Tag Archives: Joy

Charles Spurgeon – The first Christmas carol

CharlesSpurgeon

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 14:5-9

I wish everybody that keeps Christmas this year, would keep it as the angels kept it. There are many persons who, when they talk about keeping Christmas, mean by that the cutting of the bands of their religion for one day in the year, as if Christ were the Lord of misrule, as if the birth of Christ should be celebrated like the orgies of Bacchus. There are some very religious people, that on Christmas would never forget to go to church in the morning; they believe Christmas to be nearly as holy as Sunday, for they reverence the tradition of the elders. Yet their way of spending the rest of the day is very remarkable; for if they see their way straight up stairs to their bed at night, it must be by accident. They would not consider they had kept Christmas in a proper manner, if they did not verge on gluttony and drunkenness. There are many who think Christmas cannot possibly be kept, except there be a great shout of merriment and mirth in the house, and added to that the boisterousness of sin. Now, my brethren, although we, as successors of the Puritans, will not keep the day in any religious sense whatever, attaching nothing more to it than to any other day: believing that every day may be a Christmas for ought we know, and wishing to make every day Christmas, if we can, yet we must try to set an example to others how to behave on that day; and specially since the angels gave glory to God: let us do the same. Once more the angels said, “Peace to men”: let us labour if we can to make peace next Christmas day.

For meditation: The unconverted cannot understand why Christians do not join them in their wild Christmas celebrations (1 Peter 4:3-4); those who celebrate the event without being able to give a sensible reason for doing so, are providing us with wonderful opportunities to give a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).

Sermon no. 168

20 December (1857)

John MacArthur – Throwing out the Anchor

John MacArthur

“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1).

While English explorer William Edward Parry and his crew were exploring the Arctic Ocean, they needed to go further north to continue their chartings. So they calculated their location by the stars and began a treacherous march.

After many hours they stopped, exhausted. After taking their bearings, they discovered they were now further south than when they started! They had been walking on an ice floe that was traveling faster south than they were walking north.

That is similar to the situation people who continue rejecting Christ find themselves in. Therefore Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”

Why would anyone knowingly reject Christ? He came into the world as God incarnate, died on a cross to forgive our sins, paid our penalty, showed us divine love, and gives us blessing and joy beyond imagination.

The Greek words translated “pay much closer attention to” and “drift away from” both have a nautical usage. The first means “to tie up a ship” and the second can be used of a ship that has been carelessly allowed to drift past the harbor because the sailor forgot to attend to the steerage or chart the wind, tides, and current. Hebrews 2:1 could be translated: “We must diligently anchor our lives to the things we have been taught, lest the ship of life drift past the harbor of salvation and be lost forever.”

Most people don’t deliberately turn their backs on God; they almost imperceptibly slip past the harbor of salvation and are broken on the rocks of destruction. Be sure you warn those you know who might be slipping past that harbor.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Ask God to strengthen your resolve when you know you need to confront someone regarding his or her relationship with the Lord.

For Further Study:

Memorize Proverbs 4:20-22 as your own reminder of how important it is to hold on to God’s Word.

 

Joyce Meyer – Come Apart to Stay Together

Joyce meyer

And the effect of righteousness will be peace [internal and external], and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confident trust forever.

—Isaiah 32:17

If you are feeling compelled to do so much that you are physically worn out, you may be driven instead of led. Remember, you have to come apart from a busy routine before you come apart yourself. You have to get away from everything before you come apart physically, mentally, and emotionally. Give yourself time to get a good night’s sleep.

It is tempting to do everything that everybody else is doing, be involved in everything, know everything, hear everything, and be everywhere, but it isn’t God’s best for you. Be willing to separate yourself from compulsive activity before you come apart at the seams!

Spend time with God, and ask Him to give order to your day.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Practicing Patience

dr_bright

“You need to keep on patiently doing God’s will if you want Him to do for you all that He has promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

During a Bible study on this passage, Ted made this contribution: “Spiritually,” he said, “I’m a sprinter, not a long distance runner.”

