revival

…because you never know…

golden-bible

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

-Acts 10:28

Thomas Ryman was no good.

The owner of several saloons and riverboats, he made a living off of others’ sin. He built a financial empire selling liquor, gambling and sin. However, 1885 saw a Spiritual revival break out across the South, and the mass conversion of Southern sinners to Christianity put a dent into Ryman’s business.

So when the man spearheading the revival, Evangelist Samuel Porter Jones, came to Nashville to preach, Ryman decided to attend the revival. Ryman’s plan was simple. Preserve saloon business by disrupting the revival, stopping Jones from preaching.

Ryman’s plan of disrupt, interrupt and corrupt beautifully backfired. Instead of stopping the revival, Ryman wound up converting to Christianity.

So moved by the preaching of Jones, Ryman decided to build a church, a tabernacle, so that all of Nashville could hear Jones preach. The structure, located on 5th Avenue North, would be called the Union Gospel Tabernacle.

Jones went on to hold several revivals in that building, and church services were held every Sunday. Of all the memorable sermons preached at the Union Gospel Tabernacle, none were so pivotal as the one Jones preached on December 23, 1904, as he eulogized Ryman, a man saved under his preaching who invested the equivalent of $2.7 million in today’s currency to build the place where so many would hear the Gospel.

At that funeral, Jones recommended that the Union Gospel Tabernacle be renamed to honor his most benevolent convert, thus the tabernacle was renamed the “Ryman Auditorium.” Yes, that Ryman Auditorium, known across the South as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” home of the Grand Ole Opry, a thrice-weekly country music radio performance broadcast live on WSM 650 AM which ends every performance with a Gospel song.

The Ryman Auditorium, the “Mother Church of Country Music,” was actually a church at one time, hence the stained-glass windows and the wooden pews. The church closed in 1935, but not before thousands heard the Gospel and thousands were saved, all because God allowed one sinner to amass a fortune, before reaching him with the Gospel so that he would use that fortune to reach thousands more for Christ.

Those who knew Ryman before his conversion would probably say, “he ain’t no good,” and understandably so. Prior to his conversion, Ryman was so committed to profiting off of sin that he endeavored to stop the preaching of the Gospel to stay in business.

The preachers of Nashville probably thought he was a lost cause. The righteous of Nashville probably thought he was the worst man to have ever lived. However, God knew the plans that He had for Ryman, and “when the fullness of time had come,” God sent Jones to Nashville to hold a revival, leading to Ryman’s conversion, and the subsequent conversion of multitudes.

You never know what God has planned for others, therefore the Bible tells us not to judge.

In Acts 10, Peter was praying on the rooftop patio of Simon the Tanner when he received a vision of a sheet being lowered from heaven containing every animal that the Jews considered unclean to eat (pigs, catfish, crawdads, lobster, etc). An angel then told Peter, “Rise, kill and eat,” to which Peter said, “Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”

The angel then responded, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”

Later, Peter tells Cornelius that God taught him never to call any man common or unclean. The lesson Peter learned is that while the man before us may live a sinful life, it may very well be that God will soon reach him with the Gospel. And if God knows the man will receive Christ as his Savior, he’s as good as saved already.

In fact, it may be, as in the case of Peter, that God is calling us to reach that man.

So with this in mind, let’s remember a few things. (1) Do not disdain the lost around you. Love them and share the Lord with them. You may see them be converted and go on to do great things for God. (2) Following the example of Thomas Ryman, let’s glorify God by doing what we can to make sure that others hear the preaching of the Gospel. (3) Don’t give up on that wayward loved one who so far has refused to repent. If God can reach a man like Ryman, He can reach anyone.

Praise God for redeeming us and those around us to a lively hope. May God bless you today.

Advertisements

When enough just isn’t enough

100_2599.jpg

Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

-Haggai 1:6

Commissions are designed to motivate top-level performance from sales people, investment advisers and business executives. Those who excel in these careers are often those who are motivated by money… not just a need or the desire to acquire wealth, but those who see life as the ultimate sport, and the money is the scoreboard.

I once read an article written by the CEO of an investment firm. He said, “We always ask prospective hires, ‘How much money would you like to make?’ If they give us a figure, we don’t hire them.”

The reason?

“The figure they share is their comfort level. Once they reach that figure, they have all they want, and they quit performing. The correct answer is ‘The sky is the limit.'”

While the CEO sees his duty as making sure the business is as healthy as possible to protect and grow the investment of its shareholders, and to preserve the gainful employment of its staff, this mindset can become dangerous if it becomes our life’s ambition. The endless pursuit of wealth just for the sake of winning, the ongoing quest for pleasure, and the desire to conquer can wreck us Spiritually if we forget that (a) God determines who wins and loses, (b) that we were put on this earth to serve God, and (c) we fail to glorify God with that which He has blessed us.

In the book of Haggai, the people of Israel had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. They had spent 70 years in Babylonian captivity as a consequence of ongoing idolatry. After the 70 years had passed, God followed through on His promise to return the Israelites to the promised land, and ordered the reconstruction of the Temple and the return of the Israelites to their homeland.

Two excited groups of Israeli exiles returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the Temple. However, over time, that excitement waned, doused by the cold waters of persecution and government intervention. The zeal for the Lord faded, but the quest for survival soon became a quest to thrive. In their efforts to prosper, they forgot about the Temple, thus forgetting God, and forgetting the reason they returned to Jerusalem in the first place.

Yet, their pursuit of worldly progress turned up empty as well. As stated in Haggai 1:6:

Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

When we turn away from God for worldly pursuits, we will notice two things. (1) No matter how successful we are, it will never satisfy us, and (2) God has a way of hindering our efforts as a disciplinary process of turning us back to Him.

There are a lot of good things happening in the world today. The stock market is rallying and the economy is reviving. The temptation is to step out into this exciting new world to see what we can gain. And while there is nothing wrong with taking the opportunities provided for you, and enjoying the fruit of your labor, do not think for one second that any of those things will bring you fulfillment apart from God.

Without God, that wealth, prosperity and success hollows out and becomes empty, which is why the book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

So, the warning we get from Haggai is “Enjoy life, but don’t forget your purpose.”

Leland Acker has served as the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Sunday Worship at 11 a.m., and meetings are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce/Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX, pending the construction of a new worship facility.

Who is there among you?

Jerusalem Reconstruction

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

-Ezra 1:3

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

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

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

And then there’s 2 Chronicles 7:14:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leland Acker has served as the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Sunday Worship at 11 a.m., and meetings are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce/Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX, pending the construction of a new worship facility.

The Soul Stirring

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

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

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

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

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

Leland Acker has served as the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Sunday Worship at 11 a.m., and meetings are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce/Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX, pending the construction of a new worship facility.