faith

Consider Your Ways (Haggai 1)

Haggai’s prophetic ministry took place after the Babylonian Captivity of the nation of Israel was coming to a close. People began to trickle back to Jerusalem, having secured enough provision for the journey home.

As Jerusalem slowly began to be repopulated, the people began rebuilding their homes, businesses and streets, all while the Temple remained in ruins. Seeing his house remain ruined while everyone else’s was being rebuilt prompted the Lord to say, “Consider your ways.”

In calling the people to consider their ways, God called them to consider their priorities, their worship, and their faith. The lesson is as relevant to us today as it was in Haggai’s day. We all need to consider our ways, to make sure our priorities are in line, that our worship honors God, and that our faith is in tact.

The above-posted episode of The Point will bless you with encouragement.

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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.

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. 

 

What stops love?

DSC_0213Fear.

The one obstacle to following the Biblical command to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love our enemies, is fear.

The Biblical commandments to love go beyond a tender affection toward others. The Biblical command to love involves putting that love into action. Indeed, the very meaning of agape love indicates that a personal sacrifice is made on behalf of the recipient of love.

This bears out in the way Christ taught us to love. In Luke 6:30, He says, “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” Then, in Luke 6:35, Jesus says, “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.”

While we want to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, the idea of loving so sacrificially can carry with it the fear that our love will not be returned, or even worse, those we help will turn around and hurt us. We fear the result would leave us empty handed, and looking foolish.

There’s not a person alive who hasn’t loved someone who in turn rejected or betrayed them. It’s not a good feeling. It can leave one jaded, angry, and fearful to love again. To find yourself in that state is to find yourself in a dark place.

Yet, we worship the Light of the world. Jesus Christ shined His light into darkness, dispelling sin, degradation and hopelessness. Perhaps our focus should be on the Light, as opposed to the possible darkness.

Fear of love comes from not trusting the Lord to work in the situation. It comes from not seeing the redemptive power of love, and not trusting the Lord to work through the love toward the redemption and well-being of the one loved. Without that faith, one can only see the risk, and the possible negative consequences.

Love is not a risk. Love is not a gamble. It’s not even an investment. Love is a promise. While the one to whom you show agape may reject or betray you, the Lord promises to bless you for that love.

You see, when you focus on the Lord as you show love to your neighbors and enemies, the same people He loves, then the risk of rejection and betrayal is no longer as big of a deal. It may still happen, but it’s secondary to the fellowship you build with your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the process. Furthermore, it’s secondary to the change and reconciliation that can come as a result of your love toward others.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., may not have changed the hearts of segregationalists and white supremacists in the South. Indeed, his efforts landed him in jail on multiple occasions, and even saw him assaulted numerous times. Yet, when we discuss the legacy of Dr. King, we don’t say, “There lived a man who was beaten and jailed.” We say, “There’s a man who forever changed our nation for the better.”

Was the change he made worth the suffering he endured? If he were alive today, I think he would say yes.

Let’s elevate this conversation.

Jesus Christ loves sinners. He loved the publicans and the sinners, and dined with them many times. Scripture teaches that He loves all people. The Lord, who loved people, took on the form of a person, and came and lived among us. He came to save us. Yet, mankind rejected Him, beat and tortured Him, then killed Him in the most brutal way possible.

Yet, His love for us, which propelled Him to the cross, accomplished something no one understood at the time. His death on that cross satisfied the need for judgment, and thus our sins are forgiven if we believe on Him.

He loved. He was rejected. He suffered. Yet, His love redeemed us. For Christ, was it worth it? In scripture, He says, “Yes.”

So, in Luke 6:38, Jesus says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

Far too often this verse is interpreted that we will be materially rewarded for love. In reality, this verse promises that your love will not be in vain, and by loving, you could very well change the world.

Love your neighbors and enemies, and keep your eyes on the BIG picture.

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. 

And His name shall be called…

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For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

-Isaiah 9:6

There was a hymn we used to sing at the church where I grew up, called, “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.” You’ve probably heard it. It begins with, “There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place….”

