Inn At Christmas And All Year Long

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”–Luke 2:7

As we gather with friends and family today to celebrate Christmas, let us remember the lesson of the inn. Mary and Joseph were turned away because there was no room for them. It was filled with people who were involved in the worldly matters. In a sense, we are that Bethlehem inn some two thousand years ago.

That same Jesus whose parents were turned away has come to us, asking if we have room in our hearts for Him. Let us ask ourselves; do we have room for Him, or are our hearts filled with the things of the world? When they were turned away the first time, it was a fulfilling of prophecy; if you turn him away today, it will also be a fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew 7:23 says, “Then I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

My Christmas prayer is that this season, everyone will search their hearts and find room for Jesus. Don’t remain filled with worldly concerns as the inn at Bethlehem; open up your heart to Jesus. May God bless you.

Support The Weak And Be Blessed

Support The Weak And Be Blessed

“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”–Acts 20:35

We began this we by celebrating Christmas and the birth of Jesus. While there are many customs surrounding this special time of year, one of the most popular is gift giving. We give gifts to family, friends, co-workers, and even those who make our lives easier throughout the year. This is also the time of year when people seem more willing to support charities. In past years, some charities have claimed that anywhere from 25 to 50% of their annual donations were received around the holiday season. So, what is it about the holidays that makes us want to help others? Why not help all year round? It all comes down to what is in our hearts.

The reasons people choose to give are numerous and not always altruistic. (Sadly, I have been guilty of many of them.) Most people possess a genuine desire to help those less fortunate than themselves. There are also those who give because they are in the position to help others since they have gone through the exact same thing. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Some give simply to feel better about themselves or to increase their own self worth. Others give out of guilt. For some, there is a sense of obligation. In 2nd Corinthians 9:7, we read these words. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

When we give, God’s desire is that we do so willingly and joyfully. Matthew 5:42 says, “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” We should always be ready to give when asked, yet we should do so with wisdom. In Deuteronomy 16:17, we have this advice when it comes to giving and helping others. “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.”

To give what you can when you can and to do so willingly and joyfully is an act of love. Some people can be so moved to help after hearing of another person’s trouble, they go beyond what is expected from a stranger. This is because of love for their fellow man. The greatest gifts always come from the greatest love. “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” My purpose isn’t to cause anyone to quit giving; too many good charities and causes need your support. I just want you to consider the reasons why you give and, hopefully, find joy in the act of giving.

And to those who want to help, but aren’t able to do so financially, you can still give. You can give the gift of prayer. Pray for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association, and all the other organizations seeking cures. Lift up the Wounded Warrior Project, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and their equivalents around the world. Call out to God; He can open doors in other parts of the worlds for help to reach those in need. “For if there is a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.”

On Christmas Night All Christians Sing By Anonymous

On Christmas Night All Christians Sing By Anonymous

On Christmas night all Christians sing
To hear the news the angels bring
On Christmas night all Christians sing
To hear the news the angels bring

News of great joy news of great mirth
News of our merciful King’s birth
When from our sin he set us free
All for to gain our liberty?

Then why should men on earth be so sad
Since our Redeemer made us glad
Then why should men on earth be so sad
Since our Redeemer made us glad

When sin departs before his grace
Then life and health come in its place
When in its place, angels and men with joy may sing
All for to see the new born King

All out of darkness we have light
Which made the angels sing this night
Glory to God and peace to men
Now and forever more, Amen.

Sand And Sin-Stained Building Material

Sand And Sin-Stained Building Material

(Saturday Evening Prayer For December 23)

Heavenly Father. Where would we be without You or where could we go but to You? We acknowledge You as our maker and our provider. We would have nothing and be nothing without You. Although we desire to have Christ as our foundation, too often our weakness causes us to build on shifting sand. We choose to supply sin-stained materials when You are trying to make us into something new. When You remove these from us, we gather them up again and hold to them even tighter. Help us to let go, to trust Your decisions, and to avoid the things You took from us. Anchor us to the firm foundation and remove our desire to return to the shifting sand.

