Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tues., 12/31/13 Devotion (Rev. 22:17)

Happy New Year!

Today's encouragement comes from Revelation 22:17, where we read these words:

"And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."

In this one little verse, in the very last chapter of the Bible, we have God's perfect formula for evangelism, and living the Christian religion (in general). And that is, simply "Coming" to Christ, by grace through faith--with nothing else in our hands (as payment for our sins).

And note that God's three mighty forces are all at work together here, inviting us to come to Jesus: the "Spirit," the Church ("Bride"), and the Word (the preached Scripture itself). If we take any one of these bless-ed provisions away, we not only cannot come to Jesus, we do not pos-sess Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "When God shines in the use of means, then the soul is, as it were, in heaven." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mon., 12/30/13 Devotion (2 Chron. 35:21)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 35:21, where we read these words:

"But he [the king of Egypt] sent messengers to him [King Josiah of Judah], saying, 'What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.' "

This is a rather odd case (above). The great and godly Josiah does not believe the words of the pagan pharaoh of Egypt, and it ends up cost-ing him (Josiah) his life. God can and does sometimes employ even the heathen for His own purposes. Those who are in the church cove-nant should be aware of this, and we should be loathe to assume that the Lord cannot (on occasion) speak through them, (those outside the covenant).

Josiah ends up dying in the (unnecessary) battle he insisted on having with Egypt. Let us not "meddle" where we do not belong. In all things, let us be sure to seek God's guidance.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Though [David] found God present with him in exile, yet there is a sweeter presence of Him in His ordinances."
--Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/27-29/13 Devotion

Wahoo--it's almost Sunday. We GET to go to church! In order to help get us ready, here is the great Thomas Watson, from his book, "The Happiness of Drawing Near to God":

"Let us contemplate the excellencies of God. He is the ‘God of glory,’ (Ps. 29:3). He is full of orient beauty--in comparison of whom both an-gels and men are but as the ‘small dust of the balance.’ He is the ‘God of love,’ (2 Cor. 13:11). God triumphs in acts of mercy. Well may this encourage us in our approaches to Him who delights to display the banner of free grace to sinners. If we should hear of a person of honour who was of a lovely disposition, obliging all that came to him by acts of kindness and civility, it would make us ambitiously desirous to ingrati-ate ourselves with him and to obtain his acquaintance. God is the most sovereign good, the wonder of love, ready to diffuse the silver streams of His bounty to indigent creatures. This, if anything, will make us will-ing to draw near to Him and acquiesce in Him as the centre of felicity.

"If we would draw near to God, let us study our own wants. Let us con-sider in what need we stand for God and that we cannot be happy with-out Him. The prodigal never drew near to his father, until he began to be in want, (Lk. 15:17). A proud sinner, who was never convinced of his want, minds not to come near God; he [thinks he has] a stock of his own to live upon . . . "

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tues., 12/24/13 Devotion (2 Chron. 29:5b)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 29:5b, where we read these words:

" . . . Sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place."

Chapter 29 of 2 Chronicles gives the model for restoration of the world, following years of apostasy and sin. The doors of the church are repair-ed and opened; the ministers are gathered and consecrated to the Lord; and the people come, contribute, and worship (according to God's own design).

But one of the first necessities is the carrying out of the "rubbish from the holy place," (see above). Let the church officers among us do all that we can, to rid the church and her worship of all the man-made clut-ter that has deprived the God of heaven of His rightful due. But before we do that, let us cleanse our own hearts, in the purifying blood of Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Tell me, saints, is it not a more sweet, com-fortable, and delightful thing to look more upon one another's graces than upon one another's infirmities?" --Thomas Brooks, in, "United we Stand"]

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mon., 12/23/13 Devotion (Jn. 13:1b)

Today's encouragement comes from John 13:1b, where we read these words:

" . . . Having loved His own who were in the world, He [Christ] loved them to the end."

This is a beautiful phrase. The Lord Jesus loves His churchmen who are yet "in the world," viz. down here, where it is tough, and where sin and the fall still assault us. This is because the church is "His own." He possesses us, by virtue of His redemption of our souls. And Christ loves us "to the end." He does not give up on us, just because we stumble around, and fail a lot of times.

