VIDEO The Power of Prophecy – Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

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 Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. Micah 5:2

Bethlehem meant “house [beth] of bread [lechem].” It was one of two Bethlehems, the second being in the region of Galilee (Joshua 19:15). To avoid confusion, Jesus’ birthplace is referred to as “Bethlehem of Judea” (Matthew 2:1, 5). The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem also confirmed that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, not Bethlehem in Galilee, quoting the prophet Micah (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-6). Jesus was born in the predicted place!

But why was He born in the “city of bread”? Perhaps Bethlehem was given that name because it was a center for growing grain as illustrated in the book of Ruth where Bethlehem is mentioned six times. The climax of Ruth’s story centers around the grain harvest of Boaz. More prophetically, the One born in the “house of bread” eventually identified Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48).

Be comforted this Christmas by the prophecy and fulfillment that surrounds the birth of Jesus. God’s promises for you are as certain as His promises were for the birth of Jesus.

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Oh Little Town of Bethlehem – Matthew 2:1-9; Micah 5:2 – Skip Heitzig

It was the Methodist preacher Phillips Brooks who gave the world the Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” He was visiting the Holy Land, on road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, when inspiration struck. Bethlehem was where King David was born and where his descendant Jesus Christ would be born. Because of Micah’s prediction made 700 years before Jesus’ birth, four details were anticipated.

On the Same Team

Encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

When Philadelphia Eagle’s quarterback Carson Wentz returned to the field after healing from a severe injury, the NFL team’s backup quarterback, Nick Foles, graciously returned to the bench. Although competing for the same position, the two men chose to support each other and remained confident in their roles. One reporter observed that the two athletes have a “unique relationship rooted in their faith in Christ” shown through their ongoing prayers for each other. As others watched, they brought honor to God by remembering they were on the same team—not just as Eagles quarterbacks, but as believers in Jesus representing Him.

The apostle Paul reminds believers to live as “children of the light” awaiting Jesus’ return (1 Thessalonians 5:5–6). With our hope secure in the salvation Christ has provided, we can shrug off any temptations to compete out of jealousy, insecurity, fear, or envy. Instead, we can “encourage one another and build each other up” (v. 11). We can respect spiritual leaders who honor God and “live in peace” as we serve together to accomplish our shared goal—telling people about the gospel and encouraging others to live for Jesus (vv. 12–15).

As we serve on the same team, we can heed Paul’s command: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (vv. 16–18).

By:  Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray

Who has encouraged you while serving on the same team? How can you encourage someone who serves alongside you?

Jesus, please give me opportunities today to encourage someone who serves with me.

Learning Obedience Through Suffering

Hebrews 5:7-9

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to suffer so much when He came to earth as a man? One might expect that the Son of God should have a comfortable life and a quick and easy death. After all, wouldn’t His blood have paid for our sins whether it was shed painlessly or with great agony?

Jesus took on human flesh so that He could die and pay the horrendous price of mankind’s iniquity. The pain He experienced reflects the great consequences of human transgression. In fact, all suffering originates from the entrance of sin into the world through Adam and Eve. Therefore, our Savior also had to suffer in order to redeem us from sin and its far-reaching damage.

The holy Son of God, who had never yielded to sin, struggled with the prospect of being the sin bearer on the cross. Yet Jesus submitted and “learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). And as the source of eternal salvation, He faithfully completed God’s plan of redemption.

When it’s challenging for us to obey the Lord, we need the help of the One who suffered on our behalf. If His difficult obedience resulted in such a great benefit, surely ours has purpose as well.

Having Direct Access

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)

This is one of the key verses of Scripture for several reasons. In the first place, in the midst of a pantheistic and polytheistic society governed by the kings and rulers for whom Paul had just exhorted believers to pray, it was important to reemphasize that there was only one Creator God—the One to whom even kings must give account and the only One to whom we can rightfully pray.

