Nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:39
Did you know that your heavenly Father wants you to come home this Christmas? It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done or how long you've done it. God says, "I want you to come home to My love and My forgiveness." That's what Christmas is all about.
What would keep you from doing that? What would keep you from coming home to God's love and forgiveness? The fear of rejection.
You may think, "God wouldn't want me now. I'm too far away from God. I've been away too long. I've done too many things He probably wouldn't approve of."
If that's what you think, you're dead wrong! Romans 8:39 says, "Nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus." God doesn't care who you are or what you've done or how long you've done it. He still loves you and wants to forgive you.
But how do you know God loves you? Christmas proves it. God came to earth in a human form - Jesus Christ - to show that he loves you and wants to forgive you. The Bible says, "God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we can have eternal life through Him. This is real love. He sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).
Here's how you know that Scripture is true: Jesus didn't stay in a little cradle in the manger. He grew up. He went from the cradle to the cross.
On the cross with His arms outstretched He said, in essence, "I'd rather die than live without you." That's how much God loves you. Christ left His home in heaven and came to earth to show His love for you and to pay for your sins so that you could be forgiven and come home to Him.
That's real love. That's the reason for Christmas.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2
If you want to be wise this year, you must do the same things the wise men did.
First, they were seekers of the truth. The wise men really, really wanted to know the truth. They weren't going to put off finding out the truth about God.
You see how they asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” The only way they could know this truth is that they had studied the Scriptures. That’s the only way they could know about the prediction that a Messiah, a Savior, the Christ would be born.
You know the saying, ‘Wise men still seek Jesus today.’ Are you seeking Jesus? Wise men and wise women still seek him. In fact, there are generally two kinds of people in life when it comes to truth: speculatirs and seekers.
Speculators say, “Yeah, I want the truth,” but then they don't really put out any effort to learn it. They won't search for it; instead, they make assumptions. Speculators say things like, “You know, I like to think of God as …” or, “I imagine God in my mind as …” or, “It really helps me to think of God as ….”
But it doesn't even matter what they think. For instance, a speculator may think of God as a snow bunny, or Elvis, or the man on the moon – whatever – but the only thing that really matters is who God really is – what matters is the truth.
Seekers, on the other hand, take the time and the trouble to discover the truth. The Bible says if we seek Jesus with all our hearts, we will find him. If you focus on finding him, you cannot miss him. God will not let you miss him if you are that serious about seeking him.
The wise men were willing to go to any length to find the truth. You will become wise if you do the same this year.
[The star] went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. ... They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary .... Matthew 2:9,11
The wise men did not stop until they met Jesus. The Bible says they finally came to the place where Jesus was. Have you done that yet? Have you come to the point in your life where you've met Jesus personally?
If you haven't, you are still on the journey. If you haven't met him face-to-face yet, don't stop seeking, keep on going.
A lot of people start off asking the important questions of life: 'Who am I? Where am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Does my life have meaning? Is there a purpose? What is the significance of it all?'
These are important questions. But if you don't keep seeking the answers, pretty soon you get distracted by other things, even important things, like your career or education. But when people do that, they have trouble getting back on the journey. Many people spend the rest of their lives missing the very purpose they were created for.
Like the wise men, don't stop seeking until you meet Jesus. Where do you find Jesus? The same place the wise men did -- in the ordinary. You find him in the problems of life, not in the spectacular. You find him in the stuff of life, in the stalls and the stables where it's smelly and where life is being born.
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him." Matthew 2:2
One reason the wise men were wise is because they came to Jesus for the right reason. They were seekers of the truth. And they would go to any length to find Jesus, but they came to worship Jesus.
There are people today who don't love Jesus; they just use Jesus. Politicians use Jesus to get votes. Business leaders use Jesus to get a blessing on their business. Marketers use Jesus to sell a product. People use Jesus for their own selfish reasons.
We often ask, 'What can Jesus do for me,' as if he's a vending machine. We act as if God is a giant genie -- just rub the lamp and whatever your wish is his command. But God is not your genie. He is your God. He's in charge. He has the right to tell you what to do, not vice versa.
So the wise men came for the right reason. They didn't come to get something from Jesus; they came to show gratitude, to show love, to show honor, to show respect.
They gave Jesus the best they had. They didn't give him their leftovers. They didn't give him lip service. They didn't give him a gift card. They thought through what to give him. The three presents that the wise men brought had very important significance --
Gold is the gift you give to Kings. In days of old, tribute was paid by bringing gold to the king. It was the most precious metal of the time and so the wise men are presenting it as a gift to the king.
Frankincense was a kind of incense, used to worship God in the temple. So the wise men are saying this baby, Jesus, is not only king, he is also God. He is worthy of being worshipped.
