Charles Stanley – Christmas Giving

 

Matthew 2:1-12

Why do we give gifts at Christmas? When we were children, presents were the highlight of the season, and for some of us, the joy of giving and receiving gifts has not waned. Some people wonder what all this has to do with the celebration of Christ’s birth. But there is a connection—although nothing came wrapped in paper, the occasion was marked by extravagant generosity.

God gave His only begotten Son. This was greatest gift ever given, because His precious Son was the only one who could die as a sacrifice for our sins.

Mary gave her body and reputation. When the angel told her she would bear the Son of God, Mary responded, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Although this was a glorious privilege, it also included the loss of her reputation. Her engagement to Joseph was as binding as marriage, and to be found pregnant before the actual ceremony would have been scandalous in the people’s eyes.

The shepherds gave a testimony. After hearing the birth announcement from the angel and seeing the newborn Messiah, they couldn’t keep the news to themselves. They told everyone what they had heard and seen (Luke 2:17-20).

The magi gave gifts and worship. Having traveled a long distance to find this new King of the Jews, they fell to the ground in worship and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).

Although materialism and commercialism have hijacked the tradition of gift giving to some degree, we must also remember the true generosity that is at the heart of Christmas.

Bible in One Year: 1 Peter 1-5

 

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Our Daily Bread — A String of Yeses

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Nahum 1–3
  • Revelation 14

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:19

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Luke 2:15–19

One Christmas, my grandmother gave me a beautiful pearl necklace. The beautiful beads glowed about my neck until one day the string broke. Balls bounced in all directions off our home’s hardwood flooring. Crawling over the planks, I recovered each tiny orb. On their own, they were small. But oh, when strung together, those pearls made such an impression!

Sometimes my yeses to God seem so insignificant—like those individual pearls. I compare myself to Mary, the mother of Jesus who was so fantastically obedient. She said yes when she embraced God’s call for her to carry the Messiah. “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’” (Luke 1:38). Did she understand all that would be required of her? That an even bigger yes to relinquishing her Son on the cross loomed ahead?

After the visits of the angels and shepherds, Luke 2:19 tells us that Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Treasure means to “store up.” Ponder means to “thread together.” The phrase is repeated of Mary in Luke 2:51. She would respond with many yeses over her lifetime.

As with Mary, the key to our obedience might be a threading together of various yeses to our Father’s invitations, one at a time, until they string into the treasure of a surrendered life.

By: Elisa Morgan

Reflect & Pray

What yeses do you need to say to God? How can you learn to be more obedient?

Dear God, help us to respond, one yes at a time, to Your ongoing work in our lives.

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Peace That God Brings

 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Ours is a world in which few people would look to the government for signs of hope. Corruption of power seems more the norm than the ideal presented in Isaiah’s vision of a government ruled by a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, or Prince of Peace. Instead, most view government with a sense of cynicism and despair, and few would see government as the conduit for peace.

In Isaiah’s day, there were many foreign powers and rulers that threatened both Israel and Judah. And, within Isaiah’s lifetime, Judah would go into exile under Babylonian rule. Thus, the original recipients of Isaiah’s prophecy would have heard a promise that a king was coming who would be wise and powerful. He would inaugurate an everlasting age of peace, and foreign powers would no longer threaten or rule over the people of Israel. This prophecy brought light in dark times.

However, the history of Israel tells another story. Isaiah lived and prophesied during the divided kingdom of Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Israel would be conquered by the Assyrians, and soon the kingdom of Judah would be ruled by the Babylonians. Judah would continue to see foreign powers rule over her in the form of the Persians, Greeks, and the Romans. Ultimately, Judah would see the destruction of Jerusalem and the diaspora of its people from the land.

Was Isaiah wrong in his prophecy, or did he see something more than simply a political kingdom or earthly government for the Jewish people?

The promised child foretold in Isaiah’s vision was not simply a human king or ruler who would come to establish an earthly kingdom. Rather, the titles Mighty God and Everlasting Father attributed to the child to be born indicate that this coming ruler is divine. While the Jews did not have a concept of incarnation in their understanding of God, Isaiah foresees a day when God would be with the people, as Immanuel, “God with us.” And if God was the one who would come among human beings to rule and reign, then that rule would be characterized by wisdom, Wonderful Counselor, and peace—shalom—the well-being of all the people.

But, what kind of peace does God bring if it is not the peace that ends wars and strife among human beings and with the created world? We begin to find answers in the advent of Jesus, and his death and resurrection.

First, the peace that God brings in Jesus heals our estrangement that results from sin. The apostle Paul writes: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). This is the “gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15); God is “making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

Second, the peace that God brings enables us to have peace within our hearts because of our reconciliation with our Creator and his Spirit at work within us. It is the well-being that comes from reconciliation with God.

Third, because we have peace within, we can pursue peace with others—friends and enemies—alike. Indeed, the apostle Paul marvels at the new unity between Jew and Gentile when he writes, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, (Ephesians 2:14-15).

Isaiah’s vision came at a time of intense fear for Judah when foreign powers attacked and oppressed her on every side. He saw a day when God would rule the people with wisdom and peace and when this rule would have no end. We, too, can take heart, no matter where we live and no matter the government we live under. God has come near to us in Jesus and established a government that is available to us as we walk in fellowship under his rule. In Jesus, we have a Wonderful Counselor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, and a Prince of Peace.

Margaret Manning Shull is an adjunct speaker and writer with RZIM and a licensed counselor.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – Count Your Blessings

 

Through Him, therefore, let us at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name. — Hebrews 13:15 (AMP)

Adapted from the resource My Time with God Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Recently I have been writing down 10 things each day that I am thankful for, and each day I try to make them something different. I am literally counting my blessings, and it has been a fun project.

It is amazing how many things we can begin to take for granted unless we purpose to remember how blessed we are. By looking for 10 different things each day, I have gone beyond the things I would normally think of, and have been pleasantly surprised by all the things I have realized are blessings in my life that I certainly would not want to do without—even things like the smell of a good candle or hot and cold running water.

Let’s be aggressive in offering God the fruit of lips thankfully praising Him!

Prayer Starter: Father, help me realize how much I have to be thankful for. Thank You for reminding me to be thankful!

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Power Over Discouragement

 

“And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up” (Galatians 6:9).

“Yes, I do get tired inthe work, but I never get tired ofthe work.” I have heard many missionaries, ministers and other Christian leaders make such a statement. I echo their sentiments.

The first half of this wonderful verse is the sower’s imperative; the second half is the sower’s reward. The first half is my responsibility; the second is God’s – which of course means that I should concern myself only with the first half, since our faithful God always keeps His promises.

One of the enemy’s greatest weapons is discouragement. Years ago that great saint and prophet, A.W. Tozer, preached a sermon on this subject in which he recognized discouragement solely as a tool of the devil, hence one he would refuse to accept in his own life.

It is because of Satan’s wiles in this regard – in causing us to be discouraged and give up – that one of God’s greatest gifts to His children is the gift of exhortation and encouragement, with emphasis on the latter. How many believers have been strengthened to carry on because of the helpful, encouraging word of a friend! And how important that you and I become that kind of friend. Yet, God’s promise of encouragement is far more important.

To “keep on keeping on” is easier when we know that God is faithful.

Bible Reading: Galatians 6:1-8

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With power from the Holy Spirit who lives within me, I will refuse to allow Satan’s trick of discouragement to hinder my work, my walk and my witness for the Lord.

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – No Room in the Inn

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Some of the saddest words on earth are we don’t have room for you.  Jesus knew the sounds of those words.  He was still in Mary’s womb when the innkeeper said, “We don’t have room for you.” And when he hung on the cross, wasn’t the message one of utter rejection?  “We don’t have room for you in this world.”

Today Jesus is given the same treatment.  He goes from heart to heart, asking if he might enter. Every so often, he is welcomed.  Someone throws open the door of his or her heart and invites him to stay.  And to that person Jesus gives this great promise.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2).  We make room for him in our hearts, and Jesus makes room for us in his house!

 

Read more No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Is Alexa the new Santa? Experiencing the power of Christmas

Here’s a sign of the times: children are asking Alexa to bring them presents their parents didn’t order.

A five-year-old boy ordered a Tesla; fortunately for his family, Amazon delivered Tesla-branded running pants rather than a car. A mother says her four-year-old learned how to use her iPad to shop on Amazon and “boxes and boxes arrived. He was jumping up and down with excitement that he had ordered all this stuff.”

Here’s a more ominous sign of the times: the Wall Street Journal is reporting on “the generation gap over church at Christmas.” The subheading explains: “Strains surface when millennial children who rarely attend religious services visit baby-boomer parents who do.” The article cites a report that 52 percent of Boomers see Christmas as a religious holiday, compared to 32 percent of millennials.

The last statistic explains Pope Francis’ statement to Vatican officials that “we are no longer under a Christian regime because the faith—especially in Europe, but also in much of the West—no longer constitutes an obvious premise of common life. On the contrary, it is even often denied, derided, marginalized and ridiculed.”

The ceiling at St. George’s Chapel

This Christmas week, we’re going to see what Christmas can teach a post-Christian culture about Christ. Today we’ll learn about his power and discover why such omnipotence is still so relevant to us.

Colossians 1 states that the Christ of Christmas is “the image of the invisible God” (v. 15). This is an astounding fact.

St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle is famous as the burial place of Henry VIII as well as the location where Prince Harry and Princess Meghan were married. I have toured it several times and am always amazed by its stunningly beautiful ceiling. But staring up at this exquisite architectural masterpiece is difficult, so a mirror has been placed on the ground.

When we stand before it, we can look down to see up.

That’s the idea here: Jesus came down to earth so we could see the God who lives in heaven. However, the Greek word for “image” also shares in the nature of that which it reflects. A mirror is not a person, though it reflects one. But Jesus is God, not just his reflection. He is “God made visible.”

Circling our planet 7.5 times a second

The Bible describes Jesus’ pre-Christmas divinity in other startling ways as well.

John 1 notes that “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (v. 3). Scientists tell us that the diameter of the observable universe is around 92,000,000,000 light-years. (A light-year is the distance light can travel in a year. If you could travel that fast, you could circle the Earth 7.5 times in one second.)

And Jesus made all of that.

Hebrews 1 adds that Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (v. 3). Scientists tell us that our planet weighs about 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. Ours is one of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in our observable universe.

And Jesus “upholds” all of that.

The God who became a baby

Then came the moment when the God who made and maintains our universe entered our tiny planet. He condensed his omnipotence down to become a fetus, the tiniest human life, in the womb of a Galilean teenage girl. He demonstrated his inestimable power not just in making the universe but in making himself a baby within it.

Then that baby grew up. The Christ of Christmas would walk on water and calm stormy seas. He would open blind eyes and heal leprous limbs and raise dead bodies. He would feed five thousand families and cast out demons and defeat death at Easter.

Now, all the power of the Christ of Christmas is available to those who trust him fully. Because of the omnipotence of Christ living in us, we have his power over temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13); we can overcome Satan (1 John 2:14); we can pray effectively for those in need (James 5:15); and we can take the gospel to the entire world (Acts 1:8).

In short, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). At Christmas, the omnipotent God proved that he could live in human flesh.

He still can.

How to experience the power of Christmas

How can we experience the power of Christmas in culture-changing ways?

One: Go to God first. We will have the power of Christmas when we submit to the Christ of Christmas.

Two: Stay close to God all day. We will have the power of Christmas when we walk with the Christ of Christmas.

Three: Focus on the purpose of God. We will have the power of Christmas when we serve and glorify the Christ of Christmas.

A post-Christian culture will see the relevance of Christ in our world when it sees the relevance of Christ in us. Frederick Buechner: “For millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it. It is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him.”

Will you manifest the power of Christmas today?

 

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