Daily Light – Dec 31, 2019

Friends: Today we finish 2019 with 2 continuing devotionals from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.)  David’s recent morning study was focused on Jesus as God, Creator, Messiah, Savior, King. Amen!

Tough times ahead

Matthew 2:13-23  

Matt. 2:13  When [the Magi]  had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, … 16  When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. …

19  After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt  20  and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene. 

Jesus was a “sign from God” (:34), opposed and threatened from infancy onward. God warned Joseph through dreams, but He did not remove the danger. We generally believe that if we trust in God and follow His will our lives will have less danger or problems, and hopefully more blessings. No-one has trusted and pleased God more than Jesus, but His life was full of threats, danger and difficulties.

Lord, thank You for this perspective, that You do not promise to keep us from persecution and suffering. In fact, You promise us that in this world we will have trouble (Jn 16:33) but that because You have overcome the world and death we can “take heart”. You also tell us to expect to be treated the same way Jesus was. (John 15:18-25). Help me/us live so much like Jesus that I really am treated the way He was. And give me the faith and courage to love and live like Jesus. Amen

Jesus grew

Luke 2:52  

Luke 2:52  “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”. 

In one short verse Luke tells us so much. The content is not unexpected but it is very significant. Jesus grew in wisdom. Luke uses just one word, sophia, but he probably means all that was  meant by the several words used in Proverbs – knowledge, wisdom, understanding, discernment – all referring to someone who is teachable and learns to make good decisions. Even though He was God in human flesh, He had to choose to obey His parents and the Law of Moses. Like all children, He was tempted to want His own way, but He never disobeyed. 

He grew in stature – physically – probably pretty much like all other kids. He grew in favor with God – spiritually. He did not just obey the commands, but developed a heart that sought God, with intentional thanks, praise and worship. He delighted in doing the will of His Father.  (Heb 10:4) It was like food for Him. (John 4:32-34)  He loved righteousness. He also grew in favor with people. Socially. Without a sinful ego, He did not need to put others down. He genuinely cared about people, including the outcasts of society, and they sensed it.

Lord, even at my age I desire to keep increasing in wisdom, a teachable heart. Help me face my sinful thoughts and trust that You are much wiser than I am, and there will be no joy in self-centered choices. Physically I am in decline, but help me with the self-discipline to do what I can to take care of myself and remain capable of a fruitful life. Mostly I pray I would grow in my longing for time with You and that the thoughts and meditations of my heart would be acceptable to You. (Ps 19:14) And I am all too aware of my desires to prefer myself over other people. Even yesterday I was impatient with people who interrupted my plans and schedule. Lord, help me see my own heart the way You do, and see other people the way You do – ALL other people, and all the time. And Lord, please use me to help others keep growing too, showing them that You are our best example in every area of life. Amen

Daily Light – Dec 30, 2019

Lay Aside the Fear of Legalism

The Wells of Grace in Godly Discipline

Article by Sarah Walton

Christians, of all people, desire to make changes for the better: to break patterns of sin, live more faithfully, and grow in godliness. And yet, our battle with sin remains, and our enemy works tirelessly to distract, discourage, or weigh us down in that pursuit. One of his well-known tactics is legalism, reducing the Christian life to a series of dos and don’ts, and turning a joyful, Spirit-filled walk with Christ into a joyless, calculated pursuit of goodness in our own strength and for our own glory — a pursuit void of real gospel grace and genuine freedom.

There is another danger, however, that is often more subtle than the suffocating trap of legalism; it’s one that neglects spiritual effort out of the fear of legalism. Pastor Colin Smith wisely notes this trend growing in younger Christians and offers this warning: “Don’t let the fear of legalism rob you of the benefits of a regular pattern of walking with God.”

In our resistance toward legalism (which is good and right), we easily can swing the pendulum, and neglect the very avenues of ongoing grace God has given for our good.

Legalism and Discipline

Some years ago, while my husband and I were in a small group with other young Christian couples, a man suggested that we shouldn’t force ourselves to pray before each meal. “If we did, wouldn’t that be legalism?” he asked. “If we don’t feel thankful in the moment, aren’t we being hypocritical and legalistic to pray and thank God for our food simply out of habit?” Although something seemed a bit off in his reasoning, I found myself pondering it anyway. For a while, I even tried a little of his method, praying before I ate only when I felt moved to do so. I will admit, this caused me to grow only in a spirit of thanklessness.

