Friday, January 29, 2016

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/29-31/16 Devotion

Praise God: Sunday is *almost* here! In order to prepare us for Sabbath church worship, here is Thomas Watson, that esteemed Puritan pastor, from his work, entitled, "The Beatitudes.” . . .

"Let us carry ourselves as the children of God in magnanimity and heroical-ness [heroism]. The saints are high-born. They are of the true bloodroyal, born of God. They must do nothing sneakingly or sordidly. They must not fear the faces of men. As said that brave-spirited Nehemiah, 'Shall such a man as I flee?' (Neh. 6:11)—so should a child of God say, 'Shall I be afraid to do my duty? Shall I unworthily comply and prostitute myself to the lusts and [opin-ions] of men?' The children of the Most High should do nothing to stain or dis-honor their noble birth. A king's son scorns to do anything that is below him."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thurs., 1/28/16 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 the redeemed church, the bride of Christ, approach the throne of grace, He is pleased to hold out the golden scepter of His love, mer-cy, and generosity. All of this is because Jesus shed His precious blood for His people.

We all need to approach the throne of God today. Let us not come empty-handed. We must bring with us, in the arms of our supernatural faith, the Sav-ior of our soul, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (Jn. 1:29). No other offering 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"]

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wed., 1/27/16 Devotion (Acts 27:11)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 27:11, which says this:

"Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul."

This one little verse summarizes the fatal error most people make. They listen to their pocket books, their carnal hopes, and their vain lusts, *more* than they heed the word and gospel of God. And, of course, the result, in every case without exception, is the shipwreck of their lives, their estates, and all their hopes and dreams.

May we be wiser than this, by the sufficient grace given the church in the gos-pel of Christ.  May God's people listen to Him; do His will; endure and enjoy what He lays-out; and find, in the end, the shores of heaven.

[Puritan quote of the day: "What Satan did in tempting man to fall is made an occasion of the contrary to what he intended in that it gave occasion for God to glorify Himself all the more, and gives occasion for the elect being brought to higher happiness.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "The Wisdom of God"]

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tues., 1/26/16 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 believing 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 also desire that everyone else be "like them," too. This is because all sinners want to justify themselves, as they take com-fort 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 truest sense) in Christ.

[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"]

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mon., 1/25/16 Devotion (Gen. 26:18)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 26:18, where we read these words:

"And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them."

This is a really neat verse to encourage healthy church life today, or in any era. Isaac went back to the original wells of water that his father Abraham had enjoyed. The world, just like the Philistines of old, are always seeking to "stop up" the sources of the church's grace, received from the Father through Christ.

But, instead of responding to needs by trying "new things," Abraham's son goes back to the *old* tried and true springs of life. Let us live by this prin-ciple, too. And let the church call the gospel the truth—using the same names our fathers employed. The "old paths" are better—just as the prophet said, in Jeremiah 6:16a.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A Christian must neither be a dead sea nor a rag-ing sea.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Friday, January 22, 2016

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/22-24/16 Devotion

Wahoo—it is almost Sunday! Here is the great Thomas Watson, from his, "The Doctrine of Repentance" book:

"A man may restrain the acts of sin, yet not turn from sin in a right manner. Acts of sin may be restrained out of fear or design, but a true penitent turns from sin out of a religious principle, namely, love to God. Even if sin did not bear such bitter fruit, if death did not grow on this tree, a gracious soul would forsake it out of love to God. This is the most kindly turning from sin.

"When things are frozen and congealed, the best way to separate them is by fire. When men and their sins are congealed together, the best way to sepa-rate them is by the fire of love. Three men, asking one another what made them leave sin: one says, 'I think of the joys of heaven'; another, 'I think of the torments of hell'; but the third, 'I think of the love of God, and that makes me forsake it. How shall I offend the God of love?’ "

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thurs., 1/21/16 Devotion (Acts 21:29)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 21:29, where we read these words:

"(For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)"

This account (above) is in reference to the fact that some Jews from Asia who were very angry with Paul had seen him (Paul) with this Gentile man, in Jeru-salem. They then *assumed* that Paul had brought (the Gentile) into the temple—when, in fact, he had not done so. Then, on the basis of this errant notion, they created a riot in the city, and almost tore Paul into pieces.

