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]--A Hero?

Luke 16:1-13

God’s word is full of examples of irony, and I guess I’m enough of an oddball that they’re fascinating to me. The Story of the “Prodigal Son” is Jesus’ most famous parable. Countless sermons have been preached from it to good effect. But right after it is a story that rarely ranks on anyone’s “favorite parable” list. The NIV calls it “The Parable of the Shrewd Manager,” and that’s as good a name as any. It took me a while to get the point of this story, but it’s become one of great meaning to me.

We start off the story with a “manager” or “steward” and his rich boss. Actually he had the same type of job that Joseph did under Potiphar. The manager was a trusted servant who was put in charge of a person’s day-to-day operations. It was commonly his job to feed the other servants, pay the bills, conduct business affairs, etc. Joseph was an honest one, and this guy was not. The rich man discovered some discrepancies in the books, and gave him notice. Apparently the boss only saw him as incompetent, not dishonest, which explains why the manager had enough time to do what he did.

Interpreters disagree over whether or not what the manager did in response (in approaching all these debtors) was dishonest in itself or not. What was the extra money that the manager's taking off their bills? Was it the boss’s interest rate? Was it his own little “managing fee”? Or was the manager simply stealing from his boss one last time? Jesus doesn’t really make it clear, but I would lean towards the first option. At any rate, it looks like his special arrangement was dishonest, since he kept it a secret from the boss.

There are two surprising things about this story, at least to me. The first is the boss’s reaction to this. The manager still was fired, but the boss actually complimented him on his shrewdness. His reaction was not “You stole from me! I’m having you thrown in jail for that!” It was “Well done! I’m impressed!” I guess he admired the manager’s skills and intelligence, even if he despised him for his dishonesty.

The thing that surprises me much more is the “punch line” of the story. Jesus is praising the manager! He points us to this guy as someone to emulate! This lying thief provides an important example for us to follow!

Our Lord, who put a commandment against stealing in his “Top Ten” list, is not condoning dishonesty or theft. But he wants us to learn some things from the manager. There are some admirable attributes which we need and often lack.

First and foremost, the guy saw enough of the future to prepare for it. He knew he was about to turned out of his job, and he took steps to provide for himself. He was smart enough to realize that he either had to have a source of income or starve. So he carried out a plan to ingratiate himself to some people who'd be indebted to him.

That’s really the main point that Jesus is making here. Like the manager, we’re handling money and resources which don’t really belong to us. We’re only managers ourselves, and one day we’re going to have to surrender it all and give an accounting. No matter how much money I have in my bank account, whether $20 or $2,000,000, it’s all going away. No matter what I invest it in, it’s going to be dust and ashes one day: Land, stocks, buildings, technology, etc.

But there’s one area in which I can invest which will provide “dividends” on the other side of the Great Divide. Souls. I can invest in souls. How can I do that? By pouring my resources (money and everything else I have) into spreading the Good News of Christ and helping people to develop a relationship with him. That’s what Jesus is talking about in vs. 9. Once I step into Eternity, I'm going to be welcomed by those whose lives the Lord touched through me, and I'd rather have that than Bill Gates's bank account any day, wouldn't you?

That’s the sad irony here. The manager puts most believers to shame when it comes to seeing the future. Even materialistic nonbelievers can know that they aren't going to have their job forever, so the smartest among them plan for the inevitable day when that income dries up. We as followers of Jesus know that everything in this world will be dust and ashes someday. Why don’t my investments reflect that? And don’t forget what he said as an epilogue to this: If I want to have the Father trust me with “true” riches, I need to be a good steward of what he’s given me thus far. Am I? Are you?

On a much more positive side to this, here's a video perfectly illustrating this grand "welcoming" which Jesus talked about: "Thank You" by Ray Boltz

Lord Jesus, please give me an eternal perspective. May I hold loosely to what I’m going to lose anyway, and really pour what I have and what I am into what’s going to last.

