Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thurs., 3/31/16 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, gossips, and slanderers can sound quite convincing, until the full picture comes into view. Our flesh nature is too inclined to hear only 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 hear the gospel preached, and 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"]

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wed., 3/30/16 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 unto the true God through Jesus Christ. There are no concerns or worries of God’s parishioners that are "off limits" to Him. And there is no alternative pro-vided by the Lord, as to how we are to handle our troubles, than that of bringing them to Him in prayer.

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

[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"]

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tues., 3/29/16 Devotion (Prov. 16:20b)

Today's encouragement comes from Proverbs 16:20b, where we read these words:

" . . . And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he."

Why is the person who trusts in the Lord happy? Because he or she has everything to gain in Jesus, and nothing of value to lose. This soul puts all his stock in Jesus; and he knows that this investment cannot fail. The Christian churchman who truly and savingly trusts in the Lord Jesus loses only his sin; but he gains the entire world God created for him.

Do we *really* want to be happy, (or, are we just pretending we want to be happy)? Most people seek to find their "happiness" in sin and misery. But if we are truly serious about our life's happiness—then we will gladly trust in Christ (for all things).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ has taken away the venom and sting of the saints' sufferings: there is no wrath in their cup. Our sufferings Christ can make sweet.” —Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mon., 3/28/16 Devotion (Php. 2:14)

Today's encouragement comes from Philippians 2:14, where Paul wrote these words:

"Do all things without complaining and disputing . . . "

Complaining (grumbling), and disputing (arguing) come naturally to us fallen children of Adam. Do any parents ever have to train their children to complain or dispute? It comes easily to all of us, in our sinful conditions.

But gospel grace in Jesus transforms us from being grumblers and arguers, to being helpful and thankful. Paul will go on, and say that the genuineness of our Christian testimonies are directly linked to the godly attitude we are to have when we do anything, (see vv. 15-16). Today, let us trust Christ to give us supernatural grace to be grateful, not disgruntled.

[Puritan quote of the day: "There is not one of us who does not have many mercies if we could just see them. But, because we do not have all that we desire, we lose the comfort of that which we have.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Art of Divine Contentment"]

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/25-27/16 Devotion

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

"The next duty wherein we must offer violence to ourselves, is the religious sanctifying of the Lord's day. That there should be a day of holy rest dedicat-ed to God appears from its institution. '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.’

"The primitive church held this day in high veneration. It was a great badge of their religion; for when the question was asked, 'servasti dominicum?,' 'do you keep the Sabbath?'; the answer was, 'Christianus sum,' 'I am a Christian; I dare not omit the celebration of the Lord's day!' "

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thurs., 3/24/16 Devotion (Jn. 14:27b)

Today's encouragement comes from John 14:27b, where we find the Redeemer saying this:

" . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

The most fearless people are those who are the most naturally timid and afraid. This seems odd, but it is true. The reason for this is because Christ in-stills confidence in those who—in themselves—would lack it the most. This boldness is a result of faith in Jesus. The believer says, "God commands me not to fear, therefore, I will trust in Christ, and be fearless in Him."

The apostles themselves were good examples of this. Some of them were ini-tially falsely self-confident (like Peter); but all of them were really fearful by nature. Only after the power of the Holy Spirit fell on them at Pentecost were they filled with so much divinely-inspired assurance, that nothing could stop them.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offen-sive souls.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Bruised Reed"]

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wed., 3/23/16 Devotion (Jn. 13:35)

Today's encouragement comes from John 13:35, where our Lord Jesus said this:

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (ESV)

The distinguishing mark of the followers of Jesus is love; not knowledge, un-derstanding of doctrine, the skill to parse Greek words, or the ability to spell "presbyterian." The world (rightly) cares nothing about any of these things. God has so constituted human nature, that the only great magnet to the church is the love of the saints for one another, which flows from their undying affection for, and loyalty to their Redeemer, the Lord Jesus.

Let us abandon all the fleshly and failed means of "church growth"; and com-mit ourselves to the Messiah's simple formula: "Love one another, and all the world will know that you belong to Me."

[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"]

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tues., 3/22/16 Devotion (Jn. 12:43)

Today's encouragement comes from John 12:43, which says this:

"For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God." (ESV)

Hell will be filled with man-pleasers. To love, obey, and cherish man *more* than God is damnable idolatry; and no fine-sounding excuses will hold up on the great judgment day. Man-pleasing is the fruit of unbelief. Note from v. 42 that it is possible to assent (intellectually) to the truth claims of the faith; and yet perish because of no heart-commitment to them.

