Charles Stanley – Resting in Jesus


Isaiah 26:2-4

Though Christmastime is a time of celebration, it can be filled with worry and busyness. Family trouble, loneliness, and financial struggle are some common sources of stress. Allowing ourselves to dwell on such things invites anxiety to overwhelm us.

The Lord has a better way. Jesus assured us that, though we would certainly face difficulties in life, we could rest in Him (John 16:33). But we can’t trust someone we don’t know. For this reason, we should first seek to find out who He is.

Truths from Scripture are a good place to start. Our God is Lord and Master. He is omnipresent, omniscient, faithful, and powerful. He loves unconditionally and offers forgiveness to all who trust His Son as Lord and Savior. He adopts believers as His own children and wants the very best for every Christian’s life—so much so that He chastises us when we disobey Him. And He desires that we love Him above everyone and everything.

Knowing these facts is only the beginning. As in any relationship, time together fosters closeness. We can read the Bible, pray, meditate on God’s Word, and listen quietly for His Spirit to speak to our hearts. What’s more, watching how God works in the lives of others helps us become better acquainted with His ways. Jesus is trustworthy, and He offers us rest in the midst of a troubled world. He wants us to lay our burdens upon Him and experience His peace.

Do you know this amazing God? Carve out time in your busy schedule to be in His presence every day so you can know Him better and better.

Bible in One Year: Hebrews 7-9

Our Daily Bread — The Seventh Stanza


Read: Luke 2:8-14

Bible in a Year: Jonah 1-4; Revelation 10

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. —Luke 2:11

In the summer of 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wife, Frances, died tragically in a fire. That first Christmas without her, he wrote in his diary, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.” The next year was no better, as he recorded, “ ‘A merry Christmas,’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

In 1863, as the American Civil War was dragging on, Longfellow’s son joined the army against his father’s wishes and was critically injured. On Christmas Day that year, as church bells announced the arrival of another painful Christmas, Longfellow picked up his pen and began to write, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

The poem begins pleasantly, lyrically, but then takes a dark turn. The violent imagery of the pivotal fourth verse ill suits a Christmas carol. “Accursed” cannons “thundered,” mocking the message of peace. By the fifth and sixth verses, Longfellow’s desolation is nearly complete. “It was as if an earthquake rent the hearth-stones of a continent,” he wrote. The poet nearly gave up: “And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said.”

But then, from the depths of that bleak Christmas day, Longfellow heard the irrepressible sound of hope. And he wrote this seventh stanza.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men!”

The war raged on and so did memories of his personal tragedies, but it could not stop Christmas. The Messiah is born! He promises, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5). —Tim Gustafson

Immanuel—God with us!

INSIGHT: It is likely that the shepherds in Luke 2 were not just ordinary shepherds. Because the shepherds’ fields of Bethlehem were so close to Jerusalem, many scholars believe that these were temple shepherds who raised the sheep that would be used at the temple sacrifice. If so, this announcement becomes an anticipation of the proclamation of John the Baptist when he first saw Jesus: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). These sheep destined for sacrifice would be replaced by God’s perfect Lamb—His one and only Son.

Alistair Begg – A Holy Calm


The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:33

If the decision about the lot is the Lord’s, whose is the arrangement of our whole life? If the simple casting of a lot is guided by Him, how much more the events of our entire life-especially when we are told by our blessed Savior, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”1 It would bring a holy calm over your mind, dear friend, if you were to constantly remember this. It would relieve your mind from anxiety and enable you to walk in patience, quietness, and cheerfulness as a Christian should. When a man is anxious he cannot pray with faith; when he is troubled about the world, he cannot serve his Master, for his thoughts are serving himself.

If you would “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,”2 all things would then be added to you. You are meddling with Christ’s business and neglecting your own when you fret about your lot and circumstances. You have been trying to do the providing and forgetting to do the obeying. Be wise and pay attention to the obeying, and let Christ manage the providing. Come and survey your Father’s storehouse, and ask whether He will allow you to starve while He has so great an abundance in store.

Look at His heart of mercy; see if that can ever prove unkind! Look at His unsearchable wisdom; see if that will ever be at fault. Above all, look to Jesus Christ your Intercessor, and ask yourself, while He pleads, can your Father deal ungraciously with you? If He remembers even sparrows, will He forget one of the least of His poor children? “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”3

My soul, rest happy in your low estate,

Nor hope nor wish to be esteem’d or great;

To take the impress of the Will Divine,

Be that your glory, and those riches thine.

