Tag Archives: Today in the Word

Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – JESUS WILL BE SATISFIED

 

Isaiah 53:1–12

The ubiquitous to-do lists on our desks and kitchen counters give us concrete goals for the day’s work. In fact, making a detailed to-do list may actually cause us to be more productive. According to a study from Wake Forest University, “When participants were allowed to make and note down concrete plans . . . [their] performance on the next task substantially improved.”

Of course, we are seldom able to finish everything on our list for the day, but Jesus Christ always accomplishes exactly what He intends to do, as today’s passage shows us. Isaiah begins this “servant song” with an acknowledgment that the gospel does not always appear to have much success in people’s hearts. “Who has believed our message?” (v. 1) is the poignant cry of a prophet-evangelist who longs to see evidence of faith in many hearts but sees only indifference.

To Isaiah’s hearers, and also to many who hear our message, Christ Himself appears unworthy of attention. He was not outwardly beautiful or powerful. He came from an unknown woman and an out-of-the-way town (see John 1:46). During His life on earth, He received few accolades and plenty of criticism. He died the death of a criminal.

This is one perspective. But, reorienting our view for a moment, Isaiah shows us what the death of the Nazarene carpenter looks like from the throne of God. Jesus, who looks so unremarkable, is seen from heaven as the substitutionary Lamb, the One whose death gives life to many. And His death accomplishes exactly what He intended. Christ died by the will of the triune Lord (v. 10), and His death and resurrection bring many to salvation. As He looks at His finished work on the cross, Jesus is satisfied (v. 11).

APPLY THE WORD

Even when you feel like your efforts in evangelism are incomplete, even when you know there is so much more that you could do to share God’s love, remember that Christ always accomplishes His task! Thank the Lord today that the to-do list is ultimately His, and He will be faithful to complete His good work.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – PRAYER AND EVANGELISM

 

2 Thessalonians 2:13–3:5

In a business-school paper, researchers demonstrated that people value products more when they participate in their construction. Titled “The ‘IKEA Effect’: When Labor Leads to Love,” the paper studied the satisfaction reported by people who purchased from the Swedish retailer IKEA, which sells inexpensive furniture and household items that buyers must assemble.

Over the next few days, we will look at ways that we actively participate in evangelism. And, like the proud owners of a new waxed-wood coffee table, we will hopefully value evangelism more because of our labor.

In today’s passage, Paul first reminds the Thessalonian believers of their own salvation so that they will be encouraged to pray for the salvation of others (vv. 13–14). We know from personal experience the power of God at work for our salvation. We know that apart from His Spirit and the truth of the gospel, we would still be lost (v. 13). And this moves us to pray.

Our prayers are weapons in a spiritual war, which God uses to accomplish both judgment and salvation (see Eph. 6:10–20; Rev. 8:3–5; 2 Cor. 1:11). In response to the prayers of His people, God sends out gospel laborers into His abundant harvest field (Matt. 9:37–38). We pray, then, for our own evangelistic efforts, asking God to work in the hearts of our unbelieving friends and neighbors. And we pray for the evangelistic efforts of the whole church. We participate in the proclamation of the gospel throughout the whole world when we pray.

The prayer of every evangelist is an act of dependence on God. We know that one person may plant the seed and another may faithfully sprinkle the water, but God is the one who makes the tree of faith grow (see 1 Cor. 3:6–7).

APPLY THE WORD

Set aside time to pray for boldness as you speak to friends and neighbors, and also for the work of pastors and missionaries as they proclaim the gospel throughout the world. Thank the Lord that He allows us to participate in evangelism through our prayers, and praise Him for His faithfulness to hear our prayers and to call people to eternal life.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – AN EVANGELIST’S HEART: HOLINESS

1 Peter 3:8–16

In a 2012 conference address, author Albert Mohler said, “We shouldn’t expect that the gospel will have credibility if we don’t look like gospel people.” As important as our spoken message is—and it is essential—we must also testify about Christ with our entire lives.

Christians ought to be beacons of holiness in the world. Our coworkers, friends, and neighbors may be quick to take revenge, practice deceit, and stir up arguments. But those who belong to Christ should be loving, compassionate, and humble (v. 8). In our quest for peace, we ought to be quick to return blessings to even those who hurt us (vv. 9, 11).

