Isaiah

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

golden-bible

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. 

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.