1) Matthew 10:30-31

2) Matthew 6:33

3) Psalm 55:22

Family Bible Reading Plan

  • 2 Chronicles 22, 23
  • Revelation 10

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

Charles Spurgeon – Love


“We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Suggested Further Reading: 1 John 3:14-18

We have known many Christians who have forgotten much of their love to Christ when they have risen in the world. “Ah!” said a woman, who desired to do much for Christ in poverty, and who had had a great sum left her, “I cannot do as much as I used to do.” “But how is that?” said one. Said she, “When I had a meagre purse I had an overflowing heart, and now I have an overflowing purse I have only a meagre heart.” It is a sad temptation for some men to get rich. They were content to go to the meeting-house and mix with the ignoble congregation, while they had but little; they have grown rich, there is a Turkey carpet in the drawing-room, they have arrangements now too splendid to permit them to invite the poor of the flock, as once they did, and Christ Jesus is not so fashionable as to allow them to introduce any religious topic when they meet with their new friends. Besides this, they say they are now obliged to pay this visit and that visit, and they must spend so much time upon attire, and in maintaining their station and respectability, they cannot find time to pray as they did. The house of God has to be neglected for the party, and Christ has less of their heart than ever he had. “Is this thy kindness to thy friend?” And hast thou risen so high that thou art ashamed of Christ? And art thou grown so rich, that Christ in his poverty is despised? Alas! Poor wealth! Alas! Base wealth! Alas! Vile wealth! It would be well for thee if it should be all swept away, if a descent to poverty should be a restoration to the ardency of thine affection.

For meditation: If success in the world goes to our hearts it can do others much good (1 Timothy 6:17-19); if it goes to our heads it can do us much harm (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Sermon no. 229

19 December (1858)

John MacArthur – A Warning to the Intellectually Convinced


“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard” (Heb. 2:3).

Many people know the facts of the gospel but won’t make a commitment to it.

I will never forget a lady who came to my office, confessing that she was a prostitute and was desperate for help. I presented the claims of Christ to her and asked if she wanted to confess Christ as Lord of her life. She said yes and prayed, seemingly inviting Christ into her life.

Then I suggested that we burn her book of contacts. She looked at me incredulously and said, “What do you mean?” “If you want to live for Jesus Christ,” I explained, “and you’ve truly accepted His forgiveness and embraced Him as Lord, then you need to prove it.” “But that book is worth a lot of money,” she said. “I don’t want to burn it.” After putting it back in her purse, she looked me right in the eye and said, “I guess I don’t really want Jesus, do I?”

When it came to counting the cost, she wasn’t ready. I don’t know whatever became of her, but my heart aches for her and others like her.

I’m sure you know people like her—they know and believe that Christ is the Savior, they know they need Him, but they are unwilling to make a commitment to Him. Perhaps they even go to church and hear the Word of God. They are like the proverbial man who says he believes a boat will keep him afloat, but never sets foot in one.

Those people are the most tragic of all. They need to be warned—to be given a powerful shove toward Christ. May the Lord use you as His instrument for that purpose in the lives of many who are on the edge of a decision for Christ.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to soften the hearts of people you know who understand the facts of the gospel, but haven’t yet made a commitment to it.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 19:16-22. What kinds of questions should you ask of someone who appears eager to become a Christian?

Joyce Meyer – In His Time


You yourselves are my witnesses [you personally bear me out] that I stated, I am not the Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), but I have [only] been sent before Him [in advance of Him, to be His appointed forerunner, His messenger, His announcer]. He must increase, but I must decrease. [He must grow more prominent; I must grow less so.] —John 3:28, 30

John the Baptist had a clear understanding of his calling, and he was content to fulfill it, even when it meant the diminishing of his role. As Christians we must be content. If I can never preach as well as some other preacher, I have to be content to preach the best I can. You and I cannot go beyond the grace of God in our lives. We cannot receive a gift from God just because we want one. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts according to His will for us, and we must be satisfied with what He gives.

Sometimes even though God wants to confer a gift upon us, it is not yet time for it to be bestowed. Until God says, “Now!” we can struggle and fuss and complain and quarrel, but we will still not get it. We won’t get it until He gives it, so we may as well learn to be content with such things as we have.

Lord, give me a clear sense of my calling so I can be the best I can be and yet not be fussing over what I am not. I simply want to serve You. Amen.

From the book The Confident Woman Devotional: 365 Daily Devotions by Joyce Meyer.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God’s Gift of Himself


“Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17,18, KJV).

Near the Church of St. Mark’s in Venice are three 17th century churches often admired for their highly ornate sculpture. On closer inspection, Ruskin points out, they are found to be “entirely destitute of every religious symbol, sculpture or inscription.”

They are really monuments to the glory of three Venetian families who provided the funds for their construction. “Impious buildings, manifestations of insolent atheism,” they were called by John Ruskin, English writer, art critic and sociologist.

Many Christians are like these buildings. Their association with God is more of a facade, formal and ritualistic. They do not know God as a caring Father with whom they experience a delightful, loving relationship.

As we meet God’s conditions, he becomes our Father, and we become His sons and daughters. His gift of Himself is illustrated in the life of a successful young attorney.

“The greatest gift I ever received,” he said, “was a Christmas gift from my dad. Inside a small box was a note saying, ‘Son, I will give you an hour every day after dinner – 365 days. It’s all yours. We’ll talk about what you want to talk about, we’ll go where you want to go, we’ll play what you want to play. It will be your hour.

“He not only kept his promise, but every year he renewed it – and it was the greatest gift I ever had in my life. I had so much of his time.”

