Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tues., 1/31/17 Devotion (Gen. 32:1)

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

"So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him."

Sometimes, as we believers are simply walking "on [our] way," the "angels of God meet [us]." Jacob was not doing anything particularly "spiritual" or “reli-gious”—he was merely going about his business. The angels' meeting with Jacob did not portend easy days ahead. As a matter of fact, in this very chap-ter Jacob would have to face his long-estranged brother Esau. But there can be no doubt but that the angels assisted him (Jacob).

As the church walks through the world today—looking forward to the next Sunday—let us recognize our particular need to be "met" by God's "angels." Some of them are in human flesh. Others of them are celestial. All of them will point us to Jesus.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Is it not comfortable being in heaven? He that en-joys much of God in this life carries heaven about him.” —Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mon., 1/30/17 Devotion (Gen. 31:16b)

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

" . . . whatever God has said to you, do it."

These words (above) of Jacob's wives, to him, are pretty enlightening. It is so encouraging when other believers in the church urge us on in our most holy faith, and the challenges it presents to us. This is especially true, when what we are called upon to do, by God, is not easy, and it grates against our natur-al tendencies.

Let all the faithful church be found saying to one another: "Whatever God has said to you, do it." And what is it that God would have all of us always do? To be united to Jesus, by grace through faith—as members of His church. When this is the case, we can do anything the Lord calls upon us to do. When this is not the case, we can do nothing of any eternal value whatsoever.

[Puritan quote of the day: "What is it to enjoy good health, a brave estate, and not to enjoy God?” —Thomas Watson, in, "A Body of Divinity"]

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/27-29/17 Devotion

Wahoo—it is almost Sunday! We *get* to go back to church. In order to help get us ready, here is Thomas Watson, from his, "The Happiness of Drawing Near to God" treatise. . . .

"Where we draw near to God.

"Answer. In the use of His ordinances. In the word we draw near to His Holy Oracle; in the sacrament we draw near to His table. In the one we hear His voice; in the other we have His kiss. Besides, we also in a special manner draw near to God in prayer. Prayer is the soul's private converse and fellow-ship with God. Prayer whispers in God's ears, Psalm 43:6: ‘My prayer came before Him, even into His ears.’ In prayer we draw so near to God that we ‘take hold of Him,’ (Isaiah 64:6). God draws near to us by His Spirit, and we draw near to Him in prayer.

"The 'modus,' or manner of our drawing near to God. God's special residence is in Heaven and we draw near to God, not by the feet of our bodies, but with our souls. The affections are the feet of the soul; by these we move towards God. David drew near to God in his desires, Psalm 73:25: ‘There is none up-on earth that I desire beside You.’ He did shoot his heart into Heaven by pi-ous prayers. Spirits may have fellowship at a distance."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thurs., 1/26/17 Devotion (Acts 26:25)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 26:25, where Paul said this:

"I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason."

The Spirit-led words of God's apostles, ministers, and faithful churchmen are not those of madmen, or lunatics. An unbelieving world thinks of us that way because our words seem "otherworldly" to them, viz., we talk about a crucifi-ed and resurrected Savior, of repentance, and of the kingdom [church] of God. The actual fact is that the gospel is "more real," or "more objectively true" than anything a person could ever conceive of with the use of a fallen reason alone.

It is just that the gospel is a *higher* and nobler "truth and reason" than can be apprehended by the natural means. It can only be understood, believed, and applied by the work of the blessed Holy Spirit, using the Word of God (preached and read).

[Puritan quote of the day: "As wise and learned as you are, take heed to yourselves lest [Satan] outwit you. The devil is a greater scholar than you, and a nimbler disputant.” —Richard Baxter, in, "The Reformed Pastor"]

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wed., 1/25/17 Devotion (Gen. 26:18)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 26:18, where we read these great 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."

In every generation God calls His church to once-again "re-dig" the wells of the waters of life in Jesus, which our "fathers" had employed and enjoyed. The "Philistines” in every age—including ours—are always roaming about, seeking to "stop up" with the "earth" of the world all our good spiritual bles-sings. But praise God, they are never able to succeed against us.

