Friday, January 31, 2014

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/31-2/2/14 Devotion

Yippee! Sunday is approaching! As we prepare for the Lord's Day, here is some encouragement from Thomas Watson’s, "A Body of Divinity" book:

"We glorify God, by praising him. Doxology, or praise, is a God-exalting work. Ps. 1:23: ‘Whoever offers praise glorifies Me.’ The Hebrew word 'Bara,' to create, and 'Barak,' to praise, are little different, because the end of creation is to praise God. David was called the sweet singer of Israel, and his praising God was called glorifying God. Ps. 86:12: ‘I will praise You, O Lord my God, and I will glorify Your name.’

"Though nothing can add to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts Him in the eyes of others. When we praise God, we spread His fame and renown; we display the trophies of His excellency. In this manner the angels glorify Him; they are the choristers of heaven, and do trumpet forth His praise. Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of religion. In prayer we act like men; in praise we act like angels. Believers are called ‘temples of God,’ (1 Cor. 3:16). When our tongues praise, then the organs in God’s spiritual temple are sounding."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thurs., 1/30/14 Devotion (Esth. 7:10)

Today's encouragement comes from Esther 7:10, where we read these words:

"So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided."

Our Lord Jesus was hung on a cross, paying for the sins of all God's elect church. The cross (death and hell) was what *we* deserved for our sins. The perfect and pristine Son of God took our place on the cross (even as Haman died where he had designed the gallows for Mordecai). Through the Messi-ah's death, "The King's [God's] wrath subsided” totally against us, the regen-erate church.

The redemptive benefits of Jesus' sacrifice of His life on the cross only affect those who are atoned for by Him. In this sense, it is believers *especially* who put Jesus on the cross--because He died for *our* sins (and not for the reprobate). Let us marvel at God's grace and love to us, in Christ!

[Puritan quote of the day: "What is it to enjoy good health, a brave estate, and not to enjoy God?" --Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wed., 1/29/14 Devotion (Gen. 30:2b)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 30:2b, which says this:

" . . . And [Jacob] said, 'Am I in the place of God . . . ?' "

Whenever anyone fails to look to Christ for the fullest degree of life and satis-faction, the inevitable consequence is the "deification of man." This is a very common form of idolatry. The simple fact is that no human being (who is not divine) can fully satisfy us. This would be true, even if this (non-divine) person was without sin.

Jacob could not give Rachel what she wanted (in the Genesis context above). Only God could do that. Let us be careful not to ascribe to anybody what only belongs to Christ alone: namely, the ability to make us supremely happy, con-tent, full, and free.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Let us labor to cherish union and hate division."
--Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tues., 1/28/14 Devotion (Esth. 5:2a)

Today's encouragement comes from Esther 5:2a, which says this:

"And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand." (ESV)

When God sees the church, the bride of Christ, approach the throne of grace in and through Jesus Christ alone, He is pleased to hold out the golden scepter of His love, mercy, and grace. All of this is because Jesus shed His precious blood for His people.

We all need to approach the throne of God today. We may not come there empty-handed. Instead, we have to bring with us, in the arms of our gospel faith, the Savior of our souls, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (Jn. 1:29). No other offering will be accept-ed.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A child of God keeps two books always by him: one to write his sins in, so that he may be humble; the other to write his mercies in, so that he may be thankful." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Godly Man's Picture"]

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mon., 1/27/14 Devotion (Gen. 28:12)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 28:12, where we read these words:

"Then he [Jacob] dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it."

In Jacob's dream, notice where the ladder is "set up." It is not set up in heaven, but on the earth. This is intriguing, because sometimes we mistakenly separate heaven and earth, and imagine that they are radi-cally "divided" from one another. The actual truth is that they are *unit-ed* in the "Ladder," the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why is this an encouragement for us who are alive "down here" today? Because it reminds us that our lives here are as full and rich as the lives of the saints above (in the triumphant church). They have Jesus; we have Jesus. Heaven is where Jesus is. The closer we are to Him in this world, the closer we are to heaven (in its essence).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Let me not deny myself comfort and God glory both at once." --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/24-26/14 Devotion

Yippee--it's almost Sunday! Here is Thomas Watson, from "All Things for Good," in order to help get us ready for Sabbath worship of the Tri-une God:

"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 who 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 foun-dation 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, January 23, 2014

Thurs., 1/23/14 Devotion (Gen. 24:3a)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 24:3a, where we read these words:

"And I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth . . . "

I like this phrase: "The God of heaven and the God of the earth." Let us focus on the "earth" part for a moment. Are we ever tempted to think that God runs heaven; but that the devil, or maybe sinners them-selves own the earth? If we are inclined toward that error, we need to remedy that with the Bible's own teaching. The full truth is that God is the Supreme Governor of the earth, (as well as heaven).