As I considered Pastor Colin’s warning, I began to realize what a subtle, yet real, lie this has become in many believers’ lives. For fear of being legalistic, we can rob ourselves of the benefits of a regular pattern of walking with God in the spiritual disciplines. But the apostle Paul tells us to resist this way of thinking in 1 Corinthians 9:24–27:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

The danger of confusing legalism and Spirit-empowered discipline is that we can lose the very God-appointed means that are crucial for our ongoing growth, sanctification, protection, and intimacy with Christ. So, as we consider whether our personal disciplines (or lack thereof) are based on legalism or the gospel, we can ask ourselves, “Am I striving to live up to the law in my own strength, in order to earn God’s forgiveness and favor, or am I striving in the strength of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of growing up in Christ and reflecting more of him?”

Legalism stems from putting confidence in our own efforts and abilities, producing pride and self-righteousness. Discipline, on the other hand, recognizes that we are already fully accepted by God through faith alone, and that we need to depend on the power of the Spirit, and exert effort to strive toward holiness, producing freedom and joy as we grow in godliness. Such discipline reflects a heart that is living wisely now in light of our security in Christ and the imperishable reward that is to come.

Will It Help Me Run?

When John Piper was a teenager, he heard a sermon on Hebrews 12:1–2: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus.” The preacher challenged him to run his race well by not only asking, “Is it sin?” but “Does it help me run?” Piper continues,

“Does it get in my way when I am trying to become more patient, more kind, more gentle, more loving, more holy, more pure, more self-controlled? Does it get in my way, or does it help me run?” That is the question to ask.

Ask the maximal righteousness question, not the minimal righteousness question. . . .

If you have that mentality about your life, then you will ask not, “How many sins can I avoid?” but “How many weights can I lay down so that I am fleet-footed in the race of righteousness?”

Do you find his words as convicting and motivating as I do? Do we want to live seeking only to avoid sin, or do we desire to run the race with proactive intentionality, laying aside anything that prevents us from running well? This will take discipline! If we want to be equipped to run the race, we will prepare ourselves for it.

Even in the Dry Seasons

I’m certain that most of us would admit that, at one time or another, our sitting down in God’s word, praying, or going to church has been purely a duty rather than a delight. But reading, meditating, memorizing, hearing, and applying God’s word is food to a believer’s soul. Apart from these disciplines, we will be prone to drift from the truth and susceptible to being swept away when the storms of life come.

In fact, the times we feel least like reading the Bible and sitting in church are typically the times that we need it the most. If we neglect these disciplines, it will do more than keep us from legalism; it will keep us from the life-giving truth, hope, and power that we all desperately need. We need to stop making excuses for why we don’t have time to read, study, and meditate on Scripture. Though our habits will look different depending on the season of life, we need to creatively find ways to feed ourselves with God’s word, especially in these seasons.

We have one life, one race, one chance. How we spend our time greatly reflects what we value.

Privilege of Discipline

We each have unique areas that will require more discipline than others. For example, would we consider it legalistic for an alcoholic to keep alcohol out of his home? Is it legalistic for those who feel controlled by their smartphone to turn it in for a less fancy flip phone? Is it legalistic for a family to say “no” to a sport that has games only on Sunday mornings for the sake of making church a priority? No, it isn’t. It’s creating spiritual disciplines and protection for themselves in areas where they know they are vulnerable.

It would be beneficial for us all to seek wisdom in prayer, counsel, and God’s word to see if there are areas in our lives that may require us to put new habits and disciplines in place for the purpose of laying aside anything that does not help us run well.

Christian, as you look ahead to the start of a new year, beware that you don’t add weight to your shoulders by pursuing goals and changes out of guilt or in self-reliance. But let us also not be deceived into lives lacking discipline. Over time, godly discipline, under the banner of the gospel, will begin to feel less like mere discipline and more like the privilege that it is.

Godly disciplines are not legalistic. Rather, they are the appropriate and wise responses of a chosen, forgiven, redeemed, and Spirit-indwelt child of God.

Sarah Walton and her husband live in Chicago with their four young children. Sarah blogs at setapart.net and is co-author of the book Hope When It Hurts.

