Tag Archives: devotional

A Puritan Prayer

I just read this today.  Sometimes its good to meditate on the words and prayers of others, of those whose heads are filled with Scripture, whose hearts are warmed by God’s Spirit.

Revive deep spirituality in my heart; let me live near to the great
shepherd, hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.

Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm
by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.

Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by
experience the things I know;

Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its
reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the
Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my
confidence, sin makes me forget thee.

Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; grant me to
know that I truly live only when I live to thee, that all else is trifling.

Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.

Abide in me, gracious God.

Taken from The Valley of Vision, p. 129

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Saved, To Sin No More

At church this past Sunday we sang the classic William Cowper hymn, There is a Fountain Filled With Blood.  For anyone not familiar with Cowper’s story, it’s a powerful testimony of God’s grace, not only in salvation, but in the struggles that so many face.  It can be read here.  The following three verses (there are six in all) stuck with me long after the song had ended:

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

The first verse affirms the gospel, namely that Jesus Christ died to remove our sin – i.e., all of our “guilty stains.”  He doesn’t remove some of our sin, or even most of our sin, but all of our sin.  Therefore, when our faith is in Christ, our future home is secure.

The second verse reminds us that our Lord’s death was a once for all sacrifice, powerful to save us to the end, when we will be glorified.  When we sang this particular line: “Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more” I couldn’t help but utter in my spirit, “Come, Lord Jesus.”  What a wonderful day when this earthly struggle between spirit and flesh is ended and sin is completely eradicated!  It is a day the Lord has promised, and he cannot lie.

The third verse mentions “redeeming love” as our “theme” throughout our lives.  The gospel must define who we are, in every aspect of our lives.  There is not a single area that is not brought under the lordship of Christ, be it family, work, play, friendships, or church.  Once we are His, we are no long our own.

Here are a couple of renditions of “There is a Fountain.”  The first is an a cappella version of the traditional music.  The second is a more modern rendition performed by Red Mountain Church.

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Donald Whitney on the “Sinkhole Syndrome”

One of the great joys of my time at Southern Seminary was sitting under the teaching of Dr. Donald Whitney in a class called Personal Spiritual Disciplines.  Most everyone I’ve asked felt this class was one of their favorites, and more than a few said it transformed their walk with the Lord.  Dr. Whitney’s website, www.biblicalspirituality.com, is full of scripturally practical articles and sermons.  I highly recommend it. 

One of his recent articles, The Sinkhole Syndrome, reminds us of the importance of maintaining our spiritual life.  Distractions come at us constantly, and before long we rely on past experience and knowledge to make it through each day.  Dr. Whitney rightly argues that doing so sets us up for serious spiritual and moral failure.  This a great reminder to myself, since I’m easily given to distractions.  Here’s an excerpt:

As the pressures of life increase and more deadlines loom, it becomes harder to maintain time for the devotional life. “Who will know if I abandon a consistent prayer life? Who can tell if I seldom turn the pages of Scripture? I know the Bible pretty well already, and I hear it a lot at church. God has given me this busy life; surely He understands.” And the erosion begins.

At the outset it’s likely that very few will know when the hidden part of your spiritual life begins crumbling. Just as imperceptible movements of water underground can carry away the earth beneath long before anyone on the surface perceives it, so the pressures of life can secretly displace the soil of our private spiritual disciplines long before the impact of their absence is visible to others. The more public parts of a Christian’s life, such as church involvement and various forms of ministry, can often continue with little observable change right up until the awful moment of collapse and the hypocrisy is revealed.

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Meditation: 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

“And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don’t associate with him, so that he may be ashamed.  Yet don’t treat him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” 2 Thes. 3:14-15, HCSB*

Here we have from Paul a good corrective for two erroneous tendencies among Christians.  The first error tolerates those who oppose Christian teachings, not bothering to correct either false beliefs or sinful behaviors.  In our “tolerant” age this is surely a great temptation for us all.  But the second error can be just as destructive.  How easy it is to consign the obstinate or struggling among us to the realm of ‘tax collector and sinners.’

Instead, we must keep the Apostle’s word near.  By not associating with a stray Christian we cause him to – hopefully – realize the seriousness of his rebellion and repent.  If we ‘wink’ at sin and refuse to discipline properly, the man will continue to think he’s fine spiritually, when in reality his soul could be in danger.  Additionally, other church members are instructed by the actions (or lack thereof) taken against him; the hope being that they will not fall into the same error, but rather continue in the fear of the Lord. 

