Friday, April 24, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 4/24-26/15 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray—it is almost Sunday! In order to help us get ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his book, entitled, "The Ten Command-ments":

"The Sabbath Day is for our interest; it promotes holiness in us. The business of weekdays makes us forgetful of God and our souls. The Sabbath brings Him back to our remembrance. When the falling dust of the world has so clogged the wheels of our affections, that they can scarce move towards God, the Sabbath comes, and oils the wheels of our affections, and they move swiftly on.

"God has appointed the Sabbath for this end. On this day the thoughts rise to heaven, the tongue speaks of God, and is as the pen of a ready writer, the eyes drop tears, and the soul burns in love. The heart, which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts with the word. The Sabbath is a friend to reli-gion; it files off the rust of our graces. It is a spiritual jubilee, wherein the soul is set to converse with its Maker."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thurs., 4/23/15 Devotion (Ps. 34:18)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 34:18, where we read these words:

"The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit."

There is a time and place for everything; and it is always suitable to have a humbled soul. Even in the greatest joys and loftiest experiences of God's grace in the Lord Jesus Christ—it is lovely when the children of God have a modicum of grief (over sin). This is what our Savior meant when He said "blessed are those who mourn," (in Matt. 5:4a).

Why is it blessed to mourn in this way? Because divine comfort follows it, (Matt. 5:4b). There is no sweeter sense, than that of the knowledge that one's sins are forgiven (in the blood atonement of Christ).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Even in the worst time the prophets mingled sweet comfort for the hidden remnant of faithful people.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tues., 4/21/15 Devotion (2 Tim. 4:5)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Timothy 4:5, where we read these words:

"But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evan-gelist, fulfill your ministry."

Paul's exhortation to his fellow-comrade in the church's ministry is a straight-forward and difficult one. Timothy will need to be "watchful," or on-guard; and this in "all things." He will need to "endure afflictions," (or persevere through difficult trials). On top of this, Timothy is to be always mindful of his responsi-bility to "do the work of an evangelist." Finally, Paul would have his young protegee not fall short of his life-goal, but rather "fulfill [his] ministry."

How do any of us—be we of the clergy or the laity—succeed at the high and holy callings (and commands) that God gives us? By humble faith in our Ris-en Lord Jesus. There is no room for laxity or slothfulness. The sincere Chris-tian is on a mission; and his or her life is never without challenges and bles-sings (on faithfulness).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ does His church more good now that He is in heaven . . . “ —Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Mon., 4/20/15 Devotion (Ps. 31:14-15a)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 31:14 & 15a, where we read these words:

"But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in Your hand . . . "

This perspective of David (above) is very liberating. Instead of us wringing our hands in worry and uncertainty, and concern over whatever the future holds—let us leave our entire life completely in God's hands, by faith in Christ. Where *others* are certain to wrap themselves around the axle of the anxieties of the world, and try to draw us into their faithlessness—the sincere believer resists this (natural and easy) tendency.

What is *our* outlook today: one of dark and dismal gloom; or one of hopeful grace (in Jesus)? The Resurrection of Jesus reminds us that our Redeemer lives today, and that we have cause for both hope and rejoicing.

[Puritan quote of the day: "All the church's pangs help forward her deliver-ance.” —Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 4/17-19/15 Devotion

Wahoo—it is almost Sunday! As we prepare to worship God in church on His day, here are good words from Thomas Watson's "All Things for Good":

"Christ is in heaven . . . and He prays for all believers as well as He did for the apostles. 'Neither pray I for these alone but for all them that shall believe in Me,' (John 17:20). When a Christian is weak, and can hardly pray for him-self, Jesus Christ is praying for him; and He prays for three things. First, that the saints may be kept from sin (John 17:15). 'I pray that You would keep them from evil.' We live in the world as in a [cesspool]; Christ prays that His saints may not be infected with the contagious evil of the times. Second, for His people’s progress in holiness. 'Sanctify them,' (John 17:17). Let them have constant supplies of the Spirit, and be anointed with fresh oil. Third, for their glorification: 'Father, I will that those which You have given Me, be with Me where I am,' (John 17:24). Christ is not content till the saints are in His arms. This prayer, which He made on earth, is the copy and pattern of His prayer in heaven. What a comfort is this; when Satan is tempting, Christ is praying! This works for good."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thurs., 4/16/15 Devotion (Ps. 25:10)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 25:10, where we read these words:

"All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies."

