Tag Archives: lord jesus christ

Alistair Begg – A Miraculous Conception

Alistair Begg

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Let us today go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi let us see Him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in Him and can sing, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”1

Jesus is God incarnate, our Lord and our Savior, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire Him. Let us notice at the very first glance His miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a son.

he first promise concerned the seed of the woman, not the offspring of the man. Since venturesome woman led the way in the sin that resulted in paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise.

Our Savior, although truly man, was as to His human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that He may be formed in us, the hope of glory.

Do not fail to note His humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “the virgin,” not a princess or prophetess, nor a woman of influence. True, the blood of kings ran in her veins; and her mind was not weak or untaught, for she could sweetly sing a song of praise. Yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she was engaged, and how miserable the accommodation provided for the newborn King!

mmanuel-God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our daily work, in our punishment, in our death, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.

1 Isaiah 9:6

 

Charles Spurgeon – A Christmas question

CharlesSpurgeon

“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

John MacArthur

“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).

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

Joyce meyer

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

dr_bright

“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. – Christmas Easter Connection

ppt_seal01

Today, you may be celebrating Christmas with your family, exchanging gifts, and eating a traditional meal. Perhaps you’re in an occupation that requires you to work. Maybe you’re in the middle of a severe trial of some kind. Regardless of your circumstances, remember why God sent His Son…and how Christmas is really about Easter.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Psalm 148:1

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17) “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) “ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Praise Him for this incredible gift. Pray for the nation, its leaders and troops to see Christ in Christmas. Find joy in expressing Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Recommended Reading: Isaiah 53:1-12

 

 

Greg Laurie – Christ the Lord

greglaurie

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” —Luke 2:10–11

The angel began that wonderful announcement to the shepherds with, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. . . .” Maybe you are suffering today. You might find yourself wondering, Where is the joy? But what is the joy about? Is it about an opportunity to go shopping? Is the message of Christmas “Let it snow?” No, it is, “Let us worship.”

The angels’ visit to the shepherds became the first Christmas celebration. It’s as though heaven and earth were celebrating it together, as though a portal to glory had been opened up. These shepherds saw the supernatural world, the heavenly world. On that first Christmas, there was a big celebration in heaven and on earth over the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have a Savior: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). That is the most important thing. We have a Savior who came to save us from the power and penalty of sin. Whatever you are going through in life, remember this: you have a Savior. He has put your sins as far away from you as the east is from the west.

Christ means “anointed one.” Another word for that is Messiah. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to send His Son as the Messiah. This is a simple reminder that God keeps His promises. God said that He would send a Messiah, and the Messiah came.

Lord means that we have a sovereign God who is in control of our lives.

So set aside the things you have become preoccupied with and remember that you have a Savior. You have a Lord. You have a Christ. And you have His promises.

 

Max Lucado – God Sent a Savior

Max Lucado

Every Christmas I read this reminder that came in the mail several years ago. If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.

But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior!  Christmas cards. These punctuated promises. Phrases filled with the reason we do it all anyway. He became like us, so we could become like him. Angels still sing and the star still beckons.

Isaiah 9:6 proclaims, “God has given a son to us. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God. Prince of Peace.”

Ah, the wonder of it all is that He loves each one of us like there was only one of us to love!

From Grace for the Moment

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Good News Bad News

Ravi Z

One of the wonderful aspects of the Christmas season is the celebration of unique and sometimes quirky family traditions that make the season special for each one of us. In my family, we had several Christmas television specials that became part of our celebration ritual. One of my favorites was “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I loved the music that undergirded the animated characters and plot; I loved the fact that Charlie Brown finds the lowliest Christmas tree for the pageant, and I loved Linus’s gentle, yet poignant reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. I’m sure we all remember his slow walk to the center of the stage with thumb in mouth and blanket trailing behind him.

To this day, his recitation from the second chapter of Luke still gives me goose bumps. Tears of joy and beauty often fill my eyes as I hear his small, childlike voice proclaiming the powerful message of God’s good news:

“And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for 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 Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased’” (Luke 2:8-14).

