Sunday, December 16, 2018

Gifts

Christmas gifts generate great excitement and interest. After the presents are wrapped and placed under the tree, many people spend countless hours trying to figure out what might be on the inside. Sometimes the gifts are carefully shaken or lifted to see if the weight or size might give an indication about what could be inside.
But when God gave us the first Christmas gift its value was obvious. It was a gift of love that could not be measured or found outside of Him. It was a gift of mercy that only He could provide. And it was a gift of grace that only He could provide through His Son.
God’s love is ultimately expressed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. His love is the source of His mercy and grace and it is because of His love that we have mercy and grace. It was because of His love that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him will find His mercy and enjoy His grace and be with Him forever in eternity.
John says something very significant about this love. “If God loved us,” he says, “we ought to love one another.” His love does not end with our salvation, but with our obligation to share His love with others. It begins a pattern of self-sacrificing love that Christians must live by sharing His mercy and grace with others.
Prayer: Lord, we often forget how responsible we are to share Your gifts of love, mercy and salvation with others. Give us no peace until we share Your gifts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: 1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Planning Ahead

It was the Sunday before Christmas and the teacher of the fifth-grade class was reviewing the details of the birth of Jesus. With carefully chosen words she talked about the difficult journey to Bethlehem. Then she said with sadness, “And when they arrived, there was no room for them in the inn. Wasn’t that terrible?”
George, after thinking for a moment about the vacations his family had taken and the plans they made said without thinking, “Why didn’t Joseph make a reservation?”
There will be many around us during this holiday season who will make no room – no reservation – for Jesus to be with them once again this year. We often remind each other that “He’s the reason for the Season” but do not take time to explain to others what that reason is. We are quick to condemn those who want to take “Christ out of Christmas” but do not take time to plant the message of Christ in their minds and hearts at Christmas. We place the manger scene under the tree, cover it with presents and then wrap it back up and forget about His birth and its significance for another year.
Hanging next to Jesus on a cross was a thief who was dying for crimes he committed. In his final moments he turned to Him and said, “Jesus, remember me.” And Jesus said, “I will. Today you will be with me in paradise.” Today is the best day to make your reservation to be with Him if you have not done so.
Prayer: Your Word, Lord, declares that “Today is the day of salvation.” May we take advantage of this day! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Luke 2:1-7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Facing Fear With Facts

A bright light on a dark night would frighten most individuals if it was unexpected. How much more frightening would it be if an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and God's glory lit up the area where sheep were quietly sleeping and shepherds were watching to make certain that they were safe.
Sensing the fear of the shepherds the angel said confidently, “Don’t be afraid of this Light!” The angel wanted to calm their pounding hearts. “I came with Good News. News that will bring great joy to everyone, everywhere who is willing to accept the Good News!”
How gracious is our God. The shepherds did what any of us would do: react with apprehension and fear. Yet, God, in His love and mercy first gave them His assurance that they were safe and then explained to them what had happened. “A Savior, Christ, who is the Anointed One, the One that you have been waiting for, even the LORD, has been born!”
There is a wonderful lesson here for each of us. Rarely do we get through any day without something unusual – sometimes a tragedy, perhaps a life-threatening or grief-producing event – invading our lives. It is normal and natural to react with fear and wonder.
But as God said to the shepherds then and as He says to us every day, “Don’t be afraid. Good News awaits you. Your Savior is here. Turn to Him in faith and He will save you!”
Prayer: How thankful we are, Father, to know that Your Son, our Savior, is with us every moment of every day. Calm our fears, encourage our hearts through Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Luke 2:8-12 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. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Real Thing!

It has always been difficult for missionary families to be together at special times. Often hearts ache for the joy and happiness that unites loved ones at special times for special reasons and seasons.
The headmaster of a school for the children of missionaries knew that feeling very well. His parents were missionaries and he spent many birthdays alone as well as many holidays. He knew that one of his students was having a particularly difficult time one Christmas and decided to visit him in his room.
After talking for a few minutes he asked, “John, what would you like for Christmas this year?”
Looking at a picture of his father on the wall he said, “I would like my father to step out of that frame.”
That’s what Jesus did. He “stepped out” of the Old Testament “frames” that prophesied of His coming. He became the “real thing” when he walked among the people, laid His hands on the sick and restored them to health, fed the hungry with bread that would last throughout eternity and gave the water of life to those dying of thirst.
The Son of God willingly and voluntarily made Himself “nothing” when He assumed a human body and a human nature and became the “real thing.” Jesus is God seeing us through human eyes, hearing us with human ears, touching lives with human hands and loving us with a human heart. In Jesus, we see God with us!

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for sending us the “Real Thing.” Through Him we know how much You love us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Philippians 2:5-11 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What Kind Of Day Will It Be?

