Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wed., 12/31/14 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 sweet formula for evangelism, and living the Christian life (generally). And that is, simply "Coming" to Christ, by grace through faith; and refreshing our-selves in Jesus—drinking deeply of Him.

And note that God's three mighty forces are at work here, inviting us to come to our Savior: the "Spirit," the Church ("Bride"), and the Word (the preached Scripture itself). If we take any one of these blessed provisions away, we not only cannot come to Jesus, we do not possess 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 29, 2014

Mon., 12/29/14 Devotion (2 Chron. 34:27)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 34:27, where we read these words:

" ' . . . because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,' says the LORD."

This verse (above) is in reference to the excellent king of Judah, Josiah. When Josiah heard the Scripture read to him, he immediately responded, with faith and repentance. When Josiah inquired of God, as to the judgments pronounced on the land, the king greatly humbled himself before the Lord.

This is a wonderful encouragement for the church today. There is plenty of reason for God’s judgment to fall today; but, so long as believers are thor-oughly pierced by the gospel, and are melted in heart by the Spirit of grace, there is full hope even concerning the temporal issues of life. On top of that, through this process, the souls of Christians are made more like Jesus.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Places and conditions are happy or miserable as God grants His gracious presence more or less.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict"]

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/26-28/14 Devotion

Yippee—Sunday is coming! 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 [only a] 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."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wed., 12/24/14 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 the restoration of the world, following years of apostasy and sin. The doors of the church are repaired and opened; the ministers are gathered and consecrated to the Lord; and the peo-ple 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 clutter that has deprived the God of heaven of His rightful due. But before we do that, let us cleanse our own hearts, in the blood and grace of Christ.

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tues., 12/23/14 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 redeemed church which is 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? Even as He was anticipating His most grievous suffering (on the cross), He was thinking of us, and serving us. Let all His church love Christ in sincerity; and may we find our peace only in Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "And in the dispensing of the gospel, especially in the preaching and unfolding of the Word, the riches of God in Christ are un-folded . . . “ —Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Monday, December 22, 2014

Mon., 12/22/14 Devotion (2 Chron. 26:5b)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Chronicles 26:5b, where we read these words:

" . . . And as long as he [King Uzziah of Judah] sought the LORD, God made him prosper."

Why is it that we fallen children of Adam insist on hurting ourselves, and our best prospects for true happiness and peace? In the case of Uzziah (above), it was his pride. So long as he was humble, and sought the Lord, things went well for him. Once he got a bit "uppity" in spirit, he thought he could do any-thing he wanted to, (like offer incense in the temple). For this transgression, God gave Uzziah leprosy, (see vv. 16 ff.).

Pride is at the root of *our* foolishness, as well. What is the Christian to do—especially when our hearts are "lifted up" in pride? We are to humble our-selves, and cast ourselves on the mercies of God as they are found in Jesus. This is done by grace, through faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Is it presumption for a man to keep the Sabbath Day? No. Why? Because it is commanded.” —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/19-21/14 Devotion

Wahoo—it is almost Sunday, the Lord's Day, the day of resurrection, one of God's 52 holy days a year! Shifting gears today, here are the words of my second favorite Puritan of all time: the great Richard Sibbes. This snippet comes from a treatise of his, entitled, "Denial of the Best for the Church's Benefit":

"A second thing that I observe hence is this, holy and gracious men, that are led by the Spirit of God, can deny themselves and their own best good for the church's benefit. They know that God has appointed them as instruments to convey good to others; and knowing this, they labor to come to Paul's spirit, to desire to live, to have life in patience, and death in desire in regard of themselves. For it would be much better for a good man to be in heaven, out of misery, and out of this conflicting condition with the devil and devilish-mind-ed men.

