God

Shedding Spiritual Pounds

 

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

-Hebrews 12:1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet God

 

When Moses approached the burning bush, God called out to him from the midst of the bush, telling him to take off his shoes for he was standing on holy ground.

At that point, Moses met the God he had trusted since childhood. All throughout Exodus 3, Moses sees the attributes of God on full display.

First, Moses saw the awesomeness of God, as He appeared in a burning bush that was not being consumed by the fire.

Secondly, he saw the life of God, as God described Himself as the eternal “I AM” who was still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as they had entered eternity with him after passing on this Earth.

Thirdly, he saw God’s deliverance, as God told Moses that He had come down to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt.

Lastly, he received God’s call, as God directed Moses to be the one to lead the people out of Egypt.

From this, we learn that God is to be revered, that He is the source of our life (both eternal, and Earthly), that God delivers His people and responds to their prayers, and that God works through His people to accomplish His mission.

Want more? Check out the above-posted podcast.

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.

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.

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.

The Rise of Civilizations

Two brothers, two sacrifices. One pleased God, the other didn’t.

Cain was wroth, angry that God did not honor his sacrifice of the fruits and grains that he had harvested. No doubt, Cain had labored hard for the harvest, and for God to reject his offering was equivalent to God rejecting Cain himself. This sent Cain into a self-destructive and homicidal rage cycle that led to him murdering Abel, his brother.

Abel sacrificed some of the firstlings of his flock. God respected that.

What was the difference between the two sacrifices? Faith (Hebrews 11:4). Obviously, both Cain and Abel believed God existed, but Abel looked to, and trusted God, whereas Cain just lived knowing He existed. The faith in Abel’s heart pleased God, so He was pleased with the sacrifice. Cain’s lack of faith, and minimal tolerance of God displeased Him, so He disregarded Cain’s sacrifice.

So, in a jealous rage one day, Cain kills Abel, and God drives him out, where he fathers an unGodly society that advances in sexual perversion (Gen. 4:19), agriculture (Gen. 4:20), culture and entertainment (Gen. 4:21) and technology, architecture and weaponry (Gen. 4:22).

Seth is born, and eventually fathers a culture that calls upon the name of God… and so we have the rise of the civilizations. One Godly, one unGodly. We’ll see how this turns out in the next few chapters, but for now, check out the impact that this has on us today by listening to this podcast.

God’s Will for Man (The Point Ep. 2)

In Episode 2 of the “Through the Bible Series” on the Point, we discuss how God created us in His image, and we discuss what that means. We also discuss how He created us with a purpose. He created us to create, to cultivate, to develop, and most of all to worship. He also created us for fellowship. We also briefly discuss the concept of the Sabbath Day. Check out our second episode of “The Point” podcast, posted above.

Why Is She Buying Her Stairway to Heaven?

Back when I was a rocker, one of my favorite bands was Led Zeppelin, whose most famous song was “Stairway to Heaven.” The song, which was really a series of pieced-together lyrics designed to follow a set of pieced-together guitar riffs and melodies, portrayed a woman who was getting everything she wanted, and had no regard for anyone or anything else. The one lyric that almost anyone can quote from the song is “There’s a lady is sure, all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying her stairway to heaven.”

Follow the sometimes-unintelligible lyrics, and you’ll learn that Heaven for this lady is all the gifts and gold she’s buying. For many people, Heaven is just that… the goodies you can accumulate during this lifetime. How disappointing it will be when we all realize how temporary the things of this world really are.

But, once again, that lyric goes through our heads… “and she’s buying her stairway to Heaven.” How desperately we want to see things go better in our lives. We need a breakthrough. We need a situation resolved. We need a hurt or a brokenness fixed. So, after all else has failed, we turn to the Lord in prayer, and we look to the scriptures for encouragement.

Anyone who is coping with a recent tragedy, a layoff, a loss of income, a foreclosure or repossession, or a missed promotion, will inevitably come to Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” While this verse definitely applies to the struggles we face, we often draw the wrong conclusion from it.

“All things work together for my good,” is often understood as, “So, I didn’t get the promotion. God must be working up a better job for me.” “So, the offer I made on this house was rejected, God must be reserving a mansion in the hills for me.” “So, I just got fired, maybe this lottery ticket is a winner.”

When we take the promises of God and apply them to temporal things like jobs, houses, finances and worldly opportunities, we do two things. (1) We miss the big picture, and (2) we set ourselves up for disappointment and disenchantment, because God is not always lining up a windfall for us.

“All things work together for my good, but I didn’t get the promotion.”

“All things work together for my good, but I’m still unemployed six months later.”

“All things work together for my good, but this lottery ticket was a loser.”