Numerous Christians would identify with that for there is little patience, persistence, and tenacity among believers. When adversity comes, many of us are prone to give up and lose our wind. That is the reason James says in his first chapter, verses 2-4, “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”

You will note the emphasis on patience. All of us are faced with problems, testings, temptations, adversities and trials in varying degrees. We can determine, by our attitudes and actions, whether or not our tragedies will turn to triumph. Our heartache and sorrow can become joy and rejoicing simply by our patience, which is the ability to relax in the confidence that God rules in the affairs of men and nations. Everything is under His control. And as we walk in faith and obedience, we will be a part of His wonderful and perfect plan.

But the question may be asked, how can we increase this rare trait or gift of patience that unlocks the door to supernatural living? The answer is simple. It is found in Galatians 5:22-23 in the listing of the fruit of the Spirit, for one of the nine characteristics mentioned is patience or longsuffering.

Are you patient with your husband, wife, parents, children, neighbors and those with whom you work in the office? Or do you find yourself critical and complaining – more prone to judge than to bless?

As we more and more yield ourselves to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, the fruit of patience is increased, along with all the other fruit.

Bible Reading: Hebrews 6:12-15

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will invite the Holy Spirit to control and empower my life moment by moment, day by day, knowing that the fruit of the Spirit, including patience, will increase and mature in my life.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Song of Commitment

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What is your favorite Christmas carol? O Holy Night ranks as many Americans’ favorite song, according to a recent study. It surpassed White Christmas and even The Christmas Song. O Holy Night is a song of worship about the glorious birth of God’s only Son. Whether they all realize it or not, Americans praise God when they sing this wonderful carol.

He was manifested in the flesh…seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations.

I Timothy 3:16

The practice of singing praises has been around for thousands of years. In early churches of the Bible and in worship services today, there’s a tradition of singing a hymn at the end of the service. These songs allow the congregation to affirm their acceptance of the message and commitment to do God’s will. Today’s passage is a portion of such a hymn. The author, Paul, describes how church leaders should behave and ends with a song, therefore leading the reader into acceptance of the message.

Take time today to read Paul’s message in its entirety, then focus on the hymn of worship. Reflect on the gift of Christ’s coming to the world. Ask God to help you live a life above reproach. Request the same for the leaders of this nation. Then sing a song of praise to signal your commitment to do so.

Recommended Reading: I Timothy 3:1-15 

 

 

Greg Laurie – Have You Lost Jesus?

greglaurie

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.— James 4:8

Apparently it has become a national trend to steal baby Jesus figures from outdoor Nativity scenes. The problem has become so pervasive that churches are now placing GPS tracking devices inside their baby Jesus figures. The approach seems to be working. One church in Old Bridge, New Jersey, reported, “There’s been no attempt of theft since we announced that we’re tracking our Jesus.”

The good news is that the real Jesus cannot be stolen. However, this is a time of year when we can lose Jesus. How ironic that it happens at the very time when we should be celebrating His birth.

We rush around like crazy people, especially during this season. You could inscribe these words on the tombstones of many Americans: hurried, worried, buried. We are the only nation on earth that actually has a national monument called Mount Rushmore. And we can be so busy that we don’t have time for God. I would like go to church, but I am so busy this time of the year. . . . I would like to pray, but there’s so much going on—so many responsibilities. . . . I would like to invest in the kingdom of God, but I have other financial commitments. People are so preoccupied with their lives and what they are doing that they don’t have any time for God.

I think it is because people don’t have time for Jesus that so many are depressed during the Christmas season. People have a romanticized idea of what Christmas ought to be, and when they look at their lives, they are not anywhere close to their ideal. They are expecting Christmas to do what only Christ can do. But if we will make time for Him, then He certainly will have time for us.

 

Our Daily Bread — The Son Is Given

Our Daily Bread

Luke 1:26-33

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. —Isaiah 9:6

One of my favorite portions of Handel’s Messiah is the joyous movement “For unto us a Child is born,” from the first part of the oratorio. I especially love how the chorus rises to the phrase, “Unto us a Son is given.” Those words, of course, are taken from Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Handel’s majestic music soars with adoration for the Son who came to us in human flesh that first Christmas.

