Book Review: Voices From The Past – Puritan Devotional Readings

Book Review_Voices from the Past

A good devotional is like a spiritually-minded friend who turns your eyes away from the things of the world and sets them on things above whenever you spend time with them; both are extremely rare. There are too many devotionals these days that are like poorly made junk food. Not only do they lack any nourishment, they also leave a bad taste in your mouth. Since good devotionals are so limited, when you find one you want to hold onto it for a lifetime.  An obvious example is Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening.

A little over a year ago I received Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing, as a gift, and what a gift it was. This devotion is a collection of writing from great Christian writers like John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and Thomas Watson et. al. If you are looking for substance in your daily reading, this is the book for you. Rarely will a day go by were you are not given something that spurs you on in godliness. It will comfort you where you need to be comforted, and it will convict you where you need to be convicted.

If you are looking for a new devotional, I highly recommend this one. There is a second volume as well, which I will also be purchasing. If you would like to read a sample entry from this book, click the link below.

How to resist the Devil – William Gurnall

What are your favorite devotionals? Let us know in the comments.

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We Are the Lepers

With hearts as black as drossFilled with the obsceneAll paid for on the crossHe_ll there pronounce us clean

Then the priest shall look, and if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean. Lev. 13:13

This verse may seem strange to many of today’s readers, but if leprosy had only covered part of the body and not all of the flesh was white, that man would be pronounced unclean. On the other hand, if the disease covered his entire body, the man would be pronounced clean. This is because the flesh that was not yet white was still contagious, but if his flesh was completely white, the disease was no longer transmittable.

As interesting as this is, this text teaches us something much deeper for leprosy in scripture is often a representation of sin. We are the lepers. We are diseased with sin and completely full of guilt, but in our natural state, we strive to deny that truth. We go to great lengths to deny our unworthiness before God, thinking that we can somehow justify ourselves. Even if we admit that we are somewhat sinful, we still tend to think that God owes us something. In that condition, as we stand before the true high priest Jesus Christ, we are pronounced unclean. It is not until we stand before him in complete poverty of spirit, knowing we have nothing to offer Him, admitting that we are completely sinful saying, “you have every right to pour your wrath upon me, but I plead the merits of your sacrifice on the cross,” does Christ say to us, “you are clean.”

Though we have nothing to offer
We must go to the High Priest
To present our empty coffer
With self-righteousness deceased

With hearts as black as dross
Filled with the obscene
All paid for on the cross
He’ll there pronounce us clean

He Stands Between the Mighty and the Weak

He stands between the mighty and the weak!

O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. – 2 Chronicles 14:11

I am weak, oh Lord, and you are mighty. Today, I have been brought low, and in my weakness, I must face the day. The work and responsibilities ahead of me seem daunting. In light of my limited strength, they are mighty, yet You stand between the mighty and the weak. You are my strength.

I know this because the most significant contrast between might and strength that I have experienced was when I stood before You in my sinfulness. The Omnipotent One at enmity against His defiant and foolish creature. The Lord of all of heaven against mere dust.

First, You devastated my defiance by showing me my sinfulness. Then you let me lay prostrate in the mire so that I could see what I rightly deserved from Your hand. In Your justice, your bow was bent, arrows waiting, and I had no defense. Yet even there, You stood between the mighty and the weak by sending Your Son.

Jesus stepped in, and You took the arrows of Your wrath, directed them at Him and without mercy, let them fly. He willingly, without a word took the full brunt of what I deserved; satisfying Your righteousness and justice. With your quiver empty and your bow at rest, You gathered me up and called me Your own. Oh, what manner of love it is that we should be called sons and daughters of God.

Now, as I go out in my weakness to face the full strength of this day, I know all will be well. In my deficiency, You will be my abundance, and the mighty will fall. When the day comes that You allow the mighty to overtake me, it will be because you will be delivering me in the most profound way yet. You will be setting me free from this fallen world to live with You for all eternity.

Faith in College: 7 Ways to Stay Strong

Image result for faith in college

(The following is a quote from Greg L. Bahnsen’s book Pushing the Antithesis)

A busy academic and social schedule in college can easily pull the Christian away from God’s Word. But remember: you cannot defend God and His Word if you are not sanctified (set apart) for Him by means of contact with His Word. Too many Christian Students drift away from the faith in college because they have not been prepared for the spiritual and apologetic battles they will face. Dr. Gary North once wrote an article advertising a Christian college. The article showed a dejected father who had sent his son off to a secular college. It stated: “I spent $40,000 to send my son to hell.”

