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.

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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. 

Wrestling with God

The last time Jacob saw Esau, Esau vowed to kill him. Now, Jacob is returning home, and he receives word that Esau was coming out to meet him with 400 men. Would God make good on His promise to bring Jacob safely home? Or would Jacob and his family be slaughtered by Esau?

As he struggled through the scenarios, Jacob wound up wrestling with God.

This can happen to us if we don’t trust the Lord, and if we focus on our problems instead of our blessings.

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?

When God is distant

Have you ever found yourself in a place where God seemed distant, or silent? Perhaps you’ve experienced troubles in your life, and you can’t feel God’s presence. Perhaps you look at the condition of this world, and wonder if God even cares.

That is where Jacob was in Genesis 28. Jacob had to flee for his life after tricking Isaac into giving him the family’s blessing. His brother Esau sought Jacob’s life, and Jacob knew that there was no chance for living in peace back home.

So, with the blessing of Isaac, his father, he lit out for Haran to live with kinfolk, and to find a wife. In Genesis 28, he stopped for the night in Luz. Sleeping outside, he made a pillow of stones, and rested. As he slept, he dreamed of a ladder reaching into Heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. Standing at the top of the ladder was the Lord God.

Standing at the top of the ladder, God introduced Himself as the LORD God of Abraham and Isaac. Though Abraham had died, God was still His God, as Abraham was alive in Heaven. Though Abraham had died, God was still alive. He did not die with Abraham.

God also identified Himself as the God of Isaac, who still lived. Not only did God still live, He was still involved in the things of the world. Jacob likely felt that God was distant. God assured him that He was working His plan.

In this episode of The Point, we see how God reaffirms His presence and plan, how God reaffirms the covenant and promises salvation, and how God promises His blessing on His people.

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.

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.