OK, here's the plan (if God is willing):

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.

[Mar 25]—Inside-Out or Outside-In?

Jeremiah 24:1-7

How do we make a better society? That’s a good question, a practical one, and it divides people pretty strongly. Some people say that we need to reform society through better laws and government. And there’s some legitimacy to that. We need laws in order to keep the structures and foundation of civilization from crumbling. But what’s the purpose of law? Is it to reform society or to protect society? There’s plenty of scriptural evidence that the law/government is meant to protect us from anarchy and chaos (such as Romans 13:1-4), but none that I can find that it’s there to reform it.

So how do we do it? I think the answer is located in today’s passage, but it’s a theme that’s repeated in the Bible. The Lord said that when the exile comes, he will “give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” Here are some others: he will circumcise our hearts so we will love him with all our heart and soul, he will write his law on our hearts, and he will take out our heart of stone and make it a heart of flesh.

You seek, you can write all the laws you want, but they won’t mean a thing unless people obey them. And the only way they’re going to obey them--without an authority looking over their shoulder--will be if they have that law “written on their hearts” (as Jeremiah puts it). Do we want a type of society in which a legal authority is looking over our shoulder more and more and more?

But if the law’s written on our hearts, then we’ll want to obey. From today’s passage, if God gives us a heart to know him and we return to him, then we’ll see a change in our personal lives. And if more and more people get their hearts changed, then you’ll see a change in society. I’m aware of multiple times in British and American history in which it’s happened, since I’m more familiar with those country’s histories. Of course, our main purpose isn’t to bring down rates of crime, divorce, abortion, etc., but it’s a fact that during times in which masses of individuals got right with God those side-benefits also occurred.

But it all comes down to me. Has the Lord changed my heart, so I want to obey and please him? And if so, is that reflected enough in my personal life? Am I kind and loving in my speech to my wife? Am I scrupulously honest in my business practices? Am I faithful in giving to my church? If not, then something’s wrong.

This also means that in our evangelism and discipleship efforts, we need to concentrate on conversion. A turning of a person’s heart to the Lord will be reflected in changes in lifestyle. Maybe not overnight, but it will be.

And finally we need to take a more realistic view of human nature in our legal system and election promises. Quite frankly, anyone who promises to change society through laws is probably naïve at best.

It’s from the inside-out, not the outside-in.

Father God, it all comes back to me, doesn’t it? It’s me who constantly needs a course correction, multiple times a day. And it’s only you who can do it. Please.

[Mar 24]—On Heat and Hammers

Jer. 23:25-29

I really think you can tell a lot about a person by their reaction to God’s word. If someone presents a fairly positive view of the Bible, I know they either A) haven’t read it, or B) really don’t take it seriously. What do you mean, Keith? When I say “fairly positive view” I mean the way most people take it: They recognize the positive impact it’s had on the world, and they might even concede that it has some good nuggets of wisdom, like “Love your neighbor” and some interesting stories.

But I stand by my proposition. It’s the same “Liar/Lunatic/Lord” principle that C.S. Lewis proposed: A man who claimed to be the sort of things that Jesus claimed could not possibly be just a good teacher. He’s either a Liar on the level of a demon from hell, or he’s a lunatic on the level of a man who’s says he’s a poached egg, or he’s the Lord of all creation. The one thing he could not possibly be—a good teacher—is exactly how most people think of him.

It’s the same with God’s word, what we know as the Bible. The one thing it could not possibly be would be a collection of good advice and interesting stories. It claims to be so much more: The very words of God from his throne. If you literally stood by God’s throne and heard him speak, it’d be fully in accord with what you read in that Book. It’s either that, or it’s not worth reading. Or to paraphrase Lewis again, If the Bible is true, then it means everything. If it’s not true, then it means nothing.

So what does the Lord say about his word here? He compares it to two common things we see almost every day: fire and a hammer.

I particularly love the first image. His word is fire. Now, when you first hear it, you just might think “Ok, so fire burns. His word consumes everything it touches and burns it up.” But it’s much more nuanced than that.

Heat has different effects on different substances. It hardens wax. It softens clay. In the same way, his word can soften someone’s heart or harden it. It depends on the condition of the person’s heart. If a person wants to mold clay, he might have to heat it up in order to soften it.

Think of heat when you’re purifying a precious metal like gold. The same heat consumes the dross, but it purifies the gold. In the same way, as a believer, his word consumes the parts of me that don’t look like Jesus, and in the process purifies me.

Or think of a hammer, the second image. A hammer is a tool, and it can be constructive or destructive. Actually, it’s commonly both at the same time. People don’t often break rocks into pieces just because they want to see littler rocks.

His word will end up destroying the rocky hearts of people who don’t listen to it. In fact, Jesus said his word will stand and accuse them on Judgment Day. It will be their Prosecuting Attorney, so to speak. All the times they heard about God’s anger on sin or about the Good News about Jesus will literally come back to haunt them.

For the lost, his word will only have a negative effect. But for me as his redeemed child, it’s negative and positive. Yes, his word—as the sword of the Spirit—will cut into me and point out my faults and lingering sin. But it’s not there to condemn me like it does the unredeemed. It’s there to purge away the dross and make me more and more like my Savior.

You see, you can’t ignore fire. And you can’t ignore a swinging hammer. God’s word will have an effect on you, both now and on the other side of the Great Divide. What that effect will be is determined by what type of person you are.

So which will it be?

Father God, I know very well what effect I want from your word. Please, Spirit, use your word like a surgeon’s scalpel—cutting and healing. Cut away the parts that don’t look like my Savior, and mold me into his likeness.