Is this not a grand and glorious Savior that we serve!? Even as He was anticipating His most grievous suffering (on the cross), He was thinking of His church, and serving us. Let all His people love Christ in sincer-ity; and may we find our peace only in Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "And in the dispensing of the gospel, espe-cially in the preaching and unfolding of the Word, the riches of God in Christ are unfolded . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/20-22/13 Devotion

What could be better than Christmas? The Lord's Day! Wahoo! In order to get us ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his, "The Christian Soldier"; or, "Taking Heaven by Storm":

"The second duty of religion wherein we must provoke ourselves, is, in HEARING OF THE WORD. We may bring our bodies to the word with ease, but not our hearts--without offering violence to ourselves. When we come to the word preached, we come to a business of the highest importance, therefore we should stir up ourselves and hear with the greatest devotion. Constantine the emperor was noted for his reverent attention to the word. Luke 19:48 [says]: 'All the people were very at-tentive to hear Him [Jesus].' In the Greek it is 'they hung upon His lip.' When the word is dispensed, we are to lift up the everlasting doors of our hearts that the King of glory may enter in."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thurs., 12/19/13 Devotion (Zech. 6:12b)

Today's encouragement comes from Zechariah 6:12b, where we read these words:

"Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD."

This OT Messianic prophecy is fulfilled perfectly and exclusively in our Lord Jesus Christ. The Son of God came from heaven, "planted" Him-self in the fallen earth, and has spread out over all the globe (through the extension of His church--as she preaches the gospel of grace).

Basically, that exact same pattern is the one for all true churchmen to follow today (and in every age): to be grounded (by grace through faith) in Jesus; to be faithful members of His body; and from there to bear much fruit (which is the expansion of His kingdom [church]).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Can Christ forget Himself? We are His full-ness, as He is ours." --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wed., 12/18/13 Devotion (Jn. 8:24b)

Today's encouragement comes from John 8:24b, where we find our Lord Jesus saying this:

" . . . For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

Jesus is speaking to very religious people here. It is interesting that He does *not* say, "If you don't straighten-up your acts you will die . . . "; or, "If you don't do enough good deeds you will die . . . "; or, "If you aren't more religious you will die . . . " Instead, Christ demands one thing (only): believing that He (Jesus) is the Son of God--or else we will die in our sins.

Why is this so hard for sinners to grasp? The gospel is so simple that self-righteous people find it highly offensive. Jesus' blood atonement virtually *excludes* anything that we could add to it, via works or self-sacrifice, etc. This gospel brings God glory, and us good, (but we get no credit for our salvation).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Zeal makes the blood rise when God's honor is impeached. . . . He who zealously loves his friend cannot bear to hear him spoken against and be silent." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Godly Man's Picture"]

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tues., 12/17/13 Devotion (2 Chron. 20:12b, c)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 20:12b & c, where we read these words:

" . . . For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."

What a candid saying, "Nor do we know what to do." This is how we often feel, when we are faced with overwhelming forces that are array-ed against us, and that are threatening our peace and security. Jeho-shaphat, the godly king of Judah who uttered this prayer (above), actu-ally *did* know that he was to trust the Lord, and rest in Him, etc.--but he did not know how this was to *practically* manifest itself (in such a stressful situation).

So it may be for some of us churchmen today. What are we to do, es-pecially when we "do not know what to do"? In v. 17 of this same chap-ter, the people simply "stood still." In v. 22, they sang praises to God. The result: the Lord gave them a big victory. He still does this for His church today!

[Puritan quote of the day: "Sin feeds the sinner with delightful objects and then makes him mortgage his soul." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mon., 12/16/13 Devotion (Jn. 6:66-68)

Today's encouragement comes from the wonderful interchange be-tween Christ and His disciples, as it is found in John 6:66-68:

"From that time many of [Christ's] disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also want to go away?' But Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.' "

This is a very poignant scene in the ministry of the Messiah. After in-tentionally paring-down the numbers of His "disciples" (among the mul-titude) by teaching them that they would have to ingest Him into their beings, and that God alone could draw them to Himself, etc.--the Lord Jesus is left with just a few remaining hearty souls, (one of whom was Judas, who, of course, was not faithful).