The ultimate goal of our holiness is God’s glory. Theologians use the Latin term coram Deo, “before God’s face,” to describe a life lived in every detail for God. We ought not to live a certain way just because people might be looking at us (see Eph. 6:5–8). We pursue holiness because God has called us to it, and He is pleased when we seek to follow the example of Jesus. This is why we can commit to obeying God even when it may bring persecution (vv. 14, 16).

Holy conduct often leads to opportunities for evangelism (v. 15). Our culture is warped and confused in its thinking, but a life lived according to God’s instruction shines like a beacon pointing toward salvation (see Phil. 2:15–16). Were it not for the work of God in us, we would act just like our neighbors, and the change in our conduct may even startle our neighbors into asking us about our God (v. 15; see 1 Cor. 6:9–11).

When we pursue lives of holiness, we testify to God’s transforming power. If He could change us, He can surely change anyone.

APPLY THE WORD

Our lives show the truth of the gospel we proclaim. Does your life “shine” (Phil. 2:15) for God’s glory to encourage others to follow Him? Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart to reveal any area that may need His correction. And give Him thanks that our holy lives are only possible through His strength, not our own efforts.

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – JESUS THE EVANGELIST

Mark 10:17–31

One useful technological development in recent years is the Global Positioning System, or GPS. Drivers who are directionally challenged can tell their smartphones where they would like to go, and GPS will identify their current location, orient them in the correct direction, and guide them to their goal.

The man in today’s passage was in need of direction. He came to Jesus with a question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v. 17), and Jesus’ kind answer reoriented him. The man was mainly interested in himself—how he had kept the law in the past and how he could be assured of an eternal reward in the future. But instead of giving him directions to heaven, Jesus had compassion on him and showed him that his greater need was to know and serve God.

At first glance, it might seem strange that Jesus evangelized by using the Ten Commandments. He certainly wasn’t saying that the man could earn his salvation by keeping the Law! Rather, the Law should have caused the man to confront God’s holiness and his own shortcomings. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said, “Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

Furthermore, the Law showed the man that following Christ was not simply a quick road to heavenly bliss. The Christian life requires each of us to deny self and take up our cross (see Matt. 16:24). And it is when we give up our own interests that we receive God’s gracious repayment (vv. 29–31).

Jesus’ conversation provides a model for our own evangelism. We too can have compassion, apply God’s Word to their hearts, cause them to count the cost of discipleship, and hold out the promise of heavenly treasure and a new life following Him.

APPLY THE WORD

If we are intent on evangelizing like Jesus did, we must grow in our own knowledge of God and His Word. As you study Scripture, consider how each passage shows you God’s holy and gracious character. Thank God for revealing Himself in the Bible, and be ready to bring those precious truths into your conversations with unbelievers.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – NEW LIFE IN CHRIST

 

Romans 6:1–14

In the 1950s, believers in the Wolaitta district of Ethiopia adopted a saying to describe their conversion. “With two hands,” they would say. “With this hand I renounce the devil and all his works! With this hand I surrender to Jesus Christ! All I am and all I have.”

We come today to the final part of our evangelistic message. We have shared with our friends and neighbors the solemn truth of their sinful condition. We have unveiled the hope of salvation in the two-word plot twist: “But God.” We have called them to respond to this joyful announcement with repentance and faith. Now, we invite them to new life in Christ.

This new life requires “two hands,” as the Ethiopian Christians understood. First, our relationship to sin is fundamentally changed. Because we have a new identity in Christ and are united to Him in His death and resurrection, sin is no longer the inevitable habit of our lives. As Christians, we no longer have to say “yes, sir” to Satan and call him our master (vv. 6, 14). Sin has no power over those who have been set free in Christ. Of course, even Christians sin. But if we sin, “we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). We turn to Him in repentance, assured of His loving forgiveness.

At the same time that we renounce sin, we also offer ourselves to God. This is not a partial offering of only some aspects of our lives. Today’s passage commands us to “offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness” (v. 13). Our new life in Christ is one of willing obedience to His commands and eager expectation for that day when “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).

