Friday, January 29, 2010

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/29-31/10 Devotion

Praise God: Sunday is *almost* here! In order to prepare you for Sabbath church worship, here is Thomas Watson, that esteemed Puritan pastor, from his work, entitled, "The Beatitudes":

"Let us carry ourselves as the children of God in magnanimity and heroicalness [heroism]. The saints are high-born. They are of the true bloodroyal, born of God. They must do nothing sneakingly or sordidly. They must not fear the faces of men. As said that brave-spirited Nehemiah, 'Shall such a man as I flee?' (Nehemiah 6:11)--so should a child of God say, 'Shall I be afraid to do my duty? Shall I unworthily
comply and prostitute myself to the lusts and humours of men?' The children of the Most High should do nothing to stain or dishonour their noble birth. A king's son scorns to do anything that is below him."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thurs., 1/28/10 Devotion (Est. 5:2a)

Today's encouragement comes from Esther 5:2a, which says this:

"And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand." (ESV)

When God sees the church, the bride of Christ, approach the throne of grace, He is pleased to hold out the golden scepter of His love, mercy, and grace. All of this is because Jesus shed His precious blood for His people.

Do you need to approach the throne of God today? Don't come empty-handed. Bring with you, in the arms of faith, the Savior of your soul, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (Jn. 1:29). No other offering will be accepted.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A child of God keeps two books always by him: one to write his sins in, so that he may be humble; the other to write his mercies in, so that he may be thankful." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Godly Man's Picture"]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wed., 1/27/10 Devotion (Est. 4:4b)

Today's encouragement comes from Esther 4:4b, which says this:

"Then [Esther] sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sack-
cloth away from him, but he would not accept them."

Mordecai had legitimate reason for temporarily remaining in sack-
cloth. But sinners outside of Jesus *never* have any excuse for not receiving from God, in the gospel, the clean, bright, and white gar-
ments of Christ's redemption. The human heart, in its fallen state, is so hard that even the prospects of heaven's royal robes cannot tempt it to abandon sin, and all its resultant misery and death.

But, thanks be to God that the power of sovereign grace can and does always break through, to all those the Lord intends to save.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ is all, to fill every condition with comfort. The best of conditions is not good without Him, nor is the worst bad with Him." --William Whitaker, in his sermon delivered at Cripplegate]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tues., 1/26/10 Devotion (Acts 26:28-29)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 26:28 & 29, which says this:

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'You almost persuade me to become a Christian.' And Paul said, 'I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.' "

Did you know that believing Christian churchmen are the only people in the whole world who actually have both the right and the respon-
sibility to urge all other people everywhere to become exactly as they are (with regard to their faith in Christ, and their union with Him and each other in the church)? That is a pretty bold and audacious fact.

But *all* people everywhere desire that everyone else be "like them," too. This is because sinners want to justify themselves, as they take comfort from others who share in their errors. Christians, on the other hand, want everyone to be "like us," so that everybody can be happy and free (in the truest sense) in Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "It is said of Christ and David, that their hearts were eaten up with a holy zeal for God's house." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mon., 1/25/10 Devotion (Gen. 26:18)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 26:18, where we read these words:

"And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them."

This is a really neat verse to encourage healthy church life today, or in any era. Isaac went back to the original wells of water that his father Abraham had enjoyed. The world, just like the Philistines of old, is always seeking to "stop up" the sources of the church's grace, received from the Father through Christ.

But, instead of responding to needs by trying "new things," Abraham's son goes back to the *old* tried and true springs of life. Let us live by this principle, too. And let the church call the truth the truth--using the same names our fathers employed. The "old paths" are better--just as the prophet said, in Jeremiah 6:16a.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A Christian must neither be a dead sea nor a raging sea." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/22-24/10 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday! Here's the great Thomas Watson, from his, "The Doctrine of Repentance" book:

"A man may restrain the acts of sin, yet not turn from sin in a right manner. Acts of sin may be restrained out of fear or design, but a true penitent turns from sin out of a religious principle, namely, love to God. Even if sin did not bear such bitter fruit, if death did not grow on this tree, a gracious soul would forsake it out of love to God. This is the most kindly turning from sin.

