Blame

The only person to blame for my sin is me

Read: Deuteronomy 3

At that time I pleaded with the LORD: … “Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan – that fine hill country and Lebanon.”
But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough!” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me any more about this matter. … But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” (Deuteronomy 3:23, 25-26, 28)

Reflect:

Moses has just reminded the Israelites of their crushing defeat of Og, king of Bashan, and all of his cities and towns. Moses has told how he has apportioned the land of these two conquered kings (Sihon and Og) to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and to the half-tribe of Manasseh. Yet the thing Moses keeps coming back to is the limit God has set upon him.

Moses blames the people of Israel again (cf 1:37), but it is his own sin that is keeping him out of the promised land. Moses needed to repent of his sin, not blame others for it. Moses, though a leader of God’s people, was far from perfect. He frequently got angry; and when angry, he made rash decisions.

Thrown down and break the stone tablets on which God had inscribed the ten commandments because the people were worshipping a golden calf? Yep, that was Moses. Burn that idol and make the people drink the ashes? Yep, that was Moses again. Hit a rock twice with his staff because he was frustrated with the people’s grumbling? Indeed Moses did that, and no one made him do it.

How many times do I do things in anger, frustration or just plan grumpiness that I will later regret? Many, too many. Thanks be to God for his provision of forgiveness!

crux:

The only person to blame for my sin is me… and God is always just in his judgements.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are a just judge, yet you are also merciful. You allowed Moses to see into the promised land even while you refused him entry. You did not leave your people leaderless but appointed a successor to Moses, the man Joshua.

Truly, I deserve life in prison – or rather, an eternity in hell – for all my sin of rebellion against you and your commands. Even when I try to keep you as first in my life, I find I am letting other concerns crowd you out. I am to blame. I am the one who is guilty.

Wash me whiter than snow, LORD. Forgive my sin and blot out my iniquities, cover over my transgressions and remember them no more.

Thanks be to you for your Son Jesus Christ and for all he has done for me.

Please help me to encourage and strengthen others around me for the good works you have set before them. Please do not let me be envious, especially when I see others doing tasks I would like to do myself, but make me glad that your people are being served and edified.

Amen.

Winner

The LORD wins every battle he fights

Read: Deuteronomy 2

“Today you are to pass by the region of Moab in Ar. … I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.” (That too was considered a land of the Rephaites, who used to live there; … They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The LORD destroyed them from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place.) (Deuteronomy 2:18, 19b-20a, 21)

Reflect:

It must have been encouraging to the people to hear that the Ammonites had driven out the people “as tall as Anakites” from Ar before settling there. If the Ammonites could do it – or rather, if the LORD would do it for the Ammonites – surely the Israelites had nothing to fear as they entered their promised land.

Their parents may have feared Anakites 40 years ago, (Numbers 13:31-33) but Moses reassured them this day. If God could choose to establish Esau and Lot’s descendants in lands of their own, they could trust the LORD to establish them in their own land, Anakites or no!

Then Moses went on to remind them of their defeat of Sihon, erstwhile king of Heshbon. Again, if God would give them power to defeat Sihon’s army, surely he would do the same for any remaining opposition as they conquered the rest of the land he had promised to them.

crux:

The LORD wins every battle he fights.

Reflect:

LORD God Almighty,

You are strong and powerful, a mighty warrior who fights to provide your people with the blessings you have promised to them.

Thank you for fighting for me so I may enter your promised land of rest and provision, bounty and flourishing, the kingdom of your Son.

LORD, sometimes I am tempted to forget that you are strong, to forget that you are mighty. Please help me, in those times, to look back on the many ways you have fought for my benefit in the past. Please help me to recall that what you have begun in me, you will carry on to completion. Please help me to recognise the way you have blessed others and delight in your provision for them, as well as seeking your blessing for myself.

Thank you that in answer to our prayers, you brought A to KYB today. Please continue to comfort her by your Spirit, to uphold her in your love and to forgive her by the blood of your Son.

Amen.

