Monday, December 29, 2008

Mon., 12/29/08 Devotion (2 Chron. 34:3)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 34:3, which says this:

"For in the eighth year of [Josiah's] reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images."

Josiah, one of the all-time greatest kings of Judah, was only 16 years-old when he began doing great things for the church of God. His grandfather Manasseh had wasted most of his life, and all of his youth, in idolatrous blasphemy. Josiah's father Amon had not been promising at all. Humanly-speaking, it is astounding that Josiah, from such an early age, would be so very great.

Josiah reminds us that the church's children and youth need not wait to grow old, in order to be effective in the kingdom of God. May they be zealous for the Lord, and his house, from their earliest days.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The Word written is a repository in which God has laid up sovereign oils and balsams to recover sick souls; and the word preached is the pouring out of these oils, and applying them to the sick patient." --Thomas Watson, in his sermon entitled, "The Soul's Malady and Cure"]

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wed., 12/24/08 Devotion (Jn. 14:22)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Today's encouragement comes from John 14:22, where we read these words:

"Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him [Jesus], 'Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?' "

This is the only time in the Gospel accounts (I know of) where Judas (not Iscariot) is quoted. His question is a good one. Jesus Christ *is* "manifest[ed] to the whole world" in a gospel proclamative sense. We especially see this happen at Christmas--as the angels declare that Christ's good news is for "all people," (Lk. 2:10).

And yet Judas' query *is* legitimate, and Jesus does not correct him. Christ manifests Himself to His church in a covenantal way that is completely foreign to all those who are outside of her (the church). In light of this, let us all be found in Christ, which is the same thing as being in the church (properly-covenanted).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ may be called 'the Word' because He is the great Revealer of the secrets of heaven." --John Colquhoun, in his sermon, "The Incarnation of Christ"]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tues., 12/23/08 Devotion (Jn. 13:1b)

Today's encouragement comes from John 13:1b, where we read these words:

" . . . Having loved His own who were in the world, He [Christ] loved them to the end."

This is a beautiful phrase. The Lord Jesus loves His churchmen who are yet "in the world," viz. down here, where it's tough, and where sin and the fall still assault us. This is because the church is "His own." He possesses them, by virtue of His redemption of their souls. And Christ loves us "to the end." He doesn't give up on us, just because we stumble around, and fail a lot of times.

Isn't this a grand and glorious Savior? Even as He was anticipating His most grievous suffering (on the cross), He was thinking of us, and serving us. Let all His church love Christ in sincerity; and may we find our peace only in Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "And in the dispensing of the gospel, especially in the preaching and unfolding of the Word, the riches of God in Christ are unfolded . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mon., 12/22/08 Devotion (2 Chron. 26:15b-16a)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 26:15b & 16a, which says this:

"So [Uzziah's] fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped [by God] till he became strong. But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction . . . "

God's true churchmen *are* to become "strong." That is a significant goal of the Christian life, (see Eph. 6:10). But strength is *never* to lead to independence (from God). True, Spirit-wrought strength makes the believer *more*, not less, aware of his or her reliance upon the Lord. To be strong in Christ is to become more humble, more faithful, and more obedient.

King Uzziah of Judah abused his strength, to his own hurt. May we not follow in his steps.

[Puritan quote of the day: "My services are weak, yet I am a child; my graces are feeble, yet I am a child; my desires are faint, my wants many, my enemies strong, yet I have God for my Father. This answers
all." --Robert Harris, in "The Way to True Happiness"]

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/19-21/08 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday, the Lord's Day, the day of resurrection, one of God's 52 holy days a year! Shifting gears today, here are the words of my second favorite Puritan of all time: the great Richard Sibbes. This snippet comes from a treatise of his, entitled, "Denial of the Best for the Church's Benefit":

"A second thing that I observe hence is this, holy and gracious men, that are led by the Spirit of God, can deny themselves and their own best good for the church's benefit. They know that God has appointed them as instruments to convey good to others; and knowing this, they labor to come to Paul's spirit, to desire to live, to have life in patience, and death in desire in regard of themselves. For it would be much better for a good man to be in heaven, out of misery, and out of this conflicting condition with the devil and devilish-minded men.

