Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wed., 3/31/10 Devotion (Prov. 18:17)

Today's encouragement comes from Proverbs 18:17, which says this:

"The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him."

This verse reminds us that it is always prudent to check out both sides of a story, before drawing any conclusions. Tale-bearers and slander-
ers can sound quite convincing, until the full picture comes into view. Our flesh nature is too inclined to hear what it wants to hear; and sometimes we get humbled by the truth.

If we were to listen only to those who hate Christ, where would any of us be today? Thankfully, by God's grace, we have been able to discern the "rest of the story," which renders Jesus lovely to us (in the church).

[Puritan quote of the day: "There is a sanctified use of all troubles to God's children." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tues., 3/30/10 Devotion (Php. 4:6)

Today's encouragement comes from Philippians 4:6, where Paul wrote these words:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God . . . "

The reality is that every normal person living in a fallen world ex-
periences anxiety--and this includes even the most mature and season-
ed churchmen. But there is this one antidote to *all* anxiety, and that is prayer. There are no concerns or worries of ours that are "off limits" to God. And there is no alternative provided by God, as to how we are to handle our troubles, than that of bringing them to Him in prayer.

Therefore, let us avail ourselves of this most-valuable resource; and let us recognize that as we pray, we are drawing ever-closer to our Savior.

[Puritan quote of the day: " . . . It is a matter of conscience to make our lives as comfortable as [they] may be." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mon., 3/29/10 Devotion (Php. 3:15)

Today's encouragement comes from Philippians 3:15, where Paul wrote these words:

"Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you."

I like the apostle's attitude here. He has just laid-out how the believer is to be pressing on, laying hold of Jesus, etc. And now, in complete realism, he says that the "mature" ought to "have this mind." Paul re-
cognizes that some folks will think other ways about the Christian life--but he has enough faith in God, to believe that they will be en-
lightened, too, in the Lord's good time.

This is a liberating perspective. Let all God's people--be they clergy or laity--be faithful to Christ; and may we leave the results of all things in His holy hands.

[Puritan quote of the day: "So, when the whole sum is cast up, what does the sinner contribute to his justification? Nothing but receiving it, which is called 'faith' (and that is not his own either, but a gift too)." --Obadiah Grew, in, "The Lord our Righteousness"]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/26-28/10 Devotion

Yippee--it's almost Sunday. We *get* to go to church! In order to help get you ready for the Lord's Day, here is the great and incomparable Pastor Thomas Watson, from his work, entitled, "The Christian Soldier":

"Truth is the most glorious thing; the least filing of this gold is precious. What shall we be violent for, if not for truth? Truth is ancient; its grey hairs may make it venerable. It comes from Him who is 'The Ancient of Days.' Truth is unerring, it is the Star which leads to Christ. Truth is pure, (Psalm 119:140). It is compared to silver refined seven times, (Psalm 12:6). There is not the least spot on truth's face; it breathes nothing but sanctity. Truth is triumphant; it is like a great conqueror; when all his enemies lie dead, it keeps the field and sets up its trophies of victory.

"Truth may be opposed but never quite deposed. In the time of Dioclesian things seemed desperate and truth ran low. Soon after was the golden time of Constantine, and then truth did again lift up its head. When the water in the Thames is lowest, a high tide is ready to come in. God is on truth's side and so long as there is no fear it will prevail: 'The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved,' (2 Peter 3:12)--but not that truth which came from Heaven, (1 Peter 1:25)."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thurs., 3/25/10 Devotion (Eph. 5:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Ephesians 5:1, where we read these words of Paul:

"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children."

Human beings, created in the very image of God, were to be like Him, resembling Him in all communicable graces. Sin turned us into something more akin to devils, than divinity. But all of this is more than compensated for in Christ, His atonement, and the application of the same (by grace through faith) to His church.

