light

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. 

The Star

golden-bible

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.