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.

[Jan 15]--Swords Into Plowshares

Isaiah 2:1-5

I’ve mentioned this before, but let me reiterate: If you’re looking for a step-by-step chronology for the return of Christ and the end of human history as we know it, then you’re looking in the wrong place. I’m not going to delve into the details of eschatology; instead, I’m going to stick to some basic principles which just about any Bible-believing Christian can agree to.

Having said that, I think today’s passage can enlighten us on today’s world, and the one to come.

For over 60 years, the United Nations has been the last, best hope for peace in the world for a lot of people. It’s a place where nations can air out their differences without resorting to armed conflict. It’s a place where non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) can coordinate in order to provide things like clean water and medical supplies where most needed. At least that’s the theory.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Quite frankly, it’s usually a place where bad nations can pretend to be on the same moral level as good nations. Nations whose governments routinely imprison, torture, and murder dissidents can be on the U.N. Human Rights Council. And it certainly hasn’t prevented many conflicts, as far as I can tell.

I’m all for peace. I don’t like people getting killed. I don’t like seeing people suffer. So if anyone is trying to prevent things like that, then I applaud their motives.

What went wrong? To answer the question, let’s take the example of a doctor. If he examines a patient and gets the diagnosis wrong, then his efforts are going to be useless at best. At worst, he’ll have a dead patient. You can’t cure a disease if you haven’t diagnosed it correctly.

The point of the U.N. was so that nations could sit down and discuss their grievances with each other. But is a lack of understanding the cause of most wars?

Um, no. The cause of most wars is because evil people do evil things. It’s a heart issue. What James said about the micro situation in the churches is just as true in the macro level: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” That’s the problem.

This misunderstanding is so beautifully illustrated in their motto. They took as their slogan (so to speak) a verse from today’s reading, a promise that one day the nations of the world will “beat their swords into plowshares.” The nations will take all their resources which are used to kill people and turn them into more productive uses, like producing food.

That would be wonderful, but when is it going to happen? Once we all sit down and truly understand each other? No, it'll happen at the end of human history (as we know it) and Christ returns to set up his Kingdom. Until we see that happen, there will be no lasting peace in the world. Until the nature of mankind is radically changed (from the inside-out), nothing will really change on the outside either. When the nations of the world are willing to listen to what the Lord is saying (as pictured here), true peace will come. Not until then.

How does this apply to us?

First and foremost, we need to keep our expectations realistic concerning peace in the world. If you have a hundred people in a room, you know what you have? A hundred sinners. If you get 10,000 in a room together, what do you have? 10,000 people who have sinful natures whose first instinct is towards selfishness and other antisocial behavior. When you hear someone talk about the hope that we’ll eventually bring about a world without war or cruelty or poverty, you know that person is lacking in wisdom.

But I can’t leave on that note. Even if we aren’t going to see perfect peace in this world, we can see peace in our personal lives. Wherever our Savior reigns, there is perfect peace. In your home, in your family, and especially in your relationship with God, you can bend that sword into a plowshare right now. Just trust and obey, and you’ll see it.

Lord Jesus, that’s what I want in my life. I’m submitting my life to you, right here and right now. If there are any areas of rebellion, then I’m throwing up the white flag right now.

[Jan 14]--Come On, Let’s Talk This Over

Isaiah 1:16-20

Have you ever gotten debt collection calls? OK, I’m man enough to admit it: I’ve gotten more than a few in my time. I don’t for one second condone getting behind on your bills, but I've let it happen to me. You screen your calls and let the voicemail pick up whatever number you don’t recognize. The calls start picking up in frequency, until it seems like you’re getting one every ten minutes. And what do you do? You dodge them. You avoid them. You let them call and call and call, and you pretend that they don’t exist.

But then I gutted up and actually picked up the call, and usually—in my experience—they're willing to work with you. I mean, they’d rather get paid off in little increments than get nothing, right? I gotta tell you, there’s nothing like the relief of knowing that you’ve settled the issue.

I think of those experiences whenever I read today’s passage. The God of Israel had an official complaint against his people. They had entered a covenant, sort of a contract, and they were falling far short of what they’d agreed to. So the Lord was bringing them up on charges, and had issued a “warrant,” so to speak. They were ducking and dodging him like the debtor who’s screening his calls.

Can I remind you of something from the previous verses? These are not pagans. They are members of the nation of Israel. They were performing the religious rituals which he'd commanded. And as we saw yesterday, God was sick of their “worship.”

You see my friend, hypocrisy and going through the motions? That’s hiding from him. They were involved in a sinful lifestyle, but you don’t have to be living in blatant sin in order to be ducking God.

And the Lord is stretching out his hand to them, pleading with them. He’s saying “Let’s talk this out now before it gets any worse.

And what will be the result?

Your stained soul will be washed clean.

The nasty filth which has hung over you like a cloud will be gone.

He's offering not a temporary reprieve, but a full and permanent pardon.

You will know—not guess, not hope—but know that you’re forgiven.

How can he do this? How can he take me and wash me clean, remove my stain?

Well, Isaiah had some strong hints, but his hints eventually became flesh and walked among us.

The promises he made were fulfilled as a Man hung on a tree.

We’ll look more closely at those promises in a few days, but for now I want to issue a call. Hide-and-seek time is over. If you’ve been faking it, then you need to come to him. Talk it out with him. Maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus; in that case, this really applies to you. Quit dodging him. I promise that your situation will only get worse until you come clean. Please read this if you haven't done so already.

But maybe you are a believer. You’ve placed your faith in him, but the earlier fire you had is gone. You show up on Sunday, say all the right words, sing all the right songs, and then go home. Why are you doing that? Whom are you trying to kid? I promise you, God enjoys your “worship” even less than you do.

When are you going to stop screening your calls?

Lord Jesus, I fall so far short of your standards. I mess up—no, I sin against you so often. Please forgive. Please cleanse, as only you can.