Jesus, as found in His gospel of grace, is the Personification of  the Water of Life. May we, His church, even today, be busy "digging again” by faith into His Person, His love, and His mercy.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Where else can we now go but to Jesus, the ever-living Head of the whole church . . . who sends all gospel ministers, and on whom they universally depend?” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "The Sorrows of the Bereaved Spread before Jesus"]

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tues., 1/24/17 Devotion (Acts 24:14)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 24:14, which says finds Paul say-ing this:

"But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets." (ESV)

This is a pretty bold statement made by a former super-strict pharisee, re-garding the comprehensive primacy of the New Covenant church's worship and life. Whatever Paul still performed—in reference to the old temple and the old forms—it was done, not out of the essentials of true worship, but as a civil nod to a passe, eclipsed system. He viewed NT church worship in Christ as the genuine fulfillment of the law and the prophets.

May we do the same as Paul did; and have his enlightened attitude. To lose God's worship, is to lose our souls.

[Puritan quote of the day: "[God] calls upon us from time to time in His Word. He is calling us by His written Word and by His preached Word from Sab-bath to Sabbath.” —Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon entitled, "It is Well for us that God is Not as we are"]

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mon., 1/23/17 Devotion (Gen. 24:3a)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 24:3a, where we read these words:

"And I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth . . . "

I like this phrase: "The God of heaven and the God of the earth.” Let us focus on the "earth” part for a moment. Are we ever tempted to think that God rules heaven; but that the devil, or maybe sinners are in control of the earth? If we are (tempted in this way), our theology is not very good. The truth is that the True God is the supreme governor of everything: the earth, (as well as heaven).

The Lord put earth under His church’s feet; and we are His vice-regents, to rule and tend it. Still, in the most supreme sense, the Lord is "God of the earth." Let the church be thankful for this; and let us commit ourselves to serving our Christ very well while we are here.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Whoever is set up on earth, they are set up by our Lord. 'By Me,' says He, 'kings reign, and princes decree justice.’ “ —John Bunyan, in, "All Loves Excelling"]

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/20-22/17 Devotion

Yippee—it is almost Sunday! We GET to go back to church. In order to get us ready for God's holy day, here is Thomas Watson, from his, "The Happi-ness of Drawing Near to God" treatise. . . .

"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, be-fore 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 [of the OT] 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 the 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, January 19, 2017

Thurs., 1/19/17 Devotion (Acts 19:15)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 19:15, where we read these words:

"And the evil spirit answered and said, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?' "

This verse (above) is almost a comical section of the NT. The demons were used to being expelled by the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Apostle Paul, and by all the legitimately God-called ministers of the church—but here, the evil spirit is not going to take orders from some religious pretender, who sought to exercise power he did not rightly possess.

So it is for all the true church today: the demons are subject to us (Lk. 10:17). But, for all of those outside of sincere faith in Christ, the devil runs roughshod over them (Acts 19:16). Let us who know Jesus employ our auth-ority with discretion, and for the good of others (in the church first, but also in the world).

[Puritan quote of the day: "God intermixes mercy with affliction. He steeps His sword of justice in the oil of mercy. There was no night so dark but Israel had a pillar of fire in it.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Godly Man's Picture"]

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wed., 1/18/17 Devotion (Acts 18:8b)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 18:8b, where we read these words:

" . . . And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized."

What a beautiful phrase this is (above). People in Corinth were notoriously immoral and corrupt, (much like our own culture today). And yet God saved "many" of them. Note the lovely progression: they "heard" the gospel of grace in the Lord Jesus Christ; they "believed” the message of good news; and then they were "baptized" into Christ and His church.

Is there hope for the nations of the world today—including ours? Of course there is. But this exact pattern (as above) must be followed: preaching, hearing, faith, baptism, church membership, and a faithful life in Jesus.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Joy, courage, and zeal, being smiled upon by faith, are made invincible and unconquerable.” —Thomas Brooks, in, "Heav-en on Earth"]

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tues. 1/17/17 Devotion (Gen. 18:14a)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 18:14a, where we read these words:

"Is anything too hard for the LORD? . . . "

This question (above) is to be answered in the negative. This does not mean that God *will* do anything we ask Him to do; but it *does* mean He *can* do anything He is pleased to do (that would be consistent with His nature, and for the church's good). There *are* things even God cannot do (that we can), like sin.  But this does not detract from His greatness, but rather only enhances it.

