benevolence

Once you realize this, your life has purpose

andrew carnegie

I should consider it a disgrace to die a rich man.” – Andrew Carnegie

A boulevard runs through downtown Brownwood, connecting CC Woodson Drive with US Hwy. 377 South. The boulevard, which provides quick, and easy access from the outlying areas of Brownwood to downtown is named Carnegie St.

The name comes from the Carnegie Library, which was built back in the early 1900s at the corner of what is now Carnegie and Adams St. The Carnegie Library was named for Andrew Carnegie, a late 19th Century/early 20th Century industrialist who donated the money for the library’s construction.

Like many who take the journey from rags to riches, Carnegie understood that wealth was meant for more than enjoying with frivolous lifestyles. He advocated for the wealthy to invest their riches in programs that would help the poor escape poverty, such as schools, education, or in his case, libraries.

His philosophy was simple. Spend the first third of your life learning as much as you can, the middle third earning as much as you can, and the last third of your life giving as much as you can. Carnegie understood that, with wealth came responsibility. Sadly, he missed the spiritual component of that truth.

That was not the case with the emperor Cyrus, who stated in Ezra 1:2, “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.”

When Cyrus became the king of Persia, he became the most powerful man in the world. All of the known civilizations were under his control at the time. Those provinces he didn’t directly rule over paid him tribute for their safety and sovereignty. Cyrus owned everything.

With his rise to power came the realization that there was a purpose for it all. Cyrus understood that his power and wealth came from divine blessing, not from his own personal merit. Therefore, the Lord stirred his spirit, and brought him to the realization that his rise to power coincided with God’s will to rebuild His temple. Thus, Cyrus concludes in Ezra 1:2 that the Lord gave him all the kingdoms in the world in order for him to rebuild the temple.

Cyrus understood that God raised him to power so that he would rebuild the temple, and failure to do so would result in his reign being prematurely ended. If God blesses you with a purpose, you better follow the purpose, or lose the blessing.

Today in America, we are amazingly blessed. The poorest among us are still among the richest 40 percent of the world’s population. We enjoy fast, convenient access to a variety of foods, can generate income at will, and enjoy the convenient lifestyle afforded by modern technology.

In the third world, goods are expensive and labor is cheap, hence the low standard of living. In America, goods are cheap and labor is expensive, meaning we have more buying power than most of the rest of the world.

Why has God blessed us so?

Simple. God has blessed us so that we will use our ample resources to spread His Gospel throughout the world. This is a Biblical concept. What God gives us still belongs to Him. We merely manage it on His behalf. His will for us is that we use those blessings to further His Kingdom, which means spreading the Gospel and winning more converts.

Has God blessed you today? If so, then live your life on purpose and use those blessings to further the Gospel. You never know what great things may come from your dedication to the Lord.

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. 

Entertaining Angels

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:2

“Y’all come on out and see me,” echo’ed the voice of Pastor Bill Simpson throughout the sanctuary of the Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church of Denison, Tex. “I have a credit card, and a bedroom. I’ll take you to dinner, and I’ll give you a place to sleep.”

It was the annual messenger meeting of the Missionary Baptist Association of Texas, and Pastor Simpson was called upon to give the response to the welcome by the host church. Simpson had served as the pastor of Tall City Baptist Church in Midland, Tex., for as long as anyone could remember. He was well-known for his hospitality, generosity and kindness.

As pastor of Tall City, he worked to keep West Texas Baptist Institute in operation, published the Tall City Messenger, and supported missionaries worldwide. Those who had traveled through West Texas would tell you that Pastor Simpson would take in anyone who showed up at his doorstep. He loved fellowship, and he loved God’s people. Therefore, if any showed up to his door, he entertained them.

Pastor Simpson exemplified Hebrews 13:1, which says, “Let brotherly love continue,” as well as Hebrews 13:2, which says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

When the Bible says to entertain strangers, it is commanding us to be hospitable. This thought is a continuation of the command to “let brotherly love continue.” God wants us to have a genuine affection for one another, for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for everyone around us.

Pastor Simpson’s hospitality stood out in a world where we’d rather put someone up in a hotel room with a McDonald’s gift card rather than invite them in and cook them dinner, but there was a time when most Americans were as hospitable as Pastor Simpson. Hospitality is a dying courtesy in a world where we fear crime and value our privacy.

Still, if we are affectionate toward each other as scripture teaches, then we will also be hospitable.