Peter's confession, representing the true church throughout all ages, is not only brilliantly insightful, but it was also eminently practical: there is nowhere else to go, in this world, but to Jesus--unless one prefers hell.

[Puritan quote of the day: "When the Word comes to any place, the kingdom of heaven is said to come. . . . and Christ rules in it by the preaching of the gospel." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Remis-sion"]

Friday, December 13, 2013

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

Yippee--Sunday is fast approaching. In order to help prepare us for the church's worship of Almighty God, here is Thomas Watson, from his "Heaven Taken by Storm" book:

"When this blessed [Sabbath] day approaches, we must lift up our heart in thankfulness to God, that He has put another price into our hands for gaining heavenly wisdom. These are our spiritual harvest-days. Now the wind of God's Spirit blows upon the sails of our affec-tions, and we may be much further on in our heavenly voyage. Chris-tian, lift up your heart to God in thankfulness, that He has given you another golden season, and be sure you improve it. It may be the last. Seasons of grace are not like the tide; if a man misses one tide, he may have another. . . .

"This day approaching, we must in the morning dress and fit our souls for the receiving of the Word. The people of Israel must wash their gar-ments before the law was delivered to them. Our hearts must be wash-ed by prayer and repentance, since the oracles of God are about to be delivered to us."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thurs., 12/12/13 Devotion (2 Chron. 13:8a)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 13:8a, where we read these words:

"And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD, which is in the hand of the sons of David . . . "

Judah's king Abijah is here warning Israel's idolatrous king Jeroboam, that it is futile to fight against the Lord and His church. Jeroboam (the bad guy) had twice the number of soldiers as Abijah (the good guy) had; and yet God gave Abijah a great and resounding victory, (see v. 15 ff.).

The church is certainly way outnumbered by the world (there is no doubt about that)--but the church has Jesus, the Great "Son of David" on her side. Therefore, we should take encouragement, and fight the battles of our Lord--knowing that He is our victorious Captain.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer [that] fetched the angel." --Thomas Watson, in, "All Things for Good"]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wed., 12/11/13 Devotion (Jn. 1:14a)

Today's encouragement comes from John 1:14a, where we read these amazing words:

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . "

This word "Flesh" is very strong. It connotes a sense of the Son of God fully entering into our fallenness and its resulting misery, etc.--yet, of course, with no sin of His own (either original or actual). The histor-ical fact of the incarnation of the God-Man has *perpetual* power. Just because the flesh-bound Messiah today is in heaven, this does not mean that He is not *just as* present and active in His church today (as He was in the days of His bodily earthly sojourn).

Therefore, in this joyous Advent season, let all God's churchmen re-member that the One who "became flesh" for us is *still* with us. He has made His church "bone of His bone," etc., (cf. Eph. 5:30).

[Puritan quote of the day: "The happiness of man consists in commun-ion with God and conformity to Him." --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tues., 12/10/13 Devotion (Lk. 24:5b)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 24:5b, where we read these words, spoken by the angels at Jesus' empty tomb:

" . . . Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

This is still a germane question for us, today. How often do we seek "Christ" among dead things: bad theology, superstition, and putrid forms of false religion? The Living One, Jesus, is *just* that: the *Liv-ing* One. He has conquered death--even the death of every faithful churchman. Therefore, let us find Him where He *is*, and not where He is not.

Jesus lives in the highest heaven, in His risen and glorified body; but He also lives in the humblest hearts of His churchmen, through His re-siding Spirit. He also lives in His church, and He may be found there every Sunday. Therefore, let us seek Jesus where He is. He will never turn away anyone who sincerely desires Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "God has reserved us to these glorious times, better than our forefathers ever saw." --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glo-rious Freedom"]

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mon., 12/9/13 Devotion (Lk. 23:12)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 23:12, where we read these words:

"That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other."

