Charles Stanley – One of a Kind

 

Matthew 1:18-25

By all outward appearances, Jesus was just an ordinary Jewish baby. He didn’t arrive with a halo or the visible presence of God’s glory. Apart from divine revelation, no one would have known that He was unlike any other human being ever born.

Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds all learned of Christ’s uniqueness from angels. But today we have the inerrant, divinely inspired Word of God to tell us who He truly is.

Jesus didn’t have a human father. In fulfillment of a prophecy given hundreds of years earlier to Isaiah (Isa. 7:14), Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit in a virgin’s womb.

He existed eternally before His birth. Another Old Testament prophet wrote about this baby born in Bethlehem, saying, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2).

Jesus was both born and given. The Lord declared that “a child will be born” signifying a human birth, yet at the same time “a son will be given” (Isa. 9:6). God gave His Son so that all who believe in Him could receive eternal life.

This baby is the Savior. He was destined to “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). That’s why Joseph was told to name Him Jesus, which means “Yahweh is salvation.”

As Christians, we may be aware of all these truths. But it’s easy to get caught up in the sentimentality of the manger scene without falling down in worship at the wonder of God in human form. So let’s pause to consider how we truly view Jesus at Christmastime in order to give Him top priority.

Bible in One Year: 2 Peter 1-3

 

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Our Daily Bread — Ponder It

 

Read: Luke 2:8–20 | Bible in a Year: Habakkuk 1–3; Revelation 15

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

During Oswald Chambers’ years at the Bible Training College in London (1911–15), he often startled the students with things he said during his lectures. One young woman explained that because discussion was reserved for the following mealtime together, Chambers would frequently be bombarded with questions and objections. She recalled that Oswald would often simply smile and say, “Just leave it for now; it will come to you later.” He encouraged them to ponder the issues and allow God to reveal His truth to them.

To ponder something is to concentrate and think deeply about it. After the events leading to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, followed by the appearance of angels and the shepherds who came to see the Messiah, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). New Testament scholar W. E. Vine said that ponder means “to throw together, confer, to put one thing with another in considering circumstances” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

When we struggle to understand the meaning of what’s happening in our lives, we have Mary’s wonderful example of what it means to seek God and His wisdom.

When we, like her, accept God’s leading in our lives, we have many new things about His loving guidance to treasure and ponder in our hearts.

Father, guide us by Your Holy Spirit as we consider Your great love and embrace Your plan for our lives.

Allow yourself a few minutes of quiet during this busy season to sit and listen for what God might be saying to you.

By David C. McCasland

INSIGHT

Shepherds were considered to be irreligious because their shepherding work prevented them from performing their religious obligations at the temple. Because they were in contact with dead animals, birds, and insects, they were rendered ceremonially “unclean” all the time (Leviticus 5:2–5; 11:4–43). It’s noteworthy that the birth of the Messiah—the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who is called our Good Shepherd (10:11)—was first announced to despised shepherds!

  1. T. Sim

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Reaping Joy from Tears

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is one of my favorite carols of the Advent season.

God rest ye merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay,

For Jesus Christ our Savior

Was born upon this day,

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray:

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy,

O tidings of comfort and joy.

This old English carol reminded Christians that dismay and the darkness of sin were not the final word. Rather, the Advent of Jesus had delivered them from the “domain of darkness” and transferred them “into the kingdom of light.”(1) And yet, the tune is set in a minor key. While no expert in music, I love the juxtaposition of the minor notes and tones with uplifting lyrics, for it reminds me of the reality that joy is often mingled with sorrow. This is true of life, but also true of Advent.

The longing and expectation that begins the Advent season, turns to joy as the arrival of the Christ child approaches. Christians rejoice for the tiny baby who will be King. Here is joy enfleshed, and our lives belong to his rule and reign. And yet, many who are familiar with this carol, even those who sing its verses, may still feel the power of evil over them or feel that they have yet to find their way to the manger of Jesus. Some find it difficult to enter into the joy and victory that Christmas proclaims.

For many in our world today, it is difficult to rejoice when the predominant experience is that is a world in crisis. Many desperately long to enter into the joy promised long ago to humble shepherds: “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Messiah, the Lord.”(2) But, for one reason or another, they still feel trapped by adversarial powers.

Those first recipients of the announcement heralding the birth of the Messiah knew it signaled the end of exile and darkness, for the coming of the Messiah meant a new age for the people of Israel. We hear this promise sung in psalms: “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’”(3) The Messiah would gather those who had wandered, and would be light to those in the darkness. Great things will be accomplished for the people as a result of the Messiah’s advent.

Yet, these great things were not accomplished without tears of sorrow and mourning. For in this same psalm that heralds God’s deliverance, joy and sorrow are inextricably linked: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”(4) Indeed, the sowing and the seed are the tears of the exiles, tears that bear a mysterious harvest of joy. Talitha Arnold reflects on the mystery of suffering turned to joy: “The natural power of God to turn seeds into grain would be miracle enough. But Psalm 126 makes an even greater statement. The seeds are not ordinary, but seeds of sorrow. The fruit they bear is not grain or wheat, but shouts of joy.”(5)

In spite of a world easily consumed by sorrow and sadness this season, those who anticipate the arrival of the source of all joy recognize that the harvest of joy is sown in tears—tears that are redeemed by the one who “for the joy set before him endured the cross and suffered its shame.”(6) Jesus, the joy of the world, was not immune to tears. The “tidings of comfort and joy” would be that God enters our suffering and is not removed from it. God enters into humanity as the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. God makes a dwelling place with the exiles of this world every Advent Season offering deliverance and salvation.

