Daily Light – Jan 18, 2021

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Friends:   

As you know, today is January 18th, 2021. The inauguration of the 46th president of the United States occurs in our country at noon on Wednesday, January 20, 2021.

I am asking you to pray for our country as we experience the next few days.  On every occasion that you think about the political and cultural tension that we are presently experiencing…pray.   

I am also reminded to ask all of us to remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in other countries. There is so much tension in the world in this present day..so much suffering and pain.

My personal prayer is that God’s ‘will’…will be manifest in my life and the life of my family.  That He will give us wisdom to know what to say and do and how to demonstrate His love…how to show and speak peace and love to those that are in our circle of relationships.   I pray that this current climate of tension will provide increased opportunity to share the Gospel.   I pray that God will show mercy and hold-back those that are evil and seek to harm others and create division.  I pray for the weak and helpless and poor who are more-so affected by the acts of those who seek to create confusion, chaos, and disruption.   I pray that the Kingdom of God will grow and expand in and through these times of tension and trouble. 

I will simply repeat this message and prayer for most of this week.  When you see it or read it…pray.  God is our constant source of help.  He is our supply.   On Him, we depend.   His will be done.

Amen

Daily Light – Jan 15, 2021

Changed Values 

From his morning study time, Pastor/Teacher, David Niednagel, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning study (study, observe, apply, pray).    

1 Timothy 1:1-2 

1:1  This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus, who gives us hope. 2 I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. NLT 

PTL that God can and would change a violent blasphemer into His messenger (apostle). Nobody is too hard for the grace of God. But even with that grace, God also gave him a command. Even though we normally think of grace (love) and commands as opposite kinds of motivation, grace and commands are not incompatible. God still has expectations, and does not just wait for us to decide to do them. Commands express His mind and will, and then we respond because of His grace. “Your wish is my command.” 

The NLT says the Lord Jesus gives us hope. That is true, but Paul makes it a bit clearer, that He not only gives us hope, but that He is our Hope. 1 Pet 1:4 says He is our “living hope”. In the NT, “hope” refers to our confidence that because He was raised from the dead, He will come again and raise us also. (Titus 2:13) No matter how much Paul suffered, He knew the Living Christ was living in him. That gave him the confidence and endurance for everything. 

Another evidence of God’s grace in Paul is the fact that he calls Timothy his “true son in the faith”. I don’t think Saul of Tarsus would have chosen to pour his life into this half Gentile boy who was not from a line of distinguished Rabbis. God’s grace changed Saul’s values, who wanted to advance beyond all his contemporaries (Gal 1:14) to Paul’s who wanted to become a servant. (Phil 2) 

Paul also displays an understanding of Timothy’s personality and nature, as well as the situation he was in. Timothy had a tough assignment, and Paul was praying for him, not for strength and success, but for more grace, mercy and peace. 

Lord Jesus, thank You for loving hardened, arrogant people like Saul, and transforming him to a man with a heart like Yours. Please keep doing that in me, so that my values and passion are to be like You. Give me delight in obeying Your commands, and give me confidence that You are living within me at all times. Give me fulfillment in ministering to a few, instead of longing for a large public ministry. And help me remember You value a servant’s heart more than a person’s strength. So help me remember what people need most and pray for a fresh measure of grace, mercy and peace when they are in times of difficulty. Amen 

Daily Light – Jan 14, 2021

INVITATION INTO THE WONDERS OF PROVIDENCE

Article by John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

It is a tragic fact of the modern world that most contemporary, scientifically minded people think it is more true and significant to speak of the technicalities of photosynthesis than to say, “God makes the grass grow” (see Psalm 104:14147:8). This is not just a sentence for children. It is a sentence — a reality — desperately needed by the soul-shrunken modern man whose world has been reduced from a theater of wonders to a machine running mindlessly on mechanical laws.

Modern science has made us more aware of patterns of causality and regularity in nature, which we call “laws of nature.” But the picture in the Bible reveals God’s ongoing relation to nature in such a way that no natural process or event is so insignificant that it lies outside his pervasive and purposeful providence.

Of course, a God-entranced Christian may happily go about his scientific work on photosynthesis and put technical names on the ways of God. But woe to us if we follow the secular spirit of the age into a frame of mind where God is out of sight, out of mind, and out of our everyday conversation about the wonders of growing grass.

God does not intend for us to see ourselves, or any part of the world, as cogs in the wheels of an impersonal mechanism. The world is not a machine that God made to run on its own. It is a painting, or a sculpture, or a drama — and God is the painter, sculptor, director. The Son of God holds the world in being “by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3Colossians 1:17), and governs its smallest details (Matthew 10:29Proverbs 16:33).

God-Entranced World

Jesus said to look at the birds because God feeds them (Matthew 6:26) and to consider the lilies because God clothes them (Matthew 6:28–30). Jesus’s aim was not aesthetic. His aim was to free his people from anxiety. He really considered it a valid argument that, if our heavenly Father feeds the birds and clothes the lilies, how much more surely will he feed and clothe his children.

This is simply astonishing. The argument is valid only if God really is the one who sees to it that the birds find their worms and the lilies wear their flowers. If birds and lilies are simply acting by natural laws, with no divine hand, then Jesus is just playing with words. But he is not playing with words. He really believes that God’s hand is at work in the smallest details of natural processes. This is even clearer in Matthew 10:29–31,

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God does not just feed the birds and clothe the lilies; he decides when every bird (countless millions every year) dies and falls to the ground. His point is the same as in Matthew 6: “He is your Father. You are more precious to him than birds. Therefore, you don’t need to be afraid.” That kind of pervasive providence, combined with that kind of fatherly care, means he can and will take care of you. So, seek the kingdom first, with radical abandon, and don’t be anxious (Matthew 6:33).

Hands-On Providence

This God-entranced view of the world was not peculiar to Jesus. The psalmist sings to the Lord of his specific care for the creatures he has made:

These all look to you,
     to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
     when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
     when you take away their breath, they die
     and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
     and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104:27–30)

God’s involvement in nature is hands-on — the kind of closeness that causes the biblical writers to make declarations like, “He makes grass grow on the hills” (Psalm 147:8). “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17). “The Lord God appointed a plant” (Jonah 4:6). “God appointed a worm that attacked the plant” (Jonah 4:7). “He . . . brings forth the wind from his storehouses” (Psalm 135:7). “He it is who makes the clouds rise . . . who makes lightnings for the rain” (Psalm 135:7). “He . . . rebuked the wind and the raging waves” (Luke 8:24). This is not poetry for God-excluding naturalistic processes. This is God’s hands-on providence.

