Merry Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior!
He alone is the Reason for our ultimate JOY!

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid.

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.

And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger.”

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!”

—Luke 2:8-14

The song “A Christmas Alleluia” is by Chris Tomlin featuring Lauren Daigle and Leslie Jordan. Close your eyes as you listen to this wonderful song of praise and worship to our Savior.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
to God who alone is wise,
be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 

—1 Timothy 1:17 (NKJV)

After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
“Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power
belong to the Lord our God!

For true and righteous are His judgments,
because He has judged the great harlot
who corrupted the earth with her fornication;
and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.”

Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”

—Revelation 19:1-3 (NKJV)

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

I Bring You Great News!

I Bring You Great News! 

By Pat Knight

On a wintry, star-studded night, the only sound piercing the crisp air was the occasional, familiar bleating of sheep. Located just a few miles outside the village of Bethlehem, the little band of shepherds spread their bedrolls on the cold, hard earth around a crackling fire, prepared to settle in for sleep. The shepherds divided the night hours into watches in case a marauding animal attacked a lamb or robbers slithered into their camp, but usually the nighttime was fairly quiet. The shepherds had no reason to expect this night’s activities to be any different than others before it. Then suddenly, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9).

The shepherds were paralyzed by their intense terror, initiating the angel’s first words to them, “Fear not.” Their fears allayed, the angels continued: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-12).

The skies then exploded in praise, revealing a large group of angels who joined the original heavenly messenger, proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). The heavenly hosts could be contained no longer, appearing en masse on earth in a blaze of God’s glory and light. The shepherds were singled out to receive a private birth announcement, a celebration that originated in heaven and embraced earth, appropriate acclaim for the birth of a King, the promised Messiah, the Anointed One!

God orchestrated a dynamic duo of heaven and earth to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It was a heavenly response from the angels announcing proclamations, an earthly reaction from the praise of the shepherds, and the marvel of all who hear of these events throughout time.

As the shepherds hurriedly followed the angel’s directions to seek the newborn King in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, they must have recalled the stories handed down to them via the written and spoken word through the centuries, promising the Messiah who would save the people from their sins. With God’s help, the shepherds found the baby in the manger, just as they had been told. It is probable that they exchanged stories of what had just happened to them with Mary and Joseph, augmenting the parents’ understanding of God’s promises that had transpired in their recent lives.

The shepherds sensed that their involvement in the heavenly celebration of Jesus’ birth was not intended to be kept private. Bursting with thanksgiving, they understood that this occasion was significant in history and they must share the Good News. Ultimately, the shepherds glorified and praised God, just as the angels had done in their presence. “They spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18).

Let us acknowledge the greatest gifts of love and grace the world has ever known in the fashion the angels and shepherds first expressed, with exhilaration, peace, and joy permeating each of our days!

God Most Nigh

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

God Most Nigh

Understanding the mystery of God with us
December 10th, 2018
Ann-Margret Hovsepian

As the calendar ticks closer to Christmas, one of the first carols we sing at church is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It always gives me goosebumps, not only because the tune is so beautiful, but because I’m reminded that this name (also spelled Immanuel), assigned to Jesus about 700 years before his birth (Isaiah 7:14), means “God with us.” Some people mistake the meaning as “God is with us” (which is also true) but it is important to note that it’s actually “God with us.” The distinction matters: Though God had been with humans since the beginning, for the first time in history, God became a human. When Isaiah called this human “God-with-us,” he was hinting at the mystery of what the church calls the incarnation: Jesus Christ was God in flesh (John 1:14). God’s great sacrifice began thirty-three years before Jesus ever died on the cross, when God left the glory of heaven to walk this earth as a human being and live a life of humility, simplicity, and selflessness.

Consider using this article as an aid to understanding the incarnation better through Scripture. Pause over the Scripture references and reflect on what they are teaching you about Jesus, God with us.

Fully God

Jesus’s deity—the fact that he is God—is paramount to our Christian faith. Many skeptics stumble over the claim that Jesus and God are one and the same. The Gospel writer John, one of Jesus’s closest friends, claimed that Jesus was with God at the beginning of time, and that in fact Jesus was God. John said that the whole world was made through Jesus. He called Jesus both “the only Son” of God (John 1:14) and “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” (John 1:18).

If John’s radical claims are true, they change everything. If Jesus was not God in the flesh, he could not have stepped in as the perfect and blameless sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. If he had been merely a human being, his death would have been tragic but fairly insignificant, especially because he would not have risen from the dead three days later. Jesus lived a human life, but he did not have a human father, so he did not inherit the sin nature we are all born with. Jesus lived in a way that perfectly followed all of God’s commands—something no human had ever been able to do. Thus, he was able to overcome death and offer salvation to all who believe in him. The book of Hebrews tells us that “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). (See also Hebrews 9:14-15 and 10:12-14.)

