Philosophy

The 7 Churches (Revelation 2)

The church is dead.

The church is judgmental.

The church is full of hypocrites.

Those common complaints against modern American churches are nothing new. For years, people have complained that the church experience can be cold, uncaring, and full of betrayal at the hands of those who pretend to be Christian, but are not.

Often, those complaints against the church are used as justification for rejecting church membership altogether, electing rather to worship God alone. After all, if Christ knew just how awful the church really is, wouldn’t He support a mass exodus from the church?

It might surprise you to know that the issues with the modern American church are nothing new. In fact, these issues permeated the first century churches. Thus, in Revelation 2, Christ begins the process of addressing each church individually, assessing the condition of each church and instructing them to repent of their sins and shortcomings.

Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia (now known as Asia minor, or Turkey) to prepare them to meet the Lord. Speaking through the Apostle John, Jesus foretold the events that would precede His return, the events that would mark His judgment, and the promises to every believer.

The book of Revelation was written specifically to those seven churches to prepare them to meet the Lord, but the truth that is taught in this book will prepare us, also, to meet the Lord. Those churches of Asia met the Lord when they passed away. We will meet the Lord when we pass away, or when He returns, whichever comes first. Therefore, we should take the lessons of the book of Revelation and prepare for that day.

One of the most common errors in studying Revelation 2 is that many theologians believe that the letters to the seven churches are actually metaphors for seven different time periods during the church age. This approach to Revelation 2-3 is problematic for many reasons.

First, if Christ had dictated the letters to the seven churches as an allegory for the seven periods of the church age, then the message would have made absolutely no sense to those churches to whom the letters were written.

Secondly, as you read the letters to the seven churches, you will notice that Christ addresses specific issues, and specific individuals within the churches. While many try to parallel those specific individuals and issues with historic events during the church age, the fact of the matter is that there were specific issues and individuals addressed by Christ in those churches.

In other words, when these letters were read to the seven churches of Asia, no one had to ask, “I wonder what the Lord meant by that?” They knew exactly what Christ was talking about, whom He was talking about, and what He was commanding. There was no mystery to those first-century churches.

So, if these letters were addressed to the first century churches, and addressed specific issues within seven specific churches in Asia, then what’s the point of studying them today? Simple.

In the often forgotten Pauly Shore comedy, In The Army Now, Pauly Shore told the drill instructor that “welcomed” him to boot camp that she didn’t have to yell. The drill instructor replied, “IN THE U.S. ARMY, WE DO NOT YELL. WE MERELY SPEAK LOUDLY SO THAT ALL CAN LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES!”

While it may seem sacrilege to reference a Pauly Shore movie during a Bible study, the fact is that we can learn from the mistakes of the seven churches of Asia, and we can take the lessons the Lord teaches them and apply them to our own lives.

In the letters to the churches in Revelation 2, we learn that Christ sees everything. He sees our love and works, or the lack thereof. He sees the motivation for our works. He sees our struggles and problems. He sees our errors. Then, He calls us to repent.

The above posted episode of The Point expounds those truths. If you listen, I predict you will be blessed by it.

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The Art of Redemption

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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.

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.

When enough just isn’t enough

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Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

-Haggai 1:6

Commissions are designed to motivate top-level performance from sales people, investment advisers and business executives. Those who excel in these careers are often those who are motivated by money… not just a need or the desire to acquire wealth, but those who see life as the ultimate sport, and the money is the scoreboard.

I once read an article written by the CEO of an investment firm. He said, “We always ask prospective hires, ‘How much money would you like to make?’ If they give us a figure, we don’t hire them.”

The reason?

“The figure they share is their comfort level. Once they reach that figure, they have all they want, and they quit performing. The correct answer is ‘The sky is the limit.'”

While the CEO sees his duty as making sure the business is as healthy as possible to protect and grow the investment of its shareholders, and to preserve the gainful employment of its staff, this mindset can become dangerous if it becomes our life’s ambition. The endless pursuit of wealth just for the sake of winning, the ongoing quest for pleasure, and the desire to conquer can wreck us Spiritually if we forget that (a) God determines who wins and loses, (b) that we were put on this earth to serve God, and (c) we fail to glorify God with that which He has blessed us.

