Monday, August 31, 2015

Mon., 8/31/15 Devotion (Ps. 39:7)

Today's encouragement comes from the words of Psalm 39:7, which say this:

"And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You."

In vv. 4-6, David had surveyed his life, and determined that there was not really much to it, especially timeframe-wise. Now, it is as if he says to God, "In light of the brevity of my existence, what does it all amount to? What am I here for?" And the answer, by grace, is, "I am here for You, Lord. You are the only One I hope in."

What do we "wait for"? If it is for anything less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself we are wasting our lives, and our days. Let us put our hope in Him. Let us "wait" for Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "True [gospel] mourning begins in the love of God, and ends in the hatred of sin.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Beatitudes"]

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thurs., 8/27/15 Devotion (1 Cor. 1:18)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Corinthians 1:18, which says this:

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

Why do some people fail to respond to the amazing truth that a perfect God-Man died on a cross for wicked sinners? Partly, because they think the mes-sage is foolish, (see the verse above). And why do they think this? Because they cannot conceive of themselves as that bad; and they want salvation mix-ed with their own works (or alleged righteousness).

Why, on the other hand, do other sinners receive the grace of the cross, and experience redemption? Because God regenerates them, and they recognize the truth: that their sins put the Beloved One on the cruel tree (cross); and that true atonement is powerful—strong enough to effect the forgiveness of their sins.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Where the aim and bent of the soul is towards God, there is grace, though opposed.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wed., 8/26/15 Devotion (Ps. 34:4)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 34:4, where we read these words:

"I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."

David's method (above) for dealing with fears is a great model for all believ-ers. Usually, our natural tendency when we are fearful is, instead of going to God with it, to allow it to harass us, and to wear us down. Fear is a powerful emotion; the only true antidote to it is the peace that only Christ can give.

And how do we attain to the experience of that peace? By seeking the Lord (see above). Once God has "heard" us, we have the assurance that our con-cern is laid to rest. The Holy Spirit communicates this to our hearts; and we can go on living confidently and courageously, in the grace and love of Christ—all by faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "When a man can praise God for what he has, God will give him more, and give him a better condition.” —William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tues., 8/25/15 Devotion (1 Sam. 17:26b)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Samuel 17:26b, where we read these words:

" . . . For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"

The church needs "Davids" today, who will stare down the bloated "Goliaths" of this world, who seek to "defy the armies of the living God." David did not fear Goliath, because he (David) knew that the true God was on his side; and Goliath had nothing to lean on but his own strength, and his hope in his fake (Philistine) gods.

So it is with all Christians today: God's enemies parade themselves in front of us; they try to get "in our faces"; and they do everything they can to seek to dismantle all that is good in the world. But the church may say with David, "Who [are these uncircumcised Philistines, that they] should defy the armies of the living God?"

[Puritan quote of the day: "We must go to heaven by hell gate; and he that is not troubled sometimes by Satan is possessed by him.” —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mon., 8/24/15 Devotion (Ps. 32:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Psalm 32:1, where we read these words:

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."

What sweet words these (above) are, for those who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, by grace through faith. "Blessed" means "happy." Those whose sins are forgiven are blissful and free. They realize that they have been given a magnificent gift; and that they are no longer bound by the prison bars of sin, death, the law, performance, and condemnation.

*This* is true happiness: to have one's sins forgiven. Nothing can replace this: no amount of money, no degree of good health, none of the good things of the world. If we are forgiven our sins today, we ought to heartily thank our Heavenly Father for the gracious sacrifice of His Son Jesus, on our behalf.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A promise [of God], once given, shall never be re-versed or repealed.” —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 8/21-23/15 Devotion

So as to help prepare us for the Lord's Day's church worship services, here are some good words from the great Jonathan Edwards, as they are taken from his sermon entitled, "God Glorified in Man's Dependence":

"The grace of God in bestowing this gift [of grace] is most free. God was under no obligation to bestow it. He might have rejected fallen man as He did the fallen angels. We never did anything to merit it; it was given while we were yet enemies, and before we had so much as repented. It was from the love of God, who saw no excellency in us to attract it; and it was without ex-pectation of ever being requited [paid back] for it. And it is from mere grace that the benefits of Christ are applied to such and such particular persons. Those who are called and sanctified are to attribute it to the good pleasure of God's goodness alone, by which they are distinguished. He is sovereign, and has mercy on who He will have mercy."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thurs., 8/20/15 Devotion (Jer. 49:38a)

