VIDEO Deck the Halls With Lights

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12

One of the most famous Christmas trees in the world is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York City. The tree is anywhere from 69 to 100 feet tall and covered with 50,000 LED lights. These lights are a far cry from the lights that adorned the first Christmas trees in Germany: candles attached to tree limbs with melted wax. When electricity became available in the late nineteenth century, electric lights slowly replaced the candles and small lanterns used for centuries.

Regardless of the kind of lighting, Christmas trees have always displayed lights. Why? Originally lights to illuminate dark houses in the dead of winter were a welcome source of cheer. But for Christians, the reason was obvious: to celebrate the birth of Christ who came as the Light of the World (John 1:3-9). As Simeon declared when seeing the infant Jesus, “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

Be the light of Christ in your world as you celebrate Christmas this year. His light dispels all darkness wherever it shines forth.

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I Am the Light of the World (John 8:12-21)

Prayerful Wrestling

Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24

Dennis’ life was transformed after someone gave him a New Testament. Reading it captivated him, and it became his constant companion. Within six months, two life-changing events occurred in his life. He placed his faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins, and he was diagnosed with a brain tumor after experiencing severe headaches. Because of the unbearable pain, he became bedridden and unable to work. One painful, sleepless night he found himself crying out to God. Sleep finally came at 4:30 a.m.

Bodily pain can cause us to cry out to God, but other excruciating life circumstances also compel us to run to Him. Centuries before Dennis’ night of wrestling, a desperate Jacob faced off with God (Genesis 32:24–32). For Jacob, it was unfinished family business. He had wronged his brother Esau (ch. 27), and he feared that payback was imminent. In seeking God’s help in this difficult situation, Jacob encountered God face-to-face (32:30) and emerged from it a changed man.

And so did Dennis. After pleading with God in prayer, Dennis was able to stand up after being bedridden, and the doctor’s examination showed no signs of the tumor. Although God doesn’t always choose to miraculously heal us, we’re confident that He hears our prayers and will give us what we need for our situation. In our desperation we offer sincere prayers to God and leave the results to Him!

By:  Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray

What are you struggling with that you could bring before God in prayer? What are some of the benefits of praying from the depths of our hearts even when He chooses not to change the situation?

Father, help me to see that life’s difficulties and challenges are opportunities for me to seek You in prayer and to grow in my understanding of who You are.

Ending Habitual Sin

Ephesians 6:10-17

In the old testament, a stronghold was a place of safety and protection from enemy attack. We frequently see the term used to describe God in David’s writings—as, for example, in Psalm 18:2, Psalm 31:2, and Psalm 59:16.  

A stronghold is also useful to the devil, but the kind he builds isn’t for refuge. (See 2 Corinthians 10:4.) Rather, it’s a prison to keep us locked in habitual sin—a place of constant deception and temptation.

For a believer, breaking out of this kind of stronghold may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. That’s because Christ has set us free from the dominion of sin, and God has provided spiritual armor for our protection. So why do we still struggle with habitual sin? The reason is because we receive temporary comfort, pleasure, and satisfaction from these ingrained patterns of behavior. However, any “benefit” is deceptive, and guilt and shame will eventually follow.

Just thinking about giving up a sinful habit brings some people to the brink of despair, even though they long to be free. But the Holy Spirit’s power is enough to enable any believer to walk out of Satan’s stranglehold and into God’s stronghold.

How We Can Keep from Falling

“For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?” (Psalm 56:13)

Once a person receives Christ as Savior, he must begin, then continue, in the Christian life. There will be many temptations along the way, however, as well as many pressures to recant, many sorrows, many difficulties. How is the “babe” in Christ to keep from stumbling and falling?

