faith

Seeing God!

Seeing God

How could a loving God give you everything, and then demand everything in return?

Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, recalled a Sunday morning Bible study:

A pastor read a passage from Genesis 22 where God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah. Isaac was the son that God had promised for years, and Abraham and Sarah had gone through much tribulation while waiting on God to fulfill His promise of a son. Now, the son was here, and Abraham was being called to sacrifice him. (End of the story, God saw Abraham’s faith, and gave him a ram to sacrifice instead of Isaac.)

The pastor offered some historical background, then said, “What does this mean for us?”

One man answered, “I’ll tell you what it means for me, I’m looking for a new church.”

The pastor asked, “Why?”

The man replied, “Because when I look at God, the God of Abraham, I feel that I am new a real God, not the sort of dignified businesslike Rotary Club God we chatter about here on Sunday Mornings. Abraham’s God could blow a man to bits, give then take a child, ask everything from a person, then want more. I want to know that God!”

The man’s assessment of God emphasized His power, and downplayed His love and grace. Likewise, many today emphasize His grace and love but not His power. A true understanding of God understands both, and sees the balance in the character of God.

For years, churches have preached about the love of God, and how He loves each and every one of us. We preach about His grace, and how He provides and cares for us.

Then, tragedy happens, and we don’t understand how that tragedy can be consistent with God’s love and care. If God is all powerful, in control of all things, and is loving, how can He allow such a tragedy to enter our lives?

We stumble for answers. Maybe God’s building our faith. Maybe He’s setting us up to be a witness for His glory. Maybe someone else will be saved because of our suffering. Yet, none of these explanations offer much comfort. Why should I have to suffer so that God can make a point?

The truth is, God does not make you suffer just so He can make a point. He does, however, use suffering to draw us closer to Him. Everything He does is to draw us into His presence. What does that mean?

In Job 19:25, after losing all of his property, livestock, wealth, and children, Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and will stand on the earth in the last day.” He went on to say that after he had died, yet in his flesh would he see the Lord.

Job called the Lord his “Redeemer.” What does that mean?

A redeemer is one who rescues. In the Old Testament sense, it was a family member who raised the money to purchase a loved one out of slavery. The redeemer redeemed the family member from bondage and set them free.

Job was not a slave, yet he looked for his “Redeemer.” From what did Job have to be “redeemed?”

He was redeemed from the curse of his sin. Likewise, he was looking forward to the day he would be redeemed from the sufferings of this life. He was looking forward to the Lord’s return, and his redemption into everlasting life.

Job came to understand this, and thus in Job 42:5, he said “My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”

Over the next few weeks at Life Point, we are going to gain a better understanding of who we are, and the hope we have in God. Furthermore, we are going to gain a better understanding of why trauma and tragedy enter our lives, and what God does to heal it. All of this with the intent to gain a better understanding of the Lord, a stronger faith, and a brighter hope.

Come see us. Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. at 599 Sunrise in Early, TX.

3 Things to Know about Abraham

 

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What made Abraham such a prolific Bible hero?

For centuries, Bible teachers have taught their followers to aspire to his level of faith. The Jewish nation sees Abraham as their father, as does much of the Islamic world. His life was used as an example by Paul, James, and the writer of Hebrews to demonstrate salvation by faith, and living by faith.

Yet, Abraham was not a perfect man and sinned on at least three occasions recorded by scripture. So, what is it about Abraham that has inspired generations of people to follow the Lord more perfectly? Three things:

1. Abraham believed God.

Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” This scripture is repeated in Romans 4:3, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

Abraham’s belief in God extended way beyond a vague belief in a divine figure, and went even deeper than a belief in the existence of the God of the Bible. Abraham’s belief in God was a personal trust.

God spoke to Abraham, and Abraham believed what God told him. He literally trusted God with his life. That’s true faith, and it’s the faith that motivated Abraham’s life.

2. Abraham’s faith produced Abraham’s life.

Hebrews 11:8-10 says:

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Hebrews 11 contains a highlight reel of Abraham’s life, recording every major accomplishment he had in the Lord. Before each action, Hebrews states, “By faith.”

By faith Abraham went out to a strange country, not knowing where he went. By faith, he sojourned in the land of promise. By faith he offered up Isaac. By faith.

“By faith” simply means, “Because he trusted God, he obeyed Him in doing this.”

Because Abraham trusted God, he answered God’s call to go to a place that he would eventually inherit, though he had no idea where he was going.

Because Abraham trusted God, he sojourned in the promised land, looking for God’s city.

