Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wed., 7/31/13 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-specifically, 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-convinced" 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 forever."
--Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Remission"]

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tues., 7/30/13 Devotion (Acts 17:21)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 17:21, where we read these words:

"For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing."

Can you imagine having so much "free time," that you can stand around all day chatting about "new things"? Actually, this is the situa-tion today, with most modern people. They have nothing better to do, than to waste their time, trying to fill themselves up with something "new."

The reality, however, is that there is "nothing new under the sun."  All "new" thrills, "new" sins, and "new" experiences are actually very old. They take on themselves the circumstances of the day--but they are not "new" at all. The best path for the child of God is to go back to the "old ways"; and to enjoy the tried and true pleasures of life in Christ. When we do this, we experience "new" life in Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Who ever stayed and waited long upon God, but he had more than he prayed for?" --William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mon., 7/29/13 Devotion (Acts 16:4-5)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 16:4 & 5, where we read these words:

"And as they [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily."

Here is a good example of where Christian joy, prosperity, and liberty is dependent upon submission to church authorities. Paul and his band were faithful to hand down the decisions of the Jerusalem presbytery; and, as they were well-received by the churches, they (the churches) flourished.

Today, we are often told that we do not need church, nor authority. This is the same thing as to say we do not need Christ, nor salvation. Let all of us who are committed to Jesus be committed to His ways, as well.

[Puritan quote of the day: "After we are gained to Christ ourselves, we should labor to gain others to Christ." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruis-ed Reed"]

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/26-28/13 Devotion

Wahoo--Sunday is almost here!  Here is Thomas Watson, in "A Divine Cordial," touching on assurance. May it help us in our preparations for Sunday's church worship of God:

"God's purpose is the ground of assurance.

"Here is a sovereign elixir of unspeakable comfort to those who are the called of God. Their salvation rests upon God's purpose. 'The founda-tion of God stands sure, having this seal. The Lord knows those that are His. And, let everyone that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity,' (2 Tim. 2:19). Our graces are imperfect, our comforts ebb and flow, but God's foundation stands sure. They who are built upon this rock of God's eternal purpose, need not fear falling away; neither the power of man, nor the violence of temptation, shall ever be able to overturn them."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thurs., 7/25/13 Devotion (Judg. 8:34)

Today's encouragement comes from Judges 8:34, where we read these words:

"Thus the children of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side."

Every time a sincere Christian sins, he or she "forgets" the Lord. The fact that God has cleansed one's soul from sin, death, misery, and hell is forgotten. The fact that God has made His children regal sons and daughters of glory is forgotten. The fact that the Lord has taught them that sin leads not to happiness, but to slavery is forgotten.

Has Almighty God delivered us from the hands of all our enemies, through the atonement wrought in Jesus' blood--apprehended by us through faith alone? If so, let us not forget this most-blessed fact.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The enemies of [God's] church shall do His [God's] work; He [God] will play His game by their hand." --Thomas Watson, in his sermon, "Comfort for the Church"]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wed., 7/24/13 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 entire key to the Christian churchman's life is to come into contact all the time with the Savior. This is done by faith; and it is ap-plied (practically) in church worship and prayer. True "wellness" re-quires "rubbing shoulders" with God--and this can only be done by making a connection with Jesus, the God-Man.

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 Bur-roughs, in, "Gospel Reconciliation"]

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tues., 7/23/13 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 wonderful encouragement from our Lord Jesus Christ, to all of us, His churchmen. 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 necessary--recognizing 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 Down-cast"]

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mon., 7/22/13 Devotion (Acts 9:31)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 9:31, which says this:

"Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied."

This blessed state (described above) came directly on the heels of the Apostle Paul's conversion, and his being accepted by the church. These sweet conditions are usually temporary. Indeed, in just two chapters, we see the church once again having to deal with persecu-tion. But, when we *are* given lovely seasons of rest and comfort, we had best take advantage of them.

And just *why* do we need them? So as to be able to *prepare* our-selves for the hardships, challenges, and struggles to come. Only a fool imagines that everything will always be fine, and trouble-free. The wise Christian uses his or her respites to build strength for the future.

[Puritan quote of the day: "None are damned in the church but those who are determined to be . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/19-21/13 Devotion

Yippee--it's almost Sunday!  Here is Thomas Watson, from his "The Ten Commandments" book:

