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.

[Nov 19]—Worthy of the Message

            One of my favorite movies of all time is Saving Private Ryan. Of course, it’s extremely violent and has some really course language, but you won’t find a more realistic depiction of the Normandy D-day invasion. In case you missed it, in the film the U.S. Army determines that only one out of four brothers of a certain family is still living after the invasion starts. So they assign Captain Miller and his squad to find Private James Ryan and bring him off the front lines so that he--as the last surviving Ryan --won’t die on the battlefield (hence the title of the movie). After losing some men in their squad, they finally find him and two other paratroopers, and they all end up battling a much larger Nazi force in order to hold a strategically important bridge. Most of the Americans die in battle, with Ryan being an exception. Miller, lying on the ground bleeding out, in his last moments grabs Ryan and whispers “Earn this.” Ryan then goes home, starts a family, and then decades later goes to his friends’ graves and asks them if he did what Miller asked him to do, if he’d earned what his friends had sacrificed their lives for him to have.
            Of course, the analogy is imperfect, as all analogies are. There’s never going to be a day in which I earn or pay back what Christ did for me. But as Paul says in today’s passage, I need—with God’s enabling grace—to strive towards conducting myself in a manner consistent with the Good News of Christ. BTW, if you’re wondering why I use the term “Good News” or “Message” instead of “Gospel,” I give my reasons here. It’s not something I consider essential, but it’s a strong preference of mine.
            How would my personal conduct be “worthy of” or (I prefer this rendition) “consistent with” the Message? I thought the whole Message of Christ is “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” or salvation by grace through faith in Christ, or “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” What does any of that have to do with my performance or lifestyle? If you’re asking that question, you need to read my posting about salvation and repentance. To sum it up, repentance and a changed lifestyle post-conversion are part of essence of the Good News. Any presentation of the Message that doesn’t include that is incomplete at best and deceptive at worst.
            Repentance is part of the Message, and also when I don’t live like I’m supposed to, it brings discredit upon what I’m proclaiming. Paul accusation against the Jews of his time was that “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” because of their hypocritical conduct. Unfortunately that applies to us as well: When we aren’t living a godly life, even non-Christians understand that that’s incompatible with being a follower of Jesus, and they use it as an excuse to reject him. 
            How can we—in the sense Paul is talking about here—conduct ourselves this way? What would a life that’s consistent with the Good News look like? Like my old teacher put it, this isn’t rocket surgery or brain science:
·         Unity in the Body of Christ. As Paul has taught over and over and over, we’re all part of the Body of Christ. The only question is whether or not we’ll act according to this truth or not. All too often, we don’t.
·         Unity in purpose. We aren’t called to be unified in liking or not liking Italian food. We don’t have to be unified on every less-important point of theology (like your particular timeline viz a viz the book of Revelation). But we need—we must—be “striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.” That means we’re working together to spread the Message and in defending the truth of the Message against the Enemy’s attempts to distort or silence it.
·         Taking the eternal view over the temporal one. This could have two subheadings. First, we need this when we’re facing our “enemies.” I put that in quotes because really no lost person is my enemy. I only have one Enemy, and he’s not human. But we have people who oppose us all the time when we try to spread the Good News. They can use every dirty trick in the book, from mockery and lies and slander all the way up to persecution and murder. When we face them without fear, knowing that we’re on the winning side—actually, the side that’s already won—this is a sign that they’re on the wrong one. In our conflict, our eternal destiny and their eternal destiny are foreshadowed. Even if they persecute us, even if they supposedly silence us, the moment we decide to do things God’s way they lose and we win.
      The other way we need the eternal perspective is in regards to our sufferings in this life. In another letter, Paul said that when you compare the absolutely worst things we could possibly experience in this life versus the glorious future we have in Christ, well, you can’t really compare it. When I look at any hardship I suffer for Christ’s sake, I’m supposed to see that as an honor and blessing. I know I know, easy for me to say from the comfort of America, where “persecution” usually entails someone mocking you online. But that’s what Scripture tells us.
       So do I? Do I live a life that’s consistent with the Message I proclaim, with the Savior I claim to love? Tough questions, and I expect the answers won’t be easy to hear either.

