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.

[May 26]—Schadenfreude

Obadiah

            Do you know what that one-word title means? Websters.com defines it as “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.” But in the way I’ve heard it commonly used, it usually refers to enjoyment obtained from the trouble of others to whom you’re hostile. To be clear, you might or might not have a reason to be personally hostile. Let’s say you have someone you “love to hate” in the public sphere with whom you disagree politically, or who is embracing a lifestyle you find repugnant, or maybe you’re just envious of their success. And then you hear about a terrible tragedy or huge setback in their life; maybe they just got arrested, or they just announced that they have a life-threatening illness. And you say to yourself “It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy! Good riddance!” That’s Schadenfreude.
            And that’s the topic of today’s passage. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, the Edomites, despite being relatives of Israel, had always been unfriendly to them. Israel had really attempted to befriend them, or at least not have mutual hostilities. As best as we can determine, this attempt to reach out to them had never been reciprocated. Their attitude and actions towards Israel ranged all the way from a “cold war” to open aggression.
            We’re not exactly sure what event to which Obadiah is referring, and it’s not all that important. What is important is that Israel (referring to the entire nation, not the northern kingdom) was being invaded by a foreign power. Edom stood by and cheered them on, and later joined in the plunder. While their Jewish brothers were dying, they were standing off to the side and called out “Hit 'em again, harder, harder!”
             And then they did worse than that. Any major invasion or battle is going to produce refugees, people who’re fleeing the danger. Did the Edomites show any compassion at all? No, quite the contrary. They killed or captured as many of these poor helpless souls as possible and sold any survivors back to the invaders.
            Now, it’s quite likely that that this trouble on Israel was her own fault. Time and time again the Lord warned his people, and after enough futile warnings, he used other nations as his rod of discipline. He'd hand Israel over to her enemies for a short (or not so short) time as punishment, and she’d experience multiple casualties, loss of land, loss of resources, and loss of people to exile.
            But that in no way excused Edom’s actions which were based on horrible attitudes. Along with hatred of brothers, they were also guilty of overweening pride in their (internationally famous) wisdom and a false sense of security in their own defenses. They were sure no one could ever touch them.
            But they were wrong. Dead wrong. God was watching all this, and he’s the Lord over all nations. His Day was coming in which he’d sit in judgment over every country and tribe and person in the world. And in response to their conduct, Edom would be. . . wiped out completely. Israel would be punished, but she’d eventually recover: Her remnant would come back from the brink. But not Edom. A thief would only steal what he wanted and would probably leave something behind. But when the God of Israel was done with them, there’d be nothing left.
            So what can I take from this? What is the Lord trying to tell me today? Maybe I’ve been too prideful in my own accomplishments, in my own “wisdom.” Maybe I feel secure in my own resources like Edom did, thinking nothing can touch me. Or maybe I’m harboring an unresolved conflict with my sibling in Christ.
            If anything of these apply, I need to deal with them now. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Today.
            How about you?

Father, I see a lot of Edom in me sometimes. I may not have carried it to the degree they did, but that’s because of your grace, not because of any goodness in me. Please search me out, from top to bottom and inside-out. Whatever you see that doesn’t look like you, please cleanse and remove. 

[May 25]—Final Restoration

Amos 9:11-15

            I approach today’s reading with fear and trepidation. I love the passage itself, especially after the nigh-unrelenting negativity of the entire book up till now. After spending eight and three-quarter chapters slapping Israel up one side and down the other, he ends the book on a completely positive note. The prophet, probably with tears of joy in his eyes, predicts a time of final restoration of Israel. The Lord’s wrath will be finally and completely appeased, the people will no longer rebel against his standards and expectations, and they'll no longer have to live in fear. “Never again” will Israel be punished.
            But before we go forward, we have to deal with the elephant in the room, which is the cause of my hesitancy. How do we interpret this passage? Specifically, when is/was this fulfilled? David’s tent is obviously referring to David’s greater Son coming into his Kingdom. When is/was David’s “tent” restored?
            Most conservative scholarship falls into two camps, answering the question in one of two ways. Let me hastily add that a lot of very very smart people whom I respect differ with me on this, but I should add that a lot of very very smart people also agree with me (or more precisely I agree with them). I’d be fine with avoiding this controversy altogether (particularly on this blog), but we really can’t discuss this passage without also discussing how to interpret it.
            One side says that all (or most) of this was fulfilled at the 1st coming of Christ, especially as the Church expanded past the Jews into all the world. And there’s very good reason to do this: The apostles seem to have interpreted it as such. At the very first official church council recorded in Scripture, the main issue at hand was how much to demand of Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus. Some teachers proposed that they need to basically become Jews first, that they need to get circumcised and keep the Mosaic Law.  The apostles officially repudiated this notion; Gentiles do not have to keep the Mosaic Law. And to prove their point, they quoted today’s passage. So when someone claims that today’s passage was completely fulfilled in the early days of the Church, they have evidence for it. These people therefore claim that Israel as a nation—and the Jews as a people--no longer have any unique place in God’s plan nor are under any special care.
            Others look at Amos’s passage and take it (and passages like it) as literally as possible. They believe that this passage is referring to the return of Christ: When he comes back in power and glory, David’s “tent” will be restored once and for all, all God’s enemies will be subdued, and there will be universal peace and prosperity for 1000 years, exactly as described in today’s passage.
            Me? I think it’s partially fulfilled back in the time of the apostles (far be it from me to question their inspired interpretation of Scripture), and will be completely and (mostly) literally fulfilled when Christ returns. No, I don’t think that the Lord’s rejection of Israel (which happened when they rejected the Messiah) is either total or final. See here for more on this touchy subject.
            Why don’t I buy into the first group’s interpretation? There are quite a few reasons, but most of them can be summed up in this: Quite frankly, taking passages like this as being figuratively or spiritually fulfilled at the 1st coming or in the Church Age make no sense to me. Trying to squeeze round pegs like “I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them” into the round hole of the Church Age doesn’t seem. . . natural to me. The most natural reading to me is the more literal one.
            But no matter which side of the fence you fall on, this passage is uplifting. Wrong will be made right. All of God’s enemies will be punished. But thank the Lord, his preferred method of destroying his enemies is to turn them into beloved co-heirs. And his redeemed people will live in safety, forever. Right now in this world, to be associated with the name of Jesus Christ is to invite suffering which ranges from mockery to torture and death. But that won’t always be the case. The Day is swiftly coming in which to be associated with Christ will be the best thing that happened to anyone.
            Do you join with me in longing for that Day? (Sigh)

Lord Jesus, I have lots to look forward to when you return, but first and foremost I’m longing to see you get what belongs to you, what’s rightfully yours. Let’s see a foretaste of the Day, in my life, right here and now.