The answer, of course, is that we are kept by the same grace that saved us in the first place! The Lord Jesus died to save us from eternal death in hell; surely we can “be saved by his life” from falling while living (Romans 5:10). Our beautiful text verse anticipates this great New Testament truth. If the Lord can deliver my soul from death, surely He can keep my feet from falling! Other wonderful verses in the Psalms give the same assurance. For example: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

It is important, of course, that each person professing faith in Christ be sure that his faith is real, founded on the true Jesus Christ as Creator, Redeemer, and Lord, not a sentimental faith in “another Jesus,…or another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4). As Peter urges: “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:10).

And then, in the last words of the New Testament before the book of Revelation, we are directed again to Christ. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 1:24- 25). What a blessed assurance is this! HMM

Forced to Our Knees

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. —2 Corinthians 12:7

The experiences of men who walked with God in olden times agree to teach that the Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him. The degree of blessing enjoyed by any man will correspond exactly with the completeness of God’s victory over him….

We might well pray for God to invade and conquer us, for until He does, we remain in peril from a thousand foes. We bear within us the seeds of our own disintegration…. Deliverance can come to us only by the defeat of our old life. Safety and peace come only after we have been forced to our knees. God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance. Then He invades our natures with that ancient and eternal life which is from the beginning. So He conquers us and by that benign conquest saves us for Himself.   POM045-046, 050

Lord, indeed invade and conquer my heart today. Bring me to my knees in complete surrender; break me; shatter my strength and wipe out my resistance. Invade my nature today and conquer me for Your glory. Amen.

No Persuasion Necessary Here

They…sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the Lord gave them rest round about. —2 Chronicles 15:15

There is nothing eerie, nothing queer, nothing contrary to the normal operations of the human heart about the Holy Ghost. He is only the essence of Jesus imparted to believers. You read the four Gospels and see for yourself how wonderfully calm, pure, sane, simple, sweet, natural and lovable Jesus was. Even philosophers who don’t believe in His deity have to admit the lovableness of His character.

You must be sure of all this to the point of conviction. That is, you must be convinced to a point where you won’t try to persuade God.

You don’t have to persuade God at all. There is no persuasion necessary. Dr. Simpson used to say, “Being filled with the Spirit is as easy as breathing; you can simply breathe out and breathe in.” HTB039-040

Jesus, breathe Thy spirit on me,

Teach me how to breathe Thee in,

Help me pour into Thy bosom

All my life of self and sin. HCL251


Psalm 130:5

Stress levels reach new peaks and blood pressures soar, all within a short space of time. We are told that solitude is mandatory for survival. But how? And when? Are we not already over-scheduled? It’s a simple word—solitude—but can it become a reality in today’s world?

An ideal setting would be a monastery or prayer center. Even a weekend away at such a facility could do wonders: silence, being in tune with one’s soul, time to think, time to walk and time to listen. Time to read and to meditate with no noise other than the wind in the trees. Total bliss!

Even a short-term alternative can be beneficial. Being alone and simply thinking of a quiet, idyllic place can bring a sense of quietness and solitude and comfort.

But what about prayer? Have we forgotten about, or dismissed, prayer as a means of seeking peace and serenity? Prayers offered to God in solitude can bring healing and restoration to a frantic life. The yearning of the soul, the cries of the heart, the expression of thankfulness and joy, are all heard in prayer.

Seminars are not needed for personal prayer. Perhaps it’s not the emptying of the mind that is necessary. Rather, the filling of one’s spirit with thoughts of God, His creation, His blessings, His love. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). At one with self and at one with God through prayer.

Prayer is no doubt the oldest form of meditation that has sustained and encouraged millions for centuries. It is dialogue between oneself and God: talking to God about extremely personal matters, sharing with Him all that is in one’s heart, crying out to Him in anguish and thanking Him for all His blessings.

And then it is simply being quiet, listening to what He has to say to us. Solitude is a stirring of one’s spirit, waiting upon the Lord: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:5).

Is there anyone who does not need solitude? It is to be treasured as a precious gift, for it can be a means of communing with the Creator of the universe who is our Heavenly Father.

Beverly Ivany, The War Cry