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.

[Dec 12]—Warnings And Encouragement

            One of the recurring complaints over the ages is that the rich regularly oppress the poor. Despite our best attempts at an egalitarian society in which everyone is equal before the law, we’d have to be na├»ve to think that the rich don’t have some unfair advantages over the less well off. At bare minimum, if you’re wealthy you can hire a much more talented attorney to represent you in court. In some cases you might be able to bribe a judge or other official. But as bad as anyone thinks it is today in modern-day America, it was far worse in James’s day and throughout history, and around the world this condition has been pretty much ubiquitous to some degree or another. Quite frankly, it’s part of the sinful human condition. We might be able mitigate it, but we’ll never eliminate it.
            In case you’re just joining us and aren’t familiar with my teaching on wealth and poverty, here we are (with apologies to those who’ve heard this before): Based on the context of Scripture, being rich is not a sin in and of itself, nor is poverty necessarily meritorious. However, material wealth is a very dangerous blessing; rich people have a tendency to trust in their own resources instead of the Lord, and they also tend to place an undue value on wealth. They also might be workaholics and neglect more important things in life, like their families. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, both in Scripture and in daily life: Abraham, Isaac, Job, David, and Joseph of Arimathea are good examples. But in general, the ranks of the redeemed have come from the poorer classes far more than the richer ones. I’d also like to remind you that if you live in America, you’re almost certainly more wealthy and prosperous and live a higher standard of living than about 90% of the world today and about 99% of the people throughout history.
            Most of the original readers of James’s letter were not rich. So why would he write a passage like vss. 1-6, addressing and condemning the rich for abusing those less well-off than themselves? There are at least two good explanations: 1) He’s letting the poor among his readers know that God is not ignoring what’s being done to them, and this leads into vss. 7-11 where he’s calling for patience and trust in the Lord’s timing. 2) There might have been some wealthy members in the church, and James was calling them out on practices which were NOT acceptable.
            I’d hope that for all of us who’re Americans that we wouldn’t be guilty of flagrant abuses of the poor like those James condemns in the first six verses. Hopefully you aren’t withholding the wages of the poor when they’re dependent on that for their daily food. Of course, all of us who frequent restaurants need to be careful to be extra extra extra generous in our tipping of our servers, who are dependent on our tips. If not, that’d be a shame and completely inconsistent with how good the Lord’s been to us.
            But all of us who are comparatively wealthy need to continually examine our attitudes re: our wealth and possessions. Do we inordinately value things which will one day be nothing but dust and ashes? Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, liked to point out that according to the Bible, there are only going to be three things which we can invest in which will last forever: 1) God, 2) the word of God, and 3) the souls of men. To the degree I’m investing in one or more of those things every day, I’m investing in something eternal. To the degree I’m investing in anything else, I’m pouring myself into something that’ll be dust and ashes someday.
            Verses 7-12 are addressed to the “have-nots,” which would be the vast majority of the book’s readers over the millennia. When someone more powerful than us oppresses us or does us harm, like the rich he condemned earlier, we desperately need the corrective of the eternal perspective: “When you’re going through really bad times, keep in mind that this is as close to Hell as you’re ever going to get. When you see a lost man, remember that unless God gets a hold of him, this’ll be the only Heaven he ever sees.”
            We just have to be patient, like the proverbial farmer. The farmer can plow and sow and weed, but he has to wait patiently for the rains to come: He can’t do a thing to make them come any faster than the Lord's going to send them. We have to wait for his timing, which is never early but never ever ever late. And while you’re undergoing all this, one sign that you are being patient is that you refrain from grumbling against each other. When the tough times come, that’s the time when we need to turn to each other and be the Body of Christ we’re supposed to be; that’s the worst time for us to turn on each other.
            There’s a reason why the Lord put stories like Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s and Amos’s in his word: They went through much tougher times and opposition and oppression by the powerful than most of us will ever experience. They made it through much worse with the Lord’s help, and so can we. At any point in their suffering, I’m sure that the thought went thru their head: “This just isn’t worth it. I do the right thing, I warn my people about the judgment to come, and in return they do nothing but spit on me and throw me into prison. No, it’s not worth it.” But they killed those thoughts in their cribs and went forward, and now we honor them. And of course any honor we give them down here is dust and ashes compared to what they’ve received in Glory.     
             It’s the exact same thing with Job. You can read almost any of Job’s not-so-very-subtle complaints against the Lord in the book that bears his name, and you know that he only came to peace after some very strenuous wrestling with his Maker. And in the end. . . one face-to-face encounter with the Lord stilled his doubts and complaints, and God more than made up for his losses even while Job was still alive, much less in Glory.
            It all comes down to the eternal perspective. We all lose it from time to time, and keeping it would make such a difference in every area of our lives, not just the ones we’ve talked about today.
            Just a word about verse 12: This doesn’t seem to be directly connected to the verses immediately prior, at least in any way I was able to discover from the resources I could find. Like we said before, although James doesn’t talk a lot about the Master, he sure does talk a lot like the Master. This is almost an almost word-for-word restatement of Matt. 5:33-37. If you’re interested, I spoke in more detail about the passage in Matthew here, but here’s the bottom line for me: People who claim to be followers of the Truth Incarnate need to demonstrate this in their speech. We shouldn’t be the type of people who require a stack of Bibles to make someone believe us. When we say something, people should know that we mean what we say and say what we mean.
            As they say, right now impacts eternity.

