Purity

God calls his people to purity so they won’t fall into paganism

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Read: Deuteronomy 7

Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serving other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)

Reflect:

At the end of his first sermon (chapter 4), Moses reintroduced the people of Israel to their God in a homily related to the first commandment. Now, after listing the core laws (chapter 5) and explaining the responsibility set upon parents to instruct their children in the law (chapter 6), Moses returns to the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” He explains the implications for living in such a way to fulfil this command.

Moses gives instructions for entering the promised land, where God will drive out the nations before them. The people are to show no mercy (5:2) nor look on the people with pity (5:16). Instead, they are to destroy the people of these pagan nations. Why? If Israel does not destroy the current occupants of the promised land, they will be led astray by them, led into idolatry by them. Then the LORD will punish Israel, just as he is punishing these seven nations now. The LORD says his people must stay separate from the people they dispossess.

Today, God is not calling his people to dispossess other nations. Rather, he calls us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). But we are still to remain separate in some ways so we do not become ensnared by the trickery of false gods and the lies of idol worshippers. For this reason, it is still only appropriate for Christians to marry fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 7:39, 2 Corinthians 6:14).

crux:

God calls his people to purity so they won’t fall into paganism.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are holy, holy, holy. You despise sin and detest wickedness. All such things shall come under your righteous judgement, including me and my sins. Please forgive me; do not destroy me. Thank you for your Son who paid for my sins.

Please help me to be holy as you are holy. Help me to know what I must cut out of my life and cast away. Please help me to see clearly what needs to change, whether it be the way I spend my days or my character, habits and choices.

Please mould me in the shape of Christ my Saviour and keep me from conforming to the patterns of this world. Please keep me pure and holy, washed by the blood of the Lamb.

Amen.

Parents

Christian parents must demonstrate obedience and explain salvation

Read: Deuteronomy 6

In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” (Deuteronomy 6:20-21)

Reflect:

Deuteronomy 6 has several mentions of parents teaching their children. Parental teaching is to be two-fold: first they are to teach by example, then by explanation. Living their own lives in accordance with the law God has given them, parents will teach their children mimetically. Then their children will witness their law-keeping and ask questions about it. After that, the parents are to take the second step of explaining the salvation of God that predates and underpins the keeping of the law. For Christians, this means explaining the salvation that has been won for us through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Demonstrate obedience to God and explain salvation by God – these are the two lessons parents are to teach throughout the everyday ordinary; at home and away, morning and evening.

Vitally, it is not enough to teach either of these lessons without the other. If we only demonstrate obedience to God, our children may grow up defeated and disheartened if they fail to be obedient, or self-righteous and proud if (they think) they are successful in their imitative obedience. Either way, the children will not be saved because they won’t know that it is God who saves them, not their obedience.

Likewise, if we only explain salvation to our children and do not model obedience, they will never learn to hate their sin, never learn to yearn for holiness, never appreciate righteousness, never be thankful for forgiveness. They need both lessons.

crux:

Christian parents must demonstrate obedience to God even as they explain salvation by God to their children.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are my heavenly Father. You adopted me through the work of your Son. You parented me perfectly and yet I still sinned, and needed (and still need) your forgiveness. Thank you for rescuing and redeeming me. Please help me to be obedient to all Jesus has commanded me to do.

Please help me and help Jeff as we parent our children in one flesh unity. Please help us to demonstrate obedience to you and to your will in ways our children will see, which will cause them to ask, “Why do you do that?” Please help us to (again and again) explain your salvation, your mighty hand, to our children so they may be drawn to you as their Saviour.

Please help our children to obey you and to love your Son as their Saviour, even as he is ours.

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.

One Flesh

A “one flesh” marriage is a worthy goal, but it can’t become my god

Read: Matthew 19

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Reflect:

One flesh. As a married person, I love that expression, but I know it also has its dangers.

In recent years, Jeff and I have started celebrating what we call “one flesh moments” with a high-five. When both of us answer a question from the children with identical words, we high-five. When we both laugh at a joke no-one else understands, we high-five. When we look down at ourselves and realise we are wearing coordinating outfits, we high-five. Actually, that one’s just me. I high-five Jeff on that occasion whether he wants to celebrate or not. And when we sit down to talk about a big issue and realise in the first 60 seconds that we already think exactly alike, we high-five for another one flesh moment.

Of course, these moments of mutuality are partly a natural result of living in the same household for almost two decades. Our first memorable one flesh moment came when, after a decade of marriage, we sat down to a game of Articulate! Your Life and absolutely blitzed the opposition, a newly-married couple, because we could anticipate what our spouse would say; we had a shared language developed from shared experiences.

These one flesh moments are also the fruit of our very deliberate efforts to love each other biblically: to make decisions together that bless each other and our children; to set goals together and work towards them as partners; to support each other as we develop our interests and passions; to support each other in our weaknesses and struggles; to work as a team in our parenting and in ministry. We work very hard to be united in all we do.

I thank God for my husband, but it is important I don’t let my husband become a false god, an idol in my life. I need to remember that it is God who loves me best, even when he chooses to show his love through Jeff. It is God who leads me, even when he uses Jeff to provide the guidance. It is the LORD who is the true God.

crux:

A “one flesh” marriage is a worthy goal, but I can’t let it become my god.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for the gift of my husband. I am very aware that he is fairly awesome, as husbands go, for you have made him so.

Thank you for the many blessings you bring into my life through Jeff, including:
the delicious dinner he’s cooked tonight,
our helpful Bible talk this afternoon,
his hugs when I came home from work,
the way he apologised for not getting up to be with me this morning before I left for work having already made my lunch the night before,
and his care for our kids on their last day of school holidays.
Please help me to always be aware that it is your Spirit within Jeff who warms his heart to love me.

Please help me to treasure our marriage and always seek too be closer in unity with Jeff. Please also keep me from idolatry, so I may never value my husband above my God, nor my marriage above my salvation.

LORD, I’m very conscious that not every single Christians wants to be single and not every married Christian enjoys the one flesh experience. Please comfort them, strengthen them, encourage them, bless them with your love, with your companionship, with union with your Son and your Spirit. Please grant them and us deep, abiding satisfaction in our relationship with you our God.

Amen.