There is no worse place to be in life than to think that God’s promises apply to everyone else, but somehow exclude you. This leads to disenchantment, depression and loss of faith. It was caused by a misunderstanding of what otherwise is a glorious verse.

Romans 8 is not talking about material blessings, earthly wealth, or added prestige. Romans 8 is previewing Heaven for us. When Romans 8:28 says “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose,” it is saying that God is working everything in your life to bring you into His eternal glory. Romans 8:28 tells us that God is working to strengthen us Spiritually, is working to set us up for eternal rewards, and is working to form us into the person he intended on us being.

God didn’t allow you to be laid off so He can get you hired as the CEO of DuPont. He allowed you to be laid off so He can build your faith, so that regardless of your employment situation, you feel confident and secure. He wants to give you the tools to face life’s challenges, the opportunities to glorify him, and to enter his Kingdom hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The comfort of Romans 8:28 is not that there’s a bigger house around the corner. It’s that God’s hand is still on us, even though a storm of life is raging.

All of this is a sub-point to the greater truth that God is pulling out all the stops to bring you into His Kingdom. Romans 8:29-30 say that whom God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, and whom He predestined, He called, justified and glorified. Romans 8:31-39 go on to say that there is no force in Heaven or Earth that can derail God’s love and plan for you. This truth builds our faith because we are reminded once again that salvation is God’s work, not ours. He bought our salvation, He worked our salvation, and He’ll maintain our salvation. All He asks is our repentance and faith.

So, with that in mind, “Why is she buying her stairway to Heaven?” And why are you trying to buy yours? God has already paid for it. Just trust Him as your ascend those golden steps into His Kingdom.

If You Can See It, You Can Do It

Many motivational speakers encourage their listeners to envision success. The popular motto is, “If you can envision it, you can do it!” At this point, conference attendees will then begin daydreaming about unparalleled success, fame and fortune. While most people set unreasonable goals and expectations, this approach has led to some setting realistic goals, then achieving success.

The tragic part of this is that the vision-to-action progression is not limited to good things like pursuing your dreams. It can also apply to sin and evil. Over the past few months, America has seen horrific acts of crime and immorality carried out in public view. In each of these crimes, there is documented proof that the offender had a preconceived notion of what he wanted to do. Whether you look at the Charleston shooter, Josh Duggar, or Vester Lee Flanagan, the former TV news reporter who shot and killed two former colleagues after being fired from the station, each offender had envisioned his sin, planned it, then carried it out.

It began with evil thoughts, grew into evil intentions, which then led to evil actions. The Charleston shooter, Dylan Roof, cultivated a hatred of African Americans, before planning and carrying out an attack on a Charleston church. Josh Duggar nurtured sexual fantasies through the use of pornography before using Ashley Madison to set up extra-marital affairs. Vester Lee Flanagan cultivated a hatred of Caucasian Americans before planning and carrying out the murder of two of his former colleagues on live TV. Like a seed that germinates, evil thoughts grow into evil intentions, which then bloom into evil acts.

And the thing that should scare you is that we all have these seeds planted within us. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful, above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Notice, the heart is deceitful. Deceit is the fine art of misleading and lying to people. One of the heart’s greatest deceits is the lie that it perpetuates upon the individual to whom it belongs. The heart deceives us into thinking that we’re good, okay, average, and salt of the earth Americans. Meanwhile, it harbors desperate wickedness.

Jesus addressed this issue in Matthew 15:18-19, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:”

These sins begin as small thoughts, or small feelings of anger, desire, or rebellion. As they grow, they develop into the actions described in Matthew 15:18-19, and the actions we have seen on the national news recently. The scary part is, each one of us is capable of these things if we let this go unchecked.

The remedy is not to try to stuff these things deep within your own subconscious. You can’t hide them away, or wish them away. The way to handle these temptations, which are brought on by the sin nature, is to give them up to the Lord. As King David prayed in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Pray to the Lord to cleanse your heart from these sins and sinful desires, and then refuse to cultivate their growth. The way you avoid growing these sins in your heart is by turning away from sin, and not being entertained by it. Or, as Psalms 101:3 says, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” Do not entertain yourself with movies and TV shows that glorify immorality and violence. Do not entertain sexual fantasies. Do not envision or plot revenge. Don’t indulge in get rich quick schemes.

Understandably, this post will not be the most popular thing posted on “The Point.” In fact, it may very well become the most controversial, due to the fact that it involves recent news stories and the idea that each of us has sin in our hearts. Still, I felt the need to post it, because each of us needs to be aware of his potential for sin, failure, and even evil. Each of us needs to turn to God for forgiveness and cleansing, and each of us needs to live a life on guard, that we do not give in to our sinful desires. May God bless you as you travel your path.