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.

[August 18]--The Spirit at Work: Baptism

Matt. 3:1-12; 1 Cor. 12:12-13

OK, now we’re going to go into some territory on which Bible-believing Christians disagree. It’s sadly ironic that the Spirit, who is supposed to unify all believers in one body, is the subject of such division in that same body. I’ve said it before, and I have no hesitation in repeating it: I have plenty of dearly-loved siblings in Christ who disagree with me about some of this stuff. I have no problem worshiping with them, and I have no doubts about their salvation or their sincerity. But I'm thoroughly convinced that they’ve misinterpreted Scripture on some things regarding the work of the third Person of the Trinity.

This is one of those issues on which we’re just going to have to disagree, namely the baptism of the Spirit. A lot of churches and denominations and sincere believers teach that there's some kind of tier system regarding the Christian life. They contend that it’s entirely possible for someone to get saved and then go through a period of time in which they don’t have all of the Holy Spirit, or at least all that the Spirit offers. They believe in a “second blessing” of some type, in which the Christian’s growth goes into overdrive. And they call this the “baptism of the Spirit.” Once you’ve been baptized in the Spirit, you’re on another plane of discipleship and close fellowship with the Lord.

The kindest word I can use for that notion? Nonsense. Let’s take a look at the phrase as Scripture talks about it.

The first time it’s mentioned is in the Matthew passage above. John the Baptist promised the Messiah would come and—in stark contrast with himself—would baptize people with “the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Considering the context of the passage, I'd interpret the “baptism with fire” to not be referring to Pentecost but the Last Judgment. Remember that baptism is actually kind of a made-up word. When scholars were working on an English translation, they basically transliterated the Greek word baptizo into baptism. It literally means “to immerse” or “submerge.” If you take an Oreo cookie and dunk it into milk until it’s completely submerged, that’s “baptizing” it. The only reason you don’t see it as just rendered “immersed” in the English translation is because some translators came from a church tradition in which they sprinkled water on infants. They didn’t like the fact that the Greek word simply means “immerse,” so they--quite frankly--made up a word in order to fit their church tradition. You can guess how I feel about that.

Let’s look at 1 Cor. 12:12-13. In any church that’s been established and growing for a while, you have a wide variety of maturity among members. You (hopefully) have members who are new Christians who just got saved recently, and you have members who've walked with the Lord for decades, and people in between. Unfortunately, the Corinthian church, which you know if you’re familiar with this epistle, had more than its share of immaturity. Most of the book of 1st Corinthians is made up of Paul ripping them up one side and down another. But he can say, unequivocally, that “we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.” Not some, not most. All. The guy who got saved last week and the one who could give Paul a run for his money in walking close with the Lord.

Friend, let me make this as clear for you as possible. If you're a believer in Christ, then you've been baptized by the Holy Spirit. It's not dependent on your performance or your day-by-day decisions. It was decided once and for all once you received Christ. You don’t get saved and then sometime later undergo Spirit-baptism.

Now, just to clear up any further confusion, you aren't baptized into the Spirit. Take a close look at vs. 13, and substitute the word “immersed” for the word “baptized.” We know from Matthew that Jesus does the immersing, but apparently he does this by means of the Spirit. You are submerged--and permanently merged—into the body of Christ, like a drop into an ocean.

Now, why am I making such a big deal over this? Remember, I’m a practical theologian. I don’t raise an issue just to start an argument with my fellow believers. You're told by certain well-meaning people that if you don’t exhibit certain signs or certain gifts, you're basically a second-class citizen in God’s kingdom. You might be saved, but you haven’t really experienced the Holy Spirit until you’ve experienced “Spirit-baptism.” That’s not only nonsense; it's destructive nonsense.

If you’re saved, you’ve already experienced all the Spirit-baptism you’re going to experience. You have all the Spirit now that you will ever need. Right now. You are not a second-class citizen in God's Kingdom. Tomorrow we’re going to look at the real problem, something you do need to do after you're saved. But's it's not being baptized by the Spirit.

Lord Jesus, thank you for placing me within your body. I know some of my siblings drive me nuts sometimes, but I’m sure I do the same to them. Please give me patience with them, and please give them patience with me.

[August 17]--The Spirit at Work: Keeping Us Out of Sin

1 John 3:9-10

We discussed this topic a little bit back in May when we discussed soteriology, so some of this might seem familiar to you. But even though it’s sort of the same topic, there are some aspects of it I didn’t get to back then which I’d like to address now.

As you’ll recall, John wrote his epistle--along with some issues regarding a heresy called Gnosticism—for one main purpose. He wanted truly saved Christians to be assured of their salvation, and he wanted nonbelievers who'd fooled themselves into thinking they were saved to be stripped of any false assurance. He presented three tests for anyone thinking they were truly saved. If you passed the tests, you’re fine. If not, then you need to examine yourself. The tests were: 1) Right beliefs, 2) Right affection (love for siblings in Christ), and 3) A right direction in your lifestyle.

Again I need to make this point, since some Christians and even some denominations are confused on this. We still sin as believers. I’m going to struggle with sin until I see Jesus face-to-face, and there are few days I can remember in which I didn’t need to confess and repent of something.

But please note the careful wording I made in point # 3. The question is not “Do you still sin?” The question is “What direction are you taking in this area?” Are you heading towards better obedience and more faithfulness, or are you wallowing in a sinful lifestyle?

That’s how most Evangelical teachers interpret today’s passage, and that’s why the NIV translates it as “continue to sin.” The NASB renders it “practices” sin. If someone claims to be a saved, blood-bought redeemed child of God and still practices an unrepentant sinful lifestyle, then the Bible offers him no assurance of salvation. Actually it does quite the opposite.

How does this work out in my own life? I know I placed my trust in Christ as a young adult, but I still screw up. Here’s what's happened: I can’t get away with sin anymore. There are things I used to be able to do with impunity, like cussing, which I can’t do anymore. I used to love pornography. Now any lustful look I afford to a scantily clad girl on the street brings enormous guilt. I can’t enjoy sin anymore.

That’s the difference between a child of God and someone who’s not. My favorite illustration that someone gave me years ago is that of a fish and a man. A fish doesn’t mind being in water. If he could actually think like we do, he wouldn’t even have a word for "wet" in his vocabulary, because he’s never experienced or even dreamed about any other environment. It’s his natural element. But a man’s natural element in not underwater. He can’t breathe water. If he fell into a pool, he couldn’t just sink to the bottom and continue his normal activities. He might even swim around for a while, but he can’t live down there. That’s not his home.

That’s the work of the Spirit. We have a new life implanted within us at the new birth, given to us by the life-giving Spirit. The same Spirit who breathed life into the first man (Adam) and the corpse of the Lord Jesus (the second Adam), breathes life into us. He plants his life in us. That’s why we can’t just keep living like we once did. I don’t mean “we can’t” in the sense of “we shouldn’t” or “It’s really bad if we do. . .” I mean it in the sense of “We can’t jump into the water and breathe in it like a fish.” He won’t let us.

All of this, by the way, is a wonderful act of love. Aren’t you glad that he won’t just let you wander off into a self-destructive life of sin? As someone once told me, “He loves you exactly as you are, and too much to leave you that way.” That’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Holy Spirit of God, you won’t let go of me, will you? No matter what I do, no matter how much I deserve it. Thank you.