Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thurs., 7/31/08 Devotion (Acts 18:4)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 18:4, where we read these words:

"And [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks."

The New Covenant Sabbath (which is Sunday), much like the Old Covenant Sabbath (which was Saturday), is still the first and foremost day on which everyone must be "persuaded" that Jesus is the Christ. The *place* where this happens is the church, (and, even more-specifically, the pulpit).

Once we have done our due diligence there, we are in a position to bring the gospel into the marketplace, the "Areopagus" (if you will). *Every* believer needs to be "re-convinced" of the truth of the Christian faith every week. This is because we are weak, and given to doubt and unbelief. Once we are re-energized, we are ready to be effective in God's world.

[Puritan quote of the day: "David committed many sins, but especially those two of adultery and murder, and yet God pardoned him. But Saul committed far less sins than those and yet God cast him off forever." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in "Gospel Remission"]

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wed., 7/30/08 Devotion (Jer. 26:19b)

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 26:19b, where we read these words:

" . . . Did [Hezekiah] not fear the LORD and seek the LORD'S fa-
vor? . . . "

Here is a good formula to live by: fear the Lord, and seek His favor. To fear the Lord means to be serious about hating sin; and to seek the Lord means to be serious about believing gospel grace. Both of these notions are quite alien to our fallen natures.

This is why those (only) who are given new hearts in Christ can truly fear the Lord, and seek His favor. Perhaps you are religious, but not redeemed. What are you to do? Abandon your own works, and alleged righteousness, and seek the Lord. He will be found by all those who truly desire to find Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "There is nothing in the world more uneasy than the heart of a wicked man made to listen to spiritual instruc-
tion . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tues., 7/29/08 Devotion (Acts 16:4-5)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 16:4 & 5, where we read these words:

"And as they [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily."

Here is a good example of where Christian joy, prosperity, and liberty is dependent upon submission to church authorities. Paul and his band were faithful to hand down the decisions of the Jerusalem presbytery; and, as they were well-received by the churches, they (the churches) flourished.

Today, we are often told that we do not need church, nor authority. This is the same thing as to say we do not need Christ, nor salvation. Let all of us who are committed to Jesus be committed to His ways, as well.

[Puritan quote of the day: "After we are gained to Christ ourselves, we should labor to gain others to Christ." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mon., 7/28/08 Devotion (Mk. 10:35)

Today's encouragement comes from Mark 10:35, where we read these words:

"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to [Jesus], saying, 'Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.' "

I like the audacity (here, above) of James and John. More importantly, I think God Himself likes it. How honoring is it of Christ, for us to come to Him with big, bold, and almost-outrageous requests? God may well not do whatever we ask in prayer--because He loves us too much to give us what is bad for us; but the spirit of childlike asking is to His glory.

So, what is it you want God to do for you? Why not ask Him for it? If it's not for your betterment, He will protect you from yourself.

[Puritan quote of the day: "What need do we have to knock at any other door? Can any be more tender over us than Christ?" --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/25-27/08 Devotion

Yippee--Sunday is almost here! Here is TW, from "A Divine Cordial," to help get you ready:

"There is nothing in God to deaden our affections or quench our love; no infirmity, no deformity, such as usually weaken and cool love. There is that excellence in God, which may not only invite, but command our love. If there were more angels in heaven than there are, and all those glorious seraphim had an immense flame of love burning in their breasts to eternity, yet could they not love God equivalently to that infinite perfection and transcendence of goodness which is in Him. Surely then here is enough to induce us to love God--we cannot spend our love upon a better object.

"Love facilitates religion. It oils the wheels of the affections, and makes them more lively and cheerful in God's service. Love takes off the tediousness of duty. Jacob thought seven years but little, for the love he bore to Rachel. Love makes duty a pleasure. Why are the angels so swift and winged in God's service? It is because they love Him. Love is never weary. He that loves God, is never weary of telling it. He that loves God, is never weary of serving Him."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thurs., 7/24/08 Devotion (Mk. 6:56c)

Today's encouragement comes from Mark 6:56c, where we read these words:

" . . . And as many as touched Him [Jesus] were made well."

Every time a human being touches Jesus Christ in faith, there is healing. The entire key to the churchman's life is to come into contact with the Savior. This is done by faith; and it is applied (practically) in prayer. True "wellness" requires "rubbing shoulders" with God.

Let us boldly come to Christ, in faithful prayer. He is always ready to heal and forgive. He is the giver of life. May our hearts yearn to be with (and near) Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We would never go to God unless God came to us, such is the stoutness of our hearts." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in "Gospel Reconciliation"]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wed., 7/23/08 Devotion (Gal. 4:6-7)

Today's encouragement comes from Galatians 4:6 & 7. There, Paul wrote these words:

"And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."