"When things are frozen and congealed, the best way to separate them is by fire. When men and their sins are congealed together, the best way to separate them is by the fire of love. Three men, asking one another what made them leave sin: one says, 'I think of the joys of heaven'; another, 'I think of the torments of hell'; but the third, 'I
think of the love of God, and that makes me forsake it. How shall I offend the God of love?' "

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thurs., 1/21/10 Devotion (Acts 21:29)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 21:29, where we read these words:

"(For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)"

This account (above) is in reference to the fact that some Jews from Asia who were very angry with Paul had seen him (Paul) with this
gentile man, in Jerusalem. They then *assumed* that Paul had brought (the gentile) into the temple--when, in fact, he had not done so. Then, on the basis of this errant notion, they created a riot in the city, and almost tore Paul into pieces.

But such is the nature of religious irrationality. Regrettably, it hap-
pens more often than we would like to think. Someone's innocent
association with someone else is construed to be heresy, blasphemy, or bad policy. As gracious churchmen, let us seek to think the best of other people, and not the worst. After all, what would folks think of Jesus, if they saw us with Him, before our conversions?

[Puritan quote of the day: "A godly man's comforts and grievances are hid from the world; natural men are strangers to them." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wed., 1/20/10 Devotion (Acts 20:28b)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 20:28b, where we read these words:

" . . . shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

Paul is speaking (above) to the elders of the Ephesian church. The apostle urges those officers to "shepherd the church." He will later explain how wolves will seek to destroy the body of Christ. But what I want to focus on are these words: "Which He [Christ] purchased with His own blood." The *reason* the elders are to guard and lead the flock is because the church has been redeemed with the very lifeblood of the Son of God.

What is valuable to the Lord, of necessity must (and will), be treas-
ured by all who love the Lord. Are you part of the church, purchased by Jesus' blood? If so, then not only are you precious; but you are one of those to whom God gives His greatest attention and care.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A man may know much of Christ, and yet not learn Christ. The devils knew Christ. . . . " --Thomas Watson, in, "The Art of Divine Contentment"]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tues., 1/19/10 Devotion (Acts 19:15)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 19:15, where we read these words:

"And the evil spirit answered and said [to the seven sons of Sceva], 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?' "

To me, this is one of the funnier verses in the NT. The demons were (of course) familiar with the Lord Jesus Christ, and even with the Apostle Paul--but they were not used to these "sons of Sceva." The end result was that the demon-possessed man beat them up (see v. 16). But there is a principle here: those who are not called to handle God's "sacred things" should not presume to do so.

This is not an "elitist" situation that God sets up in His church; but it is true that the Lord is a God of order, and that He has different roles and responsibilities for the dear souls that make up the body of Christ. Let us fulfill our duties diligently; and let us be genuinely grateful for our various callings.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We love to flatter our own affections, but this self-love is but self-hatred in the end." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mon., 1/18/10 Devotion (Neh. 8:8, 12)

Today's encouragement comes from two verses: Nehemiah 8:8 & 12, which renders this:

"So they [the priests and Levites] read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. . . . And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the
words that were declared to them."

The people of God need the word of God; and they need it explained (preached) to them. After hearing the word (here in Nehemiah), the people were first very sad, because they saw their many failings re-
flected in it. But then, later, they were joyful, recognizing the grace of God in Christ.

So it is with us. If the word is working toward the redemption of churchmen's souls, it will first bring the great grief of sin; but then it will deliver the wonderful medicine of grace, in Jesus' blood and righteousness.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Disband the army of your sins, and God will sound a retreat to His judgments. Remember, great sins have been swallowed up in the sea of God's infinite compassions." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/15-17/10 Devotion

Thank God: Sunday is almost here! In order to get us ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his, "All Things for Good" book:

"Observe the happy condition of every child of God. All things work for his good: the best and worst things. 'Unto the upright arises light in darkness,' (Psalm 112:4). The most dark cloudy providences of God have some sunshine in them. What a blessed condition is a true be-
liever in! When he dies, he goes to God: and while he lives, every-
thing shall do him good. Affliction is for his good. What hurt does the fire to the gold? It only purifies it. What hurt does the fan to the corn? It only separates the chaff from it. . . .

