Why happiness is so elusive…

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Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

-James 4:2-3

John D. Rockefeller built a fortune through his company, Standard Oil. Seeing a need for a reliable brand of kerosene that would not explode into flames as kerosene often did in the 1800s, Rockefeller set out to develop a safe way to refine the liquid fuel from oil, and then brand it so that anyone buying it would know they bought a safe product. Hence the name, “Standard.” As in, “This product lives up to our standards of safety,” and burns bright enough to illuminate our homes and offices to our standard. It elevated our standard of living.

Rockefeller’s shrewd business skills and ability to leverage service, money and volume built his empire. He built strategic partnerships with railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, eliminated competitors through hostile takeover and stock purchases, and never quit working to expand his empire.

To this day, the name “Rockefeller” is synonymous with wealth. Unlike many who inherit wealth, Rockefeller built his from nothing. Today, his family still benefits from his decisions.

Yet, when asked, “How much money is enough,” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.”

At the height of his wealth and power, Rockefeller basically owned America. Yet, even at the height of his wealth and power, Rockefeller neither found happiness nor peace. At least, he didn’t find it in his wealth and power.

The fundamental fact of life is that, if you can’t be happy where you are, with what you have, then having more will not make you happy.

That’s why James 4:2-3 says:

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

James addressed discontentment among early Christians by pointing out two things. (1) They didn’t engage God in prayer about their needs and wants, and (2) their motivation was suspect.

The first situation addressed here is discontentment. The Christians to whom James wrote were not happy. They desired things that they could not have. They wanted more. They struggled for more, yet they failed. The harder they pressed, the harder the world pressed back.

The first reason those who read James experienced this torment dealt with their worldly attitudes. They wanted, and fought to have, but failed to obtain, because they didn’t ask God. They neither asked God for the blessings they sought, neither did they ask for God’s permission and direction.

These Christians lived a carnal, worldly existence. In doing so, they excluded God from their day-to-day lives. That’s an important detail to remember. When we live in the carnal, day-to-day world, without seeking God through prayer, Bible reading and meditation (deep thoughts on the scriptures), we are excluding God from our day-to-day lives.

These Christians, having excluded God from their lives, received no blessing from God. Why would He bless and reward His children who avoid His presence.

James then addressed another problem. Those who had approached God in prayer about their desires did so with impure motives.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Those who had gone to the Lord in prayer to request specific blessings did so for the sole reason of pleasing their flesh. They wanted that which they could consume, not that which they could use to bless God and others.

A good example of this would be the man who prays for the new convertible, the beach house, or for the winning lottery numbers.

So, while they did follow Biblical directives to pray, their hearts were not right. Instead of having a heart for God and His people, they were selfish. Therefore, their prayers went unanswered.

That brings us to a very pointed question. “What’s my motivation?” Are we self-focused, or focused on others? Do we see others? Or do we only see ourselves?

Happiness is defined as confidence and security. Do you feel confident that the Lord will do great things in your life? And are you secure, knowing that He will provide, protect and care for you? If so, then you are happy, whether you feel joyful or not. If you do not feel confident and secure, it might be because you are searching for confidence and security in the wrong things. At that point, nothing will provide happiness for you, regardless of how much of that nothing you have.

As for John D. Rockefeller, you might be surprised that amassing wealth and making money wasn’t his primary motivator, as he is quoted as saying, “I had no ambition to make a fortune; mere moneymaking has never been my goal. I had an ambition to build.”

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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.

Putting the past where it belongs

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The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers… Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye unto me, … and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.

-Zechariah 1:2-3

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the child of a notorious criminal?

What would it be like to be the child of Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy, Al Capone or Charles Manson?

Think about it. Wherever you went, your father’s name and sins would come up, no matter how hard you tried to separate yourself from his dubious legacy. You could have become a successful businessman and philanthropist, but the second anyone figured out who you were, they would suddenly act awkward, or want to talk to you about your father’s legacy, and what it’s like to be the son of ___________.

What a tragedy for an individual to be doomed to the dark legacy of the sins of his father. Such was the case for the people of Israel during the return from the Babylonian exile. As spoken by the prophet Zechariah, “The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.”

The good news for Israel was that God would not define them by the sins of their fathers. After telling them that He had been “sore displeased” with their fathers, the LORD exhorted the nation of Israel to “Turn ye unto me.” If they did, He would turn to them.

