Category: Philosophy

The Ballad of Thomas Ryman

Rymanauditorium1

There are many reasons why people think that the Ryman Auditorium is called “the Mother Church of Country Music.” First, it looks like a church. Notice the arched windows and doorways, the American Gothic architecture, and the wooden pews inside.

Then, there’s the devoted, religious following of the Grand Ole Opry, which still closes most of its performances with a Gospel tune.

Finally, there’s the notion that you haven’t really arrived in Country Music until the “Mother Church” gives you her blessing, and you are invited to play the Opry (even if most of the performances are now held at the Opryland Resort.)

But how many realize that the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music, was actually a church?

In 1885, Riverboat operator and saloon owner Thomas Ryman noticed that the ongoing Christian revival across Tennessee is cutting into his business. Looking to preserve his business ventures, Ryman decided to go to a revival meeting held by the great Evangelist Samuel Porter Jones for the purpose of disrupting and heckling the service.

Instead of stopping the revival, Ryman himself wound up converting to Christianity. So moved by the preaching of Jones, and his own redemption, Ryman endeavored to make sure everyone could hear the Gospel as spoken by Jones’ voice. So, he invested $100,000 ($2.7 million in today’s cash) to build the “Union Gospel Tabernacle,” a 6,000 seat chapel where Jones would be able to preach to multitudes.

Worship services were held, and Jones held many revivals in the facility. The tabernacle was renamed the “Ryman Auditorium” in 1904 by Jones as he preached Ryman’s funeral.

The Ryman Auditorium closed in the 1930s, and fell into disrepair before being taken over by WSM-AM in the 1960s to become the site of the Grand Ole Opry.

I read this story several years ago, and it continues to impress me that a hardened sinner was so moved with gratitude for his salvation, and concern for the eternal destiny of his fellow man, that he put his fortune to the test to build a place where everyone could come, hear the Gospel, and be saved.

When I think about this, I wonder what I have done to show my gratitude to God for my salvation. I also wonder what would happen if I did more. Furthermore, what if we had more Thomas Rymans in the world, hardened sinners broken and redeemed by the power of Christ who turned around and did everything in their power to reach those around them? If this happened, what kind of revival would we see in our country?

Right now, the entertainment industry politicizes everything, thinking that to legitimize their fame and popularity, they have to adopt a cause or message to change the world. Politicians legislate to leave their mark on the world. Athletes endorse ideas and causes.

The rest of the world uses its platform to advance a secular agenda. Isn’t it time that Christians use their platform to advance the Kingdom of God?

May God grant you the boldness to live out your faith and reach others with the Gospel.

The one thing that has challenged my faith

13350239_624569961040640_8092507861845382051_oA stranger knocked on my door one day.

“Hello, Mr. Acker. My name is Brother Turnbow.”

The elderly preacher was doing what he had spent his entire ministry doing. He was knocking doors to share the Gospel. I welcomed him to sit with me, told him I was also a pastor, and discussed with him the scriptures and the state of the world today.

The year was 2011, and I had just moved into my new house. Bro. Turnbow had gotten my name from the list of new water accounts opened with the city of Early. My heart had been heavy that week thinking about the rise of sin, and the animosity toward Christianity in society. Sin is taking our country down the hill of destruction, but the loudest voices in our society blame Christianity for the downfall.

That’s why a certain stanza from Marc Schultz’ song, “I have been there,” resonates with me:

He’s been a pastor 20 years, but tonight he sits alone and broken-hearted in the corner of the church.

Trying to change a fallen world, with his words and with his wisdom but it seems like it is only getting worse.

“Bro. Turnbow,” I asked, “Do you ever feel obsolete?”

Bro. Turnbow smiled and said, “As long as you preach God’s word, you are never obsolete.”

The problems of the world all come from unbelief. People distrust God, so they sin against Him, which causes all kinds of problems. It has been that way ever since Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit because they thought that God was holding out on them. Since then, the world has been in disarray, suffering from the effects of sin.

It is tempting to watch the demise of western civilization and conclude that, the end time is here, and Christ will soon return. He very well may, but to give up on the calling God has placed on your life is not only a dereliction of duty, but it expresses the same lack of faith shown by the generations before who “gave up” because of the changes in society, saying “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

I was reading Luke 5 in my personal devotional time the other day, and Luke 5:17 struck me.

“And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.”