"We keep the Sabbath Day holy, by 'consecrating and dedicating' this day to the 'service of the High God.' It is good to rest on the Sabbath Day from the works of our calling; but if we rest from labor and do no more, the ox and the ass keep the Sabbath as well as we; for they rest from labor. We must dedicate the day to God; we must not only 'keep a Sabbath,' but 'sanctify' a Sabbath. Sabbath-sanctification consists in two things: (1) Solemn preparation for it. If a prince were to come to your house, what preparation would you make for his entertainment! You would sweep the house, wash the floor, adorn the room with the richest tapestry and hangings, that there might be something suitable to the state and dignity of so great a person. On the blessed Sabbath, God intends to have sweet communion with you; He seems to say to you, as Christ to Zacchaeus, 'Make haste and come down, for this day I must abide at your house,' (Luke 19:5). Now, what preparation should you make for entertaining this King of glory? When Saturday evening approaches, sound a retreat; call your minds off from the world and summon your thoughts together, to think of the great work of the ap-proaching day. Purge out all unclean affections, which may indispose you for the work of the Sabbath. Evening preparation will be like the tuning of an instrument, it will fit the heart better for the duties of the ensuing Sabbath."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thurs., 7/18/13 Devotion (Acts 5:38-39)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 5:38 & 39, where we read these words:

"And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it--lest you even be found to fight against God."

Gamaliel, a highly-respected first-century rabbi, made this observation (above). He was absolutely right. When it comes to religion and the spiritual life--anything man-made is bound to fail. There is little sense in our giving it much of our time or attention. On the other hand, what is of (or from) God *is* of absolute importance. What the Lord does, can-not fail.

Are we fighting "alongside" Christ, as His faithful churchmen; or, are we fighting against Him, futilely hoping to overthrow His work? There are no other options.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A godly man has many signal experiences of God's favor to him, and experience breeds hope." --Thomas Watson, in his sermon, "The Sacred Anchor"]

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wed., 7/17/13 Devotion (Josh. 24:15c)

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

" . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

No matter what other people choose to do, God's true Christian church-men must choose to serve Him wholeheartedly. The Fall of man into sin has left us with the deplorable disease of "man-pleasing"; and of mindlessly following whatever new "gods" or theological fads that hap-pen to come along.

The sincere believer must be more thoughtful than that. If the world likes something, we ought to look askance at it, with a level of suspi-cion. This is not because we are paranoid--rather, it is because we have come to learn that idolatry is subtle, and easily slipped into.

[Puritan quote of the day: "To the extent that we give way to our will in sinning, to that extent we set ourselves at a distance from comfort."
--Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tues., 7/16/13 Devotion (Josh. 23:14b, c)

Today's encouragement comes from Joshua 23:14b & c, which says this:

"And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke con-cerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed."

In the Lord Jesus Christ every faithful churchman knows that what is written (above) is true. In the Redeemer, God has delivered *all* His goods. The Lord has nothing more to give; and He has nothing more to say. Those who seek for *anything* from God, beyond Jesus Christ, will receive nothing (positive) from Him.

Let us be thankful that we *already* possess everything. *All* of God's promises have come to pass for us. They are all "Yes," and "Amen," in Christ, (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20). Let us trust our faithful King; and let His church worship Him for all His goodness to us.

[Puritan quote of the day: "[Prayer] is God conversing with man, and man with God." --William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mon., 7/15/13 Devotion (Acts 2:47b)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 2:47b, where we read these words:

" . . . And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."

This blessed phrase (above) describes what is still happening today, and everyday. God is "adding to the church daily those who are being saved." The Holy Spirit never takes a break from His labors; and the sovereign decree of God is never interrupted by any of the events in a fallen world; and the church can never be destroyed.

Therefore, the operations of God, whereby He continually brings in His lost sheep continues unabated. And the Lord has deigned to allow us to share in this sweet privilege. Are we already faithful churchmen? Then let us be about sharing Jesus with those who are not.

[Puritan quote of the day: "How [Jesus] defends His disciples from ma-licious imputations of the Pharisees!" --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruis-ed Reed"]

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/12-14/13 Devotion

Wahoo--Sunday is almost upon us!  Here is Thomas Watson, from, "All Things for Good," to help us all get ready for the church's Sabbath wor-ship:

"The Word is the instrumental cause of our conversion, the Spirit is the efficient [cause]. The ministers of God are only the pipes and organs; it is the Spirit blowing in them, that effectually changes the heart. 'While Peter spoke, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word,' (Acts 10:44). It is not the farmer's industry in plowing and sowing, that will make the ground fruitful, without the early and latter rain. So it is not the seed of the Word that will effectually convert, unless the Spirit put forth His sweet influence, and drops as rain upon the heart. Therefore the aid of God's Spirit is to be implored, that He would put forth His powerful voice, and awaken us out of the grave of unbelief."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thurs., 7/11/13 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 righteousness.

Jesus came to save the "brokenhearted," (cf. Lk. 4:18). He did not come to earth to save self-righteous, "law-abiding" people who think they do not need Him. Let us bless God for this glorious truth; and let us be included in the blessed company of the brokenhearted (and be-lieving).

[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"]

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wed., 7/10/13 Devotion (Jer. 6:16a, b)

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 6:16a & b, 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. . . . ' "

People like "new" paths, because by walking in them they think they are "hip," and avant garde. But in reality the old paths are better (and "cooler"). Old truths may (legitimately) be re-framed into updated lan-guage, etc.--but the *essence* of the truth itself can never be changed.

