Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tues., 3/31/15 Devotion (Prov. 18:17)

Today's encouragement comes from Proverbs 18:17, which says this:

"The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him."

This verse reminds us that it is always prudent to check out both sides of a story, before drawing any conclusions. Tale-bearers and slanderers can sound quite convincing, until the full picture comes into view. Our flesh nature is too inclined to hear what it wants to hear; and sometimes we get humbled by the truth.

If we were to listen only to those who hate Christ, where would any of us be today? Thankfully, by God's grace, we have been able to discern the "rest of the story," which renders Jesus lovely to us (in the church).

[Puritan quote of the day: "There is a sanctified use of all troubles to God's children.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mon., 3/30/15 Devotion (Php. 4:6)

Today's encouragement comes from Philippians 4:6, where Paul wrote these words:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God . . . "

The reality is that every normal person living in a fallen world experiences anxiety—and this includes even the most mature and seasoned Christian churchmen. But there is this one antidote to *all* anxiety—and that is prayer. There are no concerns or worries of ours that are "off limits" to God. And there is no alternative provided by God, as to how we are to handle our troubles, than that we bring them to Him in prayer.

Therefore, let us avail ourselves of this most-valuable resource and means of grace; and let us recognize that as we pray, we are drawing ever-closer to our Risen Savior Jesus.

[Puritan quote of the day: " . . . It is a matter of conscience to make our lives as comfortable as [they] may be.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/27-29/15 Devotion

Wahoo—Sunday is *almost* here! In order to prepare us for church worship, here is the incomparable Thomas Watson, from his excellent work, "Heaven Taken by Storm":

"That there should be a day of holy rest dedicated to God appears from its in-stitution. 'Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.' Our Christian Sabbath comes in the place of the Jewish Sabbath: it is called 'the Lord's day,' (Rev. 1.10)—from Christ the Author of it.

"Our Sabbath is altered by Christ's own appointment. He arose this day out of the grave, and appeared on it often to His disciples, (1 Cor. 16:1)—to intimate to them (says Athanasius) that He transferred the Sabbath to the Lord's Day. And St. Augustine says that by Christ's rising on the first day of the week, it was consecrated to be the Christian Sabbath, in remembrance of His resur-rection.

"This day was anciently called 'dies lucis,' 'the day of light,' as Junius ob-serves. The other days of the week would be dark, were it not for the shining of the sun of righteousness on this day. This day has been called by the an-cients, 'regina dierum,' 'the queen of days.' And St. Jerome prefers this day above all solemn festivals. The primitive church held this day in high venera-tion. It was a great badge of their religion; for when the question was asked, 'servasti dominicum?,' 'do you keep the Sabbath?'; the answer was, 'Chris-tianus sum,' 'I am a Christian; I dare not omit the celebration of the Lord's Day!' "

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wed., 3/25/15 Devotion (Jn. 15:5)

Today's encouragement comes from John 15:5, where we read these words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."

How much can we do, of any spiritual good, without Christ? None at all. THE single basic key to Christian living is this concept of "abiding in Christ." But, what does this mean; and how do we do it? It means that we are trusting in HIS righteousness, and trusting in HIM for everything. How do we do that? By faith.

Is this easy? It is easy to understand, but it is hard to do. And why? Because we are not inclined to *remember* to trust in Christ. Our fallen nature hates to depend on Anyone but itself. By grace, may we abide in Christ (as His church) today.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We must know for our comfort that Christ was not anointed to this great work of Mediator for lesser sins only, but for the great-est, if we have but a spark of true faith to lay hold on Him.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tues., 3/24/15 Devotion (Eph. 4:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Ephesians 4:1, where we read these words of Paul:

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the call-ing with which you were called . . . "

Are we comfortable being referred to as "prisoner[s] of the Lord"? For that matter, do we think it odd for us in the church to accept instruction from some-one else who is a "prisoner"? But "prison" is the inevitable state of all of us, and of every fallen person who has ever lived. The only real (or pertinent) question is, "Of whom or what am I a prisoner?"

Those locked-up by and in Jesus are free people in the truest sense. Those who are "free to sin" are groveling slaves of their own lust, flesh, and the devil himself. Let all true Christians who are Christ's "prisoners" rejoice at being such happy "captives."

[Puritan quote of the day: "As there is in God enough to satisfy the whole soul, so trust carries the whole soul to God.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mon., 3/23/15 Devotion (Prov. 10:22)

Today's encouragement comes from Proverbs 10:22, where we read these words:

"The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it."