We ask, O Lord, that Your hand be upon those who are struggling through this holiday season. Be with those who are spending their first Christmas without a precious loved one. Give them strength to focus on the joyous memories and fill their hearts with laughter. Touch those who are dealing with depression. Let them see that by trusting in You, things can get better. Turn their thoughts from self-harm or suicide to hope. Show them that what seems like the end can be merely the start of a new life. Be with those who seek joy, but are constantly faced with sorrow and disappointment. Grant them the blessing of reassurance.

Dear God, we also pray for those who are away from home during this Christmas season. We thank You for the men and women in the military who are serving overseas. We also ask You to be with those who are in harm’s way. Be with those families who are both away from their loved ones here as well as those down range. Bless those who are on the military bases and in the communities who support these families throughout the year. We also ask that You will be with those away from home for business. Grant safe travels to each of them.

Finally, loving Father, we thank You for the gift of Your only begotten Son. This Christmas, remind us that the joy is in the giving and not the receiving. Let us carry the joy of the day in our hearts all year long.

We thank You for all these things and ask them in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Foundation And Cornerstone

Foundation And Cornerstone

“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”–1st Corinthians 3:10-11

What is the foundation of your life? Is it money, power, vice, or deceit? Perhaps it is peace, goodwill, charity, or character. Regardless of what it is, if it something you have striven to create, it will not stand. You may think to yourself, “If I live my life being charitable to everyone, then, surely, my hope is secured”.  That is not true. If that is your sole foundation, then you are no better than the miser who collects all he can gather. Nothing we can make, build, or do can lay a firm enough foundation to build our lives on, nor carve a cornerstone flawless enough to support us. Only one foundation—one cornerstone—is that firm, that flawless…Jesus Christ.

In two days, Christians around the world will celebrate the birth of our savior. Although it is a joyous time, a verse comes to me that I have never considered, nor truly understood, until now. It is in Ecclesiastes 7:1. “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth”. Some have said that if it weren’t for our sins, Jesus’ death would have been unnecessary. The truth is, if it wasn’t for our sins, Jesus wouldn’t have had to be born. Revelation 13:8 refers to Him as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. It took His birth to fulfill the prophecy of His death.

The birth of Jesus was far from a time of joy. From the moment He was born, His life and—by association—the lives of Mary and Joseph were in danger. King Herod knew of the prophecy of the coming of the “King of the Jews” and feared for his position. When the wise men came from the east following the star, Herod sought to trick them. He told them to let him know when they found the Child so he might come and worship as well. His true intentions were to kill the newborn king. When the wise men did not return to him, his anger was unfathomable. He ordered every male child two years and younger in and around Bethlehem killed.

By our definition, these children were too young to have done anything to deserve their fate; they were innocent. By heavenly standards, they had yet to reach the age of accountability. Again, they were innocent. Although their innocence isn’t as flawless as the innocence of Christ, they were innocents killed by an angry king. The foundation Paul tells us to take heed on how we build on it is a foundation of innocence…Jesus’ innocence.

When we ask Jesus to become our savior and forgive our sins, we are asking Him to become our foundation. We then have the opportunity to build a “new man”. Everything we do for God anchors the new us to the innocence of Christ. It is when we forget Paul’s warning that we get in trouble. When we start trying to incorporate sin into this innocence, it is like trying to anchor rotten lumber to a home’s infrastructure. No matter how nice it (or we) may look on the outside, it isn’t going to take a lot to tear us apart and reveal what’s inside.

The great thing about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is that while we are building, we can examine. And we can make a change. Pray that God will reveal the rotten lumber now so we can remove and replace it. Ask Him to show us the cracks that will allow doubt and fear to creep in so we might cover them with grace and mercy. Make Christ your cornerstone and let Him be your strength and your support in all you do.

A Christmas Prayer For December 24

 A Christmas Prayer For December 24

Heavenly Father. We come to You on the eve of the day we have set aside to honor the birth of Your only begotten Son. It is at this most joyous time of year we pause to remember the swaddled Child—born to Mary—that lay in a manger. We thank You for the angelic message to the shepherds bringing good tidings of great joy. Our prayer for the world this night is that it, too, heed the good news of Jesus’ birth.

