Monday, February 29, 2016

Mon., 2/29/16 Devotion (Job 29:2, 5a)

Today's encouragement comes from Job's words from Job 29:2 & 5a, which says this:

"Oh, that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me . . . When the Almighty was yet with me . . . "

Job's words (above) are typical of us, when we do not sense Christ's pres-ence, or when we are undergoing God's temporary felt "desertion" of us (even His children). When this emptiness comes upon us, we—just like Job—long for the "old days," when God was "yet with [us]." This is natural, and to be expected.

But the reality was that God had *never* taken His loving eye off of Job, not even for a moment. As a matter of fact, it could be said that the Lord was *just as much with* Job through his sufferings, and his sensations of isolation, as He was when Job prospered. Therefore, let us Christian churchmen take heart. Even if we do not *feel* our Savior's presence—this in no way means that He has abandoned us.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If we deserved God's love, we would not value it so highly.” —John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fri.-Sabbath, 2/26-28/16 Devotion

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

"Why we must draw near to God.

"Because He is our maker: ‘In Him we live.’ He has given us bodies; they are His curious ‘needlework,’ (Psa. 139:15). And as He has made the cabinet, so He has put the jewel in it, the precious soul; and surely if we have our being from Him, we cannot breathe without Him. There is good reason we should draw near to God in a way of homage and observance.

"God is our benefactor; He crowns us with a variety of blessings: He gives health and estate; every bite of bread we eat is given to us by the hand of Di-vine bounty. Is there not great reason we should draw near to Him who feeds us? Give a beast hay and he will follow you all the field over. Not to draw near to Him who is our benefactor, is worse than brutish.

"God is the 'summum bonum,' the chief good. There's enough in God to satis-fy the immense desire of the angels. He is 'omnimode dulcis,' the quintes-sence of sweetness. In Him perfections are centered. He has rivers of plea-sure where the soul shall bathe itself forever with infinite delight, (Psa. 36:36). So that here is ground sufficient for our drawing near to God; He is the chief good. Everything desires to approach to its happiness."

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thurs., 2/25/16 Devotion (Job 25:4)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 25:4, where we read these words:

"How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman?"

Bildad the Shuhite asked this question (above). It is a profound query. The answer is, "No one can be righteous before God on one's own. What is nec-essary is an 'alien' righteousness." This "alien" righteousness is that of Christ, imputed to the sinful soul, by faith in Him [Christ] (alone).

Faith follows regeneration (or the new birth). Regeneration is God's sovereign act of bringing to life a dead and rebellious soul. Faith is the gift of regenera-tion. By faith, the new-born believer continually fetches to his heart the Lord Jesus Christ, who then is that person’s sole righteousness. Therefore, the question, "Can a man be righteous before God?,” is answered, “Yes”—but only as the man (or woman, [boy or girl]) is clothed in Christ's righteousness.

[Puritan quote of the day: "A godly man loves God and therefore delights to be in His presence; he loves God and therefore takes comfort in nothing with-out Him.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Godly Man's Picture"]

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wed., 2/24/16 Devotion (Lk. 10:21a)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 10:21a, where we read these words:

"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, 'I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth . . . ' "

Things can get pretty difficult down here in the fallen world. Is it not wonderful to know that God our Heavenly Father is Lord of heaven "and *earth*"? What-ever difficulties we are experiencing—no matter how real and hard they are—are nonetheless under the watchful providential sovereignty of our Heavenly Father.

Ours is not some "stale" deity. Instead, the Lord of heaven and earth loves us, His churchmen, more than we can imagine. He cares for us much more than we care for ourselves (or for our loved ones). Jesus "thanked" and prais-ed His Father; let us do the same—even in difficult times.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The church is the fitting place for glory. We enter into heaven in the church here.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "Glorious Freedom"]

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tues., 2/23/16 Devotion (Ex. 6:9)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 6:9, which says this:

"Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel; but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery." (ESV)

There is a sense in which a broken spirit and very difficult life circumstances make listening to the ministers of God quite hard to do. And yet, the very de-sired deliverance from these troubles is entirely dependent upon the hearing of the gospel of grace. In the case of Moses, he persevered, and eventually won the ears and hearts of the people; but it did not come easily or "automa-tically."