Father God, I forget this way too often. I just live in the now, and forget that I’m made for eternity, and that should change everything I think and say and do. Please let this truth impact me more. 

[Dec 11]—Judging and Boasting

            Today’s passage deals with two seemingly separate topics: judging other believers and boasting about your plans. Although at first they appear rather disparate, they’re joined by a common theme which we’ll get to momentarily.
            The first subject is slandering/judging other believers. Once again, MacArthur says it so much better than I ever could (of course, there might be a reason why people pay money for his books, and thousands of people listen to his sermons every week, while I’m just posting on a free blog): “This [refers] to slander or defame. James does not forbid confronting those in sin, which is elsewhere commanded in Scripture (Mt 18:15-17; Ac 20:31; 1Co 4:14; Col 1:28; Tit 1:13; 2:15; 3:10). Rather, he condemns careless, derogatory, critical, slanderous accusations against others.” But what’s the difference between legitimate confrontation and judgmental slandering? Well, besides what MacArthur just said about careless accusations vs. being careful to get the entire story, there’s one major difference, which we’ll get to in a moment.
            The other subject is boasting about your plans. James envisions a businessman telling his partners about what they’ll do soon over the next year. Now, is it wrong to make business plans? Of course not. I see a parallel here between these planners and the builders of the Tower of Babel. Is building a tower wrong in and of itself? Again, of course not. But if you look at the Genesis passage I just cited, you might find a clue to the problem. Listen to what the Babel builders planned: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.” What was the emphasis?
            The clue to the problem, like Sherlock Holmes’s infamous dog that didn’t bark, is not what’s there, but what’s missing. What’s wrong in all these cases is a prideful failure to take God into consideration.
            Take the first case, that of the judgmental slanderer. What’s he missing? Well, he’s missing some of the facts. And since we’re not God, we’re always missing some of the facts. We might’ve misinterpreted something we saw or heard. And we don’t know anyone’s heart except our own, and even that’s “iffy.” But even if we were correct about the relevant facts, when I’m carelessly gossiping about what I think someone is doing, I’m setting myself up as their Accuser and Judge. I’m even setting myself up above the Law itself, which tells me to love my neighbor, to be kind and compassionate towards him, and to avoid judging him. I love the sheer bluntness of verse 12: “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge,” and guess what? That’s not me.
            Same thing with the business planners of vss. 13-17. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with making plans. Proverbs (a book which heavily influenced this one) extols making plans, even plans for the express purpose of making a profit, especially in consultation with others. But Proverbs also tells us—in its most famous verses—that we need to trust the Lord with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding, that we need to acknowledge him in everything we do, so that he’ll make our paths straight.
            That’s the problem with the planners. They’re planning without taking God into account at all. Please don’t misunderstand this. “God willing. . .” isn’t some magical formula that we need to say in front of all our plans, some rote phrase like the Christian equivalent of  Insha'Allah, which Muslims say all the time whether they mean it or not. The exact verbiage might or might not be there, but the thought behind it should be in the forefront of our minds at all times. We need to consciously submit any important plans to him, and we should ask him throughout our day to guide us in the way he wants us to go.
            Because, really, what am I? I know from the eternal perspective I’m going to live forever, but as far this world’s plans are concerned, I’m a morning mist that’s here one moment and gone the next. 70, 80, maybe 90 years, or even a hundred? What’s that?
            What’s exactly the point of verse 17? Of course, it’s a great general statement of how our perspective on sin needs to change. We tend to think of sins as actions that we take, such as murder or theft or adultery or lying. They are. But there are sins of omission as well as commission. The planners cited here didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. They were just making business plans! People do that every day. But we need to remember that when we don’t acknowledge the Almighty in our plans (either verbally or non-verbally), when we don’t consciously submit to him, when we don’t commit to doing things his way, that’s sin.
            When I’m talking about a brother in Christ, or when I’m making plans either big or small, I need to keep my Lord in consideration. Otherwise, I’m setting myself up for a world of hurt. I don’t want that, do you?

Lord Jesus, please change my perspective. I’m not anyone’s Lawgiver or Judge. That’s you. All of my plans, all of my hopes, dreams, fears, and desires I lay at your feet, my King, to do with as you will. You’re certainly going to do better with them than I ever could.