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.

[Oct 23]—Mysterious Grace


            Grace—so much meaning packed into such a little word. We can offer a simple definition (God’s unmerited favor), but to actually plumb the depths of that mystery is way beyond human capability. Despite this, today we’re going to try to dive a little deeper than we normally do, simply because the effort can pay such rich dividends.
            Paul starts the passage with “For this reason. .  .” Conjunctions and connecting phrases can be really useful here. When we see something like this, in order to follow an author’s thought process, we need to ask questions like “For what reason? What was Paul talking about in the last few verses?” Keep in mind that the chapter and verse divisions are there for our convenience, but they’re not inspired like the actual words of Paul are; in the original manuscript, there would've been no chapter and verse divisions, nor even word divisions.
            This goes back to the topic of the last passage: The fact that in Christ’s body the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has been torn down forever. Jews and Gentiles had been separated by culture, mores, religion, and mutual hatred. But in Christ, just as the curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the world was torn down, so was the barrier between Jew and Gentile was removed permanently. 
            Keep in mind that in Paul’s letters the word “mystery” means something quite different from modern common usage. It’s not something really to be solved. It’s something which was hidden in the mind and plan of God in eternity past, and which has now been revealed at the correct time. Paul used it to describe 1) the Incarnation, 2) Christ living within us, which is the hope of glory, and 3) the previously unknown revelation that  those believers who happen to be alive when Christ returns will changed in a moment and given resurrection bodies without experiencing death.
            The thing that all these mysteries had in common was that it was relatively unknown in the O.T. There were strong hints at times, but it wasn’t laid out as plainly for them as it has been for us.
            The other thing they had in common was that these mysteries are not meant to be solved like a murder mystery but something to be reveled in. You’re meant to contemplate it, meditate on it, and use it as a springboard for worship.
            Paul was chosen by God as a messenger of the Good News, in which this mystery was contained. And what was this mystery to which he’s referring? The glorious truth that in Christ Jew and Gentile are now one in the Father’s family. Within our Father's house there are absolutely no racial, social, or spiritual distinctions.
            Now, as with the other mysteries we mentioned, there were hints in the O.T. about this. Abraham was promised that through him all nations would be blessed. Moses told his people that they were to be a nation of priests—hinting that in God's plan they would be mediators between the Lord and the nations. One time as we read the Psalms, my wife and I took note of all the times that the Psalmist either predicted or called for all the nations to join them in worshipping the Lord (at least 20 times to my recollection). The prophets (Isaiah in particular) predicted that all the nations would come to the Lord and submit to him one way or another (for example here).
            But like the other mysteries, the fullness of what God had hinted at was fulfilled in Christ. And the fact that Gentiles would not only come to faith in the Lord but would be fully equal co-heirs with the Jews was something new, hence vs. 5: “[It was] not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.”
            And this was what Paul was called to: To take this glorious truth (the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the church) and make it “become flesh” so to speak as both Jews and Gentiles came to belief together and worshipped together and were fully reconciled to each other.
            Here we get to my favorite part of the passage, the one that sends chills up my spine. Do you want to impress angels? Well, congratulations, you’re already doing it. Paul tells us that the whole reason why God is doing all this is so that “through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” I want you to ponder that just for a moment. Angels and demons--and any other spiritual forces out there that I can’t even contemplate--look at the Church united. .  .and tremble. The angels see her, tremble, and worship their Master. The demons see her, and just tremble.
            We’re living trophies of his grace and mercy and love and power and sovereignty and wisdom. Here Paul mentions that the Church is his wisdom on display. It’s “manifold.” As you unfold it, there’s still more to uncover. You unfold it some more, and there’s more to discover. How long does this take? Eternity. We’ll have forever and ever to unfold all this, and we’ll never reach bottom. But we’re going to experience a lot of joy trying.
            Keep in mind, however, that all this theology has a purpose. That purpose is not to fill your head with knowledge, nor to satisfy your idle curiosity. No, he says in vs. 13 that because of these things which we’ve talked about, he asks us not to be discouraged and to see his sufferings as “glory,” not something to be mourned.
            Theology must change your perspective on your daily life, and how you think will bleed out into how you talk and how you act.

Lord Jesus, that’s the reason I was born, why I was born again, and why I was united with the Church. All glory and honor and worship and thanksgiving belong to you, and by your grace I’m going to do my best to see that you get what you deserve. 