In fact, to love God in and through Jesus Christ first and foremost creates the *only* context for truly and properly loving man at all. The first great com-mandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart," is the only way to get to the second greatest one: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

[Puritan quote of the day: "God has a peculiar quarrel with proud men, athe-ists, and hypocrites; and they shall feel the weight of His indignation.” —Rich-ard Steele, in, "The Character of an Upright Man"]

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mon., 3/21/16 Devotion (Eph. 1:5)

Today's encouragement comes from Paul's Holy Spirit-inspired words of Eph-esians 1:5:

"Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, ac-cording to the good pleasure of His will."

Have we ever heartily (like Paul) thanked God for the gracious doctrines of predestination and election? Without this sovereign work of God no one would ever be saved, and we would all be forever bound to sin, death, and hell. Those who exalt human "free will" over the powerful gospel of Christ de-spise God, and His grace.

Let us recognize this humbling truth: unless the Lord had first loved and chos-en us—even before He created the universe—there would be no way we would ever have been irresistibly and effectually called to Him in and through Jesus, the One who is our only access to God.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The church is a distinct race that originally came from God. Other men are of the earth—they are of earthly derivation, the pos-terity of men—but the church is the posterity of God.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "Christians a Chosen Generation"]

Friday, March 18, 2016

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/18-20/16 Devotion

Yippee—it is almost Sunday! We get to go back to church again! In order to help get us ready for Sabbath 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 [graft] 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 an heavenly birth. It is therefore very observable that contentment is joined with godliness, and goes in 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 contradistinguish it from that of a type of contentment, which a moral man may arrive at. Heathens have seemed to have this contentment, but it was only the shadow and picture of it. It was the beryl, not the true dia-mond. Theirs was but civil, this is sacred; theirs was only from principles of reason, this of true religion; theirs was only lighted at nature's torch, this at the lamp of scripture. . . . "

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thurs., 3/17/16 Devotion (Gal. 3:24)

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 justifi-ed by faith."

The law of God *does* have several roles in believers' lives. Its main purpose is to drive us to despair, with regard to finding or achieving any righteousness before a holy God on the basis of religious works or good behavior. The law condemns us, and shuts out any and every vestige of hoped-for self-right-eousness.

But, thankfully, once we sinners are brought to the utter "end" of ourselves—we are graciously directed to the One (Christ) who actually *can* save us. By faith we take hold of Jesus' righteousness, and we are then placed into His body (the church), and enjoy all the benefits that have accrued to Him.

[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"]

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

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

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

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

Whenever we are tempted to believe that there could be happiness, life, ful-fillment, or any other good thing to be somehow found *outside* of our 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 power to give us eternal life? And all this life is found in Jesus Himself. He never directs us elsewhere; but always to His own body and blood.

There is no one and no thing that can do for us what Christ can and does do for us. Let a lot other people abandon Christ and His church (as they did in Jn., ch. 6)—and so show their true colors. But for the faithful and sincere be-lievers—made that way by grace—may we stick with the only One 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"]

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tues., 3/15/16 Devotion (Lk. 5:24)

Today's encouragement comes from John 5:24, where our Lord Jesus Christ said this:

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has pass-ed from death into life."

Is it not truly amazing that it is through hearing and believing the gospel that we *hear* Christ's ministers preach—and not through what we *do*—that se-cures the righteousness of Jesus to our souls? After all, we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8); and faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17)—and not by doing.

The simplicity of this good news is a continual stumbling block to many—es-pecially to religious people, who imagine themselves to put God into their debt, by their deeds. For the true saints, however, it is the sweetest truth in all the world.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Inasmuch as the righteousness of the second Adam [Christ] exceeds the first [Adam], so are you more happy, more holy in the second Adam than ever the first in himself was.” —Thomas Shepard, in, "The Sincere Convert"]

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mon., 3/14/16 Devotion (2 Cor. 13:8)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 13:8, where we read these words:

"For we can do nothing against the truth, but [only] for the truth."

Those Christian churchmen who are faithful in their rightful callings: be they as apostles (as per Paul, [and we have them no more]); or as ministers; or as other church officers; or as believing parishioners—cannot do anything "against the truth," but only "for" it.

