lifestyle

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.

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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.

Walking in Darkness

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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.

-Isaiah 9:2

Are you afraid of the dark?

When I was a kid, I had to have a nightlight if I were to go to sleep. My favorite nightlight projected an image of Scooby Doo on the ceiling in my bedroom. I could lay in bed, look up at Scooby Doo, think about all the adventures he went on with Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma, and drift off into dreamland in a happy state of mind.

Without a nightlight, my mind would focus on the uncertainty of what all was in my room, invisible due to the total darkness. I imagined things, and even though I knew that ghosts and goblins weren’t real, I was still unsettled by the total darkness in my room.

Darkness can be a terrifying thing. It certainly robs the law-abiding man of security, provides cover for criminals, limits visibility and can be a factor in accidents and injuries.

Scientific studies have shown that overexposure to darkness can lead to depression, as suicide rates increase during the winter time, and overnight workers can suffer physiological effects if they don’t get to spend a day in the sun. For this reason, prisons are required to provide rec time, outdoors in most cases, for their inmates.

Just like physical darkness can lead to fears, emotional problems and physiological ramifications, spiritual darkness is a detriment to the soul.

Spiritual darkness is the condition experienced when a person lives outside of God’s presence. This occurs when a person takes up a lifestyle of sin, preoccupation with the occult, or denies the presence of God in the first place. While this does not always lead to a person living in pain and misery, it always degrades their spiritual health.

The resulting condition includes increased sinful activity, more severe sin, the consequences thereof, and a time of hopelessness.

Such was the case in Israel in Isaiah 9. The people had lived for generations in sin and idolatry. As time progressed, the nation lost territory to invading armies, saw their sovereignty diminished, their economy flounder, their society degrade, and national optimism evaporate. Israel was in a dark place.

I remember a time in my life when I lived in a dark place. It was back in college, and my life had become consumed by revelings, satanic rock music (I was into the weird stuff), dark movies, and to a certain degree, substance abuse. This not only messed up my thinking, but also led me to a dark and hopeless place, until the Lord reached me through the work of some really dedicated preachers, ministers, Christian workers, evangelists and just all-around good people.

Christ shined His Light into my life, and saved me. Likewise, He shined His Light into Israel to redeem them.

Just as the porch light can be a welcome sight for a man traveling home by night, or a Scooby Doo nightlight can be a comfort for a young child, the Lord gives us hope through His light.

Today, if you are in darkness, it’s time to turn on the light. Come out of that place of hopelessness and despair into the blessedness and hope of Jesus Christ. Turn from your sin, and trust the Lord to save you, for He gave Himself on the cross to save you.

And this Christmas, let’s remember the hope that He brought us, and be looking forward to the Kingdom, city and redemption that He promised us. May God bless you this Christmas holiday.

–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. 

Philadelphia

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Let brotherly love continue.

-Hebrews 13:1

Philadelphia. It’s probably the best known Greek word among Americans. Most know it as a city in Pennsylvania, where our founding fathers met and signed The Declaration of Independence. Others know the meaning of the name, brotherly love. Hence, Philadelphia is “The City of Brotherly Love.”

Known as the home of the Eagles, 76ers and Phillies, Philadelphia was named after a Greek word which means brotherly kindness. That word, Philadelphia, is the opening word in Hebrews 13.

Much has been made in theological circles about the different Greek words translated into “love” in the modern English language. Eros means romantic love, Phileo means brotherly love, or affection. Agape is the highest form of love. It’s the self-sacrificial love that has that redemptive quality.

Agape love is a fundamental doctrine of true Christianity. It was agape love that propelled Jesus Christ to the cross. It is agape love that a man is commanded to have toward his wife. It is agape love that Christ commanded his disciples to have toward each other. It’s agape love that we are to have toward our enemies.

This doctrine has been preached throughout the ages, from the Apostle John’s epistles to the 1st Century Christians, to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, efforts during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Agape is also a Spiritual gift, and should be a hallmark of the life of the believer in Christ. However, agape is not exclusionary. We are also to have phileo love toward one another.

Hebrews 13:1 begins with the word, philadelphia. This word is a variation of phileo. It carries the notion that brotherly love and affection is not merely a feeling, but an action. If phileo  is the feeling, then philadelphia is the action motivated by the feeling.

Scripture here commands us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, not only in an agape manner, but also in a phileo manner. We are to truly love and appreciate each other, and if we have the opportunity, to do good for each other. That means either helping in a time of need, or simply doing something nice for one another.

