Charles Stanley – Praise: An Expression of Love


Psalms 150

Most of us have some idea what being in love feels like. When we’re apart, we constantly think about the object of our affection and look forward to spending time together. We often relate stories and describe attributes so everyone knows how wonderful this special person is. In a word, we praise our loved one.

First Samuel 13:14 describes King David as a man after God’s own heart. One way he sought to honor his beloved Lord was to offer Him praise. The book of Psalms records David’s worship in words, with sentiments such as “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You” (Ps. 63:3). David also danced with abandon, expressing his passion and devotion before God—he didn’t care what others would think (2 Sam. 6:14).

Do we love God with the same unashamed enthusiasm David exhibited? Some people are more prone to fervent, emotional displays than others, but too many of us allow embarrassment or timidity to stifle our praise. Timid believers wonder what those around them will think if they sing loudly. Others worry that co-workers or friends will consider them fanatical if they talk about God too much.

The Lord is worthy of praise. He is our Friend, our Rock, and our Protector. What’s more, He saved us from death! If we let ourselves get caught up in others’ opinions, we could forget that His is the only one that matters. Ever since creation, the Lord has deserved and received praise offerings for His glory. Don’t let fear or embarrassment keep you from praising the Lord. Give God His due.

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 14-16

Our Daily Bread — The Meaning of a Name


Read: Matthew 1:18-25

Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 40-41; 2 Peter 3

You are to give him the name Jesus. —Matthew 1:21

According to a New York Times article, children in many African countries are often named after a famous visitor, special event, or circumstance that was meaningful to the parents. When doctors told the parents of one child that they could not cure the infant’s illness and only God knew if he would live, the parents named their child Godknows. Another man said he was named Enough, because his mother had 13 children and he was the last one! There’s a reason for everyone’s name, and in some cases it also conveys a special meaning.

Before Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord told Joseph, “[Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means “the Lord saves.” In that day and culture, many children would have been named Jesus, but only one came into this world to die so that all who receive Him might live eternally, forgiven and freed from the power of sin.

Charles Wesley wrote these words we often sing as Christmas nears: “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.”

Jesus came to turn our darkness into light, to transform our despair into hope, and to save us from our sins. —David McCasland

Heavenly Father, in Jesus we see Your loving purpose and boundless grace. We humbly acknowledge Your Son as the One who came to save us from our sins.

Jesus’ name and mission are the same—He came to save us.

INSIGHT: Joseph is a popular biblical name. The first Joseph in the Bible is Jacob’s son who, after being sold into slavery by his brothers, rose to great influence in Egypt (Gen. 37-50). Two other Josephs are mentioned in the Old Testament period: a musician (1 Chron. 25:2, 9) and one in the lineage of Christ (see Luke 3:24, 30). In the New Testament we begin with the earthly father of Jesus (Luke 2; Matt. 1). Next is Joseph of Arimathea, who assisted in Jesus’ burial (Matt. 27:57). Finally, we read of Joseph Barsabbas (Acts 1:23), who was considered to fill Judas’ vacated apostolic office; and Joseph the encourager, better known as Barnabas (Acts 4:36).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Season of Darkness and Light


Those of us who make our home in the Northern Hemisphere must welcome the encroaching darkness of the winter months. At the height of winter in Kotzebue, Alaska, for example, daylight is but a mere two hours. Where I live, the light begins to recede around 4:30 PM. When the winter sun is out it simply rides the southern horizon with a distant, hazy glow.

Perhaps it seems strange to some, but I love the shorter-days and the darkening skies of winter. For me, the darkness of winter invokes nostalgia for the days of huddling around the fireplace, hot coffee, and curling up with a good book. Indeed, there are some gifts that can only be enjoyed in the darkness of winter and in this season of lessening light.

Of course, darkness and night evoke ominous images as well. Pre-Christian inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere—who did not separate natural phenomenon from their religious and spiritual understanding—saw the departing sunlight as the fleeing away of what they believed was the Sun God. Darkness indicated distance from this receding god and what followed was a loss of hope, the presence of absence and the cessation of life.(1) Like these ancient peoples, darkness often creates fear. We fear what we cannot see in the dark, and what is seen inhabits the mysterious realm of shadows. Darkness has always represented chaos, evil, and death, and therefore is rarely thought of in either romantic or nostalgic terms.

