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.
The other one we know is Jude. Tradition states (and based on verse 1 of the epistle that bears his name), that he also was a half-brother of Jesus who became a believer after the Resurrection. So we have two half-brothers of Jesus who rejected him at first but who became leaders in the church (and who added to Scripture).
Sounds like a great example for me to follow. What about you?
In case you're interested in this subject, I've included my devotions on this here.
Lord Jesus, thank you. How can I show my gratitude? I’m sure you can think of something.
1) This is the only miracle (outside the Resurrection) which is recorded in all four Gospels. Apparently the writers considered it pretty important, since John usually records material which is unique to himself.
2) According to Michael Card, the earliest recorded Christian artwork represented this story in drawings. Not the crucifixion: That would come later as generations could look at the Passion with some detachment. No, the earliest artwork which we have preserved is that which depicts Jesus feeding the 5,000. They felt that the Cross was too momentous to adequately capture in human art, so they took this miracle as symbolic of what he did for us on
3) Of course, we say “the 5,000,” but it was probably more than double that. As commonly done in that time, John didn’t count the women and children in this crowd. Once you factor those in, this becomes even more amazing.
4) The Bible is very realistic when it comes to human nature. The crowd came out, not to gain spiritual direction but to see more miracles. They'd heard about his healings, so they wanted to see more of it, like people going the circus to be thrilled and entertained. Nevertheless, Jesus condescended to their needs and provided for them in the most compassionate way.
5) And of course there’s the obvious application: He's perfectly able and willing to take care of my needs. I can trust him. If I do what he tells me to do, I can let him worry about my physical and spiritual needs. He who fed millions in the wilderness for forty years on manna, who fed Elijah via ravens, and who fed over 10,000 with a boy’s sack lunch can deal with my problems. Right?
On a side note, vs. 24 is also meaningful to me because I've used it for years as part of my "One Verse Evangelism" which you can see on the right side of the web page.
Let’s continue in this pivotal conversation with the Samaritan woman. As the title suggests, there are two main areas in which today’s passage can teach us some lessons.
The first is in witnessing, by which I mean sharing the Good News with someone who’s lost. I’ve done this with lots of people over the years, and do you know what the number one obstacle is? It’s not some logical flaw which they find in the Bible. About 99% of the time the main problem is distractions, both from the Enemy and from the person who needs Christ. I’ve been witnessing to someone, and suddenly, out of the blue, just when we’re getting to some very important truths, the phone rings. They apologize, answer it, and lo and behold it’s some long-lost cousin from out-of-state who suddenly--by sheer coincidence--decided to call right at that moment. Of course, I don’t believe in coincidences: I'm convinced this is the work of our Enemy. Once you start confronting someone with their need for Jesus, you’ll definitely get his attention, since you’re invading his territory and trying to steal some of his property.
The other distractions I’ve seen come from the person himself, which we see today. Jesus casually asked her to go get her husband so he can join into this conversation. Of course, he knew quite well that she was a five-time divorcee and was currently shacking up with another man. As soon as Jesus brought this up, what did she do? You can almost hear the alarm bells going off in her head: CHANGE THE SUBJECT! CHANGE THE SUBJECT! Suddenly she wants to steer the conversation A) from the sin in her life and how much she'd screwed up to B) some theological controversy which had absolutely nothing to do with what they had been talking about.
I’ve seen this dozens of times. You know you’ve started to hit home when they suddenly want to talk about the Pygmies in Africa or who was Cain’s wife. Or a personal favorite of mine: hypocrisy in the church. My answer when they bring up red herrings like these: “You know that’s a very interesting question. I tell you what, why don’t we tackle that after we’ve talked about the main issue. I promise you, when someone stands before God on Judgment Day, the subject won’t Cain’s wife or those hypocrites. The subject will be their personal sin and what they did with Jesus Christ. After we finish talking about that, I'd be happy to talk about any other questions you have."
Let’s turn from that to worship. Jesus indulged her theological question, since he could use it to steer the conversation back to the subject at hand: Her broken relationship with God. But I think it sheds light on the heart of God like nothing else in Scripture. What does God look for, what does he desire? Worshippers, people who declare the “worth-ship” of himself. We exist to declare how wonderful he is, both to his ears and to other people as well. And what type of worshippers is he seeking out? Incredible singers? Skillful musical players? No. He’s looking for people who will worship him "in spirit and in truth." He wants people to declare who he is (praise) and what’s he’s done (thanksgiving) from our heart, not just with our lips. The geographical location matters not at all to him. What matters is that we’re completely “tuned in” to his presence (see here if you don't get the reference). Are you worshiping him in spirit and in truth?