May we be patient with those who are especially-burdened with heavy cares and concerns. Love demands that we continue to speak to them. Compas-sion calls for our going the extra mile with them.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Suffer we must. Before we were born, God decre-ed it; and it is easier to complain of His decree than to change it.” —Samuel Rutherford, in, "Letters of Samuel Rutherford"]

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mon., 2/22/16 Devotion (Ex. 5:2)

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

"But Pharaoh said, 'Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.' " (ESV)

At least Pharaoh is honest; which is to say more of him than of many people, who claim to "Know the Lord." "Knowing the Lord," in the Bible, is practically analogous to obeying His voice. It is interesting that, in the very next verse, Moses' evangelism of Pharaoh has practically nothing to do with Pharaoh's misapprehensions about God; and everything to do with God's word to His church.

Let us be among those who really do "Know the Lord"; and may this be mani-fested to all by our loving and faithful walk with Jesus.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The fall [of Adam, in the garden] is the occasion of Christ's becoming the head of the church, His body. And believers have be-come His brethren and spouse in a manner that otherwise would not have been.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon entitled, "The Wisdom of God"]

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fri.-Sabbath, 2/19-21/16 Devotion

Praise God—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, February 18, 2016

Thurs., 2/18/16 Devotion (Lk. 4:22c)

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

" . . . And they said, 'Is this not Joseph’s son?' "

The people that made this statement (above) had just been marveling at how wonderful Christ was. Later in the chapter, however, they were ready to try to throw the Messiah over the cliff of their town (Nazareth). The problem these Nazarenes had was that they thought Jesus was "Joseph's son." They could not conceive of Him as being the Son of God, (and not of a mere man: Jo-seph).

Such is the nature of almost all theological heresy: it starts with a mistaken foundation. If Jesus was not the Son of God, He would not be sinless. In that case, He could also not atone for sinners, since He Himself would have to deal with His own sin nature. Let us recognize Jesus for who He is: the Son—not of Joseph—but of God Himself.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Defilers and profaners of ordinances [preaching and sacraments], by known and allowed wickedness, provoke God more than the heathen who have no ordinances.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "A Warning to Professors of Religion"]

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wed., 2/17/16 Devotion (Job 16:19)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 16:19, where we read these words:

"Surely even now my witness is in heaven, and my evidence is on high."

Even in the midst of all Job's suffering, and even in the face of all the torment-ing "comfort" he was receiving from his misguided friends—he (Job) still had enough grace to recognize that the "witness" of his faith was still "in heaven," and that his "evidence" was "on high."

Did Job *feel* this? Probably not. But he certainly believed it, nonetheless. Job's example is a good one for all faithful churchmen today. Sometimes, we feel beaten down, and discouraged; but we must always remember that our faith takes hold of Jesus, who is our “Witness in heaven," and our “Evidence on high."

[Puritan quote of the day: "Now Christians know that they are in their warfare, they are here in this world fighting and combating with the enemies of their souls and their eternal welfare, and they must be willing to endure hardship here.” —Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment"]

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tues., 2/16/16 Devotion (1 Cor. 3:21b, 22b, 23)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Corinthians 3:21b, 22b, & 23, where we read these words:

"For all things are yours . . . —all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s."

The Corinthian parishioners to whom the apostle wrote this epistle thought themselves to be pretty hot stuff. But they were essentially missing the whole point of their Christian lives: what made them special was not their ability to outdo one another with tongues, knowledge, or miracles. Instead, what really set them apart is the very same thing that makes every faithful churchmen today so remarkable: they were in Christ, who Himself possesses everything of value.

If we have Jesus, we have everything: "All things are [ours].” Disconnected from Jesus, we have nothing. With this biblical perspective, true Christians may live in perfect peace and full contentment, knowing that we already—even in this world—possess everything in Christ alone.

[Puritan quote of the day: "You are bone of [Christ's] bone, and flesh of His flesh; and to have a member of Jesus Christ in a condition of discontent is ex-ceedingly unworthy.” —Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment"]

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mon., 2/15/16 Devotion (1 Cor. 2:7)

Today's encouragement comes from 1 Corinthians 2:7, where Paul wrote this:

"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory . . . "

God’s Christian churchmen, in varying degrees, know His secrets (cf. Ps. 25:14). The Lord whispers them, as it were, in their ears. God's wisdom, though historically fully expressed in the cross and resurrection of Jesus (and clearly communicated in the Scripture), yet cannot be known by natural man and his reason alone. It must be revealed by the Holy Spirit, directly to the souls of God's redeemed children.