"The reason is, because a good man, as soon as he is a good man, has the spirit of love in him, and 'love seeks not its own,' (1 Cor. 13:6), but the good of another; and as the love of Christ and the love of God possesses and seizes upon the soul, so self-love decays. What is gracious love but a decay of self love? The more self-love decays, the more we deny ourselves."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thurs., 12/18/08 Devotion (Jn. 8:24b)

Today's encouragement comes from John 8:24b, where we find our Lord Jesus saying this:

" . . . For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

Jesus is speaking to very religious people here. It is interesting that He does *not* say, "If you don't straighten-up your acts you will
die . . . "; or, "If you don't do enough good deeds you will die . . . "; or, "If you aren't more religious you will die . . . " Instead, Christ demands one thing (only): believing that He (Jesus) is the Son of
God--or else we will die in our sins.

Why is this so hard for us sinners to grasp? The gospel is so simple that self-righteous people find it highly offensive. Jesus' blood atonement virtually *excludes* anything that we could add to it, via works or self-sacrifice, etc. This gospel brings God glory, and us good, (but we get no credit for our salvation).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Zeal makes the blood rise when God's honor is impeached. . . . He who zealously loves his friend cannot bear to hear him spoken against and be silent." --Thomas Watson, in "The Godly Man's Picture"]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wed., 12/17/08 Devotion (Jn. 7:12a, 43)

Today's encouragement comes from John 7:12a & 43, where we read these words:

"And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him [Jesus]. . . . So there was a division among the people because of Him."

Our Lord Jesus Christ is *the* most controversial Person to ever exist. To this day, He divides people from one another--when He wrenches His children away from their sin, their idols, and whatever else ails them. Christ is also the Great Unifier: but the *only* people He positively brings together are His churchmen.

The Redeemer has no interest in satisfying anyone but His Father, and, through the Spirit, His church. Because of this, those who wish to deal with Him on any terms other than saving faith find themselves flabbergasted, confused, and in disarray. May we be "one" with Christ, as we find ourselves "in" Him, by faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A child of God makes his estate [viz. all that he owns] a golden clasp to bind his heart faster to God, a footstool to raise him up higher towards heaven." --Thomas Watson, in "The Beatitudes"]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tues., 12/16/08 Devotion (Jn. 6:35)

Today's encouragement comes from the great words of John 6:35, which say this:

"And Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.' "

This is a pretty outrageous claim by the Lord Jesus Christ; and it would be a horrible one, if He could not keep it. But, of course, He *does* fulfill it perfectly, in all His redeemed churchmen. But if this is so, why is it that so many professing Christians--even we ourselves at times--do not "feel" like we are always full and satisfied?

The answer: we sometimes seek both the power for and the evidence of our true spiritual life in the wrong places. The evidence is to be found in faithful churchmanship. The power comes from the proper use of the means of grace: preaching, the two sacraments, prayer, and the fellowship of the saints.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Grace is not glorious if we add the least thing of our own to it." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mon., 12/15/08 Devotion (Jn. 5:6b)

Today's encouragement comes from John 5:6b, where we find our Lord Jesus ask this question of the lame man:

" . . . 'Do you want to be made well?' "

At first glance, Christ's question of a man who had been infirm for 38 years seems almost ludicrous. But the simple fact is that it cannot be assumed that people *really* *want* to be made well. There is a certain perverse "security" in infirmity that sinners rest in. Health implies fuller and greater responsibilities. Most people are quite content being dead in sin, and bound for hell.

