Daily Light – December 20, 2018

Pray for Calm This Christmas

(message excerpt from John Piper)

We are torn up in ourselves — with nobody else even around — by guilt and by untold diversities of anxieties and amorphous instabilities. Choose your word: bad feelings that have no reason for being there. We’re just torn up by these.

What do you do with them? You believe God’s promises, and here’s the sweet text. Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything.” The opposite of anxiety is peace, so have peace. Paul is telling us to enjoy peace. “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

“Tell him just exactly how you feel. God knows.”

In other words, roll the anxieties. Give them to God. Tell him just exactly how you feel. God knows. You can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes. Just tell him how you have doubts, tell him how you have guilt, tell him how you have anxieties, tell him how crummy and non-Christian you feel and you roll it, roll it onto him, and then listen: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

You know what he’s saying there? He’s saying, “You’re under attack, friend.” What’s this “guard” business? Why would you need to be guarded by peace? Because you’ve got an enemy in here and out there, and he wants to destroy your peace at any cost, by any means, with any kind of unsettled feeling.

And you know why? All the rational things you can come up with confirm your loss of peace. “Of course, I shouldn’t have peace. Here are the ten reasons my reason can provide.” That’s why he says this peace is above all reason. There will be moments when your fear, your anxiety, your sense of guilt is totally rational and warranted as far as you can tell.

What will you do then? I remember Paul Tripp pointing out one time that we have to be aware of our inner lawyer coming to our defense too quickly. Well, we got another, namely, a prosecuting attorney. There are two lawyers in me. Oh, I’m good at defending myself — big time. The defense attorney kicks into action lots. But there’s another one. He goes into action first thing in the morning.

What do you do? With prayer and supplication and thanksgiving, you tell God, your friend — he’s not the issue here. He’s your friend, and you tell him what’s going on. And you ask him, and the peace of God comes. I’m 65 years old. This is not new to me, and it doesn’t get easier. Sorry about that. But after about 54 years of doing this, he’s faithful. I’m a Christian. I’m standing here as Exhibit A.

“God shows up in the morning, fighting for you, not against you.”

I’m loving this moment. I’m loving you. I’m loving the gospel. I’m loving Christmas. I’m loving Jesus. Why? He came — a thousand times he came. And he set up a guard around this so fickle head and heart of mine. It’s my only hope. Why are you going to be a Christian when you wake up tomorrow? Not because of you, but because God shows up in the morning, fighting for you, not against you.

So many guilts, so many worries, so many threats, so many confusions, so many uncertainties, and so much rational support they get from our brain. I am thankful for the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, and inexplicably I’m better.

So do that this Christmas: roll it tonight. Just roll it. Take all the stuff, and roll it. Get alone for a few minutes, and just roll it off of you on to him, and ask for that. Say, “God I’ve got relationships to deal with. I have to know some measure of peace, because I can’t walk into this without knowing I’m okay with you and with myself.”

Daily Light – December 19, 2018

The Christmas Model For Missions

(devotional by John Piper)

“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”(John 17:18)

Christmas is a model for missions. Missions is a mirror of Christmas. As I, so you.

For example, danger. Christ came to his own and his own received him not. So you also. They plotted against him. So you. He had no permanent home. So you. They trumped up false charges against him. So you. They whipped and mocked him. So you. He died after three years of ministry. So you.

But there is a worse danger than any of these which Jesus escaped. So you!!

In the mid-16th century the missionary Francis Xavier (1506–1552), wrote to Father Perez of Malacca (today part of Malaysia) about the perils of his mission to China. He said,

The danger of all dangers would be to lose trust and confidence in the mercy of God. . . . To distrust him would be a far more terrible thing than any physical evil which all the enemies of God put together could inflict on us, for without God’s permission neither the devils nor their human ministers could hinder us in the slightest degree.

The greatest danger a missionary faces is not death but to distrust the mercy of God. If that danger is avoided, then all other dangers lose their sting.