The Lord put earth under the church's feet; and we are His vice-re-gents, to rule and tend it. But, in the exclusive sense, the Lord Himself is the "God of the earth." Let us be thankful for this; and commit our-selves to serving Him well down here.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Whoever is set up on earth, they are set up by our Lord. 'By Me,' says He, 'kings reign, and princes decree jus-tice.' " --John Bunyan, in "All Loves Excelling"]

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wed., 1/22/14 Devotion (Neh. 12:43)

Today's encouragement comes from Nehemiah 12:43, where we read these words:

"Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also re-joiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off."

God-honoring Sabbath church worship will (inevitably) lead to a great deal of exuberant joy. This heartfelt celebration will be so profound, that those outside the church will hear it (and be impacted by it). Life is not all joy and sweetness--but there *are* special times when God Himself
"[makes us] rejoice with great joy," (even as today's text avers).

Let us not give up on our potential for a very high degree of happiness in Jesus (in this world). So long as we remain faith-filled toward Christ (and therefore faithful in His church), there is for us a certainty that our joy will be made full.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ and all good things are stored in the gospel; that is the rich mine." --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tues., 1/21/14 Devotion (Gen. 22:7b)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 22:7b, where we read these words:

" . . . Then [Isaac] said, 'Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?' "

Every human being has his or her "fire" and "wood" when it comes to life and religion. Everyone knows, deep down in their hearts, that there is a righteous God who must be obeyed. What separates the redeemed churchman from everyone else is this "Lamb for a burnt offering" (men-tioned here in this ancient and famous OT text). Only those that pos-sess the Lord Jesus (the "Lamb of God") have their sins atoned for in His blood sacrifice.

Issac's question, "*Where* is the lamb . . . ?", is a good one. The Lamb (Jesus) is found by faith. He is worshipped in His church. And His gospel is proclaimed in the world. When we pray, let us always bring in our arms of faith the "Lamb of God" (Christ).

[Puritan quote of the day: "The more we see the grace of God in Christ, the spirit of fear is diminished and replaced by a spirit of love and bold-ness." --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mon., 1/20/14 Devotion (Gen. 21:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 21:1, where we read these words:

"And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken."

Sarah had to wait a long time to get what she wanted, and for what she had undoubtedly often petitioned God concerning, (namely, a child--whom she got, in Isaac). Had God given Sarah what she desired earli-er, when she so earnestly sought for it--it would have been a disaster for Sarah (and for the rest of the world, too). She was not particularly "patient," but the Lord overlooked that, and was gracious to her.

What is it that we have long and ardently "sought for"?  Let us not lose hope; and let us not give up.  If this desire is God-honoring, we should continue to wait for the Lord, and not cease to continue to ask Him for it.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Q. What is the liberty of the gospel? A. It is a blessed liberty in the church to have true liberty opened, the charter of our liberty." --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/17-19/14 Devotion

Ya-hoo--Sunday is almost here! We get to worship God, corporately! In order to help get us ready for church, here is the incomparable Thomas Watson, from his work entitled, "The Happiness of Drawing Near to God":

"And as Christ makes way for us into the Holy of Holies by His incar-nation: so by His crucifixion, He died to make God and us friends. The divine law being infringed, God's justice was provoked, and satisfaction [was] demanded, before we could approach to God in an amicable way. Now here Christ as our Priest shed His blood for our sins, and so made the atonement, (Col. 1:20): ‘Having made peace through the blood of His cross.’

"As Joseph being so great at court, made way for all his brethren to draw near into the king's presence, (Gen. 47:2)--so Jesus Christ is our Joseph, who makes the way for us by His blood, that we may now come near into God's presence. Through Christ, God is pleased with us; he holds forth the golden scepter, that we may draw near, and touch the top of the scepter."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thurs., 1/16/14 Devotion (Neh. 6:15-16)

Today's encouragement comes from Nehemiah 6:15 & 16, which says this:

"So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God."

God's enemies: hypocrites, unbelievers, and nominalists of every sort get very sad when they see the work of God in His church progressing in the world. And the reason for this, ironically, is because they see that the "work was done by . . . God." Their hope is that God does not exist; or that, if He does, He is not doing anything in the world.