Daily Light – Dec 27, 2019

Wherever He Is, We Are Welcome

Heaven’s Great High Priest

Article by Scott Hubbard, Editor, desiringGod.org

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16)

Because Jesus sits at the right hand of his Father in heaven, repentant sinners can approach the throne of God with boldness, no matter how filthy we feel. We can come when we have nothing to show for ourselves. We can come when we have just awakened from the stupidity of sin. We can come when so much inside of us feels cold and dead. And we can do so because we do not come on our own merits, but rather on the merits of Jesus, heaven’s Great High Priest.

It was not always so. For centuries, God’s people could only wait outside the temple where God’s presence lay veiled, wondering how he would one day make a way.

Ninety Feet Away

If you were an Israelite living under the old covenant, and you did not belong to the tribe of Levi, ninety feet is as close as you would ever get to the presence of God in the Holy of Holies.

God had fulfilled his promise to dwell among his people (Leviticus 26:11–12), but his holiness demanded separation. He was near, yet guarded; present, yet veiled; inviting, yet intimidating. The mere presence of the temple revealed God’s desire to be near his people. But everything about the temple said, “You dare not approach me on your own.”

The cherubim that once flashed a flaming sword at the entrance to Eden now blocked the way to the Holy of Holies (Genesis 3:241 Kings 6:31–32). Any who broke through the barrier would fall before the consuming fire of Sinai (Leviticus 16:2). Safer for a man to walk on the sun than a sinner to stand unshielded before God.

Every day, the temple preached a silent sermon to any who had ears to hear: You need a mediator to make atonement. You need an advocate to intercede. You need a priest to make a way.

Tribe of Levi

Ever since the wilderness of Sinai, Levi had served as Israel’s priestly tribe. Only the Levites showed zeal for God’s holiness as the rest of their brothers bowed down to a golden calf (Exodus 32:25–29). From then on, they would stand in the gap between God and the people (Numbers 3:5–10).

The days soon came, however, when Levi’s sons lost the zeal of their fathers. They stole food from the people, and preyed upon female assistants (1 Samuel 2:12–1722). They defiled the holy with the common, and the clean with the unclean (Ezekiel 22:26). They taught God’s word for a price, and cared nothing for his presence (Micah 3:11Jeremiah 2:8).

But even apart from the Levites’ corruption, a perceptive Israelite could see that the problem of the priesthood went deeper, down to the very stones of the temple. The sons of Levi, even at their best, were still sons of Adam. The mediators needed a sacrifice for themselves. The intercessors eventually died. And the blood of the animals spilled on the altar could never take away sins.

The priest we need could not come from Levi — nor even from Adam. Our priest must be a branch from a different tree altogether. He must come from another line, just as that enigmatic figure in Genesis named Melchizedek.

Order of Melchizedek

In Psalm 110, King David listens as the Lord God speaks to David’s other “Lord”:

The Lord has sworn
     and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
     after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)

Our perfect priest — the second “Lord” in David’s psalm — finds his pattern not in Levi, but in Melchizedek, who drops into the story line of redemption as if from heaven (Genesis 14:18–20). It would take another Israelite, looking back centuries later, to spell out the implications of David’s prophecy.

The final priest, like Melchizedek, must be “king of righteousness” and “king of peace” (Hebrews 7:1–2). Just as Melchizedek, from the reader’s standpoint, is “without father or mother or genealogy,” so must our priest be (Hebrews 7:3). And, most surprising of all, he must continue as a priest forever, “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Hebrews 7:3). A perfect, eternal priest-king, at once David’s son and David’s Lord: he is the one we waited for.

The day would come when the sons of Levi could step aside to welcome this Priest of priests. Through his high-priestly work, the smoke of every altar would finally cease, the cherubim would finally sheathe their sword, and the doors to the Holy of Holies would finally open.

Priest of Priests

Some ten centuries after David penned his psalm, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son. He came as a prophet to speak the words of God. He came as a king to establish the reign of God. And he came as a priest to open the way to God.

On Good Friday, the priest entered his sanctuary. Golgotha was his temple mount, the cross his altar, his own body the acceptable sacrifice. In a moment, all the murders, adulteries, blasphemies, slanders, selfishness, spite, and hatred of the world pressed upon his shoulders. The knife came down; the flames rose up. The Son fell slain into the consuming fire.