In recalling Linus’s recitation, I’ve been thinking about the message of good news the angels proclaimed to the shepherds that starry night. I think about what a contrast that message is to our prevailing “bad news” messages today. Wars continue; millions of children are orphaned because of AIDS; political candidates lambaste and defame one another instead of discussing policy agenda and objectives; friends lose loved ones to cancer. We live in a world of bad news.

As I juxtapose the bad news of our world with Luke’s message of good news, I have to wonder if it’s just wishful thinking. In light of our bad news world, what is good about the good news?

First, the angel proclaims that salvation has come in one “born this day in the city of David, who is Messiah.” For those poor shepherds, this was indeed good news! Their deliverer had come to rescue them from Roman oppression, and now all of Israel would be restored under the rule of God’s messiah. Second, the good news of God’s promised Messiah demonstrates God’s favor towards us. “Glory to God in the highest,” the angel host says, “and on earth peace among men with whom God is pleased.” The Greek word for pleased literally means “to think well of, to approve, or to take delight in or pleasure.” So often, perhaps influenced by bad news all around us, many of us struggle with a foreboding sense that God is angry with us, smoldering with rage and wrath against us. But the angels declare the exact opposite—and this is indeed, good news!  God sends Jesus, the Messiah, out of a sense of delight and pleasure with his creation. The Messiah coming as one of us, Immanuel, God with us is the greatest good news we could ever hope to receive. Jesus says in John’s gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only, begotten son; that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

In the face of the bad news of our world and in our lives, the good news of God should resound in our hearts and minds as we enter the Christmas season: God is with us, God is pleased with us, and God loves us! Jesus inaugurates the reign of good news, his shalom, even in the face of bad news. We can embrace the good news of God’s reign even in the midst of crisis. And we can live the good news as we continue to hope in the God who has dwelt among us. “In the world, you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Glory to God in the highest!

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

 

 

Alistair Begg – He Became Poor

Alistair Begg

For your sake he became poor.

2 Corinthians 8:9

The Lord Jesus Christ was eternally rich, glorious, and exalted; but “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.” As the wealthy believer cannot be true in his fellowship with his poor brethren unless from his wealth he ministers to their needs, so (the same rule holding with the head as between the members) it is impossible that our Divine Lord could have had fellowship with us unless He had given to us from His own abounding wealth and had become poor so as to make us rich.

If He had remained upon His throne of glory, and we had continued in the ruins of the Fall without receiving His salvation, fellowship would have been impossible on both sides. Our position by the Fall, apart from the covenant of grace, made it as impossible for fallen man to communicate with God as it is for Satan to be in communion with Christ. In order, therefore, that communion might be enjoyed, it was necessary for the rich relative to bestow his estate upon his poor relatives, for the righteous Savior to give to His sinning brethren from His own perfection, and for we, the poor and guilty, to receive of His fullness grace for grace, so that in giving and receiving, the One might descend from the heights, and the other ascend from the depths, and in this way be able to embrace each other in true and hearty fellowship.

Poverty must be enriched by Him in whom are infinite treasures before it can begin to commune; and guilt must lose itself in imputed and imparted righteousness before the soul can walk in fellowship with purity. Jesus must clothe His people in His own garments or He cannot admit them into His palace of glory; and He must wash them in His own blood or else they will be too defiled for the embrace of His fellowship.

Believer, herein is love! For your sake the Lord Jesus “became poor” that He might lift you up into communion with Himself.

 

Charles Spurgeon – A Merry Christmas

CharlesSpurgeon

“And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” Job 1:4-5

Suggested Further Reading: Nehemiah 8:9-12

The text gives a licence. Now, ye souls who would deny to your fellow-men all sorts of mirth, come and listen to the merry bell of this text, while it gives a licence to the righteous especially—a licence that they meet together in their houses, and eat and drink, and praise their God. In Cromwell’s days, the Puritans thought it an ungodly thing for men to keep Christmas. They, therefore, tried to put it down, and the common crier went through the street, announcing that Christmas was henceforth no more to be kept, it being a popish, if not a heathenish ceremony. Now, you do not suppose that after the crier had made the proclamation, any living Englishman took any notice of it; at least, I can scarcely imagine that any did, except to laugh at it; for it is idle thus to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Although we do not keep the fast as papists, not even as a commemorative festival, yet there is something in old associations that makes us enjoy the day in which a man may shake off the cares of business, and relax with his little ones. God forbid I should be such a Puritan as to proclaim the annihilation of any day of rest which falls to the lot of the labouring man. I wish there were half a dozen holidays in the year. I wish there were more opportunities for the poor to rest; though I would not have as many saint’s days as there are in Romish countries; yet, if we had but one or two more days in which the poor man’s household, and the rich man’s family might meet together, it might perhaps be better for us. However, I am quite certain that all the preaching in the world will not put Christmas down.