For many—even those who live in sun-filled hemispheres—the darkness of life is a daily nightmare. Despair, chronic loneliness, doubt, and isolation conspire to prevent even the dimmest light. The darkness that comes only as a visitor during the night is for many a perpetual reality. Is there any reason to hope that the light might be found even in these dark places?

It is not by accident that the season of Advent for Christians coincides with the earthly season of fading light and increasing darkness. With its focus on waiting, repentance, and longing, Christians view Advent as a season of somber reflection. Yet, even as the light recedes in winter, the season of Advent offers surprising gifts in the shorter days, in the womb of pregnant possibility, and in the often anxious anticipation that accompanies waiting in the darkness. Those pre-Christian peoples who watched their sun-god disappear found that there were gifts that could be had even in this dark season. The wheels of carts used for hauling and carrying goods, were taken off and decorated with greens and garlands. Those ordinary objects now hung on their walls as mementos of beauty and hope. Taking the wheels off of their carts meant the cessation of work and a time to watch and wait. As Gertrud Muller Nelson writes about this ancient ritual, “Slowly, slowly they wooed the sun-god back. And light followed darkness. Morning came earlier. The festivals announced the return of hope after primal darkness.”(2)

While the dark is mysterious and often ominous, it is also a place of unexpected treasures. As one author notes, “[S]pring bulbs and summer seeds come to life in the unlit places underground. Costly jewel stones lie embedded in the dark interiors of ordinary rocks. Oil, gas, and coal reserves lie far beneath the light of the earth’s surface. The dark depths of the ocean teem with life.”(3) Indeed, unique gifts from earth, sky, and sea can only be observed in the dark.

Spiritual gifts, too, often emerge out of the darkness. The writer of Genesis paints a picture of the Spirit of God hovering over the primordial chaos and the darkness that covered the surface of the deep. Out of the darkness of chaos came the light of creation. The covenant promises of God to give children and land to Abram were forged “when the sun was going down…and terror and great darkness fell upon him.” Moses received the Law in the “thick darkness where God was.” God’s abiding presence was the gift from the darkness. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, the God of Israel promises: “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Indeed, the long-awaited Messiah would be revealed to those “who walk in darkness” and who “live in a dark land.”(4) Unlike the sun-god of the pre-Christian understanding, the God of the biblical writers did not flee as the sun faded away, but could be found in the darkest and remotest places.

For those who dwell in the dark season of despair or discouragement, the promise of treasures of darkness may spark a light of hope. “The recovery of hope,” writes Muller Nelson, “can only be accomplished when we have had the courage to stop and wait and engage fully in the winter of our dark longing.”(5)

The hope of Advent is that God is in the darkness with us even though our experience of God may seem as clear as shifting shadow. The hope of Advent is that God’s coming near to us in the person of Jesus is not hindered by the darkness of this world or of our own lives. We may fear our dark despair hides us from God, but the treasure of God’s presence waits even there—for darkness is as light to God.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Gertrud Muller Nelson, To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1986), 63.

(2) Ibid., 63.

(3) Sally Breedlove, Choosing Rest: Cultivating a Sunday Heart in a Monday World (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002), 133.

(4) Genesis 15:12; Exodus 20:21; Deuteronomy 5:22; Isaiah 45:3; Isaiah 9:2.

(5) Gertrud Muller Nelson, 63.

Alistair Begg – Winter in the Soul


You have made summer and winter. Psalm 74:17

My soul, begin this wintry month with God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind you that He keeps His covenant with day and night and serve to assure you that He will also keep that glorious covenant that He has made with you in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.

Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it is upon you just now, it will be very painful to you: But there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation. He scatters the frozen dew like ashes over the once fresh green meadows of our joy. He dispenses His icy morsels, freezing the streams of our delight.

He does it all; He is the great Winter King and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore you cannot murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills are of the Lord’s sending and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill harmful insects and restrain raging diseases; they break up the clods and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

How we prize the fire just now! How pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw near to Him, and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises, and keep working, unlike the lazy man who refuses to plow because it is too cold; in the summer he will have nothing and will be forced to beg for bread.

Family Bible Reading Plan

  • 1 Chronicles 29
  • 2 Peter 3

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Free-will—a slave


“And ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” John 5:40

Suggested Further Reading: John 6:60-65

It is certain that men will not come unto Christ, that they might have life. We might prove this from many texts of Scripture, but we will take one parable. You remember the parable where a certain king had a feast for his son, and invited a great number to come; the oxen and fatlings were killed, and he sent his messengers inviting many to the supper. Did they go to the feast? No; but they all, with one accord, began to make excuse. One said he had married a wife, and therefore he could not come, whereas he might have brought her with him. Another had bought a yoke of oxen, and went to prove them; but the feast was in the night-time and he could not prove his oxen in the dark. Another had bought a piece of land, and wanted to see it; but I should not think he went to see it with a lantern. So they all made excuses and would not come. Well the king was determined to have the feast; so he said, “Go into the highways and hedges,” and invite them—stop! Not invite—“compel them to come in;” for even the ragged fellows in the hedges would never have come unless they were compelled. Take another parable; a certain man had a vineyard; at the appointed season he sent one of his servants for his rent. What did they do to him? They beat that servant. He sent another; and they stoned him. He sent another and they killed him. And, at last, he said “I will send them my son, they will reverence him.” But what did they do? They said, “This is the heir, let us kill him, and cast him out of the vineyard.” So they did. It is the same with all men by nature. The Son of God came, yet men rejected him.

For meditation: When you thank God for your salvation, do you give him all the credit for your conversion as well (John 15:16)?

Sermon no. 52

1 December (Preached 2 December 1855)

John MacArthur – The Preeminence of Christ


“God . . . has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1-3).

Christ is superior to everyone and everything.

The book of Hebrews was addressed to an audience composed of Jewish Christians, Jewish non-Christians who were intellectually convinced about Jesus but hadn’t yet committed themselves to Him, and Jewish non-Christians who didn’t believe the gospel at all.

The author’s goal was to demonstrate Christ’s superiority over everyone and everything that had preceded Him, whether Old Testament persons, institutions, rituals, or sacrifices. He specifically contrasted Christ with angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron and his priesthood, the Old Covenant, and the sacrificial system.

The Jewish believers needed this focus on Christ’s superiority because most of them were suffering some form of persecution because of their Christian testimony. Some were in danger of confusing the gospel with Jewish ceremonies and legalism, and drifting back into their former practices.

Those who were intellectually convinced but spiritually uncommitted needed to be warned not to stop at that point, but to go all the way to saving faith. They were in danger of committing the greatest sin any person can commit: rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Those who didn’t believe in Christ as all needed to see that Jesus was in fact who He claimed to be. To such people the author explains the unique priesthood of Christ, and the urgency of turning to Him in faith.

Within your circle of friends and associates, you probably have Christians who are weak of faith and need your encouragement and instruction. Be available to minister to them whenever possible.

Undoubtedly you also know people who are intellectually convinced that Jesus is who He claimed to be, but aren’t willing to embrace Him as their Lord. Don’t be shy about urging them to move on to salvation.

To those who reject Christ outright, boldly proclaim the gospel and trust the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts.

Suggestion for Prayer

Praise Christ for His preeminence and surpassing grace.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 1-2. To whom does the writer compare Christ? Be specific.

Joyce Meyer – Wisdom Encourages Patience


A man’s wisdom gives him patience. —Proverbs 19:11 NIV

People often ask me, “How can I learn contentment and stability?” One way, straight out of the Bible, is patience.

God wants us to use wisdom, and wisdom encourages patience. Wisdom silently tells us to wait a little while, until the emotions settle down, before you do or say something. Then check to see if you really believe it’s the right thing to do. Emotions urge us toward haste, telling us we must do something and do it right now! But godly wisdom tells us to be patient and wait until we have a clear picture of what we are to do and when we are to do it. I like to say it like this: Let emotions subside and then decide. We need to be able to step back from our situations and see them from God’s perspective. Then we need to make decisions based on what we know rather than what we feel.

Power Thought: I have the wisdom to develop patience and emotional stability.

From the book the book Power Thoughts Devotional by Joyce Meyer.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Strength and Peace


“He will give His people strength. He will bless them with peace” (Psalm 29:11).

Scott, a professing atheist with the morals of an alley cat, insisted that he had peace in his heart. Though rare, it is possible for people to harden their hearts so much that God ceases to draw them to Himself, and they experience a counterfeit peace.

The psalmist, of course, is talking about a different kind of peace. Ocean voyagers in the storm are at peace because they know the ship is sound and the pilot is skillful. In the same way, we as believers are at peace because we serve God who gives His people strength and blesses them with peace.

“His people,” of course, refers to those who have placed their trust and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior. None other may claim such a wonderful promise.

Significantly, “strength” comes before “peace.” This is God’s strength: “Who would certainly fail without it. Then this very same strength results in peace, God’s peace “that passes all understanding.”

