Charles Stanley – The Prince of Peace

 

Isaiah 9:6-7

Today’s Bible passage is a Christmas favorite. We love that a child was born in a stable, and that God’s Son was given from heaven. We also derive great comfort from His names—“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (v. 6). But now and then we may wonder why the world is so chaotic and unstable if Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Although this verse is ultimately a prediction of Christ’s future kingdom, the title also reflects His reason for coming to earth 2,000 years ago and His present ministry to us today.

Jesus’ first responsibility as the Prince of Peace was to reconcile sinful mankind with His Father. By paying the penalty for the sins of the world, He made it possible for all who believe in Him to have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). When we receive Christ as our personal Savior, our sins are forgiven and we become members of God’s family. Instead of being His enemies, we become His beloved children.

Christ not only secured our peace with God; He also shares His peace with us (Col. 3:15). This is an inner sense of tranquility, calmness, and quiet trust that is not influenced by circumstances. It’s like the ocean depths during a raging hurricane: The surface is tumultuous, but at a depth of 100 feet, all is at rest.

With the stress and rush of Christmas, serenity of soul is something we all long for, but it often seems fleeting. The only way to have this incomprehensible peace is to let the Prince of Peace govern our lives. When we are under His authority and have our minds aligned with His Word, His peace flows into our hearts and calms our souls.

Our Daily Bread — The Smells Of The Stable

 

Luke 2:15-20

They shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.” —Matthew 1:23

A stable? What a place to give birth to the Messiah! The smells and sounds of a barnyard were our Savior’s first human experience. Like other babies, He may even have cried at the sounds of the animals and the strangers parading around His temporary crib.

If so, they would have been the first of many tears. Jesus would come to know human loss and sorrow, the doubts his brothers and family had about Him, and the pain His mother experienced as she saw Him tortured and killed.

All these hardships—and so much more—awaited the baby trying to sleep that first night. Yet from His very first moments, Jesus was “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), and He knew what it meant to be human. This would continue for over three decades, ending at His death on the cross.

Because of His love for you and me, Jesus became fully human. And being human allows Him to identify with us. Never again can we say that no one understands us. Jesus does.

May the Light that entered the world that night cast its brilliance into the deepest corners of our souls this Christmas, giving us the peace on Earth of which the angels spoke so long ago. —Randy Kilgore

Father, help our hearts to know the

love of Christ and to honor Him

with our unyielding devotion in

this and every season. We love You.

Jesus understands.

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

Insight

The role of shepherd is one of the oldest occupations named in the Bible (Gen. 4:2). Shepherds were deemed irreligious and irreverent, because in taking their flock into the wilderness to find pasture, they could not perform their religious duties at the temple. And being in contact with animals (and dead sheep), they were considered “unclean.” That God would announce the birth of the Savior of the world to a group of shepherds is consistent with Jesus’ mission to save the poor and exalt the lowly (Luke 1:51-53; 4:18). It is interesting that Jesus is both the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and the Good Shepherd (10:11).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –    Everyone Believes in a Virgin Birth

 

In correspondence with an old friend, a retired Princeton University professor, he detailed his objections to the Christian faith. His final remark seemed to overshadow all other considerations and was authoritatively written as if to definitively close the argument: ‘Nor can I believe in a virgin birth.’ Such a belief was apparently implausible, absurd, immature.

Why is the virgin birth often the most problematic miracle to accept? Why is it more troubling than the thought of Jesus walking on water? Or multiplying the loaves?

Perhaps because we are content to let God do as he pleases with his own body, and we are delighted to be the recipient of gifts. However, we are offended by the thought of a miracle that inconveniences us, that has potential to disrupt our plans and our preferences.

I considered responding to my friend with positive reasons for believing in a virgin birth, but then I realized that he was, in fact, already committed to a virgin birth.

We find one virgin birth in the Christmas story:

‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:38).

Admittedly, this is out of the ordinary. But criticism without alternative is empty; a hypothesis is only plausible or implausible relative to what alternative hypotheses present themselves. So what exactly is the alternative?

