Category: Religion

Do We Really Have Too Many?

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nThere I sat across the table from a man who would determine whether my qualifications were strong enough to warrant a position within his company.

“What brings you to Brownwood?” He asked.

“I am coming here to start a church to reach the lost and unchurched of the Brown County area,” I said. I know that talking about church planting, state mission work, and religious work to someone in a secular setting like a business meeting or job interview can sound insane, but I had to answer the question honestly. Besides, if I couldn’t tell a potential employer my plans, then would I be able to effectively share the Gospel to the general public?

My future employer then joked that I was another preacher who thought he could convert the city of Brownwood, Tex.

To those outside the church, I can understand how insane it must seem. When the general public thinks about missions, they think about soup kitchens and clothing drives for impoverished people living in a desert overseas. They don’t think about ministers taking to the streets of their hometowns preaching the Gospel, desperately trying to reach the lost they pass by on a daily basis.

So, when you tell someone that you are a state missionary sent to a town that already has a few dozen churches in the same denomination, and hundreds of others, they probably wonder if you are really a scam artist or cult leader.

This type of thinking is not limited to the lost and unchurched, either. Often, pastors, ministers and denominational leaders will evaluate the legitimacy of a mission project based on how many other churches of like faith are located on the field of labor.

In both scenarios, you may hear someone say, “We already have too many churches.” Others will say that the presence of so many churches dishonors Christ, because it shows that Christians cannot get along. After all, shouldn’t we want to come together in one large glorious church and be one big happy family? In a perfect world, maybe so. In the perfect world that God will create after He destroys sin once and for all, we will.

Until then, however, we live in a fallen world.

When I came to Brownwood, I was immediately introduced to a few churches, and dozens of individuals who were faithfully serving the Lord in spirit and truth who worked tirelessly to reach the lost. Some helped us get Life Point started. Upon meeting these dedicated servants of the Lord, I wondered why God would call me to a place where so much Gospel activity was already occurring.

Through time and experience, God taught me that He called me to Brownwood because, despite the best efforts of so many, there were still those who needed the Gospel, who would respond to the Gospel.

Simply put, the more workers for the harvest, the greater the harvest.

In business, there’s a concept called market penetration, which is the measure of the sales or adoption of a product in a particular market. Companies work to increase market penetration by increasing promotions, offering new outlets to purchase their product, and diversifying their efforts to reach different demographics within the market.

Subway restaurants drew a few odd stares when they announced the opening of a new store inside a megachurch. (That’s a different subject for a different day). In explaining the move, Subway representatives simply said, “If we think we can sell sandwiches in a particular location, we’re going to open a store in that location.”

If you look around, you’ll notice that there are Subway locations everywhere. A small town near my home that cannot support a traditional restaurant has a Subway.

The same tactic has been employed by McDonald’s, 7-11, and the Southern Baptist Convention. A location on every corner penetrates the market, and increases “sales.”

Yet, no one ever complains of there being too many McDonald’s restaurants, 7-11s, or Subways. They do, however, complain of too many churches.

Why? It’s Spiritual.

The Missionary Baptist Association of Texas holds its messenger meeting in November. Several local and area associations will meet between now and then. As we discuss missions at these meetings, whether as part of the formal proceedings, or informally around the table of fellowship, let’s not discuss missions in terms of how many churches exist in how many towns. Let’s discuss missions in terms of how we are penetrating these fields of labor with the Gospel.

The Ballad of Thomas Ryman

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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.

We never meant for this to happen, but we can still help

11156384_10206298906337374_6382280851986253488_nIn 2003, I was sold on the Iraq invasion. Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people in order to put down rebellions, and was possibly colluding with terrorist organizations who planned on carrying out major attacks against the American homeland.

If the above statement seems ignorant to you, please forgive me. I, like millions of other Americans only want to see our nation secure and our people prosper. In the aftermath of 9/11, neither could be guaranteed as terrorist organizations in the Middle East had not only stated their intent to destroy America, but managed to kill thousands merely by hijacking airliners.

What we were told leading up to the invasion of Iraq was that we would (a) be neutralizing a direct threat to the American homeland, (b) eliminating stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, (c) disrupting terror operations and (d) liberating an oppressed people.

We were warned that the war would be a prolonged effort to establish a free and democratic nation in Iraq, and that the culture change would take at least a generation. The cost would be high, the sacrifice would be great, but once successful, Iraq and Afghanistan would become beacons of freedom and hope to the Middle East, which would result in people being liberated from dark totalitarian regimes.

That’s what we were told. I believe that President George W. Bush was sincere in his desire to effect lasting change in the Middle East, but that didn’t happen.

In the aftermath of the invasion, the country destabilized. Al Qaeda set up operations in northern Iraq and immediately began persecuting Christians. When the Obama administration pulled out of Iraq (to fulfill a campaign promise to end the war), ISIS went on the offensive, essentially conquering the northern part of Iraq and increasing the persecution of Christians and non-Muslims.

This morning on my radio show, I had the opportunity to visit with Juliane Tamoorazy, the president and founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. Tamoorazy discussed the plight of Christians in northern Iraq, and hoped that Vice President Mike Pence would visit with them upon his trip to Iraq scheduled for January.

