Philosophy

Dreams vs. Reality

Each miracle that Jesus performs is simply amazing. From healing the blind man, to feeding 5,000 with just a few loaves and fishes, the miracles of Christ not only amaze us, but demonstrate His compassion upon those who are helpless and hopeless. Furthermore, each miracle has both the physical, and Spiritual application.

Such is the case with the miraculous catch in Luke 5:1-11. In it, Jesus demonstrates His power in a way that catches Simon Peter’s full attention. He makes Peter’s wildest dreams come true, but does so in a way that makes Peter leave them behind to follow the Lord.

Peter was a fisherman. He made his living dragging nets along the bottom of the Sea of Galilee, hoping to gather enough fish to be able to feed his family and make a living in the market place. History records that during the time of Christ, the fishing industry along Galilee was struggling.

If that were the case, the Peter, Zebedee, James and John were likely in need of a great catch. Such a catch had proven elusive, however, as when we find Jesus teaching along the shore of Galilee, the four fishermen were washing their nets after an unsuccessful night.

In reading this passage, we are reminded of the struggle of mankind. Man’s curse, brought on by Adam’s sin in the garden, is that work would be hard, and would pay off only after maximum efforts had been expended. As God told Adam in Genesis 3, “In the sweat of your face will you eat bread.”

The Lord sees this struggle. It’s real. And He’s sympathetic. It’s worth pointing out in Matthew 6:31-33 that Jesus promises to meet those needs for His followers.

After concluding His teaching, Jesus told Peter to take the boat out into the deep, and to cast the net one more time. When Peter did so, he pulled up a net so full of fish, that it filled both boats to the point that they began to sink.

If you read too quickly, you’ll miss what this really meant.

Everyone who goes into business does so with the dream that they will be wildly successful. What generally happens, however, is that the businessman struggles to make ends meet, and constantly has to worry about the consequences of a bad month.

Peter was in business as a fisherman. When Christ provided the miraculous catch, He made Peter’s wildest dream come true, and He placed that dream right in front of Peter.

At this point, Peter has a choice. Stay and count the fish and work out the logistics of getting them to market, or follow Christ. Peter chose the latter.

Peter was a skilled fisherman who built a business and supported a family. However, his purpose in life was not to be a great fisherman. It was to follow Jesus and become the lead apostle.

Dreams are good, and we never fault anyone for pursuing them. However, the lesson we learn from Peter is that our purpose is not always tied to our dreams. However, when we find the path of our purpose diverging from our dreams, what God has for us down the road of purpose will bring us greater fulfillment than our dreams ever could.

This passage gives us an opportunity to reflect on our priorities and make sure they are in line with God’s.

The Incomparable Christ (Luke 4:31-37)

In his book, The Incomparable Christ, J. Oswald Sanders explored the life, character and divinity of Jesus Christ in a way that left the reader in awe after every chapter. It’s definitely a book that should be on every Christian’s reading list.

In the same way, Luke captures the essence of Christ by recording His acts, teachings, and the teachings about Him. In Luke 4:31-37, several amazing attributes of Christ are on full display as He heals a demon possessed man in the synagogue in Capernaum. The three most prominent are the power (authority) of Christ, the vision of Christ, and the compassion of Christ.

The power of Christ is on full display as the demon has to obey the Lord’s command to come out of the man. Christ is so powerful that even His spiritual opponents must obey Him. He has power over all creation, yet He uses that power on behalf of His people.

The vision of Christ is such that He not only sees us at face value, but He sees our hearts, our inner-most emotional workings, our trauma and sin nature, and He sees what we could be if healed. That brings up the third attribute on display, His compassion.

The compassion of Christ is such that, not only does He see our hurts and scars, but He heals them. Physical, Spiritual and emotional healing are available to any who will believe.

Christ really is incomparable. For more, check out Pastor Leland Acker’s message on The Incomparable Christ.

The Tragedy of Balaam’s “Star” Prophecy

Numbers 24:17 is often cited as the verse the Wise Men found that led them to seek out the newborn Christ. While scripture does not confirm that, it is still a prophecy concerning the coming of Christ.

The tragedy of Numbers 24:17 is not in the prophecy itself, but who gave the prophecy. Balaam was not a Godly man, nor was he a man of faith. When he prophesied of the coming Messiah, and the glory of Christ, he did so as an outsider, one who would never experience the blessing of that glory.