Seven Practices Christians Must Do in College.

1. Frequently remind yourself of the nature of spiritual warfare. In order to prepare yourself for your college classes, at the beginning of each semester you should re-read the biblical passages that demonstrate the active antagonism of the unbelieving world against your Christian faith. You must not forget the nature of the unbeliever’s challenge to your holistic (all encompassing) faith.

2. Diligently seek to evaluate everything you are being taught from a principled Christian perspective. After classes each day, jot down comments on the contradictions to the Christian faith which you encountered. Keep them in a notebook. Writing things down is the best secret to a good memory. Reflect on biblical answers to these supposed contradictions.

3. Develop small Bible study and accountability groups with other Christian students on campus. A part of defending the faith involves promoting its defense even among believers. As a Christian in fellowship with other Christians, you should urge fellow believers to realize their spiritual obligation to defend the faith before and unbelieving world.

4. Seek out any Christian campus ministries that are strongly committed to the Bible and are developing the Christian life. Attend their meetings and involve yourself in their ministries.

5. Find a good church in the area of your college. Commit yourself to attend church regularly. As Christians, we must not be “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25).

6. Where possible use class assignments to present the Christian perspective on issues. We would recommend that you avoid narrow testimonial types of papers. You should rather discretely develop worldview oriented themes that work basic Christian principles into the picture. In-your-face testimonials might be an affront to your professor and may appear to be a challenge to him. But working out your biblical principles might alert him to the philosophical implications of Christianity and will certainly help you flesh out your own understanding. You must be about “making the most of your time” while in college . . . You will certainly not find your professors assigning papers that encourage your Christian faith. But you must seek the opportunities—when they are allowed.

7. As a well-rounded Christian seeking to glorify Christ, you must approach your academic studies in a mature and diligent fashion. Your are both paying hard-earned money for a college education and spending your God-given time in college; make the most of your investment. Do not cut corners in your studies or simply try to “get by.” Christ calls you to excellence. Some students are naturally lazy, others suffer from voluntary inertia. Do not allow your educational experience to inadvertently teach you to be intellectually lazy. Such laziness is disloyalty to Christ.

-Greg L. Bahnsen; Pushing the Antithesis

Tending our Pleasant Plants

Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow. – Isaiah 17:10-11

The world in which we live is full of distractions that pull us away from our Savior. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life can easily ensnare us causing us to place our focus somewhere other than our Lord. The problem lies in the fact that when we take our eyes off Christ and put them on the things of this world, we find that all or labor and work is in vain.

There are several interesting things pointed out to us in this passage. This first one is that when we forget the God of our salvation and are not mindful of the rock of our strength, what we begin to focus on will, in fact, be pleasant. As this passage indicates, we “plant pleasant plants,” Turning our attention away from our God will always seem pleasant at first. We find something that brings us joy and pleasure, or at least we hope it will bring us joy and pleasure, and we begin to put our time and effort in that direction. We must realize, however, that the slips we plant are strange. Slips in this context were plant cuttings that would be put into the ground to bring forth growth. When the passage calls them strange, it carries with it the idea that they are foreign. Foreign to what God would have us be growing in the soil of our lives.

The passage goes on to say that we shall “make” the plant grow, and the seed to flourish. This shows us that hard work and effort go into tending these plants. Crops that are planted in areas where the climate and soil are not fit for them, will not flourish without special care, and so we begin to place our efforts on growing this crop. As the passage seems to indicate, we may even see some success. Our diligence with these pleasant plants will spring forth a harvest, which may even bring us some temporary satisfaction, but the passage goes on to warn us that it will not last. In the day of grief and of desperate sorrow it will be a heap, offering us nothing of real value.

What is the aim of your life? Where are your hope and strength found? Do you spend all your time taking care of worldly concerns? Are you always focusing on worldly success and the pleasures it can bring, without remembering the God of your salvation?