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 49:38a, where we read these words:

"I [the Lord] will set My throne in Elam . . . "

What a strange place for God to "set [His] throne”—Elam, an ancient pagan power east of Babylon. This is a good reminder of the fact that nothing is out-side of the Lord's sovereignty: He is king everywhere—in heaven, and on earth. No devil, no sinners, no evil can overthrow the Lord; and God remains on His throne at all times, in every situation.

Having said that, it is true that there is a "positive" reign of Christ (in His church), and a "negative" reign of Christ (in His judgment of wickedness). The same Sovereign is in control—it is just that in one case God grants forgive-ness and imputed righteousness (from Christ), and in the other case He exer-cises His prerogative as a Just Judge (in condemnation).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Praise God for every smile, and rejoice in the least.” —William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wed., 8/19/15 Devotion (1 Sam. 11:6)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Samuel 11:6, where we read these words:

"Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused."

We know that King Saul of the Old Testament is not the greatest example; but this is an interesting text. Have we ever considered that there is no absolute disparity between the Holy Spirit (and His blessed influences on a person), and righteous anger? The wrath of man does not accomplish the righteous-ness of God (Jas. 1:20); but this does not mean that true believers should not, on occasion, be angry.

In fact, we *are* to "be angry," and yet not "sin," (Eph. 4:26a). Just as a Chris-tian cannot love God without hating sin and God's enemies—so we cannot stand idly by and see our Lord blasphemed without getting appropriately and honorably angry. Jesus showed us how to get angry, and when it is good—as in His cleansing of the temple (in Jn. 2:13-17).

[Puritan quote of the day: "When a man is shaken in his own righteousness, then he sees the emptiness and the lying disposition of it.” —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tues., 8/18/15 Devotion (Rom. 8:26)

Today's encouragement comes from Romans 8:26, where we read these words:

"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

Sometimes it is hard to know just *how* to pray, or for *what* to pray. This is a "weakness," but it is not a debilitating one. The reason: the Holy Spirit Himself "makes intercession" for us. When we have a hard time knowing how to pray, we should try to discern what the main and pressing *concerns* are, that are on our hearts.

Then we may bring those to the Lord, and ask Him for strength and wisdom. In all cases, it is better to *try* to pray, than to leave off praying altogether (because it is often so difficult). God is pleased with our faith-driven efforts, even though they are sometimes paltry. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit "fills in the gaps."

[Puritan quote of the day: "God has two arms whereby He draws us unto Himself—the arm of His love, and the arm of His anger and justice.” —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mon., 8/17/15 Devotion (Jer. 46:27)

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 46:27, which says this:

"But do not fear, O My servant Jacob, and do not be dismayed, O Israel! For behold, I will save you from afar, and your offspring from the land of their cap-tivity; Jacob shall return, have rest and be at ease; no one shall make him afraid."

Behold the blessed promise God makes to His church (in every age). No mat-ter how bad things are, or what direction they seem to be going—the Lord cannot be prevented from extending His kingdom through gospel-preaching, and from spreading Christ's grace on His children.

Many people today anticipate evil days. That is an easy (and understandable) thing to do.  But it takes real faith to believe verses such as this one (above). Let true believers in Jesus never lose heart. To do so is to give into the en-emy. Let us trust God to keep His promises to His beloved church.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Evil is an evil thing, and yet it may be a good thing that evil should be in the world.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "The Decrees of God"]

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 8/14-16/15 Devotion

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

"True faith is grounded upon knowledge. Knowledge carries the torch before faith. There is a knowledge of Christ's glorious excellencies, (Php. 3:8). He is made up of all love and beauty. True faith is a judicious intelligent grace, it knows Whom it believes, and why it believes. Faith is seated as well in the understanding as in the will. It has an eye to see Christ, as well as a wing to fly to Him. Such therefore as are veiled in ignorance, or have only an implicit faith to believe as the church believes, have no true and genuine faith.

