"Solid Joys" is a daily devotional app from the ministry of John Piper. These short but substantive readings aim to feed your joy in Jesus every day of the year. . The devotionals are available as an app for both IOS and Android.
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.”Read more...
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)
Jesus is troubling to people who do not want to worship him, and he arouses opposition against those who do. This is probably not a main point in the mind of Matthew, but it is an inescapable implication as the story goes on.
In this story, there are two kinds of people who do not want to worship Jesus.
The first kind is the people who simply do nothing about Jesus. He is a nonentity in their lives. This group is represented at the beginning of Jesus’s life by the chief priests and scribes. Matthew 2:4 says, “Assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” So 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, Matthew 2:3 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 the chief priests is staggering: why not go with the magi? They are not interested. They are not passionate about finding the Son of God and worshiping him.
The second kind of people who do not want to worship Jesus is the kind who are deeply threatened by him. That’s 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. I surely hope that you are not in one of those groups.
And if you are a Christian, let this Christmas be the time when you ponder what it means — what it costs — to worship and follow this Messiah.Read more...
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)
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 on the way to Jerusalem. It only says they saw a star in the east (Matthew 2:2) and came to Jerusalem. And how did that star go before them in the little five-mile walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem as Matthew 2:9 says it did? And how did a star “rest 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 — not to become fixated — on 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 some new article or book that they’re all excited about dealing with something marginal. There is little rejoicing over the great, central realities.
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 an insignificant virgin to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy with her delivery. Matthew shows God influencing the stars in the sky to get a little handful of foreigners to Bethlehem so that they can worship the Son.
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 classroom, and in your neighborhood, and in your home. As John 4:23 says, “The Father is seeking such people 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 the purpose and power of God in the ingathering of the nations to worship his Son. The magnifying of Christ in the white-hot worship of all nations is the reason the world exists.Read more...
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London’s Café Rendezvous has nice lighting, comfortable couches, and the smell of coffee in the air. What it doesn’t have are prices. Originally started as a business by a local church, the café was transformed a year after it started. The managers felt that God was calling them to do something radical—make everything on the menu free. Today you can order a coffee, cake, or sandwich without cost. There isn’t even a donation jar. It’s all a gift.
I asked the manager why they were so generous. “We’re just trying to treat people the way God treats us,” he said. “God gives to us whether we thank him or not. He’s generous to us beyond our imaginations.”
Jesus died to rescue us from our sins and reconcile us with God (Eph. 2:1–3). He rose from the grave and is alive now. Because of this, every wrong thing we’ve done can be forgiven, and we can have new life today (vv. 4–5). And one of the most amazing things about this is that it is all free. We can’t buy the new life Jesus offers. We can’t even donate toward the cost (vv. 8–9). It’s all a gift.
As the folks at Café Rendezvous serve their cakes and coffees, they give people a glimpse of God’s generosity. You and I are offered eternal life for free because Jesus has paid the bill.Read more...
A guest band was leading praise and worship at our church, and their passion for the Lord was moving. We could see—and feel—their enthusiasm.
Then the musicians revealed that they were all ex-prisoners. Suddenly, their songs took on special meaning, and I saw why their words of praise meant so much to them. Their worship was a testimony of lives broken and restored.
The world may embrace success. But stories of failure offer people hope too. They assure us that God loves us no matter how many times we have failed. In his book Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay, pastor Gary Inrig writes that what we call the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 could well be entitled God’s Hall of Reclaimed Failures. “There is scarcely an individual in that chapter without a serious blemish in his or her life,” he observes. “But God is in the business of restoring failures . . . . That is a great principle of God’s grace.”
I love the comfort of Psalm 145, which speaks of God’s wonderful works (vv. 5-6) and glorious kingdom (v. 11). It describes His compassion (vv. 8-9) and faithfulness (v. 13)—then immediately tells us that He lifts up those who have fallen (v. 14). All His attributes are expressed when He picks us up. He is indeed in the business of restoration.
Have you failed before? We all have. Have you been restored? All who have been redeemed are stories of God’s grace.Read more...
“Change: From the Inside Out or the Outside In?” the headline read, reflecting a popular trend today—the idea that outward changes like a makeover or better posture can be an easy way to change how we feel on the inside—and even change our lives.
It’s an appealing concept—who wouldn’t want improving our lives to be as easy as a new look? Many of us have learned the hard way that changing deep-rooted habits can seem nearly impossible. Focusing on simple external changes offers hope that there is a quicker path toward improving our lives.
But although such changes can improve our lives, Scripture invites us to seek a deeper transformation—one that is impossible on our own. In fact, in Galatians 3 Paul argued that even God’s law—a priceless gift that revealed His will—couldn’t heal the brokenness of God’s people (vv. 19–22). True healing and freedom required them to, through faith, be “clothed” in Christ (v. 27) through His Spirit (5:5). Sanctified and shaped through Him, they would find their true identity and worth—every believer equally an heir to all of God’s promises (3:28–29).
We could easily devote much energy to self-improvement techniques. But the deepest and most satisfying changes in our hearts come in knowing the love that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:17–19)—the love that changes everything.Read more...
"'The women said to Naomi: 'Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!" Ruth 4:14
Discover six steps to bringing God’s heart to your world. Last week we heard Joe Stowell share the first step: loving our neighbors as ourselves. Today you’ll walk through the final five steps as Joe wraps up his series on Ruth: Love Unshaken. These steps will help you establish a…Read more...
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” Ephesians 2:4-5
One of my all-time favorite kid’s stories is Charlotte’s Web, starring Charlotte the barnyard spider and Wilbur the pig. The farmer’s daughter, Fern, loved Wilbur and adopted him as her pet—until he was too big for the house and had to move to the barn. Wilbur missed Fern and felt sad…Read more...
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody." Romans 12:17
Do you ever pay much attention to bumper stickers? I find them fascinating! You can be driving along and in one minute see a sticker that says, “My child is an honor roll student at So-and-So Middle School,” and then turn the corner and see another car sporting the bumper…Read more...