[July 14]--Who’s the Prodigal One?

Luke 15:11-32

OK, we’ve come to it. This is undoubtedly Jesus’ most famous parable, repeatedly told over the last 2000 years. It’s a beautiful story, and God has certainly used it to bring countless lost souls to himself. The only reason why I wouldn’t like it is because it’s so familiar. There’s not a whole lot I could say about it that you haven’t heard before, assuming you’re familiar with it at all. For all that you’re about to read that you’ve heard before, I apologize.

First, the very fact that the son is asking for his “share” of the estate would've been totally shocking to Jesus’ first audience. It’s hard to overestimate just how blatantly disrespectful this would've been seen. He was basically wishing his father was dead. And as soon as he got his inheritance, he turned it into cash and left home, effectively saying to his entire family “You’re dead to me now.”

He went off to a “far country” and used up all his money in “wild living.” There’s some debate as to whether or not his brother was exaggerating when he accused him of using it on “prostitutes.” I tend to think that it's a fairly reasonable assumption that he did.

I know I said this last year when we discussed the Fall of humanity, but it bears repeating: Sin will take you further than you want to go and end up costing you more than you’re willing to pay. The Enemy of our souls will always present his “package” as a great deal, and it starts out sweet and ends up with the most bitter of aftertastes. The writer of Hebrews put it best when he called it “the passing pleasures of sin.” The pleasures soon go away and leave behind the bad consequences.

Once the money ran out, he sank to what he thought was the bottom, then sank a little more. Just remember this is a supposedly Jewish kid, and this was a Jewish audience listening. For the boy to get to the point of feeding pigs would be the lowest of the low. That is, until you realize that he was in such bad shape that the “food” that the pigs were eating was starting to look pretty good. That’s where you end up when you step outside of the Father’s house.

I love the phrase “when he came to his senses,” don’t you? It took him reaching rock bottom to realize just how good he had it back in the father’s house. Even the lowest servants in that house had it better than he had it now. So he rehearsed his little speech, got up, and walked back home.

Notice that the father noticed him “a long way off,” which seems to indicate he was looking for his boy. Day after day he was working outside, scanning the horizon for the son he had lost. When he saw him, he ran out to meet his son. What better image could Jesus present as to how God responds to sinners who have come to their senses?

Here’s where I have a couple of questions. This story has had several titles, including “The Prodigal Son” or “The Lost Son.” These aren’t necessarily wrong, but I have a slight quibble with both of them. The word prodigal can mean “wasteful” or have other bad connotations. But it could also mean “lavish” or “yielding abundantly.” In that case, you could also call this the story about “The Prodigal Father.” When we come home, he spares absolutely no expense to demonstrate how happy he is about that. Each of these three stories has a celebration when what was lost was found. His heart is to forgive, to restore, and to redeem. In the end, all of his enemies will be destroyed. But his preferred method of destroying his enemies is to turn them into his adopted children and co-heirs.

The trivial objection I have to the other title is that this is not a story of one lost son. I might call it “The Story of Two Lost Sons.” Look carefully at the mind-set presented by the elder son. The entire household is having a lavish party to celebrate the return, and he refuses to participate. The father comes out to plead with him, and the son displays an incredibly self-righteous, disrespectful attitude. Please notice that the returnee is called “this son of yours,” not “my brother.” This is meant to unerringly mirror the thoughts of the Pharisees.

So are the portrayals of either son hitting home to you? Have you been “feeding the pigs,” trying to tell yourself that you’re really not that bad off? If you have questions about that, see here. Or is the picture of the elder brother a little closer to the truth than is comfortable? What do you think?

And finally, here's a video of my favorite song about this story...

Lord Jesus, once again I’m reminded that apart from you there’s nothing good inside me. I need your mercy just as much now as I ever have. Whenever the spirit of the elder brother starts to come back up, please squelch it as only your grace can.