Now, Hebrews 13:2 takes an interesting turn when it says “for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

In the church where I grew up Spiritually, I was taught that this verse meant that we should be kind to everyone, because we never know when we are dealing with an angel in disguise who is checking to make sure we are showing the love of Christ to a lost and dying world. Therefore, I was always nervous when presented with a choice to give to a homeless individual, or whether to withhold out of suspicion that I was being scammed.

I have since overcome this fear by learning these three things. (1) I have learned that I will never regret generosity, (2) I have learned that if the recipient of my benevolence misuses it (if the homeless man to whom I give money uses it to buy beer), then he will be held accountable to God, not me, and (3) angels (as in the Spiritual beings) do not go around posing as homeless people in an effort to make you be more benevolent.

The context of Hebrews 13:2 is that the scriptures are teaching us to be affectionate, loving and benevolent toward each other. We are being taught how to love and interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is on that note that we are told to “entertain strangers,” that is to be hospitable to other Christians. (In the context of time, there were no Motel 6s where traveling Christians could stay. Their options were to sleep outside, stay at an inn and contract bedbugs, or stay with acquaintances or fellow Christians.)

The scripture then notes that by “entertaining strangers,” or being hospitable to Christian brothers and sisters, that some “entertained angels unawares.”

The word “angel” comes from the Greek word ang-eh-loss which simply means “messenger.” The angels who were Spiritual beings were merely messengers of God, as demonstrated in the books of Genesis, Joshua, Daniel, and Luke.

In other passages, the word “angel” is used to describe the pastor of a church, such as in Revelation 2:1, where Jesus says, “Unto the angel of the church at Ephesus, write….” That angel wasn’t a Spiritual being appointed to oversee the church at Ephesus. It was the pastor called to lead Ephesus. The message Christ dictated for John to write was intended for the pastor at Ephesus to deliver to his church.

So, given the context of Hebrews 13:2, the phrase “entertaining angels unawares” could very well be paraphrased, “you never know who you’re helping.”

While it is an interesting idea that Spiritual angels are checking in on us, a more powerful truth is that, by letting brotherly love continue and being hospitable, you may actually make a difference in someone’s life, who will in turn make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people. You never know if the person you are helping will one day become a great angel (messenger) like the great Billy Graham.

So be generous. Be hospitable. Be friendly. Help those around you as you have opportunity. You will never regret loving, and you will never regret the good you do, neither in this lifetime, nor when you stand before the Lord Jesus Christ on judgment day.

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.

As You Have Opportunity

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Life Point youth deliver bottled water and a handmade banner to firefighters during the Texas wildfires of 2011.

It’s hard to think about the suffering that is happening on the Gulf Coast right now. Whether you see images of the devastation in the Corpus Christi area, or the flooding of the Houston-Galveston area, your heart goes out to those who have been impacted by Harvey, a category 4 hurricane turned tropical storm which is currently unleashing torrential rainfall and flooding on Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.

Looking at the devastation, hopelessness, resiliency and community recovery efforts, we can be moved to want to help. Helping those in need is a natural desire, and is actually commanded in scripture. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some scriptural tips to offering aid to the Texas coast.

Galatians 6:10 tells us, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

This verse tells us three things about helping.

As you have opportunity, do good unto all men.

We all want to help. Many of us would be on the Texas coast right now helping clear debris, handing out supplies, and comforting those who mourn. The problem is that not all of us have the opportunity to do that.  If you have opportunity to go down to the coast, please do. However, before you go, check ahead with relief organizations to see where you would best be able to serve. To find out where, contact your local Red Cross, Salvation Army, non-profit organizations, and churches. If you need additional information, check out the Texas Tribune’s story on how to help.

If you don’t have the opportunity to go to the coast, you can donate money to a number of qualified non-profit organizations listed with the Texas Tribune.

Other opportunities include donating food, water and cleaning supplies. This can be done through a local supply drive. Many communities are hosting those supply drives, chances are there’s one near you.

The scripture goes on to say, do good unto all men.

This is the Biblical mandate to engage in benevolent efforts. So, by all means, find a way to help, and do so. You’ll not only please the Lord in doing so, but you’ll stand out as a great representative for the Lord in doing so.

And lastly, the scripture says “especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

There is nothing wrong with sending support through, and to, your denomination’s offices affected by the storm, and sister churches in the area which have either been hit by the storm, or are doing their best to help those who have. Feel free to direct support to your brothers and sisters in Christ who are along the coast. This doesn’t mean to help them exclusively, but show support for your brothers and sisters who have been impacted by this storm.

May God bless you as you endeavor to help others and serve Him in the process.