Heaven

What ever happened to Heavenly Highway Hymns?

Remember the Heavenly Highway Hymnals? Prominent hymns included in that hymnal included, “I Have A Mansion (Over the Hilltop),” “Meet You in the Morning,” “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks,” “Beulahland,” and the ultimate heavenly standard, “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Just about every hymn in the Heavenly Highway Hymnal was a song about Heaven, and for decades, those hymnals adorned the church pews of rural Baptist congregations across the nation.

Time goes by, hymnals wear out, new hymnals are purchased, and the worship repertoire changes. Modern worship hymns and choruses like “Indescribable,” “Here I Am to Worship,” and “Lord I Lift Your Name On High” proclaim God’s grace, greatness, salvation, and love.

Such is always appropriate, and always lifts my soul from the angst over the darkness of this world. I love the modern hymns. I love the traditional hymns. I’m the kind of guy that can sing “Old Rugged Cross” and then turn around and sing along with Michael W. Smith’s “You Are Holy.” However, modern hymns seem to be missing that “Heaven” element. Sadly, modern preaching seems to be missing that element as well.

Think about it. When was the last time your pastor preached on Heaven?

Today’s seminaries are teaching young preachers to find application, relate scripture to what the listener is enduring at this particular moment, and to not get caught up into higher theology.

As a result, church-goers are being treated to sermons on salvation (which is good), sermons on Godly living (also good,) and sermons on how God works through the pain in our lives (also good). However, through this search for relevant sermons, pastors often miss the one thing the Bible offers to keep our focus on the Lord. Heaven.

Scripture tells us the Gospel. It teaches us of God’s grace, forgiveness and salvation. It offers practical teaching on living, and encouragement to endure the hard times. But, scripture also tells us about Heaven.

In Zechariah 2, the prophet Zechariah encouraged the nation of Israel to rebuild Jerusalem, promising that the Lord would bless the effort, that the Temple would be rebuilt, and God would restore the nation.

As part of that prophecy, he showed that Jerusalem would one day be a city without walls, with a multitude of men and cattle therein. This was an Old Testament way of promising perfect peace and prosperity, something that is impossible in this world, but will be a way of life in God’s Kingdom which will follow the destruction of this world.

In a sense, Zechariah was encouraging the nation of Israel to return from the Babylonian captivity and to rebuild Jerusalem by reminding them of Heaven. God will one day lead us into His eternal Kingdom of peace and prosperity, but to follow Him there, we must first follow Him here. For the Israelites, that meant rebuilding Jerusalem. For us, it means to have faith in Him and to follow His word.

I don’t know what you are going through. I can tell you that whatever it is, God is working through that situation to refine you and to strengthen you, and you will come out on the other end better off.

Still, at the end of our struggles and strife through this life, we have the assurance of knowing that one day, we will enter God’s Kingdom, into a life without pain nor suffering, the glories of which are incomparable to the challenges of this life.

One day, the Lord will deliver us once and for all. Our problems are temporary distractions until then.

Trust the Lord. Trust Him to save you, and trust Him to deliver you.

May God bless you.

contributed by Pastor Leland Acker. You can follow Pastor Acker on his blog at LelandAcker.com, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/LelandAckerMinistries. 

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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.

Better Days Ahead (1 Peter 1)

Three weeks ago, we said goodbye to the year 2014, and hello to 2015. For many, 2014 was a break-through year. For others, it was a tough year, and they are glad to see it go.

I know at Grace Pointe, we faced our own challenges. Financial difficulties drove us from our rented church building, to holding services at the Early Chamber of Commerce’s community room. Attendance declined, yet tithes and offerings remained steady. We changed many things… eliminated Wednesday night services, and began a series of small groups. We eliminated Sunday evening services, and began Sunday afternoon services. Then, we eliminated the afternoon services altogether. Monthly potlucks were replaced by monthly lunches at local restaurants. Grace Pointe remained committed to our mission of spreading the Gospel, and made changes to help us accomplish that mission. That being said, I will not pretend that it was easy.

When things fall apart, when times get tough, and when discouragement begins to set in, there are several things we can remember from the book of 1 Peter.

We can remember that this world is not our home. 1 Peter 1:1 says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, ” The key word, there, is “strangers.” In the New Testament, Christians used the term “strangers” to describe themselves, as this world was not their home, but Heaven was. This idea follows the old hymn, “This World is Not My Home,” which says:

This world is not my home I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

As Christians, we have a greater hope than anything that we can accomplish in this world. No matter how good, or bad things are here, we can be assured that things will be much greater in Heaven.