Recount

The LORD’s plans prevail even when his people fail

Read: Deuteronomy 1

In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them. (Deuteronomy 1:3)

Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either.” (Deuteronomy 1:37)

Reflect:

In Deuteronomy, Moses is recorded giving a series of sermons. I think I’ve read that there are five, but there isn’t total agreement about where each sermon begins or ends. My Bible translation (NIV 2011) does not include speech marks because the quotations are too extensive, basically being the whole book. Instead, the beginning of Moses’ first sermon is delineated with a line break.

Moses preaches these sermons before the people enter the promised land. It seems Moses’s first sermon is not chronological, but categorical in its order. He begins by recounting the major events that have brought the people to this place:

  1. God told them to leave Mt Horeb (aka Mt Sinai) and go to the promised land.
  2. Moses decided the people were “too heavy a burden for me to carry alone” (1:9) so leaders of the twelve tribes were appointed. He apparently gave no thought to the fact that God was actually carrying the burden for him. This may relate to Exodus 18:25-26, which is recorded before Moses received the law and the people left Mt Horeb.
  3. The people reached the edge of the promised land.
  4. The people asked to send spies into the land so (in similar style to point 2) twelve spies were appointed by Moses, including Caleb.
  5. The people refused to go into the promised land, grumbling in fear, despite Moses’ reassurance.
  6. The LORD refused to let Israel into the promised land.
  7. Moses blames the people because the LORD won’t let him enter the Promised Land either (even though his own disobedience was to blame, Numbers 20:6-12; again, this event is out of chronological order, but fits with a prior category topic).
  8. The people are told by the LORD to wander for 40 years.
  9. The people unsuccessfully attempt to enter the promised land and weep before the LORD.
  10. The people wander for 40 years.

This story makes me think of God’s steadfast faithfulness as he patiently waits for me to repent and fall in with his plan.

crux:

The LORD’s plans prevail even when his people fail.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your people failed you when they refused to enter the Promised Land because they were afraid; but your plans to teach them to trust you prevailed as they wandered in the desert and ultimately as the disciples learned to trust Jesus.

Moses failed you when he struck the rock twice, dishonouring you and your miraculous provision; but your plan to be the only sovereign authority of your people prevailed with Moses’ death and ultimately with Jesus’ birth.

I have failed you many times; yet your plan to rescue me from my sins and reign as Lord over my life has prevailed with the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of your Holy Spirit.

Your plans prevail because you are in charge of the universe. Sometimes, this means your people face your judgement. Thank you for Jesus, who has faced your wrath for my sake.

Amen.

 

Worship

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus was worshipped

Read: Matthew 28

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. (Matthew 28:8-9)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17)

Reflect:

“The worshipped him.” Worship. This is the first fundamental change in Jesus’ followers after his resurrection from the dead. As well as following him, listening to his teaching and trying to imitate his way of life, as any disciple did with their rabbi, now Jesus’ followers began to worship him.

According to my Oxford Dictionary of English, worship (as a verb) means “to show reverence and adoration of a deity.” As I followed the rabbit trail of words associated with worship in the Oxford Dictionary, I came across words like reverence and respect, adoration and admiration, veneration. These are deep, strong responses that are only appropriate in response to a divine being, a deity.

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus’ followers began to show reverence for him that was only appropriate for a divine being, for God. They hadn’t worshipped Jesus before his death. So, what changed?

Jesus had told his followers he would be put to death and three days later, rise. But now God had done it. Jesus had been dead and now he was alive again. Clearly this could only be the work of God. So the disciples realised, deep in their souls, that Jesus Christ truly was (as he still is!) God himself. So, naturally, they worshipped him.

Some doubted. That’s also natural… it’s not like this had ever happened before. The most similar incidents (such as the raising of Lazarus) were all deeds of Jesus as well. But through their doubt and confusion, the disciples realised that Jesus was different. Jesus was not merely a man, Jesus was also God.

crux:

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus was worshipped – reverenced and adored as God himself.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I confess it is easy for me to slip into thinking of Jesus as only a man; a superior, marvellous man. I somehow forget that he is God. Or I say it, but somehow it doesn’t sink in deeply. So I think intellectually, academically, “Jesus is God” but I do not worship Jesus, I do not really respond to Jesus as divine.

