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.

[Dec 13]--Semper Fidelis

Romans 3:1-4

If you didn’t recognize the title, then I know at least one thing about you: You've never been in the U.S. Marine Corps, nor anyone in your family. It’s Latin for “always faithful,” and it’s the motto for the U.S.M.C. (often shortened to “Semper Fi”).

Faithfulness is the seventh aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. MacArthur has a pretty simple definition: “loyalty and trustworthiness.” It’s similar to honesty, but we’re not going to get into that because we’re going to examine that virtue in a few days.

All around us we see the results of the rarity of this. The divorce rate is a measurement of it. Politicians and high officials are caught violating their oath and public trust. As I write this, there’s a PFC in the Army who’s accused (pretty credibly) of passing along thousands of classified documents to an internet provider who made them public, to the very probable harm of personal lives and the efforts of the U.S. government to keep us safe.

Of course none of us can claim real innocence in this. We’ve all broken our word and disappointed someone who intimately trusted us at some time or another.

And of course that’s a great segue to the only One who’s the exception to that almost universal rule. And it leads us to today’s passage.

Paul here was discussing the advantages the Jews had, and their national rejection of the Messiah whom God had sent. We just finished going over all that before, so we’re not doing it now. But we need to know the context of the point he was trying to make.

They had the Scriptures and other advantages over every other group in human history. Yet they rejected Jesus (or Yeshua, as they called him). Does this mean that God’s plan had failed? As the apostle put it, “Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?” And there’s that phrase again which we talked about before: Me genoito. It’s translated as “Not at all!” and that really understates the impact. It’s the strongest possible negative in the Greek, and there’s no simple English word or phrase that captures it. But the closest would be “Not no but heck no!” in the unedited version.

It doesn’t matter what people do or don’t do, because the Lord is always faithful to his word. When he promises something, heaven and earth will collapse in on themselves before one syllable is proven false. The Jews were unfaithful, but that doesn’t mean that God had dropped the ball on what he'd pledged.

I love the next phrase that Paul uses—“Let God be true, and every human being a liar.” It’s not true that “One man and God makes a majority.” It’s much more accurate to say that “God plus no one makes a majority.” He is the majority. If all of humanity—past, present and future—could testify with one voice with the opposite opinion, then that would mean that all humanity was lying or confused.

Why? Because he is Truth. Our Savior is the Truth made flesh. The abstract idea, the principle of truth? It took on human form and has a name. Everything is true or not true inasmuch as it conforms to him. As C.S. Lewis put it, he could no more be wrong and you right than water could flow uphill.

This is all well and good, but what does it have to do with me? Well, there’s a good practical application in the last verse of this passage. One day all of humanity is going to be judged. Every person who stands before this bench will be stripped naked of all pretenses, every excuse, and every mask we’ve worn. They'll be judged by Truth Incarnate, namely Christ.

On that day, if you’re not covered by the blood of Jesus, you’re cooked (literally). His righteousness will be the only thing that can save anyone on that day. Are you covered? If you're not sure, check this out.

The second practical application is pretty comforting compared to the first one. When Jesus says something, we can believe it. For example when he says that if we believe in him we’ll never be condemned, we can rest on that. Any other promise that he makes is much surer than the sun rising tomorrow.

And finally, this is a call for us to examine ourselves. Are we showing ourselves to be followers of the One who is the Truth Incarnate? Is that on display with how we keep our promises? On how faithful we are to our commitments? On how well people can rely on and trust us?

Lord Jesus, I thank you that you do keep your promises. Please make me like you.

[Dec 12]--Oh For Goodness' Sake!

Luke 18:18-25

Now we come to goodness, the sixth aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. By the way, if you have something against John MacArthur, then you might as well skip this blog for the next couple of days. In his commentary on Gal. 5:22-23 (the passage on the Fruit), he gives a great definition of each of these aspects, and I’m probably going to keep referring to it. Keep in mind that the word in Galatians for “fruit” is singular, not plural: There's only one Fruit of the Spirit, but there are at least nine aspects of it which can be distinguished from each other. So what’s MacArthur’s definition of “goodness”? It’s “moral and spiritual excellence manifested in active kindness.”

I chose today’s passage to jump into a discussion on this subject because it strikes home with a solid point on this virtue. At first it might seem like an odd passage to use, but please bear with me.

If you’re familiar with the Gospels, you probably know the story. A rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked him the question that every evangelist would love to hear: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Now, if we were reading this story for the first time, we'd probably never expect Jesus to respond the way he did, because we never would. Any evangelist worth his salt would undoubtedly start into a recitation of the Roman Road of salvation or some other formula. Not that I’m knocking formulas necessarily, but that’s not how Jesus responded at all. We might also expect him to provide a pretty simple response, like “You want to know what to do to inherit eternal life? Believe in and follow me.” That certainly would've qualified as a good answer, but that’s not what he said either.

Here’s his response: “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.” Now there are at least three good theories I’ve heard which explain his pretty mysterious response. First, some interpreters say that Jesus was so concerned about the honor of his Father that he couldn’t bear the term “good” being applied to anyone else. It’s certainly true that zeal for his Father’s name consumed him. The other possibility is that he’s trying to get the young man to think a little harder about who he’s talking to. If you follow Jesus’ line of reasoning (No one can be called ‘good’ except God), and mix it with what the young man called him, it might be that he’s subtly claiming to be more than just a human teacher, that he’s claiming to be divine.

The third theory is that he’s attempting to get the young man to think a little deeper about his own righteousness compared to God’s. This certainly would dovetail nicely to Jesus’ further approach in showing the young man his spiritual bankruptcy.

We won’t go into the rest of the story, since we covered it before.

But why do I bring this up? What’s the point I’m trying to make? Whichever theory you hold regarding Jesus’ opening statement, the fact remains that he did say it. In the final and most meaningful sense of the term, only God is good. He’s the standard for goodness. He’s the yardstick against which everything else is measured. And compared to him, everything and everyone else falls short to some degree or another.

Does this mean that it’s always wrong to say that someone or something is good? No. The very first chapter of the Bible tells us that God proclaimed his creation “good” and “very good.” Does it make sense that the Lord makes absolutely no distinction between a good man and a bad one? I don’t think so.

But again, this is talking about relative goodness, not absolute purity. I can be a better man than X in a relative sense. But when compared to the Lord, it’s really not right that the same term “good” is applied to both the Holy One of Israel and me.

Does this mean I’m off the hook, that I don’t need to be concerned about goodness in my life? Um, no. We are called--we are expected--to constantly strive to be morally excellent. We see our Lord as the ultimate goal line. Even though we’re never going to be perfect in this life, we need to continually put effort into being a better follower of Christ, to let his goodness shine though us and out of us. As we spend time with him, talk to him and let him speak to us, be plugged into his Body, and let his word soak into our heart, we will.

And he'll be good through us.

Lord Jesus, I want to be satisfied and not satisfied. I rest in your goodness, but I want more of it. Whatever I need to do, let’s do it.