Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tues., 7/31/12 Devotion (Acts 18:4)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 18:4, where we read these words:

"And [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks."

The New Covenant Sabbath (which is Sunday), much like the Old Cov-enant Sabbath (which was Saturday), is still the first and foremost day on which everyone must be "persuaded" that Jesus is the Christ. The *place* where this happens is the church, (and, even more-specifical-ly, the pulpit).

Once we have done our due diligence there, we are in a position to bring the gospel into the marketplace, the "Areopagus" (if you will). *Every* believer needs to be "re-assured" of the truth of the Christian faith every week. This is because we are weak, and given to doubt and unbelief. Once we are re-energized, we are ready to be effective in God's world.

[Puritan quote of the day: "David committed many sins, but especially those two of adultery and murder, and yet God pardoned Him. But Saul committed far less sins than those and yet God cast him off for-ever." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Remission"]

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mon., 7/30/12 Devotion (Jer. 26:19b)

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 26:19b, where we read these words:

" . . . Did [Hezekiah] not fear the LORD and seek the LORD'S fa-
vor? . . . "

Here is a good formula to live by: fear the Lord, and seek His favor. To fear the Lord means to be serious about hating sin; and to seek the Lord means to be serious about believing gospel grace. Both of these notions are quite alien to our fallen natures.

This is why those (only) who are given new hearts in Christ can truly fear the Lord, and seek His favor. Perhaps we are religious, but not redeemed. What are we to do? We are to abandon our own works, and alleged righteousness, and seek the Lord. He will be found by all those who truly desire to find Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "There is nothing in the world more uneasy than the heart of a wicked man made to listen to spiritual instruc-
tion . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/27-29/12 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday again. We *get* to go back to church! In or-der to help us get ready, here is Martin Luther, from his incredible preface to his outstanding commentary on "Galatians." . . .

"Therefore, St. Paul, in this letter, teaches us in order to comfort us and to confirm us in the perfect knowledge of this most Christian and excellent righteousness--for once we lose our belief in justification, all true Christian doctrine is lost. There is no middle ground between the righteousness of the law and Christian righteousness. Anyone who strays from Christian righteousness must fall into the righteousness of the law; in other words, when people lose Christ, they slip back into reliance on their own works.

"That is why we so earnestly repeat this doctrine of faith or Christian righteousness, so that it may be continually exercised and may be plainly distinguished from the active righteousness of the law. Other- wise we should never be able to believe the true theology. The church is founded on, and consists in, this doctrine alone. So if we want to teach and lead other people, we need to pay careful attention to these matters and to note well this distinction between the righteous-ness of the law and the righteousness of Christ. This is easy to de-scribe in words but hard to put into practice, for when we are near death or in other agonies of conscience these two sorts of righteous-ness come closer together than we would wish. So I warn you, espe-cially those of you who will become teachers and guides of conscienc-es, to exercise yourselves continually by study, reading, meditation on the Word, and prayer, so that in time of temptation you may be able to instruct and strengthen both your own conscience and that of other people, and to bring them from the law to grace, from active and working righteousness to passive and received righteousness, from Moses to Christ."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wed., 7/25/12 Devotion (Mk. 7:15)

Today's encouragement comes from Mark 7:15, where the Lord Jesus said this:

"There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man."

These words lay out a basic difference between the true religion and all false religion. False religion is concerned about externals, first and foremost, and often exclusively. The true religion is focused on the sinful and fallen nature of the heart, and how this problem must be resolved before a Holy God.

False religion is very easy to practice: do a few things, and one can pretend he or she is in God's good standing. True religion requires brokenness for heart sins, repentance, and faith in the only Redeemer of God's elect.

[Puritan quote of the day: "It is a true rule in divinity that the desire for any grace is the grace itself; for to desire to believe is faith, and true desire to repent is repentance, and true desire to mourn for sin is mourning for sin." --Christopher Love, in, "The Dejected Soul's Cure"]

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tues., 7/24/12 Devotion (Mk. 6:56c)

Today's encouragement comes from Mark 6:56c, where we read these words:

" . . . And as many as touched Him [Jesus] were made well."

Every time a human being touches Jesus Christ in faith, there is heal-ing. The key to everyone's life--be it a Christian or an unbeliever--is to come into contact with Jesus the Savior. This is done by faith; and it is often applied (practically) in prayer. True "wellness" requires "rubbing shoulders" with God--who will only be known in Christ.