Adoption is a beautiful thing. To be adopted, is to be specially-chosen. All of God's true saints are His adopted children. (Jesus alone is the Father's "natural" Child.)

The child of God has big privileges. He or she has intimate familial access and communion with the Father ("Abba, Father!"). He or she also has a "certificate" of freedom, sonship, and citizenship (in heaven). On top of all this, the true child of God owns and enjoys everything Jesus owns and enjoys--since he or she is an "heir" with Him.

For all this, let us live thankful and loving lives. Let us not, as the Galatians were want to do, fall into works- and self-righteousness.

[Puritan quote of the day: "I remember reading a speech of Anselm's. He said that he would rather be in hell without sin than in heaven with sin. . . . " --Jeremiah Burroughs, in "The Evil Of Evils"]

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tues., 7/22/08 Devotion (Acts 9:31)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 9:31, which says this:

"Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied."

This blessed state (described above) came directly on the heels of the Apostle Paul's conversion, and his being accepted by the church. These sweet conditions are usually temporary. Indeed, in just two chapters, we see the church once again having to deal with persecution. But, when we *are* given lovely seasons of rest and comfort, we had best take advantage of them.

And just *why* do we need them? So as to be able to *prepare* ourselves for the hardships, challenges, and struggles to come. Only a fool imagines that everything will always be fine, and hunky-dory. The wise churchman uses his respites to build strength for the future.

[Puritan quote of the day: "None are damned in the church but those who are determined to be . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mon., 7/21/08 Devotion (Lk. 17:20-21)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 17:20 & 21, which says this:

"Now when [Jesus] was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, "See here!" or "See there!" For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.' "

In brief, the kingdom of God is wherever Jesus Christ is, covenantally-expressed. This is more than simply His omnipresence, by the Spirit. It is also more than His locative position in heaven, where His glorified body and blood is. It is also much more than a supposed future "kingdom" on earth. The kingdom of God is now--wherever Jesus Christ is glorified in His church: in the individual expression of particular saints; and in the corporate worship of the body of Christ.

Be thankful that the King of the kingdom makes all the difference. The kingdom of God is "within" you, or "among" you--if Jesus is truly yours.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Keep conscience clear and clean from secret sins. With what face can we go to a friend to whom we have given any secret affront? And will you be so bold as to come before the God of heaven when He knows you maintain some secret sin in your hearts?" --Samuel Lee, in "Secret Prayer Successfully Managed"]

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sat./Sabbath, 7/19-20/08 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray--it's almost Sunday! In order to try to help get you ready for the church's worship of God, on the Lord's Day (Sunday), here is the amazing Thomas Watson, from his "A Divine Cordial" book:

"If it be God's purpose that saves, then it is not free will. The Pelagians are strenuous asserters of free will. They tell us that a man has an innate power to effect his own conversion; but this text [Eph. 1:11] confutes it. Our calling is 'according to God's purpose.' The Scripture plucks up the root of free will: 'It is not of him that wills,' (Rom. 9:16). All depends upon the purpose of God. When the prisoner is cast [bound] at the bar, there is no saving him, unless the king has a purpose to save him. God's purpose is His prerogative royal.

"If it is God's purpose that saves, then it is not merit. Bellarmine holds that good works do expiate sin and merit glory; but the text says that we are called according to God's purpose, and there is a parallel Scripture: 'Who has saved us, and called us, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace,' (2 Tim. 1:9). There is no such thing as merit. Our best works have in them both defection and infection, and so are but glittering sins; therefore if we are called and justified, it is God's purpose that brings it to pass."

Fri., 7/18/08 Devotion (Matt. 28:18-19a)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 28:18 & 19a, where we read these words:

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them . . . ' "

Precisely *because* the Lord Jesus Christ possesses *all* the authority of the church *and* the state, (in heaven and on earth)--His ministers and parishioners may go into all the world, baptizing and making disciples. Notice that no ultimate authority has been given to the devil, nor to those who oppose the church's and the gospel's advance.

The fact that evil men exist, and that they do what they can to set up counterfeit "kingdoms," in no way negates nor compromises Christ's full and unique authority. When the church acts on her commission, she is doing what she was created to do.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We are weak, but we are His; we are deformed, but yet carry His image upon us." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thurs., 7/17/08 Devotion (Josh. 24:15c)

Today's encouragement comes from Joshua 24:15c, where we read these words:

" . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

No matter what other people choose to do, God's true churchmen must choose to serve Him wholeheartedly. The Fall of man into sin has left us with the deplorable disease of "man-pleasing"; and of mindlessly following whatever new "gods" or theological fads that happen to come along.

The sincere believer must be more thoughtful than that. If the world likes something, we ought to look askance at it, with a level of suspicion. This is not because we are paranoid--rather, it is because we have come to learn that idolatry is subtle, and easily slipped into.