Are we facing some impossible situation today? Let us lay it before God. He is able to deliver us in Christ. If we are faithful churched Christians, the pro-mises in the written Word of God are ours to enjoy; they are the "children's bread."

[Puritan quote of the day: "Before we can know this love of Christ . . . we must necessarily know the nature of sin.” —John Bunyan, in, "All Loves Ex-celling"]

Monday, January 16, 2017

Mon., 1/16/17 Devotion (Gen. 17:3)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 17:3, where we read these words:

"Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying . . . "

This little verse (above) contains a sweet principle from the life of Abraham, the father of our Christian faith: the churchman humbles himself before God; and the Lord speaks to him. Our hearts are in a good frame to hear from our Father when we are empty of self-righteousness, and full of Christ, being thankful for Him.

Today, let all of us who are known by God, through His grace to us in Jesus—humble ourselves before the Lord, and listen to His voice. If we were in a faithful church yesterday; and if we heard the gospel preached to us by Christ's appointed ministers—then we are also in a position to hear from our Savior throughout this week.

[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"]

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/13-15/17 Devotion

Hip, hip, hooray—it is almost Sunday! We GET to go back to church. In or-der to help get us ready, here is Thomas Watson, from his, "The Spiritual Watch" treatise. . . .

"Keep your heart when you are alone. It was Satan's subtlety to set upon Eve, when she was alone and less able to resist. He is like a cunning suitor who woos the daughter, when her parents are away from home. The devil breaks through the hedge commonly, where it is weakest. I confess that pri-vacy and retirement is good; if a Christian had a fruitful heart, what sweet thoughts he might have of God when he is alone, (Psalm 139:17)! But, alas, by reason of innate corruption, how many vain, proud, impure thoughts will steal into our hearts when we are most secluded from the world! The fowls will be eating at the sacrifice; the devil will he shooting in his fireballs and, when we least suspect him, will be tempting us to deliver up the castle of our heart to him.

"Keep your heart when you are in company. Vain company is the bait by which Satan is angling for the heart. Under the Law, he who touched a dead body was unclean, (Numbers 5:2). The heart is apt to be defiled by being among those who are dead in sin; it is easy to catch a disease when in com-pany."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thurs., 1/12/17 Devotion (Acts 12:5)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 12:5, where we read these words:

"Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church."

In the New Testament, whenever we find instances like this one (above), where the church is praying earnestly—it almost always is related to the spread of the gospel. Here, the believers are praying for Peter, so that he would be released from prison, and be able to continue his special work of "unlocking" the gospel to all kinds of Gentile people groups.

Let the church offer prayers today for all kinds of causes—but let us never forget our priorities. As Paul wrote, "The word of God is not chained" (2 Tim. 2:9b)—and part of the reason for this is because the body of Christ prays for the gospel's proliferation, and for those who are especially called to proclaim it (her ministers).

[Puritan quote of the day: "[Christ] would not have needed to stoop so low to save angels as humans.” —John Bunyan, in, "All Loves Excelling"]

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wed., 1/11/17 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 almost impossible to believe. But, once the ultimate Jew (Peter) told his fel-low-Jewish Christians what God had done among the Gentiles, the believing churched 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 Sincere Convert"]

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tues., 1/10/17 Devotion (Gen. 11:5)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 11:5, which says this:

"But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built."

The tower of Babel, and the city surrounding it, was man's effort to establish a society without God. It was a perverse imitation of the Lord's ideal, that of a community—centered not around a man-honoring structure—but a God-centered worship.

The Lord's confusing of the languages, accomplished in Gen., ch. 11, was actually an act of mercy and grace. Had man stuck together, we would have all descended, as a congealed ball of humanity, into hell. Only in the New Covenant do the languages of the world get sorted out, and "un-confused" in the universal church.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Unity in faith and discipline is a mercy we cannot prize enough. This is that which God has promised (Jer. 32:39), and which we should pursue (Zech. 8:18-23).” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Beatitudes"]

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mon., 1/9/17 Devotion (Gen. 9:8-9)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 9:8 & 9, which says this:

"Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 'And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you.' "

We often hear of God making these "covenants" with His people. Have we ever considered how gracious, merciful, and wonderful this is? If God did not bind Himself to His church, specifically and totally, there would be absolutely no hope at all for any of us, or for any other human being that has ever lived. The reason for this is because we are so wicked in our fallen state, that we would never seek God out.