We can remember that God holds us in the palm of His hand. 1 Peter 1:2 says, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”

That word, “elect,” means “chosen.” God has chosen us to be saved. The basis of his choice was his foreknowledge of whether we would receive the Gospel, whether we would repent and trust Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Seeing beforehand the choice we made, God predestined our lives to bring us to that decision. He set us aside (sanctified) us through the Holy Spirit, and purchased our salvation by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Once He saves us, He keeps us. 1 Peter 1:5 says, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” We can not save ourselves, nor can we keep ourselves saved. It all happens by God’s will, and His power.

Therefore, no matter what happens, we can trust that God holds us in His hand. He will work the things in our lives to our benefit, and He will receive us into Heaven. Though the storm rages, we can be at peace in the eye of the storm.

Finally, We can trust that God is using the adversities in our lives to strengthen us, and form us into the people He intended on us being. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”

When God allows adversity to happen in your life, He is refining you, strengthening you, and building your endurance and faith. He is building you into someone who can do great things for Him, so that you will be received into Heaven with honor. In this verse, Peter compares the trials of our faith to the way gold is purified. It is heated up, melted, and the impurities are burned and sifted out of it. The result is a pure, highly valuable metal. When God finishes with us, we will be the people He created us to be.

Regardless of outcome, 2015 will be an interesting year. Oil prices will continue to fall and then will rise. The stock market will do some flips, and pre-Presidential politics will move to the forefront of any discussion on current events. Whether the year ahead brings good things, or tough challenges, you can live in peace, knowing that God has you taken care of, if you know Christ as your Savior.

As for Grace Pointe, we hope to see our new worship facility built this year. Feel free to come and visit. Grace Pointe meets in the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX 76802. Sunday School is at 10 am, morning worship is at 11 am.

If You Asked God What He Wanted for Christmas, What Would He Say?

Christmas 2014“What do you want for Christmas?”

It’s a common question. Santa asks it of the kids as they sit on his lap at the mall. Office workers ask it of each other as they plan their secret Santa gifts for the company Christmas party. And, even though you’ve turned 31, your mom will probably ask it of you.

Christmas is a time of giving, and a time of receiving. Exchanging gifts around a Christmas tree is one of the simple joys of the holiday. Everyone can identify with having a Christmas wish… but what about God? Has anyone ever asked God what He wants for Christmas? I mean, after all, He invented the holiday, didn’t he?

(Okay, yeah, I realize that Christmas is a man-made tradition to bring heathen holidays in compliance with the Christian religion. Humor me, will ya?)

After all, it was God who sent Jesus Christ, His only Begotten Son, to be born of the virgin, Mary. Jesus would go on to pay for the sins of the world on the cross so that we could be saved and live eternally with God in His Kingdom. Maybe that has something to do with God’s Christmas wish.

From the beginning, God’s desire has been to dwell with His people. If you look in Genesis 2, you see the picture of God walking along with Adam in the Garden of Eden, teaching and talking with him as Adam named the animals. When Adam sinned against God in Genesis 3, that close fellowship was broken. However, God immediately began taking the steps to restore that fellowship.

When God ordered the construction of the Tabernacle in the book of Exodus, His goal was to be able to dwell among His people. When His people rebelled, He had His Tabernacle moved out of their camp.

The construction of the Temple was, again, about giving God a place to dwell among His people. All of this was the foreshadowing of God’s overall plan to put an end to sin, and live with His people forever. It’s a dream that will be fully realized in Revelation 21:3, “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Christ will come again, establish His Kingdom on Earth, and the Lord will dwell with us forever. At that time, all pain, suffering, illness and strife will be gone, and we will live in a perfect world forever.

What’s God’s Christmas wish? To live with us in a perfect world. However, God isn’t just sitting around hoping it shows up under the tree. He is busily working to bring that dream about.

And that is the significance of Matthew 1:23, “they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Come visit with us Sunday, and see the blessings of “Emmanuel, God with us.” We meet for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m., inside the Early Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX, 76802.

God bless you this Christmas season,

Leland Acker, Pastor, Grace Pointe MBC.

Why Our Mission Involved The Early Pioneer Days

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Bro. John Melancon demonstrates Bible artifacts to a festival-goer at the Early Pioneer Days.

Saturday at the Pioneer Days celebration in Early, Texas, festival goers enjoyed angus beef hamburgers, kettle corn, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and balloon animals. As they strolled through the festival booths, they came upon our booth, featuring Bible archaeologist John Melancon. Bro. Melancon demonstrated the artifacts that he collected during archaeological digs in the Holy Land, related them to scripture, and then discussed Bible truths, particularly the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins.