In the end God makes every dagger a scepter in our hand. As J.W. Alexander says, “Each instant of present labor is to be graciously repaid with a million ages of glory.”

Christ escaped this danger — the danger of distrusting God. Therefore God has highly exalted him! As he, so you.

Remember this Advent that Christmas is a model for missions. As I, so you. And that mission means danger. And the greatest danger is distrusting God’s mercy. Succumb to this and all is lost. Conquer here and nothing can harm you for a million ages.

Daily Light – December 18, 2018

He Held The Stars In Place

(article by:  Bob Kauflin, Pastor, Louisville, KY)

No Christmas story will ever surpass the original.

Each December, we’re reintroduced to the classic movies: It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, The Polar Express, Elf, The Santa Clause, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, White Christmas. In the midst of our chaotic, frenzied, and confused world, they can be a welcome distraction. But they all fall so far short of the greatest story: God himself born as human to save us. As J.I. Packer puts it, “Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.”

In a similar way, we might get a sentimental feeling when we hear “voices singing ‘Let’s be jolly!’” but nothing will comfort and encourage us more than singing about the Word-made-flesh. It’s a reality we will never fully plumb, not even in a million carols. Words fail us. The mystery is too great.

But it’s worth trying.

Unexpected Arrival

A few years ago, I co-wrote a song with my good friend, Jason Hansen, that attempted to remind us why “nothing in fiction is so fantastic” as the incarnation. We called it “God Made Low.”

Prophets promised long ago a King would come to bring us hope
And now a virgin bears a son, the time to save the world has come

“The infinite became an infant. The all-knowing One became a babbling baby.”

Even though few noticed his birth, Jesus didn’t appear without warning. His coming was foretold centuries before he came. He just wasn’t the king we expected. He entered our world through a virgin whose very body was fashioned by the baby she was about to deliver. Jesus came not as the king we would have thought — in splendor, glory, and triumph — but as a helpless babe, sustained and nourished by an exhausted teenage girl.

Just at the right time.

Hope Had Come

Humble shepherds run in haste to see the One the angels praised
In cattle stall they find a girl who holds the hope of all the world

The shepherds were understandably rattled by what they heard and saw the night Jesus was born — “sore afraid,” as the King James puts it (Luke 2:9 KJV). It would be the first and last time they’d see angels singing in the star-filled sky. But the glory of that sight would soon be surpassed by seeing the Son of God “wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

In the midst of barn animals, the noxious filth of a stable, and a world unaware that hope had burst the bonds of our despair (Psalm 107:14), the Savior of the world had come.

More Than with Us

Emmanuel has come to us, the Christ is born, Hallelujah!
Our God made low to raise us up, Emmanuel has come to us

What did it mean for God to “come to us”? How far did he have to go? If you’ve ever traveled to a foreign country, you know what it’s like to encounter a new language, new landscapes, new customs, new money, and a new culture. You feel out of place. What must God’s Son have felt like?

“It’s a reality we will never fully plumb, not even in a million carols.”

The infinite became an infant. The all-knowing One became a babbling baby. As one song puts it, “The author climbed inside the page.” God came to us because we never would have come to him. We never could have come to him. But God didn’t just come to us. He became one of us. Jesus was not only Emmanuel, “God with us.” He was us.

God was made low. So he could raise us up to eternal life and infinite joys.

Sleeping and Sovereign

As he sleeps upon the hay he holds the moon and stars in place
Though born an infant, he remains the sovereign God of endless days

When Jesus became a baby, he lost nothing of his God-ness. He was truly God and truly man, in one person. Even as he slept soundly as human, he was holding the universe together as God (Colossians 1:17). It’s a source of unending wonder that the God who brought the universe into being clothed himself in our skin, or more precisely, added human nature to his deity.

God is great not merely because he is sovereign and exalted above his creation, but because in unspeakable humility, he became a part of it.