Lord Jesus, I confess that all too often I don’t live a life consistent with who I am and whose I am. By your empowering grace, I want and expect to change that. Please.

[Nov 18]—Torn Between Two Worlds

            Like I said before, the book of Philippians is theoretically a thank-you letter from Paul to the believers who’d sent him a generous and sacrificial gift. This is one of the most positive and warm letters of the N.T. But even in this letter, we can find some really deep material to ponder and apply.
            Paul was under house arrest, living in a rental house in Rome, probably chained to a guard 24-7. He wasn’t sure what the outcome of his trial would be, and he knew that he had mortal enemies who’d literally stop at nothing to see him dead (there were Jews out there who’d taken vows to neither eat nor drink until they’d killed him). Humanly speaking, his future was really uncertain.
            But what was his reaction? “To live is Christ, and to die is gain!” If he continued living here on earth for a few years, then he’d be serving his Savior as long as he did. Christ would continue to live his (Christ’s) life through him: Speaking through him, acting through him, using Paul as his vessel. But if he died—wow, so much better! “To die is gain”: What an understatement!
            And that leads me to the main point for today, something I want us to chew on for a moment. As believers, all of us have “dual citizenship,” so to speak. I know that in another place in this letter the apostle tells us that our real citizenship is in Heaven, not here. But in a practical sense, we have interests both here and in the next world.
            Paul said he was torn between two worlds, this one and the next one. On one hand, being with Christ. There’s that. He says it’s “better by far,” which again is a huge understatement. I mean, he was in prison. But if Paul was king over the entire earth, having all his physical appetites satisfied at a moment’s whim, having every human being completely under his own despotic authority, that still wouldn’t compare to one split-second of seeing his Lord’s smile, basking in his glorious presence for an eye-blink’s worth of time. And when we step into eternity, we won’t have our Lord’s presence for an instant, or for a day or a month or a year or 10 years or 70 years. No, he is ours and we are his forever and ever and ever and ever. Like Lewis put it, our life in Glory is a book with each chapter more beautiful than the one before it, and it goes on without end forever. Each moment in our Lord’s full presence will be better than the last.
            But. . . he had other interests here. There was still work to be done. It’s not mentioned in today’s passage, but there are still a lot of people in this world who need to hear about the Savior’s love. As you’ve no doubt heard, sharing the Good News with the lost is the one thing—besides sin—which we won’t be able to do over there. But in today’s reading, he tells them that one of the main reasons he desires to stay is. . . them. The believers in Philippi needed him. They needed his encouragement. They needed his fellowship. They needed his further instructions and challenge and leadership.
            And like anyone with dual citizenship, he was torn between two competing worlds.
            Of course, I have interests in this world as well, but they tend to be a lot less noble than Paul’s. I care about making money and sports and listening to music and reading good books. Not that there’s anything sinful or wrong about any of them, but they’re certainly not as honorable as the apostle’s “holdings” in this world. But even leaving aside the less-than-purely-noble pursuits, there’s work to be done down here before we head to our native Country which we’ve never seen.
I think this is a mark of a more maturing Christian, this “tornness.” We have work to do down here. As long as we’re breathing, our Lord has a purpose for us in this world, and it’s not primarily to watch TV and entertain ourselves. But in my better moments in my walk with Christ, I’ve had a hint of what Paul’s talking about, this longing for a Country and Home I’ve never seen. And it’s like I can almost hear a whisper in my heart: “Not yet, my child. Soon. Now I love you, but get back to work.” Paul heard this as well, undoubtedly a lot more clearly than I have. He also knew there was still work for him to do down here, and thus he knew that he’d continue here for a while longer.
            And of course it’s this longing for my Homeland which makes me a better worker down here, not a lazy one. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, it’s always been the most heavenly-minded saints who’ve done the most earthly good in history.
            Have you felt it too, this longing? It’s sweet and painful at the same time. In fact, in a way it’s sweet because it’s painful. Take it as the good sign of growth that it is, and let’s let it spur us on to work harder and longer and more stridently. The days are shorter than we might think.

Lord Jesus, I can hear that whisper right now, I think. Thank you, for the comfort and the spurring.