Read the rest here.

Glory to God

Glory to God

By Pat Knight

“He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government there will be no end…The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Our society is enthralled with current electronic equipment such as computers, cell phones, tablets, and digital cameras, as we impatiently await the discovery of the newest gadget. A university professor who researches such things, sent an e-mail from his home to the college where he works, a mere two miles away. Before the e-mail registered on his work PC, he followed the route of the message with his home computer. As it traveled through several states, it bounced off twenty-one cell towers before reaching its intended final destination two hours later.  As amazed as we are with the latest and greatest electronic devices, they all have their limits.

When you pray, your words are heard instantly in heaven. No bouncing off earthly or heavenly cell towers is necessary. God knows our thoughts even before we utter them.  He listens intently when we approach Him verbally. Have you told God lately how wondrous He is? If we exclaim about the latest electronic development, surely we must express to our Lord His superior and miraculous nature. God is the heavenly Father who promised, and then faithfully orchestrated, the incarnation of Jesus on the starlit night in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

God performed the only virgin birth ever in the history of mankind. He kept Mary well without prenatal medical care and assured a healthy birth in an age when infant mortality was extremely high. He sent a great choir of angels to earth, specifically to the lowly shepherds tending their flocks in the fields at night, to sing the first Christmas carol, announcing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). God directed the shepherds to the humble location in Bethlehem to witness the baby Jesus, so they could repeat what they had seen, worshipping God for the greatest miracle of the ages.

God planted a prominent star in the sky, alerting astrologists from the east of the birth of the King. The star eventually led the Magi to the royal family several months after Jesus’ birth, when they presented the family with gold and other gifts, providing financially for them. Once the wise men left, an angel of the Lord forewarned Joseph in a dream that he must move quickly to avoid King Herod’s jealousy for his crown, made apparent by his recent order for his henchmen to kill all the newborn baby boys around Bethlehem. Joseph took his family during the night to Egypt, away from King Herod’s legal jurisdiction.

Christians the world over recognize these historical, supernatural events as part of the Christmas story; a series of miracles surrounding Jesus’ birth, choreographed by the heavenly Father, with every detail fulfilled exactly just as He had promised over the centuries and recorded in His Word.

If ever there were anyone worthy of our awesome, incredible reactions, it is the Lord of Hosts and King of Kings! Let us offer the splendor of our worship to the Messiah this Christmas, as the divine power; the enduring, compassionate provider and protector of His people. The God without limits merits our shouts of joy and adoration for sending the babe of Bethlehem, who joyously offered himself as our Redeemer on the cross of Calvary!

The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy

Shared from the Grace Thru Faith site.

The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. The virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

There is perhaps no prophecy in the Old Testament more controversial than this one. Many liberal theologians reject the notion of the virgin birth of Jesus as being simply legend, Jews flatly deny its validity and non-believers scoff at it as the best example of the mindless belief necessary for Christianity to flourish.

Yet a careful study of the history of Israel, the laws of inheritance, and the promises by God to King David lead even the most skeptical student to conclude that Jesus had to be supernaturally conceived to be both God and human, and therefore qualified to redeem mankind, and have a legitimate claim to the Throne of Israel.

The God Man

Jesus had to be God to forgive our sins. No mere human can do that. One of the charges levied against Him was that He committed blasphemy by claiming the authority to forgive us, a power reserved for God alone (Mark 2:1-7). To prove He had that authority, Jesus healed a paralytic (Mark 2:8-12) right before His accusers’ eyes.  The immediate healing was incontrovertible evidence of His authority, derived as a direct descendant of God.

But He had to be human to redeem us. The laws of redemption required that a next of kin redeem that which was lost. (Lev. 25:24-25) This so-called kinsman redeemer had to be qualified, able and willing to perform the act of redemption. When Adam lost dominion over planet Earth and plunged all his progeny into sin, only his next of kin could redeem the Earth and its inhabitants. Since Adam was a human whose Father was God (Luke 3:23-38), only another direct Son of God could qualify. This is why Paul referred to Jesus as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). Since the Laws of sacrifice required the shedding of innocent blood as the coin of redemption, only a sinless man was able (John 1:29-34). Since the kinsman redeemer’s life was required, only someone who loves us the way God does would be willing (John 3:16). This is the real test of the kinsman redeemer. Seeing Jesus as qualified and able to redeem us isn’t a great problem. After all He’s the Son of God. But recognizing that He was also willing to step down from His Heavenly Throne to trade His perfect life for ours should really humble us. What kind of love did it take to voluntarily suffer the pain and humiliation required to redeem us?

Read the rest here.

