Friday, January 30, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/30-2/1/15 Devotion

Yippee—Sunday is *almost* here! We *get* to go to church! Here is Thomas Watson, from "Heaven Taken by Storm":

"Truth is the most glorious thing; the least filing of this gold is precious. What shall we be violent for, if not for truth? Truth is ancient; its grey hairs may make it venerable; it comes from Him who is 'The Ancient of Days.' Truth is unerring, it is the Star which leads to Christ. Truth is pure, (Ps. 119:140). It is compared to silver refined seven times, (Ps. 12:6). There is not the least spot on truth's face; it breathes nothing but sanctity.

"Truth is triumphant; it is like a great conqueror. When all his enemies lie dead, it keeps the field and sets up its trophies of victory. Truth may be op-posed but never quite deposed. In the time of Dioclesian things seemed des-perate and truth ran low. Soon after was the golden time of Constantine, and then truth did again lift up its head. When the water in the Thames is lowest, a high tide is ready to come in. God is on truth's side and so long as there is no fear it will prevail . . . "

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thurs., 1/29/15 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 level of life and satis-faction, the inevitable consequence is the "deification of man." This is a very common form of idolatry. The simple fact however 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, content, full, and free.

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wed., 1/28/15 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 His church, the bride of Christ, approach the throne of grace in prayer, praise, and petition, 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 us, His redeemed church.

Do we need to approach the throne of God today? Let us not come empty-handed. We are to bring, in the arms of our faith, the Savior of our souls, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (Jn. 1:29). No other of-fering will be accepted.

[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 mer-cies in, so that he may be thankful.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Godly Man's Picture"]

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tues., 1/27/15 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 heav-en, but on the earth. This is intriguing, because sometimes we mistakenly di-vide heaven and earth, and imagine that they are radically "separate" from one another. The actual truth is that they are *united* in the "Ladder," the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why is this an encouragement for us who are alive "down here” on earth to-day? 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—as the church, 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"]

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mon., 1/26/15 Devotion (Acts 26:28-29)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 26:28 & 29, which says this:

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'You almost persuade me to become a Christian.' And Paul said, 'I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me to-day, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.' "

Do we realize that regenerated Christian churchmen are the *only* people in the whole world who actually have both the right and the responsibility to urge all other people everywhere to become exactly as we are (with regard to our faith in Christ, and our union with Him and each other in the church)? That is a pretty bold and audacious fact.

But *all* people everywhere desire that everyone else be "like them," too. This is because sinners want to justify themselves, as they take comfort from others who share in their errors. True Christians, on the other hand, want everyone to be "like us," so that everybody can be happy and free (in the tru-est sense) in Jesus.

[Puritan quote of the day: "It is said of Christ and David, that their hearts were eaten up with a holy zeal for God's house.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/23-25/15 Devotion

Thank God—Sunday is almost here! In order to help get us ready for church worship, here is Thomas Watson, from his "A Body of Divinity" book:

"All believers are alike justified. Justification does not apply to some more than to others. Though there are degrees in grace, yet not in justification. One is not justified more than another; the weakest believer is as perfectly justified as the strongest. Mary Magdalene is as much justified as the Virgin Mary. This may be a comfort to a weak believer. Though you have but a drachm [small bit] of faith, you are as truly justified as he who is of the highest stature in Christ."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thurs., 1/22/15 Devotion (Matt. 22:29)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 22:29, which says this:

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

A sure way to error is through ignorance. There are two particular areas of which we cannot afford to be ignorant: the Scriptures, and the power of God. When we do not know the Bible, we are easy prey to the world's and the devil's false gospels. When we do not know the power of God, we think we have something to do with our salvation.

God has given His church all His means of grace.  In and through them, let us learn, know, and live for Christ and His gospel.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Believing in Christ is the great thing that God presses upon sinners throughout the Scripture, as all know that know any-thing of Scripture.” —Thomas Brooks, in "Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices"]

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wed., 1/21/15 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 "fire" and "wood" when it comes to life and religion. Everyone knows, deep in their hearts, that there is a righteous God who must be assuaged. What separates the redeemed church from everyone else is the "Lamb for a burnt offering." Only those that possess Jesus have the aton-ing sacrifice for their sins.

