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 22]--Get Back to Work, The Boss is Coming!

Luke 19:11-27

Over the years, there have been quite a few debates about which economic system is closer to what the Bible prescribes for society. Some say that Free-Market Capitalism is the best system for raising people out of poverty, while others prefer more government regulation and state welfare. Without getting into that debate right now, I’d like to submit something: In at least one sense of the word, God is a capitalist. If you define a capitalist as someone who invests in something and expects to make a profit from it (i.e., he expects to get more out of it than what he put into it), then the Lord certainly meets the definition.

There are two parables of Jesus which are similar in their basic setting and plot. The boss, or king, goes away for a short while and leaves some money for his servants to invest while he’s away. The other one is in Matthew. They're similar in the basics, but they differ in a lot of important ways. Matthew’s version has the Master giving separate amounts to different servants, presumably based on his evaluation of their industriousness and skill. In today’s passage from Luke, he gives the same amount to each of ten servants. Also the whole amount was different, since a talent was a lot of money, worth more than a thousand dollars. A mina, however, was worth about three month’s wages. Matthew has a “Master,” while Luke has an actual “king” who’s going to get enthroned, hence the side-story drama about subjects who protested and revolted against his rule.

But the main point is the same: God has invested each of us with certain gifts, and he expects a profit from them. In both stories the servant gets into trouble by assuming that his Master is a “hard” man who’s demanding and exacting. Thus this genius hides his money away. When the Master returns, the servant gives back the exact same amount as he received. But he didn’t give the money to his servants for “safekeeping.” He gave it to the servants to make use of it in order to further his interests.

There’s a real important difference we see in Luke, which is a strong point to make. First, I have to say it again, since this society has trouble hearing it: We're saved by grace through faith in Christ plus nothing. When we get to Heaven, none of us will deserve to be there. I deserve nothing but eternity in Hell, and so do you. But there is the concept of reward in Scripture. As you work for Christ, he’s taking note of that. When you make sacrifices for the Kingdom, he records it. When you love the loveless and show Christ-like mercy to those who do wrong to you, he notices. Hebrews 6:10 is one of my favorite verse in all Scripture when I’m feeling down or discouraged.

Exactly what’s God’s “system”? What’s the relationship between doing X and getting Y as a reward? The Bible never says. But this story gives us a few principles which we should know:

• Trustworthiness in small matters leads to being put in charge of bigger things. You might think to yourself “I wish I had a million dollars. Just think about the things I could do for the Kingdom if I had that type of money!” Friend, you’d have the same type of faithfulness and attitude towards a million dollars that you have with the one dollar you have in your pocket right now as we speak.

• It’s quite possible to lose what you have. You ever hear the phrase “Use it or lose it”? It certainly applies here. If the Lord has given you something, you need to use it in his his service. If you don’t use it, he’ll take it away. Maybe here, maybe when he returns. There will be people who are glad to be in the presence of Christ, but who still regret the loss they’ve suffered due to their own foolishness.

• There’s a huge ratio between our service and his reward. Turning the money into a profit ended up giving him more than he possibly dreamed. When we stand before the Seat of Christ and receive our reward for service, there will be no one who complains that they got cheated. Do I really need to say it again? Have you memorized it yet? Are you completely sick of it yet? There’s never been anyone in the history of mankind who did things God’s way who regretted it in the end.

So what do you think?

Lord Jesus, you really are coming back, aren’t you? Am I setting myself up for regret or for joy? By your grace, let’s get to work.

[July 21]--Wee Little Man

Luke 19:1-10

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that being a tax collector is one of God’s favorite professions. Yesterday we saw a story in which one of them was a hero and left the congregation with the Lord’s smile upon him. John the Baptist certainly minced no words when it came to denouncing people for their sinful lifestyles, but he had pretty mild things to say concerning this profession. One of Jesus’ twelve apostles was chosen from this crowd, and went on to write one of the Gospels.

Does this mean that the Lord had no problem with the moral level of most tax collectors? Does he condone theft? Of course not. And our Savior had no problem with acknowledging that they were common thieves. In his Sermon on the Mount, he put them on the same level as pagans: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” He was under no illusions as to their moral character.

By the way, before I forget, I’m wondering how many of you actually get the reference in the title. When I was in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, we sang about Zacchaeus: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. . .” Catchy little ditty, and it was useful in teaching us this story.

Notice that he wasn’t just a tax collector, but a “chief tax collector.” This man wasn’t just a thief and a collaborator; he likely had an entire district and several collectors under his authority. As the passage states, he was very wealthy, but he suffered from abject poverty in the spiritual realm. Apart from having no friends in the community, he knew that something was missing. He heard about this Teacher coming to Jericho, and the Spirit stirred within him and compelled him to see the Rabbi. Climbing a tree was considered pretty undignified, but he didn’t care. He had to see Jesus.

You’ve read the story: Jesus saw him up in the tree and singled him out of the entire crowd to spend some time one-on-one. I love how Jesus just invites himself to Zacchaeus’s house, but the guy was more than glad to jump down and take him to his home.

Once again we see the unbridgeable gulf between how the religious see people in sinful lifestyles and how Jesus sees them. They saw nothing but the sin, and he saw not only that but a soul in desperate need.

It would seem to me that between vss. 7 and 8 we have a time gap. I’ve always visualized it as Zacchaeus having supper with the Savior, and after some dinner conversation standing up and making his proclamation. The main point is the incredible work that Christ (and the Holy Spirit) did on his heart in a short amount of time. The Law of Moses only called for an extra one-fifth returned in the case of money stolen. It only required a double fine when an animal was stolen (a very valuable commodity), and it only obligated a four-fold restitution if the animal was stolen and killed. But as it often happens, the work of the Spirit induced him to go beyond what was strictly required by the Law. Add on top of this the fact that he was going to give half of all his possessions to the poor, and you can see how big a change was made here.

A quick note needs to be inserted here. Again, we’re saved by grace through faith in Christ plus nothing. We’re not saved by giving up our possessions or by making restitution on the things we’ve stolen. Jesus said he was now a “son of Abraham.” He was a physical descendant of Abraham at birth, but now he was saved by becoming a spiritual child of Abraham. The way you do that is by imitating Abraham in being declared righteous because of your faith. The inward change worked itself out and displayed itself in a radical change in lifestyle.

Verse 10, for me, really summarizes this entire Gospel, in fact it crystallizes the Good News in its entirety. This is why he picked Zacchaeus out of the crowd. Not because he was more righteous or more deserving of personal attention, quite the opposite. And that’s why he came for you and me. That’s why he picked you and me out of the mess we put ourselves into, why he cleansed us with his blood, and why he’s adopted us as his siblings and co-heirs. We were lost, and he came to seek us out and save us. Aren’t you glad?

Yes Lord, I’m verrrrrry glad of this. Whom can I tell about this? Who are the lost around me to whom you’re sending me?