Heart Treasures

Heart Treasures

By Patricia Knight

Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Mary was an ordinary person who accomplished the extraordinary. As a young teenager, a mere twelve to fourteen years of age, Mary possessed a quiet faith, one that conveyed submission, humility, and inner strength of character. The angel assured her, “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with GodYou will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1: 30-32).

Mary was initially overwhelmed and perplexed by the announcement, but she asked only one question of the angel, Gabriel: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Once Gabriel responded that the Holy Spirit had overcome her to create her pregnancy, Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

Her next response was to sing a song of praise and glory to God, rejoicing in His mercy lavished upon her. Mary’s song ends with conviction that God is faithful to His promises. She felt honored that she had been chosen to participate in a miracle that would fulfill God’s sacred word made centuries ago to bring the prophesied Savior to the world.

Mary didn’t attempt to live in the future, avoiding futile “what if” questions. She relied upon her Lord to meet all of her needs on a daily basis. Whenever she was reminded of a new aspect of Jesus’ future predicted by a prophet or an angel, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). God recognized Mary’s superlative heart value. He chose her as the mother of Jesus by examining her heart and found it overflowing with goodness.  To hold the Son of God in her arms, to cuddle Him, to nurture and instruct Him, must have been a tremendous privilege and responsibility, not so different from the devotion and love all mothers feel toward their children. However, a sense of wonder must have constantly permeated Mary’s emotions.

As Jesus matured, He gradually developed an awareness of His unique relationship to God. He was also perfectly obedient to His earthly parents. Mary and Joseph must have yearned for their firstborn to experience every aspect of life, but Jesus was unable to fall in love, have a family, or experience any permanent status on earth. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.  He was focused on the work with eternal consequences that He must perform during his brief time on earth.

Jesus’ parents had no forewarning that their adult son would walk on water, cure the blind, or heal the lame. But they believed unreservedly in His mission. At a wedding feast where the wine supply was exhausted much too early in the celebration, Mary asked Jesus to help in some way to prevent embarrassment to the bridegroom. Then she instructed the servants, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Though Jesus had never performed a miracle before, Mary trusted His abilities and judgment explicitly. She was likely as surprised as the servants that Jesus converted gallons of plain water into elegant wine.

Jesus was born on earth not to constantly perform fantastic miracles, as needed as they were, but to bring redemption of sin to the multitudes. 

Soon the prediction the prophet Simeon uttered when Jesus was an infant, was proving true: Mary as well as Jesus would suffer deep anguish in the future. When Jesus claimed to be the son of God, storm clouds of opposition and rejection gathered over His life. Mary must have felt personally attacked when she viewed mob hatred escalating toward her son. Jesus was the subject of intolerance and shame; scorn and disbelief.  Mary paid a tremendous price to bring the Savior into the world; she paid an exorbitant price to stand beneath the cross, witnessing the physical and emotional torment of Jesus’ during his heinous crucifixion. Mary’s heart must have completely shattered, spilling forth all the treasures she’d pondered over the past thirty-three years of her son’s life.

As He hung from the cross, Jesus assigned His beloved disciple, John, to care for His mother for the rest of her earthly life. Then Mary retreated into seclusion with Jesus’ committed followers, where they hid from the Roman authorities, praying for protection and guidance. Three days later, news arrived that Jesus had risen from the dead. How Mary rejoiced!  Her son, the Son of God, was alive!  Thanksgiving filled the air.

Are we willing to cling to our beliefs, as Mary did, even when the rising tide of public opposition threatens to chip away at our spiritual commitment, like granite eroding from the constant battering of surging tides? Just as plans for the incarnation of our Savior were flawlessly choreographed in heaven, God loves us so much that His purposes for each of our lives are also perfect. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas season, let us follow Mary’s example, learning to treasure all the Words of God and ponder them in our hearts.

Santa’s Christmas Wish

It’s Christmas Eve once again,
And the world awaits Santa’s return,
But as children sleep with happy faces,
Santa’s face is full of concern.

For he knows that many believe in him,
Even though they see him not;
Yet they don’t believe in the unseen God,
Nor the Son that He begot.

They accept the many gifts from Santa,
As an expression of his love;
But they won’t accept The Greatest Gift,
From the loving God above.

The gift of eternal salvation,
Was offered on Christmas Day –
Through the birth of Baby Jesus,
Who is still rejected today!

“How sad it is,” thought Santa,
As he climbed into his sleigh.
And with tears staining his cheeks,
Santa bowed his head to pray.

“Lord Jesus, ’tis not for my glory,
That I return each Christmas Eve.
But to show men, women, and children,
That they don’t need to see to believe.

“And if they can accept my gifts,
Even though they’re undeserving –
I pray they’ll learn to accept Your Gift,
Through a clearer understanding.

“And Lord, If could have a Christmas wish,
I would ask for it to be —
That on each and every Christmas Eve,
The world would look for Thee, not me!”

-Author Unknown-