If Jesus were just another son of Levi, he would have lain forever in the ashes, another priest returned to the dust. But Jesus was not a son of Levi, but the Son of God: without beginning of days, without end of life. Having finished his work, he rose in “the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16) and soon ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of his Father.

Wherever Christ Is

Jesus is the priest the Levites never could be. He is “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26), and yet he sympathizes with his tempted brothers below (Hebrews 2:11–124:15). He sits upon the highest place (Hebrews 10:12), and yet he lives to plead the sinner’s cause (Hebrews 7:25). Of all the men and women who ever walked upon the earth, he alone needed no sacrifice, and yet, in unthinkable love, “he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:26–27).

If you are in Christ, let no sin, guilt, or shame keep you waiting in the temple courts, ninety feet from the presence of your God. Hear your God whisper from within, “Draw near” (Hebrews 10:22). Walk past the bronze altar and the washbasins, the bread of the Presence and the lampstand, and open the door to the Holy of Holies. The throne of majesty has become a throne of mercy, where Christ our high priest sits in victory (Hebrews 4:14–16). And wherever he is, we are welcome.

Scott Hubbard is a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and an editor for desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Minneapolis.

Daily Light – Dec 26, 2019

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Bible that proclaimed that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.)

The Inconvenience of Christmas

Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7  

Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me, one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”…

4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.  And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. 

5 And he will be our peace …

Luke 2:1  In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…. 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 

Nobody likes paying taxes, and it is probably safe to say that subjects of Roman rule hated it when they had to pay. Further, Caesar decreed that everyone had to go to their ancestral town to register and to pay. It was hard enough for Mary and Joseph to endure the ridicule of being unmarried up till the birth of their baby, but then came the decree they had to travel the 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. What a tremendous inconvenience to travel that far at the end of her pregnancy. But Rome did not care. Orders were orders. And God was using Caesar as His tool so the Messiah would be born in the right place at the right time.

Joseph and Mary probably would not have decided to travel there at that time, but God had made the promise and He fulfilled it through what seemed like a terrible order from Caesar. In fact, everyone in the Roman world was inconvenienced, just so God’s Word would be fulfilled.

Lord, We get easily upset when other people mess up our plans, especially when they require much extra time, effort and money. I hope we don’t have any unexpected inconveniences today (or any day) but help me have confidence that You are still sovereign over people’s choices (even sinful ones) and will work them together for our good and use them to conform us to the image of Your Son. (Rom 8:28-29) Thank You that Christmas is a reminder for us to trust You with all our plans and inconveniences every day!  Amen.

Daily Light – Dec 25, 2019

What Do We Really Believe About Christmas?    

Matt 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

John 4:34  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 

Luke 19:10  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Matt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Luke 24:46-47  “He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations,

Jn 3:16-18  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. … 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle.

Rom. 10:1  Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Rom 10:9-17  “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. … 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 

Acts 4:12  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Rom 15:20 “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known …”

1 Cor. 9:19  “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. … I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some….”

We love Christmas and all the celebration that goes with it – the decorations, the gifts, the food. We even go to special services at our churches and sing “Christ the Savior is born”.  But is that enough? If we believe what we say we believe, then we also believe that all those who have not yet believed in Jesus are condemned. Lost. Is that OK with us? Do we think there is some other way for them to be made right with God? Maybe by living good enough lives? Or do we have a burden, a passion for them to be forgiven, justified, saved? 

Wonderful Savior, give me/us the same kind of burden for others to be saved, (whether our relatives, or people in distant parts of the world) as You had for our salvation. We are thankful You suffered and died for us, and that somebody prayed, gave, shared with us! Now, put a fire in us that we can never be satisfied with our own salvation, and yet be indifferent to the destiny of millions of others for whom You also died. Move my heart, and each person who reads this to be zealous for others to receive what You have given me/us.  Amen!

Daily Light – Dec 24, 2019

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Bible that proclaimed that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.)

Celebration or Worship?