APPLY THE WORD

An important part of our message is the new life that God gives to those who trust in Christ. Through Him, everyone who believes is released from slavery to sin, set free to righteousness, brought into relationship with the triune God, and promised a future day of being made perfect in holiness. What a privilege to share this news!

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – WE HAVE THE WORDS OF LIFE

 

Romans 1:8–17

The famous nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon was once asked how he would defend the Bible against its critics. He responded, “Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself.”

As we begin the work of evangelism, we often find ourselves already discouraged. We recognize our own shortcomings, and we worry that we are poor examples of the life of faith. We fear that we will have no answers to the objections of unbelievers. We doubt that our feeble words will have any effect on their hearts. Today’s passage is just the encouragement we need! We have the words of life (John 6:68).

First, Paul sets an example for us by his commitment to telling people about Christ. Three times in this passage (vv. 9, 13, 15), Paul expresses how eager he is to come to Rome and preach the gospel. Paul’s confidence that this is exactly what the Romans need can encourage us in our own evangelistic work. What the people in our communities need most is to hear from us about Jesus.

Paul also tells us why he was so determined to preach the gospel and continue preaching it: because he knew it was the power of salvation (vv. 16–17). Every one of us who has been saved from sin knows this to be true. The message of Christ crucified for sinners reveals God’s righteousness to those who receive it by faith (see Rom. 3:21–26). And we cannot be ashamed of the precious truth that has brought us from death to life.

Our words to our unbelieving neighbors may sound inadequate to our ears, but God assures us that the message of the gospel comes from our lips with power—His power!—for the salvation of everyone who believes.

APPLY THE WORD

At times, the work of evangelism seems fruitless and hopeless. God encourages us to this difficult task by reminding us that the gospel is powerful, and we do not need to be either discouraged or ashamed. If you have not already done so, memorize Romans 1:16. Be encouraged by its promise. Then, open the door and let the lion out!

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE CHURCH’S BIG TASK

 

Romans 1:1–7

In recent years the “gig economy” or “sharing economy” has become so prevalent that, according to Pew research, 72 percent of American adults have used one of its sharing or on-demand services. Every day, companies like Uber, Thumbtack, and TaskRabbit match available workers with jobs.

As an apostle, Paul had been given a very specific task by God. Earlier in Paul’s life, he had dedicated himself to persecuting the church. He used his energy to stop the spread of the good news of Christ.

But from the moment of his conversion on the Damascus road, Paul’s life took an entirely different direction (see Acts 9:1–19). From that day, he was “set apart for the gospel of God” (v. 1) to “call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (v. 5). No longer would he squelch the gospel and stomp on the church. Instead, he would lead the church to proclaim salvation through Jesus Christ to all nations.

The people to whom Paul wrote also had a calling. The church at Rome was made up of individuals who each, like Paul, belonged to Jesus Christ. They had been used in a variety of ways in the church, but they shared a common faith (see Rom. 16:1–16). Together with the Apostles, they could trace the promises of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament until His appearing (v. 2). They knew firsthand the love of God, and they worshiped Christ as Lord (vv. 4, 7). And as we see in Romans 1:8, their obvious and active faith had far-reaching, evangelistic effects.

Marked by the preaching of the gospel and the exercise of our faith, the church today receives its job from the Lord: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (Eph. 3:10).

APPLY THE WORD

The important task of proclaiming the love of God in Christ to the world has been given to the church. As part of the church, each Christian joins this work by prayer, financial support, a life of godliness, and active participation in the ministry. How is your local church taking up the task of evangelism? How are you participating?

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – FOR THE GLORY OF GOD

 

Ephesians 1:1–14

Many of our Christian testimonies have the same elements: Someone told us about Jesus, we saw the horror of our sin and understood our need for a Savior, we cried out to Him and were saved. And we have loved and followed Him ever since.

Those testimonies are true accounts of our conversion, but they are also told from our human perspective. In today’s passage, Paul shifts camera lens to show us what our salvation looks like from God’s perspective. Here, we see that even before we were born (v. 4), God was at work to make us His possession. According to “his pleasure and will” (v. 5), He chose us for holiness, predestined us for adoption, redeemed us by His blood, made Himself known to us, and marked us with the seal of His Holy Spirit.

