Monday, November 30, 2009

Mon., 11/30/09 Devotion (Mic. 5:2)

Today's encouragement comes from Micah 5:2, where we read these words:

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from ever-

Often, God works from and in obscure places. Bethlehem was certain-
ly not Rome, or Babylon, or even Jerusalem. Still, it would be the place where the now-incarnated King of Glory would be born into the fallen world. Bethlehem became the "hinge" between Christ's heavenly past; and His current state as the God-Man Lord of of heaven *and* earth, as He is the Head of His church.

Are our situations in life down here a bit on the "humble" side? Let us not think that God cannot and will not visit us in our lowly conditions. He delights to do so--and Bethlehem is proof of this.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Those whose hearts follow hard after the Lord have the right hand of God upholding them." --Jeremiah Bur-
roughs, in, "Gospel Worship"]

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fri.-Sabbath, 11/27-29/09 Devotion

Yippee--it's almost Sunday! So as to help prepare you for the Lord's Day's church worship, here are some good words from the great Jonathan Edwards, as they are taken from his sermon entitled, "God Glorified in Man's Dependence":

"The grace of God in bestowing this gift [of grace] is most free. God was under no obligation to bestow it. He might have rejected fallen man as He did the fallen angels. We never did anything to merit it; it was given while we were yet enemies, and before we had so much as repented. It was from the love of God, who saw no excellency in us to
attract it; and it was without expectation of ever being requited for it. And it is from mere grace that the benefits of Christ are applied to such and such particular persons. Those who are called and sanctified are to attribute it to the good pleasure of God's goodness alone, by which they are distinguished. He is sovereign, and has mercy on who He will have mercy."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thurs., 11/26/09 Devotion (Lk. 10:21a)

Happy Thanksgiving, all you American Christians!

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 10:21a, where we read these few words:

"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, 'I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth . . . ' "

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself often thanked His Heavenly Father for the various blessings and mercies that were wrought during the time of the Messiah's first advent. All genuine Spirit-filled living renders thanksgiving to God. There is almost nothing more wretched and gross, than a thankless, graceless person.

On this Thanksgiving Day, the one great American Puritan holiday, let us follow not only our excellent Pilgrim spiritual fathers; but even much more, our Lord, King, Savior, and Head of the church, the Lord Jesus--by giving heartfelt and sincere thanks to God.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Justification admits of no degrees. No, not in heaven--you are not more justified there than you are here. You are now as perfectly justified as ever and as accepted of Christ as ever." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Remission"]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wed., 11/25/09 Devotion (1 Pet. 2:17)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Peter 2:17, where we read these words:

"Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."

Here, in just a few words, is a good formula for Christian living. Notice how Peter frames his exhortations (in an A, B, B, A pattern). Churchmen are to "honor" "all" people, particularly the "king," (or, those in civil authority). But they are especially to "love" the
"brotherhood" of the church. This is only possible, as we "fear" God.

None of these pithy commands can be casually put aside, with the claim that any of the others are in any way actually obeyed. In other words, it is an "all or nothing" arrangement. Therefore, let us jettison all of our self-righteous excuses for why we do not need to "honor the king," for instance; and let us adorn our profession of faith through sincere and faith-filled obedience.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The people of God are begotten through the education, instruction, and endeavors of those who were God's people before. Therefore, the church is represented in Scripture as being the mother of its members, (Gal. 4:26)." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "Christians a Chosen Generation"]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tues., 11/24/09 Devotion (Jonah 3:5a)

Today's encouragement comes from Jonah 3:5a, where we read these words:

"So the people of Nineveh believed God . . . "

Somewhat surprisingly, statements like this one (above), are very infrequent in the Bible. By believing God's prophet (Jonah), the pagan people of Nineveh "believed God." To add to the irony, the singular incident in the Word of God where the prophet sent to proclaim the Lord's message actually did *not* want it to be believed, is when it *is* believed. (Remember: Jonah wanted the Ninevites destroyed, not saved.)

What does it mean for a churchman to "believe God" today? It means that we believe the message of God's ministers: the gospel message (in particular). When we do, we are believing in the Son of God, whose blood cleanses us from our sins; and whose grace binds us to Him, in His church.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The human nature of Christ is yet in being. He still continues, and will continue to all eternity, to be both God and man." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "True Saints are Present with the Lord"]

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mon., 11/23/09 Devotion (Lk. 7:40a)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 7:40a, where we read these words:

"And Jesus answered and said to him, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' . . . "

While reading this phrase, it dawned on me that I am not sure there is another reference in the Gospel accounts where the Lord Jesus ad-
dresses (an apparent) unbeliever by name. On top of that, the King of Glory says that He has "something to say" to this guy.

