1) Every day will be a new devotional. I have enough devotionals for every day for three years
2) Also as I can, I'll be posting on my new political blog (see bottom of page).
Some other housecleaning:
A) If you'd like to just get new postings sent to your email, just submit your address in the box on the left just below. There's just one possible downside, though. Occasionally I'll add a music video at the end that's relevant to the devotional, and you won't get them in the email sent to you. If I add a video though, I'll make sure to mention in the posting, so you'll know to come to the site to see it if you'd like.
B) I actually finished writing new blog posting for the TAWG at the end of 2016. So what I'm doing now is at the beginning of every month, I'll move the earliest month from 3 years ago ahead so that a "new" posting appears every day. That's why you won't find any postings for January 2014, for example.
C) When I started this Blog, I was using the 1984 edition of the NIV, and that’s what I linked to on the Biblegateway site. However, in 2011 Zondervan updated its edition and thus reworded a lot of the NIV translation. Therefore, all the links which went to the 1984 edition now redirect to the 2011 edition, which often has slightly different wording. Thus, part of my editing process has been to update my Scripture quotes in my postings. But I might have missed some, in which case you might see my quote in the posting as a little different from what comes up when you click on my citation link, since that redirects to the 2011 edition on the Biblegateway site. It's a good thing that we realize that the work of translation never ends, but it can be a kind of a pain on a site like this. If you see any difference in verbiage between my quote and what shows up as a link on the Biblegateway site, or if you hover over a link and it has "NIV1984" at the end of it, please notify me and I'll correct it.
D) I can't believe I have to say this, but here goes. At the end of every posting is a suggested short prayer that has to do with what we discussed. This is actually what I've prayed when I finished writing it. In no way am I asking you to pray the exact verbiage of my suggested prayer. It's just a springboard for your own prayer, nothing more. Quite frankly, I've never been a fan of praying rote prayers written by someone else. As with everything else I do here, to the degree it helps, great; to the degree it doesn't, chunk it.
As always, thank you so much for reading, even if it's to read one post. God bless.
I have a lot of respect and love for the “seeker sensitive” or “seeker driven” movement. There’s a lot to like about it, at least from where I’m standing. I was a member of a church with leanings in this direction for about ten years, and I saw how much the Lord used it in peoples' lives. That church made a sincere effort to make sure that if someone was offended by our church, they were offended for the right reasons. The preaching style, the musical style, the dress code—these are not good reasons for an outsider to turn away from a church. If he turns away because he’s offended by what the Bible actually teaches, then that’s between him and God.
I’ve actually had some teachers I respect tell me that the sermon in Athens is not something we need to emulate. Somehow Paul got off the subject of Christ alone as the center of the Good News, and he might have even “watered down” the truth in order to get a wider audience. We’ll get into their arguments tomorrow, but I’d like to address the proposition today.
I understand the arguments of those opposed to being seeker sensitive, I really do. There’s a real danger that while trying to be “all things to all people” we’ll forget that our message is inherently offensive. If I present the Good News, and the person isn’t offended, I need to make sure I presented it correctly. The Cross of Christ is offensive to sinful, prideful men who are in rebellion against God. It’s entirely possible to abolish its offensiveness, but that’s not a good thing.
So while we’re bending over backwards to present the Good News to people where they are, we have to remember to get to the Truth. That’s where we get to today. Paul started off the speech with a compliment, eagerly acknowleding that they were spiritual people and that their poets and philosophers had some of the truth. He started off with the Creator who’s revealed himself through creation and through the gropings of wise men who are trying to get to the truth.
What’s the purpose here? Why is Paul standing in front of them? Is it to arrive at a better mutual understanding, so that we can all bask in the glories of Greek religion and culture? No! He’s reaching out to them where they are (which a lot of traditional evangelists forget), but he’s reaching out to them with the purpose of bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus. That means you have to confront them with truth which will flatly contradict what they currently believe. If you don't do this, then you haven't presented the Good News of Jesus in its fullness.
What are Paul’s main points here?
• You must give up this goofy notion that the God who made us in his image can therefore be captured in an image of silver or gold. How can a man—made in God’s likeness—worship an idol made of silver or gold?
