Philosophy

What the Perfect 21st Century Christian is Missing

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If you were to live up to every idealized qualification of the modern American Christian, what all would you do today? When we think of the ideal Christian, we often think of someone who:

  • Has a daily devotion time.
  • Has a daily prayer time.
  • Fosters/adopts children.
  • Donates time and money to charity.
  • Advocates for righteous political causes.
  • Reads daily devotion blogs, parenting/marriage websites, and attends seminars.
  • Active in church.

All of these are good things, and we do not want to discourage anyone from doing something that brings them closer to the Lord, or something that brings fulfillment and joy. However, if these things distract us from our main calling in Christ, then we are not only missing the point, we are drifting away from Him.

In Mark 9, Jesus told His disciples that some would live to see the Kingdom of God come with power. That must have been exciting news for the disciples, knowing that they stood a chance of seeing God’s glory, and having their faith validated.

The next few verses describe how Jesus then took Peter, James and John up into a high mountain, and as they were there, Christ took on His glorified form and proceeded to have a conversation with the resurrected Moses and Elijah.

These three disciples were not only witnessing the power and glory of God, but they were seeing two of their biggest Bible heroes in person. It had to be an awe-inspiring moment.

Caught up in that moment, Peter started talking.

“Master, it is good for us to be here. Let’s build three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

It was at that point that the Bible tells us that a cloud overshadowed them all, and the voice of God spoke, “This is My beloved Son, Hear Him!”

Poor Peter had a habit of engaging his mouth before his brain was in gear, but who could blame him for his excitement. We can all understand his desire to treat Moses and Elijah with respect. However, in building tabernacles to them, as well as Christ, Peter was inadvertently proposing to elevate Moses and Elijah to the same level as Jesus. That was a mistake that God corrected.

Moses and Elijah represented the Old Testament Law and Prophets. Those were the scriptures that children learned and adults were taught to live by. While there was a lot to learn from the scriptures, it must be remembered that the scriptures testified of the redemption and salvation that would come through Jesus Christ.

Today, the story of the Bible, from beginning to finish, is about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation according to the scriptures. That Gospel is the turning point of human history, and the foundational belief of the Christian faith.

With all the expectations thrown on us today, and all the different books, podcasts and TV shows vying for our attention, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, and get so busy that we lose sight of God’s love for us. Nothing could be further from God’s will.

If the perfect 21st Century Christian has lost sight of God’s love for him, then he is missing the one thing God wants for him. He is missing a blessed assurance that God loves him, and will welcome him into His Kingdom.

The more we understand this love, the more at peace we will have, and the more effective we will be in Kingdom work.

So take time and rest in God’s love today. Focus on what He has done for you, and turn to the scriptures for a fuller understanding.

Where’s the Joy?

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In an epic rant on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, comedian Louis C.K. lamented that, “Everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy.” In his rant, Louis C.K. noted advancements in technology, travel, credit availability and prosperity, yet the country as a whole was in a pretty foul mood.

Indeed, over the past 240, God has prospered America, yet America is not happy. We can have face-to-face communications via Facetime with loved ones overseas. We can fly across the entire country in five hours. We can access any tidbit of information known to man within a few seconds. Literally, the collective knowledge of man is cataloged by Google, and easily accessible from the smart phone you keep in your pocket.

Economically, there are ebbs and flows. Yet, the trend is for businesses to expand, consumers to buy more, and employment is readily available for most. Those who are entrepreneurially minded can check market demands and easily connect with prospective customers via the internet, which has leveled the playing field between the upstarts and major corporations.

Thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, we can now stream our favorite TV shows when we want to. No longer must we set an appointment for Thursday nights.

Everything’s amazing, yet nobody’s happy.

Television shows endless scenes of protest, controversy, and news personalities drone on and on about the President’s tweets, and the political fall out thereof.

While Fox News may promote rising stock prices and lowering unemployment rates, no TV news network seems to want to tell the stories of the overcomers. Instead, every injustice is pointed out and inflated to foment conflict and division, which are good for politics and ratings.