Do not forget that the Lord Jesus Christ knows all things; and He knows the names--not only of all the members of His redeemed church--but of everyone else, too. Simon should have been honored that the Messiah confronted him by name; and that He cared enough to speak the gospel to him. (Hopefully, Simon became a follower of Christ.) May we be sure to love Jesus well today.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Let God have His will by [our] being holy, and [we] shall have [our] will by being happy." --Thomas Watson, in
"The Beatitudes"]

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fri.-Sabbath, 11/20-22/09 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday, the day we get to go to church! So as to help prepare you for holy worship, here is Thomas Watson, from his book, "The Ten Commandments." Here, he is dealing with the third commandment. . . .

"When we profess God's name, but do not live answerably to it, we take it in vain. 'They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him,' (Titus 1:16). When men's tongues and lives are contrary to one another, when, under a mask of profession, they lie and cozen, and are unclean, they make use of God's name to abuse Him, and take it in vain. 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you,' (Rom. 2:24). When the heathen saw the Jews, who professed to be God's people, to be scandalous, it made them speak evil of God, and hate the true religion for their sakes. . . .

"[We take God's name in vain] when we worship Him with our lips, but not with our hearts. God calls for the heart: 'My son, give Me your heart,' (Prov. 23:26). The heart is the chief thing in religion; it draws the will and affections after it. The heart is the incense that perfumes our holy things; is the altar that sanctifies the offering. When we seem to worship God, but withdraw our heart from Him, we take His name in vain. 'This people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me,' (Isa. 29:13)."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thurs., 11/19/09 Devotion (1 Chron. 14:12)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Chronicles 14:12, where we read these words:

"And when they [the Philistines] left their gods there, David gave a commandment, and they were burned with fire."

To me, this is one of the funnier verses in the Bible. The Philistines lug their gods around; and after they get defeated on the battlefield by David and the Israelites, they (the Philistines) dump their gods, and don't even bother to take them with them (as they flee).

What good are gods that can't possess enough value, so that people don't even show them a little respect, so as to get them off the field of battle?! But so it is with all idols: they are worthless. They're good only for being burned (see above). Even our "sophisticated" idols need to be thrown on the ash heap.

[Puritan quote of the day: "[God] has sent forth His messengers, and appointed ministers in His church, to be subordinate lights, to shine with the communications of His light, and to reflect the beams of His glory on the souls of men." --Jonathan Edwards, from his sermon, "The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister"]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wed., 11/18/09 Devotion (Heb. 13:9a)

Today's encouragement comes from Hebrews 13:9a, where we read these words:

"Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. . . . "

Some people are enamored with weird, heterodox, "new," and, as this
text says, "various and strange" doctrines. God's faithful churchmen are not to tinker with the bizarre, (any more than they are the occult). If some doctrine cannot find a place in the church's great Creeds, or in her best Confessions or Catechisms, it is not likely that 2000 years later God is "revealing" some new "truth" to her.

The Lord is not seeking to thwart our desire for adventure; instead, He is actually making the way for a fulfilling life possible. Nothing
kills true life and joy more readily than error, or heresy. Remember: sincere humility keeps the believer close to Jesus; pride is what causes us to wander away from Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Such a high degree of courtesy in so great a person as this apostle [Paul] reproves all those professing Christians who, though far below Paul, are not courteous and respectful in their behavior to their neighbors, and especially to their superiors."
--Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "The Character of Paul an Example to Christians"]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tues., 11/17/09 Devotion (1 Chron. 9:13b)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Chronicles 9:13b, where we read these words:

" . . . They were very able men for the work of the service of the house of God."

I was struck by this phrase (above). The church needs, and should always have serving her the very *best* of the culture. This is especial-
ly true when the general state of spirituality and morality is at the worst, or lowest ebb. In 1 Chron. 9, the people of Judah had already been deposed (to Babylon), and some of them were being brought back to the land.

Government, industry, business, education, and every other endeavor needs to be served by God's churchmen making their mark in the world. But these saints must be fed by a capable and serviceable clergy. Therefore, let us pray that God would raise up His "cream of the crop," and that He will install them into the pastoral, eldership, and diaconal ministries.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Defilers and profaners of ordinances, by known and allowed wickedness, provoke God more than the heathen who have no ordinances." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "A Warn-
ing to Professors of Religion"]

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mon., 11/16/09 Devotion (Amos 5:4)

Today's encouragement comes from Amos 5:4, where we read these words:

"For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: 'Seek Me and
live . . . ' "

Notice first of all that this verse (above) is not addressed to the
unbelieving world (generally), but to the covenant people of God. *They* needed to "seek" the Lord, just like all of us today (who are joined to Jesus, in His church) need to. What does it mean, to "seek" God? It is to act on the deep yearning of the regenerated heart--which cannot be happy without being bound-up closely to the Lord.