The power of the Lord was present to heal them. Heal who? The Pharisees and doctors of the law who sat by, watching in unbelief as Jesus taught the word of God and ministered to the people. These people were diametrically opposed to the message Christ brought, and his rise among the people. He was a threat to their influence and lifestyle, so they opposed Him.

Yet Luke 5:17 seems to indicate that the Lord had the power to heal their unbelief. And if the power of the Lord can heal the unbelief of some crotchety old Pharisees in the first-century AD, imagine what he can do for a world blinded by the selfish pursuit of pleasure.

Where my faith has fallen short in the past is that I failed to believe that God is the one who reaches people, convicts them, then redeems them. My faith has fallen short in believing that God can do that, and that He will do that. My faith has fallen short in believing that God WILL save, not just that He can.

That unbelief is in my past. I have repented from that sin, and now I am looking forward to seeing God move in mighty ways.

My wife once said, “True faith is realized when you no longer have to be the solution to the problem.” It would help us Spiritually, psychologically and emotionally to remember that the battle is the Lord’s. He will be the One who effects the change.

Our jobs are the same as the Apostles in Acts 5, who were told to “Go, stand and speak the words of this life.”

So, share the Gospel. Defend the faith. Preach the scriptures. But remember, the results are not up to you. Once you realize that, you’ll more fully understand “freedom in Christ.”

May God bless you in your Spiritual walk today.

Why I celebrate Christmas with toys and trees…

15675996_10211148555255566_9200556580741383012_o

It was 10 p.m. last night, and the Walmart parking lot was still full. My wife and I had already hit the Heartland Mall looking for gifts for our seven children. Having loaded up on several gifts, we went to Walmart looking for toys to fill out the space beneath the Christmas tree.

Even at 10 p.m. in a small town like ours, traffic was heavy with holiday travelers and last minute shoppers. The shoppers had filled every store in town, dwindling the gift selections and extending the checkout times. Every year, this happens. Every year, I get caught up in the holiday rush, and every year I promise that next year will be different. I promise myself that, next year, I won’t wait until the last minute to buy my Christmas gifts. Then, every year, I do.

Those who know the true meaning of Christmas know that it has nothing to do with trees, Santa, or gifts. The true meaning of Christmas is remembering God’s promise to send us a Savior, His only begotten Son, who is Christ the Lord.

God stated that promise in Isaiah 7:14, when He promised that a virgin would conceive and bring forth a Son, and His name would be Immanuel, which being interpreted means “God with us.” He stated this promise again in Isaiah 9:6, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Isaiah 9:6-7 promised that this child, God’s only begotten Son, would bring eternal peace and prosperity to us. This would be accomplished by redeeming us from sin (Isaiah 53) and by delivering us from the pain of this world, and healing us (Isaiah 61).

Scripture records how God kept this promise in Matthew 1-2, and Luke 1-2. Christ was born, went to the cross where He purchased our redemption, rose again to defeat death, and sits at the right hand of the Father advocating for us until the day God sends Him back to earth to establish His Kingdom and complete the promises of eternal peace, health and prosperity.

With that being the true meaning of Christmas, why was I in a supermarket checkout line last night with a buggy-load of Christmas presents, tired and exhausted from a long day? After all, my kids know the true meaning of Christmas. We could forego the tree and gifts, honor the birth of Christ by scripture reading, and then send money to less-fortunate people overseas. We could do that. The kids would go along with it. Instead, I have to ask myself what my true motivation in doing that would be.

Christmas was the defining event for the year in the house where I grew up. The entire family would converge on my grandfather’s house on Christmas Eve. It was a small farm house designed for a family of three, not to entertain dozens of guests. Still, every year, my mom and dad, uncle and aunt, great grandparents and great uncles and aunts, cousins, siblings, in-laws and even friends of the family, would come over, enjoy a Christmas dinner of turkey, dressing, ham, mashed potatoes, macaroni, etc etc etc and pecan pie, and celebrate the holiday.

Then, we exchanged gifts. Following the gift exchange, a televised basketball game, and some hilarious yet sentimental conversations, we’d all retire to bed. You read that right. This was a giant sleep over for adults and children. There were sleeping bags and fold-out couches. Sometime early on Christmas morning, before the sun rose, someone would loudly announce that Santa had come, and the gifts were out. We would then see what the jolly fat man brought us, collect our gifts, enjoy a breakfast of sausage, biscuits and dinner leftovers, and go home to recover. Those were good days.