Myrrh was a spice used to embalm the dead. Now that's an unusual gift for a baby: the spice put on a dead body before wrapping it in linens. So the wise men, by their gifts, acknowledged that Jesus is God Incarnate, he is king, and he is going to die. Jesus is the savior of the world and he has come to die for our sins.
Even before Jesus said his first word, it was known that, 'This is the Savior who will die for the sins of the world.'
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. Matthew 2:11
What do you give the guy who's got everything? What do you give to Jesus? You can give him your trust.
Because God gives you a choice, he doesn't have your trust until you give it to him. Faith is voluntary. God will never force you to trust him. It is up to you to decide how much you will trust God in 2011.
So let me just get real blunt, what are you expecting God to do in your life in 2011? If you expect him to do a lot, God can do a lot. If you expect him to do a little, God can do a little. If you don't expect him to do anything, he won't do anything because Jesus says, "According to your faith will it be done to you." (Matthew 9:29 NIV)
Are you going to trust yourself, are you going to trust the economy, are you going to trust somebody else, or are you going to trust God?
Will you trust Jesus enough to give him your whole life? Jesus makes an amazing promise for anybody who does this. He says, if you will seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, then he will give you the other things as well. (Matthew 6:33)
But we must seek his kingdom first. We must seek God's purpose and plan and righteousness for our lives, and that requires that we give him our trust. Ask God to help you give your trust entirely to him this coming year, and then watch what he does in your life.
But the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Luke 2:10
Knowing God is for you will change your whole perspective on life. You'll stop thinking of God as someone looking down from heaven, ready to yell, "Gotcha!" anytime you mess up.
Instead, you'll realize God loves you; God is with you; and God is for you! God is for your success in life; he created you for a purpose and he wants you to succeed. It is God, your Creator, who will measure your success in life, and no one else.
This is extremely good news!
It means you don't need to be afraid of God because God is for you. Yet, some people are so afraid of God they get nervous just talking about him. Do you know why? They feel guilty, and then they start thinking, "If I get close to God, he's going to lecture me. He's going to remind me of all the things I've done wrong, and then I'll feel even worse!"
Nothing could be further from the truth of God. Jesus said, "I did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it." In effect, Jesus is saying, "I didn't come to scold you, I came to save you."
And if God is for us, who can be against us?
Jesus came to save us, not to scare us. That's why when the angel was telling the shepherds about the birth of Jesus, the first thing he says is: "Don't be afraid!"
In fact, when God sends a message to people in the Bible, it's not unusual for the first words to be: "Don't be afraid." There are 365 messages from God in the Bible that begin with a phrase like, "Fear not!" In other words, every single day of the year you can read a message from God that says, in effect, "You don't need to be afraid. I am for you; I am with you; I love you."
We celebrate Christmas because of this good news from God!
What Kind of Peace Does Jesus Give?
by Rick Warren
Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! Luke 2:14
"It makes no difference who you are or where you're from - if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open" (Acts 10:35).
A Prayer of Thanksgiving to God
"Because of Jesus, I now can live a life of joy, purpose, peace, and love."
God, I have so much joy right now, knowing that you decided to send Jesus to earth so I could be saved from a life of hopelessness and sin and be a peacemaker for you. I recognize in this moment that you saved my life when you sent Jesus, and that because of Jesus, I now can live a life of joy, purpose, peace, and love. I hold onto that hope today. When I look at the world around me, I see so many people who are struggling with stressful, meaningless, chaotic lives without loving, caring relationships. That was my life before you saved me. To say I am grateful doesn't begin to express what I am feeling. I just know I have a sense of meaning and peace I have never had before and could never get on my own strength - and I am full of amazing happiness.
I feel like celebrating right now, knowing that I am now on your side, instead of being at war with you. I know that with you I will never again be lost and alone. I am a new person today, and I recognize what I have just been given. I pray that, as I continue to grow spiritually every day, I will come to understand everything you have just accomplished in my life. By faith, I know I can trust you to be in my life today - and every day. I know I can count on you when things get tough, and knowing I will spend eternity in your presence gives me such hope!
Thank you, Jesus, for the peace you have given me. I pray you will use me as an instrument of that peace so I can help my family, friends, and the world in which I live. I feel so different right now, knowing that you and I are now OK, knowing I am on the road to a deeper understanding of what it means to live for an audience of one. I ask you to help me pray when I become upset so that I will have your peace in any situation I face - good or bad. Help me to get ready to help other people as others have already helped me. I want to make a difference in this world, and I want to help everyone I meet have the same hope I now have. I can't do this alone, so I ask you to make me a peacemaker.
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for saving me. And thank you for giving me a peace I have never known before. May everything I do, from this day on, reflect these same qualities as I tell others what you just did for me. I am full of anticipation at the kind of life I can now live.
I love you, Jesus!