One spring day, a church member of Life Point called and asked to meet with me and my wife. Often, when these calls come, bad news will follow. The church member is leaving the church, has been offended, or there is a personal crisis happening. Not this time.

Upon meeting with this church member, she asked us if we would like to attend an upcoming “Weekend to Remember” retreat in The Woodlands, Tex. This would be a three-day weekend retreat, just the two us us, with Bible sessions, marriage improvement classes, and date nights. No kids. In fact, she volunteered to keep our kids for that weekend, which is a really big deal if you consider how many children my wife and I have.

The church member offered to pay the tuition, but hotels and meals were on us. We jumped at the chance!

She did not see us as having marital problems, nor was she trying to rescue us from a major calamity. Instead, she saw an opportunity to bless us, so she did. Her action was motivated by the fact that she not only had agape love toward us, but phileo love as well.

God smiles when we express our affection toward each other in these ways. And you don’t have to drop several hundred dollars either. Simply stopping by for a visit, taking someone out to lunch, or sending a card count as philadelphia.

Hebrews 13:1 in its entirety reads, “Let brotherly love continue.” The word “continue” comes from a Greek word which means to abide. It is a permanent presence. Brotherly love and affection should be a permanent hallmark of our lives together in Christ, and should be expressed through fellowship, benevolence and good will toward each other.

The old phrase “I love him, but I don’t like him” should never apply to our brothers in Christ.

It is with this context that we will learn new insight on Hebrews 13:2, where the Bible discusses the concept of “entertaining angels.” We’ll look at that tomorrow.

May God bless you today. Call up a brother or sister in Christ, and go spend some time together.

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.

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.

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.

Buying a New Life

WP_20150406_001Have you ever been burnt out? Tired of the same ole struggle, the same day-to-day routine? Need a change of scenery?

We all get burnt out. We all get tired, and we all want a new life. Why else would one of the top-selling singles from the Rock band “Everclear” be named “I will buy you a new life?”

There comes a time in everyone’s life where they want to hit the “Reset” button. Many actually ruin their lives in search of that reset button. They leave their families, file for divorce, leave a steady job and lose opportunities as a result. Many a regret were born out of restlessness.

The secret, however, is that new starts, restarts and resets do not come from the afore mentioned options. All those options do is add problems to your current struggles. That said, is it possible to hit the reset button on life? Is it possible to buy a new life?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to hit the reset button, and it is possible to get a new life, but Art Alexakis of Everclear is not the one who is going to buy it for you. Your new life was already paid for, 2,000 years ago, by Jesus Christ.

Now before you roll your eyes and click away, hear me out. You cannot get a new life simply by running from the one you are in. You get a new life by changing the one you are in. That change comes through Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “If any man be in Christ, He is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” The first key to a new life is to change yourself. Become someone greater. Become something more. Become the great individual that God intended on you being. It’s a change that no one can make on their own. It comes by turning from sin, trusting Jesus Christ as your savior, and by allowing Him to work in your life to form you into the person He intended on you being.

The initial change happens at the point of salvation. The continued change happens as you live out that new life. Romans 6:4 says “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” So, if you are a recovering alcoholic who has repented and given his life to Christ, don’t live the rest of your life the way an alcoholic would. Live your life with your new dream and your new purpose. It’s a conscientious choice you must make daily.

The continued change happens as you allow the Lord to work in your life. Romans 8:28 says “We know that all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Accepting Jesus Christ as your savior does not mean that you will no longer have problems. It simply means that your problems are no longer pointless. They now serve a purpose, whether it be resolving an ongoing conflict, strengthening you for the journey ahead, building your testimony to reach others, or placing you in a position where God will later bless you. All of it will set you up to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So, at this point, God has changed the core of who you really are, and He has forged a hope and faith within you through the circumstances in life. But chances are, when you signed up for a new life, you weren’t looking for conditioning, but rather, a new adventure.

May I welcome you to your new life. If you center your life around the Lord as He forges your faith and your character, new opportunities that once seemed impossible will open themselves to you.

When I was saved, a retired pastor told me that my life would never be the same. I doubted him. After all, I still had a job, I still had bills, and I still expected to go to work at the same place and continue to do so until I die.

Today, I still have a job, and I still have bills. However, God has opened the door for me to play a part in the planting of a new church, and this opportunity has opened doors of which I have never dreamed… from the people I meet, to the radio talk show that I do, to the places I have traveled along the way. Back in November 2002, God literally blessed me with a new life. I am a new person, in a new place, with a new mission. The same can happen for you.

