Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thurs., 12/31/09 Devotion (Rev. 22:17)

Happy New Year!

Today's encouragement comes from Revelation 22:17, where we read these words:

"And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."

In this one little verse, in the very last chapter of the Bible, we have God's perfect formula for evangelism, and for living the Christian religion (in general). And that is, simply "Coming" to Christ, by grace through faith--with nothing else in our hands (as payment for our sins).

And note that God's three mighty forces are at work here, inviting us to come to Jesus: the "Spirit," the Church ("Bride"), and the Word (the preached Scripture itself). If we take any one of these blessed pro-
visions away, we not only cannot come to Jesus, we do not possess Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "When God shines in the use of means, then the soul is, as it were, in heaven." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wed., 12/30/09 Devotion (2 Chron. 35:21)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 35:21, where we read these words:

"But he [the king of Egypt] sent messengers to him [King Josiah of Judah], saying, 'What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.' "

This is a rather odd case (above). The great and godly Josiah does not believe the words of the pagan pharaoh of Egypt, and it ends up costing him (Josiah) his life. God can and does sometimes employ even the heathen for His own purposes. Those who are in the church covenant should be aware of this, and we should be loathe to assume that the Lord cannot (on occasion) speak through them, (those outside the covenant).

Josiah ends up dying in the (unnecessary) battle he insisted on having with Egypt. Let us not "meddle" where we do not belong. In all things, let us be sure to seek God's guidance.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Though [David] found God present with him in exile, yet there is a sweeter presence of Him in His ordinanc-
es." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tues., 12/29/09 Devotion (2 Chron. 34:27)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 34:27, where we read these words:

" ' . . . because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,' says the LORD."

This verse (above) is in reference to the excellent king of Judah, Josiah. When Josiah heard the Scripture read to him, he immediately responded, with faith and repentance. When Josiah inquired of God, as to the judgments pronounced on the land, the king greatly humbled himself before the Lord.

This is a wonderful encouragement for the church today. Things in our nation, and in the world generally, are not good. But, so long as be-
lievers are thoroughly pierced by God's word, and are melted in heart by the Spirit of Grace, there is full hope even concerning the temporal issues of life. On top of that, through this process, the souls of churchmen are made more like Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Places and conditions are happy or miser-
able as God grants His gracious presence more or less." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict"]

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mon., 12/28/09 Devotion (2 Chron. 33:12-13)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 33:12 & 13, which says this:

"Now when [Manasseh] was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God."

This is the account of one of the most astounding conversions of all time. Manasseh, the king of Judah, was one of the worst idolaters the Bible ever chronicled. He never met an idol he did not love. But God, in His amazing and infinite grace and mercy, brought this man to his senses, and gave him the gift of faith and repentance.

May we all take comfort from examples such as this. As the angel said, in Lk. 1:37: "For with God nothing will be impossible."

[Puritan quote of the day: "That you may become capable of [God's] mercy, you must fall out with your sins, for there's no talk of mercy till you first are cruel to your sins." --Robert Harris, in, "The Way to True Happiness"]

Friday, December 25, 2009

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/25-27/09 Devotion

Merry Christmas!

Here is the devotion. . . .

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.  (Luke 2:1-20)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thurs., 12/24/09 Devotion (2 Chron. 29:5b)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 29:5b, where we read these words:

" . . . Sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place."

Chapter 29 of 2 Chronicles gives the model for restoration of the world, following years of apostasy and sin. The doors of the church are repaired and opened; the ministers are gathered and consecrated to the Lord; and the people come, contribute, and worship (according to God's own design).

But one of the first necessities is the carrying out of the "rubbish from the holy place," (see above). Let the church officers among us do all that we can, to rid the church and her worship of all the man-made clutter that has deprived the God of heaven of His rightful due. But before we do that, let us cleanse our own hearts, by the grace of Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Tell me, saints, is it not a more sweet,
comfortable, and delightful thing to look more upon one another's graces than upon one another's infirmities?" --Thomas Brooks, in, "United we Stand"]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wed., 12/23/09 Devotion (2 Chron. 28:22a)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 28:22a, where we read these words:

"Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the LORD."

I have known people like this. They encounter hardships in their lives, and their response is to become angry at God--to the extent that they forsake Him utterly (by abandoning Christ's church). Instead of *going* to the only One who can actually *help* them in their distress--they flee from Him (God), and hate Him.

In the case of the wicked King Ahaz of Judah (above), his problems were of his own making. He was a gross idolater. His worship of fake gods brought on him (and his nation) great judgment. Then, when given an excellent opportunity to repent, and embrace the True God--he "became increasingly unfaithful" to Him. May we learn from Ahaz' bad example; and may we always go to Jesus and His church when we are in trouble.