In the book of Haggai, the people of Israel had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. They had spent 70 years in Babylonian captivity as a consequence of ongoing idolatry. After the 70 years had passed, God followed through on His promise to return the Israelites to the promised land, and ordered the reconstruction of the Temple and the return of the Israelites to their homeland.

Two excited groups of Israeli exiles returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the Temple. However, over time, that excitement waned, doused by the cold waters of persecution and government intervention. The zeal for the Lord faded, but the quest for survival soon became a quest to thrive. In their efforts to prosper, they forgot about the Temple, thus forgetting God, and forgetting the reason they returned to Jerusalem in the first place.

Yet, their pursuit of worldly progress turned up empty as well. As stated in Haggai 1:6:

Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

When we turn away from God for worldly pursuits, we will notice two things. (1) No matter how successful we are, it will never satisfy us, and (2) God has a way of hindering our efforts as a disciplinary process of turning us back to Him.

There are a lot of good things happening in the world today. The stock market is rallying and the economy is reviving. The temptation is to step out into this exciting new world to see what we can gain. And while there is nothing wrong with taking the opportunities provided for you, and enjoying the fruit of your labor, do not think for one second that any of those things will bring you fulfillment apart from God.

Without God, that wealth, prosperity and success hollows out and becomes empty, which is why the book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

So, the warning we get from Haggai is “Enjoy life, but don’t forget your purpose.”

Leland Acker has served as the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Sunday Worship at 11 a.m., and meetings are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce/Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX, pending the construction of a new worship facility.

The Blessing and the Call

The book of Ezra records the efforts of the first two groups of exiles returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. They were ordered by King Cyrus to take on the reconstruction project.

In looking at the proclamation issued by Cyrus in chapter 1, we see how God blesses us and expects us to use our blessings to further His Kingdom. We also see how God works through the situations in our lives to transform us and reach others with the Gospel. We learn how blessed it is to be used in God’s overall plan.

Furthermore, we see the need for God to spark a revival in our land by stirring the souls of many and calling them into His service.  This is the first part of a 10-part series entitled, “We Build,” being taught on our radio show, The Point, and Sunday mornings at Life Point Baptist Church.

What’s it worth?

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And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.

-Ezra 1:4

She stared at the huge chunk of rusted metal that sat on her husband’s flatbed trailer.

“You paid how much for that?” She asked.

“$900,” he replied.

“I wouldn’t have paid 50-cents,” she responded.

Such is the life of a couple where the husband collects classic cars, and the wife knows how to drive a car.

The rusted chunk of metal on the flatbed trailer was one of the first 1964 1/2 Mustangs to roll off of Ford’s assembly line in Detroit. Knowing this, the husband valued the car in its current state at $750, but wound up paying $900 after being bid up at an auction.

Why pay more? Because he knew that, after he sanded the rust, applied primer, painted, reupholstered, and rebuilt the engine and drive train, that newly restored Mustang would be worth at least $20,000 to a collector. You see, the value of anything is determined by what you are willing to pay for it.

In Ezra 1, the Lord stirred the spirit of King Cyrus, who called upon the people of Israel to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. To finance this project, he ordered the return of the gold and silver vessels taken from the Temple during the Babylonian captivity, and called upon the people to contribute financially to the project. Ezra 1:6 says the people did just that:

 And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.

The rebuilding of the Temple was so important to King Cyrus that he gave the gold and silver vessels that were handed down to him from a previous invasion to be used for the Temple. The Bible says there were 5,400 vessels made of precious metal handed over.

While the argument is valid that those vessels belonged to the Lord in the first place, it was still a huge transaction for a pagan king who had not been raised in the faith. Just as God stirred Cyrus to make this contribution, He stirred the hearts of the people to financially donate to the rebuilding of the Temple as well.

From this, we learn that if God has stirred your heart, it will affect your pocketbook. If you have been moved by God’s grace in your life, you will want to see that happen in the lives of others. That will motivate you to financially support ministries that carry out the Gospel.

Whether you give, and how much you give, will be determined by how much you value seeing God move in the lives of others. Again, the value of anything is determined by what you are willing to pay for it.

