“Joseph went to Bethlehem with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.” ~Luke
So this is how it happened. Luke starts warming us up with some basic facts. In a few more paragraphs we will begin to learn about how the Son of God was born and began to live among us.
Jesus came with a mission. It begins with some basic facts. It ends with Jesus ascending into heaven, a triumphant Messiah.
Luke draws me in. I want to know more.
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.Source: Luke 2:1, 4-5 MSG – The Birth of Jesus – About that time – Bible Gateway
Susan Pons Book – “And There Was Evening and There Was Morning…”
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Have you read Susan Corbett Pons book “And There was Evening and There was Morning”? It will make you laugh, and it will make you cry. Check out Susan’s book here.
Susan Pons grew up in Valdese, North Carolina. Prior to her marriage, she performed professionally on stage and dinner theaters. The mother of four and grandmother of six, she and her husband, Larry, direct Christian Training Center, International, a ministry dedicated to the restoration of families. She has loved her life.
Check out Susan’s book here.
Our programs are like an immersion into a new language – the language of living in Jesus. The goal is fluency in the language of relationships. Programs share a sequential vision, building an understanding of relationships and family culture. The foundation is an encounter with Jesus. This encounter is the means for both insight and vision. Encountering Jesus leads a radical change in living and relationships.
Learn more about our programs here.
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The sheepherders were minding their own business. Just doing what they do after a long day of work. They were settling in for the evening.
But God had different plans for them. He was about to show up and it was sudden. That is the way God is some days. We’re settling in for the evening and BAM, he arrives on the scene.
Are we terrified like the sheepherders?
Well, they got some good news and they obeyed God. The angels told them about our dear Jesus and that the Savior had arrived. He was born.
Thank you, everyone, for partnering with the Christian Training Center this year through your thoughts, prayers, and generous financial support.
We hope you have a very Merry Christmas. We’re looking forward to what God has in store for all of us in this New Year! Don’t forget to check us out at http://www.ctcilife.org for info on event and program dates.
This is not what we envision on Christmas. The wise and the rich saw His star and were overjoyed.
They sought Him out.
When they found Him, they were overwhelmed. They fell to the ground and worshiped Him. They recognized that this child was their master. They saw that God was with us.
They opened their treasure and gave Him gifts.
He was just a child. He had done “nothing” yet. What is up with that? Well … they were truly wise.
Wise men still seek Him.
May I follow they steps of the wise men!!
Bethany Pyle is the editor for BibleStudyTools.com and the design editor for Crosscards.com. She has a bachelor’s degree in writing from Christopher Newport University, a background in journalism and a passion for telling good stories.
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a lesser-known Christmas song, and not generally the first to be requested around the Christmas tree. The lyrics were born out of painful circumstances, but as with other classic hymns, the story behind the song gives it gravity and drives home the message of hope and the power of God’s marvelous plan.
The Christmas season, at its core, is really about the story of the death and resurrection of Christ. Without this half of the story, there’s really no magic to the baby in the manger. In the same way, listening to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” helps us to understand the gravity of sin – the way it permeates our world. But the conclusion of the song reminds us of Christ’s glorious resurrection, and eventual return, when “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail,” and peace will truly rule the earth.
Read the article here: Finding Praise Through Pain in “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide.” ~ God’s Angel
When it was time to give birth to Jesus, no one had room for Him. So Mary did what she had to do. Humbling circumstances for the King of Kings don’t you think? But that is who Jesus is.
Jesus humbled Himself for our sakes. To redeem us from continually missing God’s goal for our lives, he came to earth as a man, born into circumstances beyond His control.
Alyssa Roat is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., the publicity manager at Mountain Brook Ink, and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing Services. Her passions for Biblical study and creativity collide in her writing. More than a hundred of her works have been featured in publications ranging from The Christian Communicator to Keys for Kids. Find out more about her here and on social media @alyssawrote.
Luke 2:1 is the traditional starting point for many for the yearly reading of the Christmas story: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”
And thus begins the earthly story of the greatest king of all time — and not the man with the lofty title “Caesar Augustus.” Rather, Caesar was unwittingly helping to set an ancient prophecy in motion.
Joseph had a lot to deal with. What to name the Son of God wasn’t one of them. God’s angel made that clear to him. His name is Jesus (Yehshuah), “God Saves”.