Thus, the general public consumes this inflammatory content, then goes to social media to air out their frustrations. Thus, online arguments start, people continue to visit social media to participate in the argument, and online media numbers rise.

30 years ago, the general public had little opportunity to weigh in publicly on the issues of the day. Today, there are ample opportunities to do so.

Everything’s amazing. Nobody’s happy.

Today, our nation finds itself in a similar position as Israel did in Isaiah 9.  In Isaiah 9:3, the Bible says, “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy.”

Over several hundred years, God prospered the nation of Israel. He brought them out of slavery in Egypt, cared for them as they wandered as nomads in the wilderness, and conquered the promised land for them. Once in the promised land, God prospered them with bountiful harvests, and a strong economy.

When Israel demanded that God give them a king, He provided them with strong kings who led the nation further into prosperity, and defended them against enemy invaders.

Under King Solomon, Israel reached the height of its prominence, strong not only in national defense, but also becoming a superpower.

God multiplied the nation. He gave them increase, yet their joy did not increase. Despite God’s blessings, Israel remained discontent. Discontent over the financial sacrifice made to build the temple, over God’s restrictions from engaging in the sinful conduct of the heathen nations around them, and discontent with the traditions they were given.

In their discontent, they squandered the blessings God had given them, divided the nation, turned to idolatry, and brought about destruction in their society. God had multiplied the nation, but the joy was not increased.

Everything was amazing. Nobody was happy.

Dark times had enveloped Israel. Yet, all hope was not lost.

In Isaiah 9:2, the Bible 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.”

Though Spiritual, emotional and cultural darkness covered the land, people were beginning to see a light. Despite the sin and rebellion within the culture, God was shining a light upon them.

This Light was Jesus Christ, as the Bible foretold in Isaiah 9:6-7:

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. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Through His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ offered light in darkness. He offered deliverance from the darkness of the day by showing the eternal nature of things, and putting the things of this life into perspective.

He offered deliverance from hopelessness by offering salvation. He purchased salvation by dying for our sins on the cross.

He confirmed our hope by rising from the grave and ascending to be at the right hand of God, where He ever lives to make intercession for us.

In Isaiah 9, God promised to redeem Israel from darkness through His only begotten Son. This promise is passed on to us in the New Testament.

In his rant on Late Night, Louis C.K. said that the demise of capitalism would probably be good for us.

“I think we need a few years of walking behind donkeys with pots clanging,” he said, as O’Brien added, “It’ll kind of put things back in perspective for us.”

Yet, the solution for our national situation, and our personal situation, is not poverty. An economic collapse may get our attention, but will not solve our problems in and of ourselves.

The solution for the darkness of our current generation is simply to see the Light. To turn to the Lord, put everything into perspective, have an eternal mindset, and quit looking for fulfillment in temporary earthly things.

If we do this, everything will be amazing, regardless of economic conditions, and we’ll be happy.

If seeing meant you’d have to believe, would you still want to see?

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In 1995, Joan Osborne took center stage on the American Rock and Pop charts with her break-out hit, “One of Us,” a song that explored the idea of God coming down to earth to live life as a common man.

Osborne’s vocals in the song were a higher-pitched, soft approach meant to mimic the innocence of a child’s questions about God. It may not have been the intent, but Osborne’s song opened the door for theological discussion, much of which centers around the fact that the premise of the song, God living with us, was fulfilled by Jesus Christ approximately 2,000 years ago.

Among the many questions and thought provoking ideas, the song asked one pointed question, “If God had a face, what would it look like? And would you want to see, if seeing meant that you would have to believe?”

Would you be willing to see God if it meant having to believe on Him, on Jesus, and trust Him to the point that you would give your life to Him? Would you receive a sign from God if it meant you would have to repent?

Or is it easier to remain in darkness, stay in doubt, and numb your Spiritual perception with plausible deniability.

This question was put before King Ahaz in Isaiah 7.

The Kingdom of Judah was under seige from the northern Kingdom of Israel and Syria. Through the prophet Isaiah, God told Ahaz, King of Judah, that He would not allow this assault to stand. He then added this caveat, “If you will not believe, surely you will not be established (strengthened).”

