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.

[Dec 15]--Control Yourself!

1 Cor. 9:25-27

So now we come to the last of the nine aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5, namely self-control.

I'd submit that this is one virtue which is basically lost in our modern American culture. Every aspect of the advertising/marketing culture is geared towards undermining self-control: “You must have this NOW! Not when you can afford it, but NOW! Not when it actually meets a practical purpose in your life, but NOW!” Now, hopefully you know by now that I don’t buy into asceticism. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in having material goods or in trying to improve your standard of living. But there’s a balance that has to be maintained, and I think that the dangers of an ascetic outlook are about as immediate in America as the polio virus.

There’s some value in getting into some Greek in examining this issue. The word in Galatians is egkrateia, which literally is “holding oneself.” Have you ever seen in a movie or TV show a character who’s utterly panicking under stress, and someone else commands the character to “get a hold of yourself!”? That’s the idea.

You were born with a sinful nature that’s essentially selfish. It would gladly step on someone else to get its way. Unfortunately, our rebellious nature gets pleasure from the very sinfulness of sin. But on top of that, we have natural desires which are perfectly fine in themselves, but don’t have a “stop”switch on them. A great example is the desire for food. We need food. Can’t live without it. We get hungry, and we eat. But we need a little breaker switch inside us that says “OK, you’ve had enough,” or maybe “This is not the best time for that. You can wait.” And that switch doesn’t work all the time, or we don't listen to it.

Or take sexual desire. God created it, and it’s wonderful—within the boundaries that he set up for it. It’s like fire: A great servant within its proper boundaries, but absolutely destructive outside them.

That’s where self-control (getting a hold on your instinctual desires) comes in. It means you recognize that your feelings are leading you astray from what God is telling you, and you do what you know is right. For example, there may come a day in which I don’t feel like being faithful to my wife. Or I might not feel like going into work and want to lie around all day. But that’s when I have to understand that my feelings can lie to me, and I have to tell them where to get off.

That’s what today’s passage is talking about. You can’t see it from the NIV, but “strict training” in vs. 25 is the same Greek word for self-control in Galatians. Think of an athlete—His long hours, his self-denial, his careful routine and obedience to his coach, and you get the picture.

And the goal is not just self-control for its own sake. We have a prize in our eyes. We want the approval and applause of our Lord. It’s quite possible to preach to others, but if we aren’t practicing what we preach, then the Lord knows, and we’ll end up regretting it.

I really feel the need right now to reemphasize that this is a result of the Spirit working in my life. This doesn’t come about by putting more effort into it. It’s an aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. An apple tree doesn’t produce apples by “trying harder.” You plant the tree, you water and weed it, make sure it gets the proper amount of sunshine and nutrients, and eventually you’ll see apples. If we're fully connected to our Lord like we're supposed to be, then the Fruit of the Spirit (along with every other virtue) will be produced naturally in us.

As we spend time in God’s word, spend time in pray with him, fellowship with other believers—in other words, as we cultivate our relationship with Christ, we’ll see more of this virtue in our lives. More specifically, the self-control of Christ himself will shine through us. That’s the idea, anyway.

Lord Jesus, I see myself falling so far short in this area, and it shows that my relationship with you is not where it should be. Please forgive and change me.

[Dec 14]--Gentleness

Matt. 11:28-30; Isaiah 40:10-11

Once again, I couldn’t come up with a better title. So how much are you paying to read these things, anyway? Sometimes you get what you paid for!

This is the eighth aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. I hate to mix metaphors, but you can consider the visible work of the Spirit in our lives as a multifaceted diamond. It’s all one diamond, but you can view it from multiple angles.

One source of confusion is the fact that we’ve got a little translation issue. When we examined the virtue of kindness, you might have noticed that some of that definition overlaps with what we think of when we hear the word “gentleness.” Of course we can expect some overlap among them; for example, self-control and patience have a lot in common.

But quite frankly, a better word for the eighth virtue listed would be “meekness” instead of “gentleness.” Once again, let’s turn to MacArthur: “It is a humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while having no desire for revenge or retribution. In the NT, it is used to describe 3 attitudes: submission to the will of God, teachability, and consideration of others." One of the best definitions I ever heard of meekness is “strength under control.” The classic illustration I heard was that of a horse controlled by a bit. The horse is much stronger and faster than the person riding him, but he’s under control and goes where the rider leads him, running full tilt and then stopping or changing direction when instructed.

That’s why I picked the passages I did. In the first one, Jesus is inviting everyone who's “weary and burdened” to come to him. Why? Because he is “gentle” (same word as in the Galatians “Fruit” verse) and “humble in heart.” When someone is down, he picks them up. When someone feels like they can’t take another step under the heavy load they bear, he either takes the burden from them or carries them as long as needed. When someone is wounded and hurting, he binds up the wound and brings healing. Think of a bull in a China shop, and envision the exact opposite, and you get our Savior.

This extends to the issue of “standing up” for one’s “rights.” Jesus had every right in the world, and he forsook them all. When it came to the honor of his Father’s Name or to the issue of injustice towards the weak (like in the instance of the Temple cleansings), he was a raging lion. When it came to his own rights, he gave them up in a heartbeat when necessary.

The second passage, found in Isaiah, is one of the most beautiful descriptions I’ve ever seen of our Lord. Notice the quality “tension” found here. The “Sovereign Lord” (the Boss of Everything) “comes with power,” and “he rules with a mighty arm.” He is coming to give everyone exactly what they deserve. At the Last Judgment John tells us that “The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” Boy, talk about your “Angry Face”!!!

But towards us, especially the least among us, he is the gentlest of Shepherds. If someone needs some TLC, he’s right there. He picks up his wounded lambs and “carries them close to his heart.” Any sheep “with young” would be especially vulnerable and weak and unable to keep up the pace with others. These he “gently leads.”

That’s the type of Savior we have. And guess what! That’s the type of people we need to be, especially to the least among us. Yes, we should recognize that there are dangers in overemphasizing this virtue to the exclusion of things like truth and justice. As I mentioned a few days ago, sometimes the kind thing to do is not the loving thing to do.

But as the Spirit leads us, we must imitate our Savior in gently handling wounded people. When it comes to peoples’ needs, our “rights” mean nothing. That’s who our Savior is, and that’s what we should be.

Lord Jesus, I hear you, and some changes need to be made. More specifically, I need you to change me. Change my heart to more resemble yours, please.