Father God, you are worthy of all praise, honor, glory, and thanksgiving. I want to be that type of worshipper, not just on Sunday morning but every waking moment. I’m nowhere near that standard, but by your grace I want to start in that direction. Please.
Both chapters three and four are devoted to one-on-one encounters with Christ, but the latter is much more detailed than the former. We start with some background as to why our Lord was going through Samaria. The Pharisees heard that a lot of people were getting baptized in the name of Jesus, and this brought their negative attention. He knew that if he stayed so close to them, it would provoke a premature confrontation and an attempt to arrest him. His time for that had not yet come, so he retreated back to Galilee, his own native area.
I won’t go too much into detail about the history of the Samaritans, since we dealt with that back in May. If you remember that the Jews hated the Samaritans as half-breed apostates and the hatred was quite mutual, you know the really vital background.
Now Jesus “had” to go through Samaria. Why? We know that it was more convenient to go through Samaria on the way to where he was going, but did he “have” to go for this reason? Of course not. Let’s remember, he’s God. He can go anywhere he wishes in the blink of an eye. There’s only one reason why he would “have” to do anything. He wasn't constrained by geographical consideration, nor by distances, or by any human timetable. He was constrained by only one thing: The Father’s plan. If the Father had told him to make a detour to the moon, he’d do it.
As we’ve mentioned before in May, our Lord couldn't possibly have cared less about the racial prejudice (on both sides). The Father had sent him on a mission, and that was all he cared about. You might also want to know that he was breaking more taboos by just opening his mouth. Jewish men, especially Rabbis or other religious leaders, didn't speak with non-relative women in public. Especially women who were sexually immoral. But he casually asked her for a drink of water.
She was obviously shocked by his boldness, and brought up the old racial barrier objection. The Lord simply ignored her first reaction and offered her “living water,” of course without expanding on his meaning. This is a wonderful tool for opening up a conversation about the Good News, by the way. Simply find some common object or situation and make an observation about it that would pique a person’s interest. For example, when I participated in Beach Reach several years ago, we used to offer free pancake breakfasts and van rides to partiers on Padre Island during Spring Break. I would start up conversations with people who were riding with us on the vans, make sure they knew about the breakfast, and then casually ask them “Oh, has anybody told you about the free gift we’re offering?” That would get their attention, and I'd use that as a springboard for the Good News.
As with Nicodemus, we see the theme of misunderstanding: Jesus makes a statement about spiritual reality, and his listener thinks only in terms of the physical realm. She challenges him on his authority, because to her Jacob’s well was far greater than any source of water he could provide.
Au contraire! The water that could come out of the well could only quench thirst for a short time, but his “living water” would quench it forever and permanently. On a side note, this is good evidence for “eternal security,” the teaching that a Christian can’t really lose his salvation once he’s redeemed. This “water” only has to be consumed once, and the action needs no repetition. This can’t refer to our fellowship with him, since that requires constant effort on our part. If I don’t spend my time alone with my Savior, I get “thirsty” for him really quickly, just like the Psalmist. So if he isn’t referring to our salvation and he isn’t referring to our fellowship with him, what is he referring to?
But let’s not get so far into theological controversies that we miss the main point: This is a wonderful promise from our Lord. Imbibing this world and trying to quench our spiritual thirst with its trinkets is like trying to quench physical thirst with salt water. But thank the Lord, once we’ve taken him into ourselves, and made his life ours, we'll never thirst again! In fact, he'll plant within us a never-ending “well-spring.” We won’t have to find anything we need anywhere else.
Lord Jesus, I want to follow your example. I want to accept no other considerations besides the Father’s plan. Make me like you, please.
For several years after I got serious in my faith, I was heavily involved in apologetics. In case you’re not familiar with the term, it has nothing to do with apologizing for anything. Instead, it’s a reasoned defense of the faith before nonbelievers. I devoured books like Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell, and Who Moved The Stone? by Frank Morrison, along with other works which attempted to present evidence in favor of biblical Christianity.
I still believe that there’s a place for apologetics. After all Peter commands us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” There’s nothing wrong with it in itself, and there are people whom God has called to use their gifts to present the best possible logical arguments in the Kingdom’s cause (like my hero C. S. Lewis).