Basically, God told Ahaz that He would stand up for him and fight for him, but if Ahaz did not believe, it would do him no good. Then, God put forth an offer in Isaiah 7:11, “Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.”

Here, God offered something to Ahaz that He hadn’t offered to anyone else. God was willing to confirm His presence, existence and love to Ahaz by giving a miraculous sign… and the sign could be anything Ahaz requested, either in the height above or in the depth below. Essentially, Ahaz was handed a blank check.

Ahaz was given the choice… see God and believe? Or refuse to see God and reject Him.

In Isaiah 7:12, Ahaz said, “I will not ask, neither will I tempt (or test) the LORD.”

Ahaz did not want to see, because he did not want to believe. And thus, the words of Jesus Christ were fulfilled in him, when Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that Light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).”

Ahaz’ rejection aside, God promised a sign.

“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us).” – Isaiah 7:14.

Though Ahaz rejected God and refused His sign, though Ahaz did not want to see, because he did not want to believe, God would send a sign, His only begotten Son who would be born of a virgin.

And while Ahaz did not live to see it, Christ was born. Being the Spirit of God indwelt in a body of flesh, the world got to see God take on the form of man and live life as a commoner. He lived, worked, suffered, struggled, hurt, mourned, grieved, prospered, and faced the same issues in life we face. Thus Hebrews 4 says He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

After living the life of a commoner, and relentlessly traveling, preaching, teaching and healing, Jesus went to the cross where He died for our sins, clearing us of the guilt and blame, was buried, and rose again the third day, conquering death. This was done in full view of thousands, with many writing personal accounts of the Gospel, four of which are recorded in the New Testament.

Joan Osborne’s question has been answered. The sign offered to Ahaz was given. The question is, do you want to see Jesus for Who He is? Do you want to believe? Or are you willing to ignore Him, in the hopes that plausible deniability will deliver you?

It won’t.

See. Believe. And watch God transform you.

Wanna Get Away?

 

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Let’s face it. Sometimes we just need to hit the “pause” button on life, and get away. Whether our escape is hopping a flight to LA for the weekend, engrossing ourselves in a good book, or an evening of Netflix, our need to escape the pain of life is real.

Unfortunately, our retreat into a good book, movie, or even a road trip often amounts to little more than a temporary distraction from what truly bothers us. While we have temporarily redirected our minds, we have not truly escaped what ails us. Hence, when the book is finished, when the movie ends, and when the road trip is over, we once again find ourselves discouraged by our present situation.

You see, when books, Netflix and travel are our escapes, we never truly take refuge. We merely trick our minds into ignoring our problems for a few hours. The peace and happiness we feel during that time is not real, and we will soon be hit by reality again.

So, what can we do? Where can we truly turn when we need refuge from the trials and tribulations we face on a daily basis?

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

A refuge is more powerful than a distraction. A refuge offers real protection and escape from a problem. If you truly want to escape from and solve a problem, scripture says there’s one place you can turn. The Lord.

The Lord is our refuge. The Lord offers us true escape from the problems we face. All too often, we forfeit the true peace God can offer us by turning to mere distractions instead. God offers true deliverance from life’s problems, and He offers the strength to endure them. To learn more about obtaining peace from God, listen to Pastor Leland Acker’s sermon below:

Who Is This Jesus?

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In the Gospel according to Mark, scripture demonstrates who Jesus is by showing us what Jesus did. Throughout the book of Mark, you can see the various attributes of Christ, from His compassion, to His love, to His righteousness. You also see His power and His authority.

Mark continually demonstrates who Jesus is, culminating in two questions Christ asked His disciples in chapter 8, “Whom do men say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”

Those questions forced the people, His disciples, and even us today, to consider and understand Who Jesus Christ of Nazareth is. Indeed, this question has gripped the world since His crucifixion, when even the Roman centurion confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Who is Jesus of Nazareth? Why is He addressed as Jesus Christ, and sometimes Christ Jesus? Is Jesus the Christ? And if so, what is the Christ? These questions are answered in Mark 8.

When Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am,” the disciples gave several answers. Some said that Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptist. Others said He was the reincarnation of Elijah. Yet others believed He was one of the Old Testament prophets risen from the grave.

King Herod believed that Jesus was John the Baptist, risen from the grave to exact justice for his murder. Others in Jesus’ day believed He was a revolutionary, sent to overthrow the Romans.

The debate over who Jesus is continues to this day. Muslims believe He was a prophet. Many Jews believe He was a man of wisdom. Some believe He was a great teacher. Some a wise revolutionary who changed the world with His doctrines of peace and love. And some deny His existence altogether.

The issue, however, isn’t what others think about Jesus. It’s who YOU believe Jesus to be. Hence, the question Jesus asked Peter, “But Whom do you say that I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

This was a huge confession from Peter. The Christ was the Anointed One God promised to Israel. This Christ would end sin, restore the Kingdom, and deliver the people from Israel. Peter understood, as scripture taught, that Christ would be the Son of God.

In this confession, Peter expressed his total faith in Jesus. The Christ, the Messiah, would deliver Israel. He was the One that the Old Testament foretold, that God promised, and through Whom God’s blessings would come.

Peter’s faith was that God would not only keep His promise, but that He had already kept His promise, and Jesus was the One through Whom God’s promises were kept. In this faith, Peter’s hope was in Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Indeed, our hope is in Jesus Christ, and Christ alone. Our hope for forgiveness of sins, for redemption, for eternal life, is all in Christ.

In Mark 8, Jesus then expounded on Peter’s answer by explaining that Christ must go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, turned over to the Gentiles, and crucified. However, on the third day, Christ would rise from the grave. It was at that point that Peter rebuked Jesus, saying “Be it far from you, this will not happen!”

Jesus then rebuked Peter, calling him Satan, and telling him that he loved the things of man, not the things of God.

Peter’s hope and faith was in Jesus. Peter trusted Jesus in all things, and knew without a doubt that Jesus was the Christ who would come and redeem Israel. Peter was a saved man.

However, instead of savoring the Spiritual salvation and eternal redemption Christ would purchase on the cross, and instead of resting in the love of God and seeing how all other blessings flow from that love, Peter desired the earthly victory of seeing Jesus crowned King, and the Romans overthrown.

Peter was a saved man, but his mind was still on earthly things. He wanted to see his nation restored. He wanted to serve in the King’s court. He wanted to be somebody. Though he were a saved man, his mentality was not really that different than the rest of the world. That’s the mentality that Christ confronted.

Like Peter, we too can become preoccupied with the things of the world. We look to the Lord to deliver us from an overbearing boss at work, or to provide us with the next promotion. We think that if we can just live up to God’s standard, God will bless us with an upper-middle class lifestyle.

We count our victories in terms of checks cashed, promotions earned, recognition given, and status symbols won. A significant amount of Christian literature and Sunday sermons teach that God will reward faith by giving us these victories. But, if checks cashed, promotions earned, recognition and status symbols are what we’re after, then how are we different from the rest of the world? We’re not!

What separates the Spiritual Christian from the worldly Christian, and from the rest of the world, is that we are content to endure whatever state God places us in, knowing that our true reward is when Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom. Our focus is not on this world, but on the next.

This focus brings us hope. That hope is built on the fact that when Christ died on that cross, He took the punishment for our sins. When He rose from the grave, He conquered death so that we can have eternal life.

That’s who Jesus is to us. He is the Only Begotten Son of God who freed us from condemnation by giving Himself for our sins, and rising again to conquer death. Therefore, He is the deliverer who will rescue us from the pain of this world and take us into His Kingdom where there will be eternal peace.

Is Tradition Bad?

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Are church traditions inherently bad? Does a traditional worship service indicate that a church is Spiritually dead? Does a contemporary service indicate Spiritual life?

Or is it the opposite? Does a traditional service demonstrate a commitment to the Word, while a contemporary service indicates a willingness to compromise truth?

To pose these questions is to ignore the one thing that God actually assesses, the condition of the human heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” In all we do, God examines our heart.