It has been well-said that wealth is not the goal of wisdom, but that it some-times is the result of it (wisdom). When God chooses to bestow wealth (of whatever sort) on His churchmen there is a unique and singular blessing that attends it—and that is, that He "adds no sorrow with it."

The world's "wealth" is always, in every single case, accompanied with "sor-row," or trouble. Other sinners are clamoring to take it away from them; it causes them to lose sleep; and their minds are consumed with it (wealth). But not so with the wealth of Christ—it comes to His church without sorrow. Why is this? Partly because the faithful believer is just as happy to have it, or to not have it. He is indifferent to it. And why? Because he knows that Jesus alone is his (or her) true and abiding wealth.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The church, in all the works of mercy, owns the hand of God.” —John Flavel, in, "The Mystery of Providence"]

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/20-22/15 Devotion

Yippee—it is almost Sunday! We GET to go back to church! In order to help get us ready for worship, here is Thomas Watson, from his book, entitled, "The Art of Divine Contentment":

"Contentment is a divine thing; it becomes ours, not by acquisition, but infu-sion. It is a slip taken off from the tree of life, and planted by the Spirit of God in the soul. It is a fruit that grows not in the garden of philosophy, but is of a heavenly birth. It is therefore very observable that contentment is joined with godliness, and goes with it; 'Godliness with contentment is great gain,' (1 Tim. 6:6).

"Contentment being a consequent of godliness, or concomitant, or both, I call it divine, to distinguish it from that contentment which a [merely] moral man may arrive at. Heathens have seemed to have this contentment, but it was only the shadow and picture of [the real thing]. It was the [fake], not the true diamond. Theirs was but civil, this is sacred; theirs was only from principles of reason, this of religion; theirs was only lighted at nature's torch, this at the lamp of scripture. . . . "

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thurs., 3/19/15 Devotion (Gal. 5:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Galatians 5:1, where we read these words:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."

The glorious freedom that the children of God enjoy is a priceless treasure. This is why the world, the flesh, and the devil are constantly seeking to steal it from us. They envy our liberty. Gospel privileges must be zealously guarded, maintained, and strengthened—otherwise, the "gospels" of works, self, and law will infiltrate our souls, and destroy all our joy.

The Galatians had heard the gospel of grace from Paul. They initially embrac-ed it. Later, they heard a gospel of law, and they began to believe it. Paul's words throughout the book were designed to bring them back to Jesus. May we find our hearts resting in Christ's righteousness alone, today.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Full assurance is 'optimum maximum,' the best and greatest mercy; and therefore God will only give it to His best and dear-est friends.” —Thomas Brooks, in, "Heaven on Earth"]

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wed., 3/18/15 Devotion (Ex. 29:43)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 29:43, where we read these words:

"And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory."

God meets with people in His "tabernacle," or "sanctuary." Our Lord Jesus Christ, in His resurrected and glorified body, has already "entered" this realm in heaven (cf. Heb. 9:12 & 24). Now, because the God-Man has finished His work, and poured out His Spirit on His New Covenant Church, the sanctuary is completely “expanded," if you will, all over the face of the earth.

God dwells in heaven, in humble hearts, and in holy Sabbath (Sunday) Wor-ship Services. Let us be sure to avail ourselves of our access to Him, in and through Christ—as we are diligent to boldly approach God’s throne by grace through faith in Jesus alone.

[Puritan quote of the day: "He that is most tender of God's honor, shall find by experience that God is most mindful of his comfort.” —Thomas Brooks, in, "Heaven on Earth"]

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tues., 3/17/15 Devotion (Gal. 3:24)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today's encouragement comes from Galatians 3:24, where we read these words, written by Paul:

"Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justi-fied by faith."

The law of God *does* have a role in believers' lives. Its purpose is to drive us to despair, with regard to the temptation to trust in our own alleged “right-eousness." The law utterly condemns us, and shuts out any and every ves-tige of hoped-for self-justification before an absolutely holy God.

But, thankfully, once the sinner is brought to the complete "end" of himself—he is graciously directed (by the law and gospel) toward the One (Christ) who actually *can* save him. By faith we take hold of *Jesus’* righteousness; and we are then placed into His body (the church). We then enjoy all Christ's per-fections as they are imputed to us by faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "He who has ever been acquainted with God and seen the light of His pleased face would rather die a thousand deaths than forfeit His favor or incur His displeasure.” —Robert Harris, in, "The Way to True Happiness"]

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mon., 3/16/15 Devotion (Jn. 6:68)

Today's encouragement comes from John 6:68, where we read these words:

"But Simon Peter answered Him [Jesus], 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.' "

Whenever we are tempted to believe that there could be happiness, content-ment, fulfillment, or any other good thing to be found *outside* of our connec-tion to the Lord Jesus Christ—let us remember Peter's words (above). To whom other could we go? Who, or what else could or does possess the pow-er to give eternal life?

