Hope

And His name shall be called…

the-transfiguration

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.

-Isaiah 9:6

There was a hymn we used to sing at the church where I grew up, called, “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.” You’ve probably heard it. It begins with, “There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place….”

The song praised God for pouring His Spirit into our lives, and into our church. The song thanked God for what He was doing at that moment in the lives of each one present, then concluded with the following line of hope, “Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived, when we shall leave this place.”

Oddly enough, I used to hum that line to myself as I walked the halls of Jacksonville High School as a teenager. I looked forward to graduation, when I would leave school and home to try my hand in the real world. I had no doubt that I would be successful in life, that the blessings would pour in, and that I’d make my family and community proud. I couldn’t wait.

I could not wait to “be revived” on graduation day, when I “shall leave this place.” The promise of the graduation was what kept me going in school. (I had a good high school experience, but I’ve always seemed to look forward to the next stage in life).

You may think it silly to apply a hymn of praise and hope to high school graduation, and you’re probably right. Still, how many high school seniors today are anxiously awaiting May 31?

Scripture teaches that, just as high school students anticipate the coming commencement ceremony, we are to anticipate the coming of the Lord. For it is that day that the promises of God will come to full fruition. In fact, 2 Timothy 4:7-8 indicates that you can measure your faith by how much you look forward to the return of Christ.

Isaiah 9:6, often quoted around Christmas as it did foretell the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, was more a prophecy about the hope He would bring than the fact He would be born.

Unto us a child is born. Jesus was born of the Jewish nation of Israel, just as God promised repeatedly in the Old Testament.

Unto us, a Son is given. God promised to give His only begotten Son for the salvation of the world.

The rest of the verse, often glazed over, is where the true hope is found.

Isaiah 9:6 says His name shall be called “Wonderful.” That is a word that has lost its meaning over the past few centuries. The original English word used in 1611 literally meant, “full of wonder.” The Hebrew word that was translated “wonderful” meant “miraculous.”

Not only was the birth of Jesus miraculous, but His entire ministry on Earth was a continual working of miracles, from the turning of the water into wine, to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The miracles of Christ healed multitudes of people, fed thousands, restored hope for two sisters, and testified to the people that the promised Son of God was now among the people, and that Christ had come.

The people of the Old Testament looked forward to the One who would heal them. Likewise, we look forward to the One who will heal us. When the Lord returns and establishes His Kingdom on Earth, He will miraculously heal us all of our ailments, wash away our sin, put an end to the sin in the world, and usher in a perfect eternity of peace and prosperity. That will be a wonder, living in a Kingdom led by Christ, who is full of wonder. His name shall be called Wonderful.

His name shall be called “Counsellor.” This is an adviser, one who gives counsel, one who teaches, and one who plans. The teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth were so perfect, that even the religions that deny His divinity and Sonship admire His teaching. Those religions that reject Jesus as Messiah accept Him as a wise teacher.

In fact, my World History teacher in high school even noted that, “If you reject Christianity, you still have to admit that Jesus had some good ideas.”

The teachings of Christ were given both to the people of Bible times, and to us as well. His teachings shed light on the true meanings of the scriptures and God’s love toward mankind. If one wants to conform to God’s standard, or realize the love of God, one would do well to read, learn, and apply the teachings of Christ.

“His name shall be called… the mighty God, the everlasting Father.” Jesus Christ of Nazareth is God in the flesh. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:1-2 tells us that the Word was God, and the Word was with God. Jesus told His disciples, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

Think about that for a moment. God has always wanted to dwell with His people. It’s why He ordered the building of the tabernacle in Exodus. So, in order to dwell among us, He became a man, and lived our experience. How much love did God demonstrate in doing that?

This is why Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us we can trust the Lord to hear our prayers. He lived our experience, and is therefore empathetic.

This also opened the way for God to redeem us, seeing how He paid the price for our sins on the cross, thus removing the debt and guilt of sin from us. Romans 5:8 says “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

This is the hope promised to us in Isaiah 9:6, that God would redeem us through Christ, who would live our experience then purchase our salvation.

The final name attributed to Christ is “the Prince of Peace.” The Lord bought peace between us and God, and will bring everlasting peace into the world when He establishes His Kingdom.

There is a lot we can learn from the names of Christ given in Isaiah 9:6, but let us not forget God’s end game… to redeem us from sin, and to one day rescue us from the troubles of this world, taking us into the perfect world He intended for us in the beginning.