Every Promise Fulfilled 

For all our sins one day he’ll die to make us sons of God on high
Let every heart prepare him room, the promises have all come true

For centuries people have tried to remake Christmas into a charming children’s tale that inspires us to be kinder. More peaceful. More loving. As John Lennon put it, “War is over if you want it.” Christmas actually says the opposite. It confronts us with the brutal fact that we can never be kind, peaceful, and loving. We were given paradise and chose anarchy. War — both in our world and in our hearts — will never be over unless God acts.

And he did. In the early chapters of the Bible, God promised that the head of the serpent would be crushed by the future offspring of Eve (Genesis 3:15). He told a wandering Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3). Later, he promised King David that the throne of his kingdom would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16). And all this would come to pass because God’s suffering servant would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5).

“Even as he slept soundly, he was holding the universe together.”

These — and a thousand other promises — came true that first Christmas. And they assure us that God will keep every precious promise he’s given us in his word. He will save anyone who calls on the name of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:13). He will make sure, in his perfect time, that we look like his Son (Romans 8:291 John 3:2). He will cause all things in our lives to work together for good (Romans 8:28). And one day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, death will be no more, and we will see his face (Revelation 21:422:4).

This Christmas, don’t let the world’s misunderstanding of Christmas keep you from seeing and treasuring the greatest of all realities: God has been made low to bring us up. Emmanuel has come to be with us. The promises have all come true.

Daily Light – December 17, 2018

We Have Come to Worship Him


(Final part and summation of a 5 part article, by John Piper)

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10–11)

God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). The gifts of the magi are not given by way of assistance or need-meeting. It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages.

Nor are these gifts meant to be bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17 says that God takes no bribe. Well, what then do they mean? How are they worship?

Gifts given to wealthy, self-sufficient people are echoes and intensifiers of the giver’s desire to show how wonderful the person is. In a sense, giving gifts to Christ are like fasting — going without something to show that Christ is more valuable than what you are going without.

When you give a gift to Christ like this, it’s a way of saying, “The joy that I pursue (notice Matthew 2:10! “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”) — the joy that I pursue is not the hope of getting rich by bartering with you or negotiating some payment. I have not come to you for your things, but for yourself. And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things, in the hope of enjoying you more, not things. By giving to you what you do not need, and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, ‘You are my treasure, not these things.’”

I think that’s what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. Or whatever else we may think of giving to God.

May God awaken in us a desire for Christ himself. May we say from the heart, “Lord Jesus, you are the Messiah, the King of Israel. All nations will come and bow down before you. God wields the world to see that you are worshiped. Therefore, whatever opposition I may find, I joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to you, and bring my gifts to say that you alone can satisfy my heart, not holding on to these gifts.”

Daily Light – December 14, 2018

We Have Come to Worship Him

(Part 4 of a 5 part article, by John Piper)

There are at least five truths that Matthew wants us to see in this story about Christ and worship…con’t with Truth # 5:

5. Worshiping Jesus Means Joyfully Ascribing Authority and Dignity to Christ with Sacrificial Gifts.

There are four pieces to that definition of worship, and all four are grounded in this text.

First, I see the magi ascribing authority to Christ by calling him “King of the Jews” in verse 2: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”

Second, I see the magi ascribing dignity to him by falling down before him in verse 11: “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.” Falling to the ground is what you do to say to someone else: you are high and I am low. You have great dignity and I am lowly by comparison.

Third, I see the joy in these ascriptions of authority and dignity in verse 10: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Now this is a quadruple way of saying they rejoiced. It would have been much to say they rejoiced. More to say they rejoiced with joy. More to say they rejoiced with great joy. And even more to say they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And what was all this joy about? – they were on their way to the Messiah. They were almost there. I cannot avoid the impression then that true worship is not just ascribing authority and dignity to Christ; it is doing this joyfully. It is doing it because you have come to see something about Christ that is so desirable that being near him to ascribe authority and dignity to him personally is overwhelmingly compelling.

And the fourth part of the definition of worship here is that we do our ascribing with sacrificial gifts. Worshiping Jesus means joyfully ascribing authority and dignity to Christ with sacrificial gifts.

