Philosophy

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. 

How God sees you

IMG_0774The Bible tells the story of a rich man who traveled into a foreign country and released his wife into the harem of a pagan king on two separate occasions. This same man fathered children with multiple wives, as well as one of his wife’s handmaids. What do you think God did with this man?

In two short sentences, I described to you Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, and the prime Biblical example of faith. In all fairness to Abraham, the two sentences I used to introduce him captured the worst moments of his life. In the opening paragraph of this post, I unfairly defined him by his sin, and his failures.

While I may seem like a dirty dog for doing that, the truth is we do this to ourselves and each other on a daily basis. We tend to define ourselves by our worst moments, which leads to discouragement, which leads to depression, which leads to anger and estrangement.

You may see yourself as a failure. You may see others around you as failures. However, that does not mean that’s how God sees you, nor does it mean that’s how God sees others.

How can God honor a man who sinned as grievously as Abraham? Simple. Romans 4:3 says “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

Abraham believed God. He trusted God. He took God at His word. Therefore, God regarded Abraham as righteous and saved his soul.

Furthermore, God looked at Abraham, not as the adulterous man who violated His plan for marriage, but rather as a work in progress that God refined until he was ready to receive His blessings.

You see this concept at work with Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3. Joshua the high priest stood before God wearing filthy garments, a sign of his sin, and a sign of the sin of his people. Satan stood beside Joshua, “resisting,” or accusing him, but God responded, “The LORD rebuke thee, Satan, even the LORD who hath chosen Israel rebuke thee, is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”

Joshua stood before God as a mess, but God saw Joshua for the man whom he was transforming him to be.

Your life may be a mess right now. You may be fearful to enter God’s presence. Perhaps that is why you haven’t been to church in a while. You want to at least be able to put your best foot forward, and right now, you don’t have a shoe to fit.

If you trust God, He regards that as righteousness, and He will save your soul. Furthermore, His view of you has less to do with what you are, and more to do with what He will transform you to be. He sees the best in you, and He will bring it out.

And just as scripture gives glowing praise of Abraham, if you trust God to do this work in you, you, too, will hear God’s praise on the day of judgment, when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

If you don’t know the Jesus Christ as your savior, trust Him to save you today. If you know the Lord, trust Him to transform you. Then, return to His presence.

I’ll see you Sunday morning.

The Life of Abraham

Abraham’s life was summed up in Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.”

Many people regard Abraham as a righteous man, however, it was his faith that berthed his righteousness. God saw Abraham’s faith, and therefore regarded him as righteous.

Abraham’s faith guided his actions. It was his faith that motivated him to obey God, and to believe His promises.

So, to learn what we can from the life of Abraham, we first have to have a proper understanding of faith. Faith simply means a deep-rooted trust. You not only believe in God, but you believe God! You take Him at His word, and thus you obey Him.

That faith, that belief is what saves you. It’s what gives you hope for the return of Christ. It’s what you express when you give to God. And that’s what Abraham’s faith was all about. We explore those issues in this episode of The Point podcast.

The Tower of Babel

The world’s first tyrant to build an empire was Nimrod, an ambitious, valiant, yet rebellious warrior who built a kingdom by providing for his people in successful hunts, putting down opposition on the battle field, and by building influence around his Type-A personality. First in war, first in peace, first at the dinner table.

Nimrod’s downfall, however, came in his rebellion against God. He built a kingdom in modern day Iraq, and the people decided to build a tower to reach into Heavens. Essentially, they were trying to invade Heaven.

God’s response shows His patience and grace, while also showing that He will not tolerate sin and rebellion.

I’m fine! No, really, I am. Okay, I’m not.

How are you doing?

No really, How are you doing?

Nearly 100 percent of the time, when asked the first question, we say, “Fine.” Or, some of our more spiritually inclined brethren say, “I’m blessed.”

All too often, when we give those answers, we are not being truthful.

You see, we have been conditioned to think that any sign of distress, any sign of worry or stress is an indication that our faith is faltering. Somehow, by expressing heartbreak over the loss of a loved one, concern over a wayward child, fear over a pending financial disaster, uncertainty over the loss of a job, or anger over being mistreated, we are expressing a character flaw. We’ve “taken our eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves crashing all around us.” We’ve become Peter trying to walk on the water, but sinking because his faith failed.