Seeking God not only leads to the goal of life (Christ Himself); but the very process of seeking is the path of life. When we go after God, in worship and prayer, we embark on a journey of life. Does the Lord seem to be "far" from you today? Don't despair; instead, go about "seeking" Him. He will be found by all who come to Him in faith alone.

[Puritan quote of the day: "He who has ever been acquainted with God and seen the light of His pleased face would rather die a thousand deaths than forfeit His favor or incur His displeasure." --Robert Harris, in, "The Way to True Happiness"]

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fri.-Sabbath, 11/13-15/09 Devotion

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

"Faith in Christ is acceptable to God because it is a self-denying grace; it makes a man go out of himself, renounce all self-righteousness, and wholly rely on Christ for justification. It is very humble, it confesses its own indigence [poverty], and lives wholly upon Christ. As the bee sucks sweetness from the flower, so faith sucks all its strength and comfort from Christ.

"Faith is a grace acceptable to God, because by faith we present a righteousness to Him which best pleases Him: we bring the righteous-
ness of Christ into court, which is called 'the righteousness of God,'
(2 Cor 5:21). To bring Christ's righteousness, is to bring Benjamin with us. A believer may say, 'Lord, it is not the righteousness of Adam, or of the angels, but of Christ who is God-Man, that I bring before You.' The Lord cannot but smell a sweet savour in Christ's righteousness."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thurs., 11/12/09 Devotion (Ps. 144:15)

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

"Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the LORD!"

What "state" does the psalmist (David) have in mind, here? The state of temporal bliss, made possible through God's divine protection from His (and our) enemies. This is clear, from the verses that precede
v. 15 (above). This doctrine is interesting, because sometimes we are hesitant to ascribe "happiness" to things pertaining to *this* life. But that type of religious outlook is more akin to Buddhism, than it
is to authentic Christianity.

The church, "whose God is the Lord," is a blessed community. Not only do we have all the riches of glory, to be enjoyed in heaven--but we already have all the abundance of grace (in all its forms), to be relished here on earth.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Proud innocence is worse than humble sin, and I would rather see a man tainted with many sins, if he is humbled for them and strives against them, than another puffed up and bragging to others of his freedom from gross and notorious enormities." --Richard Harris, in, "The Way to True Happiness"]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wed., 11/11/09 Devotion (Heb. 6:19-20a)

Today's encouragement comes from the words of Hebrews 6:19 & 20a, which say this:

"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus . . . "

The hope of believing churchmen is as tied to the Person of Jesus Christ, as was the rope that they used to tie to the high priest in the old covenant, when he entered the Holy of Holies (for fear that he would die in there, and they wouldn't be able to get him out). When God's people are afflicted, and tossed and turned on the sea of a
world of sin and rebellion--they are always tethered to the Rock, which cannot be moved.

If Christ is our "forerunner," then we will inevitably end up where He is. He is our Hope. There is none to be found anywhere else.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Keep your ear open to God and shut out sin; deafen your ears to the lies of the slanderer and the heretic. Do not let him have your ear who comes to rob you of your heart."
--Thomas Watson, in his sermon, "The Spiritual Watch"]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tues., 11/10/09 Devotion (Ps. 142:7)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 142:7, where David wrote these words:

"Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Your name; the righteous shall surround me, for You shall deal bountifully with me."

This is a neat last verse of this psalm, because David started-out very down and dejected. Just as the dark clouds hide the bright sun--so life's struggles may hinder our view of the Son of God. Still, let us remember that He is there; and that He will again (soon) show His wondrous face (to our souls).

It is highly God-pleasing when the saints praise Him in earnest, even when they feel blue. When we are finally delivered, we will wish we had glorified Christ with vigor and enthusiasm.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The Church is the wisest body and society in the world. Indeed, all the world besides is a company of mere fools and madmen." --Nathaniel Vincent, in, "A Discourse concerning Love"]

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mon., 11/9/09 Devotion (2 Ki. 22:8)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Kings 22:8, where these words are found:

"Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, 'I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.' And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it."

Whenever the Holy Scriptures are "discovered," especially for the very first time, by Spirit-ripened souls--the results are revolutionary. When young King Josiah had this newly-found scroll read to him, he responded with humility, contrition, and repentance. He then embarked on his wonderful and far-reaching reforms (in Judah).