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:11-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will count myself richly blessed for having so much of my Father’s time and will seek diligently to be worthy of His love and availability to me.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Anywhere Prayers


The countdown continues…six more days until Christmas. Sometimes the closer it gets to the big day, the more hectic your schedule becomes. You find yourself praying in shopping malls, “Lord, please let me find a gift for Dad” and parking lots, “Help me find a space to park!” You utter petitions at Great Aunt Sally’s, “God, please allow me to bite my tongue.”

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish.

Jonah 2:1

Prayers can happen anywhere! Today’s passage is proof of that. Jonah prayed from the belly of a whale. When you pray, God listens. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (I John 5:14) It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are praying. He hears your prayers for parking spots and healing. All prayer is important to God.

During the craziness of the season, stop and pray. Thank God for the gift of His Son this Christmas. Then ask Him to help the people of this nation and its leaders to focus on the true reason for the season – Jesus.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 66:16-20

Greg Laurie – Dealing with Envy at Christmas


“A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.”—Proverbs 14:30

I remember a Christmas from years ago. I was a little boy living in an apartment. I had a friend that I grew up with, and we were showing each other our presents.

I was happy with what I got for Christmas until I saw what he got. I can remember it to this day. It was a little plastic scuba diver. Basically, you wound it up and it sank to the bottom of the pool, with little bubbles coming out. This was 1960s technology, and pretty lame by today’s standards.

But I’d never seen anything like it. I thought it was the coolest toy ever. Was it really better than the toy I had? No. But he had it and I didn’t. As a result, I wasn’t happy with what I had anymore. It sounds childish, I know. But do we really outgrow that attitude?

My neighbors are doing a room addition.

My friend got a raise.

That couple I see on Facebook are always going somewhere wonderful.

It’s been said that envy shoots at another and wounds itself. The only person you hurt when you allow envy into your heart is yourself. I hate to break it to you, but the person you are envying probably has no idea how you feel, and most likely couldn’t care less. It’s really all about you suffering because of a bad attitude.

I heard about a crab fisherman who would carry the crabs he had caught in an open bucket. Someone said, “Why don’t you put a lid on that bucket? Aren’t you afraid your crabs will get out?” “No,” he replied. “The moment one of them climbs out the other ones reach up and pull him back down.”

Don’t we do that sometimes? How dare you succeed? How dare you do well? You come back down here with the rest of us where you belong!

We would all do well to heed what the Bible says about this: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:6–8).

The great thing about the gospel is that it’s for everyone. We don’t have to envy our neighbor’s forgiveness, because God offers us our own! Let’s share that message of forgiveness—along with salvation, meaning, and eternal life—this coming March 6 at Harvest America. You can participate by praying for the event, attending in person or online, or hosting it in your home. Pray about that, will you?

Night Light for Couples – Taking Chances


“The righteous are as bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1

Remember Evel Knievel, the death‐defying daredevil who jumped over cars, trucks, and all manner of objects on his motorcycle? Evel may have been a little too ambitious for his own good—he broke a number of bones in the process—but he can teach us something about risk.

When we stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone, we experience the thrill and confidence that comes from facing a new challenge. In the case of a bored husband or wife, this may mean joining a speaker’s group, volunteering to lead a Bible study, going on a backpacking trip, or taking a class. It might also include opening up to your spouse or relating the message of Jesus to a group of nonbelievers. For me (jcd), it was leaving a comfortable position as a professor of pediatrics, where I had a predictable income and the support of a large university. I traded that for a little two‐room office and called it “Focus on the Family.” Only God knew where that radical decision would lead, but it was the beginning of a ride that has resulted in my words being heard worldwide by two hundred million people every day. It was worth the risk, I would say.

Even if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped, you’ll still feel a sense of fulfillment from reaching for a dream. Just try not to break any bones.

Just between us…

  • What kind of positive risks have we taken in our marriage?
  • What risks does the Lord want us to avoid?
  • What have you always wanted to do, but haven’t yet dared to try?
  • In what ways can we take a risk for Jesus Christ?

Heavenly Father, we never want fear or complacency in our marriage. By the strength of Your Spirit, may we reach together for new challenges in faith as long as we live. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson

Streams in the Desert for Kids – No Money, No Worry


Romans 4:18–19

More than a hundred years ago in England, there were many orphans with no one to care for them. A man named George Müller and his wife began helping orphans by inviting the children into their own home. Soon he had five orphanages where more than 2,000 children lived. George was a man of great faith and he never asked anyone for money to support his ministry or the orphanage. He never went into debt either. He believed God would give him what he needed, so he decided not to take a salary when he became the pastor of a small church. He trusted God to care for him and his family. God always provided for George’s needs and more, and that made his faith grow. Many times, there was no food at the orphanage, but George went right on believing God would provide. Food always showed up just in time to feed the children.

By the time he died, Müller had cared for and educated thousands of children. He had given away thousands of Bibles, even more New Testaments, and millions of other religious books. He also supported 150 missionaries. You see, he believed that God could meet all his needs even when there was nothing. He was like Abraham who hoped even when he couldn’t see how God would help him.

If God took care of George Müller and his orphans, he can take care of you. Is there something your family needs? Pray and believe God will meet your need. You will be surprised at the awesome things God will do for you too.

Dear Lord, Thank you for giving us what we need as we do your work in the world. Amen.