How tragic it is to see the glory of Christ, and the blessing of life, and never receive that blessing yourself. It’s like being stuck in a dark place that is surrounded by light.

Light for a Dark World

Isaiah 9:2-7 is one of the more famous Old Testament passages foretelling the birth of Jesus, as that is the passage that contains the words, “Unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given.”

Isaiah prophesied in a time when the nation of Israel (both northern and southern kingdoms) was in great decline. The kingdom was constantly losing territory and cities to neighboring invaders, the economy was crashing, and the nation was in a state of moral and spiritual decline.

All of this could be traced back to the inception of idolatry in Israel, and the nation’s drift toward sin and worshipping idols.

As a result, the nation declined, and God warned of a coming captivity which would correct their sin.

Israel was in a dark place. Times would get darker. Yet, on the other side of the darkness was light, prosperity and joy. In this lesson, Pastor Leland Acker discusses how God takes us through the darkness and into the Light, and how all blessings come through Christ.

Grace, Mercy and Sacrifice in the Christmas Story

Matthew is one of the most fascinating individuals in the Bible. He was a publican who collected taxes from his own people on behalf of an occupying empire. The people saw him as a traitor. The Pharisees believed that he couldn’t go to Heaven. He was a social outcast, and his only friends were the other marginalized individuals of his day: prostitutes, sinners, disabled, and other publicans.

Matthew knew what the religious folks thought about him, and he was well acquainted with their hatred of him. When he held a dinner for Christ, Jesus was criticized for dining at his house.

Yet, Jesus called Matthew to be His disciple, and He called him while he was in the act of collecting taxes. What’s fascinating about Matthew is his rise from social outcast and wretched sinner to being one of the men closest to Jesus. Furthermore, he becomes one of the four authors who wrote an account of the Gospel.

Matthew was a tax collector. He was a financial guy with an eye for detail, and who knew how to find authorization for anything. Thus, as Matthew gives his account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he is careful to point out how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament.

He gets right down to business in chapter 1, as he shows the genealogy of Christ, then records how His birth fulfilled scripture.

Enter Joseph.

No matter how you analyze his reaction to the news that Mary was expecting, he conducts himself with grace, mercy and faith. He was a very faithful man.

Tradition teaches that Joseph believed Mary to have been unfaithful… a rumor dispelled by the appearance of the angel of the Lord. Joseph, being a loving and forgiving man, was willing to give Mary a private divorce and spare her the shame and punishment for her alleged transgression. That is, until the Angel intervened, and Joseph learned the truth and stepped into his role as step-dad to the divine Son of God.

Had that been the case, then Joseph acted with Grace and Mercy. He was gracious in that he showed undeserved favor to Mary, in being concerned for her well-being. He showed mercy by considering a private divorce as opposed to a public stoning. All of these are Christlike attributes.

Despite our sin and rebellion against God, and our betrayal against Christ, the Lord gave His life on the cross to redeem us from sin. He showed grace and mercy in giving us time to learn the truth, to come to faith, and to repent and believe.

We should not only learn about God’s love for us, and realize the grace and mercy He bestowed upon us, but we should extend Grace and Mercy to each other.

However, suppose Joseph knew the truth. Suppose he knew exactly Who the child Mary was carrying was. Suppose he, believing that the virgin would conceive and bring forth a son, decided that he would not defile the virgin. To honor God, he would quietly break-off the engagement so that Mary could live the purpose God had for her.

In doing so, Joseph was giving up what was most precious to him, his beloved wife. That’s sacrifice, which is also a Christlike trait.

Jesus sacrificed the glories of heaven, comfort and adoration in order to live among sinful men, and give His life on the cross to redeem the very people who were mocking Him. He gave up what was precious to Him for our well-being.

From this, we learn how valuable we are to Christ, and we learn that, like Christ, we should not approach life with a “what’s in it for me” attitude, but rather, “how can I help?”

And finally, as we see the angel of the Lord give assurance to Joseph, we see Joseph respond in faith. Joseph’s faith was marked by his obedience to God’s will.

Obedience is an act of faith. Is your faith revealed in your obedience, life choices, and priorities?

There is a lot to learn from Joseph’s reaction to the news of the birth of Christ. May we all turn our hearts to the Lord so that He can transform us, so that our actions reveal the faith He was cultivated within us. God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

Do something!

