Dream

Misery awaits those who ignore the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ

Advertisements

Read: James 5

You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (James 5:8)

Reflect:

[This post is going to be a bit different from my usual meditation on the Bible. Bear with me, please!]

This morning, I woke from a terrible dream.

I dreamed that I was in a giant, colourful store with large glass windows all across the front, a store with everything necessary for life.

A woman was there, and when a man came furtively into the store, she pointed him out to me. “He comes here often,” she said. “Watch him.” She called out to the other people who worked in the store and they came to speak to the man, gathering at the front of the store.

But the man snuck off to another room, grabbed an immense painting, gilt-framed, a portrait of a family, and tried to take it. He would not listen to the others as they crowded around him, trying to speak. In the end he left the painting and slipped way out the door.

The woman spoke again to me: “If only he would listen! Everything in this store is available for free, if only people will receive it as a gift. Nothing here can be stolen, yet he always tries to steal, when he could have all this for free.”

She gestured around the store, and I saw that it was filled with food and clothes and all things that are needed for a good and pleasant life.

Next, I looked out the large glass windows that made up the front and side of the store. Outside, all was black and grey, stark and sombre. A black bitumen road lay in front of the store, coming right up to the window panes.

At first, I thought there was some sort of procession going past, but then I saw that no one was moving. Rather the road itself, beneath them, was moving, carrying them along as if it were a conveyor belt.

On the moving road, people stood and sat and even lay down, still and static as if in a tableau. No one made any attempt to leave or get off. Everyone was in shades of black and grey, there was no colour in them. It was as if I was watching a black and white movie panning from right to left, but there was no white, no lightness anywhere. Somehow I knew that some were Mormon, some Muslim, some of no recognised religion at all.

On the faces of the people were expressions of such misery and agony that I could barely look at them. I saw two men on the ground, lying as if dying or dead, but no one stooped to help them.

I turned to the right and my attention was caught by another man, outside the store but out of place because he was colourful and cheerful. He was green all over, and he looked like a living tree.

This man saw me looking at him, opened the door of the store and came over to me. He leaned over, looked me straight in the eyes and asked me, “Would you like me to explain what this means?”

All at once, I needed no explanation. I stared back aghast at this Man of Life and, through sobs, I spoke: “I will be so sad, so very sad, when my father dies. Then there will be no more hope for his escape.”

And then I woke, shuddering.

This morning Jeff preached on Revelation 8-10, including the seven trumpets of Revelation 8:6-9:21. The woe of which the trumpets warn is one and the same with my dream (Genesis 41:25).

crux:

Misery awaits those who ignore the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Read: James 5

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are full of compassion and mercy. Please have compassion on my father and extend mercy to him. Please grant him repentance and faith.

You are the Judge, standing at the door. Please do not judge my father until you have first justified him and granted him your forgiveness and your righteousness.

Please help me to speak to my father today. May my words always give you glory.

Amen.

 

Teachers

The imperfections of my teaching are covered by the perfection of Christ

Read: James 3

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (James 3:1-2)

Reflect:

I’m on a break from teaching with the school holidays, so now is a good time to meditate on this verse, before I head back into my two teaching roles: teaching men to read and women to read the Bible.

James has a warning for me (3:1): that, as a teacher, I “will be judged more strictly.” It is absolutely imperative that I teach rightly and righteously.

In my reading, writing and spelling classes, this means teaching consistently the patterns of the English language: phonemes, graphemes, blending and segmenting and word classes, syntax and punctuation. It also means teaching my students as my ‘neighbour’ with respect, humility and compassion.

In my Bible study small group, I must prepare diligently so I know the text (2 Corinthians, next term) thoroughly and have allowed God to speak to me through the text before I attempt to help my group members hear God’s voice through his word. It again means treating my small group members as my ‘neighbour’ with gentleness, kindness and understanding.

In all this, there is a reminder that although the standard is very high, God knows “we will all stumble in many ways” (3:2). I am not perfect, not faultless in what I say. There is only one who was perfect, the greatest Teacher, Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God, for Jesus died to grant his perfection to me and to all who believe in him. [This is the doctrine of imputation of righteousness.] Trusting and relying upon Christ’s perfection, therefore, I set out to teach.

crux:

The imperfections of my teaching are covered by the perfection of Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I know I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly not a perfect teacher. I slack off, or have down days – sometimes even weeks or months where I struggle to feel the passion for teaching words and teaching your Word that I’ve felt before.

Thank you that Jesus was a perfect example of teacher for me to model my own teaching upon. Thank you that he was not just a model; thank you that he justified me and made me righteous.

May your Spirit empower my teaching. Make me bold, enthusiastic and godly.

Amen.

Godly

A godly society has pure worship, fair judgement and faithful leadership

Read: Deuteronomy 17

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully this law and all these decrees. (Deuteronomy 17:18-19)

Reflect:

In this chapter, Moses tells the people that their worship must be pure, their judgements must be fair and their future king must be faithful.

Their worship will only remain pure if those who would corrupt it are eradicated or expelled from the community. Their judgements will only be fair if they incorporate multiple witness testimonies and disinterested judges. Their future king can only be faithful if he keeps himself away from those things that easily could become idols (military power, sex and money) and if he keeps himself close to the word of God, allowing it to humble him.