Knowing that these promises were made, kept, and will be kept should restore our hope as we celebrate the fulfillment of the first two phrases of Isaiah 9:6, “unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Celebrate the Lord’s birth this Christmas, and look forward to the joy that will follow.

–Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Sunday, He will bring a special Christmas message from Isaiah 9. Sunday School begins at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Life Point meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX. 

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Hope

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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.

-Isaiah 9:6

I can remember the exact moment my oldest son was born. I did not get to see his birth, as there was a curtain between me and the doctors performing the c-section. However, I can remember the exact moment because he cried, and the moment we heard his cry, my wife’s condition went from discomfort to absolute joy and ecstasy. I can still remember her tears of joy as we welcomed him into the world.

My wife delivered all three of our biological children via c-section, and each situation was different, but there was one thing that tied them all together. Regardless of the difficulty of the delivery (two were emergency c-sections), or the level of discomfort, all of that was secondary to her joy in holding our baby for the first time.

When our oldest daughter was born, my wife refused orders from the nurses to rest, demanding to hold her. When my oldest son was born, the hospital staff was surprised that we never sent him to the nursery so we could rest. When my youngest was born, immediately he and my wife became best friends.

There is this indescribable feeling that comes with the birth of a child. It’s a moment when you realize that your life is forever changed for the better. There’s joy. There’s hope. There are dreams, and there’s excitement. There’s a sudden desire to do better, and there’s a sense of responsibility knowing that this child has been entrusted to you by God for his care.

Isaiah 9:6 says “Unto us, a child is born.”

In the darkest days described by Isaiah 9:2, a child would be born unto the nation of Israel which would restore their hope. At that moment, Israel would be changed forever. His birth would bring joy and hope, and the nation would bring forth the Christ, through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed.

Think about what that meant for Mary and Joseph. Those two were chosen by God to raise His only begotten Son, who was the Savior of the world. Joy, hope, excitement, but what an incredible responsibility!

Isaiah 9:6 goes on to say, “Unto us, a Son is given.” This phrase takes the promise a little further. The child is born unto Israel. He would be one of them, but the Son would be given to the entire world.

The Son would be sent from the presence of God to live among men, as a man, and would conquer sin and death and reign forever. While this verse does not directly address the suffering He would endure to accomplish that, we know from other Bible passages that His suffering was what accomplished His mission of salvation.

It’s the giving of the Son that Jesus spoke about when He told Nicodemus in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

It is through His Son, given unto us, that hope, redemption and salvation came. It is that hope, redemption and salvation that gives us joy.

Jesus Christ is the child born unto us, the Son given to us, who brought salvation, joy and hope to us. He truly is the reason for the season.

Isaiah 9:6 as been fulfilled. God kept His promise. He is worthy to be praised and worshiped. Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, and I can think of no better response than to dedicate that day to the Lord by attending worship at one of his churches.

–Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Sunday, He will bring a special Christmas message from Isaiah 9. Sunday School begins at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Life Point meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX. 

Light

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And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

-John 1:5

The gentle breeze blowing across Texas brought the summer night air to the perfect temperature, with the low summer humidity making the evening an absolute pleasure. I was on the 8th hole of the miniature golf course at FunSphere in Arlington, Tex. On the other side of Interstate 30, the lights of the newly opened “Ballpark in Arlington” were ablaze, illuminating a packed stadium as the Texas Rangers hosted the New York Yankees.

I was 16 at the time, enjoying an overnight trip with my church youth group, and we were having a blast. The evening included a trip to an all-u-can-eat pizza buffet, bowling, and the Funsphere, which was an amusement park including go-carts, laser tag, and a video arcade. Six Flags later bought it, and thus it no longer exists.

At that time in my life, attending a professional sporting event was a dream, and only a dream. The tickets, travel and parking were too much of a logistical challenge for my rural East Texas family. And despite the great time I was having, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like sitting along one of the baselines at the Ballpark, watching Pudge Rodriguez or Jose Canseco take it to the Yanks.

Beneath those lights were life, excitement, adventure and hope. Beneath those lights was the place to be.

In almost every context, the light is the place to be, whether you dream of being a professional athlete beneath the lights of a big-league stadium, or a performer beneath the Broadway lights. The light is hope. The light is prosperity. The light is victory.

Scripture refers to Jesus Christ as the Light of the world, and His light is far more than the excitement of a major league game, or the glory of a Broadway production. His light brings real hope.

Isaiah 9:2 says “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” In this scripture, the Light is a source of hope and deliverance. It is redemption and restoration.

