Christmas

Promise in the Dark

The sky is always darkest before the dawn.

When there is no hope, when all is lost, when your personal destruction is imminent, God shows up, and saves the day.

Isaiah 7 was written during a very dark time in Israel’s history. Due to sin, immorality and idolatry, the kingdom had been split into two, and the southern king, Ahaz, had just learned that the northern kingdom had allied with Syria to come up against Jerusalem. King Ahaz felt that his forces would be unable to stop the assault from the north, and his days were numbered.

It was at that time that Isaiah gave the prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

To say that Israel’s destruction was self-inflicted would be an understatement. For generations, God gave them time to turn from their sin, and return to worshiping Him. Instead, they chose to continue in idolatry, worshiping gods that didn’t exist, as opposed to the true God that brought them out of Egypt and into the promised land. Their idolatry gave way to rampant immorality, and by the time foreign armies showed up at their borders, they were completely incapable of self-defense. Yet, in that pathetic state, God told them that He was not done with them. In Isaiah 7:14, He not only promised them the Christ, but He also promised to once again dwell with them. “Immanuel,” properly interpreted, means “God with us.” Despite their sin, and their self-destruction, God still loved them, would restore them, and would once again dwell with them and be their God.

All too often, we see destruction in our lives because of our own sin. Sin can destroy your health, your finances, you marriage, family, home and reputation. Sin has cost some everything they had in life. Yet, even in that situation, God hasn’t given up on you. The Bible teaches that if you turn from that sin, and turn toward the Lord, He will not only save you from your sin, but He will restore fellowship with you, and begin to rebuild your life for you.

Come visit with us Sunday morning at 11 a.m. as we study the implications Isaiah 7:14 has on our lives, and see the true hope of Christmas. Grace Pointe meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., morning worship at 11 a.m., at the Early Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX, 76802. We hope to see you there.

Keeping Promises: The Virgin Birth

Christmas 2014Luke 1:26-27 says, “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, (27) to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

The virgin birth, the fact that Jesus Christ was born to a woman who was a virgin, (meaning she never had relations with a man (Luke 1:34)), is a fundamental doctrine of true Christianity for a number of reasons. First, the Old Testament not only foretells the virgin birth, the New Testament proclaims it. Secondly, it is the fulfilled prophecy in scripture that is used to validate the Bible as the Word of God. Third, the virgin birth is fundamental to the sinless nature of Christ. (Had Jesus been born of the union of  a man and a woman, He would have been a sinner like the rest of us, and thus incapable of paying for our sins on the cross.)

There have been some that have tried to re-define the word “virgin” in scripture to mean, “a young maiden.” While the word was almost exclusively used to describe a young woman, it was limited in which young women it described. A young woman described as a virgin was one who had not been defiled, was not married, and was pure.

Furthermore, if the sign of the birth of Christ was to be a virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), and if “virgin” only meant “young woman,” then Christ’s birth wouldn’t have been anything special. However, Isaiah 7:14 said the birth would be a sign, therefore the virgin birth described in Isaiah 7:14 is special, and thus depicted a child being born to a woman who had not had relations with a man. Any denial of the virgin birth is a denial of the scriptures, and the power of God Himself… but I digress.

The virgin birth was about God keeping His promise to His people. In Isaiah 7:14, God promised His people the Messiah… and He told them what to look for in the fulfillment of this promise. “Therefore, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name, Immanuel.”

The name, Immanuel, means “God with us.” As mentioned in this post, God’s desire has always been to dwell with His people. The Son promised in Isaiah 7:14 would not only be the Son of God, but also God in flesh. God promised the coming of Jesus Christ in Isaiah 7:14, and the sign that He gave for people to look for was the fact He would be born of a virgin. It would be a unique situation that would mark the fulfillment of God’s promise.

That’s why the Gospels of Matthew and Luke pay special attention to the fact that Mary was a virgin when Christ was conceived, and thus born. They were documenting the fact that God kept His promise, sent the Messiah, who, being God in flesh, dwelt among us before dying for our sins on the cross.

God keeps His promises, and they are promises which should bring you rest. God promised a Savior, and He gave us Jesus. God promises to save all who believe in Jesus, and He does. God has promised that Jesus will return and establish His Kingdom on Earth, and He will. Are you ready to receive that promise?

If You Asked God What He Wanted for Christmas, What Would He Say?