[Puritan quote of the day: "To the extent that we give way to our will in sinning, to that extent we set ourselves at a distance from comfort." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wed., 7/16/08 Devotion (Acts 3:26)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 3:26, where we read these words:

"To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities."

Peter is speaking here to the Jewish people (above). What is intriguing here is that the Risen Christ is "sent" *after* His resurrection, to bless people, in applying the forgiveness of sins. When and where the Holy Spirit works, so does the Risen Savior.

When we think of Christ's "comings," we should not limit these to the Incarnation, the Second Coming, and the events of 70 AD. We should also include the visitation Jesus makes to every redeemed soul. This is a great blessing--one that culminates every other "coming" of Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "God sees fit that we should taste of that cup of which His Son drank so deep, that we might feel a little what sin is, and what His Son's love was." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tues., 7/15/08 Devotion (Acts 2:47b)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 2:47b, where we read these words:

" . . . And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."

This blessed phrase (above) describes what is still happening today, and everyday. God is "adding to the church daily those who are being saved." The Holy Spirit never takes a break from His labors; and the sovereign decree of God is never interrupted by any of the events in a fallen world; and the church can never be destroyed.

Therefore, the operations of God, whereby He continually brings in His lost sheep continues unabated. But, the Lord has deigned to allow us to share in this sweet privilege. Are you already a faithful churchman? Then be about sharing Jesus with those who are not.

[Puritan quote of the day: "How [Jesus] defends His disciples from malicious imputations of the Pharisees!" --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mon., 7/14/08 Devotion (Josh. 21:45)

Today's encouragement comes from Joshua 21:45, where we read these neat words:

"Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass."

God's Word's track record is 100%. When the Lord makes a promise to His people, He keeps it. In Jesus, the church has the complete fulfillment of the ultimate promise of God, (see 2 Cor. 1:20). Everything that we supremely need and want is to be found in Him (alone). Just as God delivered the Israelites into the promised land, and gave it to them--so He has translated His church from sin and death, and into Christ.

What do you need today? Go ahead and ask God for it. So long as you belong to the Savior, your Father is more than pleased to show you His faithfulness.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Shall man be proud after God has been humble?" --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/11-13/08 Devotion

Wahoo--Sunday is just around the corner! (I am adding Friday to this devotion.) In order to help get you ready for church, here is the incomparable Puritan Thomas Watson, from his book, entitled, "The Ten Commandments":

"It is God that speaks to us in His word; therefore the preaching of the word is called the 'breath of His lips,' (Isa 11:4). Christ is said now to speak to us 'from heaven,' as a king speaks in his ambassador, (Heb 12:25). Ministers are but pipes and organs, it is the Spirit of the living God that breathes in them. When we come to the word, we should think within ourselves, 'God is speaking in this preacher.' The Thessalonians heard the word Paul preached, as if God Himself had spoken unto them. 'When you received the word of God, which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God,' (1 Thess 2:13). When Samuel knew it was the Lord that spoke to him, he lent his ear, (1 Sam 3:10). If we do not regard God when He speaks to us, He will not regard us when we pray to Him."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thurs., 7/10/08 Devotion (Jer. 6:16a, b)

Happy 499th birthday to John Calvin.

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 6:16a & b, where we read these words:

"Thus says the LORD: 'Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. . . . ' "

People like "new" paths, because by walking in them they think they are "cool," and avant garde. But in reality the old paths are better. Old truths may (legitimately) be re-framed into updated language, etc.--but the *essence* of the truth itself can never be changed.

I think, (perhaps overly-optimistically), that some folks are growing weary of all the failed promises of the "new" ways. They are finding them boring, mindless, and unsatisfying. Perhaps many will begin to re-investigate the "tried and true" paths. Even if they don't, those who are blessed enough will, and God will get the glory.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Weaknesses do not break covenant with God . . . [and they] do not debar us from mercy." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wed., 7/9/08 Devotion (Ps. 144:15b)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 144:15b, where we read these words:

" . . . Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!"

Why is the church of God in a happy and comfortable condition? Because of our Risen Head Jesus--who has conquered our sin, forgiven us, and given us immediate, full, and free access to the throne of grace. Are God's people *always* "circumstantially" happy? No; the presence of sin in us, others, and the fallen world prevents this.

But, are the redeemed of the Lord *inherently* happy? Yes; because everything of ultimate importance has been taken care of for them by their Savior. Cheerfulness should characterize those who are loved by God--even though there are legitimate times and reasons for grief. Let us be God's happy people.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We are only poor for this reason, that we do not know our riches in Christ." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tues., 7/8/08 Devotion (Ps. 143:7)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 143:7, where we read these words:

"Answer me speedily, O LORD; my spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, lest I be like those who go down into the pit."

