Giver

The LORD is good and he gives good gifts to his children

Read: Deuteronomy 8

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out of the valleys and hills. (Deuteronomy 8:5-7)

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:10)

But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant. (Deuteronomy 8:18a)

Reflect:

This morning when my alarm went at 5:20am, I faced a choice. Often, the choice is between getting up to read my Bible (as I plan to do every morning – plan being the operative word) or rolling over to sleep an extra 40 minutes until I must get up to wake the kids. But I felt quite alert this morning. Today, the choice was between getting up to read my Bible and lying in bed to finish a memoir I’ve been reading. The choice was a particularly conscious one because just yesterday I had prayed, “Help me to know what I must cut out of my life and cast away.” I’m sorry to say, I chose badly, despite my prayer, wilfully putting human words ahead of God’s Word. (Thanks be to God for Christ’s forgiveness, especially for so-called ‘small’ sins!)

Yet God is gracious, answering my prayer despite my sin. In the 15 minutes left after I finished the novel, I was able to read Deuteronomy 8 and feel the sting of God’s rebuke – the discipline God exerted upon me as his daughter (8:5) as I read of God’s life-giving word (8:3).

I had chosen to finish reading a memoir about frugality and wealth, privilege and provision. Then in his Word, God spoke to me to remind me it is he who has given me my ability to produce wealth (8:18). The novel included the story of the author’s move to homesteading. In his Word, God reassured me that it was he who brought me into the good land I presently dwell in (8:7), and it is he who promises me a place in the new heavens and the new earth. It is God who must be praised when I have experienced his bountiful provision and am satisfied (8:10).

crux:

The LORD is good and he gives good gifts to his children.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are good and you give good gifts. I delight in your providential care for me and in the privileges I enjoy as your chosen child.

LORD, you gave me birth into a family and nation where I could experience your blessing, most especially the blessing of attending church services regularly as a child, even though you did not unveil my eyes to your gospel until much later. You blessed me with an ability to read fluently and with abundant access to Scripture in my first language, English.

You gave me a church family who prayed for me for a decade while I wandered far from you in my early adult years. You gave me godly pastors and Bible study leaders who brought me to the refreshing living water of your word and taught me to drink and be satisfied, who brought me to the life-giving manna of Scripture and taught me to eat my fill.

You have made me truly wealthy through the gift of your Son, no matter the dollar value in my bank account.

Thank you for blessing me so richly. I have indeed eaten and am satisfied, LORD. Praise be to you, the giver of good gifts!

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.

LORD

The LORD alone is God, there is no other

Read: Deuteronomy 4

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us when we pray to him? (Deuteronomy 4:7)

You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol. (Deuteronomy 4:15-16a)

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24)

For the LORD your God is a merciful God, he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath. (Deuteronomy 4:31)

You were shown these things so that you may know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. (Deuteronomy4:35)

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. (Deuteronomy4:39)

Reflect:

I don’t normally copy such an extensive collection of texts from the Bible, but today it was all so obviously about God. It seems as if Moses ended his first Deuteronomic sermon with a doctrinal, theological exposition of the first commandment, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:1-3).

This is God in his glory: near his people; spirit, formless; jealous for his people’s worship; merciful for his people’s relationship with him; the only true God, the God of heaven and earth, the LORD.

crux:

The LORD alone is God, there is no other.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You alone are God. All other would-be gods are false, idols, cheats and lies. You alone are God: near to me when I pray, listening, responding, protecting, cherishing me because I belong to you.

You were formless in the desert at Horeb when you spoke from the mountain like thunder, yet you took on flesh and chose to become Immanuel, God with us. You took the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, yet also are the image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ.

You are jealous, consuming as fire does, punishing all who reject you and choose to worship idols and false gods instead of turning to you, the Living God.

You are merciful: kind and gentle with your people who cannot save themselves.

Hallelujah! Praise the LORD!

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.

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.

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.

Respond

Jesus wants people to respond to him and enjoy their relationship with God

Read: Matthew 21

“For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him.” (Matthew 21:32a)

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43)

Reflect:

Some days reading the Bible is like wading through treacle. It’s just a hard slog. I read the words and then I re-read them. I leave the Bible aside a bit to mull over it, then come back and re-read again. The message still doesn’t want to stick.