But this is not an option for the redeemed churchmen of God. We are to desire life; and to be willing to live it to the full. Only in Jesus is this possible; but, so long as we abide in Him, it is also inevitable.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Fulfill your course with joy; for we take nothing to the grave with us, but a good or evil conscience." --Samuel Rutherford, from "Letters of Samuel Rutherford"]

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/12-14/08 Devotion

Wahoo--Sunday is *almost* here! In order to help us all get ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his book entitled, "The Beatitudes":

"To do God's will is for our benefit. It promotes our own self-interest. As if a king commands a subject to dig in a mine of gold, and gives him all the gold he had dug out. God bids us do His will, and that is for our good. 'And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to keep the commandments of the Lord, which I command you this day for your good?,' (Deut. 10:13). It is God's will that we should repent, and this is for our good; for repentance ushers in remission. 'Repent, that your sins may be blotted out,' (Acts 3:19). It is God's will that we should believe; and why is it, but that we should be crowned with salvation? 'He that believes, shall be saved,' (Mark 16:16). What God wills, is not so much our duty, as our privilege; He bids us obey His voice, and it is greatly for our good. 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God,' (Jer. 7:23). I will not only give you My angels to be your guard, but Myself to be your portion; My spirit shall be yours to sanctify you; My love shall be yours to comfort you; My mercy shall be yours to save you; 'I will be your God.' "

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thurs., 12/11/08 Devotion (Jn. 1:14a)

Today's encouragement comes from John 1:14a, where we read these amazing words:

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . "

This word "Flesh" is very strong. It connotes a sense of the Son of God fully entering into our fallenness and its resulting misery, etc.--yet, of course, with no sin of His own (either original or actual). But the fact of the incarnation has *perpetual* power. Just because the flesh-bound Messiah today is in heaven, this does not mean that He is not *just as* active in His church today (as He was in the days of His bodily earthly sojourn).

Therefore, in this joyous season, let all God's churchmen remember that the One who "became flesh" for us is *still* with us. He has made His church "bone of His bone," etc., (cf. Eph. 5:30).

[Puritan quote of the day: "The happiness of man consists in commun-
ion with God and conformity to Him." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wed., 12/10/08 Devotion (Lk. 24:5b)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 24:5b, where we read these words, spoken by the angels at Jesus' empty tomb:

" . . . 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' "

This is still a germane question for us, today. How often do we seek "Christ" among dead things: bad theology, superstition, and putrid forms of false religion? The Living One, Jesus, is *just* that: the *Living* One. He has conquered death--even the death of every faithful churchman. Therefore, let us find Him where He *is*, and not where He is not.

Jesus lives in the highest heaven, in His risen and glorified body; but He also lives in the humblest hearts of His churchmen, through His residing Spirit. Therefore, let us seek Him there--in both places. He will be found by us.

[Puritan quote of the day: "God has reserved us to these glorious times, better than our forefathers ever saw." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tues., 12/9/08 Devotion (Lk. 23:12)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 23:12, where we read these words:

"That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other."

Have you ever considered that the devil does quite well at holding his forces together? (God's people could learn a lesson from this fact. We ought to be infinitely *more* united around Jesus, and His church's doctrine, than Satan and his followers are, around their hatred for Christ.)

What made Herod and Pilate like each other? Not their affinity for Jerusalem's restaurants. Instead, they stood arm-in-arm in opposition to the stated Kingship of Jesus. This is why even today we find Christian hypocrites "in bed" with Muslims, atheists, and all other
unbelievers. They are united in their resistance to our unconquerable Sovereign, Christ the Lord.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The work and business of ministers of the gospel is, as it were, that of servants: to wash and cleanse the souls of men; for this is done by the preaching of the Word, which is their main business." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon entitled, "Christ the Example of Ministers"]

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mon., 12/8/08 Devotion (Lk. 22:43)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 22:43, where we read these words:

"Then an angel appeared to Him [Jesus] from heaven, strengthening Him."