The song praised God for pouring His Spirit into our lives, and into our church. The song thanked God for what He was doing at that moment in the lives of each one present, then concluded with the following line of hope, “Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived, when we shall leave this place.”

Oddly enough, I used to hum that line to myself as I walked the halls of Jacksonville High School as a teenager. I looked forward to graduation, when I would leave school and home to try my hand in the real world. I had no doubt that I would be successful in life, that the blessings would pour in, and that I’d make my family and community proud. I couldn’t wait.

I could not wait to “be revived” on graduation day, when I “shall leave this place.” The promise of the graduation was what kept me going in school. (I had a good high school experience, but I’ve always seemed to look forward to the next stage in life).

You may think it silly to apply a hymn of praise and hope to high school graduation, and you’re probably right. Still, how many high school seniors today are anxiously awaiting May 31?

Scripture teaches that, just as high school students anticipate the coming commencement ceremony, we are to anticipate the coming of the Lord. For it is that day that the promises of God will come to full fruition. In fact, 2 Timothy 4:7-8 indicates that you can measure your faith by how much you look forward to the return of Christ.

Isaiah 9:6, often quoted around Christmas as it did foretell the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, was more a prophecy about the hope He would bring than the fact He would be born.

Unto us a child is born. Jesus was born of the Jewish nation of Israel, just as God promised repeatedly in the Old Testament.

Unto us, a Son is given. God promised to give His only begotten Son for the salvation of the world.

The rest of the verse, often glazed over, is where the true hope is found.

Isaiah 9:6 says His name shall be called “Wonderful.” That is a word that has lost its meaning over the past few centuries. The original English word used in 1611 literally meant, “full of wonder.” The Hebrew word that was translated “wonderful” meant “miraculous.”

Not only was the birth of Jesus miraculous, but His entire ministry on Earth was a continual working of miracles, from the turning of the water into wine, to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The miracles of Christ healed multitudes of people, fed thousands, restored hope for two sisters, and testified to the people that the promised Son of God was now among the people, and that Christ had come.

The people of the Old Testament looked forward to the One who would heal them. Likewise, we look forward to the One who will heal us. When the Lord returns and establishes His Kingdom on Earth, He will miraculously heal us all of our ailments, wash away our sin, put an end to the sin in the world, and usher in a perfect eternity of peace and prosperity. That will be a wonder, living in a Kingdom led by Christ, who is full of wonder. His name shall be called Wonderful.

His name shall be called “Counsellor.” This is an adviser, one who gives counsel, one who teaches, and one who plans. The teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth were so perfect, that even the religions that deny His divinity and Sonship admire His teaching. Those religions that reject Jesus as Messiah accept Him as a wise teacher.

In fact, my World History teacher in high school even noted that, “If you reject Christianity, you still have to admit that Jesus had some good ideas.”

The teachings of Christ were given both to the people of Bible times, and to us as well. His teachings shed light on the true meanings of the scriptures and God’s love toward mankind. If one wants to conform to God’s standard, or realize the love of God, one would do well to read, learn, and apply the teachings of Christ.

“His name shall be called… the mighty God, the everlasting Father.” Jesus Christ of Nazareth is God in the flesh. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:1-2 tells us that the Word was God, and the Word was with God. Jesus told His disciples, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

Think about that for a moment. God has always wanted to dwell with His people. It’s why He ordered the building of the tabernacle in Exodus. So, in order to dwell among us, He became a man, and lived our experience. How much love did God demonstrate in doing that?

This is why Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us we can trust the Lord to hear our prayers. He lived our experience, and is therefore empathetic.

This also opened the way for God to redeem us, seeing how He paid the price for our sins on the cross, thus removing the debt and guilt of sin from us. Romans 5:8 says “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

This is the hope promised to us in Isaiah 9:6, that God would redeem us through Christ, who would live our experience then purchase our salvation.

The final name attributed to Christ is “the Prince of Peace.” The Lord bought peace between us and God, and will bring everlasting peace into the world when He establishes His Kingdom.

There is a lot we can learn from the names of Christ given in Isaiah 9:6, but let us not forget God’s end game… to redeem us from sin, and to one day rescue us from the troubles of this world, taking us into the perfect world He intended for us in the beginning.

Knowing that these promises were made, kept, and will be kept should restore our hope as we celebrate the fulfillment of the first two phrases of Isaiah 9:6, “unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Celebrate the Lord’s birth this Christmas, and look forward to the joy that will follow.

–Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Sunday, He will bring a special Christmas message from Isaiah 9. Sunday School begins at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Life Point meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX. 

Light

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And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

-John 1:5

The gentle breeze blowing across Texas brought the summer night air to the perfect temperature, with the low summer humidity making the evening an absolute pleasure. I was on the 8th hole of the miniature golf course at FunSphere in Arlington, Tex. On the other side of Interstate 30, the lights of the newly opened “Ballpark in Arlington” were ablaze, illuminating a packed stadium as the Texas Rangers hosted the New York Yankees.

I was 16 at the time, enjoying an overnight trip with my church youth group, and we were having a blast. The evening included a trip to an all-u-can-eat pizza buffet, bowling, and the Funsphere, which was an amusement park including go-carts, laser tag, and a video arcade. Six Flags later bought it, and thus it no longer exists.

At that time in my life, attending a professional sporting event was a dream, and only a dream. The tickets, travel and parking were too much of a logistical challenge for my rural East Texas family. And despite the great time I was having, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like sitting along one of the baselines at the Ballpark, watching Pudge Rodriguez or Jose Canseco take it to the Yanks.

Beneath those lights were life, excitement, adventure and hope. Beneath those lights was the place to be.

In almost every context, the light is the place to be, whether you dream of being a professional athlete beneath the lights of a big-league stadium, or a performer beneath the Broadway lights. The light is hope. The light is prosperity. The light is victory.

Scripture refers to Jesus Christ as the Light of the world, and His light is far more than the excitement of a major league game, or the glory of a Broadway production. His light brings real hope.

Isaiah 9:2 says “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” In this scripture, the Light is a source of hope and deliverance. It is redemption and restoration.

The people had walked in the hopeless degradation of Spiritual darkness, having spent their lives in idolatry, rebellion, sin and debauchery. The ensuing consequences destroyed their nation and wrecked their lives. Yet, the Light shined into their darkness.

Despite their sin and wickedness, the Lord loved them, and shone His perfect light to redeem them and bring them hope. When the people of Isaiah’s day heard that the light shined, they heard that their condition wasn’t the end. They heard the message of redemption, and had hope. The coming captivity would be temporary, and God would rescue them.

The Light of Jesus Christ works in our lives as well. When you turn from your sins and trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, He gives you hope, a confident expectation of the glory of His eternal Kingdom.

Next, the Light cleanses us. In the physical world, certain UV rays and types of lighting can be used to disinfect. In the Spiritual world, the light of Christ illuminates our works, showing our sin for what it is, and our righteous works for what they are.

Thus, Jesus said in John 3:19-21:

Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

If our sin was the cause of our degradation and hopelessness, obviously we would want to escape that pattern. Sin, like drugs, is highly addictive, rendering the individual incapable of stopping an activity that is killing their soul and body.

What Christ does is highlight the sin in our lives, that our mind toward it changes, and our lives change from the inside out. Then, those changes in our lives are illuminated for all to see, which glorifies our Father in Heaven.

If we wish to escape the hopelessness and degradation of sin, then it follows that we should turn to Christ and allow Him to cleanse us of the sin that destroys us.

The problem, stated by Christ, is that man doesn’t want to do this. He doesn’t want to come to the light to have his deeds reproved, because he enjoys the sin, if not the effects. So, he stays away from the light, so that his sin is not reproved, corrected, and that he doesn’t have to see the sin for what it is. This leads to condemnation.