"God never uses His staff, but to beat out the dust. Affliction does that which the Word many times will not, it 'Opens the ear to dis-
cipline,' (Job 36:10). When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to heaven. God's smiting His people is like the musician's striking upon the violin, which makes it put forth a melodious sound. How much good comes to the saints by affliction! When they are pounded and broken, they send forth their sweetest smell. Affliction is a bitter root, but it bears sweet fruit. 'It yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness,' (Heb. 12:11). "

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thurs., 1/14/10 Devotion (Matt. 14:13a)

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

"When Jesus heard it [that John the Baptist had been killed], He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself."

This is the only place in the Gospels that I am aware of, where our Lord Jesus navigated a boat by Himself. But the reason Jesus desired to get away from everyone, and all the hubbub, is my focus today. The Savior had just heard of the ignominious death of His own relative (through Mary), and of His forerunner, John the Baptist.

It seems to me that our Lord was saddened by this news; and it may well have caused Him to reflect on the fact that He (Jesus) Himself would soon die on the cross, giving His life for the sins of His church. Christ's "get-away" was characteristically short-lived; but I think we can derive a principle here: it is all right to grieve, and sometimes we need time alone with our God.

[Puritan quote of the day: "See that all be well within, and then all troubles from without cannot much annoy us." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wed., 1/13/10 Devotion (Acts 13:9-10)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 13:9 & 10, where we read these words:

"Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him [Elymas the sorcerer] and said, 'O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?' "

Here is tact (above) for you! Sometimes, God's ministers have to lay-out some pretty tough words. You will recall how Jesus called the pharisees a bunch of less-than-diplomatic names, in Matt., ch. 23. The same could be said of John the Baptist, who called them a "brood of vipers," (in Matt. 3:7). The point is, that at certain times these rugged words need to be spoken.

Don't misunderstand: God's ministers are to be the paradigm of grace and winsomeness. But the reality is that they can only be this by operating on two poles: one, which is by far the majority of the time, as they deal gently with ordinary sinners; and two, on rarer occasions, as they must respond harshly with the devil's agents.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Feeling is not always a fit rule to judge our [spiritual] states by . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tues., 1/12/10 Devotion (Acts 12:5)

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

"Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church."

The church's prayers are important to God, and He is often pleased to answer them in accord with what we ask of Him. Herod put Peter in prison, and the church started praying for him. The Lord did not im-
mediately release Peter, as soon as the church began to pray--but He did, in His good time.

Perhaps the church was especially cognizant of Peter's dire situation, in that God had allowed Herod to murder James, John's brother, in
v. 2 of this same chapter. Sometimes, it is our calamities and hard-
ships that spur and spark the churchmen's prayers--as was the case with Peter (here).

[Puritan quote of the day: "A godly man's care and trouble is especially about his soul . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mon., 1/11/10 Devotion (Neh. 1:11b)

Today's encouragement comes from Nehemiah 1:11b, where we read these words:

" . . . and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."

Nehemiah is making this prayer (above) to God, on his own behalf. He asks the Lord to "let [him] prosper this day." A lot of times it is dif-
ficult for churchmen to know exactly how to pray, (cf. Rom. 8:26 in this regard). It seems to me, however, that a good and safe prayer is for success, and victory. After all, if we (in the church) do not suc-
ceed, everything else suffers as a result.

Some people are loathe to pray for themselves--but this is a wrong-headed notion, even though it may come from sincere and even pure motives. Instead, the best humility makes sure that we *do* pray for ourselves. If anyone has any question about the truth of what I am saying, I would have them find Jesus praying for Himself, in the Gar-
den of Gethsemane, (see Matt. 26:36 ff.).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Satan could not deceive us, unless we de-
ceived ourselves first, and are willingly deceived." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/8-10/10 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday! In order to help get us ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his book, "The Happiness of Drawing Near to God":

"Why we must draw near to God. "Because He is our maker: 'In Him we live.' He has given us bodies; they are His curious 'needlework,' (Psa. 139:15). And as He has made the cabinet, so He has put the jewel in it, the precious soul; and surely if we have our being from Him, we cannot breathe without Him. There is good reason we should draw near to God in a way of homage and observance.

"God is our benefactor; He crowns us with a variety of blessings: He gives health and estate; every bite of bread we eat is reached to us by the hand of Divine bounty. Is there not great reason we should draw near to Him who feeds us? Give a beast hay and he will follow you all the field over. Not to draw near to Him who is our benefactor, is worse than brutish.

