Monday, February 28, 2011

Mon., 2/28/11 Devotion (Job 29:2, 5a)

Today's encouragement comes from Job's words from Job 29:2 & 5a, which says this:

"Oh, that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me . . . When the Almighty was yet with me . . . "

Job's words (above) are typical of us, when we do not sense Christ's presence, or when we are undergoing God's temporary felt "desertion" of us (even His churchmen). When this emptiness comes upon us, we--just like Job--long for the "old days," when God was "yet with [us]." This is natural, and to be expected.

But the reality was that God had *never* taken His loving eye off of Job, not even for a moment. As a matter of fact, it could be said that the Lord was *more with* Job through his sufferings, and his sensa-
tions of isolation, than He ever was when Job prospered. Therefore, let us churchmen take heart. Even if we do not *feel* our Savior's presence--this in no way means that He has abandoned us.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If we deserved God's love, we would not value it so highly." --John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fri.-Sabbath, 2/25-27/11 Devotion

Yippee--it's almost Sunday! In order to get us ready for church, here is TW, from his, "Doctrine of Repentance" book. . . .

"Question 1: Do all have the same degree of sorrow?

"Answer: No, sorrow does 'recipere magis & minus' (produce greater or lesser [sorrows]). In the new birth all have pangs, but some have sharper pangs than others.

"(1) Some are naturally of a more rugged disposition, of higher spirits, and are not easily brought to stoop. These must have greater humili-
ation, as a knotty piece of timber must have greater wedges driven into it.

"(2) Some have been more heinous offenders, and their sorrow must be suitable to their sin. Some patients have their sores let out with a needle, others with a lance. Flagitious sinners must be more bruised with the hammer of the law.

"(3) Some are designed and cut out for higher service, to be eminently instrumental for God, and these must have a mightier work of humil-
iation pass upon them. Those whom God intends to be pillars in His church must be more hewn. Paul, the prince of the apostles, who was to be God's ensign-bearer to carry His name before the Gentiles and kings, was to have his heart more deeply lanced by repentance."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thurs., 2/24/11 Devotion (Lk. 10:19)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 10:19, where we read these words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

"Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you."

The Messiah spoke these words to His seventy followers whom He had sent out two by two, to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. This same promise (above) applies to Jesus' church ministers today, (and, by extension, to the members of the church who do the work of the ministry).

It is a great blessing to know that "nothing shall by any means hurt [us]." Our souls, our inner (and most real) selves *cannot* be "hurt" in any way by either devils or men. With this perspective, we need not fear man (or Satan) at all. Instead, we can love and (rightly) fear the Lord alone.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Faith, love, trust, joy, and all other spir-
itual graces are the means by which the soul has communion with God." --John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wed., 2/23/11 Devotion (Ex. 6:9)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 6:9, which says this:

"Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage."

There is a sense in which a broken spirit and very difficult life cir-
cumstances sometimes make listening to the ministers of God quite hard to do. And yet, the very desired deliverance from these troubles is dependent upon the *hearing* of the gospel of grace. In the case of Moses, he persevered, and eventually won the ears and hearts of the people; but it did not come "automatically."

May we be patient with those who are especially-burdened with heavy cares and concerns. Love demands that we continue to speak to them. Compassion calls for our going the extra mile with them.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Suffer we must. Before we were born, God decreed it; and it is easier to complain of His decree than to change it." --Samuel Rutherford, in, "Letters of Samuel Rutherford"]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tues., 2/22/11 Devotion (Lk. 8:25a)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 8:25a, where we read these words:

"But [Jesus] said to [His disciples], 'Where is your faith?' "

Our Lord Jesus does not ask the twelve, "Why don't you have enough faith?" (above). Instead, He asks, "*Where* is your faith?" Sometimes our faith may seem to "leave" us, or go away, or be absent (especially when we need it). Christ implies that had His followers summoned their faith, they would not have needed to wake the Messiah from His nap (on the boat).

Today, we will hear all the bad news in the world, and we (even God's churchmen) will be tempted to fear, or be rattled to such an extent that we say--like the twelve--"We are perishing!" (v. 24). Instead, let us rally our faith, and call it to mind. As we do so, we are ushering to our hearts, and our sides, our Lord Jesus Himself.

[Puritan quote of the day: "God must be revealed to us as lovely and desirable . . . before we can ever love God. The saints, in this sense, do not love God for nothing." --John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mon., 2/21/11 Devotion (Ex. 4:13)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 4:13, where we read these words:

"But [Moses] said, 'O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.' "

Have you ever noticed that the best leaders--of the church or the state--are reluctant ones? Moses didn't want the job. He did every-
thing in his power to try to convince God to send someone else, rather than him. Moses preferred to feed sheep in Midian, over leading God's lambs through seas and wildernesses.

