Roark Family Advent Devotional

A few years ago I created an advent devotional for my family. Folks have asked for a copy of it over the years, so I’m happy to share it here. Enjoy!

–Nick

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“He atoned for all our sins” by J. Gresham Machen

“This business of letting by-gones be by-gones has a pleasant sound. But in reality it is the most heartless thing in the world.

It will not do at all even in the case of sins committed against our fellow-men. To say nothing of sin against God, what shall be done about the harm that we have wrought to our neighbor?

Sometimes, no doubt, the harm can be repaired. If we have defrauded our neighbor of a sum of money, we can pay the sum back with interest. But in the case of the more serious wrongs such repayment is usually quite impossible.

The more serious wrongs are those that are done, not to the bodies, but to the souls of men. And who can think with complacency of wrongs of that kind which he has committed?

Who can bear to think, for example, of the harm that he has done to those younger than himself by a bad example? And what of those sad words, spoken to those we love, that have left scars never to be obliterated by the hand of time?

In the presence of such memories, we are told by the modern preacher simply to repent and to let by-gones be by-gones. But what a heartless thing is such repentance!

We escape into some higher, happier, respectable life. But what of those whom we by our example and by our words have helped to drag down to the brink of hell? We forget them and let by-gones be by-gones!

Such repentance will never wipe out the guilt of sin— not even sin committed against our fellow-men, to say nothing of sin against our God.

The truly penitent man longs to wipe out the effects of sin, not merely to forget sin. But who can wipe out the effects of sin? Others are suffering because of our past sins; and we can attain no real peace until we suffer in their stead.

We long to go back into the tangle of our life, and make right the things that are wrong—at least to suffer where we have caused others to suffer.

And something like that Christ did for us when He died instead of us on the cross; He atoned for all our sins.

The sorrow for sins committed against one’s fellowmen does indeed remain in the Christian’s heart. And he will seek by every means that is within his power to repair the damage that he has done.

But atonement at least has been made—made as truly as if the sinner himself had suffered with and for those whom he has wronged. And the sinner himself, by a mystery of grace, becomes right with God.

All sin at bottom is a sin against God. ‘Against thee, thee only have I sinned’ is the cry of a true penitent.

How terrible is the sin against God! Who can recall the wasted moments and years? Gone they are, never to return; gone the little allotted span of life; gone the little day in which a man must work. Who can measure the irrevocable guilt of a wasted life?

Yet even for such guilt God has provided a fountain of cleansing in the precious blood of Christ. God has clothed us with Christ’s righteousness as with a garment; in Christ we stand spotless before the judgment throne.”

–J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (New Edition.; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 109–110.

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“Humility, happiness, and holiness” by Charles Spurgeon

“There will be three effects of nearness to Jesus, all beginning with the letter hhumility, happiness, and holiness. May God give them to us!”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Christ Manifesting Himself to His People,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons (vol. 1; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 1: 226.

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“We know who the real King is” by Rankin Wilbourne

“It may not look like Christ is ruling the universe. Today it might look like just a crack of light under a door.

But the New Testament writers were confident because they knew the light had dawned (Rom. 13: 12) and that one day the door will open, and that light, the Sun of Glory, will flood the whole room.

The gravity of Christ being King is often lost on those of us who have no earthly king. But in the Roman Empire, the tiny church not only survived, but flourished, even amid terrible persecution.

They were willing to die because they knew who the real king was. And they believed He was worth dying for.

King David’s men once said to David, ‘You are worth ten thousand of us’ (2 Sam. 18: 3), and we can now say that to our King and make our lives wholly expendable to Him and His cause.

When you know that Christ is the seated and enthroned King, you too will be willing to surrender all your plans and ambitions into His hands.

Perhaps, with the persecuted church, you can even rejoice when you are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Acts 5:41) because we know who the real King is, and He is worthy.”

–Rankin Wilbourne, Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2016), 165.

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“He gives rain on the earth” by John Piper

“‘God does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. He gives rain on the earth.’ (Job 5:8-10) In Job’s mind rain really is one of the great, unsearchable wonders that God does. So when I read this a few weeks ago, I resolved not to treat it as meaningless pop musical lyrics. I decided to have a conversation with myself (which is what I mean by meditation).

Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder wrought by God? Picture yourself as a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream. A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water. But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come from another source on the fields. From where?

Well, the sky. The sky? Water will come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea over several hundred miles, and then be poured out on the fields from the sky. Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 2,323,200 cubic feet of water, which is 17,377,536 gallons, which is 144,735,360 pounds of water.

That’s heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it’s so heavy? Well, it gets up there by evaporation. Really? That’s a nice word. What’s it mean? It means that the water stops being water for a while so it can go up and not down. I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What’s that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little dust particles between .00001 and .0001 centimeters wide. That’s small.

What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is saltwater. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh. So the sky picks up millions of pounds of water from the sea, takes out the salt, carries the water (or whatever it is, when it is not water) for three hundred miles, and then dumps it (now turned into water again) on the farm?

Well, it doesn’t dump it. If it dumped millions of pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So the sky dribbles the millions of pounds of water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.

How do all these microscopic specks of water that weigh millions of pounds get heavy enough to fall (if that’s the way to ask the question)? Well, it’s called coalescence. What’s that? It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger, and when they are big enough, they fall.

Just like that? Well, not exactly, because they would just bounce off each other instead of joining up if there were no electric field present. What? Never mind. Take my word for it.

I think, instead, I will just take Job’s word for it.”

–John Piper, Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2005), 24–26.

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“The riddles of God” by G.K. Chesterton

“In dealing with the arrogant asserter of doubt, the right method is to tell him to go on doubting, to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wilder things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself.

This, I say, is the first fact touching the speech (i.e. Job 38-42); the fine inspiration by which God comes in at the end, not to answer riddles, but to propound them. The other great fact which, taken together with this one, makes the world work religious instead of merely philosophical, is that other great surprise which makes Job suddenly satisfied with the mere presentation of something impenetrable.

Verbally speaking the enigmas of Jehovah seem darker and more desolate than the enigmas of Job; yet Job was comfortless before the speech of Jehovah and is comforted after it. He has been told nothing, but feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told.

The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design. The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”

–G.K. Chesterton, “The Book of Job,” in On Lying in Bed and Other Essays, Ed. Alberto Manguel (Calgary: Bayeux Arts, 2000), 176.

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“A calm look into the eternal world” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“There is nothing like a calm look into the eternal world to teach us the emptiness of human praise, the sinfulness of self-seeking and vainglory, to teach us the preciousness of Christ.”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 85.

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