Now we who are in Jesus act like Him. In so doing, we are "imitators of God." Because of surpassing grace we now can do what even the pre-Fall Adam could never do: praise God for exalting our nature to the highest extent--in that the Second Person of the Trinity is now both God and man.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A sanctified fancy will make every crea-
ture a ladder to heaven." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wed., 3/24/10 Devotion (Eph. 4:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Ephesians 4:1, where we read these words of Paul:

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called . . . "

Are we comfortable being referred to as "prisoner[s] of the Lord"? For that matter, do we think it odd for us in the church to accept instruc-
tion from someone who is a "prisoner"? But "prison" is the inevitable state of all of us, and of every fallen person who has ever lived. The only real (or pertinent) question is, "Of whom or what am I a prison-

Those locked-up by and in Jesus are free people in the truest sense. Those who are "free to sin" are groveling slaves of their own lust, flesh, and the devil himself. Let all churchmen who are Christ's "prisoners" rejoice at being such happy "captives."

[Puritan quote of the day: "As there is in God enough to satisfy the whole soul, so trust carries the whole soul to God." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/12-14/10 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday. We get to go to church. Thomas Watson has some great words on prayer (here below), taken from his book, entitled, "The Ten Commandments":

"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 congratulatory 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) Inspired 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, (Num. 6:23). (6) Public prayer, when we pray in the audience of others. Prayer is more powerful when many join and unite their forces, (Matt 18:19). (7) Private prayer; when we pray by ourselves: 'Enter into your closet,' (Matt. 6:6)."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thurs., 3/11/10 Devotion (Job 40:8b)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 40:8b, where we read these words:

" . . . Would you [Job] condemn Me [God] that you may be justified?"

Fallen sinners, outside of Christ, always do exactly what we read here (above). They "condemn" God in all kinds of ways, in order to seek to "justify" themselves--pretending that they are better than the Lord. Of course, God understood Job's heart, and the Lord knew, in reality, that Job really *did* find his justification in Christ, and not in himself. (See Job 19:25-27 as evidence of this.)

All of us churchmen should beware of the fact that whenever we are uncomfortable or inconvenienced--our temptation, just as it was with Job, is to "condemn" God, and "justify" ourselves. Let us rather see things as they really *are*, in Christ; and recognize that the Lord is always right, just, holy, gracious, merciful, and loving.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Only man is in love with his own bane [misery], and fights for those lusts that fight against his soul."
--Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wed., 3/10/10 Devotion (Lk. 24:18-19a)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 24:18 & 19a, where we read these words:

"Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him [Jesus], 'Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?' And He [Jesus] said to them, 'What things?' "

It is intriguing that the Risen Christ makes the men with whom He was walking on the road to Emmaus speak overtly of the events sur-
rounding His (Jesus') ministry, death, and resurrection. In so doing, Christ helped them own the truth of the resurrection (even via the words of the women who had gone to the empty tomb), even before He would reveal Himself to them later (in v. 31).

The Lord Jesus is a gentle Shepherd; and after implanting His word in our souls, He nurtures it, and causes it to grow and come to full fruition (of faith).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Prayer is a matter more of the heart than the head." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Art of Divine Contentment"]

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tues., 3/9/10 Devotion (Ex. 20:21)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 20:21, where we read these words:

"So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was."

This (above) is a profound verse. God had just given the Ten Com-
mandments, and now the mountain was smoking and the thunder was cracking. The people did not want to approach God--since they knew themselves to be out of harmony with His law. Instead, they insisted that Moses go to God for them. And Moses, as a type of Christ, did so.

So it is with the church today. On our own, we dare not come near to God, since He is perfectly holy. But IN Jesus, we may boldly approach Him (like Moses did), since our sins are covered in Christ's blood, and His (Jesus') righteousness clothes us with His innocence. For this most marvelous privilege, let Christ's church praise God wholeheartedly.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The saints [of old] resisted their enemies to death, by resisting their own corruptions first." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mon., 3/8/10 Devotion (2 Cor. 7:4b)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 7:4b, where we read these words:

" . . . I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation."

How remarkable is the Christian life, that the churchman can be "exceedingly joyful in tribulation"?! Tribulation does not feel good at all; but it does provide one of life's most fertile fields for the honor and glory of God--when we praise and thank the Lord in the midst of it.

None of this is easy; and all of it is counter-intuitive; but the entire life of the redeemed soul is "upside-down." At the very point where we might be most pressed to cave in and give up--we are able, by the grace of Christ, to find joy and comfort. Let the whole church thank God for this.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The favorers of nature are always the enemies of grace." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/5-7/10 Devotion

[Whoops: I forgot that today is Friday. Here is a typical Fri.-Sun.