The New Testament clarifies even further who this Son is. In Luke 1, the angelic messenger appeared to Mary and identified the Christ-child in four ways. He would be the son of Mary, making Him fully human (1:31). He would be the Son of the Highest, which made Him fully divine (1:32). He would also be the Son of David, giving Him royal lineage (1:32). And He would bear the title of Son of God (1:35), giving Him equality with the Father in all things. All of the roles the Messiah was called to fill are made possible in these distinct expressions of His Sonship.

As we worship Him this Christmas, may our celebrations be filled with joy and wonder at the fullness of what it means. Our heavenly Father has given us His perfect, sufficient Son. O come, let us adore Him! —Bill Crowder

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning,

Jesus, to Thee be all glory given;

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. —Wade

God’s love became incarnate at Bethlehem.

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

Alistair Begg – A Holy Calm

Alistair Begg

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.

f 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

 

Joyce Meyer – Hold Your Peace

Joyce meyer

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.—Exodus 14:14

A few weeks ago, I preached on patience and being thankful no matter what your circumstances. I had done three major conferences in six weeks in addition to fulfilling several other commitments, and that Saturday morning session was the last of that string of commitments. I was really looking forward to getting home early that day, eating a good meal, having Dave take me shopping for a while, taking a hot bath at home, eating ice cream, and watching a good movie. You can see I was prepared to reward myself for my hard work. I had a good plan for myself!

We got on the plane to return home, and the flight was scheduled to be only thirty-five minutes. I was so thrilled . . . and then something went wrong. The airplane door wouldn’t shut properly, so we sat for almost an hour and a half while airline maintenance worked on the door. There was talk of not being able to fly out that day and perhaps renting cars and driving home.

I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to be patient. Just keeping my mouth shut was a huge accomplishment. I had preached on patience, and now I was being tested.

I realize we may not always feel patient, but we can still discipline ourselves to react patiently. I can’t do anything about how I feel sometimes, but I can control how I behave, and so can you. I can assure you that I did not feel patient sitting on that runway, but I kept praying silently, Oh, God, please help me stay calm so I am not a poor witness after what I just finished preaching.

God helped me; and while things don’t always turn out the way I want them to in those situations, in that case we ended up getting home in plenty of time for me to still do all the things I had planned.

I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to be patient. Just keeping my mouth shut was a huge accomplishment. I had preached on patience, and now I was being tested.

Trust in Him When you find yourself in difficult or inconvenient situations, make an effort to hold your peace and trust God to help you act with godly character.

 

 

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M.- Priceless Gift

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Imagine if you tried to calculate the cost of all the elaborate gifts named in the classic Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Turtledoves, golden rings, lords-a-leaping…it would probably total thousands of dollars!

Mary…who was with child.

Luke 2:5

God’s gift to you, however, came in simple and rustic wrappings. He was not born surrounded by gold. Instead, the Almighty Creator of the Universe chose to come to Earth as a baby born of humble parents in a nondescript village. Jesus Christ took His first breath in a place where animals were kept, clothed with rags and laid in a feeding trough. There’s nothing elaborate about that.

Yet God went to utmost measures to demonstrate His unconditional love. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus was born so He could suffer and die on a cross for your sins. Take a moment each day to thank Him for the gift of salvation. Pray also that Americans and the nation’s leaders will understand that this season is not about expensive gifts wrapped with paper and ribbon. It’s about the priceless gift of a Savior.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

 

Max Lucado – The Grace-given, Give Grace

Max Lucado

The grace-given—give grace!  Is grace happening to you?  Is there anyone in your life you refuse to forgive?  If so, do you appreciate God’s forgiveness toward you?  Do you resent God’s kindness to others?  Do you grumble at God’s uneven compensation?  How long has it been since your generosity stunned someone?

Since someone objected, “No, really, this is too generous?”  If it’s been awhile reconsider God’s extravagant grace.  Psalm 103:2-3 says, “Forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity.”

Let grace unscrooge your heart.  Like Peter encourages us in 2 Peter 3:18, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

When grace happens, generosity happens.  Unsquashable, eye-popping, big-heartedness happens!  You simply can’t contain it all.  Let it bubble over.  Let it spill out.  Let it pour forth.

From GRACE

Charles Stanley – The God Who Relates to Us

Charles Stanley

John 15:14-17

As much as our heavenly Father cares about our salvation, He also places high priority on another aspect of our Christian life: He is interested in building a relationship with you and me—the kind that Jesus built with His disciples.

Can you imagine a higher compliment than for the God of the universe to say, “I want a personal, intimate relationship with you?” What this means is that our heavenly Father wants to make it possible for a mutual sharing of the highest order. He is interested in genuine conversation and listening. He longs to spend time with you. He seeks openness and transparency with no dark, hidden secrets between you and Him.

God created us in His image, which means that we can reason and experience emotion, free choice, and commitment. He wants to love us and have us love Him in return. He thinks of us not merely as servants, but as friends in whom He can confide. That is why Jesus said to His disciples, “All things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

It was a special privilege for the disciples to live, work, and interact with the incarnate Christ. But we are also privileged because this very day, two thousand years later, the Father desires to build as warm and intimate a relationship with us as His Son did with those first-century followers. Our God is not some distant, transcendent deity. He’s close. And He is ever calling us to greater intimacy with Him. Won’t you respond to Him today?

Our Daily Bread — Not All Empty

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 107:1-9

He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. —Psalm 107:9

Our granddaughter Julia spent the summer working in an orphanage in Busia, Uganda. On the final day of her internship, she went to the children to tell each one goodbye. One little girl named Sumaya was very sad and said to her, “Tomorrow you leave us, and next week the other aunties [interns] leave.”

When Julia agreed that she was indeed leaving, Sumaya thought for a minute and exclaimed, “But we will be all empty. None of you will be left!” Again, Julia agreed. The little girl thought a few moments and replied: “But God will be with us, so we won’t be all empty.”

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that “all empty” feeling. It is an emptiness that friendship, love, sex, money, power, popularity, or success can never assuage—a longing for something indefinable, something incalculably precious but lost. Every good thing can remind, beckon, and awaken in us a greater desire for that elusive “something more.” The closest we get is a hint, an echo in a face, a painting, a scene . . . . And then it is gone. “Our best havings are wantings,” said C. S. Lewis.

We were made for God, and in the end, nothing less will satisfy us. Without Him, we are all empty. He alone fills the hungry with good things (Ps. 107:9). —David Roper

Dear Lord, fill me with Your goodness and love.

I desire nothing in heaven and earth but You.

Without You, I have nothing. Thank You for the

abiding satisfaction that we can find in You.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. —C. S. Lewis

Bible in a year: Obadiah; Revelation 9

Alistair Begg – Heart-rending

Alistair Begg

Rend your hearts and not your garments.

Joel 2:13

The tearing of garments and other outward signs of religious emotion are easily displayed and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will pay attention to the most minute ceremonial regulations-for those things are pleasing to the flesh. But true faith is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of people of the flesh; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly.

Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: But they are ultimately delusive, for in the face of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.

Heart-rending is divinely worked and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief that is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked about and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating and completely sin-purging, but it is also sweet preparation for the gracious consolations that proud, unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally as hard as marble: How, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: A dying Savior’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men tear their garments in the day of lamentation.

 

Charles Spurgeon – The inexhaustible barrel

CharlesSpurgeon

“And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:16

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 5:6-11

If God saves us, it will be a trying matter. All the way to heaven, we shall only get there by the skin of our teeth. We shall not go to heaven sailing along with sails swelling in the breeze, like sea birds with their fair white wings, but we shall proceed with sails torn to ribbons, with masts creaking, and the ship’s pumps at work both by night and day. We shall reach the city at the shutting of the gate, but not an hour before. O believer, thy Lord will bring thee safe to the end of thy pilgrimage; but mark, thou wilt never have one particle of strength to waste in wantonness upon the road. There will be enough to get thee up the hill Difficulty, but only enough then by climbing on your hands and knees. You will have strength enough to fight Apollyon, but when the battle is over your arm will have no strength remaining. Your trials will be so many, that if you had only one trial more, it would be like the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. But, nevertheless, though God’s love should thus try you all the journey through, your faith will bear the trying, for while God dashes you down to the earth with one hand in providence, he will lift you up with the other in grace. You will have consolation and affliction weighed out in equal degree, ounce for ounce, and grain for grain; you will be like the Israelite in the wilderness, if you gather much manna, you will have nothing over; while blessed be God, if you gather little you shall have no lack. You shall have daily grace for daily trials.

For meditation: The Christian does not need to go looking for problems—they are as fundamental to the Christian faith as any major doctrine (Acts 14:22); but the Christian receives from God the ability to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Sermon no. 290

18 December (1859)

John MacArthur – Bearing with an Exhortation

John MacArthur

“I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22).

Hell is undoubtedly full of people who did not actively oppose Jesus Christ, but simply drifted into damnation by neglecting to respond to the gospel. These are the kinds of people the writer challenges in Hebrews 2:1-4. They were aware of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, but weren’t willing to commit their lives to Him. As a result, they were drifting past the call of God into eternal disaster.

The Word of God always demands a response. Any effective teacher of it must do more than just dispense facts; he must warn, exhort, and extend an invitation. He may have impressive knowledge of the truth, but if he doesn’t have a passionate concern for how people react to it, he is not a worthy representative of Jesus Christ.

Jesus had that kind of compassion. Despite the rejection of His own people, He ached for their salvation: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen ushers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). You can feel His heart go out to the people.

Paul had similar compassion: “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of My brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:2-3). A true teacher is interested in more than just academics; he is concerned that people respond rightly to what is taught.

Just as the writer of Hebrews had to warn and exhort his readers, at times it becomes necessary for us to warn those we are witnessing to. If you want to see unbelieving friends, relatives, or associates come to Christ, warn them. Let them see the passion in your heart and your love for them. Please don’t allow anyone to slip into eternal destruction without being warned sufficiently.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Ask God to give you wisdom regarding when to warn the people you are witnessing to.

For Further Study:

Read Hebrews 3:7–4:13, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, and 12:25-29 noting the pattern the writer followed in presenting these other warnings.

 

 

Greg Laurie – Joseph, the Unsung Hero

greglaurie

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. —Luke 1:26–27

To me, Joseph is the unsung hero of the Christmas story. Very little is said about him, but he was a righteous man.

Luke’s Gospel tells us that Mary was “betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph” (1:27). This arrangement was a little different than engagements of today. According to the rabbinical writings, there were two stages in a Hebrew marriage. The first, known as the betrothal period, was as legally binding as marriage. If at any time during this phase of marriage either person violated their vows, a formal divorce was required to nullify the marriage. Mary and Joseph were legally married, and during the approximate twelve-month period of their betrothal, they had no physical relationship and lived in separate houses. The second stage was the wedding ceremony, which lasted for seven days.

It was in the first stage of their betrothal that Mary became pregnant with the Son of God. Joseph could have divorced her because of this. His heart must have been broken, but he didn’t want to make a spectacle out of Mary. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

Joseph knew that he would be thought of as the husband of the woman who had broken her vow. And indeed Mary went through life with that reputation. The Pharisees once said to Jesus, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God” (John 8:41). In other words, “You were conceived out of wedlock, Jesus.”

Joseph was willing to endure all of that. He loved Mary. He obeyed God. And both of them agreed to God’s plan.

Max Lucado – Jesus is the Gift

Max Lucado

Little Carol with the pigtails, freckles, and shiny back shoes. Don’t let her sweet appearance fool you.  She broke my heart!  On the day of the great gift exchange in my fourth-grade class, I ripped the wrapping paper off the box to find—stationery! Brown envelopes and folded note cards with a picture of a cowboy lassoing a horse.  What ten-year-old boy uses stationery?  There’s a term for this kind of gift:  obligatory!

I know we shouldn’t complain, but don’t you detect a lack of originality? And when a person gives a genuine gift, don’t you cherish the presence of a gift just for you?  Have you ever received such a gift?  Yes, you have.  You’ve been given a perfect personal gift.  One just for you. God says to anyone who’ll listen:  ”There has been born for you…a Savior….” Jesus is the gift!

“There has been born for you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11”

From GRACE

Charles Stanley – The God Who Reveals Himself

Charles Stanley

Hebrews 1:1-4

People have all kinds of distorted impressions of God. As a result, their view of life is awry—for example, they may think life is just a matter of fate. But the Lord of the universe leaves nothing to chance.

Because God wants us to approach life correctly, His Word gives us a clear picture of what He is like. One way He reveals Himself is through the material world. The Bible says that the heavens “declare the glory of God” and “pour forth speech” about the Author of creation (Ps. 19:1-2 niv). They are telling of His strength and magnificence. Likewise, the wind, waves, and natural disasters show forth the power of our awesome God. And in a similar way, all the cycles of nature, with their vivid colors and changing patterns, tell of our Maker’s creative genius.

Another way God chooses to reveal Himself is through man’s conscience. Even people who have never heard of God’s laws instinctively know what is right and what is wrong (Rom. 2:11-15). There are atheists who would never lie, steal, or kill. This standard comes from God, who has impressed a moral sense on every person’s conscience.

Many people obey their conscience yet fail to believe in God or recognize that they are accountable to Him. The fact is that unbelief doesn’t cancel your accountability to the Lord. The evidence for His existence is undeniable, but He will not force anyone to believe. Everybody has a choice to make: Will I worship a god of my own creation, or will I worship the One who created me?

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Out of Ivory Palaces

Ravi Z

Impossible to miss in any mall, grocery store, elevator, or voice mail system, Christmas music is as ubiquitous as snow in Alaska. I have yet to walk into a store this Christmas season that wasn’t playing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I’m sure you are familiar with the song and can hear the tune in your head: With kids jingle belling/and everyone telling you/”Be of good cheer,”/It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With this music all around me, I can’t help but begin to hum along, and feel uplifted as if it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

And yet, for many individuals, Christmas is anything but wonderful. In fact, the joviality, décor, and the music simply strike dissonant chords because of the memories, emotions, and experiences associated with this season.  Families in Sandyhook, Connecticut and Arapahoe County Colorado in the United States feel the emptiness of loss, the hemorrhage of violence, and the undertow of grief as a result of two random shooters. I suspect this will mark their Christmas seasons for the rest of their lives. There are many who also grieve the loss of a loved one—not necessarily from armed violence—but from the violence of a body turned against itself through cancer or some other debilitating or destructive disease. For them, Christmas reminds them of yet another empty chair. Others experience joblessness or underemployment, numbing loneliness, disappointed expectations, ruptured relationships, and rejection that twist and distort the joy of the season into a garish spectacle. Instead of uplifting them in celebration, the most wonderful time of the year seems a cruel mockery.

For all of these, and many others, the Christmas season seems more like the opening verse of Christina Rossetti’s haunting Christmas hymn, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,

earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

All the excitement, anticipation, and beauty of the season can easily be frozen by pain, disappointment and grief; instead of singing songs of joy, a bitter moan emanates like the cold, frost-bitten wind.

Into this world—the world of the bleak midwinter—God arrived. Not sheltered from grief or pain, God descended into a world where poverty, violence, and grief were a daily part of God’s human existence in the person of Jesus. Joseph and Mary, barely teenagers, were poor, and Mary gave birth to the Messiah in a dirty barn. Herod the Great used his power to slaughter all the male children who were in Bethlehem under the age of two. Shepherds slept on grassy hills, their nomadic home. Even in Jesus’s public ministry, his cousin, John the Baptist, would be beheaded. Jesus would experience rejection and eventually die a criminal’s death, with only a few, grieving women remaining at his side. The old hymn, “Out of the Ivory Palaces” said it well:

Out of the ivory palaces, into a world of woe,

Only His great, eternal love, made my Savior go.

Into this world—our world of bleak midwinter—God arrives. God arrives in the midst of pain and suffering, doubt and disappointment, longing and loneliness to make a home with us, to be alongside of us because of “great, eternal love.”  The gospel of John tells us that God did not stay removed from us or from our sufferings, but that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). For those who find the Christmas season far from the “most wonderful time of the year,” Immanuel, God with us, comes to be our consolation.

And those who celebrate this season as the most wonderful time of the year can demonstrate its beauty, joy, and celebration by reaching out to those in bleak midwinter, doing our part, giving our all, sharing our hearts.

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