Streams of Mercy by Barbara Duguid
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher, P&R Publishing. This in no way affects my opinion of this devotional.
I can't believe 2018 is coming to a close soon. This time of year I find myself reflecting on the wonderful books I've read as well as the devotionals I plan to dig into in the new year. I've acquired quite a few life-changing devotionals recently, including Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson, an advent devotional that I just started.
If you're looking for a new devotional to kick off your 2019, I suggest Streams of Mercy: Prayers of Confession and Celebration by Barbara R. Duguid. This book will help you look honestly at your heart and cling to scriptural truths, living out of a freedom of confession to consciously taste of God's mercy.
Freedom of Confession and Walking in the Light
I mentioned on my bookstagram that this devotional has slowly been changing my life. It's such a simple concept, but oh, does my heart need to hear these truths! This devotional couldn't have come at a better time for me. My community group and I have been talking a lot about the freedom of confession as we dig through 1 John together. John Piper talks about this marvelous gift of confession in his sermon called Let Us Walk in the Light—mentioning that denying our sin is part of what it means to walk in darkness. Confessing our sin is part of what it means to walk in the light.
The mark of the saint is not sinlessness but sin-consciousness! The evidence of indwelling truth is the exposure of error. The dawning of God’s light in the heart is the revelation of remaining darkness. In this life we never get beyond the awareness of remaining sin. Therefore one of the great signs of maturity in Christ is a deep and abiding brokenness for sin.
Streams of Mercy accomplishes this "awareness of remaining sin" with Scripture-secured hope. Barbara doesn't leave Christians to sit in their sin. By confessing that there's "no health in us" that our hearts may be drawn afresh to a loving God, our firm hope of salvation can rest on the one who lived perfectly in our place. The purpose of confessing our sins is always to remind us of what a mighty Savior we have.
The sixth sign of grace in Jonathan Edwards’s Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections entitled “Gracious Affections are Attended with Evangelical Humiliation" offers a beautiful passage I like to cling to in thinking about this freedom.
All gracious affections, which are a sweet odour to Christ, filling the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are broken-hearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is an humble broken-hearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires; their hope is an humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable and full of glory, is an humble, broken-hearted joy, leaving the Christian more poor in spirit, more like a little child, and more disposed to an universal lowliness of behaviour. (Yale edition, 339)
We ourselves are new creations in Christ, and we cannot skip over this assurance. But Piper says that newness consists of this:
The true light is shining in our hearts revealing the dreadfulness of our remaining sin and the abundance of God’s grace. Our great joy is that our sin is forgiven in Christ. And our great grief is that so much of this very sin remains and defiles. . . . The mark of the new creature in Christ is not a rosy self-concept. It is brokenness for remaining sin mingled with a joyful confidence in the super-abounding grace of God in Christ.
The Structure of Streams of Mercy and Why I Love It
This devotional begins with a scriptural call to confession, and the prayers are explicitly Trinitarian. After confessing our sin, Barbara leads us beautifully to give thanks to the Son for his death on the cross and his perfect (and specific) obedience in our place. Each devotion also asks the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to pursue lives of new obedience.
Each prayer of confession is followed by a scriptural assurance of pardon: God's reminder that each and every one of our sins is forgiven in Jesus Christ. I loved that each assurance provides specific gospel encouragement. There are also hymns for each devotion, and I loved reading mine while listening to the songs the author recommended. This practice helped me turn toward Christ when the words on the page were hard to read—when I really had to consider what my heart was believing or not believing.
I was impressed by the indexes of themes, of Scriptures cited, and of the sermon passages listed that Barbara focused on as she wrote these prayers. I truly feel Barbara is a woman who prays the Word of God, and it enriches my own prayer life. I want to finish this post with an excerpt from one of the prayers called "God's Majesty" on page 78. I pray it would be true of us.
Holy Spirit, comfort us often with the righteousness of Christ. We have been given a glorious record or obedience we could never earn; let us see his childlike trust and respect for his Father, his deep humility, and his utter dependence on God. Show us that all of his goodness has been given to us and covers us, though we struggle daily to rest in his grace and mercy. May we be diligent to honor and serve the one who has suffered in our place. Help us to see our sin, to mourn for it, and then to dance and frolic in the finished work of Christ. Ravish us with his glory, inflame our hearts with love and gratitude, and transform our sluggish and tepid souls until we are fervent with joy and devoted to obedience. May the unfathomable beauty of Christ and his immeasurable love for us cause us to burn with holy fear and boundless delight until we see his face and fall at his feet in worship. In his glorious name we pray, amen.