God’s strength enables us to contend with the powers of darkness, within the world and within our own natural depravity.

Peace, the great blessing of the gospel is two-fold:

  1. Peace with God through Christ, and
  2. Peace of mind.

Strength and peace to live the abundant, supernatural life is available to all His people. You may claim your share today by faith.

Bible Reading: Psalm 71:9-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Those two great blessings, strength and peace, will be mine today in direct proportion to my faith and trust in Him, who is my peace.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Beyond the Trinkets


On this first day of December, you are likely to be reminded – via television commercials, electronic billboards and, yes, emails like this one – that Christmas is near. Every retailer is clamoring for your attention…not because they care about you, but because of what they can extract from your wallet, purse and credit cards.

Joshua fell on his face…and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”

Joshua 5:14

Will you make this Christmas season all about the One who truly does care for you? The One whose love and ultimate sacrifice has furnished the priceless gift of eternal life? As you begin what may be your most hectic month of the year today, let it begin with this question and prayer: “What has my Lord to say to his servant?” Ask for new perspective, new energy, and new blessings to make this Christmas season a holy and sacred tribute to Him – focused not on shopping and stores, but on the Savior.

If you do that, the meaning and import of the season will be deeply impressed upon your heart, and you will in turn change the hearts of your loved ones and your neighbors long after the brief pleasure of the toys and trinkets have faded away.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 119:15-20

Greg Laurie – Surprised to Be Chosen


But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this as.

—Luke 1:29

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she was honestly surprised that God would select someone like her.

Though Mary was a virtuous woman, she was not a sinless woman. Mary was a sinner just like us. Privileged? Yes. Called by God? Yes. Sinful? Again, yes. Later, in what has been called the Magnificat, or Mary’s Song, she said, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). Even Mary needed a Savior.

When people are truly godly, they never boast of their devotion. They will not speak of what they have done for God. Rather, they will always speak of what God has done for them. That is why John described himself in his gospel as the disciple whom Jesus loved. John boasted of God’s love for him rather than his love for God.

Had Mary been like many other young women of her time, she would have married a poor man, given birth to numerous children, and wouldn’t have traveled more than a few miles from her home. Then she would have died like thousands of others before her, another person who entered and left the human stage. But God chose her, despite the fact that Mary was a nobody living in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere.

Mary was handpicked to fulfill prophecy: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). I seriously doubt that Mary, in her wildest dreams, ever read that verse and thought, That is me. I’m going to be the virgin Isaiah spoke of. I’m going to be the mother of the Messiah.

God can use you where you are.

Max Lucado – The Winner’s Circle


For all we don’t know about the next life—this much is certain. The day Christ comes will be a day of reward. A day in the winner’s circle!  Those who went unknown on earth will be known in heaven. Those who never heard the cheers of men will hear the cheers of angels. Those who missed the blessing of a father will hear the blessing of their heavenly Father. The small will be great. The forgotten will be remembered. The unnoticed will be crowned and the faithful will be honored!

Ephesians 6:8 says, “The Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he or she does, whether slave or free.” The winner’s circle is not reserved for a handful of the elite, but for a heaven full of God’s children who “will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him!” (James 1:12).

From Grace for the Moment

Night Light for Couples – No Fault?


“Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9

One reason divorce has become so common today is the advent of “no‐fault” divorce laws, first introduced in California in 1969. Over the following fifteen years, every state in America adopted some form of no‐fault legislation. And to what result? According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, since these laws began taking effect the number of divorces in this country has increased 279 percent.

In essence, no‐fault divorce has nullified the sacredness of marriage in the eyes of the law, making it an unenforceable contract. A man and woman can abandon their family more easily than they can abrogate almost any other agreement that bears their signature. In terms of the law, it matters not that they’ve made a solemn promise before God, friends, relatives, a member of the clergy, or a licensed representative of the state.

However, no matter how easy the laws make it to get a divorce, it will always remain infinitely difficult to repair the damage.

Just between us…

  • What would you say to the couple who insist, “Our divorce is nobody’s fault. We just didn’t get along, so we’re going our separate ways”?
  • Do we know anyone who has sought a divorce, only to regret the move?
  • Are we committed to staying together, even through tough times?

Lord, the courts have made it so easy to tear apart that which You have bound

together. Forgive us, forgive our land, and bring us to repentance. Help us keep Your commands as the ultimate law of our marriage and family. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson