Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thurs., 3/31/11 Devotion (Col. 1:6c)

Today's encouragement comes from Colossians 1:6c, where we read these words:

" . . . since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth."

This little phrase written by Paul to the Colossian church is interest-
ing. First of all, there was a "day" on which these churchmen "heard" the gospel. But not only did they hear the good news--they came to "know" the very "grace of God." And this was "true" knowledge--not just speculation or philosophical musing.

To "know the grace of God in truth" is to believe in, love, and em-
brace the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. How do we "know" whether or not we "know" Christ? Deep in our hearts, do we want to "hear" His gospel preached to our souls every Lord's Day? If so, this is good evi-
dence of sincere faith, and real regeneration.

[Puritan quote of the day: "God does not bring His people into trou-
bles, and leave them there." --Thomas Watson, in, "All Things for Good"]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wed., 3/30/11 Devotion (Jn. 20:16-17a)

Today's encouragement comes from John 20:16 & 17a, where we read these words:

"Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to Him, 'Rabboni!' (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to
Me . . . ' "

It just dawned on me today, for the first time, as I read these verses, that the first person the Risen Christ talked to, and was in human physical contact with was this woman Mary Magdalene. This is intri-
guing. It was not Peter, John, James, or any of the other disciples. In-
stead, it was Mary, out of whom Jesus had driven seven demons--not that many months prior (cf. Mk. 16:9).

Mary is a graphic picture of the redeemed church: originally dirty, dis-
gusting, depraved--but, upon regeneration made clean, pure, and precious. If any of us are tempted today to feel like we cannot have access to Jesus, because we are too sinful, use the example of Mary as encouragement to come to Him, and fellowship with Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We answer with Augustine: 'If no sin were punished here, no Providence would be believed; and if every sin should be punished here, no judgment would be expected.' " --John Flavel, in, "The Providence of God"]

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tues., 3/29/11 Devotion (Php. 3:9)

Today's encouragement comes from Philippians 3:9, where we read these amazing words of Paul:

" . . . and [that I may] be found in Him [Christ], not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith . . . "

This is one of the sweetest verses in the whole Bible. Here, the for-
mer zealous works-oriented pharisee (Paul) celebrates his liberation in his justification in Christ. The Apostle no longer regards his old (and false) "righteousness" to be anything other than "rubbish," (v. 8).

What an irony that God would make the former champion of works-righteousness the greatest proclaimer of free grace (received by faith alone) that the church has ever known. If we have the "righteousness of Christ," we have everything we need. God the Father views the churchman clothed in Jesus' righteousness to be as perfectly holy as His Own Dear Son.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Morality shoots short of heaven. It is only nature refined. A moral man is but old Adam dressed in fine clothes." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mon., 3/28/11 Devotion (Ex. 39:43)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 39:43, where we read these words:

"Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, just so they had done it. And Moses bles-
sed them."

This verse (above) reminds me of what God did after He created the world: He leaned back (as it were), observed what He had fashioned, and said, "It is good," (in Gen. 1:31). Here, in the Exodus passage, Moses looks over the work the Israelite artisans had done in creating the garments of ministry, etc., and he (Moses) is very pleased.

Let us this week seek, by grace, to create some masterpieces for Christ--by doing our labors heartily as unto the Lord. Excellence is a fruit of faith. It starts in church on Sunday, but it works its way out into everything the churchman does throughout the six days of labor.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Another great performance of Providence for the people of God respects the place and time of their birth."
--John Flavel, in, "The Providence of God"]

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/25-27/11 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday! We GET to go back to church! In order to help us get ready, here is Thomas Watson, from his "A Body of Divin-
ity" book. . . .

"What shall we do to attain [God's] blessed peace?

"Let us ask it of God. He is the God of peace; He beats back the roar-
ing lion; He stills the raging of conscience. If we could call all the angels out of heaven, they could not speak peace without God. The stars cannot make day without the sun; none can make day in a dark deserted soul, but the Sun of Righteousness. As the wilderness cannot water itself, but remains dry and parched till the clouds drop their moisture, so our hearts cannot have peace till He infuse it, and drop it upon us by His Spirit. Therefore pray, 'Lord, You who are the God of peace, create peace; You who are the Prince of peace, command it. Give me that peace which may sweeten trouble, yea, even the bitter cup of death.' "

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thurs., 3/24/11 Devotion (Jn. 14:15)

Today's encouragement comes from John 14:15, where we read these words of Jesus:

"If you love Me, [you will] keep My commandments."

The end of this verse may be taken either as an imperative ("be
sure to keep . . . "), or as an indicative ("you will [of necessity]
keep . . . "). I prefer the latter, (the indicative). The only people who ever actually obey God in anyway, at anytime, are those churchmen who love Jesus Christ. (And even then, our compliance is not perfect.)

True obedience is always motivated and achieved by and through
love--and never by or through fear. All false religions seek to get their adherents to do what their deity commands by seeking to scare them, fill them with fear, and intimidate them. Not so with the true reli-
gion. Faith in Jesus leads the church to love Him. Once we love Christ, we are happy to obey whatever God tells us to do (albeit only by the Holy Spirit's power).