For meditation: Perhaps you are completely opposed to the keeping of Christmas! That is your right! But you can still benefit from the holiday and show the joy of the Lord to those who are going to be with you.

Sermon no. 352

24 December (Preached 23 December 1860)

 

John MacArthur – The Restriction of Man’s Destiny

John MacArthur

“But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him” (Heb. 2:8).

God gave man dominion over all the earth, and the earth supplied his every need. All he had to do was accept and enjoy the earth as provided for him. But Adam sinned and Satan usurped the crown. A new chain of command was born: the earth now rules man.

To know how true that is, all you need do is look at the amount of effort expended on restoring the ecological balance of the earth. Environmentalism is a popular watchword of our day. Yet with all our modern technology, we are still unable to gain control over the earth.

Look what happened once Adam sinned: no longer could man easily harvest what the earth provided–now he had to toil by the sweat of his brow (Gen. 3:18). Women would experience pain in childbirth (3:16). Murder soon followed in Adam’s family. God had to destroy virtually all mankind in the Flood because they had become so debauched.

Much of the animal kingdom now lives in fear of man and cannot be tamed. Where once the earth produced good things naturally and abundantly, now it produces thorns, weeds, and other harmful things. Extremes of heat and cold, poisonous plants and reptiles, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, hurricanes, and disease were all products of the Fall. Man was no longer a king but a slave–a dying creature fighting a losing battle with a dying earth.

Amazingly, the earth is aware of its condition: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it” (Rom. 8:20). Now it eagerly awaits for the day when the sons of God, believers, are manifest in the kingdom, for then it will be liberated from the bondage of corruption (vv. 19, 21-22).

There is coming a day, in the wonderful plan of God, when man will receive once again the dominion that he lost. May our Lord hasten its coming!

Suggestion for Prayer:

Thank God that He will one day redeem the earth from its subjection to the curse.

For Further Study:

Read Isaiah 60:21, 65:25, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:27. What will characterize the new earth?

 

Joyce Meyer – We Need a Guide

Joyce meyer

This God is our God forever and ever; He will be our guide [even] until death.—Psalm 48:14

It thrills me to know that God is our guide through every day of our lives. How wonderful to know that we have Someone to guide us and ensure that we get from one destination in life to the next.

Sometimes when Dave and I travel, we hire a guide to show us the best and most important sites to see. One time, we decided we would explore a certain place by ourselves; that way, we reasoned, we could do what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. However, we quickly found that our independent trip was nearly wasted. We spent large portions of each day getting lost and then trying to find our way again. We have learned from our mistakes and we now know the best use of our time is to follow a guide rather than wandering aimlessly to find places ourselves.

I believe this example from our travels relates to how most people are in life. We want to chart our own courses, be our own guides, and do what we want to do at our convenience. But we typically lose our way and end up wasting our time. God has promised in today’s verse to guide us through our lives. He does this through the Holy Spirit, Who will speak to us and tell us where to go and what to do if we will simply ask Him to lead us.

God’s word for you today: Every moment of your life, even unto death, wherever you are, God is there!

 

 

Greg Laurie –Just Another Night in Bethlehem

greglaurie

Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done marvelous things! —Joel 2:21

On the first Christmas Eve, there were no brightly colored lights on anyone’s homes. There were no stockings that had been hung with care or any visions of sugarplums dancing in children’s heads. It was just another night in Bethlehem. The census had gone out—that command by Caesar that everyone was to be taxed. But history was about to change in Bethlehem.

All of Israel was living in a very frightening time historically. They lived under the tyrant King Herod who would execute people at will. In addition, the Jews were living in occupied territory. The Romans had taken control of their country. They were no longer free to do what they wanted and live as they wanted. They wondered if Rome would ever leave. Would the violent rule ever cease? Would their world ever change?