[Puritan quote of the day: "It is a harder thing to believe than to keep the Ten Commandments." --William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tues., 12/22/09 Devotion (2 Chron. 26:5b)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 26:5b, where we read these words:

" . . . And as long as he [King Uzziah of Judah] sought the LORD, God made him prosper."

Why is it that we sinners insist on hurting ourselves, and our best prospects for true happiness and peace? In the case of Uzziah (above), it was his pride. So long as he was humble, and sought the Lord, things went well for him. Once he got a bit "uppity" in spirit, he thought he could do anything he wanted to, (like offer incense in the temple). For this transgression, God gave Uzziah leprosy, (see vv. 16 ff.).

Pride is at the root of *our* foolishness, as well. What is the church-
man to do--especially when our hearts are "lifted up" in pride? We are to humble ourselves, and cast ourselves on the mercies of God as they are found in Jesus. This is done by grace, through faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Is it presumption for a man to keep the Sabbath Day? No. Why? Because it is commanded." --William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mon., 12/21/09 Devotion (Jn. 11:26b)

Today's encouragement comes from the few words of John 11:26b, where we read this:

" . . . Do you believe this?"

Our Lord Jesus asked this question (above), of Martha, the sister of Lazarus. Christ is asking her if she believes a body of doctrine that He had just taught her--regarding Himself (Jesus), the potency (power) of faith, and the resurrection of the dead.

Such is the nature of all good doctrine, and of the churchman's belief in it: when rightly-construed it (good doctrine) always directs the believer to the Person of Jesus. The difference between a regenerated Christian and the devil himself, is not that we believe different things--but that the churchman's faith resides ultimately in the Person of the Redeemer (Jesus).

[Puritan quote of the day: "A man by faith may come into the presence of God with open mouth and speak all his mind unto God."
--William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/18-20/09 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray--it's almost Sunday! Here is some encouraging doc-
trine re. prayer, from the great Thomas Watson. This comes from his "The Ten Commandments" book:

"What are the several parts of prayer?

"1) There is the confessor's part, which is the acknowledgement of sin. 2) The supplicatory part, when we either deprecate and pray against some evil, or request the obtaining of some good. 3) The congratulat-
ory part, when we give thanks for mercies received, which is the most excellent part of prayer. In petition, we act like men; in giving thanks, we act like angels.

"What are the several sorts of prayer?

"1) There is mental prayer, in the mind, (1 Sam. 1:13). 2) Vocal, (Psa. 77:1). 3) Spontaneous, which is a sudden and short elevation of the heart to God: 'So I prayed to the God of heaven,' (Neh. 2:4). 4) Inspir-
ed prayer, when we pray for those things which God puts into our heart: 'The Spirit helps us with sighs and groans,' (Rom. 8:26). Both the expressions of the tongue, and the impressions of the heart, so far as they are right, are from the Spirit. 5) Prescribed prayer. Our Saviour has set us a pattern of prayer. God prescribed a set form of blessing for the priests, (Numb. 6:23). 6) Public prayer, when we pray in the audience of others. Prayer is more powerful when many join and unite their forces. 7) Private prayer; when we pray by ourselves: 'Enter into your closet,' (Matt. 6:6)."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thurs., 12/17/09 Devotion (2 Chron. 20:12b, c)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 20:12b & c, where we read these words:

" . . . For we have no power against this great multitude that is com-
ing against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."

I want to focus on the phrase, "Nor do we know what to do." This is how we often feel, when we are faced with overwhelming forces that are arrayed against us, and that are threatening our peace and secur-
ity. Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah who uttered this prayer (above), actually *did* know that he was to trust the Lord, and rest in Him, etc.--but he didn't know how this was to *practically* manifest itself (in such a stressful situation).

So it may be for some of us churchmen today. What are we to do, especially when we "do not know what to do"? In v. 17 of this same chapter, the people simply "stood still." In v. 22, they sang praises to God. The result: the Lord gave them a big victory. He still does this for His church today!

[Puritan quote of the day: "Sin feeds the sinner with delightful objects and then makes him mortgage his soul." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wed., 12/16/09 Devotion (Jn. 6:66-68)

Today's encouragement comes from the wonderful interchange between Christ and His disciples, as it is found in John 6:66-68:

"From that time many of [Christ's] disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also want to go away?' But Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.' "

This is a very poignant scene in the ministry of the Messiah. After intentionally paring-down the numbers of His "disciples" (from among the multitude) by teaching them that they would have to ingest Him into their beings, and that God alone could draw them to Himself, etc.--the Lord Jesus is left with just a few remaining hearty souls, (one of which was Judas, who, of course, was not faithful).