Seeing the Rising Sun

I will never cease to be thankful that in my college days Clyde Kilby was one of my literature professors. He gave a lecture once on the awakening of amazement at the strange glory of ordinary things. He closed the lecture with ten resolutions for what he called “mental health.” Here are two of them:

I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what [C.S.] Lewis calls their “divine, magical, terrifying, and ecstatic” existence.

Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

Because of Kilby’s eye-opening influence, and because of what I now see in the Bible as an all-embracing, all-pervasive providence, I live more consciously in a God-entranced world. I see reality differently. For example, I used to look at sunrises when I was jogging and think, “God has created a beautiful world.” Then it became less general and more specific, more personal. I said, “Every morning God paints a different sunrise.” He never gets tired of doing it again and again. But then it struck me. No, he doesn’t do it again and again. He never stops doing it. The sun is always rising somewhere in the world. God guides the sun 24 hours every day and paints sunrises at every moment, century after century without one second of respite, and never grows weary or less thrilled with the work of his hands. Even when cloud cover keeps man from seeing it, God is painting spectacular sunrises above the clouds.

God does not intend for us to look at the world he has made and feel nothing. When the psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), he does not mean this only for the clarification of our theology. He means it for the exultation of our souls. We know this because of what follows:

In [the heavens] he has set a tent for the sun,
     which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
     and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. (Psalm 19:4–5)

What is the point of saying this? When we look at the handiwork of God in creation, we are to be drawn into bridegroom-like joy, and into the joy of an Eric Liddell running with head back, elbows pumping, smile bursting in Chariots of Fire, basking in the very pleasure of God.

Ten Thousand Unthanked Providences — Daily

I can’t help but pause here to make an observation about the way the world responds to God’s providence. If there is a storm at sea and an ocean liner is sunk, or if a hazardous weather condition brings down a commercial airliner and lives are lost, there is often an outcry — both publicly and in the personal grief of family members — about the failure of God to prevent this disaster (“Where was God?”). Intense grief is real and painful and understandable from all who experience loss in these disasters. And very often, even the most mature saints speak ill-advised words for the wind (Job 6:26). Wise counselors let them pass without judgment in the moment of crisis.

But where is the corresponding emotional intensity, or even mild recognition, of God’s providence when one hundred thousand airplanes land safely every day? That is roughly how many scheduled flights there are every day in the world. And that does not include general aviation, air taxis, military, and cargo. Where is the incessant chorus of amazement and thanks that today God provided ten million mechanical and natural and personal factors to conspire perfectly to keep these planes in the air and bring them to their desired destinations safely — and most of them carrying people who neglect and demean God every day?

Even when a plane with no functioning engines lands on the Hudson River, and every passenger walks out on the floating wings of this 80-ton airliner, or when a plane with 97 passengers crashes in Mexico and bursts into flames after every passenger and the entire crew are safely off the plane, where is the public outpouring of thankfulness to the God of wonders? Where is the heart’s cry of thankfulness to God that we hear in Psalm 107:31 for the rescue on the sea?

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
     for his wondrous works to the children of man!

The world and even thousands of Christians give no praise and thanks to God for millions of daily, life-sustaining providences because they do not see the world as the theater of God’s wonders. They see it as a vast machine running on mindless natural laws, except where our heart’s rebelliousness and self-exaltation find a suitable opportunity to find fault with God and justify our blindness to a billion acts of kindness toward his defiant creation.

Creator, Sustainer, Treasure

Jesus, the psalmists, and the rest of the biblical authors do not want us to think or talk like modern naturalists, who think of the natural world as formed and sustained by mindless physical processes. Whether with clouds, grass for the animals, or eyes and ears for man, God’s providence is up close and powerful in his ongoing creating and sustaining.

“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both” (Proverbs 20:12). All the billions of eyes and ears on this planet were made by God — not just designed at the beginning of the world, but made in the womb. “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). The biblical view of the world is that grass and rain and springs and ears and eyes are the work of God’s hands as they come into being and do their God-appointed work.

God’s aim is that in all that he has made “his eternal power and divine nature” might be glorified from thankful hearts (Romans 1:20–21). His aim is that we might turn to him from the wonders of his world and say,

May the glory of the Lord endure forever. . . .
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
     I will sing praise to my God while I have being. . . .
     I rejoice in the Lord. (Psalm 104:3133–34)

I invite you into this God-entranced world.

John Piper’s book Providence releases in February. You can now preorder the title from our friends at Westminster Books for just 19.99. We’re thankful for their partnership and encourage you to order through them as you consider supporting faithful, independent Christian booksellers.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence.

Daily Light – Jan 13, 2021

The Fantasy Ideology of the American Insurrectionists 

Taken from an article by Joe Carter 

At the podium of the world’s greatest deliberative body stood the QAnon Shaman. A bare-chested man wearing red, white, and blue warpaint on his face and a bonnet made of raccoon fur and Viking horns on his head, he considers himself a “Self-Initiated Shaman, Energetic Healer, Ordained Minister” and a “metaphysical warrior, a compassionate healer, and a servant of the Divine Creator God.” He had invaded the U.S. Capitol building to raise awareness about the global cabal of Satan-worshiping cannibalistic pedophiles—like Tom Hanks and Pope Francis—who extract adrenochrome, a drug reputed to have psychedelic and life-extending benefits, from the blood of innocent children. These pedophiles can only be stopped by President Trump, whose second term will inaugurate the Ascension, the Great Awakening, the Rapture. 

For a few brief moments on Wednesday, January 6, the QAnon Shaman became the face of America in 2021. 

QAnon Shaman (aka Jake Angeli) has also become the representative figure for the motley group of insurrectionists—traitors, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, domestic terrorists—who clashed with police, injuring 56 officers and killing one. While few were as colorful as Angeli, each tried to stand out in their own way. Many waved their banners (Trump flags, Confederate flags, “Jesus 2020” banners) or brandished their totems (nooses, antisemitic T-shirts, white-supremacist tattoos, Holy Bibles) to signal their allegiance to their subtribe. 