How is this possible? Does this not seem preposterous? It is possible, and true because of the superintending work of God Himself, which keeps His true children in the fold, and in the faith. If we live by faith in Jesus today, lov-ing Him—then we may essentially do whatever we will—since what we do will be in harmony with God’s perfect will in Christ. What we do will please our Father (because of Jesus' sacrifice); and it will forward the truth of the gospel.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Peter at one time believes and walks, at another time he doubts and sinks, (Matt. 14:30).” —Thomas Brooks, in, "Heaven on Earth"]

Friday, March 11, 2016

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/11-13/16 Devotion

Wahoo—it is almost Sunday! Here is Thomas Watson, from his, "A Body of Divinity" book. . . .

"God's providence reaches to all places, persons, and occurrences. 1) To all places: 'Am I a God at hand, and not a God afar off?' (Jer 23:23). The area where Providence visits is very large; it reaches to heaven, earth, and sea. 'They that go down to the sea, see the wonders of God in the deep,' (Psa 107:23, 24). Now, that the sea, which [appears to be] higher than the earth, should not drown the earth, is a wonder of Providence. The prophet Jonah saw the wonders of God in the deep, when the very fish which devoured him and swallowed him brought him safe to shore.

"2) God's providence reaches to all persons, especially the persons of the godly, who in a special manner are taken notice of. God takes care of every saint in particular, as if He had none else to care for. 'He cares for you,' (1 Pet 5:7), i.e., the elect in a special manner. 'The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him; to preserve them from death, and to keep them alive in famine,' (Psa 33:18, 19). God by His providential care shields off dangers from His people, and sets a life-guard of angels about them, (Psa 34:7). God's provi-dence keeps the very bones of the saints, (Psa 34:20). It bottles their tears, (Psa 56:8). It strengthens the saints in their weakness, (Heb 11:34). It sup-plies all their wants out of its alms [charity] basket, (Psa 23:5). Thus Provi-dence wonderfully supplies the wants of the elect."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thurs., 3/10/16 Devotion (Lk. 24:45)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 24:45, where we read these words:

"And [Jesus] opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures."

The Scriptures are important to Christ—and so is our comprehension (or un-derstanding) of them. It could be argued that to possess the Bible, but not to grasp what it means, is of little good, and could even be dangerous. The Holy Book can only benefit us when and if the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit's work, "opens our understanding."

When this happens, we discover that we are being led to Jesus Christ in every line (cf. vv. 25, 27, 44). We also comprehend that the Scriptures are covenantal documents, to be elucidated and applied in the context of the community of the visible church (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-2). How about us, today? Has Christ opened our understandings, so that we might see Him in all the texts of the written Word of God?

[Puritan quote of the day: "Only Christ can satisfy the soul. All other ways and things will only end in disappointment.” —John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wed., 3/9/16 Devotion (Job 38:4a)

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

"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? . . . "

Ouch. How would we like to have God ask this kind of question of us? To hear these words would humble us right down to the dust. The reality is that the Lord *does* pose to us this basic query every time we presume to know better than He does, or every time we complain about His providences (and the way they work) in our lives.

We know that we did not yet exist when God "laid the foundations of the earth." Therefore, we have no right to counsel Him on how He ought to run His universe. This one thing is for sure: we could not do a better job at it than He can do. Let all of us redeemed churchmen come to more implicitly trust our Heavenly Father, believing the best of Him always—especially based on His love for us in Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Are your sins high as heaven? The mercies of God are above the heavens.” —Isaac Ambrose, in, "The Christian Warrior"]

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tues., 3/8/16 Devotion (2 Cor. 7:5b)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 7:5b, where we read these words (of Paul):

" . . . Outside were conflicts, inside were fears."

The Christian’s church life, with all its attendant human relationships, is both the most glorious of all fellowships; but it can also be the most painful and grievous. The Apostle Paul is describing (above) how he himself felt, in re-gard to the Corinthian congregation, after he was forced to upbraid them for their sin (in a previous, no longer extant epistle).

The whole thing had made Paul sad, nervous, and even "fearful." He was fi-nally comforted by Titus' report (cf. v. 6 ff.)—but in the meantime he was quite tormented in his soul. In light of all this, let us who are sincere believers in Jesus be aware that we "put our hearts on the line" when we join in covenant with others (in the church). Though it can sometimes be very painful; it is al-ways the right thing to do—since our Savior Himself set us the example, by joining Himself to us (His redeemed church).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Trust [God] where you cannot trace Him. God is most in His way, when we think He is most out of the way.” —Thomas Wat-son, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mon., 3/7/16 Devotion (Ex. 18:19b)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 18:19b, where we read these words:

"[Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, said to Moses], 'Stand before God for the peo-ple, so that you may bring the difficulties to God.' "

Moses was a type of mediator between the people of Israel and their God. When they had a problem, they brought it to Moses, who would seek to settle it in light of the Law of the Lord. Jesus Christ, the church's great high priest, perfectly fulfilled what Moses only prefigured. He shed His blood for His peo-ple, making reconciliation between a holy God and many sinners.