"God is the 'summum bonum,' the chief good. There's enough in God to satisfy the immense desire of the angels. He is 'omnimode dulcis,' the
quintessence of sweetness. In Him perfections are centered. He has rivers of pleasure where the soul shall bathe itself forever with infin-
ite delight, (Psa. 36:8). So that here is ground sufficient for our drawing near to God; He is the chief good. Everything desires to ap-
proach to its happiness."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thurs., 1/7/10 Devotion (Gen. 7:16b)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 7:16b, where we read these few words:

" . . . and the LORD shut him [Noah] in."

This account (above) is in reference to God's shutting the door of the ark, after Noah, his family, and all the animals had entered it. Noah did not shut the door, neither did those outside, who would be drowned. Instead, the Lord Himself did it.

God always "shuts" His people "in." The Lord secures His redeemed people in Jesus, and His church. No one can enter the doors He has finally closed; and no one can leave, once they are ushered in. So it is in the church today: all those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit are "shut in," and they are glad to be so.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Touch a true godly man in his religion, and you touch his life and his best freedom; he lives more in his God than in himself . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wed., 1/6/10 Devotion (Acts 6:10)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 6:10, which says this about Stephen:

"And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he [Stephen] spoke."

When the Holy Spirit is at work in God's servants--especially as they are preaching the gospel--no one, and nothing is able to "resist" them. Sinners may kill these messengers of God, as they murdered Stephen--but they cannot overcome them, nor their words.

Today, let us employ the same "wisdom and the Spirit" that Stephen relied upon. Also, instead of despising God's preachers, like Stephen's hearers did--we should gladly and zealously embrace their sermons, as they are words of life and grace (to your souls).

[Puritan quote of the day: "That sin is worse than affliction is evident because the greatest judgment God lays upon a man in this life is to let him sin without control." --Thomas Watson, in "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tues., 1/5/10 Devotion (Acts 5:28)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 5:28, where we read these words:

"Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!"

The gospel of free grace in the Lord Jesus Christ *must* be preached and proclaimed: first and foremost, from the "temple," (the church's pulpits); and from there, to every other place. The Jewish council (w/the high priest) sought to stop the preaching of Christ in the temple; but the apostles insisted on obeying God, and continued to proclaim Jesus there.

The church today is still to "fill [our cities] with [our] doctrine." We do not need radios and televisions, to do this; but we do need God-called ministers and elders to achieve such a high end. When we do such preaching, Jesus' "blood" is brought to the masses: some for damna-
tion, others for salvation.

[Puritan quote of the day: "For God is nearest to His children when He seems farthest off." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with It-

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mon., 1/4/10 Devotion (Matt. 4:21c, 22)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 4:21c & 22, where we read these words:

"He [Jesus] called them, and immediately they [the two disciples] left the boat and their father, and followed Him."

When God calls people to Himself, through the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit, they leave everything, and follow their New Master (Jesus). Such was the case (above) of James and John, two of Jesus' first disciples. All that was necessary for them to follow the Redeemer was the "call," (nothing else).

Note the amazing power of this divine Messianic call: these men were *immediately* willing to leave their livelihood, and their families, to follow the Christ around Judea and Galilee. This very same call goes out today; and upon everyone who is chosen, the blessedness of union with Christ is sealed, and they become His faithful church.

[Puritan quote of the day: "That choice part of mankind, the first-fruits and excellency of the rest, . . . we call the church." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/1-3/10 Devotion

Happy New Year, everyone!

Yippee! Sunday is coming! As we prepare for the Lord's Day, here is some encouragement from TW's "A Body of Divinity" book:

"We glorify God, by praising him. Doxology, or praise, is a God-
exalting work. Ps. 1:23: 'Whosoever offers praise glorifies Me.' The Hebrew word 'Bara,' to create, and 'Barak,' to praise, are little different, because the end of creation is to praise God. David was called the sweet singer of Israel, and his praising God was called glorifying God. Ps. 86:12: 'I will praise Thee, O Lord my God, and I will glorify Thy name.' Though nothing can add to God's essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. When we praise
God, we spread His fame and renown, we display the trophies of His excellency. In this manner the angels glorify Him; they are the choristers of heaven, and do trumpet forth His praise. Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of religion. In prayer we act like men; in praise we act like angels. Believers are called 'temples of God,' (1 Cor. 3:16). When our tongues praise, then the organs in God's spiritual temple are sounding."