You can sense the “but. . .” coming, cant’ you? Today’s passage presents to us a perfect balance, especially to people like me who are tempted to try to reason people into the Kingdom. Please read it again. When people are presented with an accurate portrayal of the Good News about Christ, and they reject it, why do they do that? Is it because the presenter didn’t make his case well enough? Can the honest seeker, after taking a close look at Jesus, reject him in all sincerity?
I wouldn't claim to be an expert on the human heart or soul. I don’t even know myself as well as I should, much less another human being, whose mind I can’t read. But Jesus could, and did, and does know all of us down to the core, and he knows (as we read a couple of days ago) exactly what lies in the hearts of men. And according to him, from reading this passage, the problem is not a lack of information or evidence. The main problem is “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” They love their sin, and they don’t want to let go of it. They love their independence, and they don’t want anyone telling them what to do. That’s the issue.
So what does this mean for us? For believers, this has two main applications. First, this takes a lot of pressure off you as the person presenting the claims of Christ to the lost people around you. You don’t have to come up with the perfect presentation or be able to answer every single objection. Just submit the truth as you know it, and relax a bit.
The other application for me is to notice the spiritual aspect of what we’re doing when we’re witnessing to people. You actually could come up with airtight arguments, but the person will never receive Christ as Savior until the Holy Spirit turns his heart of stone into a heart of flesh. That’s what you have to pray for: That the Spirit will penetrate that person’s heart and lead him to a saving knowledge, to know how much he needs Jesus and how much Jesus loves him. Only the Spirit can do that.
Father God, please forgive me for trying to be an amateur Holy Spirit. Please give me the courage and wisdom to speak the truth in love.
I have to admit that I haven’t been looking forward to writing today's devotional. It’s not that I don’t love vs. 16—I do. The problem is that this is undoubtedly the most famous Bible verse in America, if not the world. I couldn’t begin to count the sermons and commentary space which has been devoted to this one verse, and most of it’s a lot more eloquent than me.
By the way, although I titled this under the “Nighttime Visitor” series, it's possible that it’s not part of this nighttime conversation at all. There were no quotation marks in the original Greek, so we have to figure out quotations from the context. Because of this, there's a possibility that Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus ended with verse 15, and 16-21 are actually commentary by the author of the Gospel. Not that this would affect our theology in any way: John’s commentary is just as inspired by the Spirit (and therefore just as infallible) as the words of Jesus himself.
I won’t spend a lot of time on this verse, for reasons I mentioned above, but can we camp out on it for just a moment? I came across this a few years ago. I haven’t been able to isolate the original source, but here for your approval I submit “The Gospel in a Nutshell”:
For God (the greatest Giver)
so loved (the greatest motive)
the world (the greatest need),
that He gave (the greatest act)
His only Son (the greatest gift),
that whosoever (the greatest invitation)
believes (the greatest decision)
in Him (the greatest Person)
should not perish (the greatest deliverance),
but (the greatest difference)
have (the greatest certainty)
eternal life (the greatest possession).
Moving on to vs. 17, doesn’t this contradict some peoples’ view of Jesus? They seem to think that this is the main thing about our faith is condemnation of sin. If that’s the view of the world around us, if they see us as only being against stuff, then they’ve missed the point, and we haven't communicated clearly. Yes, the Good News starts off with bad news, but that’s certainly not the main point.
I love how vs. 18 provides a perfect balance to vs. 17. Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it. But those who don’t believe in Christ will be condemned someday. Wait a minute, that’s not what it says. It says that if we don’t believe we stand condemned already. And why is that? Is it because of some heinous sin that we’ve committed, like murder? Nope—It’s because we’ve failed to avail ourselves of the one way to be forgiven.
I guess there are several ways you can apply this, but I think there’s one way that God is showing me on a personal level. How is my attitude towards people who are outside of Christ, who lead blatantly sinful lives? Is my first instinct to pray for them and share Christ’s love? Or is it to condemn them? Friend, I don’t need to condemn them. They’re condemned already. Like my Savior, I'm not here to condemn anybody, but to point them--with my words and my actions--towards the only hope they have. I think I need an adjustment in my thinking. How about you?
Lord Jesus, the only difference between me and the worst sinner in the world is your grace. Please give me your mindset, your attitude, your love for people who are lost. I need that very badly sometimes.