Issac's question, "*Where* is the lamb . . . ?" is a good one. The Lamb is found by faith. He is worshipped in His church. And His gospel is to be pro-claimed in the world. When we pray, let us 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 boldness.”
—Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tues., 1/20/15 Devotion (Acts 20:28b)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 20:28b, where we read these words:

" . . . shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

Paul is speaking (above) to the elders of the Ephesian church. The apostle urges those officers to "shepherd the church." He will later explain how wolves will seek to destroy the body of Christ. But let us note these words: "Which He [Christ] purchased with His own blood." The *reason* the elders are to guard and shepherd the flock is because the church has been re-deemed with the very lifeblood of the Son of God.

What is valuable to the Lord, of necessity must (and will), be treasured by all those who truly love God. Are we part of the church, purchased by Jesus' blood? If so, then not only are we precious; but we are ones to whom God gives His greatest attention and care.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A man may know much of Christ, and yet not learn Christ. The devils knew Christ. . . . “ —Thomas Watson, in, "The Art of Divine Contentment"]

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mon., 1/19/15 Devotion (Acts 19:15)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 19:15, where we read these words:

"And the evil spirit answered and said [to the seven sons of Sceva], 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?' "

To me, this is one of the most amusing verses in the NT. The demons were (of course) familiar with the Lord Jesus Christ, and even with the Apostle Paul—but they were not used to these "sons of Sceva." The end result was that the demon-possessed man beat them up (see v. 16). But there is a principle here: those who are not called to handle God's "sacred things" should not presume to do so.

This is not an "elitist" situation that God sets up in His church; but it is the case that the Lord is a God of order, and that He has different roles and re-sponsibilities for the people that make up the body of Christ. Let us fulfill our duties diligently; and let us be genuinely grateful for our various callings.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We love to flatter our own affections, but this self-love is but self-hatred in the end.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, January 16, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/16-18/15 Devotion

Yippee—another Sunday is *almost* here! In order to help us get ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his book, entitled, "A Godly Man's Pic-ture":

"Faith and fear go hand in hand. When the soul looks at God’s holiness, he fears. When he looks at God’s promises, he believes. A godly man trembles, yet trusts. Fear preserves reverence, faith preserves cheerfulness. Fear keeps the soul from lightness, faith keeps it from overmuch sadness. By this we may know whether we walk with God, if we walk ‘in the fear of God.’

"We are fearful of infringing His laws, and forfeiting His love. It is a brand set upon sinners: ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes,’ (Rom. 3:18). The godly fear and do not offend, (Psa. 4:4). The wicked offend and do not fear, (Jer. 5:23, 24). Careless and dissolute living will soon alienate God from us and make Him weary of our company: ‘what communion has light with dark-ness?,’ (2 Cor. 6:14)."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thurs., 1/15/15 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 dif-ference? Her faith. The Lord will allow us, at times, to "reason" 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 the "name it/and claim it" heresy; instead, it is a lesson in the goodness, generosity, and benevolence of the church's God. The Lord 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]

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wed., 1/14/15 Devotion (Matt. 14:13a)

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

"When Jesus heard it [that John the Baptist had been killed], He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself."

This is the only place in the Gospels that I am aware of, where our Lord Jesus navigated a boat by Himself. But the reason Jesus desired to get away from everyone, and all the hubbub, is our focus today. The Savior had just heard of the ignominious death of His own relative (through Mary), and of His forerunner, John the Baptist.

It seems to me that our Lord was saddened by this news; and it may well have caused Him to reflect on the fact that He (Jesus) Himself would soon die on the cross, giving His life for the sins of His church. Christ's "get-away" was characteristically short-lived; but I think we can derive a principle here: it is all right to grieve, and sometimes we need time alone with our God.

[Puritan quote of the day: "See that all be well within, and then all troubles from without cannot much annoy us.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Con-flict with Itself"]

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tues., 1/13/15 Devotion (Acts 13:42)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 13:42, where we read these words:

"So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath."

What an amazing situation: people "begging" to hear the Gospel of grace in the Lord Jesus Christ! That kind of thing does not happen as often as it should; and certainly it was the result of a marvelous work of the Holy Spirit, wherein He was drawing Gentiles to Jesus, and placing them into the New Covenant church.

Could this kind of thing ever happen again? Of course it can. As a matter of fact, our only hope as individuals, family members, a nation, or as residents of earth is a great revival of the true religion, as God has done so in the past. No amount of political pandering to the flesh will accomplish hope. Let us ask God to prosper Christ's Gospel, and to increase the members of the faithful church.

[Puritan quote of the day: "You cannot gratify Satan more, nor injure your-selves more, than by living without assurance [of God's favor in Christ].”
—Thomas Brooks, in, "Heaven on Earth"]

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/9-11/15 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray—Sunday is *almost* here! In order to help get us ready for church, here is the incomparable Thomas Watson, from his book, entitled, "The Art of Divine Contentment":

"Let us beg the Spirit of God to teach us; we must be 'divinely taught.' The eunuch could read, but he could not understand, till Philip joined himself to his chariot, (Acts 8:29). God's Spirit must join Himself to our chariot; He must teach, or we cannot learn. 'All your children shall be taught of the Lord,' (Isa. 54:13).

"A man may read the figure on the sundial, but he cannot tell how the day goes, unless the sun shines upon the dial. We may read the Bible over, but we cannot learn the purpose, till the Spirit of God shines into our hearts, (2 Cor. 4:6). O implore this blessed Spirit! It is God's prerogative-royal to teach: 'I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit,' (Isa. 48:17)."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thurs., 1/8/15 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. Here, Philip had brought the good news to Samaria, a largely-despised place, and it [Samaria] gets transformed.

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, elders, deacons, parishioners and whole congregations—that will bring the 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"]

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wed., 1/7/15 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. Instead, the Lord Himself did it.

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 him-
self . . . “ —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tues., 1/6/15 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 [Ste-phen] spoke."

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

Today, let us employ the same "wisdom and the Spirit" that Stephen relied up-on. 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 (since they bring Christ to our 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 Repentance"]

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mon., 1/5/15 Devotion (Acts 5:28)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 5:28, where we read these words:

"Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!"

The gospel of free grace in the Lord Jesus Christ *must* be preached and proclaimed: first and foremost, from the "temple," (the church's pulpits); and from there, to every other place. The Jewish council (w/the high priest) sought to stop the preaching of Christ in the temple; but the apostles insisted on obeying God, and continued to proclaim Jesus there.

The church today is still to "fill [our cities] with [our] doctrine." We do not need radio, social media, or television, to do this; but we do need God-called mini-sters and elders to achieve such a high goal. When we do such preaching, Jesus' "blood" is brought to the masses: some for damnation, others for sal-vation.

[Puritan quote of the day: "For God is nearest to His children when He seems farthest off.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, January 2, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/2-4/15 Devotion

Wahoo—it is almost Sunday! Here is Thomas Watson, from his great work, "The Art of Divine Contentment":

"What it is then to learn Christ?

"To learn Christ is to be made like Christ, to have the divine characters of His holiness engraven upon our hearts: 'We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image,' (2 Cor. 3:18). There is a metamorphosis made; a sinner, viewing Christ's image in the glass of the gospel, is transformed into that image.

"Never did any man look upon Christ with a spiritual eye, but he went away quite changed. A true saint is a divine landscape picture, where all the rare beauties of Christ are lively portrayed and drawn forth. He has the same Spirit, the same judgment, the same will, with Jesus Christ."

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thurs., 1/1/15 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 to be preferred over non-existence. We ought to be glad that God made us, and that He created the whole world. The creative genius and won-der of God is good news for all of us. But the Lord's *re*-creative work, 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 created the world. The Triune God now "shares" existence with all that is; and He has a special eye toward His church, His most amazing creation.

[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"]