But what does it all mean? What are we to make of such images? Why did they attack the seat of our government? 

In order to understand the insurrection, we must view it not as a unique historical event but as the latest, dangerous manifestation of what can be considered a fantasy ideology. 

Acting Out a Fantasy 

The term “fantasy ideology” was coined almost two decades ago by Lee Harris in one of the most important, though largely unheralded, essays of the 21st century. As Harris explains, a fantasy ideology is the use of political and ideological symbols and tropes not for political purposes, but entirely for the benefit of furthering a specific personal or collective fantasy. 

“It is, to be frank, something like ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ carried out not with the trappings of medieval romances—old castles and maidens in distress—but entirely in terms of ideological symbols and emblems,” says Harris. “The difference between them is that one is an innocent pastime while the other has proven to be one of the most terrible scourges to afflict the human race.” 

Such is the power of ideology that angels and men would choose a hellish fantasy over living in God’s reality. 

An examination of some of the most pernicious ideologies throughout recent history—Marxism, Chinese Communism, National Socialism, Italian fascism—shows that the bulk of its adherents have little to gain politically. But the ideologies do, as Harris notes, provide the opportunity to have a bit part in the great play of history. 

Inflaming the Fantasists 

When I first saw images and videos of the insurrection, I assumed it was as a foolishly inept coup—a sudden, violent, illegal seizure of power from a government. But watching the follow-up interviews with those who participated, it became clear they had no other agenda than acting out a fantasy in which they could be an alt-right hero. 

And no one had stepped up to stop them. 

Harris said “Fortunately, the fantasizing individual is normally surrounded by other individuals who are not fantasizing or, at the very least, who are not fantasizing in the same way, and this fact puts some limit on how far most of us allow our fantasy world to intrude on the precinct of reality.” But what happens when the fantasizing individual is surrounded by those willing to fuel the delusion for the sake of pageviews, ad revenue, or future votes? 

What happens when government officials in Congress and the White House promote lies that inflame the fantasists? What happens when people who write bestselling biographies of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer not only lie about election fraud but claim, “I’d be happy to die in this fight. This is a fight for everything. God is with us.” 

Answer: Dead and wounded Americans in our Capitol building. 

The question we must ask now is what are we, as church members and church leaders, going to do about those in our care who are stricken by this particular fantasy ideology? 

The Original Fantasy Ideology 

The first, absolutely essential step is to address it within our congregations. For too long many Christian leaders have remained silent, fearing the repercussions of calling out those who are obsessed with political fantasies that are leading them away from Jesus. 

If our church members were promoting Wiccanism or Satanism on their social-media accounts, we wouldn’t merely shrug and say, “Not my problem.” Why then do when turn a blind eye to satanic movements like QAnon and alt-right paganism that are infiltrating our churches? We have a duty to God and our fellow believers to attempt to deliver them, our churches, and our country from this evil. 

The question we must ask now is what are we, as church members and church leaders, going to do about those in our care who are stricken by this particular fantasy ideology? 

We must do everything within our power. But the second step is to be realistic about what we can achieve. Changing the conditions of an individual’s or group’s perception of reality is no simple task. We may be unable to free them from their demonic fantasies because many do not want to be free. 

In the movie Downfall, based on eyewitness accounts during the final days of World War II, Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels and his wife are given the opportunity to have their six young children flee to safety. Magda Goebbels, however, refuses to allow them to leave. Instead, as her kids sleep, she inserts a cyanide capsule into each child’s mouth and presses their jaws until the capsule breaks. When explaining why she wouldn’t allow her kids to escape, Mrs. Goebbels says, “I can’t bear to think of them growing up in a world without National Socialism.” 

There are many Americans—including many in our own churches—who would not want to live in a world without QAnon or Christian nationalism or other ideologies that give their life purpose and meaning. Indeed, even if we defeat this particular American brand of fantasy ideology, it will only be a matter of time before another takes its place. This is merely a manifestation of the first, longest, most brutal, and most enduring war in the history of the universe: the war that began with a rebellion in heaven. 

Satan’s war against God is the ultimate and archetypal example of a fantasy ideology. On a rational level, it makes no sense and raises the question of why such a pointless venture would have begun in the first place. After all, as every child in Sunday school can attest, the Devil and his demons cannot win against their Creator. So why fight at all? 

The reason is because Satan, in a sentiment that would later be echoed by Magda Goebbels, could not live in a universe that did not conform to his fantasy. “Better to reign in hell,” Satan says in Milton’s Paradise Lost, “than serve in heav’n.” Such is the power of ideology that angels and men would choose a hellish fantasy over living in God’s reality. 

Spoiler Alert: The Gospel Wins 

Ironically, it’s in the example of the first ideological fantasist that we find our reason for hope. For Christians, the eschatological vision is clear: in the end, Satan loses and peace reigns on the earth. The battles will surely continue, as they have throughout history. And the ideology of the traitorous insurrectionists will eventually be defeated, joining such ideological evils as communism, fascism, and Nazism. 

As we destroy these powers, though, new ideologies will spring forth like the tentacles of the hydra to take their place in the hearts of men. But no matter how long it takes, how long the historical play continues, or how many actors take the stage, the last act has already been written. We can take comfort, for we know what comes after the final curtain falls. No matter what fantasy ideologies may arise, the gospel is the ultimate fantasy that triumphs in the end. And it just happens to be true. 

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, author of The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. He also serves as an executive pastor at the McLean Bible Church Arlington campus in Arlington, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter

Daily Light – Jan 12, 2021

The Lord Bless You and Keep You 

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24–26

Tucked away in an otherwise inconspicuous place, in Numbers chapter 6, we find one of the great poems in all the Bible. There God instructs Moses to speak to Aaron (his brother and Israel’s high priest) and his sons, saying, “Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them . . .” (verse 23). 

Then follows what we now know as the great “Aaronic blessing,” not only one of Scripture’s best-known verses but also one of its oldest. Many Christians today are familiar with it from songs and benedictions in corporate worship that echo it still. In fact, some of us are so familiar with the blessing that it’s easy to take its content for granted, and miss what it really means. 

