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.

[Oct 20]—Before and After


            I remember several years ago when I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine coming from a Catholic background. He and I agreed on a lot of stuff, but I recall very distinctly something he said which has bothered me for years. We were discussing theology, and he said “I’m not really comfortable talking about salvation in a simple ‘before and after’ way.” In other words, he saw salvation as more of a process than a “moment-in-time,” “change your life forever with one decision” type of thing. Unfortunately, I let it go, probably because I wasn’t nearly as clear in my biblical thinking as I should've been.
            The reason this has driven me nuts over the years is because if I could go back to that moment, I would've pulled out today’s passage, read it with him, and then asked him “If this isn’t a ‘before and after” experience, then how would you describe it?”
            Paul is moving from the cosmic import of the Father’s plan into their own personal lives: “As for you . . .” We’re moving from spiritual forces which could snap us like a twig (in chapter one) down into the supposedly mundane lives of people reading this letter. What does salvation mean to me, one guy living in the here and now, one individual who’s probably never going to be known outside his small circle of family and friends?”
            Contra my friend from years ago, you could hardly come up with more of a stark contrast between our condition before Christ got a hold of us vs. after. Before Christ rescued me,

·         I was spiritually dead in my transgressions and sins. Not sick, nor terminally ill. I was not in my last dying moments, as Christ the EMT was using a defibrillator on me to try to revive me. I was stone-cold on the slab--tag on my toe--dead to God. Dead to spiritual life. Dead to all his blessings. Dead to his goodness.

·         I followed the ways of this world. Again, this is not talking about the physical earth; as MacArthur put it, he’s referring to "the invisible spiritual system of evil dominated by Satan and all that it offers in opposition to God, His Word, and His people."

·         I followed and belonged to the Devil. That’s who Paul is talking about when he refers to “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” I know that’s shocking to modern ears, but maybe some clarification could help. This isn’t saying that a nonbeliever is consciously worshipping Satan or is demon-possessed like something out of the Exorcist. That’s the problem: People who don’t belong to Christ belong to the Evil One; Jesus is painstakingly clear that there's no third alternative. And they don’t know to whom they belong. Because they see themselves as basically decent people, they see themselves as a child of God. They’re not drawing pentagrams and sacrificing goats, but by doing things their own way instead of God’s way, they’re showing who their spiritual father is, and it’s not God.

·         I was by nature an object of his wrath. The NIV (2011 version) translates it as “deserving” of his wrath, which doesn’t quite catch the impact, as far as I’m concerned. Literally Paul says that I was a “child” of wrath, which means that I was destined for it. Not that I was just deserving it, but I was well on my way to getting what I fully deserved. And if the Lord hadn’t intervened, nothing would've stopped me from getting it.

I’ve said this before, but one of the most beautiful words in the Bible is a simple three-letter one: But. We were in a situation just about as dire as we could get outside of the Lake of Fire itself. But God, who is rich in mercy (one of the great understatements of all time), because of his great love for us made us alive in Christ. From the rest of the Bible, we know what Paul is talking about here: He laid upon his own Son my sin and his own righteous anger. In some mysterious sense, “[He] made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Then he raised me up in Christ and seated me in the heavenly realms next to him. 
And again, we come to a recurring theme in vs. 7, one which I think our self-focusing American church needs to hear: Yes, God did this because he loves me, but the ultimate reason he did this was so that I could be an eternal “trophy” of his grace and mercy and love. MacArthur: “Salvation, of course, is very much for the believer's blessing, but it is even more for the purpose of eternally glorifying God for bestowing on believers His endless and limitless grace and kindness. The whole of heaven glorifies Him for what He has done in saving sinners (cf. 3:10; Rev 7:10-12).”
We’re running a bit long here, so we’ll look at vss. 8-10 tomorrow.

Lord Jesus, when we get to passages like this, I feel like so inadequate in saying anything. The only proper response to this is “Thank you,” and “I’m yours.” 