We can be the most religious, most progressive, most forward thinking, or most moral people in the world, but if our heart is not right toward God, none of it matters. If our heart is far removed from God, we are at odds with Him regardless of our actions.

No place is this better illustrated than in Mark 7:1-23, where Jesus is confronted over the fact that His disciples do not participate in ritual hand-washing before eating.

In His rebuttal to their criticisms, Jesus chastised the Pharisees for disregarding the commandment of God in favor of the traditions of men (Luke 7:8). This verse, combined with the restlessness of Christians anxious to see change in their churches, has led to many using Mark 7 to attack ALL traditions in church.

Those who see tradition as the problem use Mark 7 to criticize the use of hymnals in church, the presence of pews and not chairs in the sanctuary, the lack of audio/visual aids to the sermon, and even the way others dress themselves. Such criticisms, however, miss the basis for the Lord’s contempt for the traditions of the Pharisees.

In Mark 7:6, Jesus said, “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

The issue was not that the Pharisees had traditions. The issue ran deeper than the fact that the Pharisees elevated their traditions to the same level as scripture. The real issue was that the Pharisees’ hearts were far from God, yet they portrayed an aura of righteousness by hiding behind their traditions.

In learning from the mistakes of the Pharisees, we see that we must evaluate the condition of our hearts. To do this, we’ll apply three tests:

  1. If we are more focused on our own traditions than the Word of God, we have a heart problem.
  2. If our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God, we have a heart problem.
  3. If we express anger, bitterness, illicit lust, or other forms of darkness, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if we are more focused on our traditions than what the Bible teaches. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had the entire Old Testament, with its numerous passages teaching God’s love, grace and redemption. Yet, if you attended a Bible class taught by a Pharisee, you would be more likely to hear a lecture on proper hand-washing technique than you would about repentance and faith.

If our churches are spending more time teaching their viewpoints on Bible translations, politics, financial management or social justice, rather than the Gospel as revealed in scripture, then we are more focused on tradition than God’s word. If that’s the case, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God. That brings up the question, “What is the commandment of God?”

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus said the greatest commandments of God are to love God, and to love your neighbor. Basically, the commandment of God is love.

The Pharisees abandoned the idea of loving one another when they challenged who was actually one’s neighbor, and when their tradition of Corban allowed them to neglect their aging parents. The Pharisees failed to follow God’s commandment to love, and this was expressed in how they observed their traditions. But make no mistake, their heart was the problem.

If our traditions hinder our love toward God, or our love to others, we have a heart problem. If we see people as the problem, different groups as opponents, or disdain those who don’t meet our expectations, we have a heart problem.

Finally, if we express darkness in our lives, it’s an indication that we have darkness in our hearts. Jesus explained that our problems have more to do with what’s going on inside us, rather than what happens around us. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus said:

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

If we find ourselves focused on evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications (sexual immorality), then we have darkness in our hearts. If we hate someone to the point that we’d like to kill them, if we desire to steal, or if we desire others’ possessions, we have darkness in our hearts. If we rebel against God, we have darkness in our hearts.

That darkness within our heart is the problem. That’s what separates us from God. How we treat our traditions are merely the symptom.

Once we learn to examine our hearts, we can correct our thinking to return us to where God wants us. God wants us to learn from His Word, love others, and express the righteousness He has placed within our hearts. When we follow this plan, we’ll be too busy glorifying Him and reaching others to be concerned with what color the carpet in the sanctuary is. That will be a beautiful day.

Love Means Endurance

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One of the most profound statements made in the Bible is found in 1 Peter 2:21, “For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.”

In essence, this verse teaches us everything we need to know in relation to Christ, and in our relationships with each other.

Christ suffered for us. He was arrested, mocked, beaten, flogged, scourged, rejected, then nailed to the cross, where He suffered the wrath of God for our sin, clearing us from a debt owed to God that we could never be able to pay, thus purchasing our eternal salvation and giving us the confident expectation that one day we will enter His Kingdom.

For that reason, we live with hope, we gather as a church, we teach our children and we minister to our communities. “For hereunto were we called,” for this purpose, and as a result of this.

