VIDEO The Anchor of Hope

That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12

Modern dictionaries define hope as a “feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”: We hope it won’t rain on Saturday; we hope we will get the promotion at work; we hope to get accepted into the college of our choice. None of those things is certain. Rather, such hope is based on a feeling of desire. We want something to happen but are not sure it will.

The Bible, on the other hand, says hope is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19), based on what God has done for us in Christ. Turning that thought around, without Christ coming into the world, we would have no hope. His life, death, and resurrection are God’s seal of promise that what we hope for—forgiveness and eternal life—are ours. At Christmas, we celebrate the Source and Object of our hope, Jesus Christ.

Is Christ the Anchor of your soul, “both sure and steadfast”? Don’t let this Christmas pass without putting your faith in Him.

Let thy hope of heaven master thy fear of death. William Gurnall


The Greatest of All Spiritual Blessings

Fear Not

Do not be afraid . . . a Savior has been born to you. Luke 2:10–11

Linus, in the Peanuts comic strip, is best known for his blue security blanket. He carries it everywhere and isn’t embarrassed at needing it for comfort. His sister Lucy especially dislikes the blanket and often tries to get rid of it. She buries it, makes it into a kite, and uses it for a science fair project. Linus too knows he should be less dependent on his blanket and lets it go from time to time, always to take it back.

In the movie A Charlie Brown Christmas, when a frustrated Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, with his security blanket in hand, steps center stage and quotes Luke 2:8–14. In the middle of his recitation, as he says, “Fear not,” he drops his blanket—the thing he clung to when afraid.

What is it about Christmas that reminds us we don’t need to fear? The angels that appeared to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10–11).

Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). We have His very presence through His Holy Spirit, the true Comforter (John 14:16), so we don’t need to fear. We can let go of our “security blankets” and trust in Him.

By:  Anne Cetas

Reflect & Pray

What are you afraid of? How can the Holy Spirit’s presence help you with what troubles you?

I’m still learning, God, that You’re the greatest Comforter. Help me to let go of the things that give me false security, and please guide me to cling to You.

Finding Favor With God

The acts of man will never earn God’s favor, but He is pleased when we obey His commands with pure intentions

Hebrews 11:1-40

There are people who work hard in an attempt to earn the favor of employers, parents, friends, and even God. The truth, however, is that divine approval cannot be earned. There’s only one way to acquire it, which Hebrews 11:6 states clearly: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (NIV). Like the saints commended in today’s passage for their faith, Christians today don’t have to strive for God’s favor. That’s because in Christ, we have been lavished with divine grace (Eph. 1:8).

Yet we sometimes tend to overlook the most basic examples of the Lord’s kindness to us: He provides for our needs, puts limits on suffering, answers prayers, encourages us in our trials, and offers His strength in our weakness. In fact, every good thing that comes our way is from His hand (James 1:17).

God’s goodness is stored up for those who fear Him and take refuge in Him (Psalm 31:19). But even though His favor isn’t something that can be earned, we still have a responsibility to live in a manner He finds pleasing. As was true for the role models of faith in Hebrews 11, God’s grace should motivate us to be righteous and blameless in our walk with Him.

Justified–by Faith or Works?

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

Some have argued that James contradicts Paul at this point, since James emphasized that both Abraham and Rahab, among others, were justified by works (James 2:21, 25). In fact, this seeming conflict between Paul and James has often been cited as one of the “contradictions” of the Bible.

There is no contradiction, however. Neither Abraham nor Rahab could have been justified by the “works of the law,” and James never said they were. Abraham lived before God even gave the law to Moses, and Rahab lived in a pagan culture that knew nothing about it. Furthermore, James himself knew that no one could really be saved by the law, for he said that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).

Actually, both Abraham and Rahab were “justified”—which means “seen as righteous”—by faith in God and His provision of salvation (James 2:23; Hebrews 11:31). The righteousness of Christ, who perfectly kept the law of God, is imputed to believers by faith (Romans 4:3-5). God sees him or her as “in Christ,” and so they are justified (recognized as righteous) solely through faith.

However, other men cannot see our faith, and therefore we must be justified in their sight by our works. True saving faith inevitably will manifest itself in works of righteousness. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:…For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8, 10). HMM

He Heals Me

Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely. The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers Israels exiled people. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite. The Lord helps the afflicted but brings the wicked to the ground (Psalm 147 vv. 1-6).

I’ve both experienced and observed brokenheartedness, and it’s a devastating blow either way. The holidays, when families come together to make memories, are especially poignant and difficult for some of us who are still grieving. It’s so hard to accept the fact that I will never again see my parents on this earth.

That’s why this passage from Psalm 147 is so timely. David is referring, of course, to the exiled captives of Israel when he says, “He [the Lord] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (v. 3), but he might be speaking of any broken heart anywhere.

Sometimes the “wounds” are caused by some significant “other” in one’s life; sometimes they are self-inflicted through sin. But God loves to restore and rebuild. Just as he rebuilt Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, he accepts any penitent sinner for remodeling. The only prerequisites are honesty, humility, and homage. The believer (or unbeliever) who truly repents and returns from sin is fully forgiven, restored, and radically rebuilt!

When we honestly face our grief or our sin and submit it to the Lord, He responds in grace by forgiving and healing. This profound, personal work then becomes the basis for authentic praise. I face an extravagant future with the Lord in glory, when I will see my parents again. We’ll have a lot of catching up to do!

Personal Prayer

Praise the Lord! I join in praising your holy, precious name. I praise you for healing the brokenhearted and for setting us free to sing praise!

The Doxology

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah.—Revelation 11:15

The end of the Lord’s Prayer—”For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”—is a doxology so beautiful that it somehow seems almost irreverent to try to dissect it. Some believe that Jesus did not actually say these words. They claim that they were added by someone else at a later date, which is why they are not included in some versions of the Bible. Some manuscripts have it, and some do not. I have looked long at the evidence for and against their inclusion in the sacred Scriptures, and I am perfectly satisfied myself that they were part of Jesus’ original pattern of prayer.

The prayer ends as it begins, with an assertion of God’s majesty and glory: “Yours is the kingdom.” I believe that the emphasis here should be placed on the word “is,” to read, “Yours is the kingdom”—now.

Despite all appearances to the contrary, God has never abdicated His position as ruler of the universe. What a heartening thought this can be in these days, a thought to fill the soul with song and flood the heart with hope and gladness. It is true that there are many things in the world that militate against His authority—war, poverty, unemployment, drink, gambling, social impurity, and so on. All these seem a flat and final refutation of the phrase “Yours is the kingdom,” but their days are numbered. The hour will come when the kingdoms of this world will signal their final surrender and pledge allegiance to their rightful Lord.

Prayer

O Father, help me to see, despite all the situations and circumstances which might deny Your eternal Kingship, that You are reigning over the world now. Yours is the final control. I am so thankful. Amen.

Further Study

Mt 4:1-11; Ob 21; Heb 12:28; 2Pt 1:11

Why was Satan’s temptation foolish?

How did Jesus respond?

Follow The Star

Matthew 2:9-10

The dark of deep December

Is pierced by light afar;

The mountain path to Bethlehem

Is illumined by the Star.

No darkness is so total,

No journey is so far

That man cannot be aided

By following the Star.

So in this hallowed season,

Let none our pathway bar;

For wise men still their life’s way chart

By following the Star.

Edward Fritz, The War Cry