When we began this post, we noted the difference in value of an old Mustang based on who was looking at it. The wife, who had no interest in classic cars, saw an old hunk of metal, and assessed no value to it. Her car enthusiast husband saw the value of the restored classic, and assessed a higher value to it, and thus was willing to pay more.

In the Spiritual life, there are two types of individuals: those who see the church as a milquetoast institution with a pastor who works two days a week, and those who see the potential lives changed through the missionary efforts of that church. The one who sees the latter will value the church more, and thus will be a more faithful financial supporter.

In which camp do you find yourself today?

Leland Acker has served as the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Sunday Worship at 11 a.m., and meetings are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce/Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX, pending the construction of a new worship facility.

Once you realize this, your life has purpose

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I should consider it a disgrace to die a rich man.” – Andrew Carnegie

A boulevard runs through downtown Brownwood, connecting CC Woodson Drive with US Hwy. 377 South. The boulevard, which provides quick, and easy access from the outlying areas of Brownwood to downtown is named Carnegie St.

The name comes from the Carnegie Library, which was built back in the early 1900s at the corner of what is now Carnegie and Adams St. The Carnegie Library was named for Andrew Carnegie, a late 19th Century/early 20th Century industrialist who donated the money for the library’s construction.

Like many who take the journey from rags to riches, Carnegie understood that wealth was meant for more than enjoying with frivolous lifestyles. He advocated for the wealthy to invest their riches in programs that would help the poor escape poverty, such as schools, education, or in his case, libraries.

His philosophy was simple. Spend the first third of your life learning as much as you can, the middle third earning as much as you can, and the last third of your life giving as much as you can. Carnegie understood that, with wealth came responsibility. Sadly, he missed the spiritual component of that truth.

That was not the case with the emperor Cyrus, who stated in Ezra 1:2, “The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

When Cyrus became the king of Persia, he became the most powerful man in the world. All of the known civilizations were under his control at the time. Those provinces he didn’t directly rule over paid him tribute for their safety and sovereignty. Cyrus owned everything.

With his rise to power came the realization that there was a purpose for it all. Cyrus understood that his power and wealth came from divine blessing, not from his own personal merit. Therefore, the Lord stirred his spirit, and brought him to the realization that his rise to power coincided with God’s will to rebuild His temple. Thus, Cyrus concludes in Ezra 1:2 that the Lord gave him all the kingdoms in the world in order for him to rebuild the temple.

Cyrus understood that God raised him to power so that he would rebuild the temple, and failure to do so would result in his reign being prematurely ended. If God blesses you with a purpose, you better follow the purpose, or lose the blessing.

Today in America, we are amazingly blessed. The poorest among us are still among the richest 40 percent of the world’s population. We enjoy fast, convenient access to a variety of foods, can generate income at will, and enjoy the convenient lifestyle afforded by modern technology.

In the third world, goods are expensive and labor is cheap, hence the low standard of living. In America, goods are cheap and labor is expensive, meaning we have more buying power than most of the rest of the world.

Why has God blessed us so?

Simple. God has blessed us so that we will use our ample resources to spread His Gospel throughout the world. This is a Biblical concept. What God gives us still belongs to Him. We merely manage it on His behalf. His will for us is that we use those blessings to further His Kingdom, which means spreading the Gospel and winning more converts.

Has God blessed you today? If so, then live your life on purpose and use those blessings to further the Gospel. You never know what great things may come from your dedication to the Lord.

Leland Acker has served as the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Sunday Worship at 11 a.m., and meetings are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce/Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX, pending the construction of a new worship facility. 

Why Jesus said, “Love Your Enemies”

Sunday, November 17, 1957, the young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stepped into the pulpit at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Ala., to deliver one of his most profound sermons, ever. The sermon, entitled, “Love Your Enemies,” taken from Matthew 5, not only presented a Biblical definition of love, and God’s commandment to have this love toward all men. It also outlined the philosophy of Dr. King’s Civil Rights Movement from that day forward.

The Civil Rights Movement had just secured a major victory after the Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery’s ordinances segregating the bus lines were unconstitutional. In the aftermath of that victory, Dr. King saw that his method of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience to the Jim Crow laws of the South could secure more freedoms for his people, and put an end to racial segregation.