Joy is often elusive even as it is sought after with great energy. But perhaps we look in the wrong places and in the wrong ways: “This is no jingle-bells joy brought with a swipe of a credit card,” Arnold continues. “The seeds of this joy have been planted in sadness and watered with tears. This is the honest joy that often comes only after weeping has tarried the night.”(7) Tidings of comfort and joy come in a person, according to the Christian gospel, a person who sowed both tears of joy and sadness himself. How poignant that these tidings of comfort and joy are issued from this Man of Sorrows! Yet it is Jesus who can bring joy from tears and fill hearts with gladness at his coming. Weeping may last through the night, but joy indeed comes in the morning.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Colossians 1:13.

(2) Luke 2:10-11.

(3) Psalm 126:1-3.

(4) Psalm 126:5-6

(5) Talitha Arnold, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Ed. David Lyon Bartlett (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 60.

(6) Hebrews 12:2.

(7) Arnold, 60.

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – Acknowledge God

 

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. — Proverbs 3:6

Adapted from the resource Power Thoughts Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

It is so easy to start making a plan instead of waiting on God to give us His plan. Sometimes we are so entrenched in our own plans that we don’t even sense the leading of the Holy Spirit.

But the proverb says to acknowledge God in all our ways, and that means to care about what He thinks and submit our plans to Him for approval.

Having a plan is not a bad thing, but we can simply say to God each day, “Lord, I have a plan for today, but I acknowledge You in it. And if You don’t approve of any part of it, then I am willing to change and do what You want.”

If you truly care about what God desires, He will direct you in the way you should go if any changes need to be made to your plans.

Prayer Starter: Father, I lift my plans up to You for this day. Please lead me by Your Spirit and direct me in the way I should go. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

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.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – The Story of Christmas is for You

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Maybe your life resembles a Bethlehem stable.  Crude in some spots, smelly in others.  Not much glamour.  You do your best to make the best of it, but try as you might, the roof still leaks, and the winter wind still sneaks through the holes you just can’t seem to fix.  You’ve shivered through your share of cold nights.  And you wonder if God has a place for a person like you.

Find your answers in the Bethlehem stable.  The story of Christmas is the story of God’s relentless love for us.  The moment Mary touched God’s face is the moment God made His case!  There is no place he will not go.  No place is too common.  No person is too hardened.  No distance is too far.  There’s no person he cannot reach.  There is no limit to his love!

Read more Because of Bethlehem

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

http://www.maxlucado.com

Denison Forum – What Apollo 8 told the Earth 50 years ago today

On Christmas Eve in 1968, as the astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the moon, they broadcast a message back to Earth. They were told that they would have the largest audience that had ever heard a human voice.

What would they choose to say?

Lunar Module Pilot William Anders began: “For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell continued:

“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Commander Frank Borman ended their Christmas Eve broadcast:

“And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth: and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”

Borman then added: “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you–all of you on the good Earth.”

The latest on the Indonesian tsunami

The collapse of a volcano triggered a tsunami that struck Indonesia Saturday night. Waves smashed onto beaches without warning, ripping homes and hotels from their foundations and sweeping concertgoers into the ocean.

As of this morning, at least 281 people are known to have died; at least 1,016 people were injured. More than six hundred homes, sixty shops, and 420 vessels were damaged. Video posted to social media showed an Indonesian pop band performing when a massive wave crashed through the stage and into the audience.

How are we to reconcile Genesis 1’s declaration that this is a “good” world with the Indonesian tsunami and all the suffering we experience?

The biblical fact is that this planet does not function as it was intended. As a result of the Fall, “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22).

There were no disasters and diseases in the Garden of Eden. But ours is now a world in rebellion: “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

How Jesus could have entered the world

The incredible news is that God did not give up on us when we gave up on him. Christmas proves that Jesus truly is “Immanuel,” which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).

The sinless Son of God did not have to enter this fallen world. He did not have to experience our pain, feel our hunger, or face our temptations.

He could have left our fallen world to the consequences of our sinful rebellion. Or he could have come the first time as he will the second–as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16) who will judge the nations and rule the universe (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10Revelation 20:4).

But he chose to step onto our planet as one of us. He chose to be born the same way we are born. He chose peasants for parents and a feed trough for a crib to show that he leads all who will be led and goes wherever he’s invited.

“The will of God for your life”

On this Christmas Eve, let’s choose the God who chooses us.

Paul said of Jesus: “By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth” (Colossians 1:16). The only part of the universe he does not already own is our heart. It is therefore the only gift we can give him.

Renowned Bible teacher Kay Arthur: “The will of God for your life is simply that you submit yourself to Him each day and say, ‘Father, Your will for today is mine. Your pleasure for today is mine. Your work for today is mine. I trust You to be God. You lead me today and I will follow.’”

Will you give the Christ of Christmas what he wants most?

 

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