The people had walked in the hopeless degradation of Spiritual darkness, having spent their lives in idolatry, rebellion, sin and debauchery. The ensuing consequences destroyed their nation and wrecked their lives. Yet, the Light shined into their darkness.

Despite their sin and wickedness, the Lord loved them, and shone His perfect light to redeem them and bring them hope. When the people of Isaiah’s day heard that the light shined, they heard that their condition wasn’t the end. They heard the message of redemption, and had hope. The coming captivity would be temporary, and God would rescue them.

The Light of Jesus Christ works in our lives as well. When you turn from your sins and trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, He gives you hope, a confident expectation of the glory of His eternal Kingdom.

Next, the Light cleanses us. In the physical world, certain UV rays and types of lighting can be used to disinfect. In the Spiritual world, the light of Christ illuminates our works, showing our sin for what it is, and our righteous works for what they are.

Thus, Jesus said in John 3:19-21:

Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

If our sin was the cause of our degradation and hopelessness, obviously we would want to escape that pattern. Sin, like drugs, is highly addictive, rendering the individual incapable of stopping an activity that is killing their soul and body.

What Christ does is highlight the sin in our lives, that our mind toward it changes, and our lives change from the inside out. Then, those changes in our lives are illuminated for all to see, which glorifies our Father in Heaven.

If we wish to escape the hopelessness and degradation of sin, then it follows that we should turn to Christ and allow Him to cleanse us of the sin that destroys us.

The problem, stated by Christ, is that man doesn’t want to do this. He doesn’t want to come to the light to have his deeds reproved, because he enjoys the sin, if not the effects. So, he stays away from the light, so that his sin is not reproved, corrected, and that he doesn’t have to see the sin for what it is. This leads to condemnation.

It’s easy to neglect your physical health if you never count calories, or look in the mirror. It’s easy to neglect your financial health if you never track your expenses. It’s easy to neglect your spiritual health if you never evaluate your life in the Light of Christ by reading the scriptures or attending church. Christ calls this staying in the darkness. In doing so, you can deny the harm that you are doing to yourself, but only until the effects are irreversible, or until you see the Lord on judgment day.

Therefore, we are commanded to come into the Light. Enter the presence of Christ through prayer and Bible study. Attend church. Join a church. Accept the Lord as your Savior if you haven’t already, and allow Him to cleanse you with the light of his word.

Finally, the Light gives us life more abundantly. The scripture tells us that night will never fall in Heaven, and we will live in the perfect light given by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Every description of Heaven is one of paradise. No pain, no sickness, no conflict. Just perfect peace and prosperity. This is the Kingdom we anticipate, and to which we look forward.

We have hope of entering this Kingdom because Christ died for our sins on the cross, then rose again the third day. Just like those beneath the lights of the Ballpark in Arlington, we, too, will enjoy the good life.

John 1:5 tells us that the light shines in darkness, and that the darkness couldn’t comprehend, or overtake it. As certain as flipping on a light switch drives the darkness from a room, the Lord’s final victory, and our glorification, is certain. So continue to trust the Lord, believe in the hope that He brings, and look forward to His Kingdom.

For what it’s worth, I did eventually get to go to a Texas Rangers game. I won tickets in 1996, and watched an afternoon game where the Rangers blew a 5-3 lead to lose to the Twins 9-5. Still, it was a fantastic experience.

–Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Sunday, He will bring a special Christmas message from Isaiah 9. Sunday School begins at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Life Point meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX. 

Walking in Darkness

Austin

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

-Isaiah 9:2

Are you afraid of the dark?

When I was a kid, I had to have a nightlight if I were to go to sleep. My favorite nightlight projected an image of Scooby Doo on the ceiling in my bedroom. I could lay in bed, look up at Scooby Doo, think about all the adventures he went on with Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma, and drift off into dreamland in a happy state of mind.

Without a nightlight, my mind would focus on the uncertainty of what all was in my room, invisible due to the total darkness. I imagined things, and even though I knew that ghosts and goblins weren’t real, I was still unsettled by the total darkness in my room.

Darkness can be a terrifying thing. It certainly robs the law-abiding man of security, provides cover for criminals, limits visibility and can be a factor in accidents and injuries.

Scientific studies have shown that overexposure to darkness can lead to depression, as suicide rates increase during the winter time, and overnight workers can suffer physiological effects if they don’t get to spend a day in the sun. For this reason, prisons are required to provide rec time, outdoors in most cases, for their inmates.