Whether it’s new or old to you, consider what makes this blessing so great and why it assumed such a place in Israel — at the close of the morning service each day — and why it’s come to have such a place in the church age as well. 

The Lord (3x) 

To begin with, the three lines of the blessing evidence careful, poetic crafting. The first line (“The Lord bless you and keep you,” verse 24) is three words in Hebrew. Then line two is five (“the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you,” verse 25), and line three, seven (“the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace,” verse 26). Each line increases by two words. And also by two syllables (twelve in the first, then fourteen, then sixteen). The number of Hebrew consonants steadily builds as well (by five), from fifteen to twenty to twenty-five. 

Most conspicuous of all is the repetition of God’s covenant name, Yahweh, which here, and six thousand more times in the Old Testament, is represented by “the LORD” in all caps in English. The threefold repetition — the Lord, the Lord, the Lord — emphasizes him as the source and focus of the blessing. 

Each line begins with God’s name, and is followed by two verbs. The first line (verse 24) captures the heart and sum: “The Lord bless you and keep you.” Then line two (verse 25) expands bless, while line three (verse 26) expands keep. The sequence of two verbs in lines two and three shows God’s movement toward his people, and the result. 

Bless: His Face Shines with Grace 

What would the ancient Israelites have assumed this “blessing” from God would include? This may be the single most important question we can ask about this poem. How spiritual and eternal and divine were the hopes of the people? How many would be content with merely physical, temporal, material blessings? 

Perhaps no place sums up better than Leviticus 26 how multifaceted their Lord’s blessing would have been in their minds. Included would be the earthly and temporal, which God did not begrudge: rains, harvest, and produce (Leviticus 26:3–5), peace in the land and victory in battle (verses 6–8), being fruitful and multiplying through offspring (verse 9), and storehouses of resources (verse 10). However, we should be careful not to sell God’s ancient people short on the fullness of what they longed for in his blessing. The culminating blessing — that which was most important — was God’s own presence, God himself: 

I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. (Leviticus 26:11–12

So too for us today in the church age. Temporal supplies, earthly peace, and human offspring are not unholy, irrelevant, or insignificant. They can be precious gifts, expressions of God’s fatherly favor. But they are not the heart of the blessing. In fact, they can be taken away, not as the removal of God’s blessing but even as the very expression of it. The center and apex of God’s blessing, however, is the presence and person of God himself. 

Line two (Numbers 6:25), we noted, expands God’s action to bless his people. “Make his face to shine upon you,” then, pictures God’s movement toward his people in his goodness, seeking them out with his favor, to be gracious to them. 

Keep: His Face Turns for Peace 

The third and final and longest line (Numbers 6:26) then expands God’s action to keep his people. “Lift up his countenance upon you” pictures God’s guarding and protecting his own, taking notice of them and paying attention to them, giving and preserving their peace. 

Psalm 121 ends with an echo of the Aaronic blessing, and in particular God’s keeping his people: 

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
      he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
      your going out and your coming in
      from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121:7–8

We all have witnessed those who started well but did not finish. They tasted blessing, so it seemed, but they did not endure. They were not kept. And here the blessing invokes not only God’s giving but also his guarding. Not just his provision but his protection. 

The blessing ends with an emphasis on “peace.” The divine name is repeated three times, and the lines build in length, and it all culminates with this Hebrew word shalom, which expresses “peace” in a fuller and more holistic sense than we may be used to today. This peace is not simply the ceasing of war, but total well-being, full flourishing. It is a fitting conclusion to what it will indeed mean for us to be blessed and kept by God himself: true peace. 

Put My Name on the People 

Finally, then, after the poem, God says to Moses in verse 27, “So shall [the priests] put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” 

Through the pronouncing of this sacred blessing, God says, he “puts his name” on his people. He identifies them as his own. They belong to him. They know it, and so will the surrounding nations. They are his people and represent him in the world. They image him. They bear his name. Which is a weighty and wonderful task — weighty because they carry God’s holy name on them in an unholy world. 

Much is at stake in bearing God’s name. They dare not do so in vain (Exodus 20:7). And yet so also, in God’s own name being put upon them, they position themselves in the best of all places. This God will not give his glory to another, nor will he forsake his people, for his own name’s sake. In other words, God’s zeal for his name, for his glory, is the bedrock of this great blessing. He will be true to himself as is only righteous for God. 

And if we missed it in the threefold repletion of his name — the Lord, the Lord, the Lord — at the head of each line in the blessing, he ends verse 27 with an emphatic I: “I will bless them.” The blessing is secondary. The bottom line is the Blesser. The Keeper. The Lord. 

Grace and Peace 

For Christians today, we come across the apostles’ three-word summary of the Aaronic blessing every time we pick up an epistle from Paul or Peter: grace and peace. The exact language, from letter to letter, is surprisingly consistent, with some minor variations: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

We now know this great covenant God in Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ. And in him, we now know God as our Father. We have seen and tasted grace in far more definition and depth than God’s first-covenant people. In Christ, “the grace of God has appeared” (Titus 2:11). And now, in Christ, we have seen the full extent of peace — “for he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). 

Far from being irrelevant today, this ancient blessing is in fact all the more true, all the more meaningful, all the more precious to those who confess that Jesus is Lord. 

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines

Daily Light – Jan 11, 2021

All Who Believe Battle Unbelief 

Article by Jon Bloom, Staff writer, desiringGod.org 

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). This plea — this prayer — of a desperate father, who was interceding to Jesus on behalf of his afflicted child, expresses in five simple words a profound, difficult, confusing, and common experience. All followers of Jesus have both belief and unbelief, both faith and doubt, present in us at the same time. 

We see this paradoxical presence elsewhere in Scripture. We see it in Peter, who walked on water only to start sinking when unbelief set in (Matthew 14:28–31). We see it in Thomas, who declared, “I will never believe” without physical proof of Jesus’s resurrection, while still believing enough to stay with the other disciples until Jesus finally appeared to him (John 20:25–26). We see it laced through the Psalms, like Psalm 73, where saints wrestle out loud with their unbelief. And we see it all too frequently in ourselves, which is why we identify with the desperate father’s prayer. Unbelief is a “common to man” temptation for believers (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

But though it is a common temptation (and often a subtle temptation), it is a spiritually dangerous one, one that can lead us “to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). It is an enemy we must fight vigorously. 

