Devotionals

  • Joy to the World

    By Josh Moody

    John 3:16 "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." What better summary of the meaning of Christmas could there be than Christ’s own summary of the significance of that first Christmas Gift, and its resulting life, death, and resurrection! When I was on the mission field—my very brief foray into residential mission work and a slightly longer ensuing oversight-coordinating role of some pioneer mission opportunities in the same region of the world—a team member of ours from Denmark said that the Danish Christians called this verse “the little Bible.” Whether or not that is true, and I have no reason to doubt it (perhaps Danish friends will write and tell us otherwise!), it is a great explanation of the significance of this very well-known verse. In its brief statement, it encompasses…

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    December 25: The Sun of Righteousness

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Malachi 1-4, Job 42, John 21:15-25, Revelation 22 Malachi 1-4: The new temple had been completed, through the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, but the great promised messianic age had not yet dawned. Why not? Malachi prophesies to explain the sins that God’s people were committing, and continues to look forward to the dawning new day of the coming of the Christ. The conviction that Malachi sought to bring to God’s people can be seen through these chapters by noticing the repeated inquiry, questioning, objecting of God’s people to the prophet’s intended preaching for conviction. They are not sure how it is true that God has loved them (1:2). The promised blessings of the covenant are not evident, so they doubt God’s love for them. God replies that his covenant commitment to his people is unwavering—a text quoted by Paul in the New Testament (1:2b-3/ Romans 9:13). The priests are told…

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    December 24: Hopes and Fears

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 10-14, Job 41:12-34, John 21:1-14, Revelation 21 Zechariah 10-14: I wade into these chapters with trepidation, for they are on the one hand filled with New Testament promises, resonant in our ears—“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered (13:7)”; “thirty pieces of silver (11:12-13)”; and echoes of other words, truth such as they will call upon the name of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:2). In large degree, the picture is of God bringing restoration for his people, unity, the removal of idols, and at the same time there being a great and terrible day yet further ahead when there will be judgment for those who do not turn to God. But throughout it all, there are images that are hard to penetrate, and picture language belies literalistic interpretation, or at least apparently so. Like much of so-called apocalyptic language, the point is somewhat in the effect—a bright…

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    December 23: Seasons of Joy

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 6-9, Job 41:1-11, John 20:24-31, Revelation 20 Zechariah 6-9: Chapter 6 begins with yet another vision—Zechariah is packed with such visions. This one is particularly hard to interpret. As one commentator said, we are very much in the dark as to its meaning in any particularities, though opinions multiply. In general, it is a vision of God’s control, his sovereignty, and his power. As such, the chariots of God’s sovereignty give comfort to this people of God so recently returned from exile. Now comes, in the second half of chapter 6, another Messianic prophecy of blessing and fulfillment of the work of this Joshua to another Joshua (=Jeshua=Jesus) and his kingdom. Chapter 7 has a question from God’s people about fasting. They had been in mourning regarding their sins in exile, and the question is whether they should continue in that situation now that they had returned. In reply, Zechariah…

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    The Scandal of Christmas

    By Josh Moody

    The infancy narratives in the Gospels proclaim Jesus as the fulfillment of messianic hopes and expectations. God, however, didn’t do things the way most people expected. Our familiarity with the Christmas story may cause us to miss the unexpected wonder, shock, and newness accompanying these events. In our book The First Days of Jesus, Alexander Stewart and I discuss a series of scandals: the virgin birth, the incarnation, Jesus’s lowly birth, and the scandal of the cross. At the root of these scandals is the virgin birth, so let’s take a moment to reflect on this remarkable event and its implications as we prepare to celebrate the “scandal” of Christmas. The Scandal of the Virgin Birth Matthew tells us that when Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, became aware of her pregnancy, he was planning to divorce her, apparently because he assumed some form of infidelity, an assumption that would have been shared…

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    December 22: Not by Might

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 1-5; Job 40; John 20:19-23; Revelation 19 Zechariah 1-5: Zechariah prophesied, like Haggai, to the exiles who had come back to Jerusalem, now urging them to repent, and giving them assurances and hope of God’s future blessing. He reminds them in chapter 1 of what their forefathers had done, and why they had gone into exile (1:2). He therefore calls on them not to make the same mistake but to “return to” God (1:3). Then come various visions of encouragement of God’s purpose for his people, fulfilled in Christ, and in the expansion of Christ’s kingdom. All people are to “be silent” before this great God (2:13). In essence, God will perform his work by his own power and might, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (4:6). Such greatness may seem unlikely at the time, but instead of despising the day…

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    The Greatest Story Ever Told

    By Josh Moody

    “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining…” Sometimes a moment is so powerful that a hush falls over the crowd. Sometimes a whole throng of people turns, as one body, to stare slack-jawed at the sky. Christmas is such a moment. It’s a simple story, quickly sketched in just 3 chapters of Matthew and Luke—147 verses in all. And yet, 2,000 years later, we still catch our breath to hear it told. Embedded in the little tale is enough to ponder annually for millennia. Here are a few takeaways from the greatest story ever told. See Eternally. Christmas is a mystery play. Like the medieval acting troupes who traveled town to town and performed stories from the back of a rickety wagon, all of the characters in the drama are humble folk—their costumes tattered, their astonishment not eloquent, but too stunned for words. It’s not sophisticated, it’s hardly Shakespeare.…

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    December 21: A Time to Invest

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Haggai 1-2, Job 39, John 20:10-18, Revelation 18 Haggai 1-2: When God’s people returned from exile, they began to rebuild the temple, but after a little while they lost impetus and direction and gave up and stopped the rebuilding. Haggai, under God’s direction and by God’s inspiration, now comes and preaches to God’s people to keep on building. First, he addresses their excuses. They are saying it is not the right time to build (1:2). The economy was bad (2:17), and therefore it was easy enough to make the argument that no more building should be taking place. The budget was not healthy, therefore reduce your expenditures, and certainly do not continue on an expensive capital campaign. But, asks God, if the issue really is the “time,” then how come it is, apparently, nonetheless the right “time” for you to be invested in your “paneled houses” (1:4)? In other words, the…

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    December 20: Promises

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zephaniah 3, Job 38:22-41, John 20:1-9, Revelation 17 Zephaniah 3: Chapter 3 continues Zephaniah’s denouncement of God’s people, and God’s judgment upon sin and wickedness. In particular, the leaders of God’s people have let her down: Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law (3:4) But God, nonetheless, has a plan of restoration and one that will include all nations. So that, “all of them may call upon the name of the LORD” (3:9). And now “that day” is also a day of hope and salvation: On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain (3:11) The humble and the lowly “shall seek refuge in the LORD”…

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    December 19: Hide Yourself in Him

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zephaniah 1-2, Job 38:22-41, John 19:38-42, Revelation 16 Zephaniah 1-2: Zephaniah is prophesying during the days of good King Josiah’s reforms. In his prophecy, he speaks of the “day of the LORD,” a fearsome day of judgment, and then also speaks of the blessing and bounty that will come to those who seek the Lord (more on that in chapter 3). God’s fearsome coming judgment is described in multiple ways: I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth (1:2) This day is, in some sense, imminent, or “near” (1:7). We should not think of it as something long delayed. It will suddenly come—like a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2). It is near and “hastening fast” (1:14). It will be terrible: A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom,…

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