Let us boldly come to Christ, in faithful prayer. He is always ready to heal and forgive. He is the giver of life. May our hearts yearn to be with (and near) Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We would never go to God unless God came to us, such is the stoutness of our hearts." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Reconciliation"]

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mon., 7/23/12 Devotion (Mk. 5:36c)

Today's encouragement comes from Mark 5:36c, where we read these words:

" . . . 'Do not be afraid; only believe.' "

This is sweet counsel of our Lord Jesus Christ, to all of us, His church family. There are plenty of times that we are tempted to fear--but the antidote is always faith. It is intriguing that the Savior does not say, "Do not be afraid, only be strong"; or, He does not say, "Do not be afraid; only try harder"; or, He does not say, "Do not be afraid; only get more religious."

The man in Mark 5 had plenty of "reason" for fear: his little daughter had just died. But even in those dire straits, the answer is faith. Let us believe the Lord--albeit weakly, if that is our condition--recogniz-ing that it is faith (in any sincere measure) that pleases God (cf. Heb. 11:6).

[Puritan quote of the day: " . . . Man's unrighteousness must usher in Christ's righteousness." --William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/20-22/12 Devotion

Wahoo--Sunday is *almost* here! In order to prepare you for church worship, here is the incomparable Thomas Watson, from his excellent work, "Heaven Taken by Storm":

"The sixth duty wherein we must offer violence to ourselves, is the re-ligious sanctifying of the Lord's day. That there should be a day of holy rest dedicated to God appears from its institution. 'Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.' Our Christian Sabbath comes in the place of the Jewish Sabbath: it is called 'the Lord's day,' (Rev. 1.10)--from Christ the Author of it.

"Our Sabbath is altered by Christ's own appointment. He arose this day out of the grave, and appeared on it often to His disciples, (1 Cor. 16:1)--to intimate to them (says Athanasius) that He transferred the Sabbath to the Lord's day. And St. Augustine says that by Christ's rising on the first day of the week, it was consecrated to be the Christian Sabbath, in remembrance of His resurrection.

"This day was anciently called 'dies lucis,' 'the day of light,' as Junius observes. The other days of the week would be dark, were it not for the shining of the sun of righteousness on this day. This day has been called by the ancients, 'regina dierum,' 'the queen of days.' And St. Jerome prefers this day above all solemn festivals. The primitive church held this day in high veneration. It was a great badge of their religion; for when the question was asked, 'servasti dominicum?,' 'do you keep the Sabbath?'; the answer was, 'Christianus sum,' 'I am a Christian; I dare not omit the celebration of the Lord's day!' "

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thurs., 7/19/12 Devotion (Mk. 1:21-22)

Today's encouragement comes from Mark 1:21 & 22--verses which de-scribe Christ's ministry:

"Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath [Jesus] entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."

Jesus, being the perfect churchman, is in the synagogue on the Sab-bath. He is teaching. What makes Christ's sermon unique is the auth-ority He demonstrated. The Messiah actually believed what He was saying, knew it was from God, and was willing to proclaim the gospel boldly and unashamedly.

Most people hate this kind of preaching and teaching. They may say they like it; but deep down what they really want is what is according to their own fleshly desires. Let us be different; and thirst for what Christ and His true messengers bring to us--whether it makes us feel good, or bad.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Give a beast hay and he will follow you all over the field. Not to draw near to [God] who is our Benefactor is worse than brutish." --Thomas Watson, in his sermon, "Drawing Near to God"]

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wed., 7/18/12 Devotion (Jer. 14:1-2)

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 14:1 & 2, where we read these words:

"The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts. 'Judah mourns, and her gates languish; they mourn for the land, and the cry of Jerusalem has gone up. . . . ' "

Those of us living in middle America these days know what a "drought" is--as we are experiencing a big one this summer. Sometimes droughts are provisional judgments of God, (sometimes they are not). Judah was a theocracy. The drought of Jer., ch. 14 was clearly a judgment on the sins of the covenant community.

The drought in America today may well be the result of civil wicked-ness--as some of the recent legislation in this country is highly God-dishonoring, and they provoke God's wrath. (The promotion of sodomy is a perfect example of this.)

[Puritan quote of the day: "Surely they mistake who think the life of godliness is not a comfortable life . . . " --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "The Excellency of a Gracious Spirit"]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tues., 7/17/12 Devotion (Josh. 24:15a)

Today's encouragement comes from Joshua 24:15a, where we read these words:

"And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . "

God would have people be honest, even if it means they candidly ad-mit to being vile idolaters. The Lord prefers this, to hypocritical reli-gionists. Both the idolater, and the hypocrite will go to hell--barring genuine faith in Jesus (with resultant repentance)--but the hypocrite will have a hotter spot there.