It is in that context that Peter gives us marital advice in 1 Peter 3. 1 Peter 3:1 says, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.”

That verse starts with “likewise,” which refers back to 1 Peter 2:21, “that Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.”

Basically, like Christ suffered for us, we should be willing to suffer, or better yet, endure for each other. Peter’s call for wives to submit to their husbands in 1 Peter 3 differs from Paul in that Peter acknowledges that this can be rather difficult, especially if the wife is married to a non-believer or an idiot.

He is saying, “I know it’s difficult, but Christ suffered and endured for you. You can in turn glorify Him by enduring with your husband.”

Furthermore, Peter writes that by enduring with (suffering) your husband, you can actually win him to the Lord, just as Christ redeemed us through His suffering.

*NOTE: This is assuming that this is a safe marriage. This verse neither justifies abuse, not encourages a woman to remain in an unsafe situation.*

You see, when we love, suffer for, and endure with each other the way Jesus suffered for and endured for us, then good things happen. In 1 Peter 3:5-6, Peter points out how Sarah did the same thing, when she obeyed Abraham, calling him, Lord. As a result, she gave birth to Isaac, who fathered Jacob, who fathered the nation of Israel, from which Christ was born. God’s promises to Abraham were fulfilled because Sarah obeyed him, even when Abraham acted like a fool.

When we trust the Lord, good things happen. When we trust the Lord enough to love one another as Christ loves us, really good things happen.

After addressing the wives, Peter addresses the husbands, saying in 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Again, that word, “Likewise.” Husbands get a double-helping of “likewise.” Peter was saying, “Like Christ suffered for you, and like your wife continues to suffer with and endure with you, dwell with her!”

When Peter said to “dwell with our wives according to knowledge,” he meant more than sharing the same address and roof. To dwell with our wives according to knowledge means to live with, do life together, get to know, become more intimate with, understand, and fully love our wives. This is something a husband should want to do, if he loves his wife as Jesus does.

However, our flesh does not love as Jesus loves. Therefore, men find it just as hard to “dwell” with their wives as wives find it to “be in subjection” to their foolish husbands. Wives would rather handle business than watch their husbands bungle it, and husbands would rather talk to solve a problem rather than communicate to connect. Therefore, scripture must teach us to go against the flesh and do that which takes a little more effort. Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, and husbands, dwell with your wives.

“Giving honor unto the wife as the weaker vessel” simply means to cherish her as you would a fragile, priceless antique. We should want to love, cherish, protect and spoil our wives.

Yes, it can get exhausting, which is why Peter gives us the suffering of Christ and the patience of wives as examples.

Finally, Peter discusses Christians at large. In 1 Peter 3:8, we are commanded to “be all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”

This verse teaches us to be unified, gathering together around our common belief of Jesus Christ as our savior, and our faith in the redemption He purchased for us on the cross. Doing this, we should be compassionate and sympathetic to one another, and love one another.

This may seem like a tall order, but Christ loved us before any of us were lovable. So should we love one another.

All of these concepts are premised upon us loving each other as Christ loved us. Such glorifies the Lord. Are we willing to learn to love each other, endure with each other, and work to help and edify each other. May God bless you.

Through It All…

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Life had been no bed of roses for the Apostle Peter. He had witnessed firsthand the arrest of Jesus, was stopped when he tried to defend Him, saw Jesus carried away to trial, and ultimately watched from a distance as Jesus was crucified.

Earlier, Peter had proclaimed his love and commitment to Jesus, saying that he would fight and die for the Lord, (and to his credit, he tried). Jesus replied by telling Peter that he would deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed. It happened.

Faced with accusations and pressure from those around him, Peter told the crowd that he didn’t know Jesus. The rooster crowed. Peter’s heart broke, and he went out and wept bitterly. He failed. He failed the Lord. He failed himself.

Peter would go on to be imprisoned, sentenced to death, and ultimately executed for the Lord. Yet, through it all, Peter praised the Lord, and proclaimed His goodness. In the midst of so much suffering, how could Peter say that the Lord is good?

Because through it all, Peter saw the blessings that the Lord showered on him.