"The reason is, because a good man, as soon as he is a good man, has the spirit of love in him, and 'love seeks not its own,' (1 Cor. 13:6), but the good of another; and as the love of Christ and the love of God possesses and seizes upon the soul, so self-love decays. What is gracious love but a decay of self love? The more self-love decays, the more we deny ourselves."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thurs., 12/18/14 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 do not straighten-up your acts you will die . . . "; or, "If you do not do enough good deeds you will die . . . "; or, "If you are not more religious you will die . . . "  Instead, Christ requires 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 us sinners to grasp? The gospel is so simple that self-righteous people find it highly offensive. Jesus' blood atonement virtually *ex-cludes* 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 im-peached. . . . He who zealously loves his friend cannot bear to hear him spok-en against and be silent.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Godly Man's Picture"]

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wed., 12/17/14 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."

Observe the phrase, "Nor do we know what to do." This is how we often feel, when we are faced with overwhelming forces that are arrayed against us, and that are threatening our peace and security. Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah who uttered this prayer (above), actually *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 Christians today. What are we to do, especially when we "do not know what to do"? In v. 17 of this same chapter, 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"]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tues., 12/16/14 Devotion (Jn. 6:66-68)

Today's encouragement comes from the wonderful interchange between 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 intentionally paring-down the numbers of His "disciples" (among the multitude) by teaching them that they would have to ingest Him into their very 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 which 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 to go, in this world, but to Jesus—uunless 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 Remission"]

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mon., 12/15/14 Devotion (Jn. 5:6b)

Today's encouragement comes from John 5:6b, where we find our Lord Jesus ask this question of the lame man:

" . . . 'Do you want to be made well?' "

At first glance, Christ's question of a man who had been infirm for 38 years seems almost ludicrous. But the simple fact is that it cannot be assumed that people *really* *want* to be made well. There is a certain perverse "security" in sickness that some sinners rest in. Health implies fuller and greater respon-sibilities. Most people are quite content being dead in sin, and bound for hell.

But this is not an option for the redeemed Christian churchmen of God. We are to desire life; and to be willing to live it to the full. Only in Jesus is this possible; but, so long as we abide in Him, it is also inevitable.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Fulfill your course with joy; for we take nothing to the grave with us, but a good or evil conscience.” —Samuel Rutherford, from "Letters of Samuel Rutherford"]

Friday, December 12, 2014

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

Wahoo—Sunday is *almost* here! In order to help us all get ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his book entitled, "The Beatitudes":

"To do God's will is for our benefit. It promotes our own self-interest. As if a king commands a subject to dig in a mine of gold, and gives him all the gold he had dug out. God bids us do his will, and that is for our good. 'And now, Is-rael, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to keep the commandments of the Lord, which I command you this day for your good?,' (Deut. 10:13).

"It is God's will that we should repent, and this is for our good; for repentance ushers in remission. 'Repent, that your sins may be blotted out,' (Acts 3:19). It is God's will that we should believe; and why is it, but that we should be crowned with salvation? 'He that believes, shall be saved,' (Mark 16:16). What God wills, is not so much our duty, as our privilege; He bids us obey His voice, and it is greatly for our good. 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God,' (Jer. 7:23). I will not only give you My angels to be your guard, but Myself to be your portion; My Spirit shall be yours to sanctify you; My love shall be yours to comfort you; My mercy shall be yours to save you; 'I will be your God.' "

Thursday, December 11, 2014

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

Today's encouragement comes from John 1:14a, where we read these amaz-ing 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). But the fact of the incarnation has *perpetual* power. Just because the flesh-bound Messiah today is in heaven, this does not mean that He is not *just as* active in His church today (as He was in the days of His bodily earthly sojourn).

Therefore, in this joyous season, let all God's Christian churchmen remember 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 communion with God and conformity to Him." —Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wed., 12/10/14 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 reli-gion? The Living One, Jesus, is *just* that: the *Living* One. He has conquer-ed death—even the death and sin of every faithful Christian. Therefore, let us find our Savior 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 residing Spirit. Therefore, let us seek Him there—in both places. He will be found by us.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tues., 12/9/14 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 previous-ly they had been at enmity with each other."

Have we ever considered how the devil holds his forces together? He does this by uniting them around their hatred for Jesus—no matter how much they might otherwise despise each other. Therefore, true Christians ought to be in-finitely *more* united around Jesus, and His church's doctrine, than Satan and his followers are, around their disdain for Christ.

What made Herod and Pilate like each other? It was not their common affinity for a Jerusalem restaurant. Instead, they stood arm-in-arm in opposition to the stated Kingship of Jesus. This is why even today we find Christian hypo-crites "in bed" with Muslims, atheists, and all other unbelievers. They are unit-ed in their resistance to our unconquerable Sovereign, 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.” —Jona-than Edwards, in his sermon entitled, "Christ the Example of Ministers"]

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mon., 12/8/14 Devotion (Lk. 22:43)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 22:43, where we read these words:

"Then an angel appeared to Him [Jesus] from heaven, strengthening Him."

All God's Christian people need strength. Even the very Captain of our souls, the Head of the church Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, did. Sometimes we children of God find ourselves in very tough circumstances. Naturally, we call out to God for deliverance and freedom (from what afflicts us). But what of-tentimes the Lord chooses to do, is *not* to immediately extricate us from our problem—but to use it as a great opportunity to make us stronger.

After all: this happened with our Savior Himself. He is in the Garden of Geth-semane, He is in agony and anguish; and His Father chooses to give Him strength (even through an angel)—for the purpose of encouraging Jesus in His horrendously difficult task of going to the cross to die for all the elect church.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The nature of God is lovely in Christ, and our na-ture in Christ is lovely to Him." —Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]

Friday, December 5, 2014

Fri.-Sabbath, 12/5-7/14 Devotion

Yippee—it is almost Sunday. In order to encourage us in our faith walk in ad-vance of The Lord’s Day, here is Thomas Watson, from his book, "A Divine Cordial":

"God's purpose is the ground of assurance.

"Here is a sovereign elixir [medicine] 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 vio-lence of temptation, shall ever be able to overturn them."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thurs., 12/4/14 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 God 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 (practically-speaking) as 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"]

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wed., 12/3/14 Devotion (Lk. 17:20-21)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 17:20 & 21, which says this:

"Now when [Jesus] was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, "See here!" or "See there!" For in-deed, the kingdom of God is within [or among] you.' "

In brief, the kingdom of God is wherever Jesus Christ is, covenantally-experi-enced. This is more than simply His omnipresence, by the Spirit. It is also more than His locative position in heaven, where His glorified body and blood is. It is also much more than a future "kingdom" on earth. The kingdom of God is now—wherever Christ is glorified in His church: in the individual ex-pression of particular saints; and in the corporate worship of the body of Christ.

Let us be thankful that the King of the kingdom makes all the difference. The kingdom of God is "within" us, or "among” us—if Jesus is truly ours by faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "They seek for heaven in hell that seek for spiritual love in an unchanged heart." —Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tues., 12/2/14 Devotion (Lk. 16:31)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 16:31, where we see these words, spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ:

"But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "

No one was ever turned to Christianity on the basis of beholding miracles—even the great one of Jesus' bodily resurrection. Instead, all those who are converted 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 rebellion of many, 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"]

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mon., 12/1/14 Devotion (1 Chron. 29:3)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Chronicles 29:3, where we read these words of David, inspired by the Holy Spirit:

"Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, my own special treasure of gold and silver."

Whatever we value and love, we adorn. David esteemed the house of his God, having affection for it. Jesus loves His church, and bedecks her with all His gracious jewels, (cf. Rev. 21:10 ff.). Whatever or whoever we love, we are careful to bestow high honor on.

The wise and happy person loves what God loves; and invests his or her life in beautifying what will last forever. Let us set our affection on the Son of God and house of God, even as David did.

[Puritan quote of the day: "For the greatest and most glorious work that you can perform is not nearly worth so much as one drop of the blood of Christ."
--Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Remission"]