The answer: there is no one and no thing that can do for us what Christ alone does for us. Let hypocrites abandon Christ and His church (as they did in this Jn. 6 chapter)—by so doing they show their true colors. But for all faithful and sincere Christians—made that way by grace—may we stick with the only One (Jesus) who gives us life.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Sinner, the day you leave your sins and set upon a course of holiness, God will pardon all that is past. . . . The Lord never up-braids a penitent with former unkindnesses.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Mis-chief of Sin"]

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/13-15/15 Devotion

Wahoo—Sunday is *almost* here. We get to go back to church! In order to help get us ready, here is Thomas Watson, from his "The Ten Command-ments" book:

"Meditating on a Lord's Day morning on Christ's love, would kindle love in our hearts to Him. How can we look on His bleeding and dying for us and our hearts not be warmed with love to Him? Love is the soul of religion, the purest affection. It is not rivers of oil, but sparks of love that Christ values. And sure, as David said, 'While I was musing the fire burned,' (Ps. 39:3); so, while we are musing of Christ's love in redeeming us, the fire of our love will burn to-wards Him. Then the Christian is in a blessed Sabbath-frame, when, like a seraphim, he is burning in love to Christ."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thurs., 3/12/15 Devotion (Jn. 2:24-25)

Today's encouragement comes from John 2:24 & 25, where we read these words:

"But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man."

The Lord Jesus was quite careful regarding those with whom He would totally commit Himself; and those with whom He would not. Though the Messiah was not burdened with the curse of original sin (or any sin, for that matter)—He still completely understood what it (sin) was, and what it did to mankind.

The people in Jn., ch. 2, were "believing" in Him; but they were *not* *really* believing in Him. They were impressed by Christ's miracles; but they were not moved to love Him on the grounds and basis of who He was (as the Son of God). May all of us who say we are God's true children prove to be sincere in our loving faith in Jesus.

[Puritan quote of the day: "[Ministers'] success depends entirely and absolute-ly on the immediate blessing and influence of God.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon entitled, "God Glorified in Man's Dependence"]

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wed., 3/11/15 Devotion (2 Cor. 10:5)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 10:5, which says this:

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ . . . " (ESV)

Behold the work of the Christian ministry: it tears down, so that it can build up (see v. 8). Jesus set us the example. He came and destroyed Satan’s “king-dom,” and all the prevailing notions of God and His worship. And then Christ set up the way of the True Kingdom (church)—which is glory achieved through suffering; or the cross leading to the resurrection.

A faithful ministry will sometimes make all of us a bit ill at ease, especially with regard to our favorite sins—particularly those that are cloaked in religion. But, let us be encouraged: those who respond well to the gospel of Jesus’ grace will be abundantly recompensed, with a quiet conscience and a joyful heart.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Tender consciences have their hearts smitten for little sins. . . . Those sins that almost break a godly man's heart never break a wicked man's sleep.” —Christopher Love, in, "The Mortified Christian"]

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tues., 3/10/15 Devotion (Lk. 24:5b, 6a)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 24:5b & 6a, where we read these words:

" . . . [The angels] said to [the women], 'Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! . . . ' "

The Christian faith is based in objective and historically-verifiable facts. This is helpful for the faithful believer, since there are numerous other (though spurious) claims to ultimate truth that we must constantly reject. Our sanctifi-cation struggle is not so much in comprehending *that* Jesus is alive, and has risen from the dead—as much as it is in *acting* on this knowledge with faith.

The Lord would have each of us who are bound to Him in the church seek Christ earnestly today—but not where the world looks for help (viz. in graves and death). Instead, let us rise up in prayer to where only redeemed sinners may go for assistance (viz. the throne of grace in heaven).

[Puritan quote of the day: "God has made man's emptiness and misery, his low, lost, and ruined state into which he sank by the fall, an occasion of the greater advancement of His own glory.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "God Glorified in Man's Dependence"]

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mon., 3/9/15 Devotion (Job 38:4a)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 38:4a, where we read these words:

"Where were you [Job] when I [The Lord] laid the foundations of the
earth? . . . "

Whenever sinful humans are tempted to call God Himself to some alleged “bar" of our own haughty “justice”—it is prudent for us to recall words like these (above), which the Lord spoke to Job. The answer to God's question, of course, is that Job did not yet exist; and, on top of that, his very being would be completely dependent upon the One he (Job) was calling into question.