My colleague Professor John Lennox recently debated another Princeton professor, Peter Singer, one of the world’s most influential atheists. Lennox challenged him to answer this question: ‘Why are we here?‘ And this was Professor Singer’s response:

‘We can assume that somehow in the primeval soup we got collections of molecules that became self-replicating; and I don’t think we need any miraculous or mysterious .‘(1)

Self-replicating molecules somehow emerging out of a primeval soup strikes me as leaving substantial room for mystery. In fact, without further clarification, this theory sounds not dissimilar to a virgin birth.

Or take Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking’s latest attempt to propose an atheistic explanation for our universe:

‘…the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.'(2)

But physical matter doesn’t normally materialize out of nothing, so this account also presents itself as outside the realm of the ordinary. Is this a less miraculous birth than the Christmas story?

 

Or, finally, consider the position of the prominent atheist philosopher Quentin Smith:

‘The fact of the matter is that the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing and for nothing . . . We should . . . acknowledge our foundation in nothingness and feel awe at the marvelous fact that we have a chance to participate briefly in this incredible sunburst that interrupts without reason the reign of non-being.'(3)

That is a refreshingly honest characterization, but again it is not at all clear why a foundation in nothingness should be viewed as comparatively more reasonable than a foundation in God.

The fact is, we live in a miraculous world. Regardless of a person’s worldview, the extraordinariness of the universe is evident to theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. It is therefore not a matter of whether we believe in a virgin birth, but which virgin birth we choose to accept.

We can believe in the virgin birth of an atheistic universe that is indifferent to us—a universe where “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”(3)

lternatively, we can believe in the virgin birth of a God who loves us so deeply that he “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Emmanuel, God with us.

Jesus was born in fragility, like the rest of us. The night before he died, he spoke words that resonate with anyone who has known despair: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). Between birth and death, Jesus knew the experience of weeping at a dear friend’s tomb (John 11:35); he also knew the isolation of having friends desert him and flee when he needed them most (Mark 14:50).

There is a depth of relationship that is only possible between people who have been through the worst together. Because of Jesus—because the one who birthed the universe was also born among us—that depth of relationship is possible with God. That is what we celebrate at Christmas.

Growing up near New York City, one of my most vivid childhood memories of Christmas is of homeless people begging on street corners. I would give some change if I had it, but imagine someone who offered to trade his home for a cold street corner, who, instead of giving a few coins, handed over the keys to his house. Imagine someone “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7).

At Christmas, Jesus literally comes and lives in our home—with all of its suffering and mess and shame—and he offers us the home that it will one day be: an eternal home where ‘[God] will wipe every tear from [our] eyes,‘ where there will be ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain.‘(5) Or, as Tolkein puts it, where ‘everything sad will be made untrue.‘

Vince Vitale is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.

(1) “Is There a God,” Melbourne, Australia, 20 July 2011.

(2) Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design (New York: Bantam, 2010), 180.

(3) Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo 4.2., 2000.

(4) Richard Dawkins, A River Out of Eden (New York: Perseus, 1995), 133.

(5) Revelation 21:4. For more on this topic, see Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, co-authored by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale. Vince wrote his PhD on the problem of suffering. He now teaches at Wycliffe Hall of Oxford University and is Senior Tutor at The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Alistair Begg – Have You Sinned Today?

 

And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.  Job 1:5

What Job did early in the morning, after the family festivities, it will be good for the believer to do for himself before he rests tonight. Amid the cheerfulness of household gatherings it is easy to slide into sinful frivolity and to forget our declared character as Christians. It ought not to be so, but sadly it is, that our days of feasting are very seldom days of sanctified enjoyment but too frequently degenerate into unholy amusement. It is possible to experience joy as pure and sanctifying as a dip in the rivers of Eden: Holy gratitude should be just as purifying an element as grief. Sadly for our poor hearts, facts prove that the house of mourning is better than the house of feasting.

Come, believer, how have you sinned today? Have you been forgetful of your high calling? Have you been like others in using empty words and unguarded speech? Then confess the sin, and flee to the sacrifice. The sacrifice sanctifies. The precious blood of the Lamb removes the guilt and purges the defilement of our sins of ignorance and carelessness. This is the best ending of a Christmas day—to wash anew in the cleansing fountain. Believer, come to this sacrifice continually; if it is good tonight, it is good every night. To live at the altar is the privilege of the royal priesthood; to them sin, bad as it is, is nevertheless no cause for despair, since they draw near once more to the sin-atoning victim, and their conscience is purged from dead works.

