to betray God.

Zechariah 13:6 turns the attention from what’s happening with the false prophets to the Lord. The scars in the hands of the Lord remind us of the betrayal of Christ, and how He turned that betrayal into our redemption.

In verse 6, He says he received those wounds in the house of his friends. Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem just as Zechariah had predicted in chapter 9, verse 9. That was Jerusalem’s moment, but they betrayed the Lord and turned Him over to the Romans to be crucified. However, it was on that cross that Jesus endured God’s wrath on our behalf, and purchased our salvation.

Those wounds remind us of the cost of our salvation, and the love of the Lord for us in that He paid that price on our behalf.

We will see those scars again, because Christ will return. When He returns, it will be a physical, visible return. We will see Jesus again, and when we do, our faith will be validated.

The day of the Lord is coming. Are you prepared?

Meet God

 

When Moses approached the burning bush, God called out to him from the midst of the bush, telling him to take off his shoes for he was standing on holy ground.

At that point, Moses met the God he had trusted since childhood. All throughout Exodus 3, Moses sees the attributes of God on full display.

First, Moses saw the awesomeness of God, as He appeared in a burning bush that was not being consumed by the fire.

Secondly, he saw the life of God, as God described Himself as the eternal “I AM” who was still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as they had entered eternity with him after passing on this Earth.

Thirdly, he saw God’s deliverance, as God told Moses that He had come down to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt.

Lastly, he received God’s call, as God directed Moses to be the one to lead the people out of Egypt.

From this, we learn that God is to be revered, that He is the source of our life (both eternal, and Earthly), that God delivers His people and responds to their prayers, and that God works through His people to accomplish His mission.

Want more? Check out the above-posted podcast.

The man who destroyed Egypt

In ancient times, Egypt was the world’s lone super power. The Egyptians were architectural geniuses, having built the pyramids, the sphinx, and massive cities. Their architecture still captures our imaginations today, as many adventure movies and novels center around the pyramids and their ancient wonders.

Egypt was also good at agriculture, perfecting the cultivation and harvesting of grain while being fed by the Nile river.

The Egyptians also boasted the world’s most powerful military at the time.

This superpower enjoyed peace and prosperity for centuries, but that all came to an end under the rule of one evil, foolish Pharaoh.

In Exodus 1, we’re told that a new king arose which new not Joseph, the Israelite who warned a previous Pharaoh about a terrible famine, and thus not only saved Egypt, but solidified its place as the world’s lone superpower.

When this Pharaoh saw the Israelites in Egypt, he didn’t see a people who had played a part in his nation’s rise to power, he saw a national security threat. The Bible tells us in Exodus 5:2 that this same Pharaoh didn’t know God, and didn’t care to know God.

As a result, Pharaoh began persecuting the Israelites, God’s chosen people, and that drew God’s attention. The fallout from this would involve God pouring out plagues on Egypt, and destroying that nation as the Israelites left in mass exodus.

From this, we learn that sin, evil, and destructive tendencies are born out of a rejection against God.

God’s Laundry Mat

The only thing harder than building is rebuilding. To go back, restore something that was ruined, rebuild a structure that collapsed, or to cleanse something that was stained. These projects are often harder than starting from scratch.

Such was the case in Jerusalem ca 520 BC. Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonian army at the start of the 70-year captivity where God allowed His people to be carried away so that He could teach them not to commit idolatry. In 520 BC, the captivity was ending, and King Darius decreed that the Jews should go home. So, home they went.

Upon arriving in the Holy Land, they found Jerusalem in total ruin. The Temple was destroyed, the walls were a pile of rubble, bandits raided the area, and discouragement set in.

The Prophet Zechariah was called by God to encourage the people to rebuild Jerusalem.

In Zechariah 3, the prophet sees a vision of Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord while wearing filthy garments. His filthy attire was not from incidental contact with dust, but rather was the complete soiling consistent with rolling around in mud.

Old Testament Law required the high priest to wear clean clothing, so the fact the high priest was standing before God wearing filthy clothing was a major violation. Being the representative of the people before God, Joshua was essentially representing the sinfulness and the guilt of the nation before God.

To make things worse, Satan stood beside Joshua “to resist him” before God. Basically, Satan stood beside Joshua, criticizing his filthy clothes, and the sinfulness of the nation.

This had to be a mixed bag for Zechariah. One on hand, there’s the high priest. The priesthood and worship were being restored. On the other hand, he wore filthy clothes before God, and there was still no temple where worship could truly take place.

It was at that moment that God rebuked Satan, called Joshua (and by extension, the nation of Israel) a brand plucked from the fire, and restored Joshua to the glory of the priesthood by changing his clothes from filthy clothes, to new, clean, priestly clothes.

In this one moment, God showed the Prophet Zechariah that He not only accepted the return of the Jews to Israel, and the reconstruction of the Temple, but that He was behind it, and He would restore it, and He would cleanse the nation and reconcile them to Himself as His chosen people.

Therefore, the nation should move forward with reconstruction in faith and return to the Lord.

Often times, we wind up feeling like Joshua the high priest, standing before the Lord in filthy clothes with Satan (and the rest of the world) criticizing our weaknesses and failures. It often feels as if we stand alone, damaged goods rejected by the world.

Just as God cleansed Joshua and restored him to the glory of his position, God will restore us as well, if we (a) know Christ as our savior, and (b) turn to Him.

You don’t have to go through life defined by the scars of your past. You don’t have to go through life as a second-class citizen, or a second-hand friend. You are not some old CD single languishing in the bargain bin of a soon-to-close music store.

You have the opportunity for a new life, one where you’ve been made free in Christ, where you can grab that new lease on life, love God, and do as you please.