But such is the nature of mindless religious irrationality. It fans hell’s flames in the fallen world. Someone's innocent association with someone else is con-strued to be heresy, blasphemy, or bad policy. As gracious Christians, let us seek to bring Jesus to all people—and be glad when they come to Him and His church. After all, what would folks think of Christ, if they saw *us* (as we are still in the flesh) with *Him*?

[Puritan quote of the day: "A godly man's comforts and grievances are hid from the world; natural men are strangers to them.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wed., 1/20/16 Devotion (Acts 20:28b)

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

" . . . shepherd the church of God which He [Christ] 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 what I want to focus on are these words: "Which He [Christ] purchased with His own blood." The *reason* the elders are to guard and lead 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 who love Him. Are we part of the true church, purchased by Jesus' blood? If so, then not only are we precious; but we are among those 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"]

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tues., 1/19/16 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 funnier 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 true that the Lord is a God of order, and that He has different roles and responsi-bilities 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"]

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mon., 1/18/16 Devotion (Neh. 8:8, 12)

Today's encouragement comes from two verses: Nehemiah 8:8 & 12, which renders this:

"So they [the priests and Levites] read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the read-
ing. . . . And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them."

The people of God need the word of God; and they need it explained (preach-ed) to them. After hearing the word (here in Nehemiah), the people were first very sad, because they saw their many failings reflected in it. But then, later, they were joyful, recognizing the grace of God in Christ.

So it is with us. If the word is working toward the redemption of churchmen's souls, it will first bring the great grief of sin; but then it will deliver the wonder-ful medicine of grace, in Jesus' blood and righteousness.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Disband the army of your sins, and God will sound a retreat to His judgments. Remember, great sins have been swallowed up in the sea of God's infinite compassions.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sat.-Sabbath, 1/16-17/16 Devotion

Thank God: Sunday is almost here! In order to get us ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from his, "All Things for Good" book:

"Observe the happy condition of every child of God. All things work for his good: the best and worst things. 'Unto the upright arises light in darkness,' (Psalm 112:4). The most dark cloudy providences of God have some sun-shine in them. What a blessed condition is a true believer in! When he dies, he goes to God: and while he lives, everything shall do him good. Affliction is for his good. What hurt does the fire to the gold? It only purifies it. What hurt does the fan [sifter] to the corn? It only separates the chaff from it. . . .

"God never uses His staff, but to beat out the dust. Affliction does that which the Word many times will not, it 'Opens the ear to discipline,' (Job 36:10). When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to heaven. God's smiting His people is like the musician's striking upon the violin, which makes it put forth a melodious sound. How much good comes to the saints by afflic-tion! When they are pounded and broken, they send forth their sweetest smell. Affliction is a bitter root, but it bears sweet fruit. 'It yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness,' (Heb. 12:11). "

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thurs., 1/14/16 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"]

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wed., 1/13/16 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 preached to them—and all that, on the old Sabbath Day. That kind of anointing is not always experienced; and certainly it was the result of a marvelous work of the Holy Spirit, wherein He was drawing Gen-tiles to Jesus, and placing them into the New Covenant church.

Could this kind of blessing happen again? Yes. Truly, our desire as individu-als, family members, a nation, or as residents of earth should be that there would be a great revival of the true religion—through saving faith in Jesus Christ. No political dynamic of any sort will or can accomplish this. Let us ask God to prosper Christ's Gospel, and to increase the numbers of the members of His 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"]

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tues., 1/12/16 Devotion (Acts 12:7a, 23a)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 12:7a & 23a, where we read these words:

"Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by [Peter], and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side . . . Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck [Herod], because he did not give glory to God."

God does not deal with people in the same way—though He may use the exact same agency (viz. "striking"). Here, the angel "strikes" Peter, so that he (Peter) would wake up and be released from prison. A little while later—in the same chapter—the angel "strikes" Herod, and kills him. . . .

Also, in this very same 12th chapter of Acts, we find God allowing the Apostle James to die at Herod's hand (v. 2); while He (the Lord) delivers Peter from Herod's grip (v. 7). What is the point? That God is sovereign; He does what He does for a reason. He is always righteous; and He loves His church—whether He allows His people to suffer, or prosper.

[Puritan quote of the day: "For every believer, the debt-book is crossed out; the black lines of sin are crossed out with the red lines of Christ's blood.”
—Thomas Watson, in his sermon, "God's Anatomy upon Man's Heart"]

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mon., 1/11/16 Devotion (Acts 11:18)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 11:18, where we read these words:

"When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.' "

The giving of the gospel to the Gentiles was such a dramatic event in re-demptive history that some people used to the Old Covenant way found it al-most impossible to believe. But, once the ultimate Jew (Peter) told his fellow-Jewish Christians what God had done among the Gentiles, the believing Jews also rejoiced.