We must also be cautious in how such situations are handled, carefully watching our attitude toward the disobedient member.  Understanding that discipline is born of love, we must treat the offender accordingly, not as “an enemy,” but “as a brother.”

*Scripture taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible ® Copyright © 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

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Meditation: Malachi 1

But you say, “What a weariness this is,” and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts.  You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering!  Shall I accept that from your hand? say the LORD.  Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.  For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. (Malachi 1:13-14, English Standard Version)

Malachi chapter one primarily deals with the priests and the people who were bringing tainted sacrifices to the Lord.  Instead of offering up the best they had – an unblemished offering which the law required – they instead brought blind and lame animals, presumably so that they could keep the better ones for themselves.  Not only were they disobeying the command, but in so doing demonstrating that God was second in their hearts to themselves.

Of course God doesn’t need a burnt offering, for He needs nothing.  God is impressed with neither perfect nor crippled animals.  What He requires is a contrite heart, one that seeks the will of God above and beyond itself.  An obedient servant is what the Lord requires.  This type of heart will always serve up the better sacrifice, demonstrating love and obedience in a real, tangible way.

We can learn much from this in the church today.  Just as the children of Israel said “What a weariness this is” (1:13) concerning the demands of the law, so also we often grumble at what God asks of us.  We grumble at prayer, Bible study, church attendance, tithing, witnessing, and a host of other things.  What we must keep in mind is the reality of the abundant grace given to us in Christ Jesus.  A Consideration of such mercy and goodness will warm our hearts and create in us a desire to be obedient, not because we must, but because we are willing, as God wants us to be.

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Meditation: Colossians 1:9-12

I began reading Colossians with the purpose of reading the whole book in one sitting.  It was not my intent to stay too long on any one portion, but rather to swallow it all, grasping the main ideas to get an overview.  However, I found that I could not leave the first fourteen verses of chapter one.  This section is mostly prayer and I found myself meditating upon the verses, thinking about how I should be praying and thanking God for such beautiful and instructive words.  On this occasion I found Verses 9-12 to be especially beneficial.  Here Paul writes that he and his compassions have not “ceased” to pray for the Colossians, meaning that they have been consistent in prayer.  And how did they pray? 

1.  For filling of the knowledge of God’s will in spiritual wisdom and understanding

2.  That they would live a life pleasing to the Lord, bearing fruit and increasing in the knowledge of Him

3.  That they would have power and strength according to His might

4.  For them to have endurance and patience with joy

5.  That they would give thanks to the Father who saved them to an inheritance

What a great pattern of prayer!  This is a model for us to follow, for it not only reflects Paul’s heart, but also God’s heart. When teaching on prayer, I will likely focus upon a section like this one, for it is a perfect example of a God-centered prayer.  It is to know Him more that is our joy and our ultimate end.

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Meditation: Psalm 11

In Psalm 11 I was reminded of the Lord’s providential care of His children. Not only does He see their works and test them (vv. 4-5), but He also sees the works of the unrighteous and, instead of testing, judges them.  The righteous are proved to be righteous by the testing of the Lord; the unrighteous are proved to be unrighteous by their deeds.  The wicked despise the righteous and seek to destroy them (v. 2), but it is the Lord who is their protection, who “rain(s) coals on the wicked” (v. 6). 

This reminded me of Rom. 12:19-21, where Paul writes to Christians that they are not to take vengeance, but to leave wrath God who will repay them.  Rather, believers are to do good to their enemies, “for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head”(12:20).  I cannot help but wonder if there is a connection between the two passages with regard to the burning coals.  It would seem that there is.  When we take matters into our own hands we are leaving the Lord out.  But when we follow His command to love our enemies and to even pray for them and clothe them, we are in essence giving them over to God.  The phrase “burning coals” typically refers to judgment of some sort, not a feeling of guilt given to the enemy.

This is a hard teaching.  I often want to see results when it comes to my enemies, but God does things in His own timing.  It is good to be reminded of the need to pray for those who spitefully use me.  By doing so, I’m not only doing what the word commands, but I’m also allowing the Holy Spirit to change my heart toward the unrighteous.  Only by the power of God can I love the unrighteous.  It is only fitting that Christ gives us this command, since we too were once among the unrighteous, murderers at heart.  But God saw fit to redeem us and now He is showing to us what it means to love the wicked.  May He continually grant me the grace to do so.

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