Please help me to worship Jesus. May I adore Jesus, admiring all his lovely attributes and achievements. May I reverence Jesus, respecting him for his qualities and abilities. May I love him and enjoy him, tremble before him and fear him.

Amen.

Guilty

Every person is guilty – only some are forgiven

Read: Matthew 27

A:  But Jesus remained silent.
B:  The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the Living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. (Matthew 26:63-64a)

B’:  Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
A’:  When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. (Matthew 27:11-12)

Reflect:

In the overlap of chapters here, Matthew has constructed a chiasmus*.

Remember, the chapter divisions and verse numbering system was added over a millennium later, so it makes no difference that this literary feature should occur over a chapter boundary. The beginning and end of the X crossover literary shape are 26:62 where the high priest asks Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony?” and 27:13 where Pilate asks Jesus, “Don’t you hear this testimony?”

Throughout the chiasmus, different responses to Jesus, particularly to the identity claims of Jesus, are highlighted. Jesus is identified as “the Messiah, the Son of God” at the beginning and as “the king of the Jews” at the end of the chiasmus. Then, after dual mentions of death (26:66) / burial (27:7) and prophecies (26:64 and 27:9), there is a major contrast set up in two passages. Peter disowns Jesus and repents of his sin with weeping; Judas, who has betrayed Jesus, regrets his sin and commits suicide.

Finally, there is the centre of the chiasmus where the main idea is revealed and the crux of the rhetorical form displayed. 27:1 reveals the guilt of those who planned to kill Jesus, the Jewish leadership: “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.” They planned, they plotted. They deliberately determined to put Jesus Christ to death.

This chiasmus reveals that Jesus was the only innocent person present on that day. Jesus was not guilty of blasphemy, because Jesus really was the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus was not guilty of treason, because Jesus really was the king of the Jews. Jesus Christ was innocent, but those who put him to death were guilty of blasphemy and treason both.

crux:

Every person is guilty – only some are forgiven.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for forgiving my sin and thank you for the surprising pleasures you have given me today.

Thank you for the opportunity to pray for my friend as she enters her 36th week of pregnancy, after I saw her at the shops during my lunch hour.

Thank you for the chance to talk to my students about who I believe you are, for the chance to tell them that all people are sinners, but those who submit to Jesus as Boss and trust in him as Rescuer are forgiven sinners. Thank you that they raised the questions, so I was free to answer.

Thank you for the time to hold my daughter’s hand as I drove her home from the bus.

Thank you for the quiet conversation with my son in the car as we drove to the city.

Please help me to keep honouring you in my everyday ordinary.

Amen.

* Rhetorical Ramble:

A chiasmus is my favourite literary structure. It is a rhetorical scheme “in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order.” It has its origin in the meaning “crosswise arrangement” from the Greek name of the letter chi, which looks a bit like the English letter X. (Oxford Dictionary of English)

John 1:1-2 is a short and sweet chiasmus :

A: In the beginning was the Word,
B: and the Word was with God
X: and the Word was God.
B’: He was with God
A’: in the beginning.

The centre of the chiasmus is the centre and most important point of the author’s argument. Hence, in John 1:1-2 above, John is using claims of Jesus’ eternal existence and presence with God to prove Jesus’ identity as God.

In the same way that a chiasmus is a crosswise arrangement of words or ideas used to highlight the central idea, this blog is about the crux: “the decisive or most important point at issue… the ‘cross’.” (Oxford Dictionary of English)

The crux of life at crux.live is Jesus Christ and the Cross, and the truths that I need Jesus, so I seek to know Jesus, so I may love Jesus and live in Jesus and live like Jesus.

(This rhetorical ramble was originally posted as part of Light.)

 

Scripture

All of Scripture reveals God’s plan to save sinners by the sacrifice of his Son

Read: Matthew 26

“Do you not think I can call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve leagues of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54)

“But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:56)

Reflect:

Matthew began his gospel with specific reference to the Old Testament Scriptures that were fulfilled in the events of the birth of Jesus. Now, as the Easter narrative begins, Jesus’ own words draw attention to the fulfilment of prophecy.