As you look forward to Christmas, what special memories will remain with you after it’s over? Will it be a “horrible day,” a “holiday” or a “holy day?”
For some it will be a “horrible” day. It will be a day when families gather and feuds erupt, unwanted gifts are exchanged, stomachs are stuffed, alcohol generated hangovers will dull minds and memories, and promises to “never do this again” are made. Not ever!
Or, will it be a holiday? Families traveling many miles to get together to share problems and pains that brought them closer together, share joyous memories of special events that united them in love and laughter, introducing a new-born child or one who will soon be the next in-law uniting two “love-birds.”
Would it not be special, however, if we made it a holy day? A day of worship and praise, a day when we set aside time to emphasize the gift of our new birth through Christ?
Paul wrote some inspiring words about the gift of our new birth made possible because of the birth of Jesus. “You have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you.”
This “new nature” means it is possible for us to have a new life through His Son and one day we will be like Him and spend eternity with Him.
Prayer: We thank You, Lord, for the gift of Jesus Who will give us a new life and the joy and peace of salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Where's Jesus' Present?

It was Christmas Eve. The tree was brightly decorated, the presents were wrapped with beautiful paper and bows, the meal was over and the family gathered together to read the Story of the Birth of Jesus.
"Now,” said Dad, “let each one of us say a prayer and I will end our prayer time before we go to bed.”
After praying, Susie went to the tree and began to look at each present. She looked at the name on each of them very carefully. The family was curious but quiet.
Finally, Susie, looked at each member of the family and asked, “Where’s the present for Jesus? What are we giving Him this year?”
Stunned, the family sat in silence. No one had thought about a gift for Him.
Paul has a suggestion for the best gift we could give Christ this Christmas. Writing to the Romans he said, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies – your entire self – to God...be a living and holy sacrifice to Him – the kind He will accept.”
When we think of giving gifts this Christmas each of us would do well to think first of the gift we will give God. We need to take Paul’s words seriously, and give the most valuable gift – the gift of ourselves – to God!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, trouble our hearts with the words of Paul this season, and carefully and prayerfully consider, first and foremost, the gift we will give You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Whose Party?

Competent! Outstanding! Careful! Friendly! Supportive! Bright! Cheerful! Caring! Gracious! And the list of words to describe Beth, the secretary to the president of the company, could go on and on. She was loved by everyone in the company.
When it came time for her birthday one year, her co-workers decided to honor her with a lavish party. They rented a beautiful ballroom, hired the best caterer, designed a special cake, had special napkins with her name on them and collected money to buy a gift.
All went well. The tables were beautifully set, the caterer was on time, the guests arrived and there was excitement in the room. Everyone kept looking at the entrance awaiting the arrival of Beth. After waiting for fifteen minutes the co-worker who organized the event said to Beth’s best friend, “Where is she?”
“I’m not sure,” she replied. “I’ll phone her.”
She did – and discovered that she was at her favorite sandwich shop enjoying her lunch alone. No one thought to invite Beth to her celebration!
There will be many parties this Christmas. And as usual, the Guest, Whose birthday we celebrate, will not be invited. Tables will be set, lights will blink, guests will arrive, laughter will ring out, gifts will be exchanged, everyone will have fun – but Jesus will not be present. No one will think to invite Him – the One who should be the main attraction.
Prayer: Lord of the season, may we place Your Son, our Savior, at the center of everything we do this Christmas. May we never forget, “It’s all about Him.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Matthew 2:11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Promise Of Peace

A professor stood before his class and boasted, "The Bible is false. It cannot be believed. It says, 'Peace and good will toward men.' History cannot account for a time when there were no wars!"
Disturbed, Arthur went to his pastor and related the incident. Calmly, his pastor said, "Art, that's not what the angels said. They said, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased.'"
Politicians speak of peace through treaties and boundaries, threats and sanctions, wars and rumors of wars. But that is not the peace that God speaks of in His Word. His Word speaks of a peace that comes through salvation and surrender to the Prince of Peace. It is a peace that comes from the new heart that He implants within us. It is a peace that Christians enjoy when we open the door to our hearts and allow Him to come in and rule our lives.
The peace that Scripture speaks of will never come from a non-peaceful source. It is a peace that comes through the risen Christ and has its source in God Himself.
We cannot find peace in a turbulent, war-torn world until we make peace with God through Jesus Christ. Only when we go to Him with humility and faith and ask for His forgiveness will He grant us His peace.

Prayer: We pray, Heavenly Father for Your peace – a peace that comes from the God of all comfort Who gives us His peace that assures us of His presence and power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Can You See Him Now?

It was the very first Christmas that Jo Ann’s church had a Nativity scene on the front lawn. Working anxiously, she kept arranging, then rearranging, the figures to make certain they could all be seen.
Finally she sent her friend, Alice, to the edge of the lawn and asked, “How do they look?”
“Fine, they are all O.K.,” came the answer.
Suddenly Jo Ann began to rearrange them once again. “What are you doing? I said they were fine,” said Alice grumpily.
“Yes, I heard what you said,” responded Jo Ann. “But I just want to make sure that Jesus is visible so all of the people can see Him!”
Often Santa gets more attention than our Savior does during these Holy Days. Children anxiously stand in line waiting their turn to ask for gifts and have their picture taken with him. Rarely, however, do children pose at the manger to have a picture taken with the Baby Jesus. Could it be that He is not visible to most people at Christmas? Do we make any effort at all to make Him visible?
Matthew wrote about a group of shepherds who said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem...and see this wonderful thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.”
This “wonderful thing,” Jesus, is what the world needs to see. Let’s be certain He is always visible – especially in our lives!