Let us not be limiting the Lord's power to save in our own thinking. We may look at someone, or some group of people, and say, "God would never [or even could never] save them." The fact that many Gentiles entered the church in the first century is a great encouragement to us with regard to what the Lord can do among people today (in the twenty-first century).

[Puritan quote of the day: "All the heathen have had some religion, because they had some conscience to trouble them.” —Thomas Shepard, in, "The Sin-cere Convert"]

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thurs., 1/7/16 Devotion (Gen. 7:16b)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 7:16b, where we read these words:

" . . . and the LORD shut him [Noah] in [the ark]."

This is a beautiful picture of God Himself sealing one of His own (Noah), in the ark, which represents the Lord Jesus Christ and His holy church. God did not send an angel to shut up the ark, neither did He employ an animal, the wind, or any other aspect of nature.

The Lord knows how to bless and protect His own, even as we sail through the stormy and wind-tossed seas of life in this fallen universe. Are we in Jesus, and His church? If so, we may bless God for this great privilege; and do all we can to bring glory to His Name.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Want of [or, lack of] love to God is the ground of apostasy.” —Thomas Watson, in, "All Things for Good"]

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wed., 1/6/15 Devotion (Matt. 6:27)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 6:27, where we find our Savior saying these words:

"Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?"

Worry is the practical opposite of faith. Worry says, "I cannot really trust God to take care of my concerns; I need to take matters into my own hands." Worry is highly God-dishonoring. People that are given to worry "worry" that, if they quit worrying, they are no longer caring for or about the objects of their worry. But this is a misguided approach. Care does not necessitate worry. In fact, the greatest expressions of care do not worry at all—instead they trust God with the trouble.

Let us face it: worry is a malady and affliction that befalls all of us sinners. But we need not live in it. If we want *real* solutions to the heart-issues that are so important to us, then we are wise if we trust God to take care of them. Are we sincere Christian believers today, trusting in Jesus alone for our salvation? If so, then worry has no place in our lives. (If not, then we really do have plenty to worry about.)

[Puritan quote of the day: "Ground your comfort upon a lasting and un-changeable covenant, on such a covenant that accepts will for works, desires for deeds, and endeavors for performances.” —Christopher Love, in, "The Dejected Soul's Cure"]

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tues., 1/5/16 Devotion (Matt. 5:20)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 5:20, where we read these words of Christ:

"For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of hea-ven."

When Jesus said these words (above) to His disciples, in His "Sermon on the Mount," it undoubtedly raised some eyebrows. After all, how could anybody do more “righteous-izing” than the scribes and Pharisees? They “out-godded" God at every turn. If the Lord said, "Fast once a year"; they would fast twice a week. And yet their "righteousness" was not even close to being good enough to get to heaven. Why? . . .

. . . Because sinners have to appear before God--even now--as perfect, (with no flaw or sin whatsoever). And how does anyone get to this condition? Are there enough works or deeds or efforts that can be expended, to get perfect? No. Only Jesus is perfect. We must possess *His* righteousness, by faith, wherein it is imputed to our souls. Let the faithful church rejoice that we have this glorious and perfect standing, in Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "And so to come into God's presence is the great-est joy for a godly man in this life, to come into God's presence in His ordin-ances in His Church.” —Christopher Love, in "The Dejected Soul's Cure"]

Monday, January 4, 2016

Mon., 1/4/16 Devotion (Matt. 4:21c, 22)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 4:21c & 22, where we read these words:

"He [Jesus] called them, and immediately they [the two disciples] left the boat and their father, and followed Him."

When God calls people to Himself, through the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit, they leave everything, and follow their New Master (Jesus). Such was the case (above) of James and John, two of the Savior's first disciples. All that was necessary for them to follow the Redeemer was the "call," (nothing else).

Note the amazing power of this divine Messianic call: these men were willing to leave their livelihood, and their families, to follow the Christ around Judea and Galilee. This very same call still goes out today; and upon everyone who is chosen, the blessedness of union with Christ is sealed, and they become His faithful churched disciples.

[Puritan quote of the day: "That choice part of mankind, the first-fruits and ex-cellency of the rest, . . . we call the church.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]