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.

How to study the Law: A little deeper

            One of the limitations which I’ve put upon myself on this blog is brevity. In order to keep strict limits on my natural wordiness, I tend to keep my devotionals to about a page or so. If I get up to a page and half, I usually break it off into another devotional posting. I realize that the intended purpose of a daily devotional is for someone to spend about 10-15 minutes reading God’s word and then a short commentary on it. Any more than that and I risk losing my audience.
            But in this case I need to do something different. I feel the need to delve into a certain topic with a certain “take” that a lot of my fellow Evangelicals might find a little disconcerting, at least at first. What I’m going to say is different from what some of you might've heard from other Bible teachers. At first it’ll seem a little radical, but I don’t think it really is. What I’m proposing has some pretty strong biblical support. If you think I’m wrongly applying Scripture, then so be it. But since what I’m saying is a little different from what you might’ve been taught up until now, I need to take a little extra space in order to make sure I’m understood.
            What am I proposing that might seem weird to you?

The Old Testament does not have the sole purpose of pointing us to salvation in Christ.


            OK, if that wasn’t crazy enough, let me take a step further:

The Old Testament, particularly the Law of Moses, has other purposes for the modern-day believer other than just pointing directly to Christ.

            Now, before you go ahead and write me off as a rank heretic, please let me clarify what I’m saying and what I’m not saying.

I thoroughly believe that the main purpose of the Old Testament is to point towards Christ.

How does the O.T. do this? You’re probably familiar with these:

·         The prophecies which predicted his nature, the details surrounding his birth, life, ministry, and death, the purpose of his coming (i.e. to die for us), etc.
·         By showing us God’s standards for righteousness, the Law acted as a sort of “nanny” in order to lead us to Christ. Basically by showing us his standards, he shows us how far we fall short of them and our need for a Savior. Paul repeatedly points out this purpose of the Law. I also believe that one of the purposes of the recorded history of Israel is to underscore this point by showing us how badly the nation screwed up over and over and over and over. If anyone thinks they can be considered righteous before God by observing the Law, I think the sordid history of Israel is pretty decent counterevidence to that notion.
·         We have foreshadows and symbols which pointed us towards Christ: The blood sacrifices, the priesthood, the types which were fulfilled in him (e.g. the ram which took the place of Isaac on the altar), etc.

            I completely believe that in these ways the Old Testament—of which the Law of Moses is the foundation—points us towards Christ. Jesus told the religious leaders that Moses had written about him. If you read the Old Testament and don’t see Jesus, then you’re missing out on the most important aspect of it.
            However, does this mean that the only purpose of the Old Testament is to point us directly towards Christ? Does everything in the Old Testament fall into one or more of the bullet points above? Really?
            I don’t think so, and I think I have some evidence for my position. Here’s a purpose which I think a lot of Christians miss. My thesis:

One of the purposes of the Law of Moses (also known as the Torah) is to show us the heart of God: What he loves and hates, what’s important to him and what isn’t. As a corollary to this, the Torah is important to us as a guide to righteous living as modern believers this side of the cross.

            Once again, I need to quickly clarify what I’m not saying here. As believers we’re not under the Law as far as dietary laws or holy days or making blood sacrifices. Paul explicitly said that those things were the shadow, and the reality is found in Christ (probably referring to purpose #3 above).
            Let me try to explain what I mean by making a very sharp and very very very important distinction. We need to distinguish between principles and applications.
            What do I mean by principle? Well, Merriam-Webster defines it as “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption.”  What would be some principles?

·         Keep the Lord as first place in your life, and deal decisively with any rivals for that first place.
·         You do things God’s way, not the way that seems right to you.
·         You must treat sin extremely seriously and hate it passionately.
·         God’s people care for those who can’t take care of themselves.
·         Keep a proper balance of work and rest. Set some time aside to refocus yourself on him.
·         When he blesses you, he expects you to “pay it forward” by blessing others.
·         Every human being is uniquely created in his image and thus is entitled to dignity and respect.
·         Property rights are important.
·         God’s standard for sexuality is one man united with one woman for life.
·         Humans are more important than things.
·         Honor your parents.

            So what would be some examples of applications?

·         You’re expressly forbidden from working on Saturday.
·         Don’t wear clothing made from more than one type of material.
·         You have to physically separate yourself from unclean people, animals, houses, etc.
·         Kill idolaters and sexually promiscuous people. Adultery and homosexuality are capital offenses.
·         When you harvest your crops, don’t glean at all. Leave your gleanings for the poor.
·         When you come to collect on a loan, don’t go into the man’s house to do so.
·         Don’t move a land boundary marker.
·         Cursing your parents is a capital offense.

            You see the pattern here? Principles are eternal. They don’t change any more than God does. But applications are largely time-bound. I don’t for one moment think we need to worry about wearing different material clothing, and I’d never support capital punishment for adulterers or homosexuals today.
            So what about the Ten Commandments? Which are they? That's a good question, and like most good questions, it doesn't have a simple answer. "No other gods," "Eschew any idols," "Don't misuse the Name," and "Honor your parents" are eternal principles. You could, I suppose, make the case that "Do not murder" and "Do not steal" are applications of the principles "People are made in God's image" and "Property rights are important."  Based on Paul, I'd strongly make the case that "Keep the Sabbath Day holy" was a time-bound application of some greater principles.
            Actually, based on the words of our Savior and Paul, you could make the case that "Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" are the bedrock principles, and everything else in the Torah is just application of them. I might have to think this through in more detail.
            But with these exceptions aside, I think it's pretty clear most of the time what's an eternal principle vs. what's a time-bound application of a principle. If you read something in the Torah and you can't apply it directly today (e.g. you don't own a field and gleaning isn't an issue) or if the N.T. specifically says it doesn't directly apply to you any more (e.g. the dietary laws), then it seems to me that it's pretty clear it's an application. If it's repeated in the N.T. (e.g. "Love your neighbor as yourself"), then it's a principle you need to follow. Prayerfully ask yourself questions like "Why would God want his people in that time to do this? What does it say about his priorities, what he values highly and doesn't value highly?" If you don't come up with any good answers, a good study Bible or Bible teacher can probably help you out. 
            Do I have any scriptural evidence for this, or am I pulling something out of nowhere? I'm getting a little long here, so let me present some in the next posting. 

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