Luke 2; Matthew 2:1; Hebrews 1:6

Luke 2:8  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14    “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” … “20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, …  28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: …

30 … my eyes have seen your salvation, … 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” … 36 There was also a prophet, Anna, … She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Matt. 2:1  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Heb. 1:6 “… when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 

When we think of Christmas, we primarily think of celebration – decorations, gifts, feasting. All good! And it is great to celebrate Jesus and His birth at Christmas. But these passages have a different emphasis – Angels, shepherds, Simeon, Anna, Magi all worshiped Him. They bowed, they praised, they gave God glory, they gave Him gifts (not each other). Why? Because the long promised and long awaited Messiah/Savior finally came. It was great joy for all the people! The announcement of His coming was good news for everyone! Everyone needs forgiveness and salvation! It is the most important gift anyone could receive because it determines our whole eternity, and it is better than any gift of health, wealth, comfort, etc. Whoever would give such a costly gift deserves WORSHIP.  And no one else could give it. So it is easy to conclude that grateful worship, whether words, songs, service or love, is 100% appropriate from 100% of those who hear about it.

And it is not just a good idea to worship Jesus, but God commanded the angels to worship Him – and they don’t receive the benefits of salvation like we do. Jehovah’s Witnesses make a major command not to celebrate Christmas or worship Jesus, because that is reserved for God alone. But this Hebrews passage shows clearly that God commanded the angels to worship Jesus, and we know from Jn 1, and Col 1 that Jesus is the true Creator God.

BTW – We do “worship” what impresses us most. We stand and cheer wildly for sports teams, entertainers and celebrities. We devote time and money to hobbies and causes we desire. It is natural! So if we don’t worship Jesus, it is because we haven’t reflected on Who He is and what He actually did. At least not recently. When we first get married we express praise and devotion to our beloved, but as time goes on we tend to take them for granted. But if we continue to think about their character and life, we will continue to express thanks, praise and devotion to them, even though they are not perfect.

Worthy LORD, I gladly worship You as my Creator and Savior! There is no other person or God who could create or save us. You deserve all my loyalty, gratitude, love, and service, and I want to be faithful to give it to You always. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight – may they be appropriate to Your greatness and bring You pleasure –  O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Ps 19:14) Amen.

Daily Light – Dec 23, 2019

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Bible that proclaimed that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

John’s Christmas account

John 1:1-18

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …

John says that Jesus is more than a prophet or miracle worker — He is the Eternal God who created everything. In Him is LIFE and LIGHT. This is more than physical life and light, but inner, spiritual life and light, which everyone longs for. And even though Jesus died, was raised again and has ascended into heaven, John wrote about 60 years later that His light still shines. Nothing had been able to overpower or extinguish His light.

9  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

And although nothing is able to extinguish His light, it can be refused. He came to the world that He made and to His own people, the Jews, yet they did not recognize Him. He did not force them to believe in Him, but gave them the capacity to doubt and reject Him. Even so, He gave enough evidence that some did recognize that He was more than a prophet, that He was the long promised Messiah. And they did believe in Him, receiving the gift of light and life, becoming “children” of the true Creator/God. 

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. … 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. 

The Creator came into the creation and took on flesh. He lived among them long enough for them to recognize He was the True God. They saw him rejected, but they also saw His glory. They got a new understanding of the nature of God, more than they had realized from the Law of Moses. They learned that though God knows all truth about us, good and bad, He delights in showing grace to failing human beings. Usually the more we know a person’s failings, the less gracious we are. The more we feel justified in criticizing and even condemning them. Jesus knew all truth, but also displayed grace. Jesus taught us more about God than anyone or anything. 

Dear Lord Jesus, I praise You as Creator, and for revealing LIGHT. Thank You that You did not leave me in darkness, and that You revealed Yourself not only as Creator, but as the source of LIFE – a SAVIOR. Thank You for the privilege of being a child of God! You came as the most wonderful gift ever, and now allow us to share that in that gift with You. There could be no gift more valuable than You!!! I praise You for knowing all truth, and for being full of grace instead of punishing us. Amen

Daily Light – Dec 21, 2019

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Old Testament that proclaimed that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

The Savior and Sovereign LORD

Matthew 1:18-21; Luke 1:26-33

Matt. 1:18   This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew’s emphasis in on the name Jesus (Yeshua = Yahweh saves) because the main purpose He came was to provide salvation – a way sinful, separated humans could be reconciled with their Creator. This is the greatest need humans have – more than money, food, education, etc. We were made for a relationship with the Creator, and He took the initiative to bring us back into that relationship after we had left it through sin and independence. This was fulfilled by His rejection and substitutionary death at His first coming. (Isa 53)