Then suddenly angels appeared to the shepherds and told them not to be afraid; the Messiah had been born.

There is a lot to be afraid of in our unstable, volatile world today. It seems that at every turn, we hear about another horrific tragedy happening in our world. It can cause us to be terrified.

Then there are the personal fears: What if I lose my health? What if I lose a member of my family? What if this happens? What if that happens? A lot of things run through our minds.

Here is the message of the first Christmas—and the message for us this Christmas: Don’t be afraid. . . . I bring you good tidings of great joy.

Ray Stedman wrote, “The chief mark of the Christian ought to be the absence of fear and the presence of joy.”

Does that describe you? Fear is what Christmas came to remove—and now we can have joy in its place.

 

Charles Stanley – Jesus Christ, Our Messiah

Charles Stanley

Luke 4:16-21

Jesus didn’t go around flaunting His power or greatness. Since He had come to do the Father’s will (John 6:38), redeeming the lost was His priority and purpose. However, the Lord didn’t hide His identity from the world either. When necessary, Jesus clearly identified Himself as the Messiah.

One of Jesus’ most beautiful sermons was given to an audience of one—a woman drawing water from a Samaritan well. After listening to Jesus’ teaching on living water and His prophecies of a change in the way people worshipped God, the woman mentioned the promised Messiah. The Lord replied, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26). Her response was to gather as many townsfolk as she could find to listen to this man who knew her life story and offered love and redemption anyway.

When the time came for Jesus to reveal His identity to the priests and religious leaders, He did so by reading the prophecy of Isaiah 61 and then claiming to be its fulfillment (Luke 4:18-21). He announced that He was the One who would preach the gospel to the poor, release the captives, and give sight to the blind. He didn’t use the word “Messiah,” nor did He have to. All Israel knew that Isaiah’s words applied to God’s “Anointed One.”

Some modern thinkers would like to marginalize Jesus as simply a good man with a message of love. But He was the first to proclaim Himself as more than that. He is the virgin-born Son of God, who came to bear the sins of mankind and die on the cross. He is the Messiah.

 

 

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Nativity Scenes

Ravi Z

A general position on December birthdays (particularly for those of us who hold them) seems to be that its proprietors are easily neglected. We are over-shadowed by Christmas decorations in November and over-looked in December by relatives busy with Christmas errands and office parties. And yet, I suspect that others, like me, have always secretly loved it. In the season of these births, the world was awake, decking the halls, and a great number of them were looking to the birth of another infant. The spirit of Christmas seems a part of our own, the birth of Christ reminding us each year that we, too, were born, that we were fragile, that we were held. For those born in December (and for any who remember their own beginnings in the scenes of Advent), the season offers a time of contemplating infantile beginnings, a lesson in what it means to be human like no other. Stories and celebrations of one’s birth are juxtaposed with a nativity story told long before we were born and one that will continue to be told long after us.

In fact, the story of Christianity is a story filled with nativity scenes. In these stories, we find a God present before we have accomplished anything and longing to gather us long before we know it is happening. Thus David can pray, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” And God can say to the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” And those who witnessed the miracle of Elizabeth and Zechariah can rightly exclaim God’s hand upon the child before that child could say his own name: “The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘What then is this child going to be?’ For the Lord’s hand was with him.”(1)

In a world where significance and identity are earned by what we do, by what we have accomplished, by what we own, by what we earn, and Christmas is about the lines we fought, the lists we finished, the gifts we were able to secure, the kingdom of God arrives scandalously, jarringly—even offensively—into our captive and often content lives. In this kingdom, a person’s value begins before she has said or done the right things, before he has accumulated the right lifestyle, or even made the right lists. In this kingdom, God not only uses children in the story of salvation, not only calls us to embrace the kingdom as little children, but so the very God of creation steps into the world as a child.

Children are not usually the main characters in the stories we tell, yet the story of Christmas begins and ends with a child most don’t quite know what to do with. Here, a vulnerable baby in a structure filled with animals breaks in as the harbinger of good news, the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets, the anointed leader who comes to set the captives free—wrapped in rags and resting in a manger. Coming as a child, God radically draws near, while at the same time radically overthrowing our conceptions of status, worth, power, and authority. Jesus is crowned king long before he can sit in a throne. He begins overturning idols and upsetting social order long before he can even speak.