Three times in this passage Paul lays out God’s purpose in His saving work through Christ. He saved us “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6), “for the praise of his glory” (v. 12), and “to the praise of his glory” (v. 14). Jesus came to Earth to live and die for sinners so that God might be known and magnified. When one sinner repents, the heavenly angels rejoice because God receives all the glory (see Luke 15:10).

This means that our evangelistic efforts are not merely focused on the salvation of lost people—though that is important! Our evangelistic efforts aim for something even higher: the glory of God. We evangelize not only because we love people. We evangelize because we love God. As John Piper wrote: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.”

APPLY THE WORD

The goal of evangelism is the glory of God. When sinners trust in Christ, He is honored and lifted high. As evangelists, we need to set our hearts on this ultimate goal. When you share the gospel with people, pray for God’s glory to be magnified in their lives. When people repent and believe, give thanks to God for glorifying Himself.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – OUR SPIRITUAL BATTLE

Ephesians 6:10–12

The Great Wall of Gorgan is one of the most impressive structures ever built. Constructed 1,500 years ago to protect the Persian Empire from enemy raiding parties, it stretches for more than 120 miles in northwestern Iran. Recent excavations have revealed the quality and careful engineering that went into it. At any given time, about 20,000 soldiers would have been stationed along the wall to protect the border.

A strong defense is an important dimension of spiritual warfare. “Finally,” Paul wrote, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (v. 10). Having discussed God’s purposes and plans in salvation, and having urged the Ephesians to live worthy of the gospel and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, he now moved to close his epistle with an exhortation regarding spiritual warfare.

Christ has finished His work of redemption and is seated at God’s right hand, far above all other spiritual powers. Yet at the same time, the battle rages on in the history of the church and in our own lives. We shouldn’t try to fight in our own strength but instead rely on God’s “mighty power” given to us in His “full armor” (v. 11).

Spiritual warfare consists of standing against the devil’s schemes. Satan is the enemy or adversary of God and the gospel, so by definition any plan or intention he has is wicked. He and his fallen angels, all the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” take every opportunity to try and undercut God’s work in the world (v. 12).

We shouldn’t view other people as the enemy. They are made in God’s image and loved by Him. Instead, our real enemy and the real battle are spiritual (see 3:10–11).

APPLY THE WORD

The literary genre of fantasy is one way Christian writers have explored what spiritual warfare might look or feel like. Three insightful novels that take spiritual realities seriously are That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis, War in Heaven by Charles Williams, and The Alpine Tales (actually four books) by Paul J. Willis.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – PAUL’S PASSION: TO SERVE AND PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL

 

Ephesians 3:7–13

Isabella Thoburn was a pioneering missionary to India from 1870 until her death from cholera in 1901. She shared the gospel, opened a school for girls, and started a Hindi-language newspaper called Women’s Friend—all in a society in which women were powerless and unvalued.

Isabella Thoburn shared Paul’s passion to serve and proclaim the gospel. This was the cause to which he had given his life, yet at the same time his ministry, like salvation itself, was a gift of God’s grace (v. 7). He didn’t assert any kind of superiority or even intrinsic worthiness. He wasn’t looking for personal fame or influence. He didn’t think God was lucky that Paul had joined His team. Instead, he understood the tremendous privilege and responsibility he had been given as the apostle to the Gentiles (vv. 8–9). The message of God’s grace is the most important one ever preached! Even so, the focal point was not himself as messenger but rather God’s plan of salvation, the good news of the gospel, the “boundless riches of Christ.”

The revelation of the mystery of God’s plan is intended not only for people but also for Satan and his fallen angels (vv. 10–11). The Lord’s sovereignty includes not only what happens but also who, when, and why. To at last perceive the incredible wisdom and power of God’s plan, and the absolute superiority of the Son (1:20–21), must have been a severe blow to the rebel spirits. And notice how they recognize this truth: “through the church” (v. 10).