Just like physical darkness can lead to fears, emotional problems and physiological ramifications, spiritual darkness is a detriment to the soul.

Spiritual darkness is the condition experienced when a person lives outside of God’s presence. This occurs when a person takes up a lifestyle of sin, preoccupation with the occult, or denies the presence of God in the first place. While this does not always lead to a person living in pain and misery, it always degrades their spiritual health.

The resulting condition includes increased sinful activity, more severe sin, the consequences thereof, and a time of hopelessness.

Such was the case in Israel in Isaiah 9. The people had lived for generations in sin and idolatry. As time progressed, the nation lost territory to invading armies, saw their sovereignty diminished, their economy flounder, their society degrade, and national optimism evaporate. Israel was in a dark place.

I remember a time in my life when I lived in a dark place. It was back in college, and my life had become consumed by revelings, satanic rock music (I was into the weird stuff), dark movies, and to a certain degree, substance abuse. This not only messed up my thinking, but also led me to a dark and hopeless place, until the Lord reached me through the work of some really dedicated preachers, ministers, Christian workers, evangelists and just all-around good people.

Christ shined His Light into my life, and saved me. Likewise, He shined His Light into Israel to redeem them.

Just as the porch light can be a welcome sight for a man traveling home by night, or a Scooby Doo nightlight can be a comfort for a young child, the Lord gives us hope through His light.

Today, if you are in darkness, it’s time to turn on the light. Come out of that place of hopelessness and despair into the blessedness and hope of Jesus Christ. Turn from your sin, and trust the Lord to save you, for He gave Himself on the cross to save you.

And this Christmas, let’s remember the hope that He brought us, and be looking forward to the Kingdom, city and redemption that He promised us. May God bless you this Christmas holiday.

–Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Sunday, He will bring a special Christmas message from Isaiah 9. Sunday School begins at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Life Point meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX. 

The Star

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I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

-Numbers 24:17

One of the most beautiful parts of the day is sunrise.

Traveling across the Painted Desert in Arizona during the early morning hours on a summer day in 2012, I was blessed to see the sun rise across a colorful horizon. That sight gave me a clear understanding of why they call it the Painted Desert. Each layer of colors, from the orange and red in the sky, to the red and brown along the ground, looked as if it had been hand-painted across the canvassed landscape that lay before me.

At one point, it became hard to tell where the sky ended, and the land began.

There’s a peaceful feeling at sunrise. All the world is quiet, yet a new day begins. A new day brings a new hope, and a new chance to get it right, to make things right, to achieve that victory and to take a new lease on life. The memories of yesterday set with the prior sun.

It is no coincidence that the scriptures that depict the birth of Christ, and the prophecies thereof, discuss a Star that rises, and a light that shines. That new Light rising gives hope, and is the dawn of a new day, a day of redemption, a day of restoration, and a day where we escape the darkness of a cold, cruel world.

The Hebrew word translated “star” in the King James Version of the Bible literally means a blazing light. This Star rising out of Jacob in Numbers 24:17 isn’t a small dot of light that we see in the night’s sky, it is a bright and blazing light rising to illuminate the day.

Christmas is about more than celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s about remembering the hope that He brings, and the deliverance He bought. It’s a time of joy, because it’s a time that we remember the new start He gave us.

May God bless you this Christmas season.

–Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Sunday, He will bring a special Christmas message from Isaiah 9. Sunday School begins at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Life Point meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX. 

 

The Life of Abraham

Abraham’s life was summed up in Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.”

Many people regard Abraham as a righteous man, however, it was his faith that berthed his righteousness. God saw Abraham’s faith, and therefore regarded him as righteous.

Abraham’s faith guided his actions. It was his faith that motivated him to obey God, and to believe His promises.

So, to learn what we can from the life of Abraham, we first have to have a proper understanding of faith. Faith simply means a deep-rooted trust. You not only believe in God, but you believe God! You take Him at His word, and thus you obey Him.

That faith, that belief is what saves you. It’s what gives you hope for the return of Christ. It’s what you express when you give to God. And that’s what Abraham’s faith was all about. We explore those issues in this episode of The Point podcast.

Buying a New Life

WP_20150406_001Have you ever been burnt out? Tired of the same ole struggle, the same day-to-day routine? Need a change of scenery?

We all get burnt out. We all get tired, and we all want a new life. Why else would one of the top-selling singles from the Rock band “Everclear” be named “I will buy you a new life?”