Are we faithful to our church covenant (baptismal) vows—by grace? If so, then God is also faithful to us—and will lead us in paths of "mercy and truth." Our faithfulness is not a result of our own goodness; instead, it is the fruit of God’s gift to us of genuine and real faith in Christ.

If we are in Jesus (and therefore in covenant with God), let us take comfort from the fact that our Father will only direct us into what is ultimately good for us, and also what is truly best for us. Let us persevere to the end. We will not regret doing so.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The best men are severe to themselves, [but] ten-der over others.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wed., 4/15/15 Devotion (Ps. 23:4a)

Today's encouragement comes from the very familiar words of Psalm 23:4a, where David wrote this:

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me."

Have you ever wakened in the night, with fears that awful things would hap-pen to you, and/or those you love? Have you ever had moments of severe doubt, about the goodness, power, or maybe even the very existence of God? If any of these things have been your lot, then you know at least something about the "shadow of death."

But what is our comfort in these times? Is it not the abiding knowledge that God really *is* there, that He is "with" us, His beloved church? The longer we walk with Jesus, the more intense will be these "shadow" times; but the pro-mises that He is really very near will be the more sure and sweet. The Lord will never forsake His children.

[Puritan quote of the day: "When he that is born of God shall come and say, 'Father, I hunger, give me Christ; Father, I thirst, refresh me with the living streams of Thy Spirit,' can God deny?” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Beati-tudes"]

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tues., 4/14/15 Devotion (1 Tim. 3:15b-c)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Timothy 3:15b & c, where we read these words:

" . . . I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is writing the the pastor Timothy—so that he (Timothy) would know how to act and minister in the church. Timothy, then, would become the example for the elders, the deacons (just mentioned in the earlier part of the chapter), and the rest of the parish.

Until (or unless) we learn the principles of church life—we will be of little ac-count anywhere else: be it in our homes, our workplaces, our schools, our neighborhoods, or our culture(s). The first step is saving faith in Christ, which will lead to faithfulness (in church).

[Puritan quote of the day: "In your daily practice do not trust too much in any outward performance or task, making idols of outward things.” —Richard Sib-bes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mon., 4/13/15 Devotion (Lev. 17:11)

Today's encouragement comes from Leviticus 17:11, where we read these words:

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atone-ment for the soul."

God will only accept shed blood as atonement for sin. Nothing else will do—not works, not religion, not self-deprecation. The blood of animals sacrificed under the Old Covenant only pointed to the true and only satisfactory blood atonement, which would be offered on the cross by the sinless God-Man, Jesus Christ, who is the "Lamb of God," (Jn. 1:29).

The Lord is *only* pleased with us—and views us as forgiven—as our souls are "covered" by Christ's blood. The only way to appropriate this blessed atonement is by grace through faith (in Jesus).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Never since the beginning of the world have their been such glorious times as we enjoy.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Free-dom"]

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 4/10-12/15 Devotion

Yippee—Sunday is *almost* here! We GET to go back to church! In order to help get us ready, here is Thomas Watson, from his "A Body of Divinity" book:

"Adore the infinite wisdom and goodness of God that found out a way to just-ify us by 'rich grace and precious blood.' We were all involved in guilt; none of us could plead,'not guilty.’ And being guilty, we lay under a sentence of death. Now that the Judge Himself should find out a way to justify us, and the credit-or Himself contrive a way to have the debt paid, and not distress the debtor, [it] should fill us with wonder and love.

"The angels admire the mystery of free grace in this way of justifying and sav-ing lost man, (1 Pet. 1:12); and should not we, who are nearly concerned in it, and on whom the benefit is devolved, cry out with the apostle, 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!'?"

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thurs., 4/9/15 Devotion (Ps. 16:6)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 16:6, where we read these words:

"The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inherit-ance."

Why is the regenerate Christian churchman *so* blessed, in *this* world. For a lot of reasons—not the least of which is that his or her sins are forgiven, and this leads to a quieted conscience. The redeemed soul is the only one that can, with integrity, get a good night's sleep.

Being given Jesus is quite enough—since He is infinitely greater than all cre-ated things put together. But, when we get Christ, we are also given His gos-pel, His church, His ordinances, and His means of grace. What more could we want? If we are in Christ today, let us offer a heartfelt prayer of thanks-giving to God—even if we are facing very difficult times right now.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Insofar as we are now praising God and glorifying Him for His mercy and love in Christ, we are in heaven before our time.”
—Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wed., 4/8/15 Devotion (Ps. 13:1a, 6)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 13:1a & 6, where we read these words:

"How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? . . . I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me."