One of the most common criticisms of the Laodicean church, based on the words of our Lord in Revelation 3, is that they were rich, slothful, and to a certain degree, prideful. They loved their riches, and proclaimed, “I am rich!”

The problem was that their faith was weak, and that faith could only be strengthened by the Lord’s refining process, which involves trial by fire. The Apostle Peter wrote about such trials in 1 Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

The Lord invited them to have their faith refined.

This weak faith that the Lord critiqued led to another situation He addressed, the fact that the Laodicean church was lukewarm. This means that the church didn’t really do anything, and didn’t really stand for anything. It just sort of existed. The picture almost becomes one of a social club. There’s no real celebration of redemption. There’s no concerted effort to advance the cause of the Gospel.

Because this church was lukewarm, the Lord threatened to spew them out of His mouth. He then invited the church to let Him in so that He could fellowship with them.

There are multiple lessons from Laodicea. (1) Trust the Lord and allow Him to refine your faith, even when that refining process brings pain. (2) Stand for something, and do something. Don’t merely exist, do something for the Lord. Take a stand for the Lord. (3) Open the door and allow the Lord in. Fellowship with Him. (4) Don’t be so consumed by worldly things that you neglect your Spiritual condition. That leads to true poverty.

Trust the Lord. Love the Lord. Live for the Lord. God bless you.

The art of self-deception

The scariest verses of the Bible are not the ones where plagues are pronounced and massive destruction happens. The verses that should scare you are the ones where someone entered the presence of Christ thinking they were Spiritually sound, only to find out they were still lost the whole time.

Consider the words of Christ in Matthew 7:22-23:

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Here, you have a situation where people were in the Lord’s presence on judgment day, finding out that they were never saved, and thus stood condemned. They protested, saying they had done a lot of wonderful things for the Lord, yet He proclaimed, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

These people had probably spent a lifetime doing works that looked good on the surface, but beneath the surface were impure motives and sinful desires. Yet, they convinced themselves that, because what they were doing was good, the ends justified the means.

They justified themselves, and placed their faith in their works, rather than the Lord, who would have cleansed them from all unrighteousness, justified them, and received them into Heaven.

But because they justified themselves, they deceived themselves into thinking that they were doing God’s work. Consider the words of 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Without a real relationship with Jesus Christ, without repentance from sin, pride and dead works, while turning toward and placing your faith in Christ, you are still lost. Any “righteous” works that you do will still leave you short of Heaven.

If you assess your life and conclude that you are without sin, you are also performing the art of deceiving yourself.

The lesson learned from Sardis, posted in the video above, is that you can believe yourself to be in good shape, and have a reputation of being a solid, Spiritual person, and still be Spiritually dead.

Heed the words of Isaiah 1:18, bring your sins to the Lord, and allow Him to cleanse you.

God’s patience runs out

The church at Thyatira, like the other churches in Revelation, had a lot of things going for it… but one issue God took was the sin and immorality that was infiltrating the church. God allowed time for those involved to repent, but they didn’t, so the day of reckoning was coming. From this, we learn that now is always the time to repent.

When the church forgets its first love…

In Revelation 2-3, Jesus dictates letters to the seven churches of Asia. These are actual letters written to actual churches who were dealing with actual issues. Our Lord’s words are not to be taken as allegory, but rather teaching in response to certain situations that had arisen in His churches. We are to take the lessons He taught them, and apply them to our lives.

In the first letter, addressed to the church at Ephesus, Jesus praises their ministry and faithfulness, but He takes issue with one thing… they lost their first love. This problem is so serious, it threatened the very existence of that church. So, what was the first love they left? That question has fueled much debate. In this video lesson, we decode the letter to the Ephesians and learn what the spurned first love was.

Stuck? Praise the Lord!

The Apostle John did everything right. He loved Jesus, he preached the Gospel, he ministered to thousands, and spend his entire life dedicated to the Lord.

Yet, he found himself imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos “For the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ,” meaning he was actually imprisoned for doing what is right.

Yet, when we first see John in the book of Revelation, he is in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, meaning that we can be joyful, hopeful, and have faith in any circumstance, and circumstances don’t affect our worship. Check out the above-posted video for part-two of our YouTube series from the book of Revelation.