"The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out."
Keep the altar of private prayer burning. This is the very life of all piety. The sanctuary and family altars borrow their fires here, therefore let this burn well. Secret devotion is the very essence, evidence, and barometer, of vital and experimental religion.
Burn here the fat of your sacrifices. Let your closet seasons be, if possible, regular, frequent, and undisturbed. Effectual prayer availeth much. Have you nothing to pray for? Let us suggest the Church, the ministry, your own soul, your children, your relations, your neighbours, your country, and the cause of God and truth throughout the world. Let us examine ourselves on this important matter. Do we engage with lukewarmness in private devotion? Is the fire of devotion burning dimly in our hearts? Do the chariot wheels drag heavily? If so, let us be alarmed at this sign of decay. Let us go with weeping, and ask for the Spirit of grace and of supplications. Let us set apart special seasons for extraordinary prayer. For if this fire should be smothered beneath the ashes of a worldly conformity, it will dim the fire on the family altar, and lessen our influence both in the Church and in the world.
The text will also apply to the altar of the heart. This is a golden altar indeed. God loves to see the hearts of his people glowing towards himself. Let us give to God our hearts, all blazing with love, and seek his grace, that the fire may never be quenched; for it will not burn if the Lord does not keep it burning. Many foes will attempt to extinguish it; but if the unseen hand behind the wall pour thereon the sacred oil, it will blaze higher and higher. Let us use texts of Scripture as fuel for our heart's fire, they are live coals; let us attend sermons, but above all, let us be much alone with Jesus.
"He appeared first to Mary Magdalene."
Jesus "appeared first to Mary Magdalene," probably not only on account of her great love and persevering seeking, but because, as the context intimates,she had been a special trophy of Christ's delivering power. Learn from this, that the greatness of our sin before conversion should not make us imagine that we may not be specially favoured with the very highest grade of fellowship. She was one who had left all to become a constant attendant on the Saviour. He was her first, her chief object. Many who were on Christ's side did not take up Christ's cross; she did. She spent her substance in relieving his wants. If we would see much of Christ, let us serve him. Tell me who they are that sit oftenest under the banner of his love, and drink deepest draughts from the cup of communion, and I am sure they will be those who give most, who serve best, and who abide closest to the bleeding heart of their dear Lord. But notice how Christ revealed himself to this sorrowing one--by a word, "Mary." It needed but one word in his voice, and at once she knew him, and her heart owned allegiance by another word, her heart was too full to say more. That one word would naturally be the most fitting for the occasion. It implies obedience. She said, "Master." There is no state of mind in which this confession of allegiance will be too cold. No, when your spirit glows most with the heavenly fire, then you will say, "I am thy servant, thou hast loosed my bonds." If you can say, "Master," if you feel that his will is your will, then you stand in a happy, holy place. He must have said, "Mary," or else you could not have said, "Rabboni." See, then, from all this, how Christ honours those who honour him, how love draws our Beloved, how it needs but one word of his to turn our weeping to rejoicing, how his presence makes the heart's sunshine.
Today's reading: Psalm 13-15, Acts 19:21-41 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Psalm 13-15
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
Today's New Testament reading: Acts 19:21-41
21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. "After I have been there," he said, "I must visit Rome also." 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.
The Riot in Ephesus
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: "You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."
[Stē'phen] - wreath or crown. One of the seven primitive disciples chosen to serve tables. Stephen was the most prominent of these. Although called to supervise benevolences, he overleaped the limitations of his task and became a powerful preacher. He was also the first martyr of the Christian Church, being stoned to death by the Jews (Acts 6:5-9; 7:59; 11:19; 22:20).
The Man with an Angel Face
The remarkable defense of Stephen in which he summarized Old Testament teachings provoked the Jewish leaders so much that they cast him out of the city and brutally stoned him to death. God, however, can make the wrath of man to praise Him, thus the prominent fruit of Stephen's martyrdom was the conviction and conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who witnessed Stephen's illegal murder, unsanctioned by Roman law. Stephen's character is worthy of emulation. He was a man:
Full of Faith - no room for doubt or fear in his heart (Acts 6:5).
Full of Grace - a gift from God proving itself in graciousness (Acts 6:8 RV).
Full of Power - the ability of God to do things (Acts 6:8).
Full of Light - the Holy Spirit within gave him the face of an angel (Acts 6:15).
Full of Scripture - Stephen covered history from Abraham to Christ (Acts 7).
Full of Courage - the face and fear of man did not trouble Stephen (Acts 7:51-56).
Full of Love - the stones broke Stephen's head but not his heart. Grace was his to forgive his murderers (Acts 7:60).