If so, we have perverted our way, and we are living for earthly things which will end up being a heap that will be destroyed when trouble comes, and trouble will eventually come. Without doing all things for the glory of God, our pleasant plants will leave us empty, and we will cry out “vanity of vanities” when it is all said and done.

Let us serve the living God like those who are willing to suffer affliction with the people of God if necessary, and be done with the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25). When we do this, we exchange a mirage for a fountain flowing with living water, because in the rock of our strength, we will never be let down in the time of trouble. For nothing we do in Christ will be in vain.

D. Eaton

Fulfill the Ministry

See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord. – Colossians 4:7

“Fulfill the Ministry.”  Paul initially said this to Archippus, but was this a warning or encouragement? Since we do not know much about him, it is hard to tell. Some have suggested that Archippus was the first pastor to the Laodicean’s. He may have been negligent in his duties, to which Paul would have been admonishing him by saying, “Get to work and do what you are supposed to do.” He also may have been faithful to his call but in a difficult place. Paul may have been encouraging him by saying, “press on in your good work, the Lord sees and will reward.”

Regardless as to whether this was a warning or an encouragement, these words apply to every believer. God has called us all to bring Him glory with our lives. This command applies to whatever vocation He has called us, as we live as ambassadors for Him in this fallen world. We are to work heartily as unto the Lord. Never go back to working for riches, popularity, fame, or even personal peace. Fulfill what He has called you to do for the Kingdom of God. Bring Him glory in all of it.

Maybe the Lord is calling you to a particular ministry that you have been resisting. Fulfill the ministry. Perhaps you have been doing what you have been called to do, but the things of the world are starting to catch your eye. Fulfill the ministry. Perhaps the Lord called you to a specific ministry, and you have been diligent in doing it, but now you are growing weary in well doing. Fulfill the ministry.

There is so much more for us than we can see. Never forget that you have been raised with Christ, your life is hidden in Christ, and glory will be experienced at His return. Work heartily as unto the Lord. Remember, we do not live to please men. Christ is preeminent, not them. Live for His glory. Do it heartily, not grudgingly. Know why it is important and work hard to get it done. Whatever you do, redeem the time for the days are evil. Work should be work as unto the Lord, recreation should be recreation unto the Lord, and rest should be rest unto the Lord.

Wherever you may be today, may the Lord use this short devotion to encourage you to press on. May it remind you that this world is fleeting and our time is short. May it remind you to make sure this day is dedicated to your Savior, for tomorrow is promised to no one. Most importantly remember that He is with you and will give you the strength you need to fulfill the ministry.

D. Eaton

Fight With A Strength Not Your Own

 

It does not make any sense to me or to those looking on from the outside. The storm is attacking from every side. Like the wind that hit the house of Job’s children, it is striking all four corners of my life and is attempting to beat me into submission, but in the midst of it all, I have joy. This storm may perplex me, but I will not be abandoned. Though I am struck down, I will not be destroyed.

Those of you who know your Savior, understand what I am talking about. If the darkness of your sin has had to flee because of the light of Jesus, you know that your greatest groanings have been relieved. I once lived under the condemnation of the law, and I was awakened to my depravity. It is much more grievous than I ever realized. This great burden weighed me down to such a degree that I could not lift my head. The burden of sin was not merely something that was attached to me; it was me. Any attempt to remove it was insufficient, until the day when he lifted my head to look at his cross. At that moment the wrath of God was removed, and I became a child of God.

In this I greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, I am grieved with manifold heaviness (1 Peter 1:6). It is the testing of my faith, and the testing of that faith will be found to the praise and glory and Savior Jesus Christ. This Joy cannot be removed by pain. It cannot be removed by sorrow, and despair cannot quench it.

On top of the joy found in the redemption of my sins, I know that our Lord is sovereign over my trials. He is all-knowing and all-powerful, which is a comfort and a conflict. It is a comfort because I know these difficulties I am facing are not accidents. They are perfectly planned by the God of wisdom who makes no mistakes, and I know if he gave his life to save me, he will also be good to me even in the midst of these trials.

The conflict is this, how do you fight against the hand of God in your trials when you know that there is nothing you can do to alter his divine purposes? If nothing can stay his hand, what could my fighting do? There was a temptation at first to resign myself to these trials, but this Joy I am experiencing is telling me otherwise. The joy of the Lord is my strength, and it is leading me to fight.