His bigger problem was what to do about his fiance who was pregnant but claimed the Holy Spirit got her pregnant. He trusted Mary but only up to a point. He was going to call the whole thing off. The angel solved that for him as well.
Here is some great insight on how to celebrate Christmas. Author Sheila Alewine is a pastor’s wife, mother and grandmother. She and her husband lead Around The Corner Ministries, which serves to equip Christ-followers to share the gospel where they live, work and play.
Holidays are a funny thing. They come to us, handed down from our parents and grandparents, full of traditions, memories and significance. For the Christ-follower, Christmas is a day of celebration and remembrance honoring the fact that God sent His Son into the world as a baby, born of a virgin, for the express purpose of redeeming mankind back from the sin which separated the creation from its Creator. As believers, our celebrations are usually a mixture of cultural practices (Christmas trees, gifts, parties, lights, decorations, and references to a jolly elf named Santa) and its true focus on the events of Jesus’ birth.
Here is some great insight from Allie Boman. Allie is a wife, mom, follower of Jesus and freelance writer in the Chicago area. She served for fifteen years with Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship and studied classical piano in college. She loves to cook ethnic food and explore new places with her family. Her personal blog is QuickReads.blog.
The shopping malls are full of Christmas regalia, fit for the coming of a King. Christmas songs play on the pop radio stations, and some of them even use Jesus’ name in the lyrics. In Western culture, Christmas is many people’s favorite time of the year.
Then why is it so easy to forget that we’re really celebrating Jesus’ birth? How can Christians keep our focus on Christ through all the holiday fun?
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com. Here is his summary.
For fans of Christian movies, 2019 began with a Top 5 hit (Breakthrough) that demonstrated the power of prayer, and ended with a movie (A Hidden Life) that spotlighted an unsung hero of history.
In between, fans of faith-centric stories enjoyed a movie about Mister Rogers, multiple documentaries, another project from the Kendrick Brothers, and a film about Harriet Tubman. There even were two movies inspired by The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Here are my 12 favorite Christian films of 2019:
Read the article: 12 Best Christian Films of 2019
There is power in prayer. We see it every day. Let us join with you in tapping into the Power of God. Click here to make a request.
The lessons taught at CTCI are not designed to be learned just in the classroom. They are not simply taught in a week or a month program. Rather, they come through the furnace of daily living and are hammered into useful form on the anvil of unrelenting daily life and common struggles. The hammer must fall repetitively over and over before the shape takes form. This type of experiential learning is formative.
Learning is driven by an insatiable curiosity in God’s ways. The value of hard work and the merits of creative problem-solving are by-products of “fleshing out” Biblical principles and watching them come to life through God’s creative power. Families are transformed and young people are reformed.
When given the right conditions of sunlight and good soil, an acorn grows into a mighty oak. When the same acorn is crowded out by larger trees and the elements for health are lacking, the tree grows crooked and deformed.
When a family arrives tattered and worn, we provide the sunshine and nourishment of God’s word in daily life experiences – and the transformation is nothing short of remarkable.
When a young person arrives soiled in the mud and mire of worldly ways, we provide the nutrients which build character and integrity for future leaders – and the reformation is nothing short of miraculous.
This is what we do: Transformation and Reformation. Learn more here.
If you would like to donate to the Christian Training Center, please click here.
For many, Christmas is a time of mourning and grieving. Here are some great scriptures and prayers.
~~If I could sum up the year with one word, it would be loss.
Yes, we have had some wonderful blessings this year, but the blessings have been far outweighed by huge losses. And, as the holidays approach, the losses are weighing even heavier upon our hearts.
I’ve spent the last eight months doing everything I can to keep my faith strong, to trust God. But this week, I am losing the battle. I am collapsing under the weight of this year.
We have a lot to learn from Mary’s faith. Here is some great insight from Heather Adams. Heather is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper” is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
What is Mary’s Song? Here is some great insight from Ashley Hooker. Ashley is a freelance writer who spends her time homeschooling her two children, supporting her husband as he finishes school to become a pastor, and writing about her faith. Currently, she is a contributing author for Journey Christian magazine.
During this special time of year, we celebrate Advent by reading the words of Luke as he tells the Christmas story. The birth of Christ marks a time when hope is revived, and love is shared with everyone. In the Gospel of Luke, we find Mary’s song. She is praising the God who has chosen her to be the mother of His only son. Her words are powerful and hold lessons we can learn today.
What Is Mary’s Song?
Read the article: What Is Mary’s Song and What Does It Teach Modern Readers?
Christmas should be wonderful time of celebration, relaxation and peace.
“It’s that time of year when the world falls in love. . .” croons Frank Sinatra in “The Christmas Waltz.” It’s among the first songs my family blasts on the way home from Thanksgiving dinner at Nana’s house. And while I sing along in the car, while it’s still November out, I mean every single Christmas-adoring word.
Here is some great background on a perennial Christmas favorite. Kristi Walker has been a missionary in Berlin, Germany for over 15 years working with an international church as the Director of Student Ministries. She is the author of two books – Disappointment: A Subtle Path Away from Christ and Convinced. Applying Biblical Principles to Life’s Choices.
On December 24, 1818, 201 years ago, the song “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) was sung for the very first time. Today, this treasured Christmas carol has been translated into approximately 300 languages!
In Mariapfarr, Austria, in the year 1816 (the same year that Indiana became the 19th U.S. state), an Austrian priest by the name of Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics to a song he titled, “Stille Nacht.” Two years later, school teacher and church organist Franz Gruber composed the music to Stille Nacht and performed it for the first time on guitar, not organ, during a Christmas midnight mass at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria.
Read more here: What Is the Meaning Behind the Classic Song “Silent Night”?
Here is some great insight about Joseph to consider. Drawing from her walk with Christ, and decades as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps people give themselves a break so they can enjoy the fruitful and satisfying lives found only in God’s grace. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, releases February 2020. She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry.
My childhood view of Christmas was colorful, clean, and pleasant. I remember Daddy marching down the church aisle at Christmas, singing, “We Three Kings.” I had a sanitized view of camels, too — until I visited one that was filthy, by his own choice. He sometimes projected that filth of his in the direction of onlookers. My romantic view of a stable and the three wise men’s journey vanished.
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries, an Internet-based ministry serving Christians in 225 countries. He is the author of 29 books, including Stealth Attack, Fire and Rain, Credo, The ABCs of Christmas, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul and Why Did This Happen to Me? Ray and Marlene, his wife of 39 years, have three sons – Josh, Mark and Nick, two daughters-in-law- Leah and Vanessa, and four grandchildren – Knox, Eli, Penny and Violet. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, and anything related to the Civil War.
How well do you know the Christmas story?
Most of us know the general outline because we’ve heard or sung it or watched it being enacted in the Christmas programs that most churches offer during December. We know about the shepherds, the angels, the “Wise Men,” the star, the innkeeper, the long journey of Mary and Joseph, the baby in the manger, and we know about the gold, frankincense and myrrh. But how much of what we know is tradition and how much comes from the Bible?
Here is a great idea. I love this one: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Christmas is such a wonderful time of year when so many take time to gather with family and friends, share gifts and meals, make memories, have fun, and worship together. It’s also a great time to reconnect with those you may not see through the year, or just send a heartfelt sentiment to those you care about with a Christmas card or simple greeting. Maybe you’ve sent family photos and Christmas cards for many years; it’s your annual tradition. Maybe you include a note of a few of your family’s highlights from the year. Or maybe, like many in today’s world, you choose to send a greeting through email or social media so that you’re able to reach more of those you love.
As we begin the season to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us consider God’s plan all along.
The Bible tells us that long before the world began, God had a plan to bring redemption through Christ to all those who would choose to believe and follow Him (1 Peter 1:19-20). God knew we would need a Savior. He knew we would need to be set free. And He made a way, by sending His One and Only Son, so that we could receive forgiveness and find new life and hope through Him (John 3:16).
Who were the Magi who visited Jesus? Dwight Longenecker sorts it out for us. Dwight is a parish leader, award-winning blogger, and speaker. A graduate of Oxford and Bob Jones University, he has written sixteen books on different aspects of religion. He is the author of a new book, Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men, available in bookstores now.
Everyone knows the legend of the three wise men’s visit to Bethlehem as retold every Christmas. Three Arabian princes followed a star to find baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. They presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This story has lived on over the centuries as a key part of the birth of Jesus. But is it truly factual?