We each fight unique battles against this enemy, because each of us has unique experiences and unique temperaments that make us uniquely vulnerable to certain forms of unbelief. Getting help to see our vulnerabilities to unbelief is crucial to winning our battles. And it is something Jesus is happy to help us with, if we ask him. 

Desperate and Vulnerable Father 

The father of the afflicted boy in Mark 9:14–29 surely had a unique vulnerability to unbelief. And it’s not difficult to understand why. Just imagine what his experience had been like up to the point when he encountered Jesus. 

He had spent a number of years, likely doing everything he could, in order to help his son (Mark 9:21). The terrible affliction had a demonic source, which had tormented the boy since early childhood, causing violent seizures and preventing him from speaking (Mark 9:17–18). The father, and no doubt his wife, had saved their precious child — their only begotten son (Luke 9:38) — from death numerous times, rescuing him out of fire and water (Mark 9:22). Which means they lived with the daily dread that they might not be there in time to save him the next time. And they lived with the future dread of what would become of him when one or both were no longer there to save him. 

They also likely lived with a deep fatigue brought on by continual vigilance night and day. They may have endured a kind of recurring relational strain on their marriage that often accompanies stressful and painful parenting situations. They likely lived with the numerous ways their son’s affliction affected them financially, from the direct costs of seeking out help for him, to the indirect costs of having less time devoted to earning a living. And on top of all that, they likely lived with the shame that perhaps they, or their child, had somehow sinned and brought this curse upon the boy — a shame compounded by knowing that others likely wondered the same thing (as in John 9:1–2). 

Unique Battles in a Common War 

Surely this beleaguered father had prayed often for his priceless son, but with no visible results. Surely he had previously sought out other spiritual leaders or exorcists to drive the devil out, but to no avail. 

Hearing stories of Jesus’s power over disease and demons stirred in him enough hope that he brought his child to see Jesus. Not finding the famous rabbi, he pleaded with Jesus’s disciples for help. But they were no more effective than anyone else had been (Mark 9:18). We can understand why his hope, and therefore his faith, seemed to be ebbing low when Jesus showed up. 

The reason I say all this is to show how this father was very much like us. His unbelief had roots in his unique experience. So does ours. His fears and disappointments shaped his expectations. So do ours. He was vulnerable, in deeply personal places, to losing the fight for faith. So are we. We can sympathize with this man when he pleaded with Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:22), because we’ve probably prayed or thought similar things. 

We might expect Jesus to respond as gently and kindly to this desperate father as he did to the leper seeking healing, to whom Jesus, in pity, reached out and touched, saying, “I will; be clean” (Mark 1:40–42). But that’s not how Jesus responded. 

Surprising, Merciful Rebuke 

Jesus’s response to this father catches us off guard: “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23). This shocks us. And the reason is because most of us can identify more with the father’s struggle than with the leper’s. We expect Jesus to comfort this man, but instead he rebukes him. It makes us wonder, Is this how Jesus feels about our unbelief? 

One way to answer is that, in the Gospels, Jesus consistently affirms those who express faith and rebukes those who express doubt and unbelief. The leper he healed is a good example. This man said to Jesus, “If you will, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40). This is a declaration of faith, and it moved Jesus to a compassionate response of healing. 

But the father of this afflicted boy said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). There’s faith in this request; faith is why he sought Jesus out in the first place. But there’s also unbelief; part of him doesn’t expect Jesus will be any more successful than others had been. So, he receives Jesus’s rebuke, just like Peter did in the water and Thomas did when Jesus finally appeared to him (Matthew 14:31John 20:27–29). 

And here’s what we need to remember: Jesus’s rebuke to a believer who is allowing unbelief to infect and enfeeble his faith and govern his behavior is a great mercy. 

Mercy of Discipline 

Faith is the channel through which God’s graces of salvation and sanctification and spiritual gifts all flow. Unbelief obstructs the channel and therefore inhibits the flow of God’s grace (James 1:5–8). So, Jesus’s rebuke of the man’s unbelief is the mercifully painful, momentary discipline of the Lord intended to expose the disease of unbelief (to use a different metaphor) so the believer can see it for what it is and fight it; because if he doesn’t, he will not share the Lord’s holiness and will not bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:10–11). 

In that sense, Jesus is the good physician. He does not coddle doubt and unbelief, just like a good doctor doesn’t coddle cancer in a patient. If left invisible and untreated, it will kill. So, what Jesus is doing is helping this struggling father see clearly his sin of unbelief, just like he did for Peter and Thomas. 

And it worked. We see this in the father’s desperate cry to Jesus: “I believe; help my unbelief!” And like Jesus pulling Peter out of the water, and showing Thomas his hands and side, he honored the father’s faith, however defective, and set the boy free (Mark 9:25–27). 

Jesus Will Help You See Your Unbelief 

All of us who believe in Jesus also have unbelief in Jesus. It’s not surprising, because we all live with deceitful indwelling sin (Hebrews 3:13). And we all live in a fallen, deceitful world. So, we all must frequently fight for faith (1 Timothy 6:12) by battling unbelief

But the presence of unbelief in us is often subtle. We don’t always see it clearly. It has roots in our unique experiences and in our unique temperaments, which make us uniquely vulnerable to its deceitfulness. Our doubts can seem to us understandable, even justifiable. But like all sin and fallenness, unbelief is spiritually dangerous. What we really need, even though we might prefer to avoid it, is for Jesus to mercifully help us see our unbelief, even if it means his momentarily painful discipline. 

Having followed Jesus for decades, I have experienced his discipline numerous times, including recently. I have learned to even ask him to discipline me when I recognize the symptoms of unbelief (which, for me, are a lingering, shadowy presence of doubt and skepticism and self-pity and self-indulgence). I ask Jesus to discipline me, not because I enjoy the pain and humbling of the exposure of my unbelief, but because I want the joy of fully believing that God exists and is the rewarder of those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). And I want the channel of his grace toward me unclogged. And so I pray with the psalmist, 

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
     Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
     and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24

I have found that Jesus answers. 

And he will answer you. He will answer the prayer, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And he’ll help you fight your unbelief by exposing it, that place you want to conceal. But do not fear his discipline; fear unbelief. Unbelief will block the channels of faith, it will rob you of joy, and, if undealt with, it will destroy you. The momentary pain of the discipline, however, is the path to greater joy, for it opens the channels to more of God’s grace — to more of God. 