Now we have learned in this series on worship that God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). So the gifts of the magi are not given by way of assistance or need-meeting. It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages. Nor are these gifts meant to be bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17 says that God takes no bribe. Well, what then do they mean? How are they worship?

The gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself in much the same way that fasting is. When you give a gift to Christ like this, it’s a way of saying, “The joy that I pursue (verse 10!) is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. I have not come to you for your things, but for yourself. And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things, in the hope of enjoying you more, not things. By giving to you what you do not need, and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, ‘You are my treasure, not these things.'” I think that’s what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

And so may God take the truth of this text and waken in us a desire for Christ himself. May we say from the heart, “Lord Jesus you are the Messiah, the King of Israel. All nations will come and bow down before you. God wields the world to see that you are worshiped. Therefore, whatever opposition I may find, I joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to you, and bring my gifts to say that you alone can satisfy my heart, not these.”

Conclusion…Part 5…Monday 😊

Daily Light – December 13, 2018

We Have Come to Worship Him

Part 3 of a 5 part article, by John Piper

There are at least five truths that Matthew wants us to see in this story about Christ and worship…continuing today with truth #3:

3. God Wields the Universe to Make his Son Known and Worshiped. This is His Great Goal in all Things – that His Son be Known and Worshiped.

Over and over the Bible baffles our curiosity about just how certain things happened. How did this “star” get the magi from the east to Jerusalem? It does not say that it led them or went before them. It only says they saw a star in the east (verse 2), and came to Jerusalem. And how did that star go before them in the little five-mile walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem as verse 9 says it did? And how did a star stand “over the place where the Child was”? The answer is: We do not know. There are numerous efforts to explain it in terms of conjunctions of planets or comets or supernovas or miraculous lights. We just don’t know. And I want to exhort you not to become preoccupied with developing theories that are only tentative in the end and have very little spiritual significance.

I risk a generalization to warn you: people who are exercised and preoccupied with such things as how the star worked and how the Red Sea split and how the manna fell and how Jonah survived the fish and how the moon turns to blood are generally people who have what I call a mentality for the marginal. You do not see in them a deep cherishing of the great central things of the gospel – the holiness of God, the ugliness of sin, the helplessness of man, the death of Christ, justification by faith alone, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the glory of Christ’s return and the final judgment. They always seem to be taking you down a sidetrack with a new article or new tape or book. There is little centered rejoicing.

But what is plain concerning this matter of the star is that it is doing something that it cannot do on its own: it is guiding magi to the Son of God to worship him. There is only one Person in Biblical thinking that can be behind that intentionality in the stars – God himself. So the lesson is plain: God is guiding foreigners to Christ to worship him. And he is doing it by exerting global – probably even universal – influence and power to get it done. Luke shows God influencing the entire Roman Empire so that the census comes at the exact time to get a virgin to Bethlehem to fulfil prophecy with her delivery. Matthew shows God influencing the stars in the sky to get foreign magi to Bethlehem so that they can worship him.

This is God’s design. He did it then. He is still doing it now. His aim is that the nations – all the nations (Matthew 24:14) – worship his Son. This is God’s will for everybody in your office at work, and in your neighborhood and in your home. As John 4:23 says, “Such the Father seeks to worship him.” At the beginning of Matthew we still have a “come-see” pattern. But at the end the pattern is “go-tell”. The magi came and saw. We are to go and tell. But what is not different is that the purpose of God is the in-gathering of the nations to worship his Son. The magnifying of Christ in the white-hot worship of all nations, the reason the world exists.