There comes a time in everyone’s life where they want to hit the “Reset” button. Many actually ruin their lives in search of that reset button. They leave their families, file for divorce, leave a steady job and lose opportunities as a result. Many a regret were born out of restlessness.

The secret, however, is that new starts, restarts and resets do not come from the afore mentioned options. All those options do is add problems to your current struggles. That said, is it possible to hit the reset button on life? Is it possible to buy a new life?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to hit the reset button, and it is possible to get a new life, but Art Alexakis of Everclear is not the one who is going to buy it for you. Your new life was already paid for, 2,000 years ago, by Jesus Christ.

Now before you roll your eyes and click away, hear me out. You cannot get a new life simply by running from the one you are in. You get a new life by changing the one you are in. That change comes through Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “If any man be in Christ, He is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” The first key to a new life is to change yourself. Become someone greater. Become something more. Become the great individual that God intended on you being. It’s a change that no one can make on their own. It comes by turning from sin, trusting Jesus Christ as your savior, and by allowing Him to work in your life to form you into the person He intended on you being.

The initial change happens at the point of salvation. The continued change happens as you live out that new life. Romans 6:4 says “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” So, if you are a recovering alcoholic who has repented and given his life to Christ, don’t live the rest of your life the way an alcoholic would. Live your life with your new dream and your new purpose. It’s a conscientious choice you must make daily.

The continued change happens as you allow the Lord to work in your life. Romans 8:28 says “We know that all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Accepting Jesus Christ as your savior does not mean that you will no longer have problems. It simply means that your problems are no longer pointless. They now serve a purpose, whether it be resolving an ongoing conflict, strengthening you for the journey ahead, building your testimony to reach others, or placing you in a position where God will later bless you. All of it will set you up to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So, at this point, God has changed the core of who you really are, and He has forged a hope and faith within you through the circumstances in life. But chances are, when you signed up for a new life, you weren’t looking for conditioning, but rather, a new adventure.

May I welcome you to your new life. If you center your life around the Lord as He forges your faith and your character, new opportunities that once seemed impossible will open themselves to you.

When I was saved, a retired pastor told me that my life would never be the same. I doubted him. After all, I still had a job, I still had bills, and I still expected to go to work at the same place and continue to do so until I die.

Today, I still have a job, and I still have bills. However, God has opened the door for me to play a part in the planting of a new church, and this opportunity has opened doors of which I have never dreamed… from the people I meet, to the radio talk show that I do, to the places I have traveled along the way. Back in November 2002, God literally blessed me with a new life. I am a new person, in a new place, with a new mission. The same can happen for you.

Do you want a new life? Repent and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior. Have you been saved, but a new life never materialized? Rededicate yourself to the Lord, center your life around Him, live out your faith, and watch what happens. May God bless you along this journey.

The Old Coot at the Temple

What seemed like a normal day must have taken a strange turn when the old man approached the young couple to adore their baby. Mary and Joseph were on their way to the Temple to present Jesus to the LORD, as required by the Law of God, when Simeon approached them to praise the newborn Son of God.

We don’t know much about Simeon. This was his only appearance in the scripture. All we know about him is that he was just and devout, and was told by the Holy Spirit that he’d live to see the birth of Christ.

Often, we get so excited reading Luke’s account of the birth of Christ that we dismiss Simeon as just an old coot at the Temple. However, Simeon actually holds theological significance. He shows us exactly who we are to be in Christ.

The Bible says in Luke 2:25 that Simeon was “just” and “devout.” He was just in that the Lord had forgiven his sins based on the future crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He had been declared not guilty because God would cleanse him of his sin. He was devout in that he was devoted to the Lord, and he diligently worshiped Him. Like Simeon, the first thing God wants from us is that we trust Him for salvation. If you haven’t turned from your sins and trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, nothing else matters. Without salvation, everything you do is temporary. If there is any doubt in your heart about your salvation, or your eternal destiny, it’s a good time to do what Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:10, to “give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Repent, ask forgiveness, trust God for salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Questions? Email me at LelandAcker@gmail.com.

Simeon also set an example for us in that he was devout. He diligently worshiped God, which means he placed priority on worship, and he put his energy and concentration into his worship. Often, we can fall short in this regard. Many times, church becomes something we go to if nothing else is happening, and often, when we are in worship services, our minds are elsewhere. Then, we leave, wondering why we didn’t get anything out of it.

God honored Simeon’s devotion by immortalizing him in scripture, allowing him to see the newborn Christ, and then giving him eternal life in the Kingdom. If we are devout, if we place priority on worshiping God, and do so diligently, God will honor that. God wants us to worship.