Let us be thankful that the "wall" of Christ's salvation has been com-pleted, around the church. It was not man's work--it was God's work. And, instead of being "disheartened" in this world, as the godless must be--let all faithful believers in Jesus be thankful and joyful.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Sin is an absurd thing. What greater indis-cretion is there than to gratify an enemy? Sin gratifies Satan." --Thom-as Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wed., 1/15/14 Devotion (Matt. 15:28a)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 15:28a, which says this:

"Then Jesus answered and said to her, 'O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.' . . . "

This Canaanite woman goes from being temporarily rebuffed by the Lord Jesus (v. 23a), to being given everything she wants. And what made the difference? Her faith. The Lord will allow us, at times, to "rea-son" with Him. Christ had told this woman that He was sent only to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," (v. 24)--but her persistent faith paid off, and she got what she wanted.

This is not "name it/and claim it" nonsense; instead, it is a lesson in the goodness, generosity, and benevolence of the church's God. He simply cannot find it within Himself to deny His children, who come to Him in faith in Jesus (so long as their requests are not sinful, or would not compromise their greater happiness).

[Puritan quote of the day: "But however much the wisdom and justice of God in many things may be out of sight to us, we may be sure that since God does all things as He pleases, they are ordered in the wisest and best manner." --Jonathan Edwards, in one of his sermons]

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tues., 1/14/14 Devotion (Gen. 15:6)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 15:6, where we read these words:

"And he [Abraham] believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness."

This is (undoubtedly) one of the most important verses in all the Bible. Faith is what *really* pleases God (see Heb. 11:6). True faith leads to warm and devoted love. Love, then, results in sanctified behavior. But it is faith in Jesus Christ alone which not only ushers us into God's merciful and justifying embraces. It also keeps us always united to Christ.

The devil loves to get God's children hung up on other things, like me-ticulously "perfect" living. All God requires is faith in Jesus. The Lord would not pleased with us, even if we had a 99.9% perfection rating (which none of us have); but He *is* pleased with us if we believe Christ truly and sincerely, even at less than 1% of what we ought to.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A man may know that he is a son of God and a member of Christ." --Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mon., 1/13/14 Devotion (Gen. 14:21)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 14:21, which says this:

"Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, 'Give me the persons [lit., souls], and take the goods for yourself.' "

The Puritans were fond of using this verse as an illustration of how the devil--knowing the value of human souls--operates. Satan is glad to have his human servants "prosper" in the things of this world, so long as he (the devil) gets what is of greatest worth: the soul.

Of course, God knows better than anyone the value of one human be-ing. One soul is of more worth than the entire non-human (or angelic) creation. Do we value our own souls, and that of other people; or do we despise their worth?

[Puritan quote of the day: "The hypocrite is a saint in jest. He makes a magnificent show, like an ape clothed in ermine or purple." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/10-12/14 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray--it's almost The Lord's Day! In order to help get us ready for church, here is the great Thomas Watson, from his book, "The Doctrine of Repentance":

"If God should save men without repentance, making no discrimination, then by this rule He must save all, not only men, but devils, as Origen once held; and so consequently the decrees of election and reprobation must fall to the ground. How diametrically opposed this is to Sacred Writ [the Bible], let all judge.

"There are two sorts of persons who will find it harder to repent than others: (1) Those who have sat a great while under the ministry of God's ordinances but grow no better. The earth which drinks in the rain, yet 'bears thorns and briars, is nigh unto cursing,' (Heb. 6:8). There is little hope of the metal which has lain long in the fire but is not melted and refined. When God has sent His ministers one after another, ex-horting and persuading men to leave their sins, but they settle upon the lees of formality and can sit and sleep under a sermon, it will be hard for these ever to be brought to repentance. They may fear lest Christ should say to them as once he said to the fig tree, 'May no fruit grow on you anymore,' (Matt. 21:19)."

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thurs., 1/9/14 Devotion (Matt. 9:13b)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 9:13b, where we read these words from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ:

"For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

It is intriguing that the Messiah came to earth to call and save sinners, and not "righteous" people.  Our ordinary way of thinking--driven by our fallen flesh--is to imagine that God is interested in "good" people; and that, if we could just get "good enough" He might possibly cast a mer-ciful eye on us.

But this is not the gospel.  Instead, Jesus comes to save those who have and present *no* resources, as "payment" for their sin. Christ *only* helps those who know they cannot help themselves.  Let us be-lieve this blessed truth, and enjoy the benefits of Christ's redemption.