"Faith lives in a broken heart. 'The father cried out with tears, "Lord, I be-lieve," ' (Mark 9:24). True faith is always in a heart bruised for sin. They, therefore, whose hearts were never touched for sin, have no faith. If a physi-cian should tell us there was an herb that would help us against all infections, but it always grows in a watery place; if we should see a herb like it in color, leaf, smell, blossom, but growing upon a rock, we should conclude that it was the wrong herb. So saving faith always grows in a heart humbled for sin, in a weeping eye and a tearful conscience. If, therefore, there be a show of faith, but it grows upon the rock of a hard impenitent heart, it is not the true faith."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thurs., 8/13/15 Devotion (Rom. 3:20a)

Today's encouragement comes from Romans 3:20a, which says this:

"Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His [God's]
sight . . . "

This (above) is a great, and comforting text. If we were to be saved by works, or the deeds of the law, then we could not and would not be saved at all. Where would the "end line" be, where we could know we had finally done enough "good" and meritorious actions, so as to wrench from God His favor, and salvation?

Works-religion is the domain of the devil, and of all the false religions of the world. Only "faith-religion" pleases God—since it embraces Jesus *alone* as the sole satisfaction before a Holy Judge for sin, and sinners. Those who trust in their works are proud and vile in the eyes of God. The Lord looks with more mercy on atheists, than He does on self-righteous professedly-religious peo-ple.

[Puritan quote of the day: "I would rather believe poor doubting Thomas than confident Peter . . . “ —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wed., 8/12/15 Devotion (1 Sam. 2:1b)

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

" . . . I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation."

This little phrase (above), originally spoken by Hannah the mother of the pro-phet Samuel, inspires us today. When the Bible speaks of God, or His churchmen, "smiling" at their foes, what it means is that they are more or less saying, "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah" to them (their enemies). And the *reason* the redeemed of the Lord may do this is because they have Christ's salvation in and on them.

The poor devil is really a miserable creature. He envies the freedom of the true children of God; and though he troubles us, everything Satan seeks to do against us (the church) only forwards our happiness (in the end). The same can be said for the flesh, and the world. In light of this, let us "smile at [our] enemies,” (and feel free to laugh at them—like God does—from time to time).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Take heed, that you do not lay the stress and weight of all your comfort upon duty . . . “ —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tues., 8/11/15 Devotion (Jer. 39:18b)

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 39:18b, where we read these words:

" . . . 'But your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,' says the LORD."

This statement (above) was made by God, to an Ethiopian guy named Ebed-Melech. The Lord specifically commissioned the prophet Jeremiah to say this to Ebed-Melech. Almost everyone else in Jerusalem was going to get wiped-out by the Babylonians; but this Ethiopian (maybe not even a Jew) was going to be spared.

And why? Because E-M put his trust in God. There is great power in faith. Too often, we think our strength is in how well we do (at obeying God). But this is not the source of our power nor our encouragement. Faith pleases God (Heb. 11:6); and the Lord will overlook an abundance of weakness, while marveling at faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The saints and people of God have no true reason for their discouragements, whatever their condition be.” —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mon., 8/10/15 Devotion (Acts 28:22b)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 28:22b, where we read these words:

" . . . For concerning this sect [Christianity], we know that it is spoken against everywhere."

Have we ever wondered why the *best* people and things in the world are so often "spoken against everywhere"? Why would Jesus Christ be spoken against? Why would His true church be spoken against? Why would His choicest saints (like John Calvin and/or the Puritans, for example) be spoken against?

The reason is because the Lord Jesus Himself, His faithful church, and the most godly (influential) saints all reprove sin. And sinners do not like this. This is why the world esteems people that do not deserve it; and belittles all those that do. Christ Himself said it best, in Lk. 6:26: "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets."