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as teacher and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities. 

Daily Light – Jan 8, 2021

Happy, Obedient Faith 

Taken from an interview with John Piper…

2 Peter 1:10, describes the regular way to think about the relationship between our faith and the evidence of our life that we are truly Christians. Peter says, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm [and that’s just a standard procedure] your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” And by “these qualities” he’s referring back to 2 Peter 1:5–7, where he says, “Supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” In other words, living this way is how you confirm your calling and election. 

Peter is saying, “Live your life in such a way that it ordinarily confirms your calling and your election. Take your daily stand on your justification by faith. Be confident that on the basis of Christ alone God counts you righteous. And then walk in happy, obedient faith, and virtue, and knowledge, and self-control, and godliness, and brotherly affection, and love, for the glory of Christ.” 

Holiness Together 

And if the question arises in your heart, “But might I not deceive myself and think I’m a Christian when I’m not?” here’s what the writer of Hebrews says about that: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” What’s the solution? “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12–13). That’s his answer to the question, “Well, might I be deceived?” No, in fellowship with other people, encouraging us with the promises of God, giving us the warnings of God, and keeping their eyes on our life and faith, that’s the prescribed way by which we avoid being self-deceived. 

Always, day by day, have the seriousness to pursue a life of holiness that confirms your calling and your election, and live in fellowship with those who will encourage you in this day by day. 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence

Daily Light – Jan 7, 2021

Any Sin Can Be Forgiven 

WHAT WE STILL AND WILL BELIEVE 

Article by Marshall Segal, Staff writer, desiringGod.org 

I believe in . . . the forgiveness of sins. (Apostles’ Creed

An awful storm fell on the still fragile church in Rome. The emperor had demanded that Christians be arrested, their books burned, their churches destroyed. Only those who defied God and made sacrifices to the Roman gods were released. Many bowed in fear, with blood on their hands. Some were even clergy. 

Like Daniel, however, many refused to bow to any god but one, relinquishing any claims they might have had on this life, knowing that they had “a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34). And some of them did lose it all — their freedom, their possessions, their families, their very breath. Executed for pledging allegiance to Jesus. Others watched, and wept, from prison, knowing full well that they might be next. The blood of their martyred loved ones left painful stains on their hearts. 

Then, like the unusual calm after an awful storm, the persecution subsided. Christianity was once again tolerated in Rome. And as the fires died down, and the dangers evaporated, those who had betrayed Jesus, those seeming sons and daughters of Judas, showed up to church again. What would the church do? Should those who were steadfast under trial, even under the threat of death, receive back those who had abandoned them and denied Christ? After all, Jesus himself had warned, “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father” (Matthew 10:33). Could betrayers, even betrayers, be forgiven? 

Who Can Be Forgiven? 

That sensitive, disturbing, and volatile dilemma in the fourth century eventually prompted the addition of four words to the Apostles’ Creed: the forgiveness of sins was not included in earlier versions of the confession, perhaps for hundreds of years. And then those early believers were forced into the deeper, more harrowing waters of sin and mercy. 

Some insisted that the recanters were unforgivable, irredeemable, damned. Others pleaded that the fountain of blood at the foot of the cross could cover even this — even these. In the end, according to Ben Myers, the church decided that 

failures in discipleship — even dramatic public failures — do not exclude a person from the grace of God. As Augustine insisted in one of his many sermons against spiritual elitism: “We must never despair of anyone at all.” (The Apostles’ Creed, 115) 

Through faith and repentance, those who had deserted Christ were welcomed into Christ and heard the unthinkable: “Your sins, which are many, are forgiven” (see Luke 7:47). Thus, the church drove a merciful, durable, and scandalous stake into the soil of our confession: when others might recoil from this outrageous mercy — ignorant of the lumber in their own eyes, ready to cast their self-righteous stones, to cancel fellow sinners because of their failures — we believe in the forgiveness of sins. 

What Is the Forgiveness of Sins? 

What is the forgiveness of sins? While simple on the surface, those words represent at least three profound truths: First, man, every man, is born in sin, enslaved to sin. “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “No one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12). We are totally depraved. Second, our sin deserves the righteous wrath of God. God cannot be God if he simply excuses or overlooks our wickedness. Judgment must and will be served. And third, for all who believe and repent, judgment has already been served — when the Son of God absorbed the wrath of God so that the children of God might be reconciled to God. In Christ, God has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14). 

We could explore any number of texts that walk the valleys of our sinfulness and soar the heights of our forgiveness, but Micah 7:8–9 in particular has become a treasured guide over the years. 

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
     when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
     the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
     because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
     and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
     I shall look upon his vindication. 

SINFULNESS OF MAN 

I have sinned against him . . . 

When we confess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins,” we confess the sinfulness of our sin and our need for forgiveness — one of the most controversial and beautiful truths Christians believe. Through Adam, sin and death have spread like a virus to every last one of us, save for one. We each say with King David, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). And being born in sin, we were dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1). It is not easy to overstate the wickedness and helplessness of our souls apart from Christ. 

To understand, much less receive, the promise of forgiveness, we must know ourselves as wretched sinners. We must acknowledge that “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6), that even any good deed we did prior to believing was, in fact, sin (Romans 14:23). Sin was the air we breathed, and the god we served. And if God had not intervened, it would have dragged us, lifeless and hopeless, to hell. 

WRATH OF GOD 

I will bear the indignation of the Lord . . . 

If we did not repent and believe, hell would not have been an overreaction. It would have been fitting, just, even good. The wrath of God never falls rashly or wrongly. We deserve the indignation of the Lord. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) — a death we cannot imagine or bear. Not simply lifelessness, but an existence so dark, so horrible, so excruciating, that we would beg for lifelessness (Luke 16:24). When we confess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins,” we declare the righteous, holy justice of the wrath of God. 

Those who refuse to turn from sin will receive the just and awful reward of their vile rebellion. “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). As Daniel promises, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:11). And if forgiveness was not possible, such would be our future. 

FORGIVENESS OF SINS 

. . . until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. 

