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 27]—Lessons From A Runaway

Jonah 1

Now we come to the book of Jonah, which is one of my favorite stories of the Old Testament. It’s a short book: You can easily read it in one sitting. But there’s so much meaning packed into these four small chapters that we’re going to take about a chapter a day.

First, we need just a little bit of background. Ironically, the name Jonah means “Dove,” which is the last word I would’ve chosen to ascribe to this man. He was a contemporary of Amos, so this was a time when Israel was a dominant power in the area. During this time, however, the nation of Assyria was a perennial threat, and its capital was Nineveh. This city was infamous for its aggression and brutality towards its neighbors. Commonly when it captured prisoners of war, it used large hooks thrust thru the mouths of its captives to lead them into exile. So Nineveh was A) a thoroughly wicked and brutal city, and B) a mortal enemy of Israel and Judah.

And it was to this city that Jonah was called to preach. The Lord called him and told him basically “I’m sending you to proclaim my word to Nineveh. You’re going to go to them and urge them to repent, because I’m about to execute judgment on them.”

What did he do? He ran away. He went in the exactly opposite direction. Later in the book he gives a very specific reason for his disobedience: The last thing he wanted to see was Ninevah repent. He didn’t want to see God forgive them! He wanted to watch them burn!

So he figured that if he didn’t complete his mission, Nineveh would be destroyed.

Here’s where it gets almost funny if it wasn’t so serious. Let me get this straight: You’re going to run and hide from an omniscient God. Well, what else was he going to do? Actually do what the Lord had told him to do?

So he boarded a ship heading in the opposite direction from where he needs to go. The Lord sent a storm onto the ship, and its hardened, most experienced sailors were terrified. The captain, out of concern for everyone on the ship, went and found Jonah. In stark contrast to the pagans—who at least knew that there were supernatural reasons behind the storm—the prophet was asleep below. In other words, his physical state matched his spiritual state.

They all drew lots to see who’s the cause of all this, and the lot fell on Jonah. To his credit, he finally showed some concern for people other than himself, and he urged them to throw him overboard. And to the credit of these pagans who didn’t know the one true God at all, they did their best to avoid doing this to him. But although they did their best, it was—as always—the Lord’s purpose that prevailed. They realized that they had to do the unthinkable, and tossed him overboard. And as Jonah sank into the depths, the Lord provided a big sea creature (the Hebrew is a generic term, not necessarily a whale) to swallow his wayward prophet and save his life.

So what can we learn?

A) It’s really really really foolish to try to run away from the Lord. Whether you do it literally (like Jonah) or figuratively, you’ll only end up hurting yourself.

B) When you do things your way instead of God’s way, you don’t just hurt yourself. Jonah’s disobedience jeopardized the lives of everyone on that boat.

C) It’s a sad state of affairs, but it does happen at times. More often that we’d like to admit, sometimes pagans acts better than God’s people. What that happens, it brings disgrace to the name of Jesus. This should not be. It must not be.

Alright, I think we have enough to ponder for today.

Father God, I hate to admit it, but I think there’s more Jonah in me than I care to think about. It’s not just wrong and sinful to be disobedient to you, it’s really stupid. When I’m acting like this, please wake me from my slumber.

[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.