Do we know the wisdom of God; or are we merely surviving with the rudi-ments of a fallen mind and intellect? If we do not know God's wisdom, let us ask Him for it in and through Jesus. God will not turn away any sincere re-quest, initiated by His own Spirit's saving work.

[Puritan quote of the day: "You have heaven while you are on earth when you have a contented spirit; yea, in some regards it is better than heaven.”
—Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment"]

Friday, February 12, 2016

Fri.-Sabbath, 2/12-14/16 Devotion

Yippee—it is almost Sunday! Here is Thomas Watson, from his "The Ten Commandments" book:

"We keep the Sabbath Day holy, by 'consecrating and dedicating' this day to the 'service of the high God.' It is good to rest on the Sabbath Day from the works of our calling; but if we rest from labor and do no more, the ox and the donkey keep the Sabbath as well as we; for they rest from labor. We must dedicate the day to God; we must not only 'keep a Sabbath,' but 'sanctify' a Sabbath. Sabbath-sanctification consists in two things: 1) Solemn preparation for it. If a prince were to come to your house, what preparation would you make for his entertainment! You would sweep the house, wash the floor, adorn the room with the richest tapestry and hangings, that there might be something suitable to the state and dignity of so great a person.

"On the blessed Sabbath, God intends to have sweet communion with you; He seems to say to you, as Christ to Zacchaeus, 'Make haste and come down, for this day I must abide at your house,' (Luke 19:5). Now, what pre-paration should you make for entertaining this King of glory? When Saturday evening approaches, sound a retreat; call your minds off from the world and summon your thoughts together, to think of the great work of the approaching day. Purge out all unclean affections, which may indispose you for the work of the Sabbath. Evening preparation will be like the tuning of an instrument, it will fit the heart better for the duties of the ensuing Sabbath."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thurs., 2/11/16 Devotion (Gen. 44:30b)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 44:30b, which says this:

" . . . Since his life is bound up in the lad’s life . . . "

The reference (above) is Jacob's life being entwined around and in his young-est son's (Benjamin's) life. Let us legitimately extrapolate a bit, and note that Christ's life is bound up with that of His redeemed church (collectively), and with every individual saint within it (individually).

This is how close God is to those who are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone: what happens to them means *everything* to Him. The redeem-ed church is the "apple of God's eye"; therefore, let us be ever-mindful of how much the Lord loves us who truly are His, and takes to heart what happens to us.

[Puritan quote of the day: "[God] will outwit the most subtle and overthrow the most stubborn hypocrite on earth.” —Richard Steele, in, "The Character of an Upright Man"]

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wed., 2/10/16 Devotion (Job 9:1-2)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 9:1 & 2, which says this:

"Then Job answered and said: 'Truly I know it is so, but how can a man be righteous before God?' "

Job's question here (above) is very important. After all, just *how* can a hu-man being, conceived in original sin and always being affected by that sinful nature, actually "be righteous before God"? This is a big problem, since God Himself is totally righteous and holy, and nothing short of absolute sinless perfection will, can, or should satisfy Him.

Nothing we could ever do or perform would give us this righteousness before God. No amount of religion, prayers, or effort will or could suffice. A sinful per-son gets righteous before God when he/she realizes that Jesus alone is his/
her righteousness. Christ is apprehended by faith. Therefore, a person is "righteous before God" through faith in the Redeemer, and in no other way. 

[Puritan quote of the day: "A Christian may come to lead a comfortable life, even a heaven upon earth, be the times what they will: by Christian content-ment.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Art of Divine Contentment"]

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tues., 2/9/16 Devotion (Mk. 12:34a)

Today's encouragement comes from Mark 12:34a, where we read these words:

"Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to [the scribe], 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' "

I wonder how many people with whom we will speak today are "not far from the kingdom of God”? The Holy Spirit starts a work in souls, often long before they are regenerated in Christ. Let all faithful churchmen recognize this fact, and act in accord with it. In other words, some people with whom we are cur-rently doing evangelism—though they are not yet "in" the kingdom (church) of God—may not be far from it.

Clearly, proximity to the kingdom has something to do with doctrinal under-standing (especially of the gospel). But it must also have something to do with human love and patience. Let us be those who encourage others who are "not far" away; and not be those who discourage them.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Grace is necessary for a Christian; others things are but inconveniences.” —Christopher Love, in his sermon, "Uses of Instruc-tion and Trial"]