Does the Holy Book, in conjunction with the Spirit and life in the church, revolutionize our lives? If so, let us be encouraged. If not, let us be concerned.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The heart will tell us that sin is but small, and, being small, it is venial. The heart will apologize for sin, masking bad transactions over with golden pretenses." --Thomas Watson, in his sermon, "The Spiritual Watch"]

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fri.-Sabbath, 11/6-8/09 Devotion

Yippee--it's almost Sunday! In order to help get us ready for church, here are words from Thomas Watson's, "The Lord's Prayer" book:

"True faith is wrought by the ministry of the word. 'Faith comes by hearing,' (Rom. 10:17). Peter let down the net of his ministry, and at one draught caught three thousand souls. Let us examine how our faith was wrought. Did God in the ministry of the word humble us? Did He break up the fallow ground of our heart, and then cast in the seed of faith? A good sign; but, if you know not how you came by your faith, suspect yourselves; as we suspect men to have stolen goods, when they know not how they came by them.

"True faith is at first small, like a grain of mustard-seed; it is full of doubts and fears; it is smoking flax: it smokes with desire, but does not flame with comfort. It is so small that a Christian can hardly discern whether he has faith or not.

"True faith is joined with sanctity. . . . Though faith does but touch Christ, it fetches a healing virtue from Him. Justifying faith does that in a spiritual sense which miraculous faith does; it removes the mountains of sin, and casts them into the sea of Christ's blood."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thurs., 11/5/09 Devotion (2 Ki. 18:22)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Kings 18:22, where we read these words:

"But if you say to me, 'We trust in the LORD our God,' is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and Jerusalem, 'You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem'?"

This verse (above) records the words of the Assyrian official, who was seeking to taunt and discourage the people of Jerusalem, during Hezekiah's reign. What is intriguing, is that he thought Hezekiah (who was a very faithful believer in the Lord) had *dishonored* God, by his (Hezekiah's) tearing down of "high places" and "altars."

In the True Religion, less is more. And even though there were fewer places for people to be religious--the ground was laid for them to be actually faithful and obedient (to God), through Hezekiah's reforms. Let us be less-impressed by pomp and circumstance; and more com-
mitted to God's truth.

[Puritan quote of the day: " 'Yes, I know, Satan, that Christ loves me, because you tell me that He hates me.' " --William Bridge, in, "A Lift-
ing Up for the Downcast"]

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wed., 11/4/09 Devotion (Titus 3:1a, 2c)

Today's encouragement comes from Titus 3:1a & 2c, where we read these words:

"Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities . . . showing all humility to all men."

One of the pastor's main roles, according to Paul, is that of teaching the church to be submissive, and humble. Even God's true children can tend to get on their "high horses," so to speak. God would never have us disobey Him, in order to please a human ruler--but this is almost never the situation with which we are faced.

Since the church always has the upper hand, it should be "easier" for us to be good citizens, and humble people--because we know that we serve the Supreme King, who makes all things right, in His own good time. Let us today actually *obey* God, in reference to rulers and others--rather than presuming to sit in His (God's) seat.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Purity of heart is the jewel which is hung only upon the elect. As chastity distinguishes a virtuous woman from a harlot, so the true saint is distinguished from the hypocrite by his heart-purity." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Beatitudes"]

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tues., 11/3/09 Devotion (Ps. 128:5)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 128:5, where we read these words:

"The LORD bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jeru-
salem all the days of your life."

This is a sweet benediction (above). What better life is there, than to be blessed by God "out of Zion," viz. from His church? And what more pleasant prospect is there, than to "see the good of Jerusalem," viz. the church, the people of God, "all the days of [our lives]"?

These are the values the Lord places on life on earth; and they are the ones we ought to aspire to, as well. As we do so, by grace, we learn how to live in heaven, while we are yet on the earth. May all God's children be encouraged today, not despairing, but looking to Him for help and grace.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Hence we learn that a life of holiness is the pleasantest life in this world, because in such a life we have the imperfect beginnings of a blessed and endless sight of God."
--Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "The Pure in Heart Blessed"]

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mon., 11/2/09 Devotion (Hos. 8:14a)

Today's encouragement comes from Hosea 8:14a, where we read these words:

"For Israel has forgotten his Maker, and has built temples . . . "

At first glance, this is a strange couplet (above). Israel *forgets* God; and then goes out and *builds temples*. Here, we see the incurable religiosity of all men everywhere. Just because sinners choose to dishonor the True God--this does absolutely nothing to alleviate their need to worship *some* god, of some sort.

Let us resolve to remember that every unbeliever we talk to today--be they allegedly as "irreligious" as they want to pretend to be--are diligently building temples for their false deities. We also would be in this boat, except that God has miraculously and sovereignly brought us to Himself, and placed us in Jesus, and His church.

[Puritan quote of the day: "He that enjoys much of God in this life carries heaven about him. . . . The enjoyment of God's sweet pres-
ence here is an earnest of our enjoying Him in heaven." --Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]