Secondly, Christ Jesus, who was Himself “God…manifest in the flesh” and then “received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16), was nevertheless still “the man Christ Jesus.” He is still a man, even though His human body has been resurrected and glorified. Therefore, He can, indeed, “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” and we can “come boldly” to His “throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Then, because He is both omnipotent God and perfect man, “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (v. 15), He is uniquely able to serve as the one and only “mediator between God and men.” Furthermore, as the only God-man, fully and eternally both God and man, He is the only one through whom we can reach God’s throne in prayer. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He said, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

No one else—man or woman, saint or priest, angel or demon—has direct access to God, for the Son is the one mediator between God and man. We can come to God, however, for “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). HMM

Labor of Self-Love

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. —Galatians 1:10

The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward peace? The heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable. Yet the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them.

Such a burden as this is not necessary to bear. Jesus calls us to His rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort.   POG105-106

Lord, give me this peace, this rest, this meek and humble spirit. Deliver me from concern for the esteem of this world. Give me victory over every trace of self-love. Amen.

The Inner Evidence

And ye shall know that I am in the midst…and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. —Joel 2:27

The period of realization came upon [the waiting ones] when the Father fulfilled His promise and sent the Spirit….God took religion from the realm of the external and made it internal. Our trouble is that we are trying to confirm the truth of Christianity by an appeal to external evidence.

We are saying, “Well, look at this fellow. He can throw a baseball farther than anybody else and he is a Christian, therefore Christianity must be true.” “Here is a great statesman who believes the Bible. Therefore, the Bible must be true.”…

We are all the way out on the wrong track, brother! That is not New Testament Christianity at all. That is a pitiful, whimpering, drooling appeal to the flesh. That never was the testimony of the New Testament, never the way God did things—never!….The proof lies in an invisible, unseen but powerful energy that visits the human soul when the gospel is preached—the Holy Ghost! HTB026, 029-030

[T]he final flash that introduces your heart to Jesus must be by the illumination of the Holy Spirit Himself, or it isn’t done at all. COU028

Mount Purity

Isaiah 35:8

Let me illustrate the doctrine of holiness by comparing its attainment to the ascent of a lofty mountain. Come with me. Yonder is the sacred mount, towering far above the clouds and fogs of sin and selfishness. In the center of this unlovable and undesirable country the mountain of which I want to speak lifts its lofty head. Call it “Mount Pisgah” or “Mount Beulah” or, if you will, call it, “Mount Purity”—I like that term the best.

Those living on its lofty summit have glorious glimpses of the Celestial City. The atmosphere is eminently promotive of vigorous health and lively spirits.

But the question arises: “How can I get there?” There is evidently no mountain railway nor elevator on which you can be rapidly and smoothly lifted up to the blessed summit. Those who reach that heavenly height must climb what the Bible calls the “Highway of Holiness.” And they will find it a rugged, difficult journey, often having to fight every inch of the way. But once on the celestial summit, the travelers will feel amply repaid for every atom of trouble and toil involved in the ascent.

The road to this glorious height passes through various plateaus or stages, each higher than the one that preceded it.

To begin with, there is the awakening stage, where the climbers obtain their first fair view of this holy hill. It is here that the desire to make the ascent first breaks out. A little higher up, and you reach the starting stage. Here those who fully resolve upon seeking holiness of heart first enter their names in the “Travelers Book.”

But still ascending, we come to the wrestling stage. Here the travelers are met by numerous enemies who are in dead opposition to their ever reaching the summit. So, persevering with our journey, higher up, we come to the sin-mastering stage. Here men and women walk with heads erect in holy confidence, and hearts glad with living faith, for God has made them conquerors over their inward foes.

But there is one plateau higher still which, like a tableland, covers the entire summit of the mountain, and that is the maturity stage. Here the graces of the Spirit have been perfected by experience, faith and obedience.

What do you say to my holy mountain? Are you living up there? It is the will of God that you should not only reach the very summit, but that you should abide there.

William Booth, The Seven Spirits