Let us all honestly face the truth regarding this question: who do we really serve and worship? If it is Christ--because our trust is in His atonement and righteousness *alone* for our salvation--then we may rejoice, and give God glory. If it is not Christ, we should face the ugly reality of who we are.

[Puritan quote of the day: "What is the reason why carnal hearts seek up and down for comfort in this and another lust? It is because they do not have enough in God." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Hope"]

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mon., 7/16/12 Devotion (Matt. 26:32)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 26:32, where we read these words of our Lord Jesus:

"But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee."

Is it not really neat that right after Jesus was raised from the dead (on that first Easter Sunday morning), He did not go straight to heav-en? Instead, Christ stayed here (on earth) for a while--and only later ascended on high. The principle still applies: our risen Savior meets and supports us, His people *here*, in our struggles, while we are yet on the earth. He does not leave us to our own devices.

Let us thank and praise God that Christ is King of everything: be it in heaven, or on earth.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Oh I hope that the Lord intends nothing other than to purge away my sin; and if this is God's intention, let Him do with me what He will." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Hope"]

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/13-15/12 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday! We get to go back to church again! Here are great words from Martin Luther, taken from his excellent Preface to his amazing "Galatians" Commentary. . . .

"Therefore, the afflicted and troubled conscience has no remedy against desperation and eternal death unless it takes hold of the for-giveness of sins by grace, freely offered in Christ Jesus—that is to say, this passive faith or Christian righteousness. If the conscience can take hold of this, then it may be at rest and boldly say, 'I do not seek this active or working righteousness, although I know that I ought to have it, and also to fulfill it. But if I had it and did actually fulfill it, I still could not place my trust in it, nor should I dare to set it against God's judgment. Thus I abandon all active righteousness, both of my own and of God's law, and embrace only that passive righteousness that is the righteousness of grace, mercy, and forgiveness of sins. Briefly, I rest only on that righteousness that is the righteousness that is the righteousness of Christ and of the Holy Spirit.'

"Just as the earth does not generate rain and cannot of itself work to produce it, but receives it by the mere gift of God from above, so this heavenly righteousness is given us by God without our working for or deserving it. See, then, how much the earth is able by itself to do in getting showers of rain to make it fruitful; that much, and no more, are we able to do by our own strength and works in winning this heavenly and eternal righteousness. We shall never be able to attain it unless God Himself bestows it on us, imputing it to us by His gift be-yond words. The greatest wisdom of Christians, then, is to have no-thing to do with the law and works and the whole of active right-eousness, especially when the conscience wrestles with God's judg-ment. On the other hand, the quintessence of wisdom among those who are not among God's people is to know and earnestly follow the law and active righteousness."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thurs., 7/12/12 Devotion (Matt. 22:29)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 22:29, where we read these words:

"Jesus answered and said to them, 'You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.' "

One sure way to be in error, or to be mistaken, is by not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. The greatest truths are all too won-derful, to be apprehended by "reason" alone. How would we know that God saves sinners by the atonement achieved by His Son; or how would we know that God is Trinity--were it not for the special revela-tion of the Scriptures?

Ignorance is *not* bliss when it comes to the things of God. Instead, it is a sure road to hell. Let us who know Christ by faith, seek to be-come more acquainted with Him: in His church, through the doctrines found in His word.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A man may think himself into hell. What were the apostate angels damned for, was it for any more than proud thoughts?" --Thomas Watson, in, "The Great Gain of Godliness"]

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wed., 7/11/12 Devotion (Ps. 147:3)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 147:3, where we read these words:

"He [God] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

The "brokenhearted" are those who are oppressed by the law's de-mands, but who (for comfort) run to Jesus, as their fulfillment of the law. They recognize that they do not have the resources to do every-thing "right"; and therefore they go to Christ for all their righteous-ness.

Jesus came to save the "brokenhearted," (cf. Lk. 4:18). He did not come to save self-righteous, "law-righteousness" people. These are left on their own. Let us bless God for this; and let us be included in the blessed company of the brokenhearted.

[Puritan quote of the day: "When they die [the redeemed] shall go to God, and while they live everything in the world shall do them good." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Great Gain of Godliness"]

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tues., 7/10/12 Devotion (Jer. 6:16a)

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 6:16a, where we read these words:

"Thus says the LORD: 'Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.' "

Sometimes we hear dumb people say things like this, "We can't go back to the old days and ways--we've moved beyond them." These people are wrong (and foolish). True life is only found in the "old paths." There is nothing new under the sun. All "new" paths are simply old deceits of the devil.

There is more than enough good doctrine in the good creeds and con-fessions of the church, to more than satisfy us for generations to come. Let us be enlightened: let us return to our Reformation and Puritan glory (in Christ).

[Puritan quote of the day: "The fear of God will make one avoid those sins which can neither be heard nor seen by men." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Great Gain of Godliness"]

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mon., 7/9/12 Devotion (Josh. 11:7)

Today's encouragement comes from Joshua 11:7, which says this:

"So Joshua and all the people of war with him came against them sud-denly by the waters of Merom, and they attacked them."

What is neat about this verse, is that Joshua took the battle *to* God's enemies. He did not wait for them to attack him. Joshua and his army were greatly outnumbered by a vast host of Canaanite forces that were determined (if possible) to wipe him out. But, because of God's grace, Joshua was invincible.

Therefore, the church today should be encouraged to go on the of-fensive, too. We are the ones with the message of life (in Jesus). Let us not be timid, nor idle. The spoils of victory await.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If there remains some filth and unclean-ness still in our hearts, it should teach us to long for heaven, when our sanctification shall be made as perfect as our justification is."
--Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Hope"]

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/6-8/12 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 Sav-iour has set us a pattern of prayer. God prescribed a set form of bles-sing 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: 'En-ter into your closet,' (Matt 6:6)."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thurs., 7/5/12 Devotion (Ps. 138:7a)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 138:7a, where we read these words:

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You [God] will revive me . . . "

I like this phrase. What an encouragement for all faithful churchmen who love Jesus, and trust alone in His blood atonement for the for-giveness of their sins. God never promised a trouble-free life for His children. On the contrary, He made it clear that our problems would only be amplified after entering into His kingdom.

But, with these trials comes the promise of "revival"--being encourag-ed and inspired by grace from heaven, which wipes out the fears and schemes of our fallen existences. Christ makes it all worth while.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The fear of God drives out all base fear. Carnal fear is an enemy to religion." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Great Gain of Godliness"]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wed., 7/4/12 Devotion (Ps. 135:6)

Happy Independence Day, USA!

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 135:6, where these won-derful words are found:

"Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places."

What a comfort it is, to have a sovereign God. Nothing stops the true God's hand--He does whatever He pleases to do. And notice *where* He does this: not only in heaven, but also on earth, and even under the earth. Nothing is outside of the comprehensive purview of the Lord's holy reign.

Let us be thankful, as God's churched saints, for the fact that our Father is in charge; and let us glorify His Name.

[Puritan quote of the day: "[The sanctified person] prefers sanctity before safety, and had rather keep his conscience pure than his skin whole. . . . He would rather part with his life than his conscience."
--Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tues., 7/3/12 Devotion (Josh. 5:12)

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

"Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year."

When we enter the promised land of life in Christ, , His gospel, His church, and His means of grace--we no longer look for, desire, or need the "extraordinary" measures (that God sometimes uses, to get people's attention). The Lord is more pleased with and honored by "ordinary" means: like preaching, the sacraments (of baptism and the Lord's Supper), and church discipline.

Many religionists today--as has always been the case--are all consum-ed with crazy stuff. Let us, God's sane (but beloved) churchmen, enjoy Him in the ways that He is most pleased to reveal Himself.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Feeling and freeness of spirit are often re-served until duty is discharged." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mon., 7/2/12 Devotion (Isa. 64:1a)

Today's encouragement comes from Isaiah 64:1a, where we read these words:

"Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come
down! . . . "

The Prophet Isaiah's passionate prayer (above) was answered, when Christ came down to earth, and was made incarnate in Mary's womb. This plea was also fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came down in great power on the church, at Pentecost (Acts 2). But this petition continues to be answered, as God revives His church through the continuing and intensified work of the Holy Spirit--as He sanctifies the church and adds to her number.

Let us join Isaiah in yet asking God to "rend the heavens . . . [and] come down!" After all, just as in Isaiah's time, so it is true today: there is no hope for the world outside of Christ's direct intervention in it.

[Puritan quote of the day: "In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, among that cloud of witnesses, we see Rahab, Gideon, and Samson ranked with Abraham, the father of the faithful (Heb. 11:31-32)."
--Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]