Charles Stanley – The Shepherds’ Obedience

Charles Stanley

Luke 2:8-20

Since the Savior’s birth was the greatest news of all time, shouldn’t God have announced it to important people like kings and nobles? Instead, He sent His angel make the announcement to insignificant shepherds. They were absolutely awed by what they heard and witnessed—the long-awaited Messiah had finally arrived. Though their message probably seemed strange to others and could have resulted in ridicule, they wanted everyone to hear the good news.

We must become bold like those shepherds. It’s our job to take the gospel to people who haven’t heard, but many believers lack the courage to share their faith. At times we don’t feel knowledgeable enough, and yet we understand far more than the shepherds did. They had this one experience with angels, but we have the written Word of God available anytime we choose to open it. Don’t let the fear of rejection, embarrassment, or inadequacy keep you from sharing the only message that can change someone’s eternal destiny.

Today you probably won’t get a message from an angel, but through Scripture or by an inaudible “whisper,” God still speaks to those who are humbly listening. The real issue is what we do after hearing from Him.

The shepherds left immediately to find the newborn Messiah—just think what they’d have missed had they refused to leave their sheep! Are you quick to obey God’s instructions? By hesitating, you could miss great opportunities. Ready obedience is the key to experiencing the Lord’s plans for you.

 

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Christingle

Our Daily Bread

1 John 1:1-7

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. —John 1:9

In the Czech Republic and other places, the Christmas celebration includes “Christingles.” A Christingle is an orange, representing the world, with a candle placed in the top of it to symbolize Christ the light of the world. A red ribbon encircles the orange, symbolizing the blood of Jesus. Four toothpicks with dried fruits are placed through the ribbon into the sides of the orange, representing the fruits of the earth.

This simple visual aid vividly represents the purpose behind Christ’s coming—to bring light into the darkness and to redeem a broken world by shedding His blood.

In John’s account of Christ’s life, the disciple describes Jesus as the Light of the world. He wrote of Christ: “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9). Not only did Christ the Light come to penetrate our world’s darkness, but He is also “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (v.29).

Think of it! The baby of Bethlehem became the living, risen Christ who has rescued us from our sin. And so John instructs us to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). May all who have experienced His rescue find in Jesus the peace of walking in His light. —Bill Crowder

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in Thee tonight. —Brooks

The newborn Christ-child became the Light of the world and the Lamb of God.

Bible in a year: Zephaniah 1-3; Revelation 16

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Person

Ravi Z

“I’m inclined to suspect that there are very few atheists in prison,” writes Richard Dawkins.(1) In his book The God Delusion, the Oxford biologist sets forth the staggering estimation that post-Christian secular societies are far more moral than societies that operate from a religious foundation. He recounts the horrors carried out in the name of God, moving past the monstrosities of the 20th century at the hands of atheist regimes by claiming their atheism had nothing to do with their behavior. When it comes to behaving ethically, he is insistent that believers are worse than atheists.

British statesman Roy Hattersley, himself a fellow atheist, disagrees. In an article published some time after Hurricane Katrina hit U.S. shores, Hattersley makes some observations about the kind of people doing disaster work long after the disaster has been forgotten. “Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs and atheists’ associations—the sort of people who not only scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil.”(2) His words are bold, even if strewn with typical condescension. He continues:

“Civilised people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and—probably most difficult of all—argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time has come for some serious medical treatment.”

Those who confess the truthfulness of Christianity—and so choose to embody its message—have confounded the world for ages. Throughout the second century there emerged a great number of rumors regarding the curious beliefs and practices of Christians. After all, the leader these people claimed to follow was a criminal executed by Roman authorities. There was thus a great deal of suspicion surrounding the motives and behavior of Christians. Why would anyone follow a man who had been crucified? Why would they choose to die rather than renounce their faith? Why would they treat those who hate them with kindness?

A Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity named Celsus was particularly convinced that Christians were, in fact, insane. The Nativity story, the Incarnation of God in Christ, among other things, seemed to him completely irrational. “What could be the purpose of such a visit to earth by God? To find out what is taking place among humans? Does He not know everything? Or is it perhaps that He knows, but is incapable of doing anything about evil unless He does it in person?”(3)

Similarly buried under insult, Celsus nonetheless had his finger on the very quality of Christianity that makes Christians as curious as the philosophy they profess:  Their God came in person. In fact, they profess, as Celsus claims, God had to come near; though not because God couldn’t speak to us otherwise nor because God was incapable of touching the world from afar. As a Father who longs to gather his children together, God came near because each child matters. God comes to earth—God comes in person, in body, in flesh—because bodies matter, because the Father longs to be near, because one lost, or one hurting, or one in need was one God would not ignore. Insanely in fact, God comes near enough to lay down his life for each of these reasons.

Christmas is about remembering the one who came in person. It is this God who came near and reordered the world, calling us to see life and each other in startling new ways. It is this God who stepped into an ordinary stable to show us God in the ordinary, who touched the unclean and claimed the untouched, whose broken body is given again and again for broken bodies that we might be whole. Our morality, our countenance, our lives are wrought by his coming among us. In each ordinary moment, forgotten victim, and broken soul and body we see the face of God because God first saw us.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 229.

(2) Roy Hattersley, “Faith Does Breed Charity,” The Guardian, September 12, 2005.

(3) As quoted by Origen in the apology Against Celsus.

 

Alistair Begg – A Miraculous Conception

Alistair Begg

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Let us today go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi let us see Him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in Him and can sing, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”1

Jesus is God incarnate, our Lord and our Savior, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire Him. Let us notice at the very first glance His miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a son.

he first promise concerned the seed of the woman, not the offspring of the man. Since venturesome woman led the way in the sin that resulted in paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise.

Our Savior, although truly man, was as to His human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that He may be formed in us, the hope of glory.

Do not fail to note His humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “the virgin,” not a princess or prophetess, nor a woman of influence. True, the blood of kings ran in her veins; and her mind was not weak or untaught, for she could sweetly sing a song of praise. Yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she was engaged, and how miserable the accommodation provided for the newborn King!

mmanuel-God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our daily work, in our punishment, in our death, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.

1 Isaiah 9:6

 

Charles Spurgeon – A Christmas question

CharlesSpurgeon

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Isaiah 9:6

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 2:8-20

Why are we sad? I am looking upon faces just now that appear the very reverse of gloomy, but maybe the smile covers an aching heart. Brother and sister, why are we sad this morning, if unto us a child is born, if unto us a Son is given? Listen to the cry! It is “Harvest home! Harvest home!” See the maidens as they dance, and the young men as they make merry. And why is this mirth? Because they are storing the precious fruits of the earth, they are gathering together into their barns wheat which will soon be consumed. And what, brothers and sisters, have we the bread which endureth to eternal life and are we unhappy? Does the worldling rejoice when his corn is increased, and do we not rejoice when, “Unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given?” Listen yonder! What means the firing of the Tower guns? Why all this ringing of bells in the church steeples, as if all London were mad with joy? There is a prince born; therefore there is this salute, and therefore are the bells ringing. Ah, Christians, ring the bells of your hearts, fire the salute of your most joyous songs, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Dance, O my heart, and ring out peals of gladness! Ye drops of blood within my veins, dance every one of you! Oh! All my nerves become harp strings, and let gratitude touch you with angelic fingers! And thou, my tongue, shout—shout to his praise, who hath said to you: “Unto you a child is born, unto you a Son is given.” Wipe that tear away! Come, stop that sighing! Hush your murmuring. What matters your poverty? “Unto you a child is born.” What matters your sickness? “Unto you a Son is given.” What matters your sin? For this child shall take the sin away, and this Son shall wash and make you fit for heaven.

For meditation: God sent his only begotten Son to be born as a child, so that sinners could be born again and become the children of God. The deepest sadness belongs to all who still refuse to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour (John 1:12-13).

Sermon no. 291

25 December (1859)

 

 

John MacArthur – Recovering Man’s Destiny

John MacArthur

“We . . . see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).

The ultimate curse of our lost destiny is death. God warned Adam that if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die (Gen. 2:17). In the restored kingdom we will be elevated again over a redeemed earth. But the only way that we could ever reign again as kings was to have the curse of sin removed, and the only way to remove it was to pay the penalty of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23).

There’s just one problem: how can we reign if we are dead? We need to be raised from the dead, but we certainly can’t do that ourselves. That’s why God sent Jesus Christ.

To accomplish this great work for us, Jesus had to become a man. He Himself had to be made “for a little while lower than the angels.” To regain man’s dominion He had to taste death for every man. Christ came to die for us because in His dying He could conquer death.

But He was also raised from the dead: “Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:9). How does that help us? “If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (v. 5).

The moment you put your faith in Christ, you are identified with Him. You died with Him on the cross, you were resurrected, and you began to walk in newness of life. You now are a joint heir with Christ in His eternal kingdom.

Christ tasted death for you and me so we could recover our lost destiny. Celebrate that glorious truth as you celebrate His birth today.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Before you do another thing today, praise your heavenly Father for His wonderful plan of salvation.

For Further Study:

Read Isaiah 2:2-4 and 11:6-9 noting the character of our future kingdom.

 

Joyce Meyer – From the Inside Out

Joyce meyer

They tie up heavy loads, hard to bear, and place them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not lift a finger to help bear them.—Matthew 23:4

You and I pressure ourselves and other people when we have unrealistic expectations. We often expect more out of people than they are able to give us. Continued pressure on people we are in relationship with will ultimately cause the collapse of that relationship. God does not want us or others to live under this kind of pressure.

I remember the years I furiously tried to change my husband, Dave, and each of our children in different ways. Those were frustrating years, because no matter what I tried, it didn’t work! We cannot change people by pressuring them or by nagging them. Only prayer and God’s love will work.

As humans, all of us require space, or freedom, to be who we are. We want to be accepted and loved as we are. We don’t want people giving us the message, even subtly, that we must change in order to be “in.” I am not saying that we must accept sin and wrong behavior in other people and merely put up with it. I am saying that the way to change is prayer, not pressure! For change to be lasting, it must come from the inside out. Only God can cause that type of heart change.

Lord, I have tried to change loved ones, and it’s always failed. Show me how to pray for them and to release them into Your hands. Amen.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Is My Helper

dr_bright

“That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, ‘The Lord is my Helper and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me'” (Hebrews 13:6).

Do you and I really exercise perfect confidence that God will help us in our times of need?

The writer to the Hebrews borrows a clause, an expression, used by the psalmist. “The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me” (Psalm 118:7, KJV).

With the Lord as our helper, mere man can do nothing to us or against us except that which God permits (Acts 4:28). Whatever trials we face, the fact remains that God will be our protector and friend in and through them all.

One effective tool of the enemy is to bring up “exception clauses” time and time again. “My God is able to do anything, but…I’m not quite sure of His interest and/or power in this particular situation.” “I know He can help me, but it may not be His will at this particular time or in this particular case.”

In the face of God’s power, mere man begins to look pretty small, and that is just the way God intends it to be. He wants to give us confidence that He is able for every need we have: large, small or medium. None is too large, none too small for Him.

Bible Reading: Psalm 118:5-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: “Dear Lord, thank You that You are indeed my Helper. I will depend upon You as never before in living the supernatural life which will bring the greatest possible glory to You.”

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Christmas Easter Connection

ppt_seal01

Today, you may be celebrating Christmas with your family, exchanging gifts, and eating a traditional meal. Perhaps you’re in an occupation that requires you to work. Maybe you’re in the middle of a severe trial of some kind. Regardless of your circumstances, remember why God sent His Son…and how Christmas is really about Easter.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Psalm 148:1

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17) “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) “ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Praise Him for this incredible gift. Pray for the nation, its leaders and troops to see Christ in Christmas. Find joy in expressing Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Recommended Reading: Isaiah 53:1-12

 

 

Greg Laurie – Christ the Lord

greglaurie

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” —Luke 2:10–11

The angel began that wonderful announcement to the shepherds with, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. . . .” Maybe you are suffering today. You might find yourself wondering, Where is the joy? But what is the joy about? Is it about an opportunity to go shopping? Is the message of Christmas “Let it snow?” No, it is, “Let us worship.”

The angels’ visit to the shepherds became the first Christmas celebration. It’s as though heaven and earth were celebrating it together, as though a portal to glory had been opened up. These shepherds saw the supernatural world, the heavenly world. On that first Christmas, there was a big celebration in heaven and on earth over the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have a Savior: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). That is the most important thing. We have a Savior who came to save us from the power and penalty of sin. Whatever you are going through in life, remember this: you have a Savior. He has put your sins as far away from you as the east is from the west.

Christ means “anointed one.” Another word for that is Messiah. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to send His Son as the Messiah. This is a simple reminder that God keeps His promises. God said that He would send a Messiah, and the Messiah came.

Lord means that we have a sovereign God who is in control of our lives.

So set aside the things you have become preoccupied with and remember that you have a Savior. You have a Lord. You have a Christ. And you have His promises.

 

Max Lucado – God Sent a Savior

Max Lucado

Every Christmas I read this reminder that came in the mail several years ago. If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.

But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior!  Christmas cards. These punctuated promises. Phrases filled with the reason we do it all anyway. He became like us, so we could become like him. Angels still sing and the star still beckons.

Isaiah 9:6 proclaims, “God has given a son to us. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God. Prince of Peace.”

Ah, the wonder of it all is that He loves each one of us like there was only one of us to love!

From Grace for the Moment