Daily Advent Prayer:
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb
and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called
Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him
the throne of David his father,
and he will rule
over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom
there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High
will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy,
the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month
for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
“Behold, I am the handmaid
of the Lord.
May it be done to me
according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her. Lk 1, 28-38
TODAY’S DAILY PRAYER
Lord God, our Father in heaven, you have sent us the Savior, who was born to bring great joy to all people. Glorify your name, we pray. Give the world the peace you alone can give, the peace that wells up in our hearts. Let your favor rest on us so that we may hold out under our sufferings on earth. We need your loving help to remain inwardly steadfast until everyone can be reached by the message, “Be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ.” Amen.
Verse of the Day
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
Don’t be afraid! What can cast away all fear in the presence of God’s glorious messengers? The joy of knowing that God has come to earth to bring an end to sin and Satan’s curse and to bring salvation to all people! Fear must not master our hearts when we know that God has broken through every barrier to reach us with his overwhelming grace.
I praise you, Almighty God, for the gift of joy that chases away all fear. Fill my heart with that joy and fill my mind with wonder as I try to comprehend your love for me. Stir me to greater concern for those who have not heard, or who have not yet accepted, your offer of grace in your Son Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
BIBLE STUDY BUDDY
I’m A Present!
A few days before Christmas, the 3-year-old daughter of Pastor Jeff Callender was caught up in the excitement of gifts and giving. He writes, ”One morning she was picking up, examining, shaking, and guessing what was inside every package. Then, in a burst of inspiration, she picked up a big red bow that had fallen off one present and held it on the top of her head. She looked up at me with twinkling eyes and beamed a smile as she said, ‘Look at me, Daddy! I’m a present!”’
Every child of God should say that to the heavenly Father. In view of all He has done for us, we are to offer ourselves to Him freely, including our bodies. Doing that, we will ”put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13). And we will present ourselves to the Lord as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). Those who truly surrender their all to the Lord can say with Paul, ”Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20).
Christmas is the time when we commemorate God’s greatest gift to mankind- His Son Jesus Christ. As we contemplate the love that prompted such giving, may our response be one of yielding our lives to Him for His glory.
Let’s echo the words of that little girl, ”Look at me, Father! I’m a present!”
One Thing God Wants You to Remember at Christmas
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV).
Friend to Friend
With Christmas, it’s easy to get so busy with the cooking, decorating and shopping that we forget why we’re doing all this in the first place. Sometimes, the very people we love get lost in the hustle and bustle of packed schedules, holiday parties, and Christmas musicals.
Several years ago I wrote a Christmas version of 1 Corinthians 13 to help me keep my focus on what Paul deemed most important of all… love. As part of our family tradition, I pull it out and post it somewhere in our home as a reminder of what’s really important during the holiday season. And since you are now part of the family, I’m pulling it out for you.
1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style
©By Sharon Jaynes
If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, on that starry night in Bethlehem. I am still amazed at Your great love for me. May I never lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, but celebrate Jesus’ birth with joy! Help me to give as You gave—with love.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
What are some ways that you can make sure to love your family well this holiday season?
Are there any activities that you need to eliminate from your busy schedule in order to alleviate over commitment? If so, what are they?
The first Christmas I remember was when I was three years old. My aunts and uncles came to visit, and when they opened the trunk of the car, I discovered that it was full of presents–and all of them were for me! I’m sure you, too, can recall memories from past Christmases, whether good or bad. There’s just something about that day that sticks in our minds.
You can be sure that all of the people who experienced the first Christmasnever forgot it. Joseph remembered the weight of responsibility on his shoulders as he cared for Mary during their journey and searched for a place where she could give birth. And we can imagine that the shepherds often replayed in their minds the scene of glorious angels and the sight of the newborn Messiah. But Scripture mentions only one who “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). Mary had carried this baby in her womb for nine months, but now she saw what no one else had ever seen–the face of God!
What was it like to see deity displayed in the body of a newborn baby? Though we can never see what Mary saw, we can each remember when we first recognized our Savior–the moment we realized He died for us.
This Christmas, take time to remember when you first met Jesus. What was going on in your life? How did you feel after accepting His offer of forgiveness? How has your life changed since that day? Now imagine what it will be like when you finally see Him face to face in heaven.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.
From Hope for Each Day: Morning and Evening Devotionsby Billy Graham
A Healing Word
“I have called you friends.”