However, Dr. King also realized that while those political, legislative and judicial victories could put an end to institutional racial discrimination, they could never put an end to racism, or heal the wounds left from America’s racial strife. Dr. King understood that for there to be true peace and equality, America had to be redeemed from its past, not defeated because of it.

Therefore, love became central to Dr. King’s message. In His sermon, “Love Your Enemies,” Dr. King said that God commanded us to love our enemies, not only because God is love, because God loves them, and He wants to redeem them, but because love itself has a redemptive quality.

“Love has within it, a redemptive power,” Dr. King stated. “And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals.

“That’s why Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies,'” he continued, “Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and transform them.”

Dr. King went on to say that at the root of love is the power of redemption.

This concept is not only a philosophy put forth by Dr. King. It was stated by Jesus Christ Himself in Luke 6:35-36:

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

This love that God had toward us motivated Him to give His only begotten Son for our salvation (John 3:16). The love God had toward us redeemed us. We can extend that same redeeming love to others, and in doing so, we can see others transformed by the power of the Gospel into the people God created them to be.

Today, America is divided. Political discourse has grown harsh, cold, and even leads to physical violence. With each passing day, our society becomes more about us vs. them than it is about E pluribus unim.

With more sin and evil being propagated in our society, and more rancid division arising daily, it becomes easy to look at those on the other side as enemies, and work to defeat them. This runs contrary to scripture.

While scripture teaches us to hate sin and to hate evil, we are also commanded to love the sinner. While “love the sinner but hate the sin” seems to be a modern cliche, we are taught by the Word that if we love the sinner, we can see him redeemed from the sin. Isn’t that the goal that all believers should have toward non-believers?

So, as we move toward 2018, let’s make an effort to see people as God sees them. Let’s love people, and see the redemptive power of love come alive.

Leland Acker is the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Services are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce building at 104 E. Industrial in Early. This week, Bro. Waymon Childress will bring the morning message. 

Philadelphia

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Let brotherly love continue.

-Hebrews 13:1

Philadelphia. It’s probably the best known Greek word among Americans. Most know it as a city in Pennsylvania, where our founding fathers met and signed The Declaration of Independence. Others know the meaning of the name, brotherly love. Hence, Philadelphia is “The City of Brotherly Love.”

Known as the home of the Eagles, 76ers and Phillies, Philadelphia was named after a Greek word which means brotherly kindness. That word, Philadelphia, is the opening word in Hebrews 13.

Much has been made in theological circles about the different Greek words translated into “love” in the modern English language. Eros means romantic love, Phileo means brotherly love, or affection. Agape is the highest form of love. It’s the self-sacrificial love that has that redemptive quality.

Agape love is a fundamental doctrine of true Christianity. It was agape love that propelled Jesus Christ to the cross. It is agape love that a man is commanded to have toward his wife. It is agape love that Christ commanded his disciples to have toward each other. It’s agape love that we are to have toward our enemies.

This doctrine has been preached throughout the ages, from the Apostle John’s epistles to the 1st Century Christians, to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, efforts during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Agape is also a Spiritual gift, and should be a hallmark of the life of the believer in Christ. However, agape is not exclusionary. We are also to have phileo love toward one another.

Hebrews 13:1 begins with the word, philadelphia. This word is a variation of phileo. It carries the notion that brotherly love and affection is not merely a feeling, but an action. If phileo  is the feeling, then philadelphia is the action motivated by the feeling.

Scripture here commands us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, not only in an agape manner, but also in a phileo manner. We are to truly love and appreciate each other, and if we have the opportunity, to do good for each other. That means either helping in a time of need, or simply doing something nice for one another.

One spring day, a church member of Life Point called and asked to meet with me and my wife. Often, when these calls come, bad news will follow. The church member is leaving the church, has been offended, or there is a personal crisis happening. Not this time.

Upon meeting with this church member, she asked us if we would like to attend an upcoming “Weekend to Remember” retreat in The Woodlands, Tex. This would be a three-day weekend retreat, just the two us us, with Bible sessions, marriage improvement classes, and date nights. No kids. In fact, she volunteered to keep our kids for that weekend, which is a really big deal if you consider how many children my wife and I have.