Do you want a new life? Repent and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior. Have you been saved, but a new life never materialized? Rededicate yourself to the Lord, center your life around Him, live out your faith, and watch what happens. May God bless you along this journey.

False Promises of Freedom

Do you realize that, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived under one restriction, and one restriction only?

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17

Adam and Eve were told they could freely eat of every fruit of every tree in the garden, except the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were forbidden from eating of that tree, because doing so would cause death. Other than that, everything went.

In the history of man, I cannot think of another time when man was more free, let alone as free as Adam and Eve in the Garden.

Yet, in Genesis 3, Satan (in the form of the serpent) somehow convinced Adam and Eve that they were not free. He reasoned that they could never be free as long as they were under God’s authority, and God was intent on continuing His “oppression.”

That’s the message within Satan’s statement to Eve, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:5.

Adam and Eve were led to believe that by eating the forbidden fruit, they would be freed from God’s authority, free to do whatever they felt. They thought they were about to realize a level of freedom never before seen. They were wrong.

Their eating of the fruit brought sin into the world, and the knowledge of sin. So, instead of being freed from God, Adam and Eve were made slaves to sin, its consequences, and its relentless presence in every aspect of life. Consequently, the entire human race has been subjected to such.

In modern times, the Satanic Temple (which denies the existence of Satan, all the while advancing his message), proclaims that its doctrine would liberate people from the bonds of religion and unjust laws. In reality, they are making the same false promise as Satan made to Adam and Eve. Satan promised a freedom from God, a freedom to do with their bodies as they wished. The Satanic Temple lists that concept as one of its tenets. Yet we know that one cannot live in total freedom without impacting the freedom of others.

Recently, the Satanic Temple protested in favor of abortion, saying that pro-life legislation enslaves women to the oppression of motherhood. While motherhood is definitely a rigorous lifestyle (one of which many women have told me is completely worth it), the fact is that a pregnant woman cannot live free of motherhood without denying another person the most basic right to life. And while the Satanic Temple claims to support scientific reason, the fact is genetically, that “fetus” is a human being.

If a woman decides to defy God’s design for marriage, and live a sexually immoral life, then she can do so without the effect of pregnancy, and thus, motherhood, simply by employing birth control. Even if she is successful at this, she still faces the consequences of STD’s, the emotional damage brought on by promiscuity, and the degradation that often follows. (For what it’s worth, men who live sexually immoral lives face the same consequence).

What is promised as freedom from God’s law, the restraints of religion, or the morays of morality, actually presents a bondage all its own. My point? The promise of total freedom is a false promise that Satan has made since the creation of man. It never materializes, and never will.

Whether it was the prohibition of eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Genesis, the 10 Commandments in Exodus, or the commandment to love each other in John 15, God’s commandments are given to protect us from destruction, and to help us enjoy the most of what life has to offer.

The prohibition against eating of the tree in the garden was to allow Adam and Eve maximum freedom without the fear or confusion over sin. The 10 Commandments guarded us against the self-destructive lifestyles of covetousness, deceit, theft, adultery, stupidity, and idolatry. The commandment to love each other moves God’s law from a list of do’s and don’ts to a check of your motivation. It all frees us. The question is, will you enjoy the freedom God makes freely available in Christ? Or will you choose the slavery that comes with sin?

Choose wisely, for your choice will last you for eternity.

6 Truths that will Revolutionize the Way You Live Life

What separates greatness from mediocrity?

What separates a man who lives life boldly, pursuing his dreams, and achieving great things from someone who merely tries to survive? One lives by faith, the other by fear.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., achieved greatness through living by faith. Dr. King spoke of this faith during his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech given at the Jobs and Freedom March on Washington in 1963. He stated:

I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Dr. King’s faith was not only that his dream of racial harmony and national healing would come true, but that one day, the Lord would return and set everything as it should be. Knowing that this result was inevitable, he boldly marched forward, speaking out on racial injustice, national healing, and ethnic harmony. He challenged America to live up to its founding creed, that “All men are created equal,” and are endued, by God, the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. On the eve of his assassination, Dr. King told supporters that he was confident that he had done God’s will.

What a way to live life… to live confident that your life meant something, and to leave this life with no regrets.

How can we live that life? We may not be able to lead marches on Washington, and notably change our nation the way Dr. King did, but we can still make a huge impact in our own spheres of life. In order to live a life that mattered, a life where you achieve greatness, there are six truths you must embrace.