Because Abraham trusted God, he offered up Isaac when God told him to.

Notice that everything Abraham did, he did because he trusted God. His trust in God shaped his worldview, his values, his decision making, and his actions.

3. His actions completed his faith.

James 2:21-24 says:

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

James 2 is often misinterpreted. Many use these verses to teach that a certain amount of works is necessary for salvation. That teaching completely ignores the fact that James was written to Christians who were already saved.

James 2 is not about salvation. Rather, it is about making your faith complete, or useful. It’s about fully realizing the blessing of your salvation in this world.

Abraham believed God. That trust in God motivated action. His actions completed his faith and allowed God to bless him.

A prime example of this is the birth of Isaac. God told Abraham that he would father a son in his old age, by his wife, Sarah, who, even in her prime could not have children. Abraham believed God, and God regarded Abraham’s trust as righteousness.

Abraham acted on that faith to father a child with Sarah, and because he acted on that faith, God blessed him with a son. Had Abraham not acted on that faith, fathering a son would have been biologically impossible. However, Abraham’s faith, coupled with his action, produced a child. God blessed.

In considering these three things about Abraham, we must ask ourselves the following questions. (1) Do I believe God? Do I have faith? (2) Do my actions reflect the faith I say I have? (3) Am I living out my faith in a way that facilitates God blessing me?

If our actions do not reflect the faith we profess, then we must assess ourselves to see what we really believe, then work to bring that into accordance with scripture. This will also involve learning new actions and new habits, and unlearning some old ones.

If our actions reflect our faith, then we will see our faith completed and God will bless us. If we give God nothing to bless, then we have no reason to expect a blessing.

May God guide you as your continue to seek His truth.

Pastor Acker: Faith means trusting God by placing yourself at His mercy

What is faith?

Faith is defined as a deep-rooted trust, or conviction of the truth. Toward God, this means you deeply trust Him and you are convinced of His truth. How, then, is faith applied?

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

In today’s sermon, Pastor Leland Acker shows how Jairus, and the woman with the issue of blood, demonstrated this type of faith by turning to Christ for help, and placing themselves at His mercy.

What is Faith?

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In Mark 5:21-43, we are introduced to two different people: Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, and a woman who had an “issue of blood.” Both desperately needed the help of Jesus Christ, and both begged for His help by falling at His feet. Jairus came and fell at the feet of Jesus as He stepped off the boat, while the woman fell at His feet after being confronted for touching the hem of the garment of Christ. Both demonstrated by their actions what true faith is.

Faith is defined as having a deep-rooted trust, and a conviction of the truth. Basically, to have faith in God is to trust God. But what does that look like?

For some, having faith means doing great things for God, or holding to a disciplined religious regiment. While faith will express itself in action, those two understandings of faith can easily lead one into the hopeless despair of a works-for-religion system.

Instead, Hebrews 11:6 gives us a better picture of what it means to have faith:

But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

In following that description of faith, all one must do is (a) Believe that God is there, and (b) trust His response to your petition, whether it be for salvation, or for a certain prayer request.

So, in expressing this faith, all you are really doing is trusting that God hears your prayers, and trusting His response to your prayer, whether it was the response you were looking for, or not.

When we examine the saga of Jairus in Mark 5, we see a father desperate to help his 12 year old daughter who is dying. He can’t help her, and no one else can. His only hope is to go to the Lord.

Jesus was a controversial figure among the rabbis of His day, and as a rabbi, Jairus was risking a lot to come and fall before the feet of Jesus in full view of a crowd that had gathered. (Even Nicodemus, whom the Bible speaks well of, only met with Jesus at night). That didn’t matter. Jairus’ daughter needed help, and Jesus could help her. Jairus knew it. So he came, and fell at the feet of Jesus, placing himself at the mercy of the Lord, trusting the Lord to respond to his dire situation. He knew who the Lord is, and he trusted the Lord’s answer. Therefore, he placed himself at the mercy of the Lord.

Then, there’s the saga of the woman suffering from the issue of blood. She had been in that state for years, was miserable, lonely, and had spent all of her money on doctors, who put her through horrible treatments, none of which worked.

She believed that if she could only touch the garment that Christ was wearing, she would be healed. Jesus was walking through a crowd of people. Hundreds were pressing against Him. She reached out, touched his clothes, and was instantly healed. What happens next is profound.

Jesus, feeling that virtue had gone out of Him (meaning He knew He healed a woman by the touch of His garment), He turned around and asked “Who touched me?”

