By Brian J. Wright
The Decades Leading up to This Devotional
In 1999, as a junior in college, I was hit with numerous thought-provoking questions I had never heard or considered before as a non-Christian. On many occasions, I wished I had been asked them earlier in my life instead of enduring the bad decisions, broken relationships, and pain I had already experienced.
Those penetrating, life-changing questions were not the result of someone’s witty concoctions—no, not one. All of the questions that pierced my soul and spirit that year came directly from God’s Word after one of my teammates challenged me to read the Bible for the first time. I realized that while I didn’t yet have answers, I could find them through studying Scriptural truth and finding a personal application to them.
After college, I spent the next 11 years climbing the ranks of corporate America within several Fortune 100 companies. I started as an intern for one corporation. I finished as an executive for another. Life was relatively easy during those final years: six-figure salary, high-rise office in a major city and travels around the world.
Then in August of 2010, after completing a Master in Theology (Th.M.) degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, I left the corporate world for good to become a full-time pastor. Shortly after leaving my job, God opened up a door for me to pastor within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Like most people, I had never been behind prison walls before. Yet I had no doubt God was calling me to this unconventional ministry.
From 2011 to now, I have served in every federal security level (camp, low, medium, high, administrative), custody level (in, out, max, community) and gender grouping available in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I have had the privilege of counseling, pastoring and assisting countless inmates, including bank presidents, entertainers, professional athletes, international terrorists, murderers, sex offenders, drug lords, prostitutes, illegal immigrants and other convicts. Listening to their stories firsthand and walking alongside them in the aftermath of their federal crimes has helped me see the timeless truths of the Scriptures played out in real life, as well as appreciate the Christ-centered hope available in every situation.
In 2012, one year after walking into a prison for the first time, God gave me the idea for a series of short readings based on questions in the Bible. The idea immediately led to prayer. Prayer led to preparation. Preparation included a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies and Early Christian Origins. It was in this context, ministering in prison full time and obtaining my doctorate, that I wrote a draft of my new book, Inspired Questions: A Year’s Journey Through the New Testament.
I finished the first draft of it in May 2017. Then I put it away for exactly one year before looking at it again and going back through it. I’m sure glad I did. Little did I know, God had much more in store for it than I had initially thought.
The Bible alone stands as the source and storehouse of inspired questions. It asks questions we could never ask ourselves.
Why I Wrote This Devotional
I wrote a collection of short, easy-to-read devotions under the conviction that you cannot get to the right answers until you have the right questions—and that the greatest questions ever asked are inspired ones. The Bible alone stands as the source and storehouse of inspired questions. It asks questions we could never ask ourselves. Yet, no one has ever written a 365-day devotional based entirely on the questions already asked in the New Testament.
I also wrote it because a substantial portion of our Bible is questions, and asking questions was a primary teaching method of Jesus. To put this in perspective, the Book of Proverbs has approximately 930 sayings, while the New Testament alone contains about 980 questions.
Of course, we find inspired questions throughout the whole Bible, not just in the New Testament. Satan first approached Eve with a question in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1). When the angel of the Lord first appears in the Bible, he asks a question (Gen. 16:8). When the Witch of Endor conjures up Samuel from the dead, he immediately asks Saul questions (1 Sam. 28:15-16). When God finally speaks to Job, He addresses him with questions (Job 38–41). When the angel Gabriel first appears in the Book of Daniel, he starts with a question (Dan. 8:13). It’s somewhat of a paradox that the importance of Scriptural questions is unquestionable.
Finally, I wrote this devotional out of a need I identified through both personal experience and pastoral counseling. I can personally testify that meditating on these inspired questions has radically changed my life and ministry. My marriage has been positively impacted because of them, such as the ones posed in James 4:1. I have been able to handle more effectively several major issues in my church after wrestling with the question in Galatians 4:16. My counseling benefited from questions such as the one found in Luke 12:25. Indeed, there are many others: witnessing and missions via Romans 10:14; communion via 1 Corinthians 10:16; and parenting via Hebrews 12:7.
Meditating on these inspired questions has radically changed my life and ministry.
My Prayer for All Readers
My prayer is that readers of this devotional will never be like the people mentioned in Paul’s second letter to Timothy: ‘always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth’ (3:7)—for on Judgment Day, our Lord will not ask us what devotionals we have read, but what deeds we have done.
Rather, I pray that all readers will take to heart and pray these words of the Psalmist before they begin reading the devotional: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Ps. 139:23-24).
This article is a modified excerpt from Brian’s new 365-day devotional, Inspired Questions: A Year’s Journey Through the New Testament (Christian Focus, 2019).