Grace Gems for January 2010


None of us would want to have our hearts photographed!

(J. R. Miller, "When the Song Begins" 1905)

"Having loved His own who were in the world—He loved them unto the end!" John 13:1

A friend is one who loves—and does not cease to love. Christ having loved His people—loves them unto the end.

One quality of true friendship, is trust. What could be more sacred than this comfort of feeling safe with a person, absolutely safe? That is the kind of friend Jesus is. You may always feel safe with Him. You may confess all your sins to Him. You may tell Him all your faults and your failures—how you denied Him the other night, how you failed to be true to Him, and all the evil thoughts of your heart; and He will be just as tender and gracious—as if you never had sinned! He loves unto the end!

None of us would want to have our hearts photographed, and the picture held up before the eyes of our neighbors! We would not want even our best friends to see a full transcript of our secret life—what goes on within us:
  the jealousies,
  the envyings,
  the bitter feelings,
  the impure thoughts,
  the meannesses,
  the selfishnesses,
  the suspicions,
  the doubts and fears!
Yet Christ sees all this unworthy inner life—He knows the worst that is in us—and loves us still! We do not need to hide our weaknesses from Him. He never withdraws His love. We may trust Him absolutely and forever!

"Having loved His own who were in the world—He loved them unto the end!" John 13:1

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He chose you to be trophies of His grace!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"You yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5

God builds a palace for Himself in heaven, made of 'living stones'. Where did He get them? Has He brought forth the richest and the purest marble from the fine quarries of Paris? No! Christians, look to "the hole of the pit where you were dug out of, and to the rock where you were cut from!" You were full of sin. Far from being stones that were white with purity—you were black with defilement, seemingly utterly unfit to be stones in the spiritual temple, which would be the dwelling-place of the Most High God. And yet, He chose you to be trophies of His grace!

Goldsmiths make exquisite jewelry from precious materials; they fashion the bracelet and the ring from gold. But God makes His jewels out of base materials. From the black pebbles of the defiling brooks—He has taken up stones, which He has set in the golden ring of His immutable love, to make them gems to sparkle on His finger forever. He has not selected the best—but apparently the worst of men—to be the monuments of His grace!

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In search of an imaginary good

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Many are asking—Who can show us any good?" Psalm 4:6

And all these—all this vast gathering of human souls, are joining in one cry—all moving in one direction! Oh, dreadful thought—at which the faithful well may weep! Their cry is SELF; their course is sin. Here and there are the chosen few struggling against the mighty tide; but the masses, the multitude are hurrying on in their mad career—in search of an imaginary good; and reaping the fruit of the futile search—in disappointment, damnation and hell.

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

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One cannot have an omelet—without breaking eggs!

(J. R. Miller, "Choosing to Do Hard Things" 1902)

The goal of noble living, is to gather new virtue and grace—from all life's struggles, cares and sorrows.

A mark of a all noble character—is its desire to do hard things!

The man who seeks only easy things—will never make much of his life.

One who is afraid of hard work—will never achieve anything worth while.

In an art gallery, before a lovely masterpiece, a young artist said to Ruskin, "Ah! If only I could put such a dream on canvas!" "Dream on canvas!" growled the old master. "It will take ten thousand touches of the brush on the canvas—to put your dream there!" No doubt, many beautiful dreams die in the brains and hearts of people—for lack of effort to make them realities.

In all departments of life—this indolent, easy-going way of getting on in life—is working its mischief. People do only what is easy—and never grapple with anything that is hard.

Indolence is the bane of countless lives! They do not rise—because they have not the courage and persistence to climb!

There are too many people who try to shirk the hard things. They want to get along as easily as possible. They have ambition of a certain sort—but it is ambition to have the 'victory' without the battle; to 'get the gold' without digging for it. They would like to be learned and wise—but they do not care to toil in study, and "burn the midnight oil," as they must do—if they would realize their desire. They may have a certain longing to be noble and Christlike, with a character that will command respect and confidence—but they have not the spirit of self-denial and of earnest moral purpose, which alone can produce such a character.