Micah’s sentence, however, does not end in indignation — not for those who belong to Christ. “I will bear the indignation of the Lord,” Micah writes, “until he pleads my cause and executes judgment” — not against me, but “for me.” The God who could righteously reject us, shame us, torment us, even destroy us, instead advocates for us. In Christ, he pleads our cause before his own throne, his own justice, his own righteous wrath. Forgiveness is possible because, at the cross, the mercy of God met the wrath of God to unveil more of the glory of God. “For my name’s sake I defer my anger,” the Lord says, “for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you” (Isaiah 48:9). 

The very name of Jesus promised that he would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Even before he was born, God had said he would bring “salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77). Three decades later, Christ paid for this salvation with his blood, “which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). 

And then he left his disciples, even to this day, with a mission: “that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). And so we confess and bear witness that no matter who you are or what you’ve done — no matter how profoundly or publicly you have failed him — you can be forgiven in Christ. Nothing but his blood will cleanse you. But know this, that no matter what this world or your own insecurities may say, his blood can surely cleanse you. Forgiveness is far more than possible. 

Forgiveness in a Cancel Culture 

As simple and familiar as the promise of forgiveness may seem, has the mystery and wonder of forgiveness ever been more relevant? We, at least in America, have suffered a plague of forgivelessness. Our cancel culture waits, with eager and awful expectation, for the next slip, the next error, the next affront — or it grows impatient and flips through history for someone to put on trial — and then unleashes the full weight of its indignation (at least for 24 hours). 

How much of our so-called “social” media has become a kind of digital guillotine, a wild and unpredictable mob of executioners, foaming at the mouth, awaiting the next cancelable offense? If you spend enough time among them, you might begin to doubt if anyone can be forgiven. 

We, however, believe in the scandal of forgiveness. We still and will believe that “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We still and will believe that “he has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14). We still and will believe that, because of Christ, he will plead our cause. He will execute judgment for us. He will bring us out to the light. We believe that we, even we, can be forgiven. 

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have two children and live in Minneapolis. 

Daily Light – Jan 6, 2021

Friends: There is ‘sweet’ honey…of eternal truth…in today’s article….dh

The Dying World Outside My Window 

Article by Greg Morse, Staff writer, desiringGod.org 

“What a mystery,” wrote Horatius Bonar, “the soul and eternity of one man depends upon the voice of another.” What a mystery, I then thought, that I do not speak more. 

I gazed out of my window. Three houses stood across the street. Of two, I had to ask myself, Who lives there? What were they doing as I read and prayed? 

Although I had not yet met them, I knew much about them. They — whoever they were — like I, had been born in sin. They, like I, had souls. They, like I, careened irreversibly towards eternity. They, like I, were tempted to ruin their souls, blinded and energized to do so by unseen spiritual forces. And they, like I, lived deceitfully mundane lives upon a thread floating between heaven and hell, now and forever. 

As I looked at the homes which sheltered eternal beings, I realized that my voice had not yet traveled across the street. Even though I knew news that they desperately need to hear and a “him” that they were made for (Colossians 1:16), my voice had not bothered to make its way to speak to them, befriend them, and share with them the most necessary message to ever grace human ears: the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

What a mystery, that the soul and eternity of one man depends on the voice of another — and that the voice upon which souls depend would be so terribly silent and unconcerned. 

To the Highways and Hedges 

It is not an overstatement that souls depend upon us to speak. How will they believe if they never hear (Romans 10:14)? 

Each one of us has a part to play; each has work of the ministry to accomplish (Ephesians 4:11–12). Standing far below the electing love of God, you and I muster our courage to knock on doors, to invite neighbors for dinner, to reason with them about God, sin, and Jesus Christ — his cross and resurrection. We all have people to tell the bad news of their condemned standing before a holy God, and the good news of amazing grace that God, in the gospel of his Son, is reconciling sinners to himself. 

What kind of man — and I stare at him in the mirror more often than I like — could so calmly smile and wave, laugh and chitchat with his dying neighbor, and yet rarely get around to opening my mouth to witness to the authority, love, and mercy of Jesus Christ? 

Devils wink as sinners perish. Demons dance as the lost submerge undisturbed. Saints, as we see them in Scripture and church history, do not join them, masking their indifference with tutored speech about God’s sovereignty to excuse inactivity. They weep, they fast, they pray. They walk across the street, they share their very lives and this great news, this only news of reconciliation with God. They speak the name — the only name given under heaven — by which we must be saved. As ambassadors of Christ, they implore the lost, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:20). They happily go to the highways and hedges of this fallen world, and compel them to come into the Master’s great banquet (Luke 14:23). 

When you look out your window, when you scroll through your text conversations, when you sit down at the dinner table, or enjoy laughter with friends, do they know? Have they heard? What else should we discuss if not this? But oh, how much do we discuss instead of this. 

Beyond Personality Types 

Some do not speak because you are not as profitably given to the verbal exercise as your extroverted brothers and sisters. 

What comes fluently, naturally, effortlessly for others requires great toil and courage for you. For whatever reason, speaking to strangers is very uncomfortable — your throat clenches in protest, you become short of breath, you grow very self-conscious. Perhaps you replay embarrassing moments early in life, when you seemed to speak English as a second language. Thus, this part of our Christian calling, speaking the good news to others, comes to you with dense clouds and a darkness to be felt. 

Though you are not the mouth of the Body, your voice — and perhaps especially your voice — is needed, my brother or sister. Your words, rarer and thus less inflated, can do what those whose words are voluminous cannot do as easily: come with weight. We need your testimony to the steadfast love of God. Consider less what your sweaty hands and rapid pulse has to say about you, or how Myers-Briggs describes you. Let God dictate who you are and how you see yourself. 

Who You Are 

Who are you? 

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10

Once you were less than nothing. A child of Satan, a spiritual harlot, a rebel defying the living God. You wallowed in the blood of your fallen father, Adam, without hope and without God in the world. But he, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved you — a love unsought, unreturned, undeserved — made you alive together with Christ. And this excellent Christ, not considering his equality with God something to be grasped, became poor so that you might be rich — died so that you might live (2 Corinthians 8:9). 

And he made us a people — his people. And he gives us a voice, a purpose: to proclaim his excellencies. We, so seemingly unimpressive and nonthreateningly normal — saints with normal jobs in normal neighborhoods — carry the spectacular message next door and across the street: Christ has died for the forgiveness of sins for all who repent and believe the gospel. 

