Charles Stanley – Christ’s Peace

 

John 14:25-28;16:1-7

Have you ever thought about the society into which the Savior was born? We sing “Silent night, holy night,” but such peace and quiet hardly characterized where Jesus lived. Within a couple of years of Christ’s birth, Herod was feeling quite threatened by reports of the Jewish king’s arrival. His reaction was to order the massacre of every boy in Bethlehem who was 2 or younger. But God protected Jesus by warning Joseph to take his family to Egypt (Matt. 2:13-16).

The violent and dangerous conditions in the Roman Empire didn’t improve over time. Poverty and slavery were common, Jewish insurrections were violently crushed, and public crucifixions instilled fear. In Jesus’ last days before dying on the cross, He delivered a rather confusing announcement to His disciples. First He promised to give them His peace and told them not to be troubled or afraid (John 14:27), but then He added that He was leaving them (v. 28), and they would be hated, cast out of the synagogue, and even killed (John 15:18; 16:2).

From these verses, it’s obvious that Christ’s peace is not a product of tranquil circumstances. This is good news because no matter how chaotic our lives may be externally, we can have an internal sense of serenity through the Holy Spirit who lives within each believer. Jesus called Him the Helper who reminds us of His Word.

That’s why our first response in troubling situations should be to read and meditate upon Scripture. Then as we obey Christ’s commands, His life flows through us like sap from the vine to a branch (John 15:1-5, 10). Jesus described this as an abiding relationship. And wherever Christ’s Spirit abides, there His peace will be as well.

Our Daily Bread — Lasting Peace

 

Ephesians 2:13-19

He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation. —Ephesians 2:14

On Christmas Eve 1914, during the First World War, the guns fell silent along a 30-mile stretch of the Western Front. Soldiers peered cautiously over the tops of trenches while a few emerged to repair their positions and bury the dead. As darkness fell, some German troops set out lanterns and sang Christmas carols. Men on the British side applauded and shouted greetings.

The next day, German, French, and British troops met in no man’s land to shake hands, share food, and exchange gifts. It was a brief respite from war that soon ended when the artillery and machine guns roared to life again. But no one who experienced “The Christmas Truce,” as it became known, would ever forget how it felt and how it fueled their longing for lasting peace.

In Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah we read, “His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). By His death on the cross, Jesus removed the “no man’s land” between us and God. “For He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).

In Jesus we can find lasting peace with God and harmony with each other. This is the life-changing message of Christmas! —David McCasland

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King;

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!” —Wesley

Only in Christ can true peace be realized.

Bible in a year: Habakkuk 1-3; Revelation 15

Insight

Unity is a common theme in the New Testament writings of Paul. Jesus has brought us peace with God and therefore we should also be at peace with each other. In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about peace between Jew and Gentile. Despite the centuries-old separation of the two groups, God in Christ Jesus has “broken down the middle wall of separation” (v.14). In the temple there was a wall beyond which Gentiles could not pass; it formed the boundary of “the court of the Gentiles.” However, Jesus has removed the barriers between God and us and between us and others. Now we all are “members of the household of God” (v.19).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  Telling Stories

 

Frank Boreham’s childhood brimmed with storytelling. They called it “The Hassock Hour,” which came on Sunday evenings and commenced at their mother’s feet. Kneeling on hassocks beside her, Frank and his nine siblings heard storytelling as children that rivaled everything they heard as adults. Their favorite story was one their mother told of herself at seventeen.

She had made plans with her cousin, Kitty, to spend the afternoon at Canterbury Cathedral. Neither had been there before and they were excited about the adventure. But when the time came for their meeting, Kitty was no where to be found. Ten a.m. turned to half past eleven, and Kitty had still not arrived. “I was just about to turn away,” said Mrs. Boreham, “dejected and disgusted, when an elderly gentleman approached me.” He seemed to notice she had been waiting for someone, and proceeded to ask if she would like a tour. “I am deeply attached to the place,” the man said, “and happen to know something of its story.”