So, the next time we witness a baptism in a church—let us recognize what is going on. God is making a covenant with that baby (or young person, or adult). This covenant is gracious, because it speaks of the life and death of the Son of God.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Acts of sin may be restrained out of fear or de-sign, but a true penitent turns from sin out of a religious principle, namely, love to God.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Friday, January 6, 2017

Fri.-Sabbath, 1/6-8/17 Devotion

Wahoo—it is almost Sunday! We GET to go to church! In order to help settle our minds, and make preparation, here is the eminent, articulate, and ingeni-ous Puritan Presbyterian Pastor Thomas Watson, from his book, entitled, "The Lord's Prayer."  TW is dealing with the Fifth Petition of the Prayer (re. forgiveness). . . .

"As soon as Christ had said, 'Give us daily bread,' He adds, 'and forgive us.' He joins the petition of forgiveness of sin immediately to the other of daily bread, to show us that though we have daily bread, yet all is nothing without forgiveness. If our sins be not pardoned, we can take but little comfort in our food. As a man that is condemned takes little comfort from the meat you bring him in prison, without a pardon; so, though we have daily bread, yet it will do us no good unless sin be forgiven.

"What though we should have manna, which was called angels' food, though the rock should pour out rivers of oil, all is nothing unless sin be done away. When Christ had said, 'Give us our daily bread,' He presently added, and 'for-give us our trespasses.' Daily bread may satisfy the appetite, but forgiveness of sin satisfies the conscience."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Thurs., 1/5/17 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 this to His disciples, in His "Sermon on the Mount," it un-doubtedly raised some eyebrows. After all, how could anybody do more 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 "right-eousness" was not even close to being good enough to get to heaven.
Why? . . .

Because we 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 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"]

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wed., 1/4/17 Devotion (Matt. 4:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Matthew 4:1, where we read these words:

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."

People often like to think of the Holy Spirit as the one Person of the Holy Trin-ity that *always* leads them into pleasurable ways and pastures. Whereas they might envision having to "suffer with Jesus"; and/or undergoing the dis-cipline of the Heavenly Father—it is sometimes assumed that everything as-sociated with the Holy Spirit is "positive."

But here the Spirit intentionally *leads* the Son of God into the "wilderness," to "be tempted by the devil." Why? So that, in overcoming these demon-prof-fered "shortcuts" to glory, the Messiah would rather go to the cross, and rise from the dead for His church. When the Spirit leads us into hard roads, let us recognize that it is for good reason: that we will be more Christlike in the end.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If once you come to receive the mercy of God in and through Christ Jesus, then that mercy will be the greatest opposer of your lusts and sin as anything can be in the world.” —Jeremiah Burroughs, a book of his sermons, entitled, "Gospel Remission"]

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tues., 1/3/17 Devotion (Gen. 3:1a)

Today's encouragement comes from Genesis 3:1a, which says this:

"Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made."

It is good for us to remember this (above). Satan, the old snake, is very clev-er, cunning, sly, and devious. In ourselves, we are absolutely no match for him. The devil has had thousands of years of practice. We are novices, com-pared to him. But the true saints of the faithful church have many advantages over the devil—and the greatest is that we are in the Son of God, who crush-ed the serpent's head, (cf. Gen. 3:15).

Still, even possessing the very mind of Christ, we believers need to be careful and watchful. Our enemy does not rest, in seeking opportunities to trouble our souls. We must not rest, in keeping them.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Sin feeds the sinner with delightful objects and then makes him mortgage his soul.” —Thomas Watson, in, "The Doctrine of Repentance"]

Monday, January 2, 2017

Mon., 1/2/17 Devotion (Acts 2:21)

Today's encouragement comes from Acts 2:21, where we read these words:

"And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

These words above (preached by Peter) are good news for us, and for all people everywhere. Salvation is had by those who really want it, and simply ask for it. Redemption does not require labor, but it does require desire. Our problem—as fallen children of Adam—is that by nature we do not want the right, or the best things. Unless God does the miraculous work of regenera-tion in us, we remain content to cling to death.

Do we desire Jesus? If so, He will be had by us. Life is all about knowing and feasting on the Lord Jesus Christ.

[Puritan quote of the day: "God does not bring His people into troubles, and leave them there.” —Thomas Watson, in, "All Things for Good"]