Category Archives: Bible Study

Lighthouses


outerbanks-horse-lantern

Philippians 2:15 NKJV “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world”

One of my favorite vacation spots is on the East Coast in North Carolina known affectionately as the Outer Banks.  It’s an old fishing destination because of its unique position as a series of islands off the coast that affords it access into the fringes of the Gulf Stream bringing in a wide variety of fish.  There is a natural beauty there and also some man-made wonders such as the lighthouses that stretch along the islands from the south at Cape Lookout to the north at Currituck, including the infamous Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island, and Ocracoke.   I’m sure most of you know the purpose for the lighthouses.  Years ago, mostly in the late 1800’s to early 20th century, the lighthouses served as a warning to incoming ships that they were getting to close to the shore.  The lights guided ships, the crew and cargo along the coast until they reached safety.

Our lead verse from the Apostle Paul’s epistle points toward exactly this same concept.  As Christians we are to be “lights in the world.”  Our light should shine forth so bright that all those around us can see God working in our lives.  As Charles H. Spurgeon points out, “His [Christian’s] conversation should be such that all who are about him should clearly perceive whose he is, and who he serves, and should see the image of Jesus reflected in his daily actions.”  Christians this is one of our roles in life.  To serve as not only an example to each other, but to non-believers alike, we must act as the lighthouses and protect others from the dangerous shores as well as point others towards the shores of Salvation.  Jesus emphasizes these very points in His Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

But there’s more to the verse from Philippians, “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” and there’s more to the history from the Outer Banks.  My vacation destination that I described earlier is usually in the Nags Head area of the islands and this town has a history all to her own.  You see Nags Head gets her name from the pirates that would troll her shores looking for those ships I alluded to earlier.  Those pirates would walk the shores with a “nag”, horse, mule or otherwise, that would have a lantern around her neck or head.  The purpose of this would be to provide a false light and deceive the ship captains into thinking they were following a lighthouse and were safe, but in fact they were falling into a trap leading to their destruction.  Just like the lighthouses pointed toward our role as Christians, the pirates’ deception alludes to the false leaders of the church today.  From a distance, they too look safe and look like their light is shining just like those true followers of Christ.  But just like the ships of old that followed the false light of the “nags head”, without proper discernment and guidance, once you get too close it’s too late to turn back and a shipwreck is imminent.

Brethern throughout the history of the church there has been deception of great magnitude.  The best deceivers always manifest themselves as purveyors of truth and light, but in fact their deception is more dangerous than the shallow shores of the coast, because their path leads to eternal destruction.  Today is no different, in fact Scripture tells us in the last days these deceptions and deceivers will increase in number. (Matthew 24:11) This has never been more evident than now and it’s so critical to test everything (I Thessalonians 5:21) and pray for the discernment of the Holy Spirit that we might be able to follow the true lighthouses of the world and not the deceivers of light.

“The wreckers of Satan are always abroad, tempting the ungodly to sin under the name of pleasure; they hoist the wrong light, be it ours to put up the true light upon every dangerous rock, to point out every sin, and tell what it leads to, that so we may be clear of the blood of all men, shining as lights in the world.” Charles H. Spurgeon

Additional Study:   Proverbs 2:1-22     Proverbs 15:21      Philippians 1:9

By Faith We Understand; By Faith We Live

Imperative to a Christian’s salvation is our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  We know this truth as detailed in the key verses of Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”  But our faith does not stop here, it only begins.  It’s from this faith step that each subsequent step of faith begins.  It’s through this faith in Jesus Christ that all faith must reside.  Hebrews 11:1-2 NKJV tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”  In this passage we have the assurance of the faith referenced in Ephesians, a guarantee of eternity in Christ Jesus.  The second verse of the passage describes to us that faith doesn’t occur at a particular point in our life, but it is a process by which we live the rest of our lives and through that faith, we provide a testimony to others.  It’s in this verse that the author points to the titans of biblical history and their great faith in God that carried them through their lives.  For it is, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 And it is by faith that we are to live, like the elders of the ancient days:

By Faith Abel offered sacrifice…

By Faith Enoch was taken up…

By Faith Noah prepared an ark…

By Faith Abraham was tested…

By Faith Sarah conceived…

By Faith Isaac offered blessings…

By Faith Jacob blessed his sons…

By Faith Joseph gave instructions…

By Faith Moses led the Exodus…

By Faith the walls of Jericho fell…

By Faith the harlot Rahab did not perish…

“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.

