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.

[August 16]--The Spirit at Work: Getting Rid of Teachers--saybuhwhat?!

Jer. 31:31-34

Yesterday we looked at the first characteristic of the New Covenant which God promised, namely that instead of writing his Law on stone, he'd write it on our hearts. Once we place our faith in Christ, God the Holy Spirit starts the process of changing our attitudes which will eventually overflow into our actions. Your thoughts will--sooner or later—express themselves in how you live. Only the New Covenant as initiated by Jesus Christ can actually change you from the inside-out.

But there’s a second characteristic, and it deserves a day of its own, since it can be a little confusing. What does the Lord mean when he promises that "No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest"?

First, let’s clear this up by clarifying what it does not mean. It doesn’t mean that under the New Covenant (under which we live right now), there’s no further need for teachers. Teaching is listed multiple times as one of the gifts the Spirit gives the Church. Until Christ returns, there will always be a need for people to take God’s word and help God’s people understand and apply it. I’d like to think I have this gift; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing this blog.

So what is the verse referring to? Think about the situation under the Old Covenant and contrast that with today. The Holy Spirit didn’t come inside and make each individual believer a permanent residence like today. He came upon certain individuals for a certain length of time for a specific purpose, and then he might or might not leave. The average believer didn’t have the Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures for him. That’s what the priests were for. They studied the Law (or were supposed to) and were God’s representatives among the people. If you had a question, you went to a priest.

Or if the nation needed a new word from God, that’s what the prophets were for. They were God’s messengers, and the words from their mouths had equal weight and authority to the Torah. But unless and until one of them showed up, the regular believer just had to go with what the priests told him. Keep also in mind that most people would be illiterate and would have little or no direct access to a copy of the Torah anyway. So do you see why the Lord was so hard on priests who went astray?

All that changed when the New Covenant in Christ was initiated. Now every believer has direct access to God through Jesus, our great High Priest. We can come to him anytime day or night to his throne of grace and ask him for answers or direction. Through his complete word and through the guidance of the Spirit, we can know everything we need to know. No earthly priest is needed! That's the sense in which there's no more need for teachers in this age.

And in the next age, I think this verse will be completely fulfilled. Everyone on earth will know God on a personal level, so there really won't be any need ever again for anyone to tell his neighbor "Let me tell you about the Lord!" Witnessing will be obsolete once Christ comes back.

Before we get to the last characteristic, I’d like to make a quick application here. Maybe we need a reminder of this sometimes: You have as much access to God through Jesus Christ as I do. I’ve been a leader in my church, and for some reason some people have seemed to think my prayers carry more “weight” than those of a lay person. Absolutely not. I’m more than happy to pray for them, but I’m not a priest, at least not one as distinguished from anyone else. We have only one priest here, and we need only one. You have access now. Use it.

Finally there’s the one aspect of all this which really is essential. There’s a Latin phrase that’s actually pretty helpful here: Sine qua non. It literally means “Without which, not.” Without this one thing, nothing else works. It’s there in the last phrase of the passage: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Notice that little preposition here: “For.” All the other benefits of the New Covenant (knowing God personally, having his Law written on my heart, etc.) only can take effect if the one problem is taken care of: my sin. Once that’s dealt with, once my sin is forgiven and forgotten, then we can have the intimate fellowship these verses describe. This is a little off-topic, since the Agent of this is mostly Christ instead of the Spirit, but I thought we could all use a little reminder. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten. He’s not going to bring them up again. Ever. Aren’t you glad?

Father, thank you for your Spirit, which is the connection between you and me. I have an intimate relationship with you that the believers in the Old Testament could only dream of. Let’s take advantage of that, shall we?

[August 15]--The Spirit at Work: Writing on Our Hearts

Jer. 31:31-34

Throughout history, there've been lots of theories about how to make a better world. Some politicians seem to think we can make a better society by instituting better government programs. The Soviet Union used to boast about how they were building a “new man.” Every religion out there has a new set of rules or a new program to follow to make you a better person.

They’re all missing the point, and this is best illustrated by one of my favorite Bible-based movies of all time: The Prince of Egypt. Produced by Steven Spielberg, it presents in awe-inspiring detail the story of Moses as told in the book of Exodus. It goes through the parting of the Red Sea and the devastation of Egypt’s army. For the most part, it’s either faithful to the Scriptures or at least doesn’t contradict them, and its depiction of his first encounter with the Lord at the burning bush sent chills up my spine. I had one major problem with it, however. The final scene shows Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments in his arms. He returns to the Hebrews, and they are all staring up at him in awe, eagerly waiting for the word from God that he’s about to give them.

Is that what really happened? Um, no. Quite the opposite. When he came down from the mountain, he found them in a sexual orgy as they worshiped a Golden Calf. That’s right: God hadn't even finished giving the Ten Commandments to us before we broke them. I understand why Spielberg wouldn’t want to show that in an animated movie for kids, but his depiction of what occurred when humanity received the Ten Commandments is not just deceptive: It illustrates the fundamental difference between how all religions view our problem/solution and how the Bible views it.

You see, as far as the world is concerned, all we need are the right set of rules. These set of rules don’t work, so let’s try another set of rules. No, those don’t work either, but surely these will do the job! Friend, if all we needed were the right set of rules, then the Torah would have succeeded long ago. I mean, really—Do you think we’re going to come up with a better set of rules than that? As Paul put it, “[If] a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law,” referring to the Old Covenant.

Is the problem with the Torah? Of course not. Again, as Paul said, “[The] law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” In this one case, the “rules” were given directly by God himself. Today’s passage gives both the problem we have and the solution he offers. Let’s look at it.

The Lord here promises that one day he'd make a new covenant with the house of Israel (and with all humanity). This wouldn't be like the old covenant, which was instituted at Mt. Sinai. Why would he make a new covenant? Why would there be a need for a new one? The simple answer is found in vs. 32: “They broke my covenant.” The problem was—and is—us.

We failed. We rebelled. We wouldn’t listen.

So he promised a new covenant, a new contract, a new formal agreement. What would be the characteristics of this?

First, there would be the contrast in what’s being written upon. The first covenant was written on stone. It was permanent and unchangeable. It was a wonderful set of rules. But just because a law is written down in the books, that doesn’t mean people will keep it. The speed limit laws are on the books, but anyone driving on the highway can see how closely followed that is. But what if. . . the government could make you want to follow the speed limit?

That the difference. That’s what the Lord is talking about here. Instead of just telling us not to steal, he can change our hearts so that we don’t want to steal. He places within us a desire to obey and please him.

That’s one of the works of the Spirit. Yes, I still sin and fail. But he’s written his word on my heart, and I want to please him. I don’t want to grieve him anymore.

We’ll save the second characteristic until tomorrow.

Holy Spirit of Truth, thank you for writing your word on my heart. You do what only you can. No one else can change me from the inside-out. Please keep it up.