They may want to be godly and to grow into worthy manhood—but lack that passionate earnestness which alone will yield vigorous piety, and manly virtue, and the heroic qualities of true Christlikeness. Mere "holy dreaming" will yield nothing better than spiritual effeminacy! No religion is worthy—which does not seek to attain the best things; and the best can be won only by the bravest struggle and the most persistent striving!

We should not forget, that no one ever did anything of great value in this world—without cost. A quaint old proverb says, "One cannot have an omelet—without breaking eggs!" If we would do anything really worth while, that will be a blessing in the world—we must put into it, not merely . . .
  easy efforts,
  languid sympathies,
  conventional good wishes, and
  courtesies that cost nothing!

We must put into it . . .
  sleepless nights,
  exhausting toil.

There is a legend of an artist who had found the secret of a wonderful 'red' which no other artist could imitate. The secret of his 'color' died with him. But after his death an old wound was discovered over his heart. This revealed the source of the matchless hue in his pictures. The lesson of the legend is . . .
  no great achievement can be made,
  no lofty attainment can be reached,
  nothing of much value to the world can be done
—except at the cost of heart's blood!

"I laborstruggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!" Colossians 1:29

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The art of living a Christian life

(J. R. Miller, "How to Live a Beautiful Christian Life" 1880)

"Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

We have only successfully acquired the art of living a Christian life—when we have learned to apply the principles of true religion, and enjoy its help and comfort in our daily life.

It is easy to join in devotional exercises, to quote Bible promises, to extol the beauty of the Scriptures. But there are many who do these things—whose religion utterly fails them in the very places and at the very times—when it ought to prove their staff and stay!

All of us must go out from the sweet services of the Sunday—into a week of very real and very commonplace life. We must mingle with people who are not angels! We must pass through experiences, that will naturally worry and vex us. Those about us, either wittingly or unwittingly, annoy and try us! We will meet many troubles and worries in ordinary week-day life. There are continual irritations and annoyances!

The problem is to live a beautiful Christian life—in the face of all these hindrances! How can we get through the tangled briers which grow along our path—without having our hands and feet torn by them? How can we live sweetly—amid the vexing and irritating things, and the multitude of little worries and frets which infest our way, and which we cannot evade?

It is not enough merely to 'get along in any sort of way', to drag to the close of each long, wearisome day—happy when night comes to end the strife. Life should be a joy—and not a burden. We should live victoriously, ever master of our experiences, and not tossed by them like a leaf on the dashing waves. Every earnest Christian wants to live a truly beautiful life, whatever the circumstances may be.

A little child, when asked 'what it was to be a Christian,' replied, "For me, to be a Christian is to live as Jesus would live—and behave as Jesus would behave—if He were a little girl and lived at our house."

No better definition of the Christian life could be given. Each one of us is to live just as Jesus would—if He were living out our little life in the midst of its actual environment, mingling with the same people with whom we must mingle, and exposed to the very annoyances, trials and provocations to which we are exposed. We want to live a life that will please God, and that will bear witness to the genuineness of our piety.

"Leaving you an example—so that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

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Afflictions, when sanctified

(J. R. Miller, "Weekday Religion" 1880)

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word." Psalm 119:67

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes." Psalm 119:71

By affliction, the Master Artist is adding some new touch of loveliness, to the picture He is bringing out in our souls.

Afflictions, when sanctified
  temper worldly ambitions,
  burn out the dross of selfishness,
  humble pride,
  quell fierce passions,
  reveal the evil in our hearts,
  manifest our weaknesses, faults, and blemishes,
  teach patience and submission,
  discipline unruly spirits,
  deepen and enrich our graces.

Afflictions, when sanctified—plough the hard soil and cut long and deep furrows in the heart. The heavenly Sower follows, and fruits of righteousness spring up. "No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11

Affliction is a messenger of God—sent to minister to us in the best of ways! When under God's chastening hand, we should ask,
What would God have this sorrow do for me?
What is its mission?
What its great design?
What golden fruit lies hidden in its husk?
How shall it . . .
  strengthen my virtue,
  nerve my courage,
  chasten my passions,
  purify my love, and
  make me like Him who bore the cross of sorrow while He lived, and hung and bled upon it when He died, and now wears the victor's crown in glory?