All God's churchmen need strength. Even the very Captain of our souls, the Head of the church Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, did. A lot of times the children of God find themselves in trouble, or need. Naturally, we call out to God for deliverance and freedom (from what troubles us). But what oftentimes the Lord chooses to do, is *not* to immediately extricate us from our problem--but to use it as a great opportunity to make us stronger.

After all: this happened with our Savior Himself. He is in the Garden of Gethsemane, He is in agony and anguish; and His Father chooses to give Him strength to endure the looming cross, (rather than a way around it). Just something to think about today. . . .

[Puritan quote of the day: "The nature of God is lovely in Christ, and our nature in Christ is lovely to Him." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/5-7/08 Devotion

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

"As the unregenerate cannot keep the moral law perfectly, so neither can the regenerate. 'There is not a just man upon earth, that does good and sins not'; nay, that 'sins not in doing good,' (Eccl. 7:20). There is that in the best actions of a righteous man that is damnable, if God should weigh him in the balance of justice. Alas! how are his duties fly-blown! He cannot pray without wandering, nor believe without doubting. 'To will is present with me, but how to perform I find not.' In the Greek it is, 'How to do it thoroughly I find not,' (Rom. 7:18). Paul, though a saint of the first magnitude, was better at willing than at performing. . . . Aaron was to make atonement for the altar, to show that the most holy offering has defilement in it, and needs atonement to be made for it, (Ex. 29:37)."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thurs., 12/4/08 Devotion (Lk. 18:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 18:1, where we read these words:

"Then He [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart . . . "

What is it about prayer, that God so earnestly enjoins it on us? Mostly, prayer is designed to keep us in *contact* with God. If all was well with us all the time, we would grow remiss in prayer, and very independent of the Lord. It may well be that God delays answering some of our prayers solely because He wants us still coming back to Him.

If we weary in prayer, and give up on it--it is the same thing (practically-speaking) on giving up on one's belief in Christ. That is a serious matter. May we keep praying to God, all the while leaving our requests in His capable, sovereign, and holy hands.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A man full of grace has Christ in his heart, and the world under his feet; grace humbles, yet elevates." --Thomas Watson, in his sermon entitled, "The Beauty of Grace"]

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wed., 12/3/08 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 [or among] 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"]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tues., 12/2/08 Devotion (Lk. 16:31)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 16:31, where we see these words, spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ:

"But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "

No one was ever converted on the basis of beholding miracles--even the great one of Jesus' bodily resurrection. Instead, all those who are converted are so on the basis of the great miracle of regeneration (or new birth). No one believes the Bible, either, until or unless the Holy Spirit gives them Christ's righteousness (and the subsequent new nature in Him).

Therefore, let us not be surprised at the recalcitrant blindness and rebellion of many, who simply *will* not believe. The truth is they *cannot* believe, until God sovereignly calls them. Let us ask the Lord to do this for all our lost friends.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Now Christ and the church are all one. They make but one mystical body. The church is the queen, and Christ is the King." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mon. 12/1/08 Devotion (Lk. 15:1-2)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 15:1 & 2, where we read these words:

"Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to [Jesus] to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, 'This Man receives sinners and eats with them.' "

I love these verses. Since *when* are not some good old "garden-variety" sinners interested in Christ, the gospel, and the church? The truth is, they *are*, even today. People found Jesus Christ, His person, His message, and His community *so* compelling, that they could *not* resist Him. The same thing happens even in 2008, when the church presents the Redeemer as the One He truly is: lovely, and fascinating.

But of course the pharisees hate all this. Christ upsets their world view's "apple-cart"; and He does not fit their mold (of a staid, stale, lifeless, and boring Messiah). Jesus came for sinners; not good people, (cf. Lk. 5:32).

[Puritan quote of the day: "A hypocrite will read, come to church, gives alms, build hospitals, but cannot forgive wrongs; he will rather want forgiveness from God than he will forgive his enemies."
--Thomas Watson, in "The Lord's Prayer"]