How could David's perspective change so dramatically, in the span of only five verses? Because, in v. 5, he re-asserts his faith in God. This dispelled his "sorrow," and his melancholy musings of heart.

All of us even in the church are prone to the sagging, drooping gravity of sad-ness and heaviness of soul. The answer to this syndrome is faith. Trusting in Jesus raises us up, even against the wind and force of opposition, into the heavenlies. Let us not give into despair today. Instead, we should refresh our faith in Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Despair is often the ground of hope.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tues., 4/7/15 Devotion (Ps. 11:1a)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 11:1a, where we read these words:

"In the LORD I put my trust . . . "

Because David put his trust in the Lord, he was not ultimately moved by what happened around him down here on earth. The "foundations" may be "de-stroyed," (v. 3)—but he would nonetheless press on, basing all of his life in his faith in Christ.

And so it should be for us, as well. Circumstances—particularly, negative ones—are sure to impact us, and affect us—but we should not be too disturb-ed by them. When it is all said and done, at base, the only One we have to lean on is God Himself. This is not always an easy thing for us to do—but we should be committed to always trusting in Christ, whether we feel good, or bad.

[Puritan quote of the day: "In a hopeless estate a Christian will see some door of hope opened . . . “ —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mon., 4/6/15 Devotion (1 Thess. 3:12-13a)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Thessalonians 3:12 & 13a, where we read these words:

"And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God . . . "

It is intriguing that Paul teaches here (above) that holiness is established on the basis of love for other human beings. As we love the church ("one anoth-er"), and those outside the church ("all"), we are in a position for God to do works of assurance in our souls that comfort us in Christ's blamelessness and holiness.

False holiness puts on a dour face and deprives the body of good things God provides (this is asceticism). True holiness flows from love. Of course, we will not be able to love people unless we love Christ first. And we will not love Jesus unless we are, by grace, bound to Him in gospel faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Are we not to enjoy the blessings of God purely? And do not these things require a great deal of strength of grace?” —Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 4/3-5/15 Devotion

Double wahoo—we get to go to church on Sunday, which is Easter Sunday! In order to help get us all ready, here is the incomparably magnificent Thom-as Watson, from his outstanding book, entitled, "A Body of Divinity”—as he discusses some questions people may have:

"I would like to be in covenant with God, but I have been a great sinner, 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 cov-enant. '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 worthi-ness 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 unwillingness."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thurs., 4/2/15 Devotion (Prov. 20:9)

Today's encouragement comes from Proverbs 20:9, where we read these words:

"Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin'?"

All fallen people actually *do* say this (statement above), in their heart of hearts. The problem is: it is not true. First of all, we *cannot* "make [our hearts] clean"; and, because of this, on our own, we are *never* "pure from [our] sin." What the NT calls the "flesh" is the agency that seeks to convince us that we really *are* clean before God—when, in fact, we are not.

Only an "alien" righteousness can really and fully purify us. This righteous-ness is from Another—and not from within ourselves. This cleansing, this justification comes from Christ, and is imputed to believing souls by faith. Are our hearts clean? Are we pure from our sin? If we are, it is because Christ (alone) did it for us—otherwise, we are as dirty as ever.

[Puritan quote of the day: "No one grows so much as those who have their growth stopped for a time.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wed., 4/1/15 Devotion (Col. 2:8a, 9-10a)

Today's encouragement comes from Colossians 2:8a, & 9-10a, which says this:

"Beware lest anyone cheat you . . . For in [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him . . . "

The free lives of redeemed Christian churchmen must always be zealously guarded. People devoid of grace—in particular, religious people devoid of saving grace—are always seeking to "cheat" the saints of our rightful inherit-ance and pleasure in Christ. They desire to bring us down to their level; and to see us enslaved and miserable, just like they are.

The answer to this pressure is self-understanding, which is based in Christ-understanding. The faithful churchman is "complete" in Christ. He or she needs nothing more. Since God's "fullness" is in Jesus, we do not need look to any other beings or things for salvation or its benefits.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ's prayer takes away the sins of our prayers.” —Thomas Watson, in, "All Things for Good"]