[Oct 19]—Prayer for Enlightenment


            For the longest time, I’ve wanted to reclaim the word “meditation” from Eastern religions like Buddhism. The Bible, particularly the Psalms, has a lot of references to meditation, although the meaning is very different from what people like Buddhists are talking about. They’re referring to emptying your mind as the main goal; the Bible wants us to empty our mind of the daily concerns and worries, not for its own sake, but so that we can fill it with something else. Take a few moments and contemplate--without any interruption—some glorious Biblical truth, such as God’s sovereignty over everything, or what Jesus went through for me, or his multiple mercies he shows me every day. The problem is that we’ve let others take over a thoroughly biblical word, and it’s a lost art among modern Christians, at least American ones.
            It’s the same principle with the word “enlightenment.” Adherents of eastern religions use this term to represent attaining some higher plain of existence and understanding. Again, this is seen as an end in itself. As we’ll see, the Bible passage today has something to say about this.
            Today’s passage is a prayer that Paul made regularly for the Ephesians. He thanked the Father for the progress they’d made in faith and love. You might notice that the book of Ephesians is much more positive than others he wrote (particularly 1 Corinthians), and one of the reasons is that apparently the church in Ephesus was doing—on the whole—pretty well, at least at this point in time (the Lord Jesus had a more mixed view of them a few years later). But even if they were the best church in the world, they weren’t perfect, since there's no perfection this side of Glory. And that means there’s always room for improvement.
            Then he moves to the heart of his prayer.  This is an open “secret” to the Christian life, one which the Bible brings up repeatedly but a lot of believers miss: The battle to become more like Christ begins and ends in your thought life, particularly how you perceive things. Everything springs from that. If you perceive and think about things correctly, that will (eventually) overflow into your words and actions. That’s why Paul, in the very beginning of his “practical” section of Romans (chapters 12-16) starts with the command to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This is the rock-bottom foundation of becoming like Christ: changing your thinking to match his, looking at things and people the way he sees them. Everything you do and say will flow out of that. 
            He starts by praying that the Father would give us more and more of the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, so that we would know Christ better (both head-knowledge and relationship-knowledge). All of us need this. No matter where we are in our walk with Christ, we can always love him and obey him and please him better.
            Then we come to the part I want to focus on. This is where our perceptions are so important. Paul prayed that the eyes of their hearts might be enlightened (there’s that word), so that they might know (better) 1) the hope that he’s called us to (the incredibly glorious inheritance we have in Christ) and 2) his “incomparably great power for us who believe.”
            The rest of the passage is describing this power that he references. This power
·         Is for every believer. Not that we control it for our own selfish purposes. But this power is that which protects us, provides for us, saves us, sets us apart, makes us holy, etc. If the Enemy wants to harm us, this power is something with which he must contend.
·         Is the same which he exerted when he raised Jesus from the dead. Meditate on that just for a moment. Think of the power that God Almighty exerted when he shattered the hold that Death had on our Savior. The earthquake on earth around the tomb was nothing compared to the quakes in Heaven and Hell. And this this is the same power that resides within you to overcome the Enemy and anything that life or death throws at you.
·         Is the same power and authority which he exerted when he seated Christ at his right hand. In vs. 22, Paul asserts that at the ascension the Father placed all things under the feet of his Son. Everything. Seen and unseen. All names and powers and authorities and dominions, from the tin pot dictator to the greatest spiritual forces in Heaven and Hell. They’re all under his feet.
·         Is for the church. Why did I make this a separate point from the 1st one? Because there’s a difference in saying that this power is for the benefit of each individual believer and saying that this power is for the benefit of the universal Church. Yes, he deals with us as individuals, but we are each a part of his Body. And this power--which he used when he was raised from the dead and which he now exerts at the right hand of the Father--is the power that he exerts on behalf of his Bride. And woe to him who even thinks about harming her. As God said of his people in days of old, he says of us now: “Whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye.”

            This is what Paul wants you to understand better. He wants you to be able to see—with the eyes of faith—both our inheritance and the One who’s fighting for us. When you gain this perspective, everything else will fall into place. And you can rejoice.

Lord Jesus, I’m repeating Paul’s prayer for myself. I ask for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know you better. I pray that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened, in order that I may know the hope to which you've called me, the riches of your glorious inheritance in your holy people, and your incomparably great power for me. By your grace, help me to tap into that unimaginable power, so that I can serve and obey you as you deserve.