[Oct 22]—Peace and Reconciliation


            In his detailed description of salvation and our part we play in the grand scheme of God’s plan for the ages, Paul takes moment here to reflect a little bit on Jews and Gentiles.
            Unless you’re Jewish by birth, today’s passage—like Romans chapter 11—should cause gratitude to well up in your heart. True, most Jews throughout history were probably only circumcised “in the flesh,” not in the heart, but it was equally true that during that history the vast majority of people who were right with God were Jewish, with just a trickle of Gentiles. If you’re a Gentile and redeemed by Christ, then you need to understand that you were an “unnatural” branch which was grafted into God’s “tree.”
            According to MacArthur, we Gentiles were alienated from God in at least five ways: 1) We were separate from Christ, “having no Savior and Deliverer and without divine purpose or destiny.” 2) We were excluded from citizenship in Israel, “God's chosen people, the Jews, [who] were a nation whose supreme King and Lord was God Himself, and from whose unique blessing and protection they benefited.” 3) We were foreigners to the covenant of the promise, “not able to partake of God's divine covenants in which He promised to give His people a land, a priesthood, a people, a nation, a kingdom, and a King—and to those who believe in Him, eternal life and heaven.” 4) We had no hope “because [we] had been given no divine promise." 5) We were without God in the world, “While Gentiles had many gods, they did not recognize the true God because they did not want Him (see Ro 1:18-26).”
            Yes, Jews were going to the same Hell we were, but they started out with advantages we could never dream of. They were relatively “near” the truth (vs. 18), while we were relatively “far” from any inkling of knowledge of the true God. They had the Law, the clearest expression of God’s will and standards which mankind has ever received. They had the prophets who predicted the coming Messiah. And they had the sacrifices which pointed towards the Lamb of God.
            But now. . . (there’s a favorite word of mine, “but”) we “who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
            Now there is no division between Jew and Gentile as far as salvation is concerned. Jesus (or Yeshua, as they call him) has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier between us, the dividing wall of hostility. He did this by setting aside in his body the O.T. laws, feasts, and sacrifices. Out of these two groups he’s made one Body and reconciled all of us through himself to God the Father. And through him we have access, 24-7, to God the Father through one Spirit. In the Messiah, all of us are being built upon this one foundation to be one holy temple in the Lord.
            But we need to be perfectly clear here: This reconciliation is based on Jesus Christ (whether we call him Yeshua Ha-Mashiach is immaterial to me). It’s not based on good will or even our mutual regard for what’s known as the Old Testament as God’s word, as important as that is. I have nothing but good feelings and wishes towards Jewish people like Dennis Prager and Michael Medved who share common values and social concerns with me. When it comes to standing up for the sanctity of human life and marriage for example, we can stand shoulder to shoulder. And I think I’ve made it clear that I feel nothing but gratitude towards Jewish people in general and wish them nothing but good things. But we can’t pretend that we’re reconciled together before God. Until they believe in Yeshua, we’re not.
            Now I’d like to take this passage from its immediate Pauline application of Jewish and Gentile reconciliation to a more ancillary (from the passage) application which more directly affects us today. In Christ, all racial groups are united, or at least they should be. Please don’t think I’m only talking about White-Black relations. People of all different backgrounds have trouble relating to people of other backgrounds, and I’m convinced that if we all had exactly the same skin pigmentation, we’d find some other goofy excuse to discriminate against each other and kill each other. Looking at pictures of Hutus and Tutsis, I wouldn’t be able to tell which is which. But that certainly didn’t keep them from killing each other.  Blacks have racial tension with Asians, Latinos have racial tension with Blacks, and some Asians look down upon Asians from other nations or different societies.
            To use a phrase from James’s letter, “My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” If Gentiles and Jews can be reconciled with each other through the Messiah, then how much more can any other group be reconciled with anyone else? The Bible never teaches “The universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man” or any such nonsense, but in Christ we are one. We’re all sinners equally in need of his grace, and we’re all saved by grace through faith in Christ, not by anything we do. Every true believer is my sibling in Christ, and as such there’s absolutely not the slightest scintilla of an excuse for racial prejudice or any other barrier between me and anyone else who’s been bought by the blood of Jesus. None. Of course, racism against even nonbelievers is a denial of the truth that we’re all created in God’s image, but it’s even less acceptable against other believers.
            I’d like to end today’s posting on the positive flip-side of the last paragraph. I’ve worshiped side-by-side with people of all different racial and ethnic and economic backgrounds, which is exactly as it should be. And it’s a beautiful thing. It’s nothing less than a preview of Heaven, and it certainly feels like it.

Lord Jesus, it’s wonderful to be part of the “Coat of Many Colors” which your Father has given to you. May the day come swiftly when every part of your Body sees every other part as, well, part of your Body. Please, let it come soon.