This gold lies in jars of clay. We must let it out. We must speak, and go on speaking. It depends not on what our strengths are nor on what personalities we possess — it matters who Christ has made us to be. And he has made us his chosen race, his royal priesthood, his holy nation of people who are satisfied in his excellencies — and can’t stop talking about them. 

Any Sweeter Work? 

Have I, have you, have we, forgotten the wonder and privilege of bringing the power of God for salvation to lost souls? Do we now count it a burden? Spurgeon asks each one of us, 

[We who are] sent on so sweet a service as the proclaiming of the gospel, how can we tarry? What, to tell the poor criminal shut up in the dungeon of despair that there is liberty, to tell the condemned that there is pardon, to tell the dying that there is life in a look at the crucified One — do you find this hard? Do you call this toil? Should it not be the sweetest feature of your life that you have such blessed work as this to do? 

To speak of him and live lives of love that do not blaspheme his holy name — do we not feel that this is a very small response to such a great salvation? Jesus was slaughtered in the garbage heap outside the camp so that we might go out to him and “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15). 

“What a mystery,” wrote Horatius Bonar, “the soul and eternity of one man depends upon the voice of another.” What a mystery indeed. Let’s not deprive our neighbors of ours this year, but resolve to send out our voices as light into the darkness, proclaiming the excellencies of Jesus Christ. 

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their daughter. 

Daily Light – Jan 5, 2021

Don’t Plan Your Year—Plan Your ‘Season’ 

Article by Joe Carter 

I don’t like surprises, which is why I’m a planner. I plan my days, my weeks, my months, and my years. So, by December 29, 2019, I had most of 2020 planned out. I knew most of what I was going to do and when I was going to do it. I’d even designed a slate of discipleship classes for my church and scheduled them on exact days from January to the end of December 2020. 

But then January came, and I learned a new word that would soon disrupt my careful plans: coronavirus. 

In the year of our Lord 2020, I gained a new appreciation for James 4:13: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” I also acquired a new respect for planning in terms of seasons instead of years. 

The Bible is not against planning (Prov. 21:5; 16:9, 24:7Luke 14:28). But a God who tells us to ask for “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11) and tells us life is but “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14) probably doesn’t want us to get too ahead of ourselves. One rotation around the sun—approximately 365 days—may not seem that long, but we are only able to see the sun set at a horizon a little more than 3 miles away. We should set our planning horizon for a similarly shorter duration, which is why I propose scrapping the idea of planning your year and focus instead on planning a season. 

For Everything There Is a Season 

For the past 700 years, the term season has meant “a period of the year,” usually with reference to weather or work, or to a “proper time, suitable occasion.” (The meaning has also been extended to mean a period of life, as in the favorite evangelical phrase “season of life.” But we’ll focus on the shorter meaning of the term.) For most of human history, weather and work were closely tied and affected seasonal living. The sweltering heat of mid-year, for instance, is the reason both public schools and Congress are out during the summer months. 

Technologies such as air conditioning and central heat changed the way we worked, making seasons less relevant in the process. For those who work primarily indoors, a workday in the cold of January is not much different from a workday in the heat of July. A result of such sameness is the tendency to think we can plan our daily schedules far in advance. 

The year 2020 showed us that approach doesn’t work. 

Rather than attempt to go back to year-long planning in 2021, consider experimenting with scheduling your personal “seasons.” Unless your life revolves around the weather, there’s no reason to tie your planning to spring, summer, fall, and winter. Instead, you’re free to experiment with timeframes that fit your particular circumstances. 

An approach I’d recommend is dividing the calendar year into four blocks of roughly 13 weeks. This technique was popularized in the bestselling book The 12 Week Year, in which the authors redefine your “year” to be 12 weeks long. “With the 12 Week Year, a year is now equivalent to 12 weeks, a month is now a week, and a week is now a day,” they write. “When you look at it this way, the importance and power of each day becomes even greater.” 

Taken too literally, this method can ramp up your stress and increase your guilt, since a “wasted day” becomes the equivalent of a “wasted week.” But if we treat the 13 weeks as a season (12 weeks of normal activity plus one week of evaluation and planning for the next period), it becomes a more manageable time horizon. 

‘Seasonal’ Bible Reading 

To see an example of how this method can help you approach your schedule in a more livable manner, let’s consider the resolution to read the Bible in the new year. 

Over the past couple of decades I’ve attempted almost every one-year reading plan imaginable—M’Cheyne, Professor Grant Horner’s, the 5x5x5 New Testament—but never stayed with one for 12 consecutive months. The primary reason for my failure is that while every day in my new year appeared the same when I made my resolution on December 31, the rhythms of my actual life caused the days to vary significantly. For instance, when I was a student I’d have times of the year when the reading assignments became overwhelming and I found it difficult to read 10 chapters a day from the Bible (ala Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System). There would also be weeks or months when my spiritual needs would shift my Bible intake preference from “familiarity” to “intimacy,” or vice versa. 

Thinking in seasons rather than by calendar year has freed me from having to choose between being stuck in a reading plan I’m consistently falling behind on, or completely abandoning an important commitment I made on the prior New Year’s Day. By focusing on a 13-week “season” I can more accurately predict what sort of Bible reading approach will fit my circumstances at different times of the year. I can also find a better balance between Bible intake that is focused on familiarity (e.g., seeing the wider scope of Scripture) or on intimacy (e.g., focusing intently on shorter passages). 

Planning our year is like the modern approach to running a marathon—we plan to move at roughly the same pace for the entire distance. But planning a season is like the ancient (pre-1896) approach to running marathons—alternating periods of walking and running based on how we’re feeling or what we’re able to do at a particular time. If you know you have the space to “run” for the first two seasons of your year, but know the commitments in the last two will require you to “walk,” you can plan in a way that fits with the actual rhythms of your life. 

Of course, planning a season rather than a year can’t keep your year from being upended (ala 2020). You can’t know what tomorrow will bring, much less what awaits on December 31, 2021. Yet by focusing on a shorter, more livable time horizon, you can plan in a way that helps you stay flexible and focused while trusting that God knows the plans he has for you (Jer. 29:11). 

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, author of The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. He also serves as an executive pastor at the McLean Bible Church Arlington campus in Arlington, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter