Charles Stanley – The Gift of Exhortation


Romans 12:3-8

The church is filled with people who have different passions and interests. Christ designed His body to function this way by supplying various spiritual gifts by which His work is accomplished. Yet sometimes these differences can lead to misunderstandings because we each see through the lens of our own gift.

Exhortation is one of those spiritual gifts that can be misconstrued. People with this gifting may use strong words to urge fellow believers toward spiritual maturity. Sometimes this involves identifying foundational problems like pride, selfishness, or a desire for control and prescribing corrective steps based on biblical principles. Other times, exhortation may include an explanation of the blessings of obeying the Lord as well as warnings about the consequences of disobedience.

You may have noticed this gift is often given to pastors who regularly exhort God’s people from the pulpit, but there are also individuals in the congregation who may have this spiritual gift. As Christians, we need to hear the truth about ourselves and how we are living, yet sometimes we may be resistant. Perhaps we think the exhorter has oversimplified our situation or is trying to “help” God out. Or maybe the way in which the advice is given strikes us as overconfident. At other times, we may question how Scripture is applied or doubt the genuineness of the one who exhorts us.

Although we should always compare what we hear with God’s Word, we must not reject correction simply because we don’t want to hear it. Wisdom comes with careful consideration of counsel as we hold firmly to the Word.

Bible in One Year: 2 Corinthians 9-13

Our Daily Bread — Questions at Christmas


Read: Matthew 16:13–21 | Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 47–48; 1 John 3

“But what about you?” [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15

Well before the calendar flips to December, Christmas cheer begins to bubble up in our northern town. A medical office drapes its trees and shrubs in close-fitting strings of lights, each a different color, illuminating a breathtaking nighttime landscape. Another business decorates its building to look like an enormous, extravagantly wrapped Christmas present. It’s difficult to turn anywhere without seeing evidence of Christmas spirit—or at least seasonal marketing.

Some people love these lavish displays. Others take a more cynical view. But the crucial question isn’t how others observe Christmas. Rather, we each need to consider what the celebration means to us.

A little more than thirty years after His birth, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13). They gave responses others had given: John the Baptist, Elijah, maybe another prophet. Then Jesus made it personal: “Who do you say I am?” (v. 15). Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (v. 16).

Many will celebrate Christmas without a thought about who the Baby really is. As we interact with them, we can help them consider these crucial questions: Is Christmas just a heartwarming story about a baby born in a stable? Or did our Creator visit His creation and become one of us?

Father in heaven, may our Christmas celebrations this year, whether lavish or small, honor the Messiah who came to redeem His creation.

For more on the life of Christ, see

Who do you say Jesus is? 

By Tim Gustafson


Who was Matthew, the writer of the gospel by the same name? Matthew (also known as Levi) was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples. Prior to Jesus’s call, Matthew served as a despised tax collector (9:9). Tax collectors were particularly loathed because they exacted taxes from their own people, the Jews, to pay the Romans (the oppressive rulers of Israel). And they often collected far more than required. Matthew wrote his gospel primarily to the Jews to prove that Jesus is the Messiah (Savior), the eternal King. We see Matthew’s emphasis clearly in today’s passage. When Jesus asked His disciples about His identity, Peter declared, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:15–16). Alyson Kieda

Alyson Kieda

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Waiting Houses

In the world of quirky factoids and interesting anecdotes, I have often heard that if one lives to be seventy years old, one will have spent three years of her life just waiting. Waiting in line at the grocery store; waiting in the doctor’s office; waiting in traffic; waiting for lunch to be ready; waiting for recess time at school; waiting. In his book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, children’s author Theodor Geisel, or “Dr. Seuss,” describes a place called “the waiting place.” It sounds like the place most of us inhabit. He describes it as a useless place where people are just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

Sometimes waiting feels useless and futile. We are waiting around for what, exactly? More than this, waiting is difficult. It is difficult to have patience. It is something we admire in others, but find difficult for ourselves. Patience is something I can admire in the driver behind me, for example, but not in the one ahead of me!

The patience required by waiting is counterintuitive in our busy, fast-paced world. When our daily lives are made up of high speed Internet, instant messaging, and fast food, waiting for anything seems like an eternity. Moreover, in a world where so much beckons us, waiting asks us to be still and this can feel meaningless. English poet John Milton once wrote that those who serve stand and wait. Indeed, waiting asks us to be disciplined, self-controlled, and emotionally mature as the world speeds by us. Waiting requires an unshakeable faith, hope, and love that will trump all the action done for the sake of expediency. Waiting is often our best, hard work.