But some jobs just have to be done; and they have to be performed by those whom God calls. He doesn't call the ones who are anxious to lord their authority over others; but God does call those whom He Himself has prepared for the tasks. What about you and me, today? Would the Lord have us do something for His church and His world?

[Puritan quote of the day: "God takes pleasure in those that stick close to Him." --John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fri.-Sabbath, 2/18-20/11 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday! We GET to go to church again! Here is TW, from his, "A Godly Man's Picture" book. . . .

"Make use of this relationship [between Christ and His church] . . .

"When the law brings in its indictments against you. The law says, 'Here there are so many debts to be paid,' and it demands satisfaction. Acknowledge the debt, but turn it all over to your Husband, Christ. It is a maxim in law that the suit must not go against the wife, as long as the husband is living. Tell Satan when he accuses you, 'It is true that the debt is mine, but go to my Husband, Christ; he will discharge it.'

"If we took this course, we might relieve ourselves of much trouble. By faith we turn over the debt to our Husband. Believers are not in a state of widowhood but of marriage. Satan will never go to Christ--he knows that justice is satisfied and the debt book cancelled--but he comes to us for the debt so that he may perplex us. We should send him to Christ and then all lawsuits would cease. This is a believer's triumph. When he is guilty in himself, he is worthy in Christ. When he is spotted in himself, he is pure in his Head."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thurs., 2/17/11 Devotion (Job 16:19)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 16:19, where we read these words:

"Surely even now my witness is in heaven, and my evidence is on high."

Even in the midst of all Job's suffering, and even in the face of all the tormenting "comfort" he was receiving from his misguided friends--he (Job) still had enough grace to recognize that the "witness" of his faith was still "in heaven," and that his "evidence" was "on high."

Did Job *feel* this? Probably not. But he certainly believed it, none-
theless. Job's example is a good one for faithful churchmen today. Sometimes, we feel beaten down, and discouraged; but we must al-
ways remember that our faith takes hold of Jesus, who is our "witness in heaven," and our "evidence on high."

[Puritan quote of the day: "Now Christians know that they are in their warfare, they are here in this world fighting and combating with the enemies of their souls and their eternal welfare, and they must be willing to endure hardness here." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment"]

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wed., 2/16/11 Devotion (1 Cor. 3:21b, 22b-23)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Corinthians 3:21b & 22b-23, where we read these words:

"For all things are yours . . . --all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

The Corinthian churchmen to whom the apostle wrote this epistle thought themselves to be pretty hot stuff. But they were essentially missing the point: what made them special was not their ability to outdo one another with tongues, knowledge, or miracles. Instead, what really set them apart is the very same thing that makes faithful churchmen today so remarkable: they belonged to Christ, Who Him-
self (of course) "belongs" to God, as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

If we have Jesus, we have everything: "All things are [ours]." With this perspective, believing churchmen may live in peace and contentment, knowing that we already--even in this world--possess everything.

[Puritan quote of the day: "You are bone of [Christ's] bone, and flesh of His flesh; and to have a member of Jesus Christ in a condition of discontent is exceedingly unworthy." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment"]

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tues., 2/15/11 Devotion (1 Cor. 2:7)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Corinthians 2:7, where Paul wrote this:

"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory . . . "

God's churchmen, in varying degrees, know His secrets (cf. Ps. 25:14). The Lord whispers them, as it were, in their ears. God's wisdom, though historically fully expressed in the cross and resurrection of Jesus (and clearly communicated in the Scripture), yet cannot be known by natural reason alone. It must be revealed by the Holy Spirit, directly to the souls of God's redeemed children.

Do we know the wisdom of God; or are we merely surviving with the rudiments of a fallen intellect? If we do not know God's wisdom, let us ask Him for it. He will not turn away any sincere request, borne of His Spirit's saving work.

[Puritan quote of the day: "You have heaven while you are on earth when you have a contented spirit; yea, in some regards it is better than heaven." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment"]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mon., 2/14/11 Devotion (Gen. 47:7)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 47:7, where we find these neat words:

"Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh."

Here is a tender example of the church and state working together, as they ought. God first brought Joseph, and later all his family, to Egypt. The pagan pharaoh gave the Israelites some of the best of the land of Egypt. Now, Jacob, pleased with pharaoh, blesses him.