I think there is a huge value in writing the words of God in my own handwriting. That is one reason why every time I read my Bible to meditate upon it I also copy a few verses into my journal. Writing helps to focus my attention and solidify the vague observations I have made during my reading into more concrete, deliberate thoughts.

crux:

A godly society has pure worship, fair judgement and faithful leadership.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are pure, you are fair and you are faithful.

May my worship of you be pure, untainted by idolatry. May my decisions be fair, may I take no part in injustice. May I lead faithfully where you call me to lead and not attempt to lead anywhere else.

Please continue to keep me strong in your word, especially as I leave on Thursday for my overseas trip. Please help me to read and write your word, even as I reflect upon it and respond to it.

Please help me to be even handed with each of our four children, especially in the next few days as I am busy preparing to go away from them for a few weeks. Please help me to listen carefully when they speak, without making snap judgements or decisions based on input from only one. Please help me to be unbiased at work, consistent in the way I train and assess each one of my students.

Please keep me from idols. Please enable me to recognise those temptations that are particularly strong for me and to reject them quickly.

Please keep me pure, fair and faithful in my everyday ordinary life.

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.

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.

Discern

It is wrong to be judgemental, but discernment is right

Read: Matthew 7

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them.” (Matthew 7:15-16a)

Reflect:

Jesus’ words hold a conundrum. He tells the crowd not to judge. Yet he follows this up with a series of instructions for godly discernment.

Jesus says we need to judge ourselves, examine our own faults and failings before eradicating them. Only when we judge ourselves may we judge others in ways that help them. Jesus says we should judge others enough to determine if they are “dogs” and “swine” (words which may possibly have been cultural slurs for Gentiles and religiously unclean people). Then when we’ve judged we can decide whether the sacred would be wasted on them. Jesus says we should judge prophets, people who claim to speak God’s message. We are to judge them by their “fruit”, the results of their life and ministry. When we have judged them, we’ll know whether to listen to their words or reject their message.

All this judging is perhaps more correctly described as discernment – distinguishing between right and wrong, righteous and unrighteous. In all this discernment, we must be careful, because God will judge us just as harshly and strictly as we judge others.

crux:

It is wrong to be judgemental, but discernment is right.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You have set a plumb line in the heavens. Your Son said, “No one comes to the Father, except by me.” You say through the apostles, “No other name is given to men by which they must be saved.”

Your Son spoke of ferocious wolves, of weeds planted among wheat, of rootless plants that flourish briefly before falling away. Not all who claim to know you and say they speak truth do so. Please make me faithful, honest and righteous in all I say and do to glorify your name.

Please grant me discernment to know when to listen and when to block my ears.
Please grant me discernment to know when to agree and when to disagree.
Please grant me discernment to identify the planks in my own eye as well as any false prophets in my own denomination.
Please enable my discernment to be godly and wise.

Amen.

Standard

The only way to meet Christ’s standard of righteousness is with Christ’s righteousness

Read: Matthew 5

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20)

“…I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.” (Matthew 5:22a)

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Reflect:

Jesus sets the bar extremely high for entry into heaven’s kingdom.

Granted, John the Baptist declared the Pharisees to be a “brood of vipers” (3:7) which is possibly akin to calling them “sons of Satan.” But to the Jewish layman, the Pharisees must have seemed the strictest, most actively religious Jews around. Yet Jesus said even their upright behaviour was not enough to get them into the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus took a few strictures from the Law and drew them tighter still. Don’t murder: don’t even call a fellow believer a nasty name. Don’t commit adultery: don’t even think lustful thoughts; and don’t divorce your wife thinking you’ll be free to remarry, because that will bring even greater condemnation upon you.

Then Jesus expands on the positive commands of the Law. Fulfil your vows: and when you say even a simple “Yes” or “No,” keep this as an absolute promise. Just recompense may be sought lawfully: but extravagant generosity, reckless kindness and radical hospitality are even better. Love your neighbour: and love your enemy as well.

Jesus sums it all up with an impossible standard. “Be perfect” in the same way God the Father is perfect. How is this level of righteousness possible? Humanly, it isn’t.

But through his death on the cross Jesus Christ swapped his righteousness for my sin. This is called imputation. My righteousness can only surpass that of the Pharisees because God has credited me with Christ’s righteousness. I am made perfect with Christ’s perfection.

crux:

The only way to meet Christ’s standard of righteousness is with Christ’s righteousness.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

O Perfect One, you are good, you are glorious.
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD.

Your anger and wrath is always deserved, always righteous. You are never malicious or capricious in your judgement, unlike me – forgive me, please.

You are faithful, keeping your promises forever. You never leave your people, though I may turn my back on you – forgive me, please.

You are extravagantly generous, gracious and merciful. You never reject your people’s needs though in your mercy you frequently refuse to grant my sinful desires – forgive me, please.

You are loving, indeed you are love. Without you there is no real love. In you is perfect love which casts out fear and enables me to pray for the good of my enemies. Bless my enemies with love for you, LORD, please.

LORD, you are perfect and so clearly I am not. Please justify me with Christ’s righteousness. Forgive my sin. Renew me and make me a new creation in Christ my king.

Amen.