4. Jesus is Troubling to People Who do not Want to Worship Him and He Brings out Opposition for those Who do.

This is probably not a main point in the mind of Matthew, but it is inescapable as the story goes on. In this story there are two kinds of people who do not want to worship Jesus, the Messiah. The first kind is the people who simply do nothing about Jesus. He is a nonentity in their lives. This group is represented by the chief priests and scribes. Verse 4: “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Well, they told him, and that was that: back to business as usual. The sheer silence and inactivity of the leaders is overwhelming in view of the magnitude of what was happening. And notice, verse 3 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” In other words, the rumor was going around that someone thought the Messiah was born. The inactivity on the part of chief priests is staggering – why not go with the Magi? They are not interested. They do not want to worship the true God.

The second kind of people who do not want to worship Jesus is the kind who is deeply threatened by him. That is Herod in this story. He is really afraid. So much so that he schemes and lies and then commits mass murder just to get rid of Jesus.

So today these two kinds of opposition will come against Christ and his worshipers. Indifference and hostility. Are you in one of those groups? Let this Christmas be the time when you reconsider the Messiah and ponder what it is to worship him.

So let me close with that, the fifth truth in this story. What is worship in this text?  (con’t tomorrow :)…whoa!…that was delicious)

Daily Light – December 12, 2018

We Have Come to Worship Him

(Part 2 of 5 part article, by John Piper)

Continuing…. There are at least five truths that Matthew wants us to see in this story about Christ and worship

1. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews, and Should be Honored as Such.

Verse 2 announces clearly whom this story is really about: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” It’s about a newborn child destined to be King of the Jews. Now, in itself that would not be a very great thing. Somewhere alive in America today there are probably three or four children or young people under the age of 18 who are going to be President of the United States some day. But nobody really cares about this, or sets out to find them or honor them.

But verse 4 makes clear what the magi really mean by “King of the Jews.” It says, “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Herod had been called “king of the Jews” by the Senate in Rome for almost 40 years. But no one called him Messiah. Messiah means the long-awaited God-anointed Ruler, who would overcome all other rule, and bring in the end of history, and establish the kingdom of God and never die or lose his reign.

We don’t know how the wise men got their information that there was such a king coming. But it is clear that Herod got the message: these fellows are not searching for a mere, ordinary, human successor to me. They are searching for the final King, to end all kings. And, of course, unlike Anna and Simeon in Luke 2, that is the last thing Herod was looking for. He didn’t even know the simple Scriptures about where the Messiah was to be born.

So he asks the scribes, and the one text that they focus on is Micah 5:2,6 “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” Now that doesn’t sound very extraordinary either. The reason is that the only purpose for which the scribes quoted the text was to answer Herod’s question: Where? And the answer is Bethlehem.

But what if Herod had asked them, “Who?” They might have read on in Micah 5: “(2) His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. . . . (4) And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.” So this king is not just coming into being in the womb of his mother Mary. “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Or, as John’s Gospel says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). And this king would not be limited in his realm to Israel. “He will be great to the ends of the earth.”

That’s the first truth and this is why worship is on their mind! And it leads us to the second truth in this text about the Messiah.

2. Jesus is to be Worshiped not just by Jews, but by all the Nations of the World, as Represented by the Wise Men from the East.

Notice that Matthew does not tell us about the shepherds coming to visit Jesus in the stable. His focus is immediately on foreigners coming from the east to worship Jesus. Verse 1: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?'”

So Matthew’s Gospel portrays Jesus at the beginning and ending of his Gospel as a universal Messiah for the nations, not just for Jews. Here the first worshipers are court magicians or astrologers or wise men not from Israel but from the East – perhaps from Babylon. They were gentiles. Unclean. And at the end of Matthew the last words of Jesus are, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”

This not only opened the door for us gentiles to rejoice in the Messiah, it added proof that he was the Messiah. Because one of the repeated prophecies was that the nations and kings would, in fact, come to him as the ruler of the world. For example, Isaiah 60:3, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” So Matthew adds proof to the messiahship of Jesus and shows that he is messiah – a King, and Promise-Fulfiller – for all the nations, not just Israel. For us, not just Jews.  (Part 3 tomorrow)

(Friends:  If I had been the one to come up with a name for the day Christ was born…I probably would have named it “Christforus-mas”) 😊