The church is to bless the state, so that the state may benefit the church. When these two God-ordained institutions work in harmony, the whole world feels the positive consequences. Jesus Christ's human nature's forbearers were nurtured and fed in Egypt.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The true notion of the visible church of Christ is that part of mankind which, as His people, is united in up-
holding His appointed worship." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "The Nature and End of Excommunication"]

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fri.-Sabbath, 2/11-13/11 Devotion

Hooray--it's almost Sunday! TW is dealing with the 10th Command-
ment here, from his "The Ten Commandments" book. . . .

"Covetousness is a dangerous sin, as it checks all that is good. It is an enemy to grace; it damps good affections, as the earth puts out the fire. . . . 'Covetousness hinders the efficacy of the word preached.' In the parable, the thorns, which Christ expounded to be the cares of this life, choked the good seed, (Matt. 13:22). Many sermons lie dead and buried in earthly hearts. We preach to men to get their hearts in heaven; but where covetousness is predominant, it chains them to earth, and makes them like the woman which Satan had bowed to-
gether, that she could not lift up herself, (Luke 13:11).

"You may as well bid an elephant fly in the air, as a covetous man live by faith. We preach to men to give freely to Christ's poor; but covet-
ousness makes them like the man in the gospel, who had 'a withered hand,' (Mark 3:1). They have a withered hand, and cannot stretch it out to the poor. It is impossible to be earthly-minded and charitably-minded. Covetousness obstructs the efficacy of the word, and makes it prove abortive. They whose hearts are rooted in the earth, will be so far from profiting by the word, that they will be ready rather to de-
ride it. The Pharisees, who were covetous, 'derided [Christ],' (Luke 16:14)."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thurs., 2/10/11 Devotion (Rom. 13:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Romans 13:1, a verse many Chris-
tians cringe at:

"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appoint-
ed by God."

Here is a biblical syllogism: God ordains civil government/Not all civil government is good/But all legitimate civil government is ultimately established of God. If this is true, and it clearly is, then what is our hearts' attitudes to be toward government--be it good or bad?

If we adopt an attitude of rebellion, then we are simply showing our true colors. We don't trust God (despite all our religious talk)--and we are insurrectionists against Him. If we take a stance of godly, faith-filled submission, then we show our true colors: we are a genuine children of the same God whose Son subjected Himself to [evil] civil government.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If you do not do your duties towards God, God will suspend the comforts of your graces from you." --Christopher Love, in his sermon, "Why are the People of God Cast Down?"]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wed., 2/9/11 Devotion (Mk. 12:34a)

Today's encouragement comes from Mark 12:34a, where we read these words:

"Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to [the scribe], 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' "

I wonder how many people we will speak with today are "not far from the kingdom of God." The Holy Spirit starts a work in souls, often long before they are regenerated. Let us recognize this fact, and act in ac-
cord with it. In other words, some people with whom you are doing evangelism--though they are not "in" the kingdom of God yet--may not be far from it.

Clearly, proximity to the kingdom has something to do with doctrinal understanding. But it must also have something to do with human love and patience. Let us be those who encourage those who are "not far" away. They may soon be in our churches.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Grace is necessary for a Christian; others things are but inconveniences." --Christopher Love, in his sermon, "Uses of Instruction and Trial"]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tues., 2/8/11 Devotion (Job 7:16)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 7:16, where we read these words:

"I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are but a breath."

These words (above) are those of a despondent suffering Job, to God. Job is down, depressed, hurt, hopeless, and miserable. His soul's suf-
ferings are worse than his physical pain, and the loss of his family and fortune. As far as Job was concerned, he was ready to "check out."

Is Job's situation unknown to the true church saint today, who is saved by grace, in God's mercies, and a genuine child of the King? No. In fact, it is almost a certainty that at some time in the life of faith on earth, every one of God's trophies of grace will experience what Job did: utter soul-despondency. How do we escape it? In God's time; as we continue to put our faith in Jesus.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Have you not thought sometimes, at [hear-
ing] a sermon, the minister has spoken to none but you, and that some or other has told the minister what you have said, what you have done, what you have thought?" --Thomas Shepard, in, "The Sin-
cere Convert"]

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mon., 2/7/11 Devotion (Mk. 10:35-36)

Today's encouragement comes from Mark 10:35 & 36, where we read these words:

"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to [Jesus], saying, 'Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.' And [Christ] said to them, 'What do you want Me to do for you?' "