If truth be told, perhaps I feel a certain delight in celebrating births and birthdays at Christmastime because it is the season in which it is most appropriate—and most hopeful—to remember our own fragility, our dependency, the mystery of the cycles of death and life, and the great reversal of the kingdom of God: For God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.(2) Advent, like childhood, reminds us that we are in need of someone to hold us. It also reminds us that, like the baby in a Bethlehem stable, we too are somewhat out of place, homeless and longing to be welcomed home. The image of a tearful baby in a manager is a picture of God in his most shocking, unbefitting state—the Most High becoming the lowest, the face of God wrapped tightly in a young girl’s arms.

How true that to be human is to be implicitly religious, for even within our most deeply felt needs for love and refuge, we are reminded that there is one who comes so very far to meet us. Inherent in our most vulnerable days, whoever we are, is the hope that God, too, took on the despairing quality of fragility in order to offer the hope of wholeness. In our most weakened states of despair and shortcoming, Christ breaks in and shows the paradoxical power of God in an unlikely nativity scene. Glory to God in the lowest, indeed.

 

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) cf. Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:65-66.

(2) 1 Corinthians 1:27.

 

Charles Spurgeon – The incarnation and birth of Christ

CharlesSpurgeon

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 10:5-7

“Go,” saith the Father, “and thy Father’s blessing on thy head!” Then comes the unrobing. How do angels crowd around to see the Son of God take off his robes! He laid aside his crown; he said, “My father, I am Lord over all, blessed for ever, but I will lay my crown aside, and be as mortal men are.” He strips himself of his bright vest of glory; “Father,” he says, “I will wear a robe of clay, just such as men wear.” Then he takes off all those jewels wherewith he was glorified; he lays aside his starry mantles and robes of light, to dress himself in the simple garments of the peasant of Galilee. What a solemn disrobing that must have been! And next, can you picture the dismissal! The angels attend the Saviour through the streets, until they approach the doors; when an angel cries, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors, and let the king of glory through!” I think the angels must have wept when they lost the company of Jesus—when the Sun of heaven bereaved them of all its light. But they went after him. They descended with him; and when his spirit entered into flesh, and he became a babe, he was attended by that mighty host of angels, who after they had been with him to Bethlehem’s manger, and seen him safely laid on his mother’s breast, in their journey upwards appeared to the shepherds and told them that he was born king of the Jews. The Father sent him! Contemplate that subject. Let your soul get hold of it, and in every period of his life think that he suffered what the Father willed; that every step of his life was marked with the approval of the great I AM.

For meditation: When we think of the birth of the Son of God, our eyes are rightly focused on earth. But are we in danger of forgetting God the Father in heaven, the one who so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son (John 3:16)? May we remember to give “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).

Sermon no. 57

23 December (1855)

 

 

Joyce Meyer – Learn to Receive

Joyce meyer

I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] . . . and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others].—Genesis 12:2

Nothing frustrates me more than people who don’t know how to accept gifts. It’s a joy to express my love or appreciation to someone by giving them a gift I know they’ll like. But if the response is “No, no, I can’t accept that,” or “Really, you shouldn’t have,” or “No, take it back,” then that drains all the joy out of it. It becomes downright embarrassing if you have to force a gift on someone. You may even wonder if you should have offered the gift at all.

Receiving a gift graciously stems from inner security. Those who are uncomfortable getting gifts usually have some deep-seated insecurity that prevents them from accepting others’ kindness. They feel so low that they can’t imagine they deserve anything. Or they worry that the gift burdens them with reciprocation. They would rather reject the gesture than have to engage in a relationship.

In my life and work I have opportunities to give many gifts, and I also get some. When I do, I genuinely appreciate it and tell people so. Be a giver and expect God to bless you through others. When they do, say “thank you” and graciously receive their offers. The greatest gift that can be given is offered to each of use every day, yet few of us have the faith and self-esteem to accept it. God offers us His love. All we have to do is open our hearts and make the decision to receive it. Then we in turn get to pass it on to others.

 

Receiving God’s love is an important step because we can’t love others without it. We cannot give away what we do not have.