On top of this, our Lord Jesus even today continues to intercede for the church, at the Father's right hand, (Rom. 8:34b). Do we have "difficulties" to-day? Nothing it too hard for the Lord. Let us lay our concerns before Him, and trust His perfect judgment relative to them.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Remember: God's work goes on, and nothing falls out but what He has decreed from eternity.” —Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fri.-Sabbath, 3/4-6/16 Devotion

Wahoo—Sunday is almost here! We get to go to church. To help get us ready, here is Thomas Watson, from, "The Happiness of Drawing Near to God":

"If we would draw near to God, let us understand our own needs. Let us con-sider in what need we stand for God and that we cannot be happy without Him. The prodigal son never drew near to his father, until he ‘began to be in want,’ Luke 15:14. A proud sinner, who was never convinced of his needs, has no interest in coming near to God; he has a supply of his own to live up-
on—Jer 2:31: ‘We are lords; we will come no more to You [God].’ A full sto-mach despises the honeycomb.

"It is the sense of want [need] which brings us near to God. Why did so many lame and paralytical people resort to Christ, but because they wanted a cure. Why does the thirsty man draw near to a fountain but because he wants water. Why does a condemned man draw near his prince but because he wants a pardon. When a poor soul truly surveys his wants: 'I want grace; I want the favor of God, I am damned without Christ’—this makes him draw near to God, and be an earnest supplicant for mercy."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thurs., 3/3/16 Devotion (Ex. 14:12)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 14:12, which says this:

"Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, 'Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." (ESV)

Sinners, in the fallen state, would rather serve the devil and his purposes, than to suffer a little inconvenience with God "in the wilderness." This is true, even though the devil is a very harsh taskmaster (just like the Egyptians were). The reason this weird twist exists is because none of us like being brought out of our iniquitous "comfort zones”—even when those places are very undesirable, by any reasonable standard.

May we, with Moses, prefer to suffer a little with the people of God, rather than enjoy the "pleasures" of sin in "Egypt" for a season (cf. Heb. 11:25).

[Puritan quote of the day: "Do you fear God? Now you have a promise that though you have many weaknesses, yet God will spare you as one spares his only child that serves him.” —Jeremiah Burroughs, in, "Gospel Fear"]

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wed., 3/2/16 Devotion (Lk. 16:31)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 16:31, where we read these words:

"But he ['Abraham'] said to him [the 'rich man'], ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ "

Since faith is sovereignly given to sinners through *hearing* the gospel preached (Rom. 10:17), and not through *seeing* miracles performed—we should not be surprised to hear this principle taught in this text (above) by our Lord Jesus.

Sometimes well-meaning and sincere Christians mistakenly think that sinners will be converted to Christ by their *seeing* various spectacular religious mar-vels (like even someone rising from the dead). But this is not the case at all. Instead, God would have His church faithfully preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Through this message of grace, the Holy Spirit will convert those God chooses to redeem.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If we once get the victory over ourselves, all other things are conquered to our ease.” —Richard Sibbes, in, "The Soul's Conflict with Itself"]

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tues., 3/1/16 Devotion (Lk. 15:21)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 15:21, where we read these great words:

"And the [prodigal] son said to [his father], ‘Father, I have sinned against hea-ven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "

To me, this is a most poignant and beautiful section of Holy Scripture. The Prodigal Son is on his way home. He has been rehearsing his lines. He is saying to himself, "Remember to say, 'I have sinned.’ Do not forget the 'no longer worthy' part. And be sure to finish with, 'Make me like one of your hired servants.' "

The Son does pretty well at getting his speech out to his father—but before he ever gets to his last line (about being a hired servant), his father is all over him, showering love and acceptance on him. So it is with God: He is a loving Father, who forgives His own elect children of His church, and receives them into His embraces. This parable is a vivid picture of God's love for the people Jesus procured with His precious blood atonement.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If anything in us or on our part could stop God lov-ing us [His church], then He would long ago have turned away from us.”
—John Owen, in, "Communion with God"]