[Puritan quote of the day: "The Spirit of adoption is a pledge and earnest of the whole inheritance . . . “ —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Down-cast"]

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fri.-Sabbath, 8/7-9/15 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray—it is almost Sunday! Here's Thomas Watson, to help get us ready for church. This comes from his "A Plea for the Godly" book:

"See how dearly God loves the righteous and how near to His heart they lie. They are more excellent. The word 'excellent' carries affection in it. Things we prize we love. The righteous are God's treasure, (Psalm 135:4); and where His treasure is there is His heart. They are God's delicious garden where He plants the flower of His love. They are the dearly-beloved of His soul. They are His darlings. He engraves them upon the palms of His hands that they may be never out of His eye. He rejoices over them with joy and rests in His love.

"It is no ordinary affection that God bears to the righteous. The sun shining upon a burning glass sets on fire only the object that is near the glass. The beams of God's love are more intensely enflamed towards them who are near Him by grace. These have the strength and spirits of His love distilled, He loves them as He loves Christ. Indeed, in one sense, God's love to Christ and believers is not alike, for Christ is loved purely for His own sake, but believers are loved for Christ's sake. Yet, in another sense, God the Father loves be-lievers as He loves Christ. It is the same love for the quality, the same for the unchangeableness of it. God will no more cease to love believers than He will to love Christ."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thurs., 8/6/15 Devotion (Acts 24:25a)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 24:25a, which says this:

"Now as [Paul] reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid . . . "

Here (above) the Apostle Paul is evangelizing the public official Felix. The *order* of Paul's discourse is intriguing (as it is given us by the Holy Spirit, here in the Book of Acts). Paul *starts* with "righteousness." We can be sure he put all the stress on *Christ's* righteousness, imputed to sinners, by grace through faith (alone). Only then, does the apostle go into "self-control," and "the judgment to come."

Too often well-meaning Christians seek to "evangelize" by telling people they need to change the way they live; and by "scaring" them (with judgment). These subjects are important; but they are never effective without the gospel: the righteousness of Christ being freely offered to sinners.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The word 'Father' is a sweet word, for it sweetens all our duties.” —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wed., 8/5/15 Devotion (Acts 23:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 23:1, where we read these words:

"Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, 'Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.' "

This is a pretty remarkable statement by Paul (above)—but he meant it. The old Saul of Tarsus "lived in all good conscience" even when he was persecut-ing Christ's church. The new Apostle Paul "lived in all good conscience" as he was now proclaiming Christ, and planting churches throughout the Gentile world.

"Good conscience" is good, but it is not good enough. It needs to be led by the truth of the gospel, which comes to souls as a sovereign act of God's grace. *Regenerated* "good consciences" are especially good, because they have the Light (Jesus) guiding them. May our consciences be guided by Christ today, as we live by faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ's blood only can merit pardon. We please God by repentance but we do not satisfy Him by it.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tues., 8/4/15 Devotion (Acts 22:8a, 10a)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 22:8a & 10a, where we read these words:

"So I [Paul] answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ . . . So I [Paul] said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ "

All human beings—even extremely zealous pharisaical ones, like the pre-converted Paul—know that there is a God. What they do not know is that He is accessed through a God-Man “Lord”—that Savior being Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

Once Paul knew that it was the Risen Jesus who was speaking to him, he (Paul) was in a position to ask Christ what he should do. God had Paul go in-to Damascus, get baptized, and hear what his marching orders for the rest of his life would be. There is a lesson here: those who know Jesus, by sovereign grace, will exercise faith in living for Him.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Whatsoever you desire that God should give you, cast that upon the Lord.” —William Bridge, in, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mon., 8/3/15 Devotion (Jer. 31:12a, c)

Today's encouragement comes from Jeremiah 31:12a & c, where we read these words:

"Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, streaming to the goodness of the LORD . . . Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, and they shall sorrow no more at all."

Jeremiah the prophet (above) is speaking of the Gospel times the church has lived in since the resurrection of the Messiah. Believers stream to Christ, singing His praise in and as His body, His church. Their souls are satisfied and nourished. They continue to struggle with the flesh, sin, the world, and the devil—but they do not "sorrow" anymore, because their sins are forgiven.

Let us—who even just yesterday (Sunday) were on "Mt. Zion," meeting with and worshipping our Savior—go forth rejoicing this week, as we serve our King in the various places in which He has assigned us.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Difficulty commends duty, and the less you have to sweeten your action the more sweet it is to God.” —William Bridge, in, "A Lift-ing Up for the Downcast"]