Some may wonder  why a church would go through the expense, time and effort of hosting a festival booth at a local carnival, without the benefit of a fund-raiser. It’s really quite simple. It’s part of our mission at Grace Pointe.

The day is coming when we will all stand before the Lord, who will judge us and determine whether we are received into His Kingdom (Heaven), or whether we are condemned for eternity (Hell). He will judge us based on two criteria… (1) Have we broken God’s law? and (2) Has the penalty for our sin been paid?

We have all broken God’s law. We have all sinned. We have all told lies, we have all taken something that didn’t belong to us, we have all failed at one point in our lives to love the Lord and worship God. By the definition of the law given in the 10 Commandments, we are all guilty of breaking God’s law, and sinning (Romans 3:23). Scripture declares that the penalty for sin is death and condemnation (Romans 6:23). So, on that part of the judgment, we will all be found guilty (Romans 3:19).

The question will then be the status of your punishment. When Jesus died on the cross, He not only suffered for a cause, and stood His ground as a noble leader, He took the punishment for our sins from God. Isaiah 53:11 says “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

While He was on that cross, Jesus endured the wrath of God that was caused by our sin. He took our punishment for us (1 John 2:2). The question is, whether that payment for sins has been credited to your account. Such a transaction happens when you repent of your sins, and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior (Romans 4). If you have been found to have your sins paid, because you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you will be received into Heaven. If the payment for sins has not been credited to your account, because you have not accepted Christ as your Savior, you will be condemned to an eternity in Hell (John 3:36).

It’s that last part that propels our public outreach at local festivals. We’re not there to ruin a good time, and we are not there to make a name for ourselves, or raise funds. We are there to get in touch with people we would not otherwise get to meet, so that we can warn all people to flee God’s wrath and be saved by trusting Jesus Christ as their Savior.

It’s our prayer that all who hear our presentation of the Gospel will repent and trust Jesus Christ as Savior.

Sunday morning, we will study Luke 16, and learn about Hell by expounding on the passage about the rich man and Lazarus. Service starts at 11 a.m. We hope to see you there.

Grace Pointe Missionary Baptist Church meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Incubator Facility, 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX 76802.

October Sermon Series to Focus on Life after Death

If the Dead Could SpeakIf our existence ended upon our last breath, what would be the point of salvation? If we ceased to live, feel, think, and exist after death, what would be the point to pleasing God, and living according to scripture? The Apostle Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 15:32:

If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.

In other words, if there are no ramifications to our life on Earth after we die, what’s the point? We might as well eat, drink, and be merry. We might as well live it up. Without life after death, there is no point to living in holiness, worship, morality, self-sacrifice, charity, God or country.

However, the Bible plainly states that there is life after death. When that preacher reads 1 Thessalonians 4, and they lower your body into the ground, your story doesn’t end there. In fact, it has only begun, because at that moment, you will have begun your life in eternity.

The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” When you close your eyes in death, your eyes will re-open before the judgment seat of Christ. At that moment, you will be judged according to your actions, and found guilty of sinning against God. The question is whether your sentence of death for your sins will have been paid. The Bible teaches that Jesus endured that sentence when He died on the cross for your sins, however, has that payment been credited to your account? It has, if you have repented of your sins, and trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

In Grace Pointe’s October sermon series, “If the Dead Could Speak,” we’ll take a look at life on the other side of death from the perspective of those (in scripture) who have been there, and also from God’s perspective. We will discuss Heaven, and we will discuss Hell, and most importantly, we’ll discuss how to go to Heaven and how to avoid Hell. We’d be glad to have you come visit with us during this riveting series. Grace Pointe Missionary Baptist Church meets Sundays for morning worship at 11 a.m. at the Early Chamber of Commerce Small Business Incubator Facility, 104 E. Industrial, Early, Texas, 76802.

On the Passing of Robin Williams…

In the 1998 song, “Everyone’s Free to Wear Sunscreen,” Baz Luhrmann said, “Don’t worry about the future. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” Things happen that catch us unprepared, like learning that a celebrity that you looked up to passed away suddenly, without warning.

As I type these words, the world is coming to grips with the passing of Robin Williams, who brought Mork (from Mork and Mindy), Mrs. Doubtfire, and Genie (from Aladdin) to life. His stand-up comedy was as raunchy as it was funny. His on-screen roles could have you rolling on the floor, laughing, or could have you wiping away tears from your eyes. 