His disciples answered, “You see the multitudes pressed against you, and you ask, ‘Who touched Me?!'” That was their way of saying, “Everyone.”

The woman, realizing that it was she whom the Lord sought, came forward, fell at His feet, and told Him everything. It was at this point that Jesus said, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole, go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”

Many times, I have heard preachers preach that the woman expressed faith by persistently pursuing the Lord to touch His garment. That showed her faith in Who He is. Her true faith came in trusting Him as she came forward to confess everything. She fell at His feet, and told all the truth. That showed her faith in His being a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.

In order to have faith, you have to have both components, trusting who the Lord is, and trusting Him to receive you. This woman expressed both. She placed herself at the mercy of the Lord, and trusted His response.

You see, faith moves beyond trusting that the Lord exists. Scripture says even devils fear and tremble. Faith also moves beyond a trust that God will give you the desires of your heart.

True faith knows God for Who He is, and trusts in the answer that God will provide.

In 2010, my grandmother who raised me suffered a debilitating stroke. Partially paralyzed, and unable to fully communicate as a result of that stroke, she lay in a bed in a rehab center, desperately wanting to recover, and I couldn’t help her.

From February 2010 to May 2010, I prayed that God would heal her. I trusted that He would. I couldn’t imagine any other alternative. But one night in May, I received the call that, not only would my grandmother never recover from her stroke, but also that I would never see her again. She had passed away as a result of a pulmonary embolism.

I went on a Spiritual journey in the months that followed. I wasn’t angry at God, nor did I question why she passed. At some point, we will all pass away. I understood that. Still, I wanted to bring my faith into alignment with Who God really is, so that I will not be disillusioned by my own misconceptions.

Since then, I have learned that faith means more than trusting that God can, but it doesn’t mean trusting that God will. Faith means trusting God’s answer, even when it breaks your heart.

If You Could Do Anything…

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If you had the power to do anything you wanted, what would it be?

If time were not a factor, if money were no object, and if you weren’t limited by physical ability or the laws of physics, what would you do?

Would you go to that certain place you’ve always wanted to visit? Would you see the world? Would you go into space?

Would you seize control over the entire world and declare yourself the ruler of all?

Would you buy a big house, put a giant wall around it, and hide away from the world?

Would you solve all the world’s problems?

Or would you exact revenge on all those that hurt or betrayed you in the past?

The possibilities are endless.

The fascinating part about reading the Book of Mark is that you see Jesus, a man who was also God, and thus had all the power of God. Christ is literally God in flesh. His power and ability were never limited, except by choice.

Yet, when we see Jesus wielding that power, He is helping people. In Mark 3:7-10, Jesus withdraws Himself from the Pharisees, and the multitude of people follow Jesus. They brought people to Him who had diseases, disabilities and were possessed by evil spirits. Jesus turned none away, but spent time healing them.

It’s fascinating, really. The One Who created the universe took on the form of His creation, man, lived among man, and embarked upon a mission to redeem man from sin by dying on the cross for him. His primary mission of redemption shows His love and compassion for us. Yet, as important as His mission was, He took the time and used His power to meet the needs of the people. He healed those who needed healing.

Jesus used His infinite power to meet people’s needs.

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As we read Mark 3, we see four great needs. There are the needs of people. There is the need for apostles. There is the need for commitment. And, there is the need for family. Today, Christ works through us to meet those needs.

As we read Mark 3:7-10, we see that the people had needs. They needed healing. They needed deliverance. Jesus met all those needs.

Today, people still need healing. They need physical healing, emotional healing, and Spiritual healing. Physical healing from the diseases, disabilities and ailments that plague us. Emotional healing from the pain of losing loved ones, being betrayed, or worse, abused. Spiritual healing from the lostness that comes natural with this human experience.

Just as Jesus healed the multitudes in Mark 3, He will heal you, too. On numerous occasions, we at Life Point Baptist Church have seen God provide physical healing. We have prayed for Him to deliver a friend from death, and He did. We prayed for another friend to be cured of cancer, and the cancer disappeared. We prayed for one of our members to recover from the effects of diabetes, and they did. In many cases, God provided physical healing. In others, He comforted those suffering by giving the same message He gave to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

Jesus provides emotional healing. This is a tough one, because emotional healing requires a deliberate decision, and a willingness to endure the transformation required for this healing. Emotional healing requires faith, and a willingness to forgive. Still, Christ provides this healing. If you have been hurt by betrayal, abuse, neglect, or you’ve had a loved one pass away, Christ can heal you of that emotional pain. You have to be willing to turn to Him, to lay that pain at His feet, and trust Him to heal you.