The LORD offered Israel a fresh start. He would cleanse them of their sin, and allow them to become His people, and He would be their God. This was good news for them, and it’s good news for us.

Just as God did not define Israel by the sins of their fathers, neither does He define us by the sins of our fathers. You family heritage does not define you. God created you in a unique way, giving you your own identity and choices.

Therefore, you are not hindered from entering God’s Kingdom just because you come from “a long line of losers.” Furthermore, you are not guaranteed entry into God’s Kingdom just because you come from a family of Spiritual giants.

Every man will stand before God alone on judgment day, with no one to hinder him, and no one to help him, with the exception of Jesus Christ our advocate. Therefore, the LORD says “Turn ye unto me.” This is God’s way of exhorting us to repent of our sin and trust Jesus Christ as our personal savior.

Just as we are not defined by the sins of our fathers, we are not defined by the sins of our past. The people in Zechariah’s day may not have been involved with the idolatry that resulted in the Babylonian exile, but Israel the nation was. Nevertheless, God offered the nation a new start that would come by their repentance and faith.

Like Israel, we can find ourselves in a state of disarray as a result of sinful choices we’ve made. We can find ourselves being chastised by God, reaping the consequences of our choices, and in an overall state of despair.

The promise that God made to Israel also applies to us. “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you.”

God allows us to reap the consequences of our actions in order to teach us to turn away from sin. If we learn that lesson, and turn from our sin and put our faith in the Lord, He turns to us. When He does this, He delivers us, restores us, and reconciles with us.

As He promised, “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you.”

When you turn to the Lord, He turns to you, which means that He becomes your champion and your advocate. He restores you, protects you, cleanses you from sin, and blesses you. It’s a promise.

So, as you “consider your ways,” repent from any sin that has infiltrated your life, and renew your faith in the Lord. He will respond to you, and bless you.

Consider your ways

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Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.

-Haggai 1:5

In Haggai 1, the Lord points out how the people of Jerusalem who had returned to the city to rebuild the Temple became reluctant to do so, possibly fearing political retribution. Yet, despite that fear, the people continued to build their own houses. That prompted the Lord to respond with, “Consider your ways.”

When the Lord told the people of Jerusalem to “consider their ways,” He was telling them to check their Spiritual status, their motivations, and their choices. On that note, it’s a good idea that we all “consider our ways.”

First, let’s consider our Spiritual status. Growing up in the American South, Christianity was the assumed religion among our friends and neighbors. Nearly everyone went to church somewhere on Sunday morning. People lived a basic moral lifestyle, identified as Christian, and gasped at anything that appeared “unChristian.”

One of the most dangerous things a person can do is assume the status of being a Christian without actually having the faith that makes you a Christian. Some call this, “professing the faith without possessing the faith.”

What makes this dangerous is that a person can delude himself into thinking that he is a Christian and is going to Heaven, only to be told on Judgment Day, “Depart, for I never knew you.” Thus, the Lord warned in Matthew 7:21-23:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

In that passage, you had people who thought they were going to enter into the Lord’s Kingdom, only to be reckoned with the fact that they lacked the one key thing required for salvation, Faith.

They pleaded with the Lord, noting the many wonderful things they did. Notice how the Lord did not argue against that. They had the works, but they lacked that personal relationship with Christ that comes by faith. So, the Lord rejected them.

Therefore, it is imperative that we all take stock of our Spiritual lives to see whether or not we are truly Christians, whether we truly know the Lord as our Savior. After all, it would be tragic to spend a lifetime in church every Sunday, hosting youth camp-out events, donating to missions, and participating in the annual prayer breakfast, and wind up facing the judgment of God.

Therefore, 2 Peter 1:10 says, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:”

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? Was there a moment when you made the conscious decision to turn from your sin and trust the Lord as your Savior? If that moment never happened, then your salvation is in question. Make that decision today. Reject the sin in your life, and trust Christ to save you based on His work on the cross.

Secondly, we are called to consider our motivations. Why do we do the things that we do? What drives us? What do we hope to gain?

There are many people who are motivated to make their world a better place, whether that is to be accomplished by volunteering in the community, mentoring youth, or donating to charity.

There are many people who are motivated to accumulate wealth. They seek success in their careers or businesses.

Others seek accomplishment. The money, and the impact on society is irrelevant. They just want to become a household name.