This is a man, who, legend has it, was kicked out of Julliard for being too brilliant. Right now, the social media sphere is mixed with mourning for Williams, and remembrances of his performances. In times like this, sadness can overtake a person.

Yet, it’s in times like these that we are reminded of the hope we have as Christians. The mind of Robin Williams was brilliant, a testament to the animation that God has given us. Some say that the world evolved to what it is today by the slow progression of evolution, yet that explanation cannot explain the animation of the human spirit. No other species is creative, nor does any other species build upon past accomplishments. This animation is unique to mankind, because the Bible teaches us that God created us in His image. The mind of God is brilliant and creative, and He blessed us with that same quality when He created us. Genesis Chapter 2 records that God breathed the breath of life into man… unlike the animals, which were merely spoken into existence. 

God created us for His honor and glory, a glory that will be fully realized when we enter into His Kingdom. It’s true. One day, all who know Christ as Savior will enter into His Kingdom and live forever.  It has to be true, otherwise there is no hope, no point to life. 1 Corinthians 15:16-19 say:

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

But 1 Corinthians 15 goes on to say that Christ is indeed risen from the grave, and we have hope that one day we will be reunited with Him in His Kingdom. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us that to be absent from the body (dead, or asleep in Christ) is to be present with the Lord. This is the hope that we have as Christians, and this is what keeps us going. 

Therefore, in times like these, we need to have faith in the place… Heaven.

Furthermore, in times like these, we need to have faith in the man. Jesus Christ died for our sins, taking the punishment we deserved, erasing our guilt, and then rose again so that we can live with Him eternally in His Kingdom. 1 John 2:1-2 tell us that Jesus Christ is the propitiation (payment) for our sins. Romans 5 tells us that we access that salvation by faith in Christ. Those who wish to be saved, and to be received into Heaven must give up the notion that they can somehow live up to a standard, and be welcomed into Heaven based on their merit as a good person. The Apostle Paul (the greatest missionary in history) wrote in Romans 7 that “in me dwells no good thing.” If the Apostle Paul couldn’t be classified as a good person and be received into Heaven on his merit, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.

To go to Heaven, you need to look to the Lord Jesus Christ. He paid your way into Heaven, and He’ll gladly receive you into Heaven, you just have to trust Him. Isaiah 45:22 says “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”  That’s all the Lord wants… you’re repentance, and your faith. He wants you to trust Him. All who believe will be saved, and will be received into His Kingdom forever.

Now this assurance for our own salvation, and our hope for things to come is all well and good, but our mind often drifts back to the current situation in which we find ourselves… mourning the loss of a friend, mentor, family member, or celebrity hero. To cope with this, we must have faith in the plan. God has set the events of human history into motion, and did so long before any of us walked on the face of the planet. Everything He is bringing about in our lives is setting the stage for His Kingdom coming to this Earth, and for us to live with Him in that Kingdom eternally. So, as these things happen, we need to remember that God is working all things to our good (Romans 8:28) and the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to God’s glory (Romans 8:18). 

It’s okay to mourn, it’s okay to cry, but as you do, remember that God has a plan, He is working that plan, and He holds you in the palm of His hand… if you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

If you don’t know Christ as your Savior, then you haven’t accessed this hope that God has made available. Turn from your sins, and trust Jesus Christ to save you based on his death on the cross, and you will be saved. If you have any questions, you can email me at GracePointeMBC@gmail.com.

May God bless you, and comfort you this evening.

Sincerely, 

Leland Acker, pastor of Grace Pointe MBC.

Where Did Heaven Go?

Whether you sing the hymns and choruses in church, listen to the pastor, or tune into radio and TV programs, you may have noticed that modern theology has gotten away from teaching about Heaven. While there is some great preaching and teaching on salvation, repentance, family life, Jesus Christ, and the attributes of God, it seems that modern teachers have gotten away from the topic of Heaven. 

One of the primary reasons for this is the hectic pace of today’s lifestyle. Competent preachers and teachers realize that they only have their congregation’s attention for a short amount of time. Seeing the limited opportunity, the preacher will focus on salvation, discipleship, and issues that the Christian and seeker will need to see their lives changed.

However, to overlook Heaven is to overlook one of the main reasons for our hope. You see, Christianity is not just about being saved from God’s wrath. Christianity is about being welcomed into God’s Kingdom. The promise of salvation is that we will not only be delivered from the condemnation of sin, but that we will also see our pain and suffering ended, and will see the glories of Heaven that will erase the memory of any pain we had here on Earth.

How often do you think about life after death? Do you know what eternity holds for you after this life is over?