We knew the true meaning of Christmas. There was a birthday cake for Jesus. There was the reading of the Christmas story. We celebrated in such a huge fashion because we were thankful for the family, friends and gifts God had blessed us with.

If the birth of Christ brought joy and peace, then why not celebrate His birth with a Christmas celebration that fosters joy and peace in our family? Celebrations like the one we will have this year, full of songs, gifts, and, of course, the scripture reading, brings joy and hope to our children, and that’s what I want to give them for Christmas. That’s why I braved the shopping crowds and holiday traffic, and that’s why I emptied my wallet. It’s a small price to pay to give the gifts of joy and peace to my kids, after the huge price the Lord paid to give joy and peace to me.

Merry Christmas. I’ll see you on the other side of the holiday.

PANIC!!!!!!

nancy pelosi
Photo by: Lorie Shaull

The late comedian Bill Hicks, whose stand-up routines offered fairly profane observations on life in the 1980s and early 1990s, was annoyed by the constant drumming of apocalyptic headlines by CNN.

“War, famine, death, aids, homeless, recession, depression,” Hicks chanted. “War, famine, death, aids, homeless, recession, depression. Then, you look out the window, and *crickets*.

“I want a (happy) Ted Turner newscast,” he continued. “‘Hey, everything’s great, here’s sports.”

Hick’s annoyance today could very likely expand to the Democratic Party, which has promised death and destruction with every piece of legislation, or executive action accomplished in 2017. Some of the farcical claims include:

-If the ACA is repealed, people will die in the streets.

-If net neutrality is repealed, people will die in the streets.

-If the individual mandate is repealed (the tax penalty levied on those who cannot afford insurance), people will die in the streets.

-The tax plan is the apocalypse.

-These tax cuts will have people dying in the streets.

Granted, these are hyperbole, but you get the idea. Still, I drive the streets in my neighborhood, and I haven’t seen one dead body yet. When is this mass extinction supposed to begin?

Now, I don’t mean to be partisan on this blog. In fact, I try to go out of my way to avoid beating the same political drums that form the cadence that is Talk radio and CNN.

Still, I am bothered by the fact that so much anger and fear can be galvanized so quickly by political operatives who have no real connection to the facts. Political action committees put out talking points, as do the leadership of both political parties, as do the political pundits, without really examining the details of the proposal.

The politicians need only give an 8-second soundbite to the news, and the political firestorms follows, all over issues that will have minimal impact on the daily lives of most Americans. Yet, to hear it said on TV, radio, in print, and on the street, “the end is near.”

Those at the top have no real incentive to change this dynamic. The votes of Congress are bought and sold by lobbying firms, regardless of which party is in power. As long as those lobbying firms continue to buy the elections of Congress, those elected have little reason to change, and the firms have no reason to change.

These same firms that buy the Congressional elections also invest in swaying public opinion, and they do so with much style and little substance, providing talking points to the media and members of Congress. So long as this model works, we will continue to see vitriolic political discourse and social volatility.

Therefore, it is our responsibility as individual citizens to break this cycle. It is up to us to demand more, and better information. It is up to us to demand accountability. It is up to us to research the candidates, and vote for the best candidate, not the best publicized candidate. If we continue our failure in this responsibility, then things will continue to get worse, because the current system is a multi-billion dollar industry making thousands of people rich.

Former FCC Commissioner Newton N. Minow once described television as “a vast wasteland,” saying that if you watched TV from sign-on to sign-off, a vast wasteland of sub-par programming is what you would observe. He said it was up to the public to demand better programming, adding that if the public continued to support bad programming, the vast wasteland would remain.

He said that no other bureau or agency could rectify the problem, that it was the duty of the American public to demand better. If they didn’t, then the vast wasteland would be their own fault.

The same holds true for our political system. As long as cable news ratings maintain, and lobbying firms continue to successfully purchase elections and votes, our political discourse will remain volatile, and the mass panic among the rank and file will continue. And we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

Primary election season starts now. Research the candidates, go to their public appearances, ask questions, then vote accordingly. Break the cycle, demand better.

Follow this rule, and you’ll never face sexual harassment charges

Trent_Franks,_official_portrait,_114th_Congress
Rep. Trent Franks

Salem radio talker Mike Gallagher opened the second hour of his radio show today by asking what the rules were regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. The question was posed in response to a breaking story about Congressman Trent Franks resigning after asking female staffers to be surrogate mothers so that he and his wife can have a baby.