1. God exists, and He created all things. The very existence of God is proven through the creation. (Romans 1:20, Hebrews 11:3). He created the Heavens, the Earth, land, water, oceans, animal and plant life, and man king. Being the Creator of all things, it follows that God is in control of all things, which should give you the faith to trust Him with the details over which you have no control.

2. If God created all things, it follows that He created all things with a purpose. 

3. If God created all things with a purpose, then He created us with a purpose. Your life is not an accident, and you are not just drifting in this world, left to survive the best you know how until you die. Your life has meaning. Your life is valuable. Your life has purpose. Your life matters. The question then becomes, “What is my purpose?”

4. God revealed His purpose for us in His written word, the Bible.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

These verses tell us that everything we need to know about God, and His expectation from us, is found in the scriptures, the Bible. The Bible is all God’s Word (given by inspiration), and is profitable for doctrine (a system of teaching, or a creed by which life is lived), for reproof (confrontation), for correction, for instruction in righteousness (what God wants us to do.) The idea is that we would be perfect (complete), thoroughly furnished (equipped) unto all good works.

5. To reject God’s purpose for our lives is to rebel against God Himself. That is the definition of sin. Sin is not defined as breaking God’s law. Sin is not defined as doing something bad, immoral, or evil. Sin is defined as rebelling against God. Now, breaking God’s law, immorality, and evil are all forms of rebelling against God, but even things that you and I don’t see as bad, or evil, also qualify as rebelling against God. When we reject God’s design for life, His purpose for our lives, and His will, we are rebelling against Him, and are sinning.

Think about it. What was so bad about Adam and Eve eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why was their disobedience of God’s command to not eat the fruit a sin? It was a sin, because they were trying to be as gods. They were seeking to elevate themselves to God’s level, so that they would not be subject to Him anymore. They rebelled. They sinned, and we have been cursed ever since.

6. We are all guilty of #5. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” This truth, while keeping us humble, also reminds us that the onus is not on us when it comes to greatness. Our greatness is bestowed upon us by God as we trust Him throughout our lives. It also reminds us that our salvation, and our entrance into Heaven is not based on our accomplishments, but our faith in the Lord. Mainly, this is key to knowing that we can be redeemed.

Now, let’s look at how you can revolutionize your life by embracing these six truths.

1. Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. The fact that all of us have sinned, and thus all of us stand guilty before God prompted Jesus Christ to take our sin upon Himself when He went to the cross. He took our punishment, so that we could stand before God with our debt paid, and thus be welcomed into Heaven. That salvation is accessed whenever a person turns from their sin, and trusts Jesus Christ to save them. Believe in Jesus. Pray to the Lord. Ask Him to save you. Without faith in Christ, nothing else matters.

2. Follow your purpose. In the movie, “Moms Night Out,” Trace Adkins played a biker who had strayed from the Lord. During the movie, he discussed watching an internet video of a mother eagle with all of her babies. He said it was awe-inspiring to watch one of God’s creatures simply do what it was created to do.

Finding your purpose doesn’t mean you have to go on this Easter egg hunt for a secret mission God has planted for you. It simply means to do what God designed you to do. All of us were designed to live the human experience: To grow up, follow a career, to get married, have kids, raise those kids, and then retire and teach the younger generations. There are some variations, not everyone gets married, not everyone can have kids, but as a norm, that’s what God designed us to do. (Those who are unable to marry, or have kids have different callings in life). Furthermore, all of us were designed to worship God.

So, living your purpose means worshiping God. This means going to church on Sundays, but it also means having a time of personal, and family worship, which consists of Bible study or devotional, and prayer.

Finding your purpose in your career involves discovering your talent, using that in your career to the best of your ability, but more importantly, honoring and glorifying God with that talent. In my particular case, I host a radio talk show. While the format of my station will not allow me to preach sermons or give devotionals during my 3-hour daily talk show, I can approach the topics from God’s perspective, and give Spiritual insight into the news of the day.

In your case, it might be building your reputation for workmanship, work ethic, and integrity. In whatever you do, you are called to show the world how God would work through that profession.

Finding your purpose in your personal life involves applying scripture to your family responsibilities… from a man’s responsibility to provide for his family and teach his children about God, to a man’s responsibility to love his wife. A woman’s responsibility is to respect and help her husband, though Proverbs 31 tells us that women are also endued with talent that is to be used to glorify Him, and provide for her family.

We can (and probably will) explore how these truths can apply to certain situations in your life. In the meantime, if you will keep them at the top of your mind, and think about how you can apply them to your situation, you will notice changes. God exists. He has a purpose for our lives. Are we willing to live it?