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.

[July 15]—Livin’ On A. . .Part Eleven: Setting Fire To The Earth

Revelation 8:1-5

            Today we’re finishing up our short study on prayer. We’ve talked about the main aspects (praise, thanksgiving, confession, and petition), when to pray, how to pray, our High Priest who’s our Go-between, etc. But I want to reemphasize something I said at the beginning of this study. The ultimate purpose of this is not to learn more about prayer. It's to help you and encourage you to pray better and more often. To the degree you pray better and more often, I’ve succeeded or failed.
            I feel I need to end this on a note of encouragement. One of my favorite paintings illustrates what I’m trying to get at here. 

Inside the room is a father praying over his son. Nothing special. Happens in millions of homes all over the world. If you were inside that room, you'd hear nothing but whispers and the quiet breathing of a sleeping child. But outside. . . there's a war going on. Something malevolent wants to come in, but there's a guardian over this family, and like Gandalf in front of the Balrog, the Lord's servant is telling the servant of the Enemy "You. . . shall not. . . PASS!!!!" Gives me chills to think about it. 
            The book of Revelation has a lot of purposes, and those who go to it merely (or mostly) to get a schedule on the Apocalypse are really missing out on a lot. More than any other book, it gives us images on how the spiritual realm and the physical realm interact. In fact, they flow together seamlessly. What happens up in heaven immediately affects what happens on the earth.
            But today’s passage is one in which we see something pretty unusual: Things on earth affect what happens in Heaven. An angel takes incense, along with the prayers of God’s people, and offers it up to the Almighty on his throne. Then, at the Lord’s command, the angel “took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” As near as I can tell—and I’m backed up with some good commentators here—the prayers of God’s people instigated the angel’s actions. Heaven sent fire on the earth in response to the prayers of God’s people.
            Now, in the name of theological precision, I have to note here that I thoroughly believe that any true prayer--that God is going to hear--is ultimately instigated by the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to ultimately initiate anything. I don’t want to come up with anything on my own. I want to tap into what my Lord already has planned and jump into the flow of that stream.
            But having said that, prayers are his means of moving the earth, just like he uses other means.
            And that doesn’t negate my point in the slightest. Our prayers affect what happens in the spiritual realm, which will ultimately affect what happens in the physical realm.
            Imagine for a moment a scene like that painting up above. A little girl is praying by her bedside. Being quite young, she struggles with the right words. Her theology might not be completely on the money. Her grammar leaves a lot to be desired. To the naked eye, there’s not a lot going on here, just a little girl mumbling quietly. A fully grown man would seem to be a lot more powerful than anything going on with the little girl. There are countless things in the world of men, such as the meetings of presidents and kings, which would be much more significant, at least to the naked eye.
            But that’s not what’s happening behind the scenes. Angels stand in awe of the Spirit’s work as he guides her prayers from the inside-out and she struggles with the right words. The prayers are brought up to the Savior, where he takes them, makes them acceptable, and presents them before the Father. Heaven is moved, and earth is shaken.
            Your prayers might not seem like much. Maybe you’ve been praying for the same thing for years, perhaps for the salvation of a loved one. You haven’t seen anything happening. Assuming that there’s nothing blocking it (like we talked about a few days ago), then there are things happening. The problem is that you can only see in the physical realm, not the spiritual one. You don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes.
            Please don’t give up, not until you feel the Lord’s leading to do so. That time you make one more effort, that one more prayer might be the one that does what we’re talking about. What you’re sending into the spiritual realm will eventually have an effect that you can see, one way or another. Don’t give up.

Father God, it is an incredible thing to think about what my pitiful, half-selfish, pathetic prayers can do when Jesus takes them. Please give me the patience I need. You have vested me with such responsibility. Please, by your grace, help me to live up to it. 