 

 

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented- 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
Hebrews 11:4-40

This list is a litany of who’s who in the Old Testament.  Just as the author of Hebrews alludes to, no doubt he could go on and on with great examples of living by faith if time would permit him.

Living by faith is not limited to the Old Testament alone, Jesus makes it clear in His admonishment of the disciples (Matthew 17:19-20) that with faith the mere size of a mustard seed literally anything is possible, even the ability to physically move a mountain.  Why is it that we struggle so much then with steps of faith?  Surely if we faithfully stepped out of the boat like the Apostle Peter to answer Jesus’ call, we too could walk on water (Matthew 14:29-30).

But our nature is sinful.  Our flesh is wrought with sin that keeps us from this perfect faith and that’s why we sink in the water just like Peter.  But there too is hope for us, because like Peter we have Jesus right there with us.  And like with Peter, Jesus reaches down and lifts us up when our faith is weak, that in this moment our faith might be made perfect through Him. It’s in our weakest, most difficult moments when the waves are crashing all around us and the tempestuous sea is at her worst that faith is needed most.  If we would only keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the “Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) how easy it would be for Him to tell the stormy seas, “Be Still” that through it all we might be able to continue to walk on the sea towards Him.

By Faith We Live…

Prayer:  Our Prayer today is straightforward.  Let us follow the path of the apostles who said to the Lord, increase our faith. Luke 17:5 Pray that in all things the Lord increases your faith.  So that it will be by faith you live and by faith that you trust in Jesus.

Additional Study: Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Matthew 14:22-33

Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Come Broken

 

Mark 10:46-52 46And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him on the way.

There are some wonderful hidden truths in the passage above, clearly overshadowed by the amazing miracle that Jesus performs in restoring the sight of the blind beggar Bartimaeus.  These truths are so powerful, they actually describe how we are called to approach the cross.  In verse 47, Bartimaeus gets word that Jesus is heading his way.  Now since he was blind and as a result, unable to work, he had no choice but to sit on the main road to Jericho and beg.  But at this instant Jesus is heading his way and at the moment he hears of Him, Bartimaeus cries out, “Jesus! Son of David, have mercy on me!”  It’s impossible for written word to describe the desperation, the brokenness that he has in his voice as he yells out.  Even as those around him, no doubt a large crowd by now, try to quiet him down, Bartimaeus again yells out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  On a side note, this is a pretty ironic statement by the blind man; we know he is able to recognize the Messiah, through his declaration of “Son of David” while at the same time many of his Jewish counterparts are so blind spiritually they cannot make this recognition.  But it’s his desperation that stands out; his need for Jesus is so great that he’s no longer begging for money or food, but instead he begs for mercy from the only person that can grant it, Jesus Christ.  This is the same posture we are to take when we come to Jesus.  We must come broken, begging for mercy, recognizing the Messiah as our Lord and Savior, the only one who can give us the mercy we so desperately need.

Jesus’ response is so powerful, “What do you want me to do for you?”  I think it’s here we can draw parallel to Matthew 7:7-11

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Jesus has presented him with the ultimate question and all Bartimaeus has to do is ask.  Understandably, given his condition, he asks for his sight to which Jesus’ reply reveals the truths of Matthew 7 as He says, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  The literal translation for this from the Greek text means “Go, thy faith hath saved thee.”  As the passage concludes the scripture gives us one more piece of insight, “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him on the way.”  If we look at this same story in the Gospel of Luke 18:43 we read, “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.  And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”  In both accounts, Bartimaeus doesn’t simply receive his sight then head off in another direction; instead, he follows Jesus on his way.  But in Luke’s account we read that not only does Bartimaeus glorify God, but all who saw gave praise to God.  Through a blind beggar, others were able to see the work of Jesus and give praise to God.

There are so many truths in this important passage that we can apply to our own lives.  The desperation and brokenness of Bartimaeus as he begs for mercy to Jesus, signifies the posture we should take as we approach the cross of Jesus, broken from our sins, crying out for mercy.  Through our faith in Jesus we are made well, literally saved from our sins.  As our Savior, He grants us mercy and gives us the grace we need to continue our journey, but instead of going our own way, we follow Him, now as Lord of our life.  And through the amazing gift of salvation, we not only glorify God, but others are able to see the work of Jesus in our lives, and they too give praise and glory to God.