Have you ever considered that the devil does quite well at holding his forces together? (God's people could learn a lesson from this fact. We ought to be infinitely *more* united around Jesus, and His church's doctrine, than Satan and his followers are, around their hatred for Christ.)

What made Herod and Pilate like each other? Not their affinity for Jeru-salem's restaurants. Instead, they stood arm-in-arm in opposition to the stated Kingship of Jesus. This is why even today we find Christian hypocrites "in bed" with Muslims, atheists, perverts, and all other un-believers. They are united in their resistance to our unconquerable Sov-ereign, Christ the Lord.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The work and business of ministers of the gospel is, as it were, that of servants: to wash and cleanse the souls of men; for this is done by the preaching of the Word, which is their main business." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon entitled, "Christ the Example of Ministers"]

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/6-8/13 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 approaching day. Purge out all unclean affec-tions, 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, December 5, 2013

Thurs., 12/5/13 Devotion (1 Jn. 4:17)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 John 4:17, where we read these amazing words:

"Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have bold-ness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world."

This is a remarkable verse (above). The love God has for His church-men who trust in Jesus alone is so profound that it totally chases-out any fear of the great Judgment Day. On top of this, John teaches us here that this is at least partly because [quote], "As He [Christ] is, so are we in *this* world." (In other words, as Christ is free and glorified in heaven; so is the true church on earth.)

Faithful churched Christians who sincerely trust Jesus Christ alone have no reason to fear death, or judgment. For them to do so is a great affront to God the Father. After all, He has already poured out all His wrath on His Son. There is no more left for us, the children of God.

[Puritan quote of the day: "So let us seriously and fruitfully consider what excellent times the Lord has set us in, and respond thankfully and obediently." --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wed., 12/4/13 Devotion (Lk. 18:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 18:1, where we read these words:

"Then He [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart . . . "

What is it about prayer, that God so earnestly enjoins it on us? Mostly, prayer is designed to keep us in *contact* with God. If all was well with us all the time, we would grow remiss in prayer, and very independent of the Lord. It may well be that our Heavenly Father delays answering some of our prayers solely because He wants us still coming back to Him.

If we weary in prayer, and give up on it--it is the same thing (practical-ly-speaking) on giving up on one's belief in Christ. That is a serious matter. May we keep praying to God, all the while leaving our requests in His capable, sovereign, and holy hands.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A man full of grace has Christ in his heart, and the world under his feet; grace humbles, yet elevates." --Thomas Watson, in his sermon entitled, "The Beauty of Grace"]

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tues., 12/3/13 Devotion (Nah. 1:15)

Today's encouragement comes from Nahum 1:15, where we read these words:

"Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace! O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, perform your vows. For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; he is utterly cut off."

Nahum is proclaiming the gospel message of Christ's grace here. He is also instructing the church to persevere, even under the hardships (of the then) Assyrian oppression. The prophet is assuring the people of God that the enemy will be "cut off," that he will not continue to suc-ceed against them.

This is a good pattern for us today, as well. The foes of the church are certainly afoot, but the gospel is still proclaimed. God will exalt His Son in His church; and He will overthrow all of His enemies (in His time).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Keep conscience clear and clean from se-cret sins. With what face can we go to a friend to whom we have given any secret affront? And will you be so bold as to come before the God of heaven when He knows you maintain some secret sin in your hearts?" --Samuel Lee, in, "Secret Prayer Successfully Managed"]

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mon., 12/2/13 Devotion (Lk. 16:31)

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

"But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, nei-ther will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "

No one was ever converted to the True Religion on the basis of be-holding miracles--even the great one of Jesus' bodily resurrection. In-stead, all those who are ever justified are so on the basis of the great miracle of regeneration (or new birth). No one believes the Bible, either, until or unless the Holy Spirit gives them Christ's righteousness (and the subsequent new nature in Him).

Therefore, let us not be surprised at the recalcitrant blindness and re-bellion of unbelievers, who simply *will* not believe. The truth is they *cannot* believe, until God sovereignly calls them. Let us ask the Lord to do this for all our lost friends.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Now Christ and the church are all one. They make but one mystical body. The church is the queen, and Christ is the King." --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]