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The deceitfulness of sin!

(by Jeremy Taylor)

"Lest any of you be hardened through the
 deceitfulness of sin!
" Hebrews 3:13

First sin startles him,
then it becomes pleasing,
then easy,
then delightful,
then frequent,
then habitual,
then confirmed!

Then the man is impenitent,
then obstinate,
then resolves never to repent,
and then he is damned!

"For the wages of sin is death!" Romans 6:23

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Behold, I am coming soon!

(J. C. Ryle)

"At that time men will see the Son of Man coming
 in clouds with great power and glory!" Mark 13:26

The second coming of Christ shall be utterly unlike the first.

He came the first time . . .
  in weakness,
  a tender infant,
  born of a poor woman in the manger at Bethlehem,
  and scarcely known.

He shall come the second time in royal dignity,
with the armies of heaven around Him, to be known,
recognized and feared, by all the tribes of the earth!

He came the first time to suffer . . .
  to bear our sins,
  to be reckoned a curse,
  to be despised, rejected, unjustly condemned and slain.

He shall come the second time . . .
  to put down every enemy beneath His feet,
  to take the kingdom of this world for His inheritance,
  to rule them with righteousness,
  to judge all men and
  to reign forevermore!

How vast the difference! How mighty the contrast!

"Behold, I am coming soon!" Revelation 22:12

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Surely, the canary is wiser than the starling!

(J. R. Miller, "Taking Cheerful Views" 1880)

"A cheerful heart has a continual feast." Proverbs 15:15

"A cheerful heart is good medicine; but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22

One of the divinest secrets of a happy life—is the art of extracting comfort and sweetness from every circumstance. We must develop the habit of looking on the bright side. This is a magic-wand whose power exceeds that of any fabled magician's to change all things into blessings. Those who take cheerful views, find happiness everywhere; and yet how rare is the habit! The multitude prefer to walk on the dark side of the paths of life.

There are those who take to gloom—as a bat to darkness, or as a vulture to carrion! They would rather nurse a misery—than nourish a joy. They always find the dark side of everything, if there is a dark side to be found. They appear to be conscientious grumblers, as if it were their duty to extract some essence of misery from every circumstance! The weather is either too cold or too hot; too wet or too dry. They never find anything to their taste. Nothing escapes their criticism. They find fault with the food on the table, with the bed in which they lie, with the railroad-train or steamboat on which they travel, with the government and its officials, with merchant and workman—in a word, with the world at large and in detail.

They are chronic grumblers! Instead of being content in the state in which they are—they have learned to be discontented, no matter how happy their lot! If they had been placed in the Garden of Eden—they would have discovered something with which to find fault! Their wretched habit empties life of all possible joy—and turns every cup to gall.

On the other hand, there are rare people who always take cheerful views of life. They look at the bright side. They find some joy and beauty everywhere. If the sky is covered with clouds—they will point out to you the splendor of some great cloud-bank piled up like mountains of glory. When the storm rages, instead of fears and complaints—they find an exquisite pleasure in contemplating its grandeur and majesty. In the most faulty picture—they see some bit of beauty which charms them. In the most disagreeable person—they discover some kindly trait or some bud of promise. In the most disheartening circumstances, they find something for which to be thankful, some gleam of cheer breaking in through the thick gloom!

When a ray of sunlight streamed through a crack in the shutter, and made a bright patch on the floor in the darkened room—the little dog rose from his dark corner, and went and lay down in the one sunny spot; and these cheerful people live in the same way. If there is one beam of cheer or hope anywhere in their lot—they will find it! They have a genius for happiness. They always make the best out of circumstances. Their good nature never fails. They take a cheerful view of every perplexity. Such people have a wondrous ministry in this world. They are like apple trees when covered with blossoms, pouring a sweet fragrance all around them.

It may be worth while to linger a little, on the philosophy of living which produces such results.

Some people are born with sunny dispositions, with large hopefulness and joyfulness, and with eyes for the bright side of life. Others are naturally disposed to gloom. Yet, it is still largely a matter of culture and habit, for which we are individually responsible. Like the apostle Paul, we can train ourselves to take cheerful views of life, and to extract contentment and enjoyment from any circumstances.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again—Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4. This is clearly a most important part of Christian culture.