Though he is sovereign over the battle I am facing, he is also equipping me with strength for the battle (2 Samuel 22:40). He has not called us to despair; he has called us to strength. It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace (Hebrews 13:9), even in the midst of God-ordained trials. In fact, if it were not for the affliction he allows in our life, we would never know the extent of the strength he can give us. Once we get a glimpse of it, we exalt him all the more, which increases our joy and our strength.

So I will fight with a strength that is not my own. My heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

Therefore, lift your drooping hands, and strengthen your weak knees so that what is out of joint may be healed (Hebrews 12:12). The battle belongs to the Lord. Seek him and his strength. Seek his presence continually (1 Chronicles 16:11). He will equip you with strength for the battle. You will find a power not your own, and that which rises against you, will sink beneath you (1 Chronicles 16:11).

D. Eaton

 

When God’s Love Hurts

But they will become his slaves so that they may learn the difference between my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries. 2 Chronicles 12:8

In this verse, we find the nation of Judah in a humbling position. King Rehoboam had only been king of Judah for five years, but in that five years, he had forsaken the law of the Lord. Because of this unfaithfulness, the Lord sends Shishak, King of Egypt to capture the fortified cities of Judah. The Lord then says to King Rehoboam, “You have forsaken me, so I have forsaken you to Shishak”, and what we see next is faith revived, for they humbled themselves and said, “the Lord is righteous.”

Too often we take disobedience lightly, and most people do not like to talk about the times they have been under God’s rod of discipline, and you can understand why. With so much theology pushing for the elusive mountaintop experience, and Christian pop psychology teaching us “How to manage our emotions” or “How to find the champion within,” a Christian could feel like quite the failure in many of today’s churches to acknowledge that God’s discipline is upon them.

We must, however, see this for what it is. To be under the heavy hand of God is a blessing because the Lord only disciplines those He loves. In this text we see His discipline had a specific purpose: to teach. There are many things we must be taught by the hand of the Lord for our hearts are deceitful and prone to wander, but our Shepherd knows how to lead us. When we learn the difference between His service and the service of the prince of this world, we find that His yoke is easy and His burden in light.

There is also the unfortunate fact that many people live their lives based on subjective feelings and do not live according to the Word of God. They feel that they are spiritual because they get goosebumps during their worship service, but they are living in sin and feel no remorse about it. Living in disobedience with warm affections in worship is a much worse place to be than under the rod of God’s discipline.

Today, if you find yourself under God’s Rod of discipline, humble yourself, and know that He is righteous. Don’t try to run, for it is God’s love that is dealing with you, not His condemnation. Praise Him for He is good, and if the world looks down on you because you have been brought low, and if many in the church are too busy chasing affluence under the guise of Christianity to understand, remember victory is yours because He is your shepherd. It is God’s grace that teaches us these crucial lessons, and we know “the broken and contrite He will never turn away.” Praise God, for He disciplines those He loves, we are kept by the power of God, and we will never be lost.

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. -Hebrew 12:4-11 

D. Eaton

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He Restores My Soul

Dead. Black. Harmful. Guilty. These are not words that describe a mere principle that worked within me; they described me. Though life coursed through my veins, I was spiritually dead, and death was to be the only wage I would merit. Not simply physical death, but eternal death. Flesh was the only word that could describe me. As in death, my eyes were closed and lifeless; I allowed no light to enter because I loved the darkness. Blackness permeated everything I was. Though my eyes could see, in rebellion they would not look upon light and life. All my actions, though I boasted of goodness, were done in darkness, and because of this I was harmful; dangerous to myself and those around me, and none of it was accidental or blameless. In all of it, I was culpable for I had gone astray.

Broken, Injured. Restless. Fearful. Of no merit in myself and entirely for His name’s sake, He called this wandering sheep. For the first time, I heard His voice and it me gave life, and light began to penetrate my soul. Though still somewhat harmful something had changed. Something old had passed away, and all things were becoming new. Yet, in it all, I was still broken. I had injured myself and those around me, and in restlessness and fear, I began to wonder if He would fulfil all He promised.