In our everyday personal spiritual lives, these cosmic truths mean that we can “approach God with freedom and confidence” (v. 12). Jesus has opened the way to the throne of grace (see Heb. 4:14–16). Suffering for Him should not make us discouraged but give us hope in which to glory (v. 13).

APPLY THE WORD

Do you think God can’t save you? That you’ve said too much, done too much, been His enemy for too long? Then your view of His love and forgiveness is far too small! Paul himself started out a rabid anti-Christian. He pursued the early Christians in order to imprison and persecute them. If God can save a person like that, He can save you!

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – GOD’S GIFT FOR MISSION

 

Acts 1:1–8; 2:1–11

The Christmas season is celebrated with gifts. Millions of families across the globe will gather to open packages big and small. Children love to peek into their stockings or rip the wrapping paper to discover what new toy or treasure or candy might lie inside.

The greatest gift any of us has been given is God-in-flesh, Jesus, who came to reconcile us to Himself. Christians celebrate that today. And Jesus also told His disciples to wait for another gift, the one “my Father promised” (1:4). Although previously they had been baptized with water, “in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (1:5).

This would be the fulfillment of Christ’s promise given in yesterday’s reading. Notice that Jesus said they would receive this gift in order to bless others: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8). The coming of the Spirit would not only bring Christ’s comfort and presence; the Spirit was also meant to empower the disciples for witness and mission in the world.

As the disciples gathered together, the Spirit descended on them in a miraculous way, with the result that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (2:4). This was no private spiritual experience, but the ability to communicate the gospel to people who had gathered in Jerusalem from across the globe. Just look at the list of people groups in verses 9 through 11!

God’s gift to the world was Christ. After Christ’s ascension, He enabled His people, through the presence of His Spirit, to take the gospel to the world. The gift of God should lead to mission.

APPLY THE WORD

Take time today to take stock of the gifts you have been given—not just those you unwrapped this Christmas but also the many gifts and blessings you have received from the Lord. Be sure to praise the One who gives the greatest gifts (see James 1:17). Ask the Lord to help you use His gifts to you in a way that serves others and brings Him glory.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – PROMISED PRESENCE

John 14:25–27; 16:7–14

In today’s technological age, family members can now easily stay in touch with each other even when they are separated by thousands of miles. Through WhatsApp, Skype, iMessage, and more, distance no longer needs to keep people from talking and seeing one another.

When Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be departing from Earth, He offered something far better than a video chat to stay in touch. His bodily presence would be replaced with the coming of “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit” (14:26). The name itself, Advocate, means “one who comes alongside.” With Christ’s departure, we now have one who remains with us. Our hearts should not be troubled, for Jesus has left us His peace (14:27).

The Holy Spirit brings us more than merely a sense of comfort and security. Jesus promised that He would “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (14:26). The Spirit’s presence in the world opens our eyes to the truth of sin, the reality of Christ’s identity, and the assurance of a coming judgment in the world. In short, the Spirit makes it possible for us to know the truth (16:13). Far from God being absent, the Spirit is continually at work, making the gospel known in our own hearts and around the world.

As Jesus prepared to depart, He promised His presence in a new way. The Holy Spirit does not bring a different truth but the very same truth that belongs to the Father and the Son. As Christ said, “It is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine” (16:14–15). Thanks be to God, we are not left as orphans in the world.

APPLY THE WORD

During the holidays, many people struggle with depression and loneliness. Are there those in your church or neighborhood who might be alone—perhaps international students or the elderly? Invite them to share in your holiday celebrations. Sharing the gift of presence with them reflects God’s promise of presence with us through the Holy Spirit.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – REJECTING THE GOD-IN-FLESH

John 8:39–59

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis notes that the same person might both be a fool and have a graduate degree. Being highly educated does not guarantee wisdom and spiritual insight. We see this combination of foolishness and education in the way that the religious leaders interacted with Jesus in today’s reading.

The identity of Jesus was abundantly clear. He had “come here from God” (v. 42), sent by the Father to teach His truth. More than that, Jesus had His life-giving power (v. 51). Jesus intensifies His bold claim about His true identity at the end of the passage when He declared: “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (v. 58). Using the very name of God given to Moses in Exodus 3:14, Jesus identified Himself as the God of Israel now standing before them.