Here is a desperate plea. Do you ever feel like this? I know that I do. David (above) wants an immediate answer. He sees himself as slipping down fast; and, from his point of view, unless God acts quickly, he will be lost.

These kinds of prayers please God (I think), because they are so real. They leave no time or opportunity for word-smithing, or for flowery language. Do you feel pretty insecure or fearful today (about anything)? If so, then come to your Savior in prayer. He is very glad to rescue you.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The end [goal] of Christ's coming was to free us from all such groundless fears." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mon., 7/7/08 Devotion (Ps. 140:7)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 140:7, where we read these words:

"O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle."

I like this phrase: "You have covered my head in the day of battle." When our heads are covered by divine protection, we are able to think, act, and make important decisions--even while the battle rages all around us. The NT calls this provision, "The helmet of salvation," (in Eph. 6:17).

Every faithful churchman has to go through conflicts. Our arms and legs may get scraped-up a bit--but our heads are fully-secured. Even as Jesus is the Head of the church; our heads must be the governors of our actions. By faith in Christ, be sure your head is covered by Him today.

[Puritan quote of the day: " 'You have heard of the patience of Job,' says James (Jas. 5:11). We have heard of his impatience too, but it pleased God mercifully to overlook that." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sat./Sabbath, 7/5-6/08 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray--it's almost Sunday! In order to help get you ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his "The Ten Commandments" book:

"Pray for him who dispenses the word; that his tongue may be touched with a coal from God's altar; that God would warm his heart who is to help to warm others. Your prayers may be a means to quicken the minister. Some complain they find no benefit by the word preached; perhaps they did not pray for their minister as they should. Prayer is like the whetting and sharpening of an instrument, which makes it cut better. Pray with and for your family. Indeed, pray for all the congregations that meet on this day in the fear of the Lord; that the dew of the Spirit may fall with the manna of the word; that some souls may be converted, and others strengthened; that gospel ordinances may be continued, and have no restraint put upon them. These are the things we should pray for. The tree of mercy will not drop its fruit, unless it be shaken by the hand of prayer."

Fri., 7/4/08 Devotion (Matt. 14:13a, 23)

Happy Independence Day, USA!

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 14:13a & 23, where we read these words:

"When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. . . . And when He [Christ] had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there."

Notice all the references in these verses (above), to Christ being *alone*. God does not want us to be hermits, nor anti-social; but if we are to do well in our public ministries (whatever those may entail), then we have got to spend some good, quality "alone time" with our Father in heaven.

You can practically "feel" how important this was to Jesus, as you read the Gospel accounts. If Christ, the Perfect One, needed time with God--how can we, who are sinners, need it any less?

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ loves to taste of the good fruits that come from us, even though they will always savour of our old nature." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thurs., 7/3/08 Devotion (Josh. 5:12)

Today's encouragement comes from Joshua 5:12, where we read these words:

"Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year."

When we enter the promised land of life in Christ, His gospel, His church, and His means of grace--we no longer look for, desire, or need the "extraordinary" measures (that God sometimes uses, to get people's attention). The Lord is more pleased with and honored by "ordinary" means: like preaching, the sacraments (of baptism and the Lord's Supper), and church discipline.

Many religionists today--as has always been the case--are all consumed with crazy stuff. Let us, God's sane (but beloved) churchmen, enjoy Him in the ways that He is most pleased to reveal Himself.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Feeling and freeness of spirit are often reserved until duty is discharged." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wed., 7/2/08 Devotion (Ps. 130:3-4)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 130:3 & 4, where we read these words:

"If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared."

Everyone's problems all, at base, have to do with forgiveness. Human beings' biggest issue is sin against God. To know that your sins are actually forgiven in the blood atonement of Christ, apprehended by grace through faith alone, is the greatest singular blessing you may enjoy--in this world, and the next.

That knowledge opens up for you the very face of God. You know that you are loved by Him, even though you're still a sinner (down here). It is hard to believe that such a perfect God could actually love His church--even after their sins are gone--but it is our blessed responsibility to believe this precious truth.

[Puritan quote of the day: "In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, among that cloud of witnesses, we see Rahab, Gideon, and Samson ranked with Abraham, the father of the faithful (Heb. 11:31-32)."
--Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tues., 7/1/08 Devotion (Ps. 126:5-6)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 126:5 & 6, where we read these words:

"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

This is a neat promise. Sometimes the burdens of this life seem almost overwhelming. There is *always* hope, however, for the faithful churchman. Those who love God are not immune to trouble. In fact, it is sure to find them. But what we have, that others do not, is a blessed assurance that our trials will be (and are) redeemed, in Christ.

Are you "sowing in tears" today? Don't get too discouraged, or disappointed. If you belong to Christ, and trust Him alone for your salvation, you will soon be "coming again with rejoicing."

[Puritan quote of the day: "God can pick sense out of a confused prayer." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]