“All ‘ Week of ‘ are Presented in Weekly Format”
(Posted on Monday for all Seven days of the Week as a collection)
A Week of
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be the Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting.
In our passage written by the prophet Micah, we read that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Micah’s prophesy gave the people of God hope of a promised Messiah who would rule forever. Now we wouldn’t think that a great and powerful king would be born in a small town or village.
In fact, Micah says that this town was “little” compared to Judah, where thousands lived. It’s interesting that the word Bethlehem means, “house of bread.” It was out of this house of bread that the Messiah would come. Look at what Jesus says about Himself in the book of John:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:47-51).
So, this little town, this house of bread, was the birthplace of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Though His upbringing was lowly and poor, and though He was born in a feed trough with penniless parents,Jesus Christ came from this house of bread to become the Bread of Life, the Living Bread.
Now is the time, this Christmas, to give Jesus His proper place in your life. Let Him be the Bread of Life in you, in your marriage, in your relationships, and in your business. Let Him be the One to satisfy that spiritual hunger. Give Him your life today; that’s why He came to earth!
“For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33).
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Isn’t it awesome that the angelic realm was speaking to the shepherds? I mean, when it came to occupations, shepherding was the lowest of the low. Many shepherds in that day were vagabonds and criminals. And God chose them to be an important part of the birth of Jesus.
The first words out of the angel’s mouth: “Fear not.” (And can you blame him? I’m sure they were frightened right out of their sandals). These same words were given to Mary when Gabriel spoke to her back in Luke 1:30-31, announcing that she would conceive from the Holy Spirit. Joseph also heard these words (Matthew 1:20).
The key point is this: Salvation gives us hope and it takes away fear.With Jesus as our Savior, what do we really have to be afraid of? Whether you are a man or a woman, you have nothing to fear if God is with you. If you have an occupation that isn’t the most glamorous, you have nothing to fear if Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Whether you are older or are a teenager, you have nothing to fear if you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ. “Fear not!” Our eternity is secure; we will be with Him forever!
Some may say, “That’s all well and good, and I believe it, but I have quite a set of problems here and now. I have family coming over to the house, and that is causing me stress and tension.” Or, “I have presents to buy, but no money to buy them.” Or maybe a loved one has died and this will be the first Christmas without them. Whatever the fear or problem is, take heart; Jesus can supply the answer.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God.
And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
God can do what you or others may think impossible. The key is to allow the Holy Spirit to move and work in your circumstances and follow His leading.
You might be saying, “Yeah, but I have been praying about this fear, this problem, for years and nothing has changed.” Well look at another passage in Luke to see another person (Zacharias) who hadn’t received an answer to prayer his whole life.
But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you will call his name John.
The angel said, “fear not”, and “your prayer is heard.” And those are words that God speaks to you this day. Don’t give up. There are countless testimonies of God’s faithfulness to both hear and answer prayer. Yes, it can be difficult. Yes, I know it can cause great fear to wait for God to answer. But don’t stop seeking God. Christmas is a time that we remember not only the birth of our Savior but also the faithfulness and goodness of our Heavenly Father.
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”
Wherever you are, you are a missionary. Today, as a believer, you have been sent by God — maybe to a culture unreached by the Gospel, or maybe to a desk job five minutes up the road. Either way, don’t take it lightly.
When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach His word, He gave them specific marching orders — He didn’t just give suggestions or offer advice; He “commanded” them.
That word, “commanded,” is an interesting word that is transliterated from the original Greek as “paragello.” And this simple word unlocks a revealing look at our role as missionaries in our world.
First, “paragello” was used in Jesus‘ time as a military command or charge. In the same way that a general sends his commanders out on a campaign, so Jesus sends his disciples into battle. And battles are never pretty.
We must always remember that a spiritual battle exists around us, and it is a battle over souls — a battle not against flesh and blood, but against “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). When we lose sight of this battle, it’s easy to become petty, bitter, self-focused, and ultimately ineffective. The enemy would love nothing better.
Second, “paragello” was used as “a summoning of friends to one’s help.” You see, as missionaries, we are not just taking blind orders from a war general; we have the opportunity to help a friend — the Friend above all friends. “No longer do I call you servants,” Jesus says, “for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Next, “paragello” was used to describe a teacher giving rules and precepts to his students. It can be easy for us, especially after years of walking with the Lord, to think we know “enough.” But we are to be students of Jesus, always curious, always asking questions, always studying His teachings, so that we are ready “in season and out of season” to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2).
Finally, “paragello” was used for imperial command — a king, for example, sending his ambassadors into the world. And isn’t it humbling that God would choose us as His ambassadors? Isn’t it incredible that the Sovereign Lord who spoke creation into existence chooses us
to speak an encouraging word to a friend, or demonstrate His forgiveness to an enemy?
It’s not always easy, but being missionaries of the Most High God is one of the greatest privileges afforded to us.
We are soldiers in a spiritual battle, friends of the Commander, students of His teachings, and ambassadors of His love. Today, realize that you are a missionary, and let Jesus do a wonderful work of His love in and through you.
“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”
I’ve heard many people ask, “Can God forgive me? I’ve done so many bad things in my life. Have I committed the unpardonable sin?”
I’ve heard these words from murderers, criminals, divorced couples, mommies who have had abortions, and daddies involved with pornography. Sometimes our lives stack up with such heaviness that there is no way we can ever imagine that God in heaven would care enough–or even exercise the power to–forgive us.
