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.

[Sept 20]—Division, Wisdom, and Victory

            As you might have noticed, we’re wrapping up the book of Romans with just a few short verses to go. Remember when I said that Paul started out with the “heavy” material and ended the book with slightly lighter fare? Well, I misspoke: Maybe I should have said “heavi-er” material, because even in these “housekeeping” type of verses, there’s plenty to absorb and digest.
            I’ve mentioned this before, but I really think that the common nostalgia lots of Christians have for the 1st century church is a bit overdone. Human nature hasn’t changed, and God certainly hasn’t. All of the problems we see today are pretty much the ones the church struggled with 2000 years ago.
            Case in point: Paul warned about false teachers and pseudo-Christians who’d snuck in and introduced bad teaching, which had caused division in the church. Sound familiar? He tells the rank-and-file believers reading this to stay away from them. Don’t listen to their “smooth talk and flattery.” This was a danger back then, and it’s a danger now.
            That brings us to something that the modern American Christian desperately needs to hear: When it comes to God’s truth, ignorance is not bliss. Paul tells them in vs. 29 that he wants them to “be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” Not ignorant. Innocent.  Jesus was referring to this distinction when he told us to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” According to vs. 19 in today’s passage, these con-men are targeting “naive people,” so by not being discerning you’re opening yourself up to deception.  
            Keep in mind that bad teaching does more than lead individual Christians astray. It also tends to divide churches. Christians who should be united in the truth instead bicker over issues that should've been settled long ago. And the Devil watches and laughs.
            So what does it mean? It means when someone presents some teaching that sounds new, you need to carefully examine it in the light of what God’s word says. And if it doesn’t match up, then drop it. Don’t indulge in it.
            And near the end of this book, he presents a glorious promise right after these warnings. False teachers will always be with us, but ultimately the source of all their “teaching” will find himself under the boot. Of course, we know that at the end of history as we know it, the longstanding war between Satan and our Lord will culminate in Satan being tossed into the Lake of Fire. And I can see why that’s part of what Paul’s referring to here.
            But I think we can experience some of that ultimate victory right here and now. When he told the believers in Rome that the God of peace (ironic title considering the rest of the verse) will “soon” crush their Enemy beneath their feet, I don’t think he was just talking about the end of the Age. When we’re discerning about good and evil--listening to the good and shunning the bad--that’s a good way to put the Enemy under our feet right here and now. He sometimes attacks frontally, but most of the time in the Age his most dangerous weapons are lies.
            And of course covering all of this is God’s grace. We desperately need his grace—his unmerited favor-- to discern truth from lies, turn away from these lies and towards our Father, and to crush our Adversary beneath our feet.
            If we listen to our Father, we can’t lose.

Father God, it seems like I constantly need my ears unplugged and my heart softened. Help me to be deaf to the Enemy, listening only to your voice.    

[Sept 19]—Greetings

            I know what you’re thinking: “Lists of names!!! Yay!!! Just what I’ve been looking for!” I know I know I know. To modern Americans, a list of names is about as interesting as watching paint dry. But let me quote myself:

“[These] “boring” parts are important, if for no other reason than this: They remind us that the Bible is literally true. It doesn’t really matter to a Buddhist if Buddha never physically lived, but things like this do matter to a Bible-believer. The Bible claims to deal with real people who historically lived in the physical places the Bible records. If not, then we should accord the Bible no more authority than Dear Abby. Also this means that the Bible deals with real people like you and me, not some fantasy world of people who don’t have real problems.”

            But setting that aside for a moment, there’s some points here for us from a theological/practical standpoint.
            First, let’s talk about Phoebe. She’s not mentioned anywhere else, so the only knowledge we have of her is contained here. However, within these two verses is a whole boatload of controversy. The key word is the description of the Phoebe’s position in the church at Cenchreae, the Greek word diakonos. The NIV translates it as “deacon,” while other translations render it as “servant,” since that’s literally what the word means. Conservative Evangelical scholars are divided on whether or not Phoebe held the actual office of “deacon” in the church (MacArthur--Mr. Bible Conservative--comes down on the “deacon” side, believe it or not). I’m not going to publically come down one side or another on that question, since that’s a rabbit trail that’s more trouble than it’s worth.
            However, whether she held an official title or not, she was definitely a great servant to that church. Paul praises her as someone who’s been a benefactor to lots of people, including himself. And apparently he considered her incredibly trustworthy, dependable, and competent. Why? Because the best indications are that Phoebe was the one Paul entrusted to carry this letter to the Roman church. If so, that was an incredible responsibility that he asked her to bear, and she did so willingly. The Lord used her to get this epistle to us; humanly speaking, she’s the reason you’re reading this right now.
            The rest of them are names that Paul knows and remembers, dear ones who have been his co-workers and fellow soldiers. Some of them (Priscilla and Aquila, for example) are fairly well-known. Just a bit of trivia: “Rufus” was probably one of the sons of Simon from Cyrene, the man enlisted to carry Jesus’ cross. But most of them we know little to nothing about besides what Paul says here. Details about their lives, about the service they provided Paul and others, and about the sacrifices they gave for the sake of their Savior are lost forever to history. To us they’re little more than names on a page.
            But no, they’re not forgotten. The Lord in whose name they loved, gave, and sacrificed has not forgotten a thing. From the smallest inconvenience to martyrdom, he watched it all. He’s written it down. And one day, we’ll hear a lot more about what they’ve done.
            And think about it. These people in chapter 16 are forever enshrined in God’s word as examples for us, even if we don’t know all the details. But for every one of these names, there are countless millions throughout history who’ve given things large and small for their Lord.  There are many many more whose names we’ll never hear. . . this side of the Great Divide.
            If this is you, please take heart. Please be encouraged. If you’ve been working behind the scenes as a hidden servant, be sure of this: Your Savior knows about it. You’ve not been forgotten. Let the writer of Hebrews speak to your heart right now: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” When you feel unappreciated and unknown, read passages like this, and keep in mind that he knows your name too.

Father God, for all the hidden servants who are reading this, please bless them and encourage them and strengthen as only you can. And for those who’ve helped me over the years, thank you so much.