Jesus predicts the disciples will desert him (which they do, v56) with the words, “for it is written” (v31). He quotes Zechariah, one of the last written books of the Old Testament. Jesus later refers to the Scriptures as a whole (v54) as well as to the prophetic writings as a collection (v56). Jesus knows Scripture, he knows when and how it will be fulfilled, and he knows it must be fulfilled.

Scripture is not solely a record of God’s interaction with his people, as if it was a plain historical text. (It is certainly not plain!) Nor is Scripture just God’s revelation of himself to his people, as if it were a dry theological treatise. (It is not dry at all!) Rather, Scripture is also a record of God’s plan to save sinners through the sacrifice of his Son – a plan now achieved by this sacrifice and awaiting only the triumphant return of Jesus to claim these people as his own.

crux:

All of Scripture reveals God’s plan to save sinners by the sacrifice of his Son.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for your deliberate plan and foreknowledge whereby you purposed to save sinners – including me – by the sacrifice of your Son. Thank you for making your plan public in the written record of Scripture. Thank you for saving me from my sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Thank you!

Please help me when I teach on Tuesdays in my KYB group. Please help me to keep in mind that all Scripture is about Jesus and how you would save and did save sinners through him. Please help me to explain this, to make it clear from the text. Please help me to see Jesus in the pages of Proverbs, which we are studying at the moment. Please help me to keep pointing these ladies to how Jesus Christ fulfilled these Scriptures and all of Scripture.

Amen.

Sorting

God will judge people on their response to his Son, their faithfulness with his gifts and their love for others

Read: Matthew 25

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.'” (Matthew 25:10-12)

Reflect:

This chapter has three parables that Jesus told to warn people that they would be judged by God at a certain time for their deeds on earth. Judgement is not a popular idea today, or, I imagine, in Jesus’ day. No one likes to be told that their present way of life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s standard. But Jesus told at least three parables warning of coming judgement, so I need to take notice.

In the first parable, the virgin brides are judged on whether they are ready to receive their groom.

In the second, the servants are judged on the way they managed their master’s money in his absence; on whether they were faithful or not with the tasks that he gave them.

In the third parable, the people are judged on how they responded to Jesus in his “distressing disguise” (as Mother Teresa described it); how they responded to the sick, poor, hungry, thirsty, needy, imprisoned.

crux:

God will judge people on their response to his Son, their faithfulness with his gifts and their love for their neighbours.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the Good Judge, the Just and Fair Judge, the Righteous Judge.

You have the right to judge because you are our Creator and King.
You have the right to judge because you are Righteous and True.
You have the right to judge because you are Steadfast and Sure.
You have the right to judge because you are Love and Light.
You have the right to judge because you are God, the only God.

Please grant me mercy LORD, for I am a sinner, guilty before you, in need of the forgiveness won by your Son for me.

Please enable me to keep watch; to stand firm in faith and be ready to receive Jesus Christ when he returns to claim his kingdom. Please help me to be faithful with the gifts you have given me through your Spirit; please help me to use them wisely and generously to equip your saints for the good works you prepared. Please help me to care for my neighbours, especially my family and my church.

Amen.

Firm

To stand firm to the end, I must stand on the words of Christ

Read: Matthew 24

“But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)

Reflect:

One day, Jesus will return. I’m not sure I’ve fully understood all the details, but I am sure about that fact. And on that day I will be saved: fully, completely, eternally… if, in the meantime, I stand firm.

How do I ensure I will stand firm? The first thing I need to do is choose my ground. Jesus said (Matthew 7:24-27) that the person who builds their life on his teaching will be like a person who builds their house on a rock – he said this before concrete. I need a firm foundation if I want to stand firm. I need Jesus’ words.

Psalm 1 advises that the person who meditates on God’s word day and night will be like a tree planted by a stream whose leaf does not wither – this was written before hydroponics. I need deep roots that reach down to Living Water if I want to stand firm. I need the whole Bible – morning and evening, waking and walking.

I need Jesus’ words, which will stand to the end.

crux:

In order to stand firm to the end, I must stand on the words of Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are immortal, eternal, everlasting. You have no beginning and no end. Your words endure forever.