The well-educated religious leaders displayed only foolishness and spiritual blindness in their response. Instead of receiving Christ’s teaching, they were trying to kill Him. Instead of loving and following Christ, they insulted Him and accused Him of being demon possessed. Ultimately Jesus identified the underlying cause of their rejection of His teaching: “The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (v. 47).

These stinging words should have brought humility and repentance. Instead, when Jesus revealed His full identity as the great “I AM,” their response deepened from hostility to attempted execution (v. 59). God had come in the flesh to bring light and life to His creation, and He was met with rejection. That rejection would ultimately lead to the cross, confirming the opening words of John’s Gospel: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).

APPLY THE WORD

Many people “celebrate” Christmas while rejecting its true meaning. They are content to have a babe in the manger without recognizing Him as the coming of God in the flesh. Spend time in prayer today for your loved ones who need to accept Jesus as the Son of God, and ask the Holy Spirit to open their hearts to God’s love this Christmas.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – GOD TABERNACLES AMONG US

John 1:1–3, 14–18

All four Gospels provide an account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, but they each start the narrative in a different place. Matthew and Luke begin with Christ’s birth, and Mark launches into the adult ministry of John the Baptist and then introduces Jesus. The Gospel of John, however, begins at the very beginning, with the creation of the world.

Echoing the first line of Genesis and the theme of creation, today’s reading opens with, “In the beginning was the Word” (v. 1). The Word that was there at the beginning, we are told, was not only “with God,” but also “was God.” Just as Genesis 1 tells us that God spoke things into existence, so now John tells us that it was by this powerful, creative Word of God that “all things were made” (v. 3). In other words, the Gospel of John introduces the main subject of all of Scripture: the Word of God, who created the world, who is God Himself.

Astonishingly, that same creative, eternal Word “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (v. 14). The Creator God took on a human body and walked among us. The phrase translated as “made his dwelling among us” uses the same Greek word that means “tabernacled among us.” Just as the old tabernacle was the place of God’s dwelling with His people Israel, so now God has a new tabernacle, a new dwelling place, to be with His people on earth. That dwelling place is none other than the person of Jesus.

Because of the Incarnation, the God whom “no one has ever seen” is now “made known” (v. 18). This is, indeed, a “grace in place of grace” (v. 16). Whereas previously God had made Himself known in shadows and symbols, now in Jesus, we see the full glory of God.

APPLY THE WORD

Christian songwriter Stuart Townsend captures the power and beauty of the Incarnation: “When Love came down to earth, / And made His home with men, / The hopeless found a hope, / The sinner found a friend.” God has shown His love by choosing to tabernacle with us in the flesh! How will you respond with praise in your own life?

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – AN INTERNAL FIX

 

Ezekiel 36:22–28; Jeremiah 31:31–34

Imagine a major automobile accident that not only shatters the windshield and dents the hood but also damages the motor and transmission. Taking the car to an auto-body repair shop would make no difference if the engine remains damaged. Having a shiny, dent-free car with no working engine does the owner no good! Only by repairing the vehicle inside and out will it be properly restored to working condition.

The same is required of God’s restoration of humanity. We have already seen God’s intentions to return the people to the land, forgive their sins, and dwell with them again. Those messages are echoed afresh in Ezekiel. God would “gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land,” and “cleanse you from all your impurities” (Ezek. 36:24–25). We might describe these actions as God’s auto-body repair shop; by His mercy,

God’s people are clean again and restored to their home.

But more is needed than just a return to the land and forgiveness of sins. An internal fix is also required, a repair of the heart itself. As Ezekiel says, “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees” (Ezek. 36:26–27). Likewise, Jeremiah describes the “new covenant” in the same terms: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer. 31:33).

The barriers to our relationship with God include more than the need to deal with our external sinful actions. Our entire inward being is inclined toward sin and rebellion against God. Only by addressing matters of the heart can we be restored to full relationship with God.