And others are motivated by the pursuit of pleasure. Such is the case of a man I saw on TV living in Appalachia, who could care less about his bank account or the state of the country, as long as there were beers in the fridge and the satellite TV service was working.

What is your motivation? While we all tend to gravitate toward one of these, scripture teaches us that we are to be motivated to glorify God.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

As noted by Bro. Jim Finch, who taught Sunday School at Life Point this past week, we glorify God by reflecting His glory, which is accomplished when we do the things God would do, when we do what He tells us to do, and when we love people the way He would love them.

Finally, we are told to consider our choices. Hopefully, after the previous considerations, you have found that you have faith. If not, hopefully you found faith. Then, hopefully you’ve evaluated your motivations and realigned yourself accordingly. Now, we are to look at our choices.

Do our choices reflect the faith we profess? And do they fall in line with our motivation? If not, we need to re-evaluate our choices and make better ones.

It’s always a good time to “consider your ways.” Hopefully in doing so, we can learn, and grow as we continue to live this Christian life.

Is it time?

Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord‘s house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.

-Haggai 1:2-5

In a debate between the Wiley College and Oklahoma City debate teams, as depicted in the 2007 film The Great Debaters, Samantha Booke argued against racial segregation in schools, noting how the state of Oklahoma spent five times as much on education per white student when compared to that spent on African American students.

Booke, a fictitious character based on Henrietta Bell Wells, then asked when the time for racial reconciliation, integration and justice would come. “Will it come tomorrow? Next week? In 100 years? No the time for justice, the time for freedom, the time for equality, is always, always right now!”

In the Jim Crow South in the 1930s, the argument against integration often centered around the feasibility of true racial reconciliation. The argument was that, with there being so much animosity between the races, it would be impractical, and downright destructive to try to effect change.

Thus, the one arguing against integration would wring his hands, and say, “You don’t deal with things the way they should be, you deal with things the way they are. It’s just not the right time for progress on this issue.”

Widespread societal opposition to doing the right thing has led to complacency in the wrong things often throughout human history, from the slavery in the antebellum South, to the exploitation of child-labor of the industrial north. As this complacency settled in, society languished in sin until being led into the light by a strong leader, oftentimes moved by their faith in God, to spark national repentance.

In Haggai 1, the prophet Haggai was moved by the Lord to prophesy a message calling on the nation to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. However, the Temple reconstruction faced opposition.

The tribes who had taken up residence in the Holy Land in Israel’s absence did not want to give their territory back to Israel. Therefore, Israel was accused of mounting an insurrection against the Medo-Persian Empire.

The accusation was serious. If the King were to feel threatened by the accusation, he could not only order the halting of the work, but use military force to pummel Israel into submission. For the King, the accusation meant that, by supporting the reconstruction of the Temple, he was funding the enemies of the empire.

The Israelites were pushed to complacency to assuage fears of rebellion. The king was pressured against supporting reconstruction to show loyalty to the empire.

Thus, as Haggai was being called to become a prophet, many people (including Jews and Gentiles) were saying that the time to rebuild the Temple had not yet come.

“It’s not time to rebuild.”

“The Persians will never accept it.”

“Rebuilding will provoke violence from our neighbors.”

“Maybe some day in the future, but not today.”

While all this was being said, the reconstruction effort for the city of Jerusalem continued, with homes and businesses being built. The people risked the political fallout of pursuing their own interest, but not God’s. Therefore, in Haggai 1:5, God says, “Consider your ways.”

There are three things to keep in mind from this passage.

(1) The time to repent and do the right thing is always right now. In Haggai 1, God was using the reconstruction of the Temple to further His agenda of ending sin and redeeming His people. By delaying the reconstruction of the Temple, Israel was actually working against God’s plan.

When we delay repenting of the sin in our lives, or our culture, we only further the destruction and ruin brought on by our sin.

(2) We need to value the things of God more than the things of man. Israel had no trouble building their own homes, but they weren’t willing to take the same risks in building the house of God. God did not say they couldn’t build their own homes, but God wanted them to build up His house as well.

God never called us to take a vow of poverty. He did call us to give tithes and offerings as He prospers us. He wants us to value His cause as much, if not more, than we do our own.

(3) We should consider our ways. This means to take stock of where we stand with God, and whether we are living our lives in accordance with scripture and His will.