All across the globe, while families and friends gather in celebration, we ask that Your blessings be upon them. Touch the lost among them that they might see the true meaning of the season. Let the stories and songs that are shared be a witness to the joy You have to give.

There are those, O Lord, who want to use this holiday to spread fear, death, and destruction. We pray that Your protection be upon us as we gather. Touch the hearts of our enemies that instead of fear, they might find love, life instead of death, and rebirth instead of destruction. The good news we long to hear this season is the transformation of enemies into brothers and sisters in Christ.

Father, we also pray for those who are traveling this holiday season. Let their journeys be filled with safety, whether they are flying, driving, or traveling by rail. Make their way passable and their trip unhampered by weather. It may seem silly, Lord, but we even pray that You keep their vehicles in working order as they travel.

Fill our hearts with joy and forgiveness. Let us always give the gift of ourselves to others and bless those who are less fortunate while we are able. Help us, above all else, to continue to spread the message of the angels and share the Gospel. This is our Christmas prayer.

Thank You for the virgin birth, the death, the burial, and the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is in His holy name that we ask these things. Amen.

Sword For Christmas Time

Sword For Christmas Time

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”–Matthew 10:34

At Christmas, more than any other time of the year, we wish for peace on earth. If that be the case, then what would inspire me to choose this verse for the Christmas Eve post? Why would I choose to write about the sword instead of the peace? Because the sword and the birth of Jesus intertwine.

Let us begin in Matthew 2:1. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

No one, especially a king, likes the idea of replacement. The very thought brings out the worst in people. Continuing in verse 4, we read, “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it was written by the prophet.” In verse 6, they reveal to Herod the words of the prophet Micah. ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

In verses 7 and 8, Herod devised a plan, and this plan began—as many plans do—with a secret meeting. “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

Matthew then tells us of the wise men’s visit to the Christ Child. He tells us of their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. He also tells us how God warned them in a dream not to return to Herod, and how they departed for their own country by another route. Naturally, this did not make Herod happy. We read of his reaction in Matthew 2:16.

Verse 16 reveals, “Then Herod, when he saw he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.”

“I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”

After reading of Herod’s anger and the massacre that followed, the declaration Jesus made seems all the more poignant. Can you imagine the anguish, the heartbreak, that Jesus’ birth caused to the families of those babies that died? Even the prophet Jeremiah foretold of this sadness. Jeremiah 31:15 says, “Thus says the Lord: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

Is this what we should expect, lamentation and bitter weeping? Should we never hope for peace? Most certainly not. True, Jesus said He did not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword. Let us look for a moment in the book of Ephesians, Ephesians 6:17 to be more precise. It says, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” Read Jesus’ comment one more time.

“I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”

Here is a question for you. When do we achieve peace? To have peace, there must be tribulation, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual. Without conflict, one cannot appreciate what peace truly is. Before Jesus could offer peace, He had to face tribulation. In last Saturday’s post, Tidings Of Great Joy For All, I said that you can’t speak of the Birth without speaking of the Death, Burial, and Resurrection; this is still true. It is in His death we begin to find peace.

When Jesus died, His enemies thought they had won. Three days later, when He walked out of the tomb, alive and well, the victory was His. Just before the events which led up to His arrest, His crucifixion , burial, and resurrection, Jesus spoke to His disciples. In John 16:33, Jesus told them, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

This is why we can wish for peace on earth. Jesus, the Word made flesh, fought the ultimate conflict, not for Himself, but for us. The sword of the Spirit became the Prince of Peace. The conflict that began in the manger and ended with a stone rolled away is why we can have peace. To achieve true peace—the peace He died and rose again for—you must accept Him as your Lord and Saviour. You must be born again.

To wish for peace on earth is to pray the Peace of God be accepted by all men. This Christmas, let that be our prayer. Let us pray for the lost and for each other. Let us pray for peace. God bless.

Needs And Desires Of Little Children

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!”–Henry Van Dyke

Gifts Given In Jesus’ Name

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”–Sigrid Undset