Gladly I close this festive day,

Grasping the altar’s hallow’d horn;

My slips and faults are washed away,

The Lamb has all my trespass borne.

 

The family reading plan for December 25, 2014 * Zechariah 12, 13:1 * John 15

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

Charles Spurgeon – A Christmas question

 

“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

 

“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).

Jesus Christ is the only One who could recover man’s destiny.

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

 

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

 

“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. – MERRY CHRISTMAS Your Gift to Jesus

 

Prior to Christmas, parents often receive lists of what their kids want to see under the tree. And most of the time, out of love, parents try to grant their wishes. Since Christmas is actually a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, you may wonder what He wants as a gift.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I Thessalonians 5:18

I Thessalonians 5:12-22 lists gifts that would please Christ. 1. Respect those who labor among you, esteeming them highly in love. 2. Get along with each other. 3. Encourage the fainthearted. 4. Patiently help the weak. 5. See that no one seeks revenge. 6. Seek to do good to everyone. 7. Rejoice always. 8. Pray without ceasing. 9. Do not quench the Spirit. 10. Hold fast to what is good. 11. Abstain from every form of evil. Finally, there’s the exhortation of today’s verse.

In the next few days, beside each item on “God’s wish list,” write a practical thing you can do in 2015. (You’ll find another “wish list” in the recommended reading.) Begin on this Christmas Day by praying for the nation to yield to His will and purpose.

Recommended Reading: I Thessalonians 4:1-12

Greg Laurie – Christmas in Heaven

 

Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. —Luke 2:10

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Christmas is a day of joy. But for me and my family, it is also tinged with sadness, because it is a day when Christopher’s absence is intensely felt.

I have to tell you, Topher loved Christmas! It was always a big deal to him as a little boy, and when he became a father, he wanted it to be a big deal for his daughters. He always was so thoughtful in his choice of gifts and often made them by hand, which was always a special treat for me. He also had fantastic “wrapping skills,” which I am completely devoid of.

On that first Christmas night, while the shepherds kept watch over their flocks, the angel brought this good news: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10).

This is how heaven celebrated the first Christmas. On this holy night, in effect, heaven momentarily came to earth. Heaven and earth are always co-existing, but sometimes they can seem worlds apart and other times separated by only a thin veil. When tragedy hits, when illness prevails, heaven can sometimes seem distant.

But when we join the angels in worship, and see God in His greatness, heaven can seem so very, very close. For us as believers, we are just a heartbeat away from heaven right now. As David put it, “There is but a step between me and death” (1 Samuel 20:3).

Christmas in heaven is better than Christmas on earth. It is pure bliss. Not twinkling lights, but the radiant light of heaven itself. Not metal angels on trees, but real, holy angels of God all around.

You see, in heaven there is peace. On earth there is war. In heaven there is perfect harmony. On earth there is often friction among family and friends. In heaven, feasting and perfection. On earth there is fattening food and expanding waistlines.

We don’t need to sorrow for our loved ones who are celebrating Christmas in heaven, but we do sorrow for ourselves over their absence.

Today, however, remember to let the ones on earth you love know it. Tell them verbally. Because you never know if you or I or someone we hold dear might be in heaven next Christmas.

So have a blessed and merry Christmas day.

Max Lucado – Come and Behold Him

 

The world was different this week. We forgot our compulsion with winning, wooing, and warring. We looked outward toward the star of Bethlehem. More than in any other season, His name was on our lips. And the result? For a few precious hours our heavenly yearnings intermeshed and we became a chorus. “Come and behold Him” we sang, stirring even the sleepiest of shepherds and pointing them toward the Christ-child. Immanuel. He is with us. God came near.

In a few hours lights will come down and trees will be thrown out. Soon December’s generosity will become January’s payments and the magic will begin to fade. I want to savor the spirit just a bit more. To pray that those who beheld Him today will look for Him next August. How much more could He do if we thought of Him every day!

From In the Manger