I think, (perhaps overly-optimistically), that some folks are growing weary of all the failed promises of the "new" ways. They are finding them boring, mindless, and unsatisfying. Perhaps some will begin to re-investigate the "tried and true" paths. Even if they do not, those who are blessed enough will, and God will get the glory.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Weaknesses do not break covenant with God . . . [and they] do not debar us from mercy." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tues., 7/9/13 Devotion (Ps. 144:15b)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 144:15b, where we read these words:

" . . . Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!"

Why is the church of God in a happy and comfortable condition? Be-cause of our Risen Head Jesus--who has conquered our sin, forgiven us, and given us immediate, full, and free access to the throne of grace. Are God's people *always* "circumstantially" happy? No; the presence of sin in us, others, and the fallen world prevents this.

But, are the redeemed of the Lord *inherently* happy? Yes; because everything of ultimate importance has been taken care of for them by their Savior. Cheerfulness should characterize those who are loved by God--even though there are legitimate times and reasons for grief. Let us be God's happy churched people.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We are only poor for this reason, that we do not know our riches in Christ." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mon., 7/8/13 Devotion (Ps. 143:7a)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 143:7a, where we read these words:

"Answer me speedily, O LORD; my spirit fails! . . . "

Because we are finite creatures, and cannot see all things at once, (as God can), we are sometimes moved to make prayers like this one (above), which David offered. God knows that He may well be able to "delay" His answer to this prayer; but the person on earth, who is in such dire straits, cannot see that.

Therefore, the Lord is gracious with us, and allows us not only to make urgent pleas; but He also often answers them (even according to *our* own timetable). Are any of God's children feeling overwhelmed today? Is our patience failing? Let us not hesitate to cry out to God, through faith in Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We borrow all our holiness from God. As the lights of the sanctuary were lighted from the middle lamp, so all the holiness of others is a lamp lighted from heaven." --Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fri.-Sabbath, 7/5-7/13 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray--it's almost Sunday! In order to help get us ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his "The Ten Commandments" book:

"Pray for him who dispenses the word; that his tongue may be touched with a coal from God's altar; that God would warm his heart who is to help to warm others. Your prayers may be a means to quicken the min-ister. Some complain they find no benefit by the word preached; per-haps they did not pray for their minister as they should. Prayer is like the whetting and sharpening of an instrument, which makes it cut bet-ter. Pray with and for your family. Indeed, pray for all the congregations that meet on this day in the fear of the Lord; that the dew of the Spirit may fall with the manna of the word; that some souls may be convert-ed, and others strengthened; that gospel ordinances may be continued, and have no restraint put upon them. These are the things we should pray for. The tree of mercy will not drop its fruit, useless it be shaken by the hand of prayer."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thurs., 7/4/13 Devotion (Matt. 14:13a, 23)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 14:13a & 23, where we read these words:

"When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. . . . And when He [Christ] had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when eve-ning came, He was alone there."

Notice all the references in these verses (above), to Christ being *alone*. God does not want us to be hermits, nor anti-social; but if we are to do well in our public ministries (whatever those may entail), then we have got to spend some good, quality "alone time" with our Father in heaven.

We can practically "feel" how important this was to Jesus, as we read the Gospel accounts. If Christ, the Perfect One, needed time with God--how can we, who are sinners, need it any less?

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ loves to taste of the good fruits that come from us, even though they will always savour of our old nature."
--Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wed., 7/3/13 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 peo-ple's attention). The Lord is more pleased with and honored by "ordin-ary" 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"]

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tues., 7/2/13 Devotion (Ps. 130:3-4)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 130:3 & 4, where we read these words:

"If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared."

Everyone's problems, at base, all have to do with forgiveness. Human beings' biggest issue is sin against God. To know that our sins are ac-tually forgiven in the blood atonement of Christ, apprehended by grace through faith alone, is the greatest singular blessing we may enjoy--in this world, and the next.

That knowledge opens up for us the very face of God. We know that we are loved by Him, even though we are still sinners (down here). It is hard to believe that such a perfect God could actually love His church--even after their sins are gone--but it is our blessed responsibility to be-lieve this precious truth.

[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 Sib-bes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mon., 7/1/13 Devotion (Ps. 126:5-6)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 126:5 & 6, where we read these words:

"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

This is a neat promise. Sometimes the burdens of this life seem al-most overwhelming. There is *always* hope, however, for the faithful Christian churchman. Those who love God are not immune to trouble. In fact, it is sure to find them. But what we have, that others do not, is a blessed assurance that our trials will be (and are) redeemed, in Christ.

Are we "sowing in tears" today? Let us not get too discouraged, or dis-appointed. If we belong to Christ, and trust Him alone for our salvation, we will soon be "coming again with rejoicing."

[Puritan quote of the day: "God can pick sense out of a confused pray-er." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]