[Puritan quote of the day: "It is a greater mercy to descend from pray-
ing parents than from the loins of nobles." --John Flavel, in, "The Mys-
tery of Providence"]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wed., 3/23/11 Devotion (Prov. 10:22)

Today's encouragement comes from Proverbs 10:22, where we read these words:

"The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it."

It has been well-said that wealth is not the goal of wisdom, but that it sometimes is the result of it (wisdom). When God chooses to bestow wealth (of whatever sort) on His churchmen there is a unique and singular blessing that attends it--and that is, that He "adds no sorrow with it."

The world's "wealth" is always, in every single case, accompanied with "sorrow," or trouble. Other sinners are clamoring to take it away from them; it causes them to lose sleep; and their minds are consumed with it (wealth). But not so with the wealth of Christ--it comes to His church without sorrow. Why is this? Partly because the faithful believ-
er is just as happy to have it, or to not have it. He is indifferent to it. And why? Because he knows that Jesus alone is his (or her) true and abiding wealth.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The church, in all the works of mercy, owns the hand of God." --John Flavel, in, "The Mystery of Providence"]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tues., 3/22/11 Devotion (Ex. 33:4a)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 33:4a, where we read these words:

"And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned . . . "

Bad news tends to make people sad, especially when it has to do with suffering some of the natural consequences of their sin. But wherever there is bad news, there is also good news. In fact, the gospel of grace would not be news at all--let alone good news--if there was not sin and its resultant sadness in the world.

What makes the good news of Christ's atonement operative for us sin-
ners, who would otherwise be swamped with nothing but horrible tid-
ings of doom and damnation? Faith. And where does faith lead us? To love. And what does love result in? A happy walk with Christ, charac-
terized by a hopeful present and future. This is the inheritance of the faithful and faith-filled church.

[Puritan quote of the day: "[It would] not [be] worthwhile to live in a world devoid of God and Providence." --John Flavel, in, "The Mystery of Providence"]

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/11-13/11 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday! Here is Thomas Watson, from his, "A Body of Divinity" book. . . .

"God's providence reaches to all places, persons, and occurrences. (1.) To all places: 'Am I a God at hand, and not a God afar off?' (Jer 23:23). The diocese where Providence visits is very large; it reaches to heaven, earth, and sea. 'They that go down to the sea, see the won-
ders of God in the deep,' (Psa 107:23, 24). Now, that the sea, which [appears to be] higher than the earth, should not drown the earth, is a wonder of Providence. The prophet Jonah saw the wonders of God in the deep, when the very fish which devoured him and swallowed him brought him safe to shore.

"(2.) God's providence reaches to all persons, especially the persons of the godly, who in a special manner are taken notice of. God takes care of every saint in particular, as if He had none else to care for. 'He cares for you,' (1 Pet 5:7), i.e., the elect in a special manner. 'The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him; to preserve them from death, and to keep them alive in famine,' (Psa 33:18, 19). God by His providential care shields off dangers from His people, and sets a life-guard of angels about them, (Psa 34:7). God's providence keeps the very bones of the saints, (Psa 34:20). It bottles their tears, (Psa 56:8). It strengthens the saints in their weakness, (Heb 11:34). It supplies all their wants out of its alms basket, (Psa 23:5). Thus Providence won-
derfully supplies the wants of the elect."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thurs., 3/10/11 Devotion (Lk. 24:45)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 24:45, where we read these words:

"And [Jesus] opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures."

The Scriptures are important to Christ--and so is our comprehension (or understanding) of them. It could be argued that to possess the Bible, but not to grasp what it means, is of little good, and could even be dangerous. The Holy Book can only benefit us when and if the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit's work, "opens our understanding."

When this happens, we discover that we are being pointed to Jesus Christ in every line (cf. vv. 25, 27, 44). We also comprehend that the Scriptures are covenantal documents, to be elucidated and applied in the context of the community of the visible church (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-2). How about us, today? Has Christ opened our understandings, so that we might rightly comprehend the texts of the Bible?

[Puritan quote of the day: "Only Christ can satisfy the soul. All other ways and things will only end in disappointment." --John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wed., 3/9/11 Devotion (Job 38:4a)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 38:4a, where we read these words:

"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? . . . "

Ooo. How would we like to have God say words like those to us? To hear this would humble us right down to the dust. The reality is that the Lord *does* ask us this basic question every time we pretend that we know better than He does, or every time we complain about His providences (and the way they work) in our lives.

I know I didn't exist when God "laid the foundations of the earth." Therefore, I have no right to counsel Him on how He ought to run His universe. This one thing is for sure: I could not do a better job than He can do. Let all of us churchmen come to more implicitly trust our Heavenly Father, believing the best of Him always--especially based on His love for us in Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Are your sins high as heaven? The mercies of God are above the heavens." --Isaac Ambrose, in, "The Christian Warrior"]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tues., 3/8/11 Devotion (2 Cor. 7:5b)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 7:5b, where we read these words (of Paul):

" . . . Outside were conflicts, inside were fears."