And we want to be a part of that with you. Come see us. Sunday School at 10 am, Morning Worship at 11 am. We meet at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial Drive, Early, TX, 76802.

What ever happened to Heavenly Highway Hymns?

Remember the Heavenly Highway Hymnals? Prominent hymns included in that hymnal included, “I Have A Mansion (Over the Hilltop),” “Meet You in the Morning,” “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks,” “Beulahland,” and the ultimate heavenly standard, “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Just about every hymn in the Heavenly Highway Hymnal was a song about Heaven, and for decades, those hymnals adorned the church pews of rural Baptist congregations across the nation.

Time goes by, hymnals wear out, new hymnals are purchased, and the worship repertoire changes. Modern worship hymns and choruses like “Indescribable,” “Here I Am to Worship,” and “Lord I Lift Your Name On High” proclaim God’s grace, greatness, salvation, and love.

Such is always appropriate, and always lifts my soul from the angst over the darkness of this world. I love the modern hymns. I love the traditional hymns. I’m the kind of guy that can sing “Old Rugged Cross” and then turn around and sing along with Michael W. Smith’s “You Are Holy.” However, modern hymns seem to be missing that “Heaven” element. Sadly, modern preaching seems to be missing that element as well.

Think about it. When was the last time your pastor preached on Heaven?

Today’s seminaries are teaching young preachers to find application, relate scripture to what the listener is enduring at this particular moment, and to not get caught up into higher theology.

As a result, church-goers are being treated to sermons on salvation (which is good), sermons on Godly living (also good,) and sermons on how God works through the pain in our lives (also good). However, through this search for relevant sermons, pastors often miss the one thing the Bible offers to keep our focus on the Lord. Heaven.

Scripture tells us the Gospel. It teaches us of God’s grace, forgiveness and salvation. It offers practical teaching on living, and encouragement to endure the hard times. But, scripture also tells us about Heaven.

In Zechariah 2, the prophet Zechariah encouraged the nation of Israel to rebuild Jerusalem, promising that the Lord would bless the effort, that the Temple would be rebuilt, and God would restore the nation.

As part of that prophecy, he showed that Jerusalem would one day be a city without walls, with a multitude of men and cattle therein. This was an Old Testament way of promising perfect peace and prosperity, something that is impossible in this world, but will be a way of life in God’s Kingdom which will follow the destruction of this world.

In a sense, Zechariah was encouraging the nation of Israel to return from the Babylonian captivity and to rebuild Jerusalem by reminding them of Heaven. God will one day lead us into His eternal Kingdom of peace and prosperity, but to follow Him there, we must first follow Him here. For the Israelites, that meant rebuilding Jerusalem. For us, it means to have faith in Him and to follow His word.

I don’t know what you are going through. I can tell you that whatever it is, God is working through that situation to refine you and to strengthen you, and you will come out on the other end better off.

Still, at the end of our struggles and strife through this life, we have the assurance of knowing that one day, we will enter God’s Kingdom, into a life without pain nor suffering, the glories of which are incomparable to the challenges of this life.

One day, the Lord will deliver us once and for all. Our problems are temporary distractions until then.

Trust the Lord. Trust Him to save you, and trust Him to deliver you.

May God bless you.

contributed by Pastor Leland Acker. You can follow Pastor Acker on his blog at LelandAcker.com, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/LelandAckerMinistries. 

God loves you when no one else does

The Bible does not only record God’s law and promises, it gives us real-world examples of things that happened to people, some of which was very messed up. Mankind is sinful, and therefore we can make life into a total disaster, either for ourselves, or someone else.

Leah was a good woman, but she wasn’t the most attractive woman of her day, and the guys were not interested in her. Her father, Laban, feared that he would not be able to find her a husband, so he tricked Jacob into marrying her.

Jacob, for the record, was in love with Leah’s younger and more beautiful sister, Rachel.

So, her father basically pawned her off, her husband is in love with another woman (whom he eventually marries and makes her share the house with), and she is completely isolated, rejected and alone. I mean, this is one of the most devastating things a woman can go through.

The Bible tells us this story, not to legitimize it, but rather to show how God works through the disasters that man makes in life.

No one loved Leah but God, and God loved Leah in a way that no man could. He shows His compassion on her by giving her children, and He transforms her life from one of affliction and loneliness, to one of blessing and praise. By the time God finishes with her, she doesn’t need Jacob’s love, praise or affirmation. She has God’s, and that’s all she needs.

The same principles hold true for us. God loves us, even when no one else does. If we let Him, He will transform our lives from that of anger, depression and hopelessness to a life of praise and blessing in the midst of the storms. Will you trust God to do so?

Seeking the Lord

Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, couldn’t have children. She was barren, which was a mark of shame on young women during Old Testament times. In order to restore her honor, Isaac “entreated” the Lord, meaning he had a time of worshipful prayer where he poured his heart out to the Lord. The Lord heard, and the Lord responded, and Rebekah conceived.

Rebekah became pregnant with twins, who fought within her womb. Rebekah, keenly aware of the blessing God placed on her family, wondered what the fighting meant. So, she “inquired” of the Lord, meaning she followed, learned from, studied, and then asked the Lord for understanding. The Lord gave her understanding.

Jacob understood that God had given his family the blessings of Abraham. Jacob wanted that blessing. Esau was first in line for the blessing, but could have cared less. Therefore, Esau sold the birthright to Jacob in exchange for red bean soup.

All three sought out the Lord in one way or another. In this episode of “The Point,” we learn why their prayers were powerful, and why Esau’s sin was so grievous to God.