Most importantly, Christ provides Spiritual healing. This is the healing of redemption, of being rescued from the condemnation brought on by sin, and being brought into peace with God. This healing is salvation. It brings you into God’s family, and gives you the hope of eternity with Him in His Kingdom. This healing requires repentance from sin, and faith that Jesus Christ will save you. You are fully trusting Him for salvation. This kind of healing brings you peace within your heart.

These types of healing are freely available to any who will turn to the Lord. However, in order for people to know this, the church must actively tell people about Jesus. Which brings us to our next need.

We need apostles.

Now, before you think we’re getting weird, understand that the word “apostle” simply means “one who is sent with a message.” In Mark 3:13-19, Jesus called out His 12 apostles from his disciples, and sent them forth to preach, giving them power to heal and cast out devils.

The apostles were sent forth to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and to preach preparation for the kingdom through repentance and faith. Likewise, the church today is sent into the world to preach about the coming of the Lord, and to call people to repentance and faith. We are sent forth with the message of the Gospel, how Christ redeemed us by dying on the cross for our sins, and resurrecting to give us eternal life. We are sent to preach that the Lord’s salvation, and that eternal life, are obtained by repenting (turning away from) our sin and trusting the Lord for salvation.

God works through His people to accomplish His will on earth. He always has. He worked through Adam to begin the human race. He worked through Abel to show Godliness and highlight sin. He worked through Seth to build a Godly lineage. He worked through Noah to warn the world of judgment, and to continue the human race after the flood. He worked through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to birth the nation of Israel. He worked through Joseph to save Israel from the famine. He worked through Moses to deliver Israel from the slavery of Egypt.

He worked through Joshua to conquer the promised land. He worked through Ruth to bring forth the Messianic lineage. He worked through David to call the Kingdom to the Lord. He worked through Hezekiah to bring Jerusalem to repentance, thus temporarily delivering them from captivity. He worked through Isaiah and Jeremiah to warn of the captivity.

He worked through Ezekiel to give hope during the captivity. He worked through Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem after the captivity. He worked through John the Baptist to prepare the people for the coming of Christ. And He worked through the apostles to spread the Gospel throughout the entire world in the 1st century.

Today, God works through the churches to spread the Gospel, and to lead people to salvation. Therefore, we need apostles, faithful church members who will go forth with God’s message.

We need commitment.

In Mark 3:25, Jesus said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Jesus spoke those words after the Pharisees accused Him of using the power of satan to cast out devils. Jesus told the Pharisees that their accusation made no sense, because if satan operated that way, his kingdom would collapse.

The greater application is that you cannot be both Godly and ungodly. You cannot be both Spiritual and worldly. You must either commit yourself to Christ, or commit yourself to the things of the world. You cannot do both. If you are divided against yourself, you cannot stand.

Many Christians today are hurting themselves by pursuing the pleasures of the world and the desires of the flesh, while trying to enjoy the things of God at their convenience. Christians today need to make a choice, to serve the Lord, or to serve the world. You cannot do both.

Finally, we see the need for family. As Mark 3 closes out, Jesus proclaims that all who do the will of God are His family. As Christians, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. We need to spend time with family. Scripture teaches us to gather, fellowship, worship together, and lift each other up.

Therefore, gathering with your brothers and sisters in Christ is important. The best way to do this is through a local church.

We all have needs in this life. The best way to see those needs met is to turn to the Lord, and commit ourselves to Him.

Are you in need of healing? Contact us, and we will be glad to pray with you, and minister to you in any way we can.

 

When It Happens…

On Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001, there were very few empty seats in the churches across America. Over the prior week, Americans had seen the worst terrorist attack executed on the homeland in history. In the following days, we learned that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by a Middle-Eastern terrorist group called Al-Qaeda, and that we were almost certain to go to war in the Middle East.

Middle Eastern wars and world wars have a way of shaking us from our slumber, because they have the potential to fulfill Bible prophecy, which means the end times could be near, and judgment is coming.

Believing the end may have been near, and that judgment was coming, Americans flocked to their local churches to learn whether the attacks of the prior week had prophetic significance, and to learn how close we were to the end.

Within two weeks, fears of the end had subsided, and church attendance slipped back to normal.

There is something about seeing prophecy fulfilled, or believing that the Lord’s return is imminent, that drives people to sudden repentance and religion.