In 1 Peter 2:1-3, Peter wrote:

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Focus on that last part, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” In other words, “If you have experienced the graciousness and goodness of the Lord, do this!”

Peter told his readers that if they tasted (experienced) that the Lord is gracious, lay aside all malice, deceit and hypocrisy, and desire the sincere milk of the Word. The sincere milk is the Gospel, God’s love expressed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins according to the scriptures.

If we have tasted that the Lord is good, if we have experienced His salvation and His love, then we should desire the teaching of the Gospel from the scriptures. We yearn to be comforted by reminders of God’s love toward us, and the redemption we have through Jesus Christ.

You see, the central theme of the Bible is the Gospel, Christ dying for us to redeem us, and giving us eternal life through His resurrection. The deeper you dig into scripture, the more you find the Gospel, the deeper understanding you have of the Gospel, and the Gospel becomes sufficient for your happiness.

But how can Peter, who saw so much suffering in his life, say “The Lord is gracious?”

If all I told you about Peter was how he saw Christ die, how he denied the Lord, how he was beaten and imprisoned for the Lord, then I would have only told you half of the story.

You see, after Peter denied Christ, and after Christ rose again, Jesus appeared to Peter and the other disciples on the shores of Galilee. In an exchange recorded in John 21, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his love for Christ, and Peter did all three times. Jesus then reaffirmed Peter’s call to the ministry, telling him to “feed His sheep.”

As time moved forward, Peter learned to see the Lord’s blessing through all the suffering. He wrote in 1 Peter 1 that the trials of faith refine us like gold is refined by fire. In 1 Peter 2, Peter wrote how the Lord is building us all up together into a Spiritual house, implying that the fellowship that we enjoy as Christians is a gift from the Lord to give us comfort, encouragement, and a purpose. That purpose being to share the good news of the Gospel with the world, and by so doing to see lives changed by the Lord.

Peter concludes 1 Peter 2 by reminding us that the Lord suffered for us in order to save us, therefore we should be willing to suffer for Him to glorify Him and further His Kingdom.

In this life, we have a multitude of troubles. Sometimes, trouble converges upon us from all sides. But peace and Spiritual security come from us learning to see God’s blessing in the midst of the pain. Through it all, God is good.

To learn more about how to see God’s blessings in hard times, and to be inspired to live your purpose, listen to Pastor Leland Acker’s sermon below:

Relax, Jesus Loves You

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If the only gift God gave us was salvation, He went above in beyond in demonstrating His love toward us. But God loves us beyond salvation.

God’s love for us did not end when Jesus went to the cross, it was just beginning. Christ went to the cross to purchase our salvation, then He rose again to give us eternal life in His Kingdom.

This act of salvation was not a momentary act of mercy where God merely offered an escape hatch from His wrath. It was an act of redemption, whereby Christ saved us and began an eternal relationship with us.

The love of Christ goes beyond the cross. His compassion toward us extends in all of life. Scripture says in Hebrews 4 that He was in all points tempted like as we are, meaning Christ has experienced every human trial and temptation that we do. He empathizes and understands.

That being the case, He works in our lives to alleviate our struggles and provide for our needs.

In the message posted below, Pastor Leland Acker discusses how the compassion of Christ prompted Him to give His disciples rest, and likewise He gives us rest.

Where’s the Love? (Mark 6:1-13)

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In Mark 5, multitudes of people are following Jesus. They come to Him for healing and deliverance. A crowd had met Jesus in Capernaum when Jairus came to beg Him to heal His daughter. A woman with an issue of blood came to Him to be healed. Crowds listened to Jesus teach and preach as the One who authored the scriptures they had spent their lives learning.

Yet, in His hometown of Nazareth, the people were unimpressed. In Mark 6:1-13, Jesus returned to His hometown synagogue, and began to teach. His ministry and teaching had stirred up controversy, and the people began to question His authority.

They said things like, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son? Aren’t all His brothers and sisters here? Where did He get this wisdom, and how is He doing these great works?”

Basically, their reaction was, “Who does Jesus think He is? He ain’t no better than the rest of us!”

