Devotionals

  • February 25, 2017: Fig Tree

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 26-27, Psalm 47, Matthew 21:12-22, Acts 28:17-31 Matthew 21:12-22: Jesus’ mission to Jerusalem requires a prophetic word towards the corrupt state of the people of God, and in particular, the temple at the time (21:12-13). God’s people are in constant need of being brought back into line with the truth of the Bible and into conformity with the gospel, reformed and always reforming. The temple in particular had become a center not just of mercantile exchange—like finding St. Paul’s Cathedral turned into Wall Street—but the mercantile exchange was being used to make it harder for the “all nations,” those not ethnically Jewish, to gain access to the temple. They had to change money to buy sacrificial animals. Rather than making access to God easier, they were making it harder. The house of God is to be a house of prayer (for all nations), when they had made it simply a…

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    February 24, 2017: Donkey

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 24-25, Psalm 46, Matthew 21:1-11, Acts 28:1-16 Matthew 21:1-11: Jesus comes to claim his royal throne—and what an extraordinary way to do it. “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (21:5) Jesus is deliberately coming into Jerusalem not as a military conqueror, but as the Messiah. That was not what they had expected. Humble. Riding on a donkey. The crowds greet him with Messianic adulation: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (21:9) And all seems well, until we hear Matthew’s (weary?) notice of what the crowds were actually saying about Jesus: “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (21:11). They still don’t understand who Jesus is. For them he is still…

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    February 23, 2017: What Do You Want from Me?

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 21-23, Psalm 45, Matthew 20:17-34, Acts 27:27-44 Matthew 20:17-34: This section abounds in irony. First of all, we have Jesus predicting his death. It is not going to be an easy death—mocking, crucifixion—but on the third day he will rise again. What the disciples thought about this prediction is not immediately recorded, but what is recorded is how they seemed to completely ignore it (ironically). Second, then, two of the disciples come up to Jesus, with their mother as their spokesperson, kneel before Jesus, and ask him to do something. Jesus replies “What do you want?” Note that reply (20:21). What they want is honor, to sit at his right and his left. With such naked ambition, one wonders how they would ever be able to agree which one sat on the right and which one sat on the left! Still, patiently, Jesus goes into instruction mode. He asks them…

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    February 22, 2017: Workers in the Vineyard

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 18-20, Psalm 44, Matthew 20:1-16, Acts 27:1-26 Matthew 20:1-16: Picking up on an apparently fairly enigmatic phrase at the end of the last section (“first, last; last, first,” 19:30), Jesus expounds more on that principle by telling a story to illustrate his meaning. By 20:16 he has explained what it is that he is saying, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” The story itself, typically for Jesus, is absolutely brilliant and compelling. What a master Storyteller and Teacher! This story is to illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is “like” (20:1). That is, we should not think that every detail of the story is analogous to some other detail in the kingdom of heaven, but that the story itself is a comparison with what life is like in the kingdom of heaven. We are to lay our understanding of the kingdom of heaven next to…

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    February 21, 2017: Hundredfold

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 16-17, Psalm 43, Matthew 19:16-30, Acts 26:19-32 Matthew 19:16-30: Another encounter that is well-known, and often misinterpreted. A man comes up to Jesus with what is apparently a genuine, as well as important, question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (19:16). But Jesus notes the precise elements of his question that indicate a set of problematic assumptions, and heart orientation in this man. “What good deed?” is how he puts it. To start off the exploration, Jesus states that there is only one who is good (19:17) (assuming the point to be that only God is good). So why is he asking Jesus about what is good? Jesus is trying to help the man see that what has drawn him to talk to Jesus in this way is because Jesus is himself God. The man wants clarity over which commandments he must keep. Jesus quotes from the…

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    February 20, 2017: Divorce and Marriage

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 14-15, Psalm 42, Matthew 19:1-15, Acts 26:1-18 Matthew 19:1-15: The teaching that Jesus gives in this passage about divorce is interpreted in a number of different ways within the Christian church today, and this has led to no small degree of controversy over the years. While we may not always see eye-to-eye with those who interpret this passage differently from the way we do, we should hold our view in tandem with some other principles—namely, Christian charity towards brothers and sisters, the prioritization of the most important things (such as Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 13), and the humble willingness to admit that we may ourselves be wrong. If we find that there are praying, godly, wise, humble, genuinely converted, and gifted Christian teachers who hold a view that is different from the one we hold, we are surely to be slow to insist that our way must be…

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    February 19, 2017: Discipline

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 11-13, Psalm 41, Matthew 18:15-35, Acts 25:13-27 Matthew 18:15-25: This passage in Matthew 18 is much used in church circles, and not always well understood. It is one of only two times that specific word for “church” is used by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. One is when he is confirming that the foundation of the church is the gospel. As Luther put it, justification by faith alone is the article of the standing or falling of a church. This passage is related to discipline. A true church is a church that has a right preaching of the gospel, right administration of the ordinances or sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and right church discipline. This passage is the go-to passage with relation to church discipline. The critical thing to grasp with relation to “discipline” is that it is merely a more intensive form of discipleship. The purpose is always…

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    February 18, 2017: Better Than Greatest

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 8-10, Psalm 40, Matthew 18:1-14, Acts 25:1-12 Matthew 18:1-14: The question "who is the greatest?" has plagued Christian communities—and indeed all communities—since the beginning. In our frail humanity and fallenness, we seek for significance in the wrong places. We try to be better, greater, greatest—we do not simply enjoy the thing for the beauty of it. If someone else has it too, then we want more, better, greater. But what is the solution to such malaise? The first is to observe a little child. We are to have a childlike trust (not childishness but trustfulness) in God. And indeed we are not to despise others who do, or attack or hurt such little ones. If you are ever tempted to only want the next greatest thing, look at how much fun a child can have with one simple little toy. Or even better how much joy a child has…

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    February 17, 2017: Mountain-Moving Power

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 5-7, Psalm 39, Matthew 17:14-27, Acts 24 Matthew 17:14-27: Coming down from the mountain, Jesus is immediately met with a coming-back-to-earth moment of reality. Having been elevated and transfigured (Matt. 17:1-13), he now is back to dealing with the day-to-day realities of life and with people in their weakness, sickness, with demonic tendencies and human frailty. Life is often like this: after a beautiful moment in our quiet time with God, we must then face a screaming child or a bothersome boss. After an elevated and transfigured church worship service, we are then facing the dishes that need washing or the taxes that need filing. It is all too easy for us to think that God is sufficient for the “highs” but not for the “lows.” Here we discover that the power of God is revealed in the valleys, as much as on the mountaintops. The father of the…

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    How Is Faith Alone?

    By Josh Moody

    During this fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation (dating from 1517 when Luther famously nailed his Ninety-Five Theses) we are remembering how God used faithful men and women to retrieve the gospel. At the center of this story is the doctrine of justification, that is, the particular way God makes children out of rebels. Amidst the constellation of titles released this year on the subject of justification is my recently published book, Justified in Christ, which compares the doctrines held by the legendary nineteenth-century Catholic, John Henry Newman, and an Italian hero of the Reformation, Peter Martyr Vermigli. Despite the intervening centuries, these men speak to us in fresh and practical ways. In what follows, I’d like to highlight a particular lesson that pertains to every conversation we have with our Catholic friends on the subject of salvation. Consider a classic landmine on which we often step: our message that…

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