• In the past, God overlooked (to some degree) this ignorance. My friends, if all Paul cared about was keeping an audience, do you think he would have used the term “ignorance” when describing what they were doing right now?
• But now playtime is over. If God ever did overlook such practices, that time is past. He’s commanding all people everywhere to repent (another word we forget to use). Whatever else that word means, it says you have to quit doing things your way and start doing them God’s way.
• The time of Judgment (another word we need to regain) is at hand. You’ve been warned, and if you ignore the warning, then you can expect consequences. And God’s already appointed the Man he’s going to use to accomplish all this.
• And how do we know this Man is the One? Because he’s done something no other human in history has done: He’s raised himself from the dead.
That’s the balance we need to learn. There are two parts here, and everyone has their part which they have trouble with. We 1) need to reach out to people where they are, 2) in order to bring them over to where they need to be.
So which do you have trouble with?
Lord Jesus, I sometimes don’t speak your Truth when it’s obviously time to speak. Please give me boldness, give me wisdom, and give me love. I need to remember that to be silent when someone needs to hear is NOT love.
America has changed pretty radically over the last 30-40 years, in more ways than we could count. One of the major ways which we haven’t really discussed yet is the subject of biblical literacy. Read the founding documents of this nation, as well as the papers left behind by the people of that time period, and you’ll find them chock-full of allusions to biblical references. The very founding document of this nation—the Declaration of Independence—starts out with the supposedly self-evident proposition that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. You might be able to find a speech by Lincoln in which he didn’t reference the Bible, but you’d have to look for it. Up until around 30-40 years ago, it was assumed that pretty much everyone had at least a passing knowledge of the Bible.
Not any longer. My friends, if we’re going to reach this generation, we can’t assume that our audience knows anything about the Bible. Heck, most American Christians know less about the Bible today than a typical nonbelieving skeptic would have a hundred years ago.
That’s why this sermon/speech is so important. This is the first major speech (aside from the short one in chapter 14) in which an evangelist is trying to reach a completely pagan audience. These hearers know nothing about Moses or the prophets, and they couldn’t care less.
So where do we start? With creation. Now if you’re reading this today, you might miss the controversial elements of what Paul says in today’s reading. It all sounds pretty standard for us as Bible-believing Christians to know that God created everything. But this was very radical for these listeners to accept. I won’t bore you with the details, but let me summarize how this proposition would raise some eyebrows. The Epicureans believed that matter was eternal and that there was no Creator, and the Stoics were Pantheists and denied that God could be separate from the creation.
If we do believe in a divine Creator, then what can we know?
• He doesn’t live in a man-made temple. If he made the universe, how could he be contained thus?
• He doesn’t require any sacrifices (or anything else) from us, since he supplies us with life, breath, and everything else we need.
• All people are created by him, and thus we all are equal before him in our nature.
• All nations and kingdoms of men are under his sovereign control. He's the One who set up their times and places, and marked their boundaries according to his own wisdom.
Why did he do this? Is this some abstract concept? Is he just some god “up there” like Zeus, who really doesn’t care about what happens on earth? No! All this time, he set up the boundaries of kingdoms in certain times and places in order for them to reach out to him.
But this God that I’m talking about is not that far. He’s not just up in Heaven, directing the affairs of men like a chess player moving pieces on a board. He’s right here, right now. He’s reaching out to you.
And here comes the kicker. How do you know all this, Paul? Well, if he was like some well-meaning evangelists I’ve heard, he'd bring out a Bible verse that proves his point. But no. He quotes their own poets and philosophers. “In him we live and move and have our being” is a quote from the Cretan philosopher Epimenides. “We are his offspring” comes from the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus.
Now, did Paul believe that these poets and philosophers were 100% inspired like Isaiah or Moses? Of course not. But these pagans had some insightful truth that he could use as a connection point with this audience.
My friend, there is some truth in Islam. There’s some truth in Buddhism. There’s some truth in any other religion. We need to know the background of the people we’re trying to reach, and we need to know it in order to reach out to people where they are right now, not where we are.
Take it as you will.
Lord Jesus, you did that for us, didn’t you? You didn’t wait for us to reach you where you were. You stepped out of Heaven and came down to us, to where we were. Thank you.