National Public Radio reports that Rep. Franks (R-Arizona) gave the following statement regarding his resignation:

“Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff,” Franks said in a statement. “However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable. And so, I want to shed light on how those conversations came about.”

While Rep. Franks may not be guilty of sexual aggression, asking a female member of your staff to have your baby, even through surrogacy, is a really big deal. It’s not something you bring up in the break room or during a staff meeting. It’s even more inappropriate to bring it up in the office during work hours.

Rep. Franks, who has already fathered a set of twins through surrogacy may not have realized how inappropriate his discussions would feel to his staff, but had he followed a simple rule, he would still be looking forward to a long congressional career.

Do not treat any woman in any way that would offend you if committed by another man toward your wife. In other words, if you would have a problem with another man doing something to your wife, then don’t do that thing to other women. Before you make that comment, or put your arm around that co-worker, picture another man saying the same thing, or putting his arm around your wife. If that thought upsets you, then keep your comment and your hands to yourself.

So, let’s take that rule and apply it to some common situations that can happen around the office. First, the obvious. Personal contact.

How would you respond if you walked into your wife’s office to find her boss there with his arm around her? What if you walked into your wife’s office and a male co-worker was massaging her shoulders? Does that thought bother you? (It should.) Then don’t go putting your arm around your female co-workers, and for heaven’s sake, don’t give them massages.

Next, let’s look at verbal communication. Many of the sexual harassment claims made in HR departments center around verbal conduct in the presence of staff. Scripture tells us that the tongue is a fire, a serious statement when you consider the fires that burn in Southern California right now. As a fire, a misguided word can create a small problem that becomes a major tragedy before the flames can be extinguished. Therefore, we should guard our words closely, not only because they can create massive problems for us, but also because scripture commands us.

So, let’s take our rule, do not that which would offend you if another man did it to your wife, and apply it to our speech.

Would you be offended if another man commented about the size of your wife’s backside, or any other part of her anatomy? Would you be offended if another man told your wife that she looked attractive in her dress? What if he told her she had beautiful eyes? Personally, all of those scenarios would bother me. Therefore, I do not make those comments to female co-workers.

I find it interesting that so many accusations of sexual harassment could be avoided if people would just follow this simple rule, which is actually derived from the Golden Rule, which Christ stated in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

Or, as more commonly quoted, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Obey God and do as you please

Pete_Seeger2_-_6-16-07_Photo_by_Anthony_Pepitone
Photo by Anthony Pepitone

Pete Seeger is probably the most influential man whose name you probably have never heard. A social activist of the 1960s, he wrote songs promoting environmentalism, civil rights, the counterculture, and songs opposing the Vietnam War.

He popularized the song, “We Shall Overcome,” which became the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement, and his song “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)” became a major hit for the Byrds, and a musical standard for the 1960s.

The song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” was taken almost verbatim from Ecclesiastes 3 in the King James Bible. The song itself was used as an anthem to call for an end to the Vietnam War, with the final line stating, “a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.” Those who listen to the song can find themselves transported to a peaceful state of mind, relaxing and just enjoying the moment.

The irony of “Turn, Turn, Turn” is that Seeger rejected the Bible as scripture. He did not believe the Bible is God’s word, and he thought much of the book was a collection of folk tales and poetry. In an interview with Paul Zollo, which later appeared in the book, Songwriters on Songwriting, Seeger discussed his views on the Bible:

I don’t read the Bible that often. I leaf through it occasionally and I’m amazed by the foolishness at times and the wisdom at other times. I call it the greatest book of folklore ever given. Not that there isn’t a lot of wisdom in it. You can trace the history of people poetically.

Ironically, Seeger’s biggest hit came by setting music to the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3. The idea came after Seeger’s publisher complained that he was unable to sell the protest songs which he was writing. Seeger, a social activist at heart, put the music to the scripture, hoping that the publisher would hear a Top-40 hit, and that the listeners would hear a call for peace.

Further irony is that a song that became an anthem for peace in the 1960s also proclaimed there was a time for war, a time to kill, a time to hate, and a time to cast away stones. Also, there was a time for peace, a time to heal, a time to love and a time to gather stones together.

The opening lines say it all, “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Seeger rejected the Bible as God’s word, and as such rejected the one who could put more power into those lyrics than David Crosby or Roger McGuinn ever could.