I am always struck by how gracious our Lord Jesus Christ is, especially when I read verses like these (above). The Savior does not say, "Well, first, let Me hear what you want Me to do." Instead, He asks, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

Is it possible that we, very often, do not *have*, simply because we do not *ask*, of the Lord? James and John were very bold, and ask for the chief seats in the church. Christ does not guarantee them their re-
quest; but He does not upbraid them for asking. Are you a faithful churchman today? If so, go ahead, ask God for something big.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Theology is the daughter not of time, but of eternity." --John Owen, in, "Biblical Theology"]

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fri.-Sabbath, 2/4-6/11 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday! We *get* to go to church! This Sunday is "Super," not because of a football game, but because its The Lord's Day. In order to get us ready, here is Thomas Watson, from his, "The Ten Commandments" book. He is addressing the issue of "Degrees of Sin." . . .

"Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?

"Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

" 'He that delivered Me unto you, has the greater sin,' (John 19:11). The Stoic philosophers held that all sins were equal; but this Scripture clearly holds forth that there is a gradual difference in sin; some are greater than others; some are 'mighty sins,' and 'crying sins,' (Amos 5:12; Gen. 18:21). Every sin has a voice to speak, but some sins cry. As some diseases are worse than others, and some poisons more ven-
omous, so some sins are more heinous. 'You have done worse than your fathers, your sins have exceeded theirs,' (Jer. 16:12; Ezek. 16:47). Some sins have a blacker aspect than others. To clip the king's coin is treason; but to strike his person is a higher degree of treason. A vain thought is a sin, but a blasphemous word is a greater sin.

"That some sins are greater than others appears, (1) Because there was difference in the offerings under the law; the sin offering was greater than the trespass offering. (2) Because some sins are not capable of pardon as others are, therefore they must needs be more heinous, as the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, (Matt. 12:31). (3) Because some sins have a greater degree of punishment than others. 'You shall receive the greater damnation,' (Matt. 23:14). 'Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?' God would not punish one more than another if his sin was not greater. It is true, 'all sins are equally hein-
ous in respect of the object,' or the infinite God, against whom sin is committed; but, in another sense, all sins are not alike heinous--some sins have more bloody circumstances in them, which are like the dye to the wool, to give it a deeper colour."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thurs., 2/3/11 Devotion (Rom. 6:14)

Today's encouragement comes from Romans 6:14, where we read these words:

"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace."

What is intriguing about this Pauline verse (above), is how revolution-
ary, and counter-intuitive it is. The apostle is telling the Roman church that sin *would* have dominion over their souls *if* they *were* "under the law." But, since they are *not* "under the law," but rather "under grace," sin does *not* have dominion over them.

In other words, do we want to be slaves to sin? The surest way is to be "under law." On the other hand, if we want to be free from sin, and liberated in Christ, then we are to be "under grace." So, how does the churchman remain "under grace," and not get caught up in the law again? Through simple, continued, and abiding *faith* in Jesus.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Inquire then how it is with you, whether you prefer God before all other things." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "A Truly Godly man Prefers God before all others"]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wed., 2/2/11 Devotion (Rom. 5:8)

Today's encouragement comes from Romans 5:8, which says this:

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

We have got to love this verse for a lot of reasons. First of all, it teaches us that God loves His church. Secondly, it instructs us that His love for us was manifest and applied to us "while we were still sin-
ners." In other words, God did *not* wait for us to "get good," or to "clean up our acts" *before* He loved us. And thirdly, (and most pro-
foundly), God's love was demonstrated in Christ's dying "for" His church.

With a God like this, how can believers not be thankful, and happy? Surely, we have the best of all things. We are the body (church) of Christ; and we are the "apple of His eye." For all these blessings, let us live for Jesus today.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We cannot know what sin is unless we know how great the majesty of God is." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "The Evil of Evils"]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tues., 2/1/11 Devotion (Rom. 4:2)

Today's encouragement comes from the Holy-Spirit inspired words of Paul, from Romans 4:2:

"For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God."

Abraham, the father of faith, was justified--but not by works. Rather, he was justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. His works confirmed the reality and genuineness of his faith, (as per Jas. 2:21). But even if Abraham could brag about his works, he could not do so before God.

And this is the "religion trap": boasting in one's works, so as to haught-
ily think one deserves justification. This is the devil's justification, be-
cause it fails to fully consider the absoluteness, exclusivity, and total-
ity of the Son of God's atonement for wretched sinners. Don't be fool-
ed: those who believe their works save them will get exactly what they deserve.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Skeptics in religion have hot brains but cold hearts." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Beatitudes"]