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Joyce Meyer – The Habit of Prayer


Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. — Acts 3:1

Adapted from the resource Closer to God Each Day Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Many people feel vaguely guilty about their prayer life because they compare themselves to others. God is a creative God and wants each person to have his or her own individual prayer life. Your prayer life doesn’t have to be just like anyone else’s.

Yes, there are proven principles of prayer that you can follow. As we see in Acts 3:1, the early disciples set aside certain hours of the day when they would go to a designated place to pray. That is good self-discipline, but that should be the start of learning to pray and not the finish.

We can discipline ourselves to establish a prayer schedule that is individually suited to us, but we can also learn to pray without ceasing. That means to pray at all times, in all places, with all kinds of prayer. I like to say, “Pray your way through the day.” Let prayer become like breathing, something you do with ease and without effort.

We never have to “wait” to pray. Each time you see a need or think of anything you need help with, pray right away! Prayer is talking to God, and since He is everywhere, we can talk to Him all the time.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for the incredible privilege of prayer! Help me to be mindful of You throughout the day and form the habit of talking to you about everything, any time. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Cannot Disown Us


“Even when we are too weak to have any faith left, He remains faithful to us and will help us, for He cannot disown us who are part of Himself, and He will always carry out His promises to us” (2 Timothy 2:13).

Have you ever run out of faith? I have – in times of great testing and trial, especially in earlier years as a young Christian. But as I have learned more and more about the many attributes of God, I have come to understand why the apostle Paul was so convinced of the faithfulness of God – that He still remains faithful to us and will help us, even when we are our weakest.

The meaning seems clear, though perhaps controversial to some. If we have truly been born again by the Spirit of God, and thus have become “part of Himself,” Paul asserts that He cannot disown us. We need not argue or discuss the point of eternal security, for God’s Holy Spirit, that great Teacher of spiritual truths, will reveal true meanings to each one of us individually.

We can be more certain of unanimous agreement on the latter part of the verse: “He will always carry out His promises to us.” At least we all believe that theoretically, if not experientially.

Have you, for example, laid hold of one of God’s promises, and not yet having seen the answer, begun to wonder and even doubt if He is indeed carrying out His promise? It might help each one of us to remind ourselves constantly that God has His own time-table. He need not be bound by ours.

Someone has well said, “God’s timing is always perfect.” Let us not try to improve on that perfection.

Bible Reading:Romans 3:3,4;Numbers 23:19

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: “Dear Lord, because You are always faithful despite my faithlessness at times, I will depend on You to fulfill your promises.”

Max Lucado – Christmas is About Jesus


Listen to Today’s Devotion

My dad, a man of few words, told my brother and me, “Boys, Christmas is about Jesus!”  In one of those bedtime, book-time moments, somewhere between the fairy tales and the monkey with the lunch pail, I thought about what he had said.  I began asking the Christmas questions.  And I’ve been asking them ever since!

God knows what it’s like to be a human.  When we talk to him about deadlines or tough times, he understands.  He’s been there.  He’s been here.  Because of Bethlehem, we have a friend in Jesus.  Christmas begins what Easter celebrates.  The child in the cradle became the King on the cross.  He doesn’t tell us, “Clean up before you come in.”  He offers, “Come in and I’ll clean you up.”  It’s not our grip on him that matters, but his grip on us!  And his grip is sure!

Denison Forum – Man tries to rescue Christmas decoration

A veteran named Alfred Norwood, Jr. was walking past a home in Austin, Texas, when he saw a man dangling from a second-story roof. He immediately stopped to help, trying unsuccessfully to use a ladder that was leaning against the home. He then called to people who were passing by, but no one stopped to help. So he called 911.

It turned out, the “man” in danger was a mannequin meant to look like Clark Griswold in the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s so realistic that it’s easy to see how Mr. Norwood was fooled.

The homeowners tracked the veteran down and thanked him. One pointed out that hundreds of cars go past their house every day, but he was the only person to stop and help. A reporter commented: “It’s nice to know there are still good people in this world who care.”

Let’s consider Mr. Norwood’s experience as a parable for our day.

Services for a war hero

President George H. W. Bush’s body is lying in state today in the US Capitol. It will remain there until tomorrow morning, when it will be taken to Washington National Cathedral for a state funeral. Tomorrow afternoon, the body will be transported to President Bush’s church in Houston for a service Thursday morning, followed by burial that afternoon.

His services are being conducted as a military operation befitting a war hero. They involve military units coordinating movements in at least three states and the District of Columbia.

The procedures are detailed in a 133-page manual titled “State, Official and Special Military Funerals.” As many as four thousand military and Defense Department civilian personnel will be involved in some capacity.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Man tries to rescue Christmas decoration