This turned out to be quite true. As they moved from point to point, the stories came alive. The man recreated in words the arrival of Augustine in the sixth century, the first archbishop of Canterbury. He described the pilgrims of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the Danes’ disfiguring attack on the noble building. Beside the shrine of Thomas Becket, the grim martyrdom of 1170 came to mind as never before. Mrs. Boreham had discovered adventure after all: “Concerning every pillar and arch, every cranny and crevice, my eloquent guide had some thrilling tale to tell.”

We often speak of the influence of story in our lives. The influence of a storyteller is equally profound, I think. This seems especially clear as the story of Christmas quickly approaches and brings with it childhood favorites, Handel’s Messiah, and traditions with origins we often sense matter even if we can’t identify them. F.W. Boreham long cited his mother’s masterful storytelling as the tool God chose to most shape his own writing and imagination. Her storytelling made visible the wonders of God at work. “The Hassock Hour” brought past and future, story and faith to life for Boreham—much in the way the guided tour brought Canterbury Cathedral to life for his mother. Through the eyes of one who knew the story by heart, both learned to see.

The early church is full of similar testimonies. As Philip ran beside the chariot of the Ethiopian official, he heard a fragment of a story. The official had been in Jerusalem worshiping at the temple, and on his way home he was reading from the book of Isaiah. Hearing this, Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading. “How can I,” he replied, “unless someone explains it to me?” and he invited Philip into the chariot. Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the rest of the story. The one whom Isaiah foretold, the one who would be “led like a sheep to the slaughter,” was crucified in Jerusalem and resurrected to life. Seeing water, the man stopped the chariot and asked Philip to baptize him: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” he said decidedly.

Storytelling is profound because we live our lives in the midst of story. Mrs. Boreham’s encounter at Canterbury invited her to live among a great history of belief and story. In that cathedral, she realized she was simply one among countless pilgrims to stand in awe before the Lord. Likewise, the Ethiopian official found himself a part of the same grand story, invited to life as it reached far beyond the words of Isaiah himself—from Eden to Nazareth to Ethiopia. The stories we tell remind us continually that life is first a story.

They also remind us that there is first a storyteller. When at long last the cathedral tour was finished and they were heading out the great doors, Mrs. Boreham’s guide suggested they exchange cards. She thanked him sincerely for his time and courtesy and tucked the card in her pocket. On the train ride home, she pulled it out. It simply read: Charles Dickens.

Christians tell the story of Christmas, Advent tells the story of Christmas because there is a story to tell. Faith comes through hearing the message, says Paul, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Faith comes forth because there is a story to hear. Faith comes, because where there is a story, there is a Storyteller. Into our small world, there is one who speaks, one who comes, one who is born.

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

Alistair Begg – On Whose Side Are You?

 

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.  Isaiah 40:5

We anticipate the happy day when every knee will bow before Christ; when the gods of the heathen shall be cast to the moles and the bats; when empty religion will be exploded, and the crescent of Mohammed will topple, never again to cast its harmful rays upon the nations; when kings shall worship before the Prince of Peace, and all nations shall call the Redeemer blessed. Some despair of this. They look on the world as a ship breaking up and going to pieces, never to float again. We know that the world and all that is in it will one day be burned up, and afterwards we look for new heavens and for a new earth; but we cannot read our Bibles without the conviction that—

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Doth his successive journeys run.

We are not discouraged by the length of His delays; we are not disheartened by the long period that He assigns to the church in which to struggle with little success and much defeat. We believe that God will never tolerate this world, which has once seen Christ’s blood shed upon it, remaining as the devil’s stronghold. Christ came here to deliver this world from the detested sway of the powers of darkness. What a shout that will be when men and angels unite to cry “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God Almighty reigns”.1

What a satisfaction it will be in that day to have had a part in the fight, to have helped to break the arrows of the bow, and to have shared in winning the victory for our Lord! Happy are those who entrust themselves to this conquering Lord, and who fight side by side with Him doing their part in His name and by His strength! How unhappy are those on the side of evil! It is a losing side, and it is a matter in which to lose is to lose and to be lost forever. On whose side are you?

1) Revelation 19:6

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The family reading plan for December 24, 2014 * Zechariah 11 * John 14

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Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – A Merry Christmas

 

“And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” Job 1:4-5

Suggested Further Reading: Nehemiah 8:9-12

The text gives a licence. Now, ye souls who would deny to your fellow-men all sorts of mirth, come and listen to the merry bell of this text, while it gives a licence to the righteous especially—a licence that they meet together in their houses, and eat and drink, and praise their God. In Cromwell’s days, the Puritans thought it an ungodly thing for men to keep Christmas. They, therefore, tried to put it down, and the common crier went through the street, announcing that Christmas was henceforth no more to be kept, it being a popish, if not a heathenish ceremony. Now, you do not suppose that after the crier had made the proclamation, any living Englishman took any notice of it; at least, I can scarcely imagine that any did, except to laugh at it; for it is idle thus to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Although we do not keep the fast as papists, not even as a commemorative festival, yet there is something in old associations that makes us enjoy the day in which a man may shake off the cares of business, and relax with his little ones. God forbid I should be such a Puritan as to proclaim the annihilation of any day of rest which falls to the lot of the labouring man. I wish there were half a dozen holidays in the year. I wish there were more opportunities for the poor to rest; though I would not have as many saint’s days as there are in Romish countries; yet, if we had but one or two more days in which the poor man’s household, and the rich man’s family might meet together, it might perhaps be better for us. However, I am quite certain that all the preaching in the world will not put Christmas down.

For meditation: Perhaps you are completely opposed to the keeping of Christmas! That is your right! But you can still benefit from the holiday and show the joy of the Lord to those who are going to be with you.

Sermon no. 352

24 December (Preached 23 December 1860)

John MacArthur – The Restriction of Man’s Destiny

 

“But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him” (Heb. 2:8).

God’s original destiny for man was restricted by man’s sin.

God gave man dominion over all the earth, and the earth supplied his every need. All he had to do was accept and enjoy the earth as provided for him. But Adam sinned and Satan usurped the crown. A new chain of command was born: the earth now rules man.

To know how true that is, all you need do is look at the amount of effort expended on restoring the ecological balance of the earth. Environmentalism is a popular watchword of our day. Yet with all our modern technology, we are still unable to gain control over the earth.

Look what happened once Adam sinned: no longer could man easily harvest what the earth provided—now he had to toil by the sweat of his brow (Gen. 3:18). Women would experience pain in childbirth (3:16). Murder soon followed in Adam’s family. God had to destroy virtually all mankind in the Flood because they had become so debauched.

Much of the animal kingdom now lives in fear of man and cannot be tamed. Where once the earth produced good things naturally and abundantly, now it produces thorns, weeds, and other harmful things. Extremes of heat and cold, poisonous plants and reptiles, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, hurricanes, and disease were all products of the Fall. Man was no longer a king but a slave—a dying creature fighting a losing battle with a dying earth.

Amazingly, the earth is aware of its condition: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it” (Rom. 8:20). Now it eagerly awaits for the day when the sons of God, believers, are manifest in the kingdom, for then it will be liberated from the bondage of corruption (vv. 19, 21-22).

There is coming a day, in the wonderful plan of God, when man will receive once again the dominion that he lost. May our Lord hasten its coming!

Suggestion for Prayer; Thank God that He will one day redeem the earth from its subjection to the curse.

For Further Study; Read Isaiah 60:21, 65:25, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:27. What will characterize the new earth?

Joyce Meyer – We Need a Guide

For this God is our God forever and ever; He will be our guide [even] until death. —Psalm 48:14

It thrills me to know that God is our guide through every day of our lives. How wonderful to know that we have Someone to guide us and ensure that we get from one destination in life to the next.

Sometimes when Dave and I travel, we hire a guide to show us the best and most important sites to see. One time, we decided we would explore a certain place by ourselves; that way, we reasoned, we could do what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. However, we quickly found that our independent trip was nearly wasted. We often spent large portions of each day getting lost and then trying to find our way again. We have learned from our mistakes and we now know the best use of our time is to follow a guide rather than wandering aimlessly to find places ourselves.

I believe this example from our travels relates to how most people are in life. We want to chart our own courses, be our own guides, and do what we want to do at our convenience. But we typically lose our way and end up wasting our time. God has promised in today’s verse to guide us through our lives. He does this through the Holy Spirit, who will speak to us and tell us where to go and what to do if we will simply ask Him to lead us.

God’s word for you today: Logos + rhema = wisdom.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Way Up Is Down

 

“But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be a servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave. Your attitude must be like My own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give My life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).

This is another one of those remarkable paradoxes of the Christian life. If you want to live, you must die. If you want to receive, you must give. If you want to lead, you must serve – contrary to the secular emphasis in the area of business, education, government and media. There the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest, prevails. Do not worry about the mangled, mutilated bodies on which you tread as you climb the ladder of success. The important thing is to reach the top.

Not so with Jesus or for those who truly follow Him. The way up in the spiritual realm is down. To command is to humble yourself, then God will exalt you. Take the low seat and be invited to a higher place of honor, because there is strength in weakness and power in serving.

Much emphasis is placed on the importance of building leaders even in the Christian world. However, if we are going to follow the example of our Lord and obey the biblical concepts of leadership, by our attitudes and actions we must become servants. One of the byproducts of serving others is the law of sowing and reaping. The more you serve others, the more God blesses you. If you have a problem with feelings of inadequacy, poor self-image, undue introspection, or depression and frustration, one of the best remedies is to begin to serve others. Give someone else your time, your talent and your treasure. Inevitably, your life will be blessed and enriched and you will become more fruitful as a result of such service.

Bible Reading: Philippians 2:3-11

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will resolve with God’s help to be more of a servant to those around me, following the example of my Lord as one of the keys to supernatural living.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – No White Elephants

 

Legend says actual white elephants were beautiful but expensive and impractical. Owning one would often cause a person to go broke.

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.

II Timothy 2:16

Many families, friends and co-workers have parties this time of year where they exchange a “white elephant” gift. One brings an unwanted present wrapped in beautiful paper, packages and bows to look appealing. Individuals draw numbers and select a gift to unwrap. Laughter is a certain result when the contents are revealed.

Today’s verse refers to false prophets who are “white elephants” of a sort. What they say might sound pleasing but will cause a spiritual bankruptcy by leading people into ungodly living. Everywhere you look, people are being led astray. As you gather with family and friends this Christmas Eve, focus on the true meaning of the season. Read the story of Jesus’ birth. In a society that says love equals expensive gifts, ask God to help you and your family to recognize His truth. Pray for the nation to stop tomorrow and acknowledge the Savior of the world. He is the perfect gift!

Recommended Reading: Luke 2:1-12

Greg Laurie – Why Did Jesus Come?

 

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.—John 10:10

This has been a busy time of year for almost everyone. For us as Christians, it’s been a joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus. We marvel at the fact that God humbled Himself and was born in a cave. But why did He come?

First, Jesus Christ came to proclaim good news to the spiritually hurting, to preach the good news to us.

He came to heal the broken-hearted. Medical science has found ways to reduce and even remove pain. But there is no cure for a broken heart.

Jesus came to set people free who are bound by sin. Jesus came to open our spiritual eyes to our spiritual need.

He came to lift up those who are crushed by life. He came to give us abundant life. Jesus came to lift us from the physical realm of the senses to the spiritual realm to show us that there is more to life.

He came to give His life for us. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He came to die. Jesus Christ came to this earth to seek and save those of us who are lost, just as a shepherd seeks a lost sheep.

So in all of this hustle and bustle, wrapping paper, mistletoe, and brightly colored lights, let’s get down to the bottom line. Christmas is about God sending His Son to die on a cross. He was born to die, to give us abundant life, to give us a life that is worth living.

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from Every Day with Jesus by Greg Laurie, 2013

Max Lucado – God Sent a Savior

 

Christmas cards. Punctuated promises. On this special day, can I share words from my favorite Christmas cards?

“He became like us, so we could become like Him.”

“Angels still sing and the star still beckons.”

“God has given a Son to us. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6)

And my favorite…

“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.”

Merry Christmas everybody!

From In the Manger