Indeed, we don’t want to lose faith in the Lord, and we don’t want to be focused on our problems. However, in the real world, we do have problems. And those problems still exist when we enter the church doors. Therefore, there is no need for the church to become a fantasy world where problems don’t exist. They do. Therefore, one of the ministries of the church should be to help people through their problems.

This is not just a humanitarian position. It’s actually in scripture.

Galatians 6:2 says to “bear one another’s burdens.” While the greater context of that verse deals with restoring a brother who sins, it should be noted that sin is part of the lives of those who live in the real world. We all struggle. We all fail. We should be able to turn to our brothers and sisters in Christ for love, encouragement, and restoration as we repent from that sin.

The Bible also tells those who are afflicted to pray (James 5:13) and to confess our faults one to another (James 5:16). In fact, the church experience was designed so we could gain encouragement from each other while we walk this Christian life together. Hebrews 10:25 says that we should not forsake the assembly of ourselves together, but should exhort one another. That means to encourage each other to stay strong in the faith and to do great things for the Lord.

We cannot be encouraged if we are unwilling to address the things that burden our hearts. We cannot be encouraged if we are not willing to face our problems, and seek help. We cannot help each other with our struggles if we pretend they don’t exist.

The Lord knows we have problems. He knew beforehand that we would. Hence, He gave us the church to help us through those problems. The problem is, the church doesn’t do this because we fear being judged if we admit we have problems.

The Lord understands problems. He had a few of his own. Hebrews 4:15-16 says:

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Do you know what that means? It means that the Lord was tempted… not only to sin by Satan after Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness, but also by the same struggles in life that we face: Not enough money, shortage of food, fatigue, being rejected and betrayed by others, being homesick and missing family, physical pain, emotional pain, bereavement, etc.

Yet, the Lord experienced all of this without sin. Therefore, He was uniquely qualified to pay for our sins on the cross, rise again to conquer the grave, open the gates of Heaven and plead our cases before God every single day.

Furthermore, these verses tell us He is sympathetic to our cause, because He has been through the same struggles we have.

Therefore, you are more than welcome to approach the Lord in prayer regarding the struggles you face. You should also be able to lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ for comfort and encouragement. If that’s not possible, maybe you need to find some other brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Lord understands our struggles, because He’s been here. We should understand each others’ struggles as well, because we’re still here. Love, help and encourage each other. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of God.

Thrice Denied

Matthew 26:69-75 records Peter’s denial of Jesus Christ before two young women and a group of people who stood outside the house where Jesus stood trial before the chief priests and scribes of Israel.

It’s easy to be critical of Peter for this sin against the Lord, and his spiritual weakness in this unimaginable moment. After all, Peter had walked and talked with Jesus for more than three years, had seen first-hand the miracles Christ performed, and had even seen Jesus in His glorified state talking with Moses and Elijah. Jesus had even warned him, and foretold this moment.

Yet, here stood Peter, the only disciple willing to take up arms to defend Jesus, huddling with the masses outside the house where Jesus stood trial, trying to blend in. Here stood Peter, denying that he even knew Jesus.

It’s easy to criticize Peter for this, being 2,000 years removed from the arrest, trials, and crucifixion of Christ. It’s easy to wonder how a man who personally witnessed Jesus do so much could suddenly turn his back to the Lord. It’s easy, because we get to review this incident 2,000 years later, in the comfort of climate controlled offices, studies, living rooms and bedrooms, while looking at the screens of our laptops, smart phones and tablets.

I tend to have compassion on Peter, mainly because I see a lot of myself in Peter. He was rash, prone to sudden decisions and outbursts, and he tended to live in the “here and now.” Peter “lived in the real world” and often placed practicality over spirituality. If I am to be honest, I am guilty of the same things.

When Peter stood outside as they put Jesus on trial, no doubt he was scared, disillusioned, and confused. So, as he tried to make sense of things, people inquired about Jesus, and in order to buy peace so he could return to his thoughts, he denied Christ.

Peter could’ve spoke up, could’ve preached the Gospel, could’ve told the people that what they were about to witness would be their salvation, but he didn’t. Out of convenience and fear, he remained silent, and denied Christ.

Are we ever guilty of the same thing? Do we ever fail to speak up for Christ out of convenience or fear? Do we ever give blessing to things the Lord wouldn’t bless, all to buy peace or favor? Do we ever deny Christ by our words or actions?