Such was the case in Mark 1:1-15. Mark opens his account of the Gospel by quoting Old Testament prophecies about the forerunner to Christ. In verses 2-3, he writes:

As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

These verses, taken from Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1, promised that before Christ came, His messenger would arrive and call the nation to repentance. Mark then went on to discuss how John the Baptist fulfilled this scripture:

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

-Mark 1:4-5

Seeing the messenger promised in the scriptures, the people flocked to John the Baptist to be baptized with the baptism of repentance in preparation of the coming of the Lord. Not long after that, Jesus came, was baptized of John, went into the wilderness, and re-emerged preaching repentance and belief in the Gospel.

In recording these events, Mark makes two observations. (1) Those events indicated that the Kingdom of God was about to arrive, and (2) with those events having happened years prior to his writing, we are even closer to the day of judgment than we were before.

Thus, Mark writes his Gospel with urgency, quoting Jesus Christ as He called the nation to repentance.

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The words of Jesus in Mark 1:15 are not only the theme of the Gospel of Mark, but they are the sum of the Lord’s teaching. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

The Lord warns us that the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.

What does it mean, “The time is fulfilled?”

If you have ever baked cookies, or even heated a frozen pizza in the oven, you have likely set a timer according to the instructions on the box. When that timer goes off, the time has been fulfilled, and your cookies or pizza is now ready.

When Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled,” He essentially said, “Time’s up! Time to repent. The Kingdom is here.”

We tend to live life as if we have all the time in the world to straighten out our Spiritual matters. Within two weeks after 9/11, we collectively decided that Jesus was not coming back, yet, and thus we quit going to church. We tend to put off Spiritual decisions, commitments to Christ, and resolve to take on those decisions on a more convenient day, which somehow never seems to come.

However, the day will come when our time will be up. And that day is closer than you think.

Whether Jesus comes back tomorrow, or whether he comes back next century, you are still closer than you think to judgment day, for scripture tells us, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” While I could tell you stories of people who passed away unexpectedly before their time, the truth is, even if you live to be 100, the end of your life will arrive faster than you think. Consider how fast your life has passed by up until now.

Therefore, we need to place urgency upon our Spiritual lives, and bring ourselves into alignment with the will of God sooner rather than later.

After pointing out the time-sensitive nature of our Spiritual lives, Jesus then called us to repent.

To repent means to change your mind regarding your sin, abhorring the sins of the past, and making the changes in your life so that you never go back into that life of sin. This goes beyond sorrow for sin. It includes a decision, and a change to never allow yourself to be owned by that sin again.

This practice is commonly seen by alcoholics and recovering drug addicts. Sorrowful for the way they’ve destroyed their lives with drug/alcohol abuse, they resolve to never allow that to happen again. Therefore, they avoid certain places, people and things that could trigger a relapse. The repentant sinner would do well to follow this pattern.

Jesus then called us to believe the Gospel.

The Gospel is defined as how Christ died for our sin, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again, according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Our hope, our confident expectation of salvation and heaven comes not from anything we’ve done, or overcome, but rather what Christ did on the cross. His death on the cross paid our sin debt and cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Being willing to completely trust that, we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Christ called us to repent and believe, and so we should. Our salvation experience is not only a life-changing event, it is a total life change.

Seeing then that our time is short, and Christ called us to repent and believe, we should do a self-assessment. Have you repented and believed? Are you saved? Are you different now than you were before?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then it is time to get right with the Lord. Go to Him in prayer. Confess your sins to Him. Ask forgiveness. Trust Him to save you based on His work on the cross. Then, as you arise from that prayer, make the changes in your life to leave sin behind.

If you need encouragers to rally around you during this time, we’d love to help at Life Point Baptist Church. Contact us, or come visit our services. We’d love to be there for you during this important time.

Consider Your Ways (Haggai 1)

Haggai’s prophetic ministry took place after the Babylonian Captivity of the nation of Israel was coming to a close. People began to trickle back to Jerusalem, having secured enough provision for the journey home.

As Jerusalem slowly began to be repopulated, the people began rebuilding their homes, businesses and streets, all while the Temple remained in ruins. Seeing his house remain ruined while everyone else’s was being rebuilt prompted the Lord to say, “Consider your ways.”

In calling the people to consider their ways, God called them to consider their priorities, their worship, and their faith. The lesson is as relevant to us today as it was in Haggai’s day. We all need to consider our ways, to make sure our priorities are in line, that our worship honors God, and that our faith is in tact.

The above-posted episode of The Point will bless you with encouragement.

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.

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.

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.