Christmas 2014“What do you want for Christmas?”

It’s a common question. Santa asks it of the kids as they sit on his lap at the mall. Office workers ask it of each other as they plan their secret Santa gifts for the company Christmas party. And, even though you’ve turned 31, your mom will probably ask it of you.

Christmas is a time of giving, and a time of receiving. Exchanging gifts around a Christmas tree is one of the simple joys of the holiday. Everyone can identify with having a Christmas wish… but what about God? Has anyone ever asked God what He wants for Christmas? I mean, after all, He invented the holiday, didn’t he?

(Okay, yeah, I realize that Christmas is a man-made tradition to bring heathen holidays in compliance with the Christian religion. Humor me, will ya?)

After all, it was God who sent Jesus Christ, His only Begotten Son, to be born of the virgin, Mary. Jesus would go on to pay for the sins of the world on the cross so that we could be saved and live eternally with God in His Kingdom. Maybe that has something to do with God’s Christmas wish.

From the beginning, God’s desire has been to dwell with His people. If you look in Genesis 2, you see the picture of God walking along with Adam in the Garden of Eden, teaching and talking with him as Adam named the animals. When Adam sinned against God in Genesis 3, that close fellowship was broken. However, God immediately began taking the steps to restore that fellowship.

When God ordered the construction of the Tabernacle in the book of Exodus, His goal was to be able to dwell among His people. When His people rebelled, He had His Tabernacle moved out of their camp.

The construction of the Temple was, again, about giving God a place to dwell among His people. All of this was the foreshadowing of God’s overall plan to put an end to sin, and live with His people forever. It’s a dream that will be fully realized in Revelation 21:3, “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Christ will come again, establish His Kingdom on Earth, and the Lord will dwell with us forever. At that time, all pain, suffering, illness and strife will be gone, and we will live in a perfect world forever.

What’s God’s Christmas wish? To live with us in a perfect world. However, God isn’t just sitting around hoping it shows up under the tree. He is busily working to bring that dream about.

And that is the significance of Matthew 1:23, “they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Come visit with us Sunday, and see the blessings of “Emmanuel, God with us.” We meet for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m., inside the Early Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX, 76802.

God bless you this Christmas season,

Leland Acker, Pastor, Grace Pointe MBC.

Christmas Is About Hope

Christmas 2014Thanksgiving is behind us, and we survived the madness of Black Friday. At this time, we begin hanging our Christmas lights, and start a month-long celebration of Christmas. Every year, the retail industry celebrates their biggest sales months of the year, while Christians commemorate the birth of our Lord and Savior.

A more scholarly preacher might be tempted to lament that Jesus wasn’t really born in December, and that this celebration arises out of man’s traditions. I, on the other hand, prefer not to be a killjoy. While we don’t really know when Christ was born (some do offer good theories), the fact of the matter is that He was born. His birth was so important to God that He inspired Matthew and Luke to write about it. If God celebrated it in two different books of the Bible, and foretold it in the Book of Isaiah, then it makes sense that we should celebrate the birth of Christ today. Further, it makes sense that the celebration should last an entire month. In fact, it doesn’t really bother me that we begin rolling out the Christmas stuff in September… all the more opportunity to bring attention to our Lord.

When you read about the birth of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1-2, and in Luke 1-2, you will notice the writers pay special attention to pointing out the Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled by the birth of Jesus Christ. From that fact, we learn that Christmas is about God keeping His promise, and that we can draw hope from the Lord, knowing that God keeps His promise.

In Isaiah 9:6, the Bible says “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” In that verse, God made a promise to the nation of Israel, and more specifically, the southern kingdom of Judah. His promise was, though the nation was in decline due to sin and idolatry, He would send Christ, who would bring salvation, and restore the Kingdom. The birth of Christ is the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise.

So, every time you see a Christmas decoration, a Nativity scene, a banner proclaiming that “Jesus is the Reason for the season,” remember the promise God made, and kept.

Furthermore, Isaiah 9:6 is the key verse for our Christmas series this year, “And His Name Shall Be Called.” Join us as we learn of God’s promise and hope, by studying the names attributed to Christ around His birth. We hope to see you there.

Grace Pointe Missionary Baptist Church meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m., at the Early Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Incubator Facility, 104 E. Industrial, Early, Texas, 76802.

In Christ,

Pastor Leland Acker