Joyfulness is everywhere commended as a Christian duty.

Discontent is a most detestable fault.

Morbidness is a sin.

Fretfulness grieves God. It tells of unbelief. It destroys the soul's peace. It disfigures the beauty of Christian character. It not only makes us soured and unhappy in our own hearts—but its influence on others is bad.

We have no right to project the gloom of our discontent—over any other life. Our attitude is to be ever towards joy. There is nothing so depressing in its effect upon others, as morbidness!

True contentment does not chafe under disappointments and losses—but accepts them, becomes reconciled to them, and at once looks about to find something good in them.

This is the secret of happy living!

And when we come to think of it—how senseless it is to struggle against the inevitable! Discontent helps nothing. It never removes a hardship, or makes a burden any lighter, or brings back a vanished pleasure. One never feels better, for complaining. It only makes him wretched!

A starling in a cage struggles against its fate, flies against the wire walls, and beats upon them in efforts to be free—until its wings are all bruised and bleeding!

A canary is shut in another cage, accepts the restraint, perches itself upon its bar and sings.

Surely, the canary is wiser than the starling!

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Why, papa, you have mamma and me left!

(J. R. Miller, "Losses" 1880)

"God Himself has said—Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

This truth ought to bring unspeakable comfort to God's children, who are called to suffer earthly losses. If they have GOD left to them—no other loss is irreparable!

A wealthy man came home one evening with a heavy heart, and said that he had lost everything. Bankruptcy had overtaken him. "We are utterly beggared!" he said. "All is gone; there is nothing left! We must leave our home, and beg for tomorrow's bread!" His little five year old daughter crept up on his knee, and, looking earnestly into his despairing face, said, "Why, papa, you have mamma and me left!"

Just so, what are temporal and worldly losses of the sorest kind—while God remains? Yes, what is the loss of money, houses, costly furniture, and other possessions, while God's love remains? There is surely enough in Him—to compensate a thousand times for every earthly loss!

Our lives may be stripped bare—home, friends, riches, comforts—gone; every sweet voice of love, every note of joy—silenced; and we may be driven out from brightness, tenderness and shelter—into the cold ways of sorrow! Yet if we have God Himself left—ought not this to suffice? Is He not in Himself, infinitely more than all His gifts? If we have Him—can we really need anything else?

"The Lord is my Shepherd—I have everything I need!" Psalm 23:1

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Our conception of Christian living

(J. R. Miller, "Being Christians on Weekdays" 1888)

True religion is intensely practical. Only so far as it dominates one's life—is it real. We must get the commandments out of God's Word—and give them a place in the hard, dusty paths of our earthly toil and struggle. We must get them off the tables of stone—and have them written on the walls of our own hearts! We must bring the Golden Rule—into our daily, actual life.

We are too apt to imagine, that holiness consists in mere good feeling toward God. It does not! It consists in obedience in heart and life to the divine requirements. To be holy is, first, to be set apart for God and devoted to God's service, and it necessarily follows that we must live for God.

Our hands are God's—and can fitly be used only in doing His work; our feet are God's—and may be employed only in walking in His ways and running His errands; our lips are God's—and should speak words only that honor Him and bless others; our hearts are God's—and must not be profaned by thoughts and affections that are not pure.

True holiness is no vague sentiment—it is intensely practical. It is nothing less than the bringing of every thought and feeling and act—into obedience to Christ! We are quite in danger of leaving out the element of obedience, in our conception of Christian living. If we do this, our religion loses its strength and grandeur—and becomes weak, nerveless and forceless.

Our religion must touch every part of our life—and transform it all into the beauty of holiness.

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He who holds the pruning-knife!

(J. R. Miller, "Looking at the Right Side" 1888)

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener.  . . . He prunes every branch that produces fruit—so that it will produce more fruit." John 15:1-2

Our Father is the gardener; we are branches under His care. He watches over our lives. The painful afflictions which cut into our very souls, the taking from us of objects that are dear to us, as when the gardener with his sharp knife removes luxuriant branches from the vine—are
our Father's prunings! No hand but His—ever holds the knife! We are sure, then, that there is never any careless cutting, any unwise or mistaken pruning, any needless removing of rich branches or growths.