APPLY THE WORD

The promises of the new covenant are fulfilled in Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus called the cup “the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). And in Christ, a love of God “has been poured out into our hearts” (Rom. 5:5). As you look forward to Christmas, give thanks that Jesus transforms our hearts and makes possible a relationship with God.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – GOD’S INTENTIONS FOR THE WORLD

A GPS navigational system can be a useful tool when driving in unfamiliar territory. Sometimes after taking a wrong turn, however, the best navigational advice is simply, “Turn around.”

Our reading today offers the spiritual equivalent to this GPS command: repentance. Although God was “very angry” (1:2) over Israel’s disobedience, His command through Zechariah was intended to get them back on track. “Return to me . . . and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty” (1:3). The path toward that reconciliation was quite simple: “Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices” (1:4). Repentance is the shortest and most effective means of restoring our relationship with God.

Like many drivers who refuse to follow the GPS advice, previous generations of Israelites failed to heed God’s prophets. Despite God’s warnings, “they would not listen or pay attention to me” (1:4). But now this generation was different; they repented and recognized that “the LORD Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve” (1:6). It was the first step on a path toward a better relationship with God.

The result of their repentance was a beautiful, joyous promise of reconciliation. God urged His people to “Shout and be glad” because “I am coming, and I will live among you” (2:10). The people would once again be restored to the land. But do not miss the bigger picture here. God intended a relationship with more than just Israel. “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people” (2:11). His call was for “all mankind” to “be still before the LORD” (2:13). God’s intention is to have relationship with all of His creation, not just one particular people group.

APPLY THE WORD

God’s reconciling love. Ask your pastor or local church leaders about opportunities to support missionary efforts, Bible translation, or disaster relief services in Christ’s name. You can be part of spreading the gospel through your gifts and prayers.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – RELATIONAL TOUGH LOVE

Ezekiel 37:21–28

In his book Rebel with a Cause, Franklin Graham describes the tough love meted out by his parents during his rebellious youth. “ ‘If you don’t stop right now,’ Mama said, ‘I’m going to pull over and lock you up in the trunk.’ . . . Before I knew what was happening, she opened the back door, grabbed me with both hands, jerked me around back, opened the trunk, put me inside, and slammed the lid shut. I wasn’t expecting Mama to drive all the way to Asheville before letting me out, but she drove on and on.”

God had to enact tough love toward the Israelites after generations of disobedience. He sent the Babylonians who invaded the land, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, and carried the people into exile. God’s discipline did not mean He had abandoned His people. His intention was to restore and renew His relationship with them. First, God promised to gather His people and “bring them back into their own land” (v. 21). Because the land was one of God’s original promises to Abraham, a return to the land was a sign of God’s care and blessing over His people. God also addressed the problem of sin that would accompany the return from exile, promising salvation for His backsliding people (v. 23).

Second, God promised new leadership. Unlike the previously wicked rulers, God promised a new king, and under this new leadership, Israel would “follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees” (v. 24).

Finally, God declared a restoration of His dwelling place. “I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them” (vv. 26–27). His dwelling includes the promises of a restored relationship, a “covenant of peace” that will bind God to His people.

APPLY THE WORD

God’s love for us is described in H. W. Baker’s hymn, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.” Consider singing or reading this hymn today as a reminder of God’s unfailing relationship with us:

“Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed, but yet in love he sought me

And on his shoulder gently laid, and home, rejoicing, brought me.”

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – GOD’S INFINITE YET INTIMATE PRESENCE

1 Kings 8:1–13, 27–30

Before the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, the tabernacle was a movable sanctuary, traveling with the people as they journeyed. After subduing their enemies and establishing the nation, however, King Solomon built a temple for the Lord in Jerusalem.

That temple was meant as a permanent dwelling place for God, and the dedication of this space was a significant moment in Israelite history: “All the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families” (v. 1) were present to witness the occasion. The priests processed into the sanctuary with the ark and “all the sacred furnishings” (v. 4). So many sacrifices were offered that “they could not be recorded or counted” (v. 5). Most importantly, the solemn occasion was ratified by God. “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple” (vv. 10–11).

God now had a permanent dwelling place on Earth with His people. But Solomon’s prayer indicates that the temple still wasn’t fully adequate. “Even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (v. 27). Indeed, elsewhere Scripture proclaims: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isa. 66:1); the hosts of heaven proclaim: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3).