But here is one of the greatest things you can ever get out of the Bible: “Your sins are forgiven.” No matter how ugly or how dark that sin is, or how far back it goes, you need to trust the words of Jesus here, and trust Him that what He said is true. If you’ve given your heart to Him, then your sins are forgiven. He didn’t create you to carry the guilt around; it’s been paid for on the cross. You are now free and brand new!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
But some of you are maybe struggling with the meaning of this “unpardonable sin.” Let me encourage you that if you’re even asking if you have committed this sin, you haven’t. This blaspheme of the Holy Spirit is all about a hardness of heart and an uncaring attitude toward God. Take the Pharisees, for example.
When Jesus spoke about the reality of sin and the hope of forgiveness, they actually attributed His works to Satanic activity, totally ignoring any thought of personal conviction or repentance (Mark 3:22). They were so concerned about upholding their religious appearance and traditions that they rejected God.
And how can God forgive someone who rejects His forgiveness–who denies the conviction of the Holy Spirit in his or her life and thus refuses Christ’s free gift of salvation? This is the single unpardonable sin. Today, though, if you’ve surrendered your life to Him–if you’ve accepted His free gift of salvation–there is no sin of yours that will not be forgiven. If you feel conviction for sin in your life, you have not committed any unpardonable sin; the Holy Spirit is at work.So, keep your heart and mind in tune with God. Let Him convict you in areas where you are weak. Know that as Christians we have been changed, and our hearts are new. We get the joy and privilege of serving Him and serving each other. Keep in touch with Him in prayer and in reading His Word. And be encouraged today that as a Christian, Jesus Christ has forgiven you.
Another parable Jesus put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
The kingdom of heaven is not like an earthly kingdom, with boundaries that can be outlined on a map and buildings that define its skyline. The kingdom of heaven is not a physical place, but a spiritual domain — God’s domain. When you make the decision to surrender your life to Jesus Christ, your heart becomes God’s domain. And as you grow in faith, that domain grows bigger and bigger — it expands within you as God reigns more fully each day in your life, and it overflows from you as the Lord draws those around you to Himself through your witness and example.
In Matthew 13, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed “which a man took and sowed in his field” (verse 31). Among the smallest of all seeds, a mustard seed is only about one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter. In fact, there are grains of dirt larger than a mustard seed! But when it is planted, it can become a mighty tree. You see, if we are willing to allow the kingdom of heaven to be planted in our hearts, even when the seed is only the size of a mustard seed, it will grow and become stronger until it is like a mighty tree that gives shade to those below it, and a place of nesting for the birds flying above it.
Jesus says in Matthew 4:17, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He’s not making reference to a celestial city with pearly gates and fluffy clouds — He is proclaiming that through His death, if we will repent, our sins will be forgiven and our hearts will become God’s domain. The kingdom of heaven will take root in our lives, like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a strong tree.
Today, does God truly have reign over your heart? Is His kingdom expanding both in and through you? Maybe you think, “My life is a mess — I’ll get my act together first, and then I’ll go to God.” No! That’s like saying, “I’ll grow the mustard tree myself, and then I’ll plant the seed.” God desires that we come to Him exactly as we are, with all our hurts, problems, bitterness, sadness, anger — everything. Nothing is a surprise to Him, and only He can bring restoration.
Or maybe you think, “I know the Lord wants me to do something for Him, but I don’t have the time or resources.” Let the Lord grow the mustard tree. Let Him provide everything you need. You must simply be faithful to plant the seed.
That’s all God requires. If you will have faith the size of that tiny mustard seed, He will be faithful to take His place in your heart, and do a work in and through you like you never imagined.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.”
My two dogs love to run free. Whenever I go for a run, I’ll open up the gate and they both come running to the car. Like little kids, they fight for the front seat, (though usually the weimaraner gets it over the retriever).
Those dogs know that I’m about to drive them to an open canyon where they can run free, and they love it. But when I take them for walks, it’s a different story. I’ll open up the gate, and as soon as they see the leash, they’re both perfectly still. No excitement, no fighting to see who’s first — they don’t like the leash.
But without a leash, they’d run way out ahead of me, or out into the street, and get themselves into all kinds of trouble. Without a leash, they would never walk close to me. Sometimes the Lord allows us to experience pain and suffering so that we’ll learn to walk closer to Him. Like a leash, trials teach us obedience.
Joseph was a man who knew pain and suffering. He had been abandoned by his family, shunned and almost killed by his brothers, rejected by his boss, abandoned by his friends, and forgotten by his enemies. At the age of 17, he found himself in a foreign land where he didn’t know one person, and didn’t speak the language. He’d been abused, imprisoned, and mocked. By age 30, he very likely could have been a bitter, hardened criminal. But he wasn’t. Not by a long shot.
Thirteen years after being abandoned by his brothers, Joseph had developed such a close relationship with God that he held no grudges or bitterness. In fact, he had such wisdom from God that Pharaoh appointed him the most powerful man in all of Egypt. At age 30, he sat at the most powerful place on the planet, and was able to rule millions of people with wisdom.
I’m sure Joseph must have wondered many times, while sitting in a dark jail cell, “Why God?” Have you ever found yourself asking God that question? “Why am I suffering like this?”
I sure have. But God doesn’t give us the big picture, because it would require no faith on our part. Had God told Joseph that He was going to make him the ruler of the most powerful, most advanced nation in the world, Joseph would not have developed such a tender heart, and would not have learned to rely on God.
He would have sat waiting for a paycheck, an entitlement that was “due” him. Instead, he learned obedience and acquired wisdom, both of which would equip him for the daunting tasks that lay ahead of him.
You see, when we suffer trials, God is at work. Romans 8:28 says that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Sometimes it will take thirteen years to see what God has been doing all along, but like Joseph, we must learn obedience through the suffering.
When we get to the end of our lives, myself included, we’re going to kick ourselves that we didn’t spend more time with the Lord. We’re going to wish we’d spent more time praying, serving, learning from His Word, and fellowshipping with Him.
Today, whatever your circumstances, learn to walk closely with God.