It’s easy to neglect your physical health if you never count calories, or look in the mirror. It’s easy to neglect your financial health if you never track your expenses. It’s easy to neglect your spiritual health if you never evaluate your life in the Light of Christ by reading the scriptures or attending church. Christ calls this staying in the darkness. In doing so, you can deny the harm that you are doing to yourself, but only until the effects are irreversible, or until you see the Lord on judgment day.

Therefore, we are commanded to come into the Light. Enter the presence of Christ through prayer and Bible study. Attend church. Join a church. Accept the Lord as your Savior if you haven’t already, and allow Him to cleanse you with the light of his word.

Finally, the Light gives us life more abundantly. The scripture tells us that night will never fall in Heaven, and we will live in the perfect light given by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Every description of Heaven is one of paradise. No pain, no sickness, no conflict. Just perfect peace and prosperity. This is the Kingdom we anticipate, and to which we look forward.

We have hope of entering this Kingdom because Christ died for our sins on the cross, then rose again the third day. Just like those beneath the lights of the Ballpark in Arlington, we, too, will enjoy the good life.

John 1:5 tells us that the light shines in darkness, and that the darkness couldn’t comprehend, or overtake it. As certain as flipping on a light switch drives the darkness from a room, the Lord’s final victory, and our glorification, is certain. So continue to trust the Lord, believe in the hope that He brings, and look forward to His Kingdom.

For what it’s worth, I did eventually get to go to a Texas Rangers game. I won tickets in 1996, and watched an afternoon game where the Rangers blew a 5-3 lead to lose to the Twins 9-5. Still, it was a fantastic experience.

–Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Sunday, He will bring a special Christmas message from Isaiah 9. Sunday School begins at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Life Point meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX. 

Endure

 

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

Tommy and Gina were married 52 years before being separated by Tommy’s death. When I managed a small, West Texas radio station, Gina worked as my news director. She was wise, passionate, and proactive in her community. She often visited my office, and we discussed everything from community development, to life in general. Many times, we discussed Heaven and eternity, a place she looked forward to going after her 92 years on Earth.

“Oh, I can’t wait to go to Heaven,” she’d tell me, to which I often replied, “Well, you don’t have to be in too big of a hurry to get there.”

“I can’t wait to go to Heaven to see my Tommy,” she would reply, then I’d feel guilty for my cavalier comment. That exchange always led into her reminiscing about her marriage that started rough, but grew into a stronger love than most can imagine.

“We hated each other for the first 20 years,” she would say, “but the last 30 were such a blessing.”

It always impressed me that, despite how tough it could be at times, she and Tommy stayed married, stayed committed to each other through 20 years of conflict, only to realize a more perfect love for the last 30 years of their time together.

Many married couples struggle to stay together for seven years, and that includes the good times. Fewer make it to 20 years, and even fewer stay married for 20 years in the presence of constant conflict. Yet Tommy and Gina stayed true for 20 years even though they “hated each other.” Their reward? The 30 years of wedded bliss that followed.

All of this, because they endured.

Hebrews 12:1 says that we are to “run with patience the race set before us.” That word “patience” means endurance. Hence, when we run our race, we are to do so with endurance. Our race is the life God set before us. Running the race means actively living the life God has set before you. Running with endurance means you stay committed even when you don’t think you can go any farther.

Just like the marathon runner endures when he continues to run, despite all of his energy being spent, we are to endure as we live the lives God has given us.

There are times when we just don’t think we can go any farther. We can’t live in this situation one more day. When everything within us, and everyone around us tells us to give up, we are called to endure.

Married couples understand this when they stay committed to each other even though conflict abounds. Parents understand this when their kids have pushed them to the brink of insanity. Employees understand this when they continue in a job despite seven-day workweeks and 12-hour shifts. Endurance means never giving up.

Scripture promises that these times won’t last forever, and once they are over, they’ll be a distant, faint memory. In the meantime, we are called to endure.

Or to quote Winston Churchill, “Never, never give up.”

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.

Running the Race

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

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

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

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

It is on that note that Hebrews 12 begins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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