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Luke also records that He should be called Jesus, but his emphasis is on role He will fulfill at His second coming – the Almighty and Eternal King. He is both, the despised and rejected One, who was raised from the dead, and the One before whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God! (Phil 2:6-11)

[Next, we will look at John’s account]

Wonderful Lord Jesus, Thank You for being willing to suffer for us! You really strongly desired us to be in relationship with You!!! Thank You for choosing me to hear this good news and giving me the joy to tell others of Your love for them also. But our world doesn’t think much at all about living under the Lordship of any almighty ruler. It is fearful to think of any human with that much power. But You are the only one who could/would be a perfectly righteous ruler, and it creates a longing in me for You to come and rule and restore this broken and painful world. I pray for a heart that is joyful and zealous to love and serve You, declaring to as many as possible the good news of repentance and faith in You – the perfect, sovereign Savior and Lord. Amen

Daily Light – Dec 20, 2019

In the fullness of time – adopted

Galatians 4:1-6

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Old Testament that proclaimed that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

Gal. 4:1 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba , Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

In the Roman world a child did not receive his inheritance upon his father’s death unless he had reached a designated age. Until that time, it was like a “Trust” that was managed by others and the child was expected to learn how to responsibly handle the money upon reaching that age. Paul uses that analogy in the end of Ch 3 and beginning of Ch 4 to teach that under the Law of Moses the Jews were like underage children who did not have full privileges of God’s inheritance, and that it was a burden to have to follow all the requirements of the Trust or guardianship. Paul said the Law was only supposed to be in effect till the Messiah came (3:19) and then all believers (3:23-29) would be like adult children with complete access to the full blessings of God. It reminds me of a young woman from another country who is in the process of getting her US Citizenship – there is great anticipation and excitement.

Paul said “In the fullness of time” God brought it about. All the promises to David, Isaiah, Daniel, (and all the rest in the OT) were on a carefully planned timeline set by God. Now the Romans were the controlling power of the Western world, their language (and Greek) were understood almost everywhere, the Roman road system spread commerce and communication quickly. All the time predictions in the book of Daniel were fulfilled (especially 9:24-27). After hundreds of years of the Jews crying out for the deliverance of their Messiah, God answered, exactly on time! 

Jesus was born under the Law, and He kept all the requirements and burdens of the Law. No one had ever done that before. So God could now end the Law and all its requirement. It had served its purpose. Now those who believed in Jesus (for their atonement and righteousness) were declared “of age” – able to inherit by grace, what they could not inherit by keeping the requirements of the Law.

Wonderful Lord God, we praise You for keeping Your promises and never being late. You are the Almighty One whose zeal accomplishes everything You desire. (Isa 9:6-8) And Lord Jesus, I praise and thank You for keeping all the requirements of the Law, fulfilling all its demands, and now sharing all the blessings of Your inheritance with us. Help me always trust Your timing and never get frustrated. Help me live in the freedom of the adoption You have given us in Christ. And help me make this good news clear to people everywhere who do not know or enjoy the glorious “sonship” we can have in Christ.  Amen

Daily Light – Dec 19, 2019

The suffering servant

Isaiah 53

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Old Testament that proclaim that God will establish His King and Kingdom on the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.  We will continue to follow David on this subject.)

Isaiah 53:1  Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted, …

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. … though he had done no violence …

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, …

11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied …

From the time this was written till today the Jews, especially, have had great difficulty understanding this passage. How could this refer to the great and powerful Messiah of the other passages we looked at last week? Some have thought it referred to the whole nation of Israel and all the suffering they have endured. But this describes one who suffered on behalf of the nation Israel, it could not refer to the nation. Without understanding two comings of the Messiah – the first to suffer as the atonement for sin, and the second to come as conquering King – this made no sense. 

Sovereign LORD, Your plan was so much more amazing than anyone could ever have anticipated or understood without Your explanation. Thank You Messiah that You came first as the Suffering Servant, allowing Yourself to be despised and rejected, familiar with pain. You voluntarily took a life with all the rejection and suffering we would ever know, so that we could share with You in Your glory and Kingdom. It is all the more amazing that it pleased You to do all of that for a world that mostly not understand or care that You died for us. May my life always be a response of love and gratitude for You. May I be as pleased to suffer for You as You were to suffer for me!  Amen.