Part of the problem today is that I slept in and didn’t read the Bible first thing when I was fresh, so I’m coming to the Bible filled with evening angst. Also, I’ve had about a million things to do today and I’ve had to make two million decisions. It’s been a Busy Day, the kind of day I try very hard to avoid, but which is sometimes unavoidable. So my brain is tired.

But actually, the words of Jesus are quite difficult too. At first I think he’s teaching a basic lesson about children obeying parents (21:28-31a). But then I see the thread that joins these story vignettes together. It’s not generalised obedience, but response.

Jesus says, “choose how you respond to me.” (I’m paraphrasing.) One way will bring you into the kingdom, the other will get you kicked out. But there’s no avoiding the choice.

My eldest daughter asked me today what “agnostic” meant. I explained according to the dictionary definition, but according to Jesus there’s no such thing as a fence-sitting agnostic. Either you yield your “fruit” (the efforts of your heart, soul, mind and strength) to the “owner” (God) of your “vineyard” (your life) or you will be brought to a wretched end. Two choices: two very different futures.

crux:

Jesus wants people to respond to him and enjoy their relationship with God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

It’s hard not to judge when I read a passage like this. Hard not to judge myself for yielding such flawed fruit up to you. (I need to be reminded of the gospel every moment.) It’s hard not to judge others for refusing to care about the owner of the vineyard that is their lives.

But now I want to rest and relax and just appreciate the way you call and call and call again for people to hear your voice, repent and believe the good news. Thank you for sending the prophets, for sending John the Baptist, for sending Jesus your Son. Thank you for keeping after me until I surrendered to you.

Please do not let me get so caught up in Busy that I don’t have the mental energy to appreciate your revelation, your word, your voice calling my name in the wilderness of my everyday ordinary.

Amen.

Who

The most important question I will ever answer is: “Who do I say Jesus is?”

Read: Matthew 16

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)

Reflect:

Verse 15 is the hinge upon which Matthew’s gospel turns. Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” was addressed to his disciples. Yet Matthew places it at the narrative core of his gospel so that Jesus effectively asks Matthew’s readers as well: “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter was ready and bold with his answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Simon knew that Jesus was God’s anointed king, the Messiah (in Greek, the Christ),  but he clearly had no idea that God’s king was to ascend to his throne via his own death and resurrection.

Simon said Jesus was the Christ, but at this time he did not know what it would mean for Jesus to be God’s Christ. Matthew spends the rest of his gospel revealing exactly what this means. But here, Matthew leaves me with Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?”

I say Jesus is my King, God’s Son, my Saviour and Redeemer, my Lord and my God.

crux:

The most important question I will ever answer is: “Who do I say Jesus is?”

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I say, Jesus is the Christ-King.
I say, Jesus is the one and only begotten Son of God.
I say, Jesus is my Saviour, who saved me from your wrath by his death.
I say, Jesus is my Redeemer, who bought me out of slavery to sin and death.
I say, Jesus is my Brother, through his blood shed so that you, my heavenly Father, may adopt me.
I say, Jesus is my Head, the authority and source of all spiritual blessing and experience.
I say, Jesus is my Rabbi, the one who teaches me all things because he is your Word.
I say, Jesus is my Righteousness, the source of all that is good within me.
I say, Jesus is the Lamb, the sacrifice which paid the price for my sins.
I say, Jesus is the Lion, the great and mighty King of all God’s people.
I say, Jesus is my Lord, sovereign in authority over me.
I say, Jesus is my God, the one and only True God.

I say these things, not only think them or write them. I declare them to be true.

May I always say them confidently, for your everlasting glory.

Amen.

Culture

The standards of culture must be submitted to the commands of Jesus

Read: Matthew 15

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
‘These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.'” (Matthew 15:7-9)

Respond:

Jesus did bring new ways of doing things to his culture (11:19) and he did provide new teaching for his students (“new treasure,” 13:52). This “new wine” did not fit into the Pharisee’s “old wineskins” (9:17).