Wahoo! Sunday is ALMOST here! We GET to go to church. To help get us ready, here is Thomas Watson, from, "The Happiness of Drawing Near to God":

"If we would draw near to God, let us study our own wants. Let us consider in what need we stand for God and that we cannot be happy without Him. The prodigal never drew near to his father, until he 'began to be in want,' Luke 15. A proud sinner, who was never convinced of his want, minds not to come near God; he hath a stock of his own to live upon, Jer 2:31: 'We are lords; we will come no more unto You.' A full stomach despises the honey-comb. It is the sense of want which brings us near to God. Why did so many lame and para-
lytical resort to Christ, but because they wanted a cure. Why does the thirsty man draw near to a fountain but because he wants water. Why does a condemned man draw near his prince but because he wants a pardon. When a poor soul reviews its wants; I want grace; I want the favour of God, I am damned without Christ; this makes him draw near to God, and be an earnest supplicant for mercy."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thurs., 3/4/10 Devotion (Ex. 15:3, 13a)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 15:3 & 13a, which says this:

"The LORD is a Man of war; the LORD is His name. . . . You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed." (ESV)

Note how God's warrior nature, and His love nature are not at all at odds with one another. In fact, if God was *not* a "Man of war," He could not be the God of love. God goes to war with our sins and His church's enemies; and, in so doing, He expresses His affection for the objects of His redemption.

Let us cast off all sophomoric notions of God, that would make Him a crotchety figure in heaven, hoping we would do something right, for once. Instead, let us view Him in His true colors, even as the Word of God reveals Him: as a God who punishes all sin; and yet cherishes many sinners.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We need to understand that when we come to hear the Word, we come to hear that which has so much life in it that every sermon we hear we must expect to be nearer heaven or nearer hell." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Fear"]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wed., 3/3/10 Devotion (Ex. 14:12)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 14:12, which says this:

"Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, 'Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." (ESV)

Sinners, in the fallen state, would rather serve the devil and his pur-
poses, than to suffer a little inconvenience with God "in the wilder-
ness." This is true, even though the devil is a very harsh taskmaster. The reason this weird twist exists is because none of us like being brought out of our iniquitous "comfort zones"--even when those places are very undesirable, by any reasonable standard.

May we, with Moses, prefer to suffer a little with the people of God, rather than enjoy the "pleasures" of sin in "Egypt" for a season
(cf. Heb. 11:25).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Do you fear God? Now you have a promise that though you have many weaknesses, yet God will spare you as one spares his only child that serves him." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in "Gos-
pel Fear"]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tues., 3/2/10 Devotion (Lk. 16:31)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 16:31, where we read these words:

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

Since faith is sovereignly given to sinners through Hearing the gospel preached (Rom. 10:17), and not through Seeing miracles performed--we should not be surprised to see this principle taught here (above) by our Lord Jesus.

Sometimes well-meaning and sincere Christians mistakenly think that sinners will be converted by *seeing* various spectacular religious marvels (like even one rising from the dead). But this is not the case at all. Instead, God would have His church faithfully preach the Good News. Through this message, the Holy Spirit will convert those whom God chooses to redeem.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If we once get the victory over ourselves, all other things are conquered to our ease." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mon., 3/1/10 Devotion (1 Cor. 16:22a, 24)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Corinthians 16:22a & 24, where we read these words:

"If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accurs-
ed. . . . My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen."

Here, within the span of just three verses, the Apostle Paul shows the polar extremes of ministry: on one side, he harshly condemns those who would reject his Corinthian epistle (since they do not "love the Lord Jesus"); and on the other end of the spectrum, he gently blesses "all in Christ Jesus," with his (Paul's) love.

Such is the nature of life in covenant (on earth). Church membership and ministry covers everything from the highest heights, to the lowest lows. Let us keep this perspective and tension in mind and heart, as we seek to grow in grace, and encourage each other in our holy faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "As God's heart is tender towards us, so God's people have tender hearts towards Him, His cause, and His church." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]