The church member offered to pay the tuition, but hotels and meals were on us. We jumped at the chance!

She did not see us as having marital problems, nor was she trying to rescue us from a major calamity. Instead, she saw an opportunity to bless us, so she did. Her action was motivated by the fact that she not only had agape love toward us, but phileo love as well.

God smiles when we express our affection toward each other in these ways. And you don’t have to drop several hundred dollars either. Simply stopping by for a visit, taking someone out to lunch, or sending a card count as philadelphia.

Hebrews 13:1 in its entirety reads, “Let brotherly love continue.” The word “continue” comes from a Greek word which means to abide. It is a permanent presence. Brotherly love and affection should be a permanent hallmark of our lives together in Christ, and should be expressed through fellowship, benevolence and good will toward each other.

The old phrase “I love him, but I don’t like him” should never apply to our brothers in Christ.

It is with this context that we will learn new insight on Hebrews 13:2, where the Bible discusses the concept of “entertaining angels.” We’ll look at that tomorrow.

May God bless you today. Call up a brother or sister in Christ, and go spend some time together.

Shedding Spiritual Pounds

 

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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

Dr. Morris not only preached healthy living to his patients, he practiced it himself. A middle-aged doctor living in the piney woods of East Texas, he constantly trained to run ultra-marathons (foot-races of 99 miles, or more) in Death Valley, Ca., and Leadville, Colo.

He never won those races, but anyone who has attempted such a feat will tell you, just finishing the race is the victory. During an interview I did with him in 2007, Dr. Morris said the feeling one gets upon crossing the finish line is pure euphoria.

Most of the time, Dr. Morris finished his race. A few times, he did not. The year I interviewed him, he failed to finish a race because he had gained weight prior to running at Leadville, a course consisting of steep climbs and descents in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Now, in gaining the weight, Dr. Morris did not get fat. Au contrare! He gained muscle as part of a nutrition and workout regiment designed to build strength. He was still in shape, better than many professional athletes. However, the gained muscle mass added strain on his cardiovascular system, rendering him unable to deal with the combined pressures of the altitude, slopes and added weight.

The weight wasn’t bad for him, but it did affect his ability to run the race. (He returned home, lost the weight and went on to finish another ultra-marathon later that year.)

Hebrews 12:1 says that we are to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us, and that we are to run with patience the race set before us.

In understanding this concept, we must realize that the Bible is telling us to lay aside two completely different things. Weight, and sin. What’s the difference?

The weight is something that, in and of itself, is not a sin. However, it is something that comes between us and God, making it sinful. Possible examples of weight could include career ambition, entertainment, or social lives.

All of these are not necessarily bad. Career ambition is a good thing. It motivates us to better ourselves so we can better provide for family. Entertainment is not necessarily bad, it relaxes the mind and can promote good mental health. Social lives are not bad, they result in lifelong friendships, which scripture says that we need.

However, when these things interfere with our Spiritual walk, they become weight. Anything that hinders you from living your life the way God wants you to live would fall into this classification. If entertainment keeps you out of worship, it becomes weight. If career ambition prevents you from honoring your commitment to your family, or to your church, it becomes weight. If social activities leave you too tired to have personal time with God, or to worship God, it becomes weight.

These are just a few general examples of what can happen. Only you know what’s truly happening in your Spiritual life.

When these things happen, Hebrews 12:1 tells us that we are to lay aside that weight. That means to re-examine our priorities when it comes to career aspirations and time management, to put our entertainment desires into perspective, and to stop letting social engagements control our lives.

Basically, whatever comes between us and God, we have to lay that aside.

Sin, on the other hand, is a direct disobedience to God, or a violation of His law. Sin is open rebellion against God, and will not only hinder our walk with Him, but will draw his chastisement upon us as He corrects us.

Is there anything that is coming between you and God? Is there recurring sin in your life? If so, it’s time to lay that aside so you can run your race for the Lord.

Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. He is currently leading the congregation through a study of the book of Hebrews, which will conclude Sunday, Dec. 17, with a study of Chapter 13.