The good news for us, and for Peter, is that the Lord forgives and offers redemption. Just as Peter denied Christ three times, Jesus offered Peter three opportunities to proclaim his love for the Lord in John 21. Just as we often fail to speak up for the Lord, or to represent Him well, He often gives us second and third chances to do just that- to speak and to represent for Him.

Sunday, we’ll study this passage during morning worship. Sunday School at 10, morning worship at 11, and we meet at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX 76802.

If There Is No Resurrection, Then Why Bother?

That is the point of 1 Corinthians 15, as written by the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:13-20)

The Apostle Paul was addressing a skeptical doctrine that was infiltrating the Corinthian church that there is no resurrection of the dead. In essence, the doctrine taught that, once you are dead, then you return to dust, never to rise again.

Paul’s objection to this heresy addressed the following key points:

  1. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. This leads to the logical conclusion…
  2. If Christ is not risen, then Christianity is pointless. (Paul used the word, “vain,” meaning empty.) The premise of the Christian faith is that Christ rescued us from the judgment of God by taking that judgment upon Himself, dying on the cross, and then rising again to new life, conquering the grave and making eternal salvation possible to all those who believe.
    1. If there is no resurrection, then there’s no judgment of God, hence no need for Christ to die.
    2. If there is no resurrection, then Christ did not rise again, thus the grave still holds the final victory over us, and we have no hope for an eternity in Heaven beyond this life.
    3. If that’s the case, then we are stuck in the here and now, with no hope for deliverance. This is as good as it gets. That being the case, “We are men most miserable.”
  3. But, Paul reminds us that Christ did rise from the grave, so there is deliverance from God’s judgment, deliverance from death, and the hope of eternal life in His perfect Kingdom for all who believe.

The importance of the resurrection to the Christian faith is so paramount, that the Apostle Paul tied belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the salvation of the believers (Romans 10:9-10).

This Sunday, we commemorate and celebrate the single most important event in Christian, and world, history. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Community Sunrise Service will be held at 7 am Sunday morning at the Depot Pavilion in downtown Brownwood. Come worship with us, and be a part of a truly moving experience.

The Resurrection: That DID Happen

Those who reject Christianity do so for a number of reasons. Some believe that to accept the Christian faith is to reject logic and intellect. Others reject the Christian faith due to perceived hypocrisies among Christians. One of the biggest reasons for rejecting Christianity is a disbelief in the miraculous events recorded in scripture.

Such was the stumblingblock for Lee Strobel, an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune. A self-described atheist, Strobel rejected Christian beliefs as superstition, fairy tales, and logic defying crutches that served as emotional supports for unstable people.

Stobel’s assessment of Christianity was challenged, however, when his wife, Leslie, professed her faith in Christ during a service at the Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Troubled by his wife’s new adherence to what he thought was a superstition, Strobel set out to disprove the most important doctrine of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Strobel chronicled this journey in his book, The Case for Christ, now a motion picture that has been released on 1,200 screens nationwide.

Instead of disproving Christianity, Strobel stumbled upon a mountain of evidence that supported the fact that the resurrection of Jesus Christ really existed. Such evidence included thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament, eye-witness accounts of the resurrection of Christ, historical documentation, and medical evidence of the cruelty of the beatings Christ endured, and the cruelty of crucifixion.

When standard journalistic investigation, historical research, and logical processes were employed, the resurrection stood on its merit. It really happened. Confronted with this truth, Strobel was forced to face the fact that, in this instance, he was wrong. He repented and accepted Jesus Christ as His personal savior.

The resurrection indeed happened. It is proven by the empty tomb, the multiple eye-witnesses to seeing a resurrected Christ (including the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the testimony of the disciples, the fact that the Apostle Paul was confronted on the road to Damascus by the resurrected Christ, the testimony of the 500 mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, and the fact that resurrection is the only logical explanation for sightings of Christ post-crucifixion.)

The resurrection is central to the Christian faith, because it is through the resurrection that Christ conquered the grave so that we can all be resurrected when the Lord establishes His Kingdom on this earth. It is through the resurrection that Christ rose to be at the right hand of the throne of God, where He secures our salvation through his intercession (advocacy) on our behalf. It is through the resurrection that we have assurance that we have eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Sunday morning, we will celebrate the resurrection of Christ during our Easter Sunrise Service, which will be held at 7 am Sunday at the Depot Pavilion in downtown Brownwood. Come worship with us.