The last lesson we learn from Simeon is that we, too, ought to look forward to the return of Christ. Luke 2:25 tells us that Simeon was “waiting on the consolation of Israel.” He was looking forward to the arrival of Israel’s deliverer, their comforter. He was waiting on the arrival of Christ.

Scripture also teaches us to be looking forward to the return of Christ. In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul wrote that the Lord would not only give him a crown of righteousness, but also “all them that love His appearing.” Faith can be measured by how much you are looking forward to the Lord’s return. Those who desire the Lord to return soon trust that He will establish His Kingdom on earth and bless us forever. Those who wish the Lord would delay are worried that Jesus will get in the way of something happening in the here and now.

Don’t make the mistake of placing the here-and-now before Christ. Look forward to the arrival of Christ, because his arrival will make your salvation tangible. It will set everything right. We look forward to the day when “the struggle” is over and we can live in peace and prosperity in His paradise.

So, let’s take a few lessons from Simeon. Settle your standing with God, worship him diligently, and eagerly await the return of the Lord. Do those three things, and watch God do big things in your life.

Sight Unseen

Before the oil boom began to expand into West Central Texas, houses in rural communities could be purchased at ridiculously low prices. A man in California, hammered by housing costs, saw a local listing online, called the listing agent, and bought a two-bedroom house “site unseen,” for only $11,000. He didn’t visit, or inspect the property, but he paid cash. He didn’t have to see the house to know it was there, and he didn’t want to risk it being sold from under him by making the trip to inspect the property. While the home did need some repair, he was ultimately happy with his decision.

One of the unique things about the Christian faith is that we believe that which we have not seen. While all religions require the belief in something that has been unseen, the Christian faith requires faith in that which is unseen. What’s the difference between belief and faith? Belief carries the notion of accepting a truth without really trusting it. Faith means you trust something, or someone.

1 Peter 1:8-9 refers to Jesus Christ when it says, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”

The Christian faith is all about trusting someone you haven’t seen. The Christians Peter wrote to had never seen Jesus Christ in the flesh. They were not likely living in Jerusalem, or even alive at the time Jesus carried out his ministry on Earth. Yet, Peter spoke not only of their faith in Jesus, but their love for Him as well. That was what Peter said resulted in their salvation, and their unspeakable joy.

Jesus, Himself, knew that this would be an issue for many people. That’s why He told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen, blessed are those who, having not seen, still believe.” Faith in Christ is rewarded for us because, even though we didn’t get to see Him in the flesh, we still trust Him to save us.

None-the-less, some still challenge this sightless faith. “If God wants us to believe in Him, why doesn’t He just reveal Himself to the world?” That question sounds an awful lot like the Pharisees, who, in Matthew 16:1, demanded that Jesus (who had already healed the blind and disabled, cleansed the lepers, fed the multitudes and raised the dead), provide a sign from Heaven. Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.”

The Bible teaches that those who will not take God at His word won’t believe, no matter what signs are given.

The Christian faith means taking God at His word. Those believers to whom Peter wrote came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the study of the Old Testament (the New Testament was still being put together.) Mainly, their studies showed how Jesus fulfilled the words of the Old Testament prophets, and as a result, they accepted Him as Savior. That’s what Peter referred to in 1 Peter 1:10-12:

Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

The prophets wrote the prophecies God gave them to write, and while they didn’t always understand, they knew the Word was about Christ, and the salvation that would come through Him. Those prophecies, being fulfilled by Christ, made a lot more sense to the Christians in the New Testament, and thus their faith was strengthened by their study of the scriptures.

Romans 10:17 tells us that “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” If you will get into the Bible, read it, and accept it, your faith will grow. However, you must be willing to take God at His word. That is what trust (faith) is all about.

Finally, Faith means looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13 says “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” To gird up the loins of your mind, and to be sober, means to be alert. It means to be aware of what’s going on, and knowing how current events play into the return of Jesus Christ. Our hope, our confident expectation, is the coming of the Lord Jesus. It’s something we look forward to, and something we long for… because it’s his return that will put an end to the struggles that we face. We look forward to the return of Christ the same way a kid in school looks for the return of his parents to take him home.

So, how about you? Do you trust the Lord? Do you take Him at His word? And are you looking forward to His return?

Grace Pointe Missionary Baptist Church meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., morning worship at 11 a.m., every Sunday at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX, 76802. 

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