Christ came into a world that had problems much like the ones we grapple with today. Life was short, disease was rampant, nations chafed under the heel of Roman rule, slavery was universal. Widows, orphans, the disabled, and the chronically ill had no social safety net to see them through the rough times.
To those people without the joy of living, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). To those who bore sin’s burden of guilt, He said, “Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2).
To the friendless He said, “No longer do I call you servants . . . but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Jesus had a healing word for everyone.
On the surface the world has changed radically since that first Christmas. But deep inside, our problems are the same—for they are problems of the heart. And Christ still comes to us to cleanse our guilt, give us hope for the future, and heal our hurts with His love.
©Hope for Each Day 2002, 2012 by Billy Graham
Studying God’s Word
Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. – >Isaiah 2:5
When I receive a letter from a close friend I usually find myself doing two things: first, I read the letter with interest–hanging on every word; and second, I read the letter a second and in some cases a third time–hoping each time to gain insight or catch something I might have missed previously.
Who wants to be closer to us than God? The same should be true with regard to God’s Word, and by reading that message intently and repeatedly, we can get to know Him truly and more accurately.
In Psalm 119, David likens Scripture to a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. You need to keep God’s Word close by and read it often. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself walking in darkness. And if that happens, you’re sure to stumble and fall.
Remember, God’s Word, the Bible, is a series of letters from your closest friend. Read them closely. Read them often. And after you read it once, read it again!
“You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.” – Arlo Guthrie (1947- )
The Daily Word of Hope Devotional
Bible Fun Fact: The spies that Moses sent into Canaan returned with grapes, figs, and pomegranates (Num 13:23).
Moses answered, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor listen to my voice; for they will say, ‘Yahweh has not appeared to you.’ Yahweh said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A rod.’ He said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ He threw it on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses ran away from it. Exodus 4:1 WEB
Moses had a staff that he carried around with him. It was nothing special at the beginning, but after a meeting with God, the staff transformed into an object of power. At the same time that it grew in power, it also grew into something scary, and Moses ran away from it.
After Moses ran away, the Lord calmed him down, called him back, and taught him how to handle it properly. Moses then took the staff and set out to free his people from slavery. This time he knew how to handle it, and it was no longer a thing of fear to him.
Sometimes the Lord will take something that you already have, and turn it into something powerful, but at the same time it gets scary. The risks, the responsibilities, and the pressure can make you want to run away from it, but only staying with it will cause the victory will come. The Lord rarely takes you around an obstacle, He will take you straight through the middle of it.
If there is something in your life today that you want to run away from, be sure to pray about it first. God was able to tell Moses what to do, and He will tell you as well. If He does not answer, then it must not be important, but sincerely give Him the chance to. Don’t run away from what could be your calling without first asking His advice about it. Do not let fear rob you of what could be.
Prayer: Heavenly Father I look to You today and ask for clear guidance in my life. I want Your will to be done and to have a closer relationship with You. Calm my fears as You did with Moses and teach me what I need to know, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.
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.
The High Places
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
December 24, 2017
“Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places.” – Deuteronomy 33:29
One of the most successful movies of our time has been Star Wars, a futuristic movie where the forces of good battle the forces of evil in a far-off galactic solar system. In order for the forces of good to win their battle, they must enter the airspace of their enemies and find the central power source inside the enemy space station. Their fighter jets must locate this central nervous system and fire a laser missile into its heart in order to destroy the power source. The final scene shows the hero sending a last-minute laser missile into the power source and blowing up the space station and all the evil characters who live on it.
Throughout history, cultures have recognized idols on the high places, on the tops of hills or mountains, as their power sources. God said these high places are an abomination to Him. When God brought the people of Israel into the Promised Land, He instructed them to destroy all the high places. Many times through history, God had to judge Israel for their failure to destroy the high places.
Today, every major cult or evil spirit has its own high place that must be destroyed first before a righteous foundation can be laid. It may not mean you can physically destroy this high place, but you can tear it down through spiritual warfare and intercessory prayer.
High places are anything that is elevated above God and is worshiped. Are there any high places that take the place of God in your life? Are there any high places where you live that must be dealt with through spiritual warfare to allow the Kingdom of God to reign? You must destroy the high places in order for God to reign completely. Ask God to show you the high places so that you can elevate the one true God.
Passion for Praise: ‘He Has Set His People Free’
Sunday, December 24, 2017