Ecclesiastes is a popular book among atheists and agnostics because of its seemingly humanistic approach to life. In many places, the book claims that life is empty, and none of man’s works will last for eternity. Therefore, one should simply enjoy the simple pleasures of life and the fruit of his labor. That approach to Ecclesiastes is extremely dangerous, because it plays right into the error that the writer was warning against.

Taken in its context, words of wisdom from a King who wanted his people to live with the enlightenment of the Lord’s wisdom, Ecclesiastes teaches that life outside of God’s presence is empty. It’s pointless. It is temporary and the struggles of life are futile.

The lesson in all this is that God is in control, and there is nothing we can do to add to, or to take away from, the plan that He is working on this Earth. Therefore, we should be content to live with the blessings God has given us, to learn the purpose of the seasons of life we endure, and to obey and reverence God.

Furthermore, we should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all our labor, for it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:13). While we do that, we should give thanksgiving to God for that gift.

Or as one theologian put it, “Obey God and do as you please.”

Had Seeger understood this concept, he would not only have seen that the wars, conflicts, and times of peace and prosperity served God’s purpose, but he still would have been free to pursue his social agenda of equal rights and preserving God’s creation. Instead, he will be mildly remembered as the man behind a happy little ditty from the 1960s.

God created you with a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God before ordained that we should walk in them. In giving us that purpose, he gave us passion for that purpose and the talent to pursue it. Do not separate your spiritual/church life from your daily life. The whole of your persona was built in when God formed you in the womb.

When the Light shines, darkness scatters

marchonwashington

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Few people positively impacted American culture more than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His leadership in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was propelled by his faith, and his understanding that America could not survive under the racial division, animosity and segregation that defined America in the first half of the 20th Century.

If the land of opportunity, the free nation he knew growing up was to survive the test of time, then the cancer of segregation had to be surgically removed. The danger of cancer treatment, however, is that it can often cause as much damage to the body as the cancer itself.

Dr. King understood this. He understood that for America to emerge from the Civil Rights Movement stronger, freer and more prosperous, the Civil Rights Movement had to not only secure freedom and opportunity to the African American community, but also had to foster reconciliation between African Americans and their white counterparts.

You see, one of the biggest hurdles to desegregation in the South was the fear held among many whites that, once equally protected under the law, African Americans would begin to enact Jim Crow style laws against them as a multi-century payback for the sins of the past.

During the 1960s, it was not uncommon to hear someone say, “The day is coming when a white man will be afraid to pump gas.”

And while there was a feudal societal structure in the South, Dr. King understood that the old Confederate caste system could be overturned if he assuaged the fears of middle-class, working voters.  Therefore, he reminded his followers, partners and supporters that “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Dr. King understood to change the South, he had to change its heart, and that required love.

In a speech given on the subject, Dr. King described the three Greek words used to describe love: eros, which is romantic love, phileo, which is brotherly affectionate love, and agape which describes the self-sacrificial love that regards the need and well-being of the other, rather than self.

This agape love is the love that propelled Christ to the cross to redeem us from sin. And it’s that agape love that Dr. King urged his followers to have toward those who opposed the Civil Rights Movement.

In a sermon entitled, “Love Your Enemies,” preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., Dr. King taught how love has a redemptive quality to it. Hate destroys. Love redeems.

Even back in 1957, Dr. King had caught the vision of not only eliminating Jim Crow from American society, but seeing America redeemed to the free and open country envisioned in the writings of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Dr. King did not want to, nor did he advocate, defeating any segment of society. Rather, he envisioned redeeming his adversaries over to his point of view, creating a stronger, unified, just and free United States of America.

Love redeems.

America has had a relapse. The cancer of racism and racial division has returned, and once again a generation has been called upon to treat and remove this cancer.

As we strive toward racial healing, reconciliation and unity, let’s not focus on the sins of the past, nor be distracted by the vitriolic voices that would divide us further. Let’s remember Dr. King’s vision of redeeming our adversaries, as well as each other, through love.

We can do this if we learn to love the sinner, while hating the sin and system he is in. If we speak the truth gently and faithfully, while rejecting responses of anger or violence, we will allow the evil of our day to be revealed for what it is, without clouding the picture with our own indiscretions.

Love your enemies, and do not evil thinking good will come. We’ve been here before, we’ve overcome this challenge before, and we can again. Redemption and reconciliation will come, if we do God’s will.