[Puritan quote of the day: "What is the glory of the times we live in, but God's face revealed in Christ?"   --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Free-dom"]

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wed., 1/8/14 Devotion (Acts 8:8)

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

"And there was great joy in that city."

The only time any city, state, or nation ever possesses real and solid joy, is when the church brings the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to it--and The Holy Spirit cause it to be received with re-vival fires. Here, Philip had brought the good news to Samaria, a large-ly-despised place, and it [Samaria] gets transformed mightily (by the grace of God).

The genuineness of revival will always be manifested in the culture. It starts in the church, but it is not possible for it to be contained there. Let us pray for the Lord to raise up His pastors and churches, that will proclaim the Gospel life of Jesus to this fallen planet.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Wherever there is truth there will be victory." --Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "The Excellency of a Gracious Spirit"]

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tues., 1/7/14 Devotion (Gen. 7:16b)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 7:16b, where we read these few words:

" . . . and the LORD shut him [Noah] in."

This account (above) is in reference to God's shutting the door of the ark, after Noah, his family, and all the animals had entered it. Noah did not shut the door, neither did those outside, who would be drowned. In-stead, the Lord Himself sealed His covenant community safely in the ark.

God always "shuts" His people "in." The Lord secures His redeemed people in Jesus, and His church. No one can enter the doors He has finally closed; and no one can leave, once they are ushered in. So it is in the church today: all those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit are "shut in," and they are glad to be so.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Touch a true godly man in his religion, and you touch his life and his best freedom; he lives more in his God than in himself . . . " --Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mon., 1/6/14 Devotion (Acts 6:10)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 6:10, which says this about Stephen:

"And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he [Stephen] spoke."

When the Holy Spirit is at work in God's people--especially as they are preaching the gospel--no one, and nothing is able to "resist" them. Sin-ners may kill these messengers of God, as they murdered Stephen--but they cannot overcome them, nor their words.

Today, let us employ the same "wisdom and the Spirit" that Stephen relied upon. Also, instead of despising God's preachers, like Stephen's hearers did--we should gladly and zealously embrace their sermons, as they are words of life and grace (to your souls).

[Puritan quote of the day: "That sin is worse than affliction is evident because the greatest judgment God lays upon a man in this life is to let him sin without control." --Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Re-pentance"]

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/3-5/14 Devotion

Wahoo--we get to go to church on Sunday! In order to help get us all ready, here is the incomparably magnificent Thomas Watson, from his outstanding book, entitled, "A Body of Divinity":

" 'I would [like to] be in covenant with God, but I have been a great sin-ner, and I fear God will not admit me into covenant.'

"If you see your sins, and loathe yourself for them, God will take you into covenant. 'You have wearied Me with your iniquities; I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions,’ (Isa. 43:24-25). As the sea covers great rocks, so God's covenant mercy covers great sins. Some of the Jews that crucified Christ had their sins washed away in His blood.

" 'But I am not worthy that God should admit me into covenant.'

"It never came into God's thoughts to make a New Covenant upon terms of worthiness. If God should show mercy to none but such as are worthy, then must He show mercy to none. But it is God's design in the New Covenant to advance the riches of grace, to love us freely; and when we have no worthiness of our own, to accept us through Christ’s worthiness. Therefore let not unworthiness discourage you; it is not unworthiness that excludes any from the covenant, but unwill-ingness."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Thurs., 1/2/14 Devotion (Acts 2:21)

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

"And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

These words above (spoken by Peter) are good news for us, and for everyone in the whole world. Salvation in Jesus is to be had by those who simply ask for it, and really want it. Redemption does not require labor, but it does necessitate earnest desire. Our problem--as fallen children of Adam--is that we think we have to work for our right stand-ing with God; or that we have to add something to what Jesus has done. Such thoughts are highly blasphemous.

Are we in any kind of trouble today? Let us simply and sincerely call upon the Lord in heartfelt prayer, in and through Jesus Christ. The Lord is true to all His promises. He will not (and cannot) fail to keep His word.

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

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wed., 1/1/14 Devotion (Gen. 1:1)

Happy New Year!

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

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Being is better than non-existence. We should be thankful that God made us, and that He created the rest of the world as well. The creat-ive genius and wonder of God is good news for all of us. But the Lord's *re*-creative work in Jesus Christ, when He regenerates even one dead heart, is a greater marvel than the crafting of all the far-flung universe.

The very nature of reality profoundly changed forever, when God creat-ed the world. The Lord now "shares" existence with all that is; and He has a special eye toward His church, His most amazing creation. Let us love Jesus, the One through whom God created all things.

[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"]