Greg Laurie –A Divine Birth Announcement

greglaurie

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. . . . Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” —Luke 2:8, 10

If you are a parent, then you can remember the first people you called after you became one. You gave them the weight and length of the baby and the actual time when he or she was born. You shared the news with those who were closest to you.

When God announced the birth of His Son, whom did He tell first? It seems likely that he would have started with Caesar Augustus. He could have sent the angel Gabriel to appear in Caesar’s court and announce, “Check this out, buddy. You are not God! The Savior of the world has arrived!”

Or He might have had Gabriel appear to the religious leaders and say, “Wake up! The Messiah has been born! The One you talk about, the One you pray for—He is here!”

But that didn’t happen. Instead, God first announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds. We tend romanticize the shepherds along with everyone else in the Christmas story, but we don’t understand who they were. In this culture, shepherds lived at the bottom of the social ladder. Shepherds were so despised that their testimonies were not even allowed in a court of law. Shepherds did the work that no one else wanted to do. They worked hard, but they were perceived as unclean because they could not observe the ceremonial hand washings. They were the outcasts, the nobodies.

The only people less-regarded than shepherds were those who were suffering from leprosy. Yet God decided to announce His news to some shepherds in the fields as they kept watch over their flocks at night. This was the modus operandi of Jesus, from birth to death. He always appealed to the outcast, to the common, to the ordinary. And that should give hope to ordinary people like us.

 

Charles Stanley – Freely Forgiven

Charles Stanley

“How could God ever forgive me? You don’t know what I’ve done.”

“How could I have done such an awful thing? I can never forgive myself.”

As a pastor, these are similar to questions I hear from people who have never fully understood God’s forgiveness. When we do not realize how the Lord’s mercy applies to our daily lives, the result is bondage, which stifles our ability to love and accept others. It also chokes the abundant life that Christ promised to those of us who believe.

Forgiveness is “the act of setting someone free from an obligation resulting from a wrong done against you.” For example, a debt is forgiven when you free the offender of his responsibility to pay back what he owes you. True forgiveness, then, involves three elements, all of which are necessary: an injury, a debt resulting from the injury, and a cancellation of the debt.

In God’s economy, sin creates a deficit; that is, something is taken or demanded from the sinner. What He ultimately requires of the transgressor is death:

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17).

The result of their sin was that death came into the world—not only physical death but also eternal separation from God (Rev. 20:15).

Why did God not immediately snuff out the lives of Adam and Eve? Why does He not do the same for all sinners? The answer is simple yet life-changing in its profundity: There is something God desires more than retribution for the disrespect shown Him—He wants fellowship with us.

He cared enough about Adam and Eve to slay an animal and make garments of skin to cover their nakedness and hide their shame (Gen. 3:17). This was the beginning of the sacrificial system that restored the fellowship between God and His people.

God was willing to move quickly to reinstate fellowship with Adam and Eve, and He will do the same for us today. In light of His mercy, shouldn’t we likewise extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us?

God doesn’t look at sins on a case-by-case basis to determine whether He will grant forgiveness. During Old Testament times, any person could receive atonement for transgressions simply by following prescribed steps. Similarly, to anyone desiring forgiveness today, it is freely available through Christ’s death on the cross:

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Eph. 1:7-8).

Notice that forgiveness is “according to the riches of His grace.” Scripture is clear that forgiveness is a gift, available for the asking (1 John 1:9).The details of what we have done, why we did it, and how many times we did it are irrelevant.

Are there sins from your past that continue to hang over you like a cloud? Do you doubt that God hears you because of sinful choices you’ve made? Do you feel that your potential for the kingdom of God has been destroyed?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have not yet come to grips with God’s solution to your sin. You are still holding on to a way of thinking that can keep you in bondage for the rest of your days on earth. You have set yourself up for a defeated life in which you will never reach your potential in the kingdom of God.

God wants you to be free. And because He does, He sacrificed what was dearest to Him. I encourage you to meditate on the concepts in this article. Ask God to sink them deep into your heart so they become the grid through which you interpret the experiences of life. When you can see yourself as a forgiven child, you will be able to enjoy fellowship with the Father, which was made possible by the death of His Son. Then you can begin to fulfill His marvelous calling on your life.

Adapted from The Gift of Forgiveness, by Charles F. Stanley, 1991.

 

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