If I accept – as I do – that Jesus is the Christ (God’s anointed king) and that Jesus is God’s Son (God’s essence and representative to mankind) then I must accept Jesus’ new ways and new teachings as God’s ways, God’s teaching. Which leads me to ask myself, in what ways am I like the Pharisees? What parts of Jesus’ teaching am I inclined to reject or gloss over because I favour my tradition, my human rules?

The very next story in Matthew’s gospel, for one. I do not like that Jesus refers to the Canaanite woman as a “dog”, albeit metaphorically. But is my objection mainly based upon my cultural interpretation of this as offensive name-calling? I think it probably is.

Is my tradition, therefore, getting in the way of me accepting that Jesus knew to whom he was sent (the Jews, not Gentiles, for the purpose of his earthly teaching and healing ministry) and that Jesus chose to obey his Father’s mandate? The Canaanite woman, it seems, took no offence, so neither should I.

The truth is, Jesus extended grace to this woman, and to her daughter, and to all he healed. Thanks be to God!

crux:

The standards of my culture must be submitted to the commands of Jesus.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for Jesus, who shows me the right way to live. May I submit to him and his ways and not conform to the pattern of this age.

Please help me to be wise and discerning enough to distinguish between useful, helpful, biblical teaching and mere human rules. Help me to know the difference between opinion and truth, no matter how loud and strident the voice is that proclaims it.

May my worship of you always be honouring to you.

May I be appalled by the things in my culture that appall you. May I despise the things that you despise. May I be disgusted by the things that disgust you. And then, please help me to do something about it – may I speak up, may I act up, may I submit to the commands of God.

Amen.

Miraculous

The miracles of Jesus prove that he is the Messiah

Read: Matthew 11

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see.” (Matthew 11:2-4)

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (Matthew 11:20)

Reflect:

Having spoken to his twelve chosen disciples and completed their Basic Training (Matthew 10), Jesus now faces the responses of other people to his teaching and preaching.

Word had spread to John the Baptist, imprisoned for his own politically incorrect preaching. John, perhaps not unreasonably given his circumstances, had begun to doubt his own prophetic ministry. Had it all been a mistake to preach repentance and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ?

Jesus said John must not look to his own situation, but instead look to Jesus and see in Jesus the fulfilment of John’s prophetic message. As John found out more and more about the miraculous deeds Jesus was performing, he would stop questioning his own downfall and start appreciating Jesus’ glory. This is good advice for anyone who doubts God because of the issue of suffering: look instead to Jesus and you will find comfort.

On the other hand, Jesus condemned the people who had witnessed his miracles and yet had not put their faith in him. The more someone knows about Jesus, the more God will hold them accountable for their rejection of him. This doesn’t mean that people who haven’t heard the name of Jesus will be held guiltless – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But “woe” to those who have heard and seen, yet not repented nor believed. Their judgement will be even more dire.

It might seem harsh, but you, dear reader, need to know that this applies to you as you read this blog and see Jesus proclaimed here. It applies to anyone who has ever attended a church service, a Bible study, a Sunday School class, a Youth Group devotion time, a Scripture in School class, a Christmas Carols service. It applies to everyone who ever glanced at a Christian pamphlet handed to them in the street, or turned the other way when they caught the words of the street-corner preacher. It applies to people who grew up with Christian parents but went their own way when they left their parents’ home.

If you know even a smidgeon of the truth about Jesus and have chosen to reject him, then woe, indeed, to you.

crux:

The miracles of Jesus prove that he is the Messiah.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for making it plain and obvious that Jesus was your Son, your anointed King, the Messiah who was to come. Thank you for showing this truth to Matthew, to John the Baptist and his disciples, to the unrepentant towns of Bethsaida and Chorazin – and to me and to the readers of crux.live.

May your glory, the glory of Jesus the Messiah, be known through all the earth.

Please answer my doubts by your Word. Please calm my fears by your Counsellor. Please show me the sins of which I still need to repent.

Please keep my eyes on Jesus, so I will follow him as I marvel at his miracles. Please keep me faithful in my faith and unwavering in my belief, in my everyday ordinary life through all the hours, days, weeks and years until I die or Jesus returns.

Amen.