[July 14]—Livin’ On A. . .Part Ten: Some Thoughts On Perseverance

Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14; 14:11-12; Matthew 6:5-8

            Here’s a question for you: How long should you pray for something or someone?
            If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you probably know what I’m talking about. Let’s say you have a debilitating illness, or a loved one who doesn’t know Jesus. Or maybe you have a child who’s straying from the godly path you’ve tried to keep them on. Or you’re stuck in a horrible marriage, and it seems to just be getting worse. You’ve prayed, asking God to intervene. And again. And again. And again. And as best as you can tell, nothing has happened.
            You might be familiar with Paul’s thorn in the flesh. No, I don’t know what it specifically was. None of us are sure. But the point is clear: Paul--undoubtedly one of the godliest men of his generation (only God knows if he was closer than Peter or any of the other apostles), the author of a majority of our New Testament--asked the Lord to take it away. Three times. And the Lord told him no. So there’s that.
            But I’d like to draw your attention to a lesser known lesson we can glean from Scripture about prayer. I was tempted to talk about this when we were discussing the prophets, but it really fits better here while we’re on the topic of prayer.
            You know that Jeremiah’s known as the “weeping prophet.” The vast majority of his prophecies were negative: God’s people were sinning egregiously, the Lord was about to judge and punish them, and they could either repent or face destruction. And as his nickname indicates, Jeremiah was far from happy about seeing people suffer and die, even though they would be suffering because they fully deserved it. Inspired by his Lord, he took no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he turn from his ways and live; he didn’t want anyone to perish, but that everyone come to repentance. There was absolutely not a trace of Schadenfreude in his soul.
            So he prayed for them. He undoubtedly asked that the Lord move their hearts away from sin and towards himself, in his (and Moses’) terms to “circumcise [their] hearts.” Or like Amos, maybe he just asked the Lord to stay his hand of judgment, to not bring on them the judgment they deserved. He tried to stand in the gap between a holy God and a sinful people, representing each one before the other.
            This tells me something about this man. The responses he received from the people ranged all the way from indifference to violent hostility. They laughed at him and threatened him. To our knowledge, after all his preaching and pleading before the people, he successfully gained one convert. His response was to pray for these ungrateful sinners, to plead with God on their behalf.
            And finally, the Lord told him to stop. Not once. Not twice. Three times the Lord specifically ordered his prophet to stop praying for the people of Israel. Apparently they were too far gone, and the Lord would no longer listen to any more pleas on their behalf.
            Now, a huge part of maturity and wisdom is to recognize the danger of extremes and the value of balance. There’s very little in this world which you can’t do too much or too little of. Too much food and you’re overweight. Too little and you starve or at least hurt your health. There’s such a thing as too little and too much sleep, time with friends, time with your spouse, playing, working, etc.
            It's possible to read your Bible too much, I suppose, if it’s to the detriment of other things. If you read it so much that you neglect telling others about Jesus, just to take an extremely hypothetical example.
            And it’s theoretically possible to pray too much for someone. There might come a time, when you’ve prayed for the salvation of someone over and over and over, that that the Lord actually tells you the same thing he told Jeremiah.
            But let me confess something to you, my friend. If that was the greatest fault in my walk with Christ, that I prayed for someone after God told me to quit, I’d be pretty thrilled.
That’s usually not my problem. My problem is the other extreme, that I give up way too easily. I ask him to intervene in someone’s life, don’t see immediate results, and give up.
So how can we tell when enough is enough? What about the reading from the Gospels, where Jesus warns us against “[keeping] on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
Let’s be careful of the context here. Pagans would just keep mumbling things over and over and over, not even thinking about what they were saying. It was a rote prayer; quite frankly, I think there’s a rough equivalent when someone does a certain number of repetitions of the “Lord’s Prayer” or “Hail Mary.” Muslims and others offer rote prayers, and frequently they don’t even know what they’re praying. It might even be in a language they don’t speak.
            No, the example I think of when I think of perseverance on which our Lord smiles is when a child asks something from their parent, and he says “We’ll see.” He doesn’t say “Yes,” or “No.” With our Father, a firm “No” is the end of the discussion. But if he doesn’t say “No,” then I'd take that as an invitation to keep asking.
            Again, I suppose that it’s possible for us to spend too much time pleading for the salvation of others, but it’d be awfully hard to do, and I don’t think that’s my greatest problem.
            I think I can stand to move further in that direction before I run into any type of danger. What about you?

Father God, I spend waaaaaaay too little time before your Throne of Grace, and too much time on things of no eternal significance. Please help reset my priorities.