Prayer: Lord, may we not allow Your Son to be hidden or to be placed behind the “false idols” that so many worship at Christmas. Let us make Him visible! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Luke 2:15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Gift For Eternity

Timothy had done very well in his first semester at college. Excitement was building in the family as the day approached when he would be home for Christmas. His mother wanted to make it a special event, one he would remember for years to come.
“Let’s give Timothy a wristwatch for Christmas,” she said. “He’s done so well and I want him to know how much we appreciate all of his hard work.”
“But,” protested his father, “what happened to that crushproof, waterproof, shockproof, scratchproof watch we gave him when he left for college?”
“He can’t find it,” said his mother.
In giving us the gift of His Son, God gave us Someone Who will be with us forever. A Gift that will be with us until the end of our lives and throughout eternity. An indestructible, ever-present Presence.
Jesus promised us to “be sure of this – I am with you always and everywhere, even to the end of the age.”
Some would ask, “What does it mean that He will be with us? Did he not leave His disciples when He ascended into heaven?” No, He didn't.
When He left them physically He sent the Holy Spirit to be His presence with them personally. We know He was called “Immanuel – God with us” when He was born. We know He is with us now through the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: It’s easy, Father, for us to lose sight of You and Your messages at this time of the year. But help us to pause, pray frequently and sense Your presence within us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Matthew 28:20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Never Mind, Santa...

Chris was sitting in Santa’s lap and going over a long list of presents that he wanted for Christmas. “I want a bicycle,” he said, “and I also want a wagon, a chemistry set, a telescope, an electric train, a football, a Kindle FIRE and pair of roller blades.”
“That’s a long list,” said Santa. “I’ll have to check carefully to see if you were a good boy.”
After thinking for a moment Chris said, “Don’t bother, Santa, I’ll just settle for the roller blades.”
Not many of us would be able to stand a really thorough investigation to discover if we were worthy of receiving a long list of gifts. We’d probably be like Chris and settle very quickly for very little. Not many of us would want to have someone investigate our lives and then decide if we deserved a gift or not. We would be nervous – if not completely frightened.
But God is so very different. He knows everything there is to know about us and still offers us the most precious gift He has: His Son.
“Now, no one is likely to die for a good person,” said Paul, “though someone might be willing to die for someone who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Christ: the source of eternal life.
There you have it. It is not about whether or not we are good or deserving of eternal life through Him. It is because of the great love that God has for us.
Prayer: May we realize during this Holy Season, our Father, the great Gift we have because of Your love. May Your Son be our main interest and attraction this year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Romans 5:5-11

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

How To Learn Understanding

James the Fifth of Scotland ruled his subjects quite differently than other rulers did. Historians say that he would often lay aside his royal robes, put on the clothes of an ordinary man, work as they worked and live as they lived. His disguise allowed him to move freely among his people without being recognized.
He did this, we are told, to gain an understanding of their needs and problems, sorrows and difficulties. Then, when he returned to his throne, he would have a clearer insight of his subjects and was better able to rule over them with compassion and care.
That is what Jesus, the King of kings, did. He laid aside His glory. Paul writing of this said, “Though he was God, He did not demand and cling to His right as God. He made himself nothing, He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form!”
It is common for most of us to be selfish and express our pride by “demanding our rights!” We want what we think is “rightfully” ours for any number of reasons. We believe that we have earned something or deserve something and therefore demand something!
But not Jesus. He laid aside every right that was rightfully His in order to serve others.
As His followers we are to live as He lived. We must develop an attitude of love and humility and willingly and sacrificially serve others as He did!
Prayer: We thank You, Lord, for becoming like one of us and for going through everything that we go through. Knowing this enables us to know just how much You do care. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 2:5-8 “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

"Love With Skin On It"

A young man, who grew up in a housing project, having little hope and few goods, heard an evangelist preaching “love” on a street corner. After listening for a few moments he shouted to the preacher, “I’m sick and tired of you people talking about love. I want to see love. I want to feel love. I want to see love with some skin on it!”
That’s Christmas: “God’s love with skin on it.”
Paul wrote, “For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body!”
In Jesus, we see Someone bringing love to life – but a very special type of love. It is God’s love. We see this love coming to life when Jesus fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, healed the sick, offering water to a thirsty soul, calming the waves to relieve the fears of experienced fishermen, washing dirty feet, spending time with little children, teaching people the truth that brought meaning and purpose to their lives and finally hanging lifeless from a cross – abandoned and alone.
Jesus is God loving through a human heart, healing with a human hand, walking on errands of mercy with human feet, showing love, grace and mercy to those who would do Him harm.
Jesus is God loving the least, the last and the lost. In Jesus, God showed His love with “skin on it.”
Prayer: Help us, Father, to put Your “love in our skin” and take Your love to those in need. May we be as faithful in caring for others as You are in caring for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Colossians 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;