Although personal devotions—time spent with the Lord—may vary day-to-day, month-to-month or even year-to-year, today was one of the very best devotional times of my life! The time was beyond rich. It was pervasive, exhilarating, and intensely joyful, producing waves of tears.
Afterword, I ran six miles to calm down. Following a shower, I’m still riding a spiritual high. Can’t help but share it. Here’s a summary.
Like most believers, I begin by reading a chapter in the Bible—typically a chapter a day from Genesis to Revelation and then repeating the cycle. Rather than reading a weak modern devotional, there follows a series of devotional readings by great saints from the past. “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” C.S. Lewis
Today’s passage from American Minute was about the Alamo. It took 13 days for 3,000 of Santa Ana’s men to annihilate 189 Texans and Tejanos in the Alamo. Only a mother, her baby, and a servant survived. The deceased heroes included William Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie.
During the 13-day siege and massacre, 66 others signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. It proclaimed, “General Antonio Lopez Santa Anna…having overturned the constitution of his country, now offers, as the cruel alternative, either abandon our homes…or submit to the most intolerable of all tyranny…He denies us the right of worshipping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience.” The deceased heroes were pioneers, but they were pioneers willing to give all for freedom, especially the freedom to worship according to their own conscience.
The Texas Declaration was reminiscent of the American Declaration of Independence, opening with the proclamation, “that all men…are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and ending with the absolute and uncompromising commitment, “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, or fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Many of the American Declaration signers lost one or all three. The commitments to freedom and to God by the fighters at the Alamo and the signers of the American Declaration of Independence were total. Retreat—physical, emotional, or spiritual—was not an option.
The Puritans: Daily Readings
Each month there is a series of readings by a selected author. The February readings are by John Bunyan (known for The Pilgrim’s Progress; 1,300 editions/200 languages). These devotional readings are from Bunyan’s A Treatise of the Fear of God. The first few entries distinguish between ungodly fear and godly fear. Whoever preaches about the fear of God anymore?
Ungodly fear views God as a sort of celestial terrorist, causing people to flee from God. Godly fear, however, is an overwhelming awe, respect, and reverence for the power of God. It is a soul-deep awareness of the enormity of the sinful gap between God and man, leading to a profound desire to obey. Godly fear draws people toward Him.
There flows from godly fear a number of positive—even exciting—things, expressed in this devotional a day at a time. Today’s devotional focuses on Delight in God’s Commands. Rather than summarize, this one is so powerful and exhilarating it is reproduced here in totality:
Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear they name. [Psalm 86.11]
There flows from this godly fear a great delight in the holy commands of god; that is, a delight to be conformable unto them. “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments” (Ps. 112:1) This confirms that which was said before, namely, that this fear provokes to a holy and reverent use of the means; for that cannot be, when there is not a holy, yea, a great delight in the commandments.
Wherefore this fear makes the sinner to abhor that which is sin, because that is contrary to the object of his delight. A man cannot delight himself at the same time in things directly opposite one to another, as sin and the holy commandments are; therefore Christ says of the servant, he “cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24);
if he cleaves to the one, he must hate and despise the other: there cannot, at the same time, be service to both, because that they are at enmity one with the other: so are sin and the commandments; therefore, if a man delights himself in the commandments, he hates that which is opposite, which is sin; how much more when he greatly delights in the commandments!
Now, this holy fear of God takes the heart and affections from sin, and sets them upon the holy commandments: therefore such a man is rightly esteemed blessed. For no profession makes a man blessed, but that which is accompanied with an alienation of the heart from sin; nor does any thing do that when this holy fear is wanting.
It is from this fear, then, that love to and delight in the holy commandments flow; and so by that the sinner is kept from those falls and dangers of miscarrying that other professors are so subject to; he greatly delights in the commandments. [emphases added]
There seems to be little fear of God in today’s preaching. But John Bunyan and numerous others graphically illustrate how the fear of God is a powerful influence on the believer and the believer’s journey to maturity.
George Whitefield: Daily Readings
George Whitefield was one of the best known preachers of The Great Awakening, a spiritual awakening so dramatic, pervasive, and powerful that it provided the spiritual driving force for the American Revolutionary War. This devotional was selected to discover more about the Awakening, its influence on George Whitefield, and the widespread transformation of the pre-revolutionary American people.
In a summary of today’s reading, Whitefield proclaims:
Christians are “the temple of the living God,” of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They who once held a consultation to create, are all equally concerned in making preparations for, and effectually bringing about the redemption of man. The Father creates, the Son redeems, and the Holy Ghost sanctifies all the elect people of God.
Being loved from eternity, they are effectually called in time, they are chosen out of the world…by a free, voluntary, unconstrained oblation, they devote themselves, spirit, soul, and body, to the entire service of him who has loved and given himself for them…It implies no less than a total renunciation of the world; in short, it turns the Christian’s whole life into one continued sacrifice of love to God, so that, “whether he eats or drinks, he does all to his glory.”
The reading emphasizes the uncompromising totality the commitment that God expects from the believer.
The Imitation of Christ, Thomas â Kempis
Today, this great reformation saint also reinforced the totality of the believer’s commitment:
It is the mark of a perfect man, Lord, never to let his mind relax in attention to heavenly things, and to pass through many cares as though he had none…Let not the world and its brief glory deceive me, nor the devil trip me by his craftiness. Give me,
- Courage to resist,
- Patience to endure, and
- Constancy to persevere.
Give me the soothing unction of Your spirit rather than all the consolations of the world, and in place of carnal love, infuse into me the love of Your name.
Day by Day with Jonathan Edwards
Today, Jonathan Edwards glorifies life in heaven. It is a place of perfect rest, but not a place of inactivity. Here’s a summary:
…But yet the rest of heaven does not consist in idleness, and a cessation of all action, but only a cessation from all the trouble and toil and tediousness of action…Perfection of happiness does not consist in idleness, but on the contrary, if very much consists in action…The angels are blessed spirits, and yet they are exceedingly active in serving God…God himself enjoys infinite happiness and perfect bliss, and yet he is not inactive, but is himself in his own nature a perfect act, and is continually at work in bringing to pass his own purposes and ends…So that they (saints in heaven) enjoy perfect rest yet they are a great deal more active than they were when in this world.
The Valley of Vision
The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. Read one each day they preface my personal prayer time. Today’s Puritan prayer reading focused on the gospel. Here’s the summary:
O Thou Most High,
Creator of the ends of the earth,
Governor of the universe,
Judge of all men,
Head of the church,
Saviour of sinners;
Thy greatness is unsearchable,
Thy goodness is infinite,
Thy compassion is unfailing,
Thy mercies ever new.
We bless thee for the words of salvation.
We are lost: but in it thou has presented to us
A full, free and eternal salvation;
Weak: but here we learn that help is found in One that is mighty,
Poor: but in him we discover unsearchable riches,
Blind: but we find he has treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
We thank thee for thy unspeakable gift.
Thy Son is our only refuge, foundation, hope, confidence…
Let us as Christians fill our various situations in life…
And may every place and company we are in be benefited by us.
After these readings and contemplations, my prayer time was unusually rich. As the Psalmist said, “my cup runneth over.”
What does it take to wake up the body of believers?
What does it take to wake up the clergy?