What is the meaning of Christmas? How should we celebrate it? Here is some great insight from Author Sheila Alewine. Sheila is a pastor’s wife, mother and grandmother. She and her husband lead Around The Corner Ministries, which serves to equip Christ-followers to share the gospel where they live, work and play.
Are you ready for Advent? Here are some questions that will help.
As the autumn leaves dance and twirl, I’m reminded that it won’t be long before we celebrate the holidays. To avoid the last minute hustle it is good to think ahead.
Many shop early and get their Christmas cards ordered and signed. Others bake Christmas cookies for weeks to prepare for guests and gifts. Whatever we do to prepare for the holiday, when we are intentional it can reduce stress.
Preparing our heart and keeping our focus on Jesus takes planning too – otherwise the weeks fly by in a blur before we rein in what’s important. Using an advent devotional or activity is a wonderful way to engage the whole family with the central message of why Jesus came.
Having a plan for your family celebrations minimizes stress and helps you to focus on the things that are important to you. Begin by adding the events and traditions most important to you and your family.
Asking yourself these questions during this season of your life will help you to focus as you celebrate from the heart. Questions like:
Read the article here: 7 Questions That Will Make You Ready for Advent
The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out. (John 1:5 ISV)
Larry was busy hanging lights around our Christmas tree this weekend. We had purchased some new strings of lights to make our tree even brighter. So, to add to the lights already on the tree, he painstakingly placed them on a few bare spots.
The thousand shining lights staring back at us were gorgeous for about thirty seconds…and then…BOOM! Darkness. The circuit was obviously overloaded! So, he rushed to Lowe’s and purchased a new circuit breaker and BOOM! All was bright and shiny again. The beauty of the lights on the tree lit up the darkness of our living room. We loved it!
“and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’”
– Acts 20:25
This anthem and the local espresso drink has been carrying Holiday sales for a very long time – and the American economy is very appreciative of the clever use of scripture to carry their revenue into the black before the year ends. But don’t let their clever marketing rob you of the true meaning and purpose of Christmas.
Christmas Must be Received First
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”
– Isaiah 9:6
“He came to His own, and His own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in His name, he gave the right to become Children of God.”
This year, since before the Thanksgiving meal had even been served, Americans have been flooding the stores and cyberspace to find amazing deals for Christmas. Many well-intentioned Christians have not been excluded from this frenzy, hoping to give wonderful gifts to friends, loved-ones, and co-workers with the saying in mind “it is better to give than to receive.” But have we stopped – really stopped – in our tracks of running around in a spirit-of-the-season-holiday-frenzy to consider the coming of Christ and it’s implications?
There is no greater gift this Christmas than Christ the Son. All our giving flows from the reality that we have received the greatest of gifts – from God. Receiving Christ and His kingdom in our hearts and lives is immeasurably greater than any physical gift we will receive this holiday season. And yet many of us will be focusing on giving physical things.
Thinking back to the story of Mary and Martha, we recall that Martha had a great heart to give as well – she believed serving the Lord and the disciples was the most important thing to do in that moment. What could possibly be wrong with that?? Yet the scripture goes on to say Martha was distracted with much serving (Luke 10:40), asking Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.” She had allowed herself to get caught up in a frenzy of giving without understanding the spiritual importance of what Mary was doing – receiving from Christ. The Lord answers her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
So what is the “good portion” we are to seek this Christmas? Could it possibly be better to receive this Christmas?
Three Ways to Receive Jesus This Christmas
Know Christ more intimately this year than ever before. Use those new gift cards and buy yourself a new Bible – a good bible, a great bible! Your greatest joys next year will be discovered with Christ, and in Christ.
Treasure Christ as supreme, set apart, and special above all other gifts. Stay up late or rise early and think upon the life of Jesus. Let your mind be filled with the narrative of His birth and listen to songs that declare His arrival.
Share Christ with your family and friends. A good gift is not only treasured but shared. Don’t limit your giving to that which is merely physical in nature, but in the name of Jesus freely give blessings, encouragements, prayers and supplications. Lay hands on the sick. Comfort the hurting. Share the blessing and good news of His kingdom come to earth.
Celebrating His life with you this Christmas and always,
Your friends at Christian Training Center International