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.

[April 22]--The Best News They’ve Never Heard! Part Five: How To Open?

John 4:1-26

            Most of us are not natural salesmen and thus not the greatest conversationalists. The very thought of just coming up to someone and starting a conversation about Jesus is one of the most daunting obstacles to being witnesses for Christ. So how do we do it?
            Let me start off my answer to that with a disclaimer. In no way do I propose that what I’ve about to submit is the only way to start a conversation about the Savior. I don’t even necessarily claim that it’s the best way; I’m certainly open to suggestions on how to “break the ice” and move from an insipid dialogue about the weather and football to more eternal issues. Jesus didn’t use this method with every person he met. But it has this going for it: It's a way to do it, and the Master used it at least once.
            Jesus was sitting at the well, it was the heat of the day, and he saw a woman heading towards him. I suspect it was more than mere physical thirst that prompted his opening question: He was there to lead her to faith in himself.
            She responded with the well-known fact that Jews and Samaritans have nothing to do with each other, and then comes the statement I’m actually referring to.
            “If you knew who it was who was talking to you, you’d ask him and he’d give you living water.” This perked up her ears. They were at a well, and he apparently didn’t even have a bucket, much less access to some other well. And what did he mean by “living” water? And what’s this “gift of God” he’s talking about?
            When she points out what was obvious to her eyes and asked him about the “living water,” he tells her something about this water which he offers: In stark contrast with ordinary water, it quenches thirst forever. Once you drink it, you'll never thirst again. Ever.
            Now, Christians have drawn deep theological insight from Jesus’ statement about the water he offers. But let’s not lose the main focus here: Our Lord’s main purpose here is to lead this young woman into a saving knowledge of himself, not provide fodder for theologians. Everything he’s saying is towards that purpose. As is typical of characters in John’s Gospel, she misunderstands a statement about spiritual reality and interprets it physically. But we’ve covered enough for me to make my point.
            Here’s the method as exemplified here. You start a conversation by referring to something right in front of you or something they’re familiar with or in which they’re interested. Then you use that as a segue into an opener to the Message.
            Let me give a personal example. Every year I used to go on Beach Reach down in South Padre. We offered free van rides anywhere on the island, a free pancake breakfast, and free suntan oil on the beach. Also a sand sculptor came out and made massive sand sculptures of something biblical (like Christ on the cross, or the Ten Commandments) and surrounded them with little signs in the sand with provocative verses, such as Romans 3:23 or 6:23 or John 3:16.
            I came up to people on the beach who were standing next to the sculptures, introduced myself, and asked them questions like “So did you know about our free van rides?” “Yeah, I was on one last night. It’s great what you guys are doing.” “And did you hear about our free pancake breakfast?” “Yeah, we’re going to that tomorrow.” “And did you know about the free gift we’re offering?” “What?! A free gift?!” “Absolutely! Let me tell you about it. . .”
            Someone once asked Spurgeon how he came up with sermon ideas. He answered thus: He picked a verse or passage out of the Bible, and went over the country, through the woods, and over rivers to bring it back to Jesus Christ.
            That’s what we do here. You pick something out in front of you, something that interests the person in front of you, and you—with the Spirit’s leading—lead it back to the Good News.
            Again, if you’re already using something that works for you, more power to you. If not, then you have at least one ice-breaker.

Lord Jesus, how often do I talk about everything except the Person who means the most to me? Please forgive me, and help me bring you into more conversations, to the point where your presence is felt every time I open my mouth. 

Behind the Scenes

Yes, I know very well this is Easter. This is my favorite holiday of the year. Yes, I love Christmas and New Year's Day, but quite frankly, I don't really have all that much to say about Easter that I haven't already said. So what I'm going to do is re-post what I said about it last year. Here's what I said about it two years ago, if you're interested.

Isaiah 53:10-12; Rom. 1:1-4; Rev. 1:12-20

So what can I say about the Resurrection that I didn’t say before? Last year we went over what a difference this one event made—and continues to make--in our lives. So this year I thought I might look at it from a different angle. What was going on “behind the scenes”? Scripture only sparingly parts the curtain into the spiritual realm, but it does give us some hints.

First, I noticed this a couple of days ago when we looked at Isaiah 53 concerning the Passion. Look carefully at the first phrase of vs. 11, and ponder that for a moment. Let me open a window into our Savior’s mind as he rose up from the tomb. I don’t know what else was going through his thoughts, but this one thing I know that he was thinking: “It was worth it.” Stepping out of Heaven and away from the worship of angels. Squeezing himself down into a human body. Living in poverty. Having to look upon the suffering and sin around him. Tiredness. Hunger. Thirst. Temptation. Frustration. Arrest. Betrayal. Mockery. Slander. Torture. Agony. Forsaken by the Father. Death. All of it was worth it: “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.”

And what else? The Romans passage tells us something else about this event that you might not have considered. According to vs. 4, Jesus “was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.” Now obviously he was God’s Son before then. There never was a time in which he wasn’t. But the Resurrection proclaimed who he was. The Father placed the stamp of approval, so to speak, on the Son through this. That’s why when Jesus saw his apostles, he could say that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Even before the Ascension, the proclamation had already been made official in the spiritual realm. To the human eye, nothing had changed. But to the assembled powers in Heaven and in Hell, everything had changed.

And finally we turn to the passage in Revelation. What picture of Jesus do you have in your mind? I grew up with a picture of a “meek and mild” Jesus who was as gentle as a lamb. In fact we had a literal picture of him like this at the church where I grew up, as a mural on the wall. I don’t know exactly what he looked like while he was walking around Galilee. I do know this, however: He certainly doesn’t look like that now. Read again the description of what John saw on the Island of Patmos.

On a side note, this is a great source of comfort to me, believe it or not. Quite frankly, I fear for the future of the church, especially in America. There are so many things that are wrong with her, sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But then I read this, and it reminds me of something. The churches are being held in the hand of the Living One, the One who was dead and who’s now alive. Again, to human eyes, the situation is grim, and nothing has changed. But behind the scenes, everything has changed.

So what’s my main point here? What’s the word that runs through all these different passages? Victory. Over the grave. Over the Enemy of our souls. Over your sin and mine.

And the wonderful corollary to this? His victory is yours and mine. Today in part, and tomorrow in full. Someday--perhaps sooner rather than later--what’s been going on “behind the scenes” will spill out into the world in which we live. And I can’t wait. Can you?

Lord Jesus, all authority in heaven and on earth has been placed under your feet, which is right where it belongs. And that includes me.