While Tamoorazy blames American policy for the problem in northern Iraq, she doesn’t blame Americans, emphasizing that Americans have good hearts and want to help people. She noted that, even in Iraq, the people blame the politics, and not the American people.

It was a difficult interview for me to conduct, because I couldn’t help but think about what the situation would be like if it were my house that were marked for persecution, if it were my family kidnapped and sold into slavery, or it was my time to be killed, all for believing in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On my show, we debate policy. We discuss political ramifications of legislative or executive action. We discuss what’s happening in the government. Today, I couldn’t have that conversation.

So, I asked, “What can Americans do for our Christian brothers and sisters who are enduring persecution in Iraq?”

She thanked me for the question, indicating to me that she doesn’t get that question very often, and told me that the Iraqi Christians need blankets, heaters, air conditioners and basic needs for living. Of course, her organization is putting on a drive for those products.

Scripture tells us in Hebrews 13:3, “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”

To remember them in bonds, to remember the persecuted Christians, means to keep them top-of-mind, the way God remembered Noah in Genesis 8:1. We are to be mindful of them as if it were our very own in bondage, because, when you think about it, they are our very own. We are to remember them the way we would want to be remembered if we were enduring that persecution.

And, we are to remember them “which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” This means that when some of us suffer, we all are affected.

2018 promises to be a good year in American life. Let us not be guilty of enjoying the good times while our Christian brothers and sisters suffer. Let us remember them, and as we have opportunity, do good unto them. This can be done through a number of organizations, including the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, Open Doors, or Voice of the Martyrs.

The time for silence and complicity has ended. It’s time to help.

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.

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

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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

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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.

Pixar has us coo-coo for Coco

Coco_(2017_film)_posterToy Story. Finding Nemo. Cars. Up. Wall-E. Iconic Pixar movies that defined the childhood of a generation, and gave parents precious memories with their kids. These films moved us in theaters, and babysat our children once released to home video.

With each classic Pixar released, it was hard to imagine that a better film could be made. Then, without fail, Pixar’s next movie would elevate the theatrical experience to the next level. Their latest release, Coco, is no different.

The film centers around Miguel, a 12 year old boy growing up in Mexico who dreams of being a famous musician, even though his family forbids music after his great-great grandfather abandoned the family to pursue a music career. Miguel idolizes Ernesto de la Cruz, a popular film/music star of the early 20th who died years earlier in a tragic stage accident. De la Cruz hailed from Miguel’s hometown, furthering the young boy’s fantasy that one day he could be as famous as the Mexican film/music icon.

Through a series of sordid events, Miguel comes to believe that he is the great-great grandson of De la Cruz, and when the local talent show begins at the town plaza, he tries to borrow De la Cruz’ guitar from his grave site. That decision sets off a chain reaction that lands Miguel in the Land of the Dead during the Mexican holiday of Dia de Muertos, the one day the dead can return to the land of the living to visit their descendants.

The adventure sees Miguel reunited with his ancestors, separated from his ancestors, and reunited with De la Cruz, where he learns what is truly important to him. His adventure changes the Land of the Dead, as well as the Land of the Living forever.

Coco is Pixar’s best movie yet, because it touches people of all backgrounds. There are characters with which kids, adults, and seniors can identify. If I could have taken my dog, there would have been a character for her. The movie relates to career successes, sacrifices for family, hopes, dreams and fears. There’s not one part of the human spirit, save for a connection to God, that this film doesn’t touch.

The movie experience was so uplifting that I stayed and watched the credits.

Among the many themes found in the movie, the one that really stood out to me was the need to be remembered. According to the movie, (and Mexican legend), on Dia de Muertos, the dead are able to return to the land of the living to visit their descendants provided that those descendants post a picture of them on an ofrenda, and remember them. This ofrenda also includes things the dead ancestor enjoyed during life, like food, or musical instruments.

Those in the Land of the Dead whose families do not post pictures or ofrendas to them are denied entry into the Land of the Living, and are stuck in the Land of the Dead without family or friends.

If no one on earth remembered you, then you also vanished from the Land of the Dead into non-existence. Therefore, it was important to each resident of the Dead to be remembered, and to have their family post an ofrenda in their honor.

Families in Mexico still celebrate this holiday. It speaks to the natural fear of death, the wish for an eternal existence postmortem, and the need to be remembered. It is on these aspects of the human existence that Coco spoke the most clearly. Coco also addressed our desire to remember our loved ones fondly who have passed on before us.

One of the most difficult things to deal with in life is death. It’s hard to face our own mortality, and it is hard to deal with the loss of a close friend or family member. Dia de Muertos is a way Mexican residents have learned to cope with the loss.

However, scripture tells us that we can all have an eternal resurrection if we know Jesus Christ as our personal savior. Scripture also foretells of a day described by African American preachers in the South as “That glad gettin’ up morning.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 says:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

The day is coming when the Lord will reunite us with our loved ones. Moreover, we will be reunited with the Lord Himself.

These promises are made to all who repent and trust Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Have you made that decision? If you have, then the biggest and best family reunion ever planned is coming your way.

Take heart. This life is merely a preparation for the next. Live accordingly.