Guided. Nourished. Protected. Loved. From a distance, I followed His voice learning that He would only lead me to places that would be to my advantage. In His leading He began to feed my wounded soul with nourishment that could not be found from any other source. In my ignorance, I would wander from time to time but He never failed to fend off the enemies of my soul with His rod, and if necessary He would even use His staff to chasten me. When my foolish legs began to wander, He did not hesitate to wound them. Then in my weakness, He would gather me up into His arms and keep me close to protect me from myself and my enemies while I would mend. In those times, I began to know Him better, and as He spoke to me using a name that was all my own. I knew I was loved.

Peace. Comfort. Fearless. Endless. My Shepherd’s name is Jesus, and He restores my soul. I now lay down in peace wherever He leads me, and I shall not be in want. I am comforted by His rod and staff and now long to be at my Shepherd’s side. No longer do I fear evil for He is with me. His goodness and mercy will be with me all the days of my life, and my dwelling in the house of the Lord will be endless.

“He restores my soul.”– Psalm 23:3

D. Eaton

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Our Quiet Times Are Rarely As They Appear

 

quiet-times

If someone were to walk by, they would see a man at rest on the Lord’s day. He is sitting on the front porch soaking up the sun on a beautiful spring day. The birds are singing, and a pleasant breeze is blowing. His posture is relaxed, and in his lap sits his Bible. In his hands are a highlighter and a pen. The pages of the black leather-bound book are open to 2 Corinthians; pages he has evidently read before because some of the highlights are of a different color than the highlighter he is holding. He is pouring over the words, frequently stopping to highlight and reread relevant phrases as he comes to them, and then jotting a few notes in his journal.

To many, it is a picture of serenity and peace: a moment of rest. There is, however, something deeper going on below the surface. There is an internal struggle raging. First, there is bodily fatigue. The body that appears relaxed is doing everything he can to stay on task and stay focused on the word. There is a physical distress that keeps his body from finding the peace it desires.

Also inside, there is a sinful nature warring against the spirit he is attempting to nourish. It is calling him away to other activities. Activities of idleness, ones that turn his eyes from things above and diverts his attention to the pleasures of this world. He hears the sirens calling, and he is striving to resist them as he sits in what appears to be perfect peace.

Lastly, there are the doubts and fears, along with worries and pains he is looking to address. This time in the word is not a laid-back time of reflection. He is in a battle, searching for fuel for his faith. Worries at work, cares at home, financial burdens, and concerns for others weigh him down.

The outside world cannot see it, but this internal war is raging. Yet, there is something deeper still going on. Something even the man himself cannot see. At this very moment, the eyes of the Lord are looking to and fro throughout the earth to be strong on behalf of those who put their trust in him, and the Father has locked his eyes on his eyes on his child and will not turn away.

At the same time, the Son is interceding on the man’s behalf. Jesus is not praying that the man be taken out of the world, but that he be kept from the evil one. The Savior is praying that the man will be set apart from the world and that he will be sanctified in the truth: the very word of God he is holding in his hands.

As he sits and reads, engage in this battle of the ages, the Holy Spirit surrounds him and begins speaking to his heart. There is an invisible light emanating from the pages and entering through the windows of his soul. The Spirit draws his eyes to the following words.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The Spirit uses this to illuminate two truths, showing him that the battle has a purpose. First, this fight makes him rely not on himself but on God, who raises the dead. Second, he learns that it is by being comforted by God in times of difficulty that we are taught to comfort others. Something he longs to do.

It is here that the Spirit reminds him that he has a treasure in this jar of clay, and like Gideon breaking the clay pots to show forth the light hidden within, it is not until our weakness is exposed that the treasure begins to shine forth. Though the man may be afflicted in every way, he is not crushed. He may be perplexed, but he is not drawn to despair. He may be struck down, but he will not be destroyed. The Lord has heard him in his distress and bowed the heavens and came down. He sent out his arrows and scattered the enemy, and is drawing the man out of many waters.

The man still feeling the effects of a distressed body, breathes a sigh of relief and finds himself sweetly resigned to the Lord’s will. His heart is moved to spend the evening in prayer, praising God and interceding on behalf of those he loves. There is an intimacy with his Savior that reminds him that the weight of his troubles cannot compare to the weight of glory that lies ahead. That night, he sets his a Bible by his bed and closes his eyes to pray, and once again the heavens begin to move. Our quiet times are rarely as they appear.

D. Eaton

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