Church life, with all its attendant human relationships, is both the most glorious of all fellowships; but it can also be the most painful and grievous. The Apostle Paul is describing (above) how he himself felt, in regard to the Corinthian church, after he was forced to up-
braid them for their sin (in a previous, no longer extant epistle).

The whole thing had made Paul sad, nervous, and even "fearful." He was finally comforted by Titus' report (cf. v. 6 ff.)--but in the mean-
time he was quite tortured in his soul. In light of all this, let us who are sincere churchmen be aware that we "put our hearts on the line" when we join in covenant with others (in the church). Though it can sometimes be very painful; it is always the right thing to do--since Jesus set us the example, by shedding His precious blood for us (in the church).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Trust [God] where you cannot trace Him. God is most in His way, when we think He is most out of the way."
--Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mon., 3/7/11 Devotion (Ex. 18:19b)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 18:19b, where we read these words:

"[Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, said to Moses], 'Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God.' "

Moses was a type of mediator between the people of Israel and their God. When they had a problem, they brought it to Moses, who would seek to settle it in light of the Law of the Lord. Jesus Christ, the church's great high priest, perfectly fulfilled what Moses only prefig-
ured. He shed His blood for His people, making reconciliation be-
tween a holy God and many sinners.

On top of this, our Lord Jesus even today continues to intercede for the church, at the Father's right hand, (Rom. 8:34b). Do we have "difficulties" today? Nothing it too hard for the Lord. Let us lay our concerns before Him, and trust His perfect judgment relative to them.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Remember: God's work goes on, and no-
thing falls out but what He has decreed from eternity." --Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/4-6/11 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray--it's almost Sunday! In order to get ready for church, let us hear from Thomas Watson, in his great book, "A Body of Divin-
ity." . . .

"Justification is 'inamissibilis'; it is a fixed permanent thing. It can never be lost. The Arminians hold an apostasy from justification; to-
day justified, tomorrow unjustified; today a Peter, tomorrow a Judas; today a member of Christ, tomorrow a limb of Satan. This is a most uncomfortable doctrine. Justified persons may fall from degrees of grace, they may leave their first love, they may lose God's favour for a time, but not lose their justification. If they are justified they are elected; and they can no more fall from their justification than from their election. If they are justified they have union with Christ; and can a member of Christ be broken off? If one justified person may fall away from Christ, all may; and so Christ would be a head without a body.

"Use one: See from hence, that there is nothing within us that could justify, but something without us; not any righteousness inherent, but imputed. We may as well look for a star in the earth as for justifica-
tion in our own righteousness. [Heretics] say we are justified by works; but the apostle confutes it, for he says, 'Not of works, lest any man should boast,' (Eph. 2:9)."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thurs., 3/3/11 Devotion (Lk. 17:17)

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

"So Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?' "

Everybody is about getting things from God, and crying out to Him in time of need. Probably about ten percent of those who receive mercy from Christ ever come back to thank Him for what He has done for them. It is interesting that Jesus actually asks the question, "Where are the [other] nine?" He rightly *expected* them to return and "give glory to God," (v. 18).

Ingratitude is not appreciated by the Lord; and those who have re-
ceived of the riches of Christ's grace had better return to Him with thanks and praise. It may be safely asserted that all the truly redeem-
ed in the church *will* live lives of worship and gratitude--as this is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and is evidence of real faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "[Christ's] church is the house which He has built on a perfect number of pillars so that it might be stable, resting on a good foundation." --John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wed., 3/2/11 Devotion (2 Cor. 1:8)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 1:8, where we read these words:

"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life."

Sometimes the pressure and stress of the faithful churchman's life can reach fever-pitch levels. It is astounding what a believer can endure--as he or she goes through the furnaces of affliction and suffering. At the same time, the only cause of this strength and perseverance is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Fully commensurate with our pain and suffering is the joy and free-
dom of our release and resurrection in Christ. Are we in a very hard way today? Let us remember that God has delivered us in the past. He is also actively delivering us in the present; and He will deliver us in the future, (cf. vv. 9 & 10). Let us not lose heart--but rather press on.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Consider the company Christians keep. It is with the Father of glory. So Christians are indeed the excellent in the earth (Ps. 16:3)." --John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tues., 3/1/11 Devotion (Lk. 15:21)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 15:21, where we read these great words:

"And the [prodigal] son said to [his father], 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be cal-
led your son.' "

To me, this is one of the most poignant and beautiful sections of Holy Scripture. The Prodigal Son is on his way home. He has been rehears-
ing his lines. He's musing to himself, "Remember to say, 'I have sin-
ned.' Don't forget the 'No longer worthy' part. And be sure to finish with, 'Make me like one of your hired servants.' "

The Son does pretty well at getting his speech out--but before he ever gets to his last line (about being a hired servant), his father is all over him, showering love and acceptance on him. So it is with God: He is a loving Father, who forgives His Own, and receives them into His em-
braces. This is a picture of God's love for the church Jesus procured with His precious blood atonement.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If anything in us or on our part could stop God loving us [His church], then He would long ago have turned away from us." --John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]