But, like the grass which withers and the flowers that fade, I will pass away. LORD, please enable me to stand firm in my faith until the end. Whether I meet my end in death or in the return of my King, I pray that you will keep me standing firm, holding tight to Jesus, until that end.

Keep me reading your word and responding to it. Keep me loving and enjoying Jesus. May I be satisfied with the blessings that I receive every time I meditate upon your word. Please help me to read it in the mornings as well as the evenings because as you know I’m struggling to get out of bed in the colder, darker mornings of Autumn.

Please help me to stand firm, on the eternal words of your Son.

Amen.

Teacher

I want to be a teacher who opens the door of the kingdom to others

Read: Matthew 23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)

Reflect:

As a teachers, I can imagine few greater professional criticisms than this one.

It’s like saying to a literacy educator, “You make it harder and more confusing for your students. You don’t read yourself, and you take books away from people trying to learn to read.” This criticism sounds extreme when translated to a modern parallel in this way. But that is the sort of complaint Jesus made against those who were meant to be teaching God’s Law.

Jesus told the Pharisees they were blocking the way to God’s kingdom when they should have been showing the way and leading the way. They weren’t just bad teachers, they were anti-teachers.

Alas! Jesus said their end will be desperate: “Look. Your house is left to you deflate.” (23:38) All their hypocrisy would leave the house of God, the temple in Jerusalem, empty and deserted; a wasteland rather than a place of worship.

In contrast, I see Jesus, the perfect Rabbi, who led his disciples faithfully and humbly. How his heart must have ached to see such anti-teachers as these influencing God’s people.

crux:

I want to be a teacher who opens the door of the kingdom to others.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your Son Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived. Your Scriptures are the greatest revelation that has ever been given. Your Spirit is the greatest guide who ever led the way.

May I follow in Christ’s steps. May I be a teacher who opens doors, not shuts them. Please use my teaching at work to reduce recidivism. Please use my training to help people to gain the skills to work to support their own needs and those of their families. Please use my teaching to help men keep in contact in a positive way with the families from whom they are separated.

But LORD, I want so much more than that for my students. May they learn how to read and then choose to read your Word. May your Scriptures be plain before them so they know the glory of your grace for them in Jesus Christ. May they read their way to meeting you and entering your kingdom by the blood of your Son.

Thank you for your love to the “least of these”, LORD. Please bless them with an open door to become citizens of your kingdom by your mercy. Please grant them a future with you.

Amen.

Testing

Jesus was tested and came out on top

Read: Matthew 22

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. (Matthew 22:23)

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29)

No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:46)

Reflect:

On Tuesday, we got the results of our youngest son’s scholarship test in the mail, telling us how his test results compared to the other 2500 smart kids who sat the same test. Turns out, he’s quite a bright kid, comparatively speaking. But none of his results mattered until we got the letter that told us whether or not he had a scholarship. For that, we had to wait until today. (He did! Yippee!)

The thing about today’s chapter is that it’s all about testing. Jesus was being tested by the Pharisees, the Sadducees, even the Herodians. Everyone wanted to see if they could trap Jesus. As ACER wrote of their scholarship tests, “These are difficult tests.” The Jewish religious leaders sent their best and brightest to offer their most difficult puzzles and conundrums for Jesus to solve, fully expecting him to fail.

But Jesus was able to solve every puzzle they set before him. Unlike his “expert” critics, Jesus knew both the Scriptures and the power of God. Jesus knew revelation both public (in the Scriptures) and personal (through experience of God’s power).

Whether or not we’ve done well raising an intellectually blessed son to succeed academically to this point, it must be a far more important duty for us to teach all of our children to know the Scriptures and to experience God’s power in their lives, through his Son and his Spirit.

crux:

Jesus was tested and came out on top.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You know I’m super excited about the results of S’s tests and his academic scholarship. Thank you for blessing him with such an awesome brain!

Please help Jeff and I to teach the kids about you as well as about school stuff. Please help us to show them how you are at work by your mighty power in our lives and in theirs.

And please help me to remember that no matter where I ‘rank’ myself as a mum, regardless of where my kids ‘rank’ socially or academically, your Son Jesus is the Be All and End All, the Alpha and Omega, the Supreme Sovereign Lord of All.

Amen.