Let us find comfort in the fact that our Creator is also the Redeemer of His church; and that though sometimes His providences baffle us, we know that God always has the best in mind for those He loves in Jesus, (cf. Rom. 8:28).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Thus God is said in Scripture to impute righteous-ness to them who believe, not because they have this righteousness in them, but because He reckons it as theirs, and reckons them righteous by it.” —Ob-adiah Grew, in, "The Lord our Righteousness"]

Friday, March 6, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/6-8/15 Devotion

Wahoo—it is almost Sunday! In order to help get us ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his "Happiness of Drawing Near to God" book:

"How are we capable of drawing near to God? By nature we stand in opposi-tion to God, (Col. 1:21)—being alienated and enemies. How then can we ap-proach near to God?  Answer: It is through a Mediator. Jesus Christ is the screen between us and divine justice. Christ as our High Priest assumes our flesh. Christ's flesh is called a ‘veil,’ (Heb. 10:20). As Moses when his face shone so exceedingly bright put a veil upon it, and then Israel might approach near to him and look upon him; so Christ having veiled Himself with our hu-man nature, we may now draw near to God and behold Him.

"And as Christ makes way for us into the Holy of Holies by His incarnation; so by His crucifixion, He died to make God and us friends. The divine law being infringed, God's justice was provoked, and satisfaction 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, that makes 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, March 5, 2015

Thurs., 3/5/15 Devotion (2 Cor. 4:1)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 4:1, where we read these words:

"Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart."

It is easy to "lose heart" in this fallen world. The better or more noble the cause, the greater the opposition and discouragement of it. Paul knew two things (from above): that he had been called to his apostleship (by God); and that he had received mercy (from God).

These two truths alone were sufficient to prevent the Apostle from "losing heart." If we are faithful believing Christian churchman today, then we also have a ministry, and we have received mercy. In light of this wonderful fact, let us serve Christ with humility and boldness today.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Every man is as his God is. If you would know whether a man is a godly man or not, you must inquire what his god is like.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon entitled, "A truly Godly man prefers God before all others"]

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wed., 3/4/15 Devotion (Ex. 15:3, 13a)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 15:3 & 13a, which says this:

"The LORD is a Man of war; the LORD is His name. . . . You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed." (ESV)

Note how God's warrior nature, and His love nature are not at all at odds with one another—and the same should be true of us who follow Christ. If God was *not* a "Man of war," He could not be the God of love. The Lord goes to war with our sins and His church's enemies; and, in so doing, He expresses His deep affection for the objects of Christ's redemption.

Let us cast off all sophomoric notions about God, that would make Him a weak figure in heaven, hoping we would do something right, for once. In-stead, let us view the Lord in His true colors, even as the Word of God re-veals Him: as a God who punishes all sin; and yet cherishes many sinners.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We need to understand that when we come to hear the Word, we come to hear that which has so much life in it that every sermon we hear we must expect to be nearer heaven or nearer hell.” —Jere-miah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Fear"]

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tues., 3/3/15 Devotion (Lk. 17:5)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 17:5, where we read these words:

"And the apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith.' "

When we believers are faced with impossible tasks, typically a good prayer to God is: "Increase our faith." And though this is a desirable end; the Lord does not always answer this request in the way we would expect. Instead, some-times He teaches us that we do not need *a lot* faith; but that rather we need real and applied *sincere* faith—which is always centered in and on Jesus.

Let us be sure that we do not look for more of anything in our Christian lives, without first availing ourselves of what we already possess. The exercise of faith does not require a lot of religious fanfare; but it does call on our hearts to truly cling to the Christ of the Gospel.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The true God perfectly knows the circumstances of everyone who prays to Him throughout the world.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "The Most High a Prayer-Hearing God"]

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mon., 3/2/15 Devotion (2 Cor. 1:24b)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 1:24b, where we read these few words:

" . . . For by faith you stand."

No matter what happens to us, no matter what troubles and/or struggles we have to face—so long as we have and exercise sincere faith in Christ we "stand." This is an encouragement of great magnitude, because otherwise we must seek to "stand" on some other basis—and this usually comes down to our works, or what we do (and these are always insufficient).

Justification is apprehended by faith; but so is sanctification. Sometimes the pruning process is difficult and tedious—but, so long as we have genuine (though yet imperfect) faith in Jesus, we "stand" before Almighty God.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Thus, affliction is nothing to them who have no guilt, but those who have the guilt of sin upon them, when they come to suf-fer, their guilt is a thousand times more than their affliction.” —Jeremiah Bur-roughs, in, "The Evil of Evils"]