Peter's confession, representing the true church throughout all ages, is not only brilliantly insightful, but it was also eminently practical: there is nowhere to go, in this world, but to Jesus--unless one prefers hell.

[Puritan quote of the day: "When the Word comes to any place, the kingdom of heaven is said to come. . . . and Christ rules in it by the preaching of the gospel." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Remis-

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/4-6/09 Devotion

Hurray--it's almost Sunday! In order to help get us ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his work entitled, "The Lord's Prayer." (He is dealing with the second petition, "Thy Kingdom Come,"
here.) . . .

"God is a glorious King. 'Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory,' (Psa. 24:10). He has internal glory: 'The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty,' (Psa. 93:1). Other kings have royal and sumptuous apparel to make them appear glorious to behold-
ers, but all their magnificence is borrowed. God is clothed with His own majesty; His own glorious essence is instead of royal robes, and 'He has girded Himself with strength.' Kings have their guard about them to defend their person, because they are not able to defend themselves; but God needs no guard or assistance from others. 'He has girded Himself with strength.' His own power is His lifeguard. 'Who in the heaven can be compared to the Lord?'

"Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?,' (Psa. 89:6). He has a pre-eminence above all other kings for majesty. 'He has on His vesture a name written, Rex Regum, KING OF KINGS,' (Rev. 19:16). He has the highest throne, the richest crown, the largest dominions, and the longest possession. 'The Lord sits as King forever,' (Psa. 29:10). Though He has many heirs, yet no successors. He sets up His throne where no other king does; He rules the will and affections; His power binds the conscience. Angels serve Him; all the kings of the earth hold their crowns and diadems by immediate tenure from this great King. 'By Me kings reign,' (Prov. 8:15). To this Lord Jehovah all kings must give account, and from His tribunal there is no appeal."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thurs., 12/3/09 Devotion (Nah. 1:7)

Today's encouragement comes from Nahum 1:7, which says this:

"The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him."

Because God is inherently benevolent (good), He is able to help His
believing children whenever they are in distress. But the phrase that most comforts me is this, that, "[God] knows those who trust in Him." This knowledge is not only informational, viz., "Joe trusts Me, Fred does not"--but it is *personal*, viz., "I KNOW Joe, he's one of my redeemed churchmen; I also love Joe."

Our trust in God is not perfect in this life. Therefore, do not be tricked by the devil into thinking that you have *no* faith in Christ, when in fact you *do* possess faith--even though it is not to the degree that you desire.

[Puritan quote of the day: "You come to prayer and cannot tell what to say. . . . Can you breathe? God's ear lies open to the breathings of a soul He has received to mercy." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Remission"]

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wed., 12/2/09 Devotion (Mic. 7:18a, 19b)

Today's encouragement comes from Micah 7:18a & 19b, which relates these fabulous words:

"Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the trans-
gression of the remnant of His heritage? . . . You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea."

THE greatest blessing we can possibly possess is the forgiveness of our sins. This is THE most magnificent deed God performs. If we are forgiven, it took the blood of God's Son to bring this about. God had to overcome our hearts, the fallen world, and the devil, in order to procure our pardon.

But if we are forgiven our sins, nothing else really matters. If we have a clear and clean conscience before the Almighty God--is it of any great consequence that we have trials and tribulations? We have already obtained what everyone needs.

[Puritan quote of the day: "They dishonor the pardoning grace of God, and most considerably of all, by seeking and expecting it any other way than through the mediation of the Son of God." --Jeremiah Bur-
roughs, in, "Gospel Remission"]

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tues., 12/1/09 Devotion (Lk. 15:1)

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

"Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him [Jesus] to hear Him."

Aren't verses like this one (above) astounding? Let us ask ourselves:
"Why did the notorious 'sinners' find Christ so compelling, so attrac-
tive, so alluring, that they would gather around Him, and hang on every word that fell from His blessed mouth?" I believe it is because they knew that He was real. They knew that He wasn't a religious freak, or a hypocrite, or a puffed-up doctrinaire. They also knew that Jesus genuinely cared for them.

Let all of us who are sincere churchmen recognize that if unbelievers do not find us magnetic--something is wrong with us, not them. Jesus set the standard; let us follow in His blessed steps. Let pharisees de-
spise us; but may ordinary sinners love us, and seek us out.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If you grieve [God's] Spirit in heaven, He will sadden your spirit on earth." --Christopher Love, in, "The Deject-
ed Soul's Cure"]