We want to see God move in our society in a great and wonderful way. For that to happen, we must give God something to bless. In order to do that, we need to place importance and value on the things of God, and repent of the sin and wrong thinking that is in our own heart. May God bless you as you take these steps in your own life.

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.

Who is there among you?

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Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.

-Ezra 1:3

The Persian king Cyrus had no ties to Jerusalem. There was no sentimentality on his part. He had probably never even been to Jerusalem. Yet, when God stirred his spirit, he was moved to rebuild the house of God at Jerusalem.

Knowing that God’s will was to revive Israel, Cyrus understood that if the reconstruction of the Temple was to truly accomplish its purpose, the Israelites would have to be the ones to rebuild it. Therefore, he challenged God’s people. “Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him.”

Over the past 9 years, I have seen signs posted along the highways of Texas urging residents to pray for our nation. On more than one occasion, our nation has been mentioned as a prayer request during morning services.

And then there’s 2 Chronicles 7:14:

 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

We pray for our nation often. We pray that our nation will remain safe, prosperous, that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same lifestyles we did. More importantly, we pray that God would bring a revival in America. More than a cultural revival, we pray that God would bring a spiritual revival to America.

We’re concerned about more than American traditions. We’re concerned about the soul of America. Historically, our nation has lived by Judeo-Christian values. In recent years, it seems that society is deliberately moving away from those values.

As a result, we see the increase in drug abuse and crime, child abuse, human trafficking, moral degradation and cultural rot. The solutions to these problems cannot be legislated. These are problems that can only be solved by a revival in America. These problems can only be solved by national repentance and a renewed interest in true Christianity. We pray for this to happen.

However, this revival will only be sparked if the people of God will stand up, speak His Gospel, minister to those who hurt, and reach out to those who are lost. If we are to see a spiritual revival in America, we need a generation of Christians to rise up and unabashedly do God’s work.

So, in the words of Cyrus, “Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him.”

Rise up, reach out, and be the influence that leads your friends, family and neighbors to the Lord. Who knows? You may be the spark that ignites a revival in our country.

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. 

The Soul Stirring

cropped-wp_20140810_002.jpgPastor Joey Gilbert pastors a small church in southern Mississippi. At first glance, his role at Bayside Baptist Church may not seem that unique. Like many pastors, he preaches, drives a church van to pick up kids for Sunday School, and ministers to his congregation. It’s a scene similar to that of many small congregations across America, until you learn that Pastor Gilbert lives 1,000 miles away in Carnesville, Ga., a small town 75 miles northeast of Atlanta, where he works as a land surveyor.

Bi-vocational pastors of small congregations struggle to make ends meet, and to meet the increasing demands on their time, yet Gilbert maintains the work, life, ministry balance across a distance of three states and two time zones. In a time when pastors are leaving the ministry in record numbers due to burnout, Gilbert keeps going. Why?

“If you came on a Sunday, and met the members and the kids, you’d understand,” Gilbert told MSN.

Gilbert’s soul was stirred for Bayside Baptist Church after providing Vacation Bible School for the kids after Hurricane Katrina. Upon learning that their pastor was leaving, Gilbert was moved to help. His continued devotion (he’s been serving as their pastor for 17 months) is no doubt driven by his love for the people of the church, and by the stirring the Lord has done in his soul.

When God stirs the souls of men, great things happen. In Ezra 1, the Persian emperor Cyrus ordered the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple. His order marked the end of the Jewish exile, begun after they were conquered by the Babylonian empire as God’s judgment for centuries of idolatry. God’s chastisement of his people complete, it was time to send them home. God stirred the spirit of Cyrus to make that happen.

In Ezra 1:1-2, the Bible says:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, 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.

Notice what scripture said. “The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus.” When that happened, Cyrus set his heart to obey the Lord by ordering the rebuilding of the Temple, which necessitated the return of the people to Jerusalem. So, he ordered it.

This order led to the rebuilding of the Temple, a revival in Israel, and the starting of the 70 weeks prophesied by Daniel that God would use to bring about the final redemption of His people. God stirred the spirit of a man, and great things happened.

As we begin a new year, let’s focus our desires on seeing great things happen for God. For those great things to happen, God will need to revive our hearts. Let’s pray that God stirs our spirits, and that He stirs the spirits of others to make these great things happen.

By doing so, we’ll learn to depend on Him for the revival we desire to see in our nation, and we’ll lean less on our own power and understanding.

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.