The people of Nazareth had a front row seat to the arrival of Christ. They watched Him grow. They were told of His virgin birth. They were among the first to hear Him preach, and to see Him work miracles.

Yet, their advantage in seeing Jesus grow up was also their stumbling block. Having seen Him grow up among them, and being home to His carpentry shop, Jesus had become too familiar to them. As a result, they took Him for granted and overlooked His divinity. So, they reacted to His ministry with incredulity.

Jesus was familiar to them. Familiarity breeds contempt, and contempt breeds rejection.

This is a real danger to us today. It is possible for us to become too caught up in the day to day activities of life, and the weekly activities of church, that we forget Who our Lord is.

We can fall into a routine of religious habits, begin living by our works rather than the grace of God, and start thinking that we have somehow elevated ourselves to a place where we have earned God’s favor.

We can get caught up in trying to build a church, expand a ministry, and improve our lot in life that we forget about our Lord, who should be the center of it all.

We can continue this trend until our Lord finds Himself on the outside of the church, and on the outside of our lives, knocking on the door in hopes that we’ll open up, and let Him in. We can forget our first love. (Incidentally, this was the same sin committed by the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, and the Lord threatened to take their candlestick.)

When we do that, we commit the same sin as the synagogue in Nazareth.

We must never forget God’s love, and we must never discount the effect His love has had upon us. We most never forget how His love redeemed us and transformed us, and we must never forget that His love is our primary motivation in life.

In Mark 6, Jesus goes on to send the apostles out two-by-two. They went through the villages, preaching the Gospel, calling the people to repentance, and ministering to their needs by healing them and casting out devils. Likewise, we understand that the Lord has sent us into this world to spread the Gospel of His death, burial and resurrection for our redemption from sin.

It’s a mighty calling, and one God has blessed us with. Our primary purpose as Christians, and as a church, is to publish and preach that Gospel wherever we have opportunity, as the Lord commanded us to “preach the Gospel to every creature.”

Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we are not motivated by God’s love for us, our love for Him, and our love for others, our preaching will be in vain. Furthermore, if love is not our motivation, then our message will stray.

All too often, church social media pages, Web sites and blogs will contain more information about why the church is different, or better, than other churches. Many churches have replaced the message of the Gospel with the message of themselves. In this regard, many church Web pages, social media accounts and blogs don’t differ that much from the local car dealership, furniture store and insurance office. It becomes about branding, and not carrying forth God’s message.

The same holds true for Christian Web sites which debate issues within Christianity (pews vs. chairs, powerpoint vs. hymnals, to politic or not, etc). We spend so much time talking among ourselves and promoting ourselves that we fail to do what God told us to do… to preach the Gospel to every creature. This happens when we forget our first love, Christ becomes a mere theological concept, and we become like the synagogue in Nazareth.

As we wrap up our exploration through Mark 6:1-13, we see the apostles anoint the sick with oil. This is how they applied medicine. The olive oil they used had medicinal qualities, and proper medicine was all but non-existent. The people who came to the apostles were in agony, and the apostles did what they could to alleviate that pain as they preached the Gospel.

These actions reflected the love of Christ. You see, Christ is not only concerned with our Spiritual well-being, He is interested in our physical well-being also. Christ does not merely sympathize with our pain, He empathizes with us.

You see, Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was in all points tempted like as we are. This means that as He lived the human experience on earth, He experienced all the same problems we do. Financial problems. Family problems (His brothers initially rejected the idea that He was Messiah). Social problems (many rejected Him). Rejection. Betrayal. Persecution. Hunger. You name it.

He knows what you’re going through, and He knows by experience.

After experiencing the worst that society had to offer, He gave Himself over to the Pharisees, who gave Him to the Romans, who crucified Him. As He hung on that cross, He endured the wrath of God for the sins of the world so that we can all be spared, if you repent and believe.

The Lord loves you immensely. Not only that, but He is concerned for your well-being also. When the apostles ministered to the physical needs of the people as they preached their Spiritual needs, they reflected the love of Christ.

Jesus loves us. He told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He also told us to love each other as He loved us. May we never lose sight of His love.