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.

[Feb 22]--Secret Servant

Isaiah 42:1-9

            If you’ve studied the Bible for any length of time, you might have noticed a huge gap in our studies of Isaiah so far. The question might have come up in your mind: “Where’s Jesus? Didn’t Isaiah and the other prophets predict some stuff about him?” The answer is “Of course they did.” But I wanted to gather most of the material about the Messiah into one series, so I’ve pretty much avoided specific prophecies about Jesus’ first coming up until now.

            I got the title as a take off a practice we used to do at my old job at a pest control company. Every year in the month of December, many in our office would sign up for a “Secret Santa.” I would get someone else’s name, then give that person several non-expensive gifts over the next few weeks, and they wouldn’t find out who was giving them these little presents until the office Christmas party. And of course someone would be my Secret Santa as well.

            But Messiah is not Santa Claus. He’s not the Secret Santa; he’s the Secret Servant. Isaiah described him, but we didn’t know his name until long after Isaiah went to his reward.

            Let’s talk a bit about the term “Servant.” This and three other sections in Isaiah are called the “Suffering Servant” passages. They give pretty detailed descriptions about what the Messiah will act like, and what his mission will be. But this is the puzzle: It’s almost like there are two Messiahs, which was a theory among some Rabbis. The reason for the mystery is because on one hand the Messiah is sometimes presented as a conquering warrior who will defeat all of God’s enemies by force and who will enforce a reign of righteousness all over the world. On the other hand, we have here and in other passages the “suffering” aspect of Messiah’s work.

            Here he’s as gentle as a whisper. Matthew actually quoted this passage in describing Jesus’ earthly ministry, and how gentle he was with the down-and-outs and cast-offs of the world, which we’ve studied in this blog before.

            My friend, I’m sorry for sounding like a broken record, but I have to do it. I’m going to make one more appeal for reading the Old Testament of the Bible. If the only parts of the Bible you read are in the New Testament, you are missing so much. If the only things you know about Jesus are in the Gospels, then you have such an incomplete picture of him. If you really want to know his mind and heart, then you must read what the Old Testament says about him. Today’s passage, for example, parts the curtain for us and reveals a very intimate conversation between Jesus and the Father. You’ll only find this insight into that divine relationship here, not anywhere else.

            The Father said that he would take Jesus by the hand (since Jesus had given up some of his privileges as Son) and would lead him. Look and see what the Father would accomplish through him: He would make him a covenant and a light among all the nations (not just the Jews) and would use him to open the eyes of the blind, free captives from prison, and bring light to people  trapped in darkness. I think this was partially fulfilled when he was on earth, is being fulfilled more in the present day, and will be completely fulfilled when he returns.

            So what does this mean to me? Well, I can think of one way: Jesus is not an integral part of God’s plan for wrapping up history as we know it. He is the plan. He didn’t come to just set up a new covenant (or solemn agreement) between us and the Father. He is the new covenant. The Father and the Son (and the Spirit) worked this all out before the first moment of time, and we ain’t seen nothing yet. He hasn’t shared all the details with us yet, but we know enough. And as we read more from Isaiah in the next few days, we’ll see more than we could've ever dreamed.

Father God, your plan is perfect. You don’t share any glory with any creature, and that’s the way it should be. All praise, honor, glory, and thanksgiving belongs to you, and that means none of it belongs to me. May my life reflect that.

[Feb 21]--The Agenda

Isaiah 66:18-24

           So now we come to the last words of Isaiah the prophet. Regarding the man, we should note that according to tradition, he was sawn in two by King Manasseh, dying a martyr’s death. He comforted others with his words from the Almighty; we can only hope they were a comfort to him as well.
          If you’re familiar with Isaiah’s work, then you might have missed something from our study: Where’s Jesus? The prophet had a lot to say about the first coming of the Messiah, so why haven’t we looked at that? We’re going to. Over the next week or so we’re going to see what Isaiah and other prophets had to say about the first arrival of the Messiah. But that starts tomorrow.
          Before the prophet left this earth, he had a few more words to say to us about God’s ultimate plan. Lots of people wonder what the Lord's will is for their lives, and a few people actually claim to know it: “God told me to tell you this.  . .” I myself am very careful about phrases like that, since God takes a rather dim view of anyone who speaks in his name who’s not authorized to do so. The Bible’s last verses have a stern warning to anyone who adds to it.
          However, where God makes his agenda and will plain for us from his word, we’re remiss if we don’t tell people about it. You want to know what his will is for your life? I can tell you right now. Listen very carefully, lean down close so I can whisper it in your ear—His will for your life is. . . to glorify his name through your life. What’s his plan for the nations? You guessed it: To glorify his name among all the different peoples, cultures, societies, etc.
          Now, you might be asking, how exactly is he going to work all that out, either in your personal life or on the international scene? Let’s take it on the personal level first. We know he wants to bring glory to his name through your life, and he will, one way or the other. But what about the details? That’s different for every person. Ask for his guidance and wisdom, obey what he’s made clear from his word, seek counsel from godly siblings if you need it, then go forward with what you desire. As long as you keep the “main thing” the “main thing,” you’ll be fine.
          How do we interpret passages like today as far the “big picture” goes? Are they completely fulfilled now by the work of the Church, or will they literally be fulfilled when he returns? Good Christians debate that issue. I have my interpretation of it, but does it really matter? He’s made his ultimate purpose clear. If it is literally fulfilled later, does that let us off the hook from trying to recruit worshippers right here and now? Of course not.
          Jesus' last instructions for us before he returned to his Father leave no wiggle room: “[Go] and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” I don’t care how you interpret the book of Revelation, that’s not rocket science or brain surgery. Someone once said “It’s not the parts of the Bible that are hard to understand that bother me. It’s the parts which are crystal clear which disturb me the most.”
          And based on Isaiah’s very last words to us, I have to present a warning. He describes in dreadful detail what happens to those who end up on the wrong side of history from God’s perspective. If this sounds like a description of Hell, it is. Someone might read this and say “Oh, it’s not talking about eternal torment. It just says that the worms and fire never die.” Let me ask you something. Who’s a better interpreter of Scripture: Some guy with letters behind his name, or Jesus? He quoted these exact verses when describing hell. He wasn’t kidding about it.
          I’m not doing this to depress you. Am I mentioning it to frighten you? Well, that depends. If you don’t belong to Christ, then you should be scared. You have every reason to be scared. Why not do something about it?

Father God, I know what your will is, at least the important parts. It’s not knowledge that’s the problem. It’s doing what I know I need to do, what you’ve made crystal clear. By your grace, I want to do it.