Then why have a temple? Solomon’s prayer hints at the answer: because of God’s mercy. For a time, the Israelite temple was God’s chosen space to reveal His presence and provide fellowship. The temple was God’s way of offering His presence and forgiveness to His people (v. 30).

APPLY THE WORD

As we approach Christmas, consider how you can arrange your home to celebrate our ability to meet with God. Perhaps you can place a “prayer chair” near your Christmas tree or manger scene, or you can create space for friends and family to gather to sing carols or praise the Lord. God’s infinite presence is willing to be in intimate relationship with you.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – A COPY OF HEAVENLY WORSHIP

Exodus 25:8–22

One delightful attraction at Windsor Castle is Queen Mary’s Doll House, the largest doll house in the world. Equipped with electricity, running water, functioning elevators, and flush toilets, the Royal Collection Trust describes it as a “perfect replica in miniature of an aristocratic home.”

The Israelite tabernacle was a replica in miniature of God’s heavenly dwelling. Although God could not be contained in space, the tabernacle symbolized God’s intentional dwelling with His people on earth. The furnishings of the sanctuary reflected heavenly realities that God showed Moses on the mountain (v. 8; see Heb. 8:5).

First, notice God’s concern for beauty. The Ark of the Covenant (like the atonement cover and cherubim) was made “with pure gold, both inside and out” (v. 11). Later chapters reveal additional attention to beauty for the curtains, lampstand, and altars. The place of God’s dwelling reflected the worship of God in “the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 96:9, KJV). Second, the tabernacle reflected the cosmic reality of God’s heavenly dwelling. Just as God is surrounded in heaven by angelic beings (see Isa. 6:1–3), so too the ark was overshadowed by two massive cherubim (vv. 18–20). Third, the tabernacle underscored the centrality of God’s word for His people. Twice, Scripture repeats the instruction to “put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law” (vv. 16, 21). There, above the Ark of the Covenant, God would “meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites” (v. 22).

The tabernacle symbolized God’s dwelling with His people; but it required the acceptance and obedience of God’s word. God’s presence is most clearly manifested when His Word is established among His people.

APPLY THE WORD

When you join others in worship today, you participate in the beauty of worship, the cosmic dimension of worship, and the centrality of God’s Word in worship. As we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ, give thanks that God has both revealed Himself to us and invited us into relational worship of Him.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – RESPONDING TO GRACE: THE COVENANT WITH MOSES

Exodus 19:1–6; 20:1–7

This past summer, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that traveled nearly 600 miles. The launch demonstrated Kim Jong-un’s growing military power and deepened global anxiety over North Korea’s intentions about using their weaponry.

In today’s reading, God’s display of power and might reinforces His good intentions for Israel. Having rescued Israel from Egypt, God declared, “You will be my treasured possession” (19:5). God’s intention was to be in relationship with His people. He cherished them as His own. And there was more! God said, “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (19:5–6). Out of all the nations of the earth, God had specifically chosen the Israelites. As a “kingdom of priests” they were to represent God to the rest of the world. As a “holy nation” they were to be set apart from the nations around them.

In particular, the Ten Commandments were the means by which the Israelites were to live as a priestly, holy nation. The first four commandments delineated their relationship with God. They were to worship God alone, not carved images; they were to use the Lord’s name with respect; and they were to observe the Sabbath day as holy (20:3–11). The remaining six commandments prescribed their relationship with others: to honor parents and to refrain from murder, adultery, theft, lying, and coveting (20:12–17). Obedience to these commands was essential to their flourishing as God’s people.

Notice the underlying principle of grace. God did not command obedience as the means of earning relationship with God. God had already declared His love for them first. Obedience to His commandments was intended as the response to the love already shown.

APPLY THE WORD

Examine your own attitude about obedience in the Christian life. Has obedience become a means of avoiding punishment? Or perhaps you obey as a way of earning God’s favor and love? If so, ask the Holy Spirit to correct this attitude and to change your heart to see obedience as a response of love for a God who already loves you.

 

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