We really need to go no farther than this. A strong, abiding confidence that all the trials, sorrows and losses of our lives—are parts of
our Father's prunings—ought to silence every question, quiet every fear and give peace and restful assurance to our hearts, in all their pain. We cannot know the reason for the painful strokes—but we know that He who holds the pruning-knife is our Father! That is all we need to know.

The other thought in the Lord's parable, is scarcely less full of comfort to a Christian. Jesus says, that it is the fruitful branches which the Father prunes: "He prunes every branch that produces fruit—so that it will produce more fruit."

Afflictions are not, then, a mark of God's anger or disapproval; rather, they are a mark of His favor. The branches into which He cuts, from which he trims away the luxuriant growths—are fruit-bearing already. He does not prune the fruitless branches—He cuts them off altogether as useless, as mere cumberers, absorbing life and yielding nothing of blessing or good.

Some Christians have the impression that their many troubles indicate that God does not love them—that they cannot be true Christians, or they would not be so chastened. This teaching of Christ shows how mistaken they are. The much chastening shows that the Father is pruning His fruitful branch—to make it more fruitful! All whom the Father loves—He chastens!

It is the fruitless branch that is never pruned; the fruitful branch is pruned, and pruned—not by one without skill, not by an enemy—but by the wise Father! Thus we see how we may rejoice—even in our trials and afflictions!

One who was altogether ignorant of the art and purpose of pruning, who should see a man with a sharp knife cutting off branch after branch of a luxuriant vine, would at first suppose that the pruner was ruining the vine. So at the time it seems—but by and by, it appears that the prunings have made the vine more fruitful. In the season of vintage, the grapes are more luscious, with a richer flavor in them—because of the cutting away of the superfluous branches.

In like manner, if an angel who had never witnessed anything of human suffering, and who knew nothing of its object, were to see the Father causing pain and affliction to His children, it would seem to him that these experiences could be only destructive of happiness and blessing; but if the angel were to follow those chastened lives on to the end, he would see untold blessing coming out of the chastenings! The Father was but pruning the branches—that they might bear more and better fruit!

We should never lose sight of the divine purpose in all trials—to make our lives more fruitful.

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The 'picture' of the ideal Christian life!

(J. R. Miller, "
A Word About TEMPER" 1888)

Most of us are bad-tempered in various degrees. The dictionary has been well-near exhausted of adjectives, in giving the different shades of bad-temper: aggressive, angry, bickering, bitter, capricious, choleric, contentious, crotchety, despotic, domineering, easily offended, gloomy, grumpy, hasty, huffy, irritable, morose, obstinate, reproachful, peevish, sulky, surly, vindictive—these are some of the qualifying words!

We do not like to believe that the case is quite so serious—that many of us are unamiable in some offensive degree. It is easier to confess our neighbor's faults and infirmities, than our own! So, therefore, quietly taking refuge for ourselves among the few good-tempered people—we are willing to admit that a great many of the people we know, have at times rather ungentle tempers. They are easily provoked; they fly into a passion on very slight occasion; they are haughty, domineering, peevish, fretful or vindictive!

What is even worse, most of them appear to make no effort to grow out of their infirmities of disposition! The sour fruit does not come to mellow ripeness in the passing years; the roughness is not polished off the diamond to reveal its lustrous hidden beauty. The same petulance, pride, vanity, selfishness and other disagreeable qualities are found in the life, year after year!

Where there is a struggle to overcome one's faults and grow out of them, and where the progress toward better and more beautiful spiritual character is perceptible, though ever so slow—we should have sympathy. But where one appears unconscious of one's blemishes, and manifests no desire to conquer one's faults—there is little ground for encouragement!

Man-like it is—to fall into sin.
Fiend-like it is—to dwell therein.
Saint-like it is—for sin to grieve.
God-like it is—for sin to leave.

Bad temper is such a disfigurement of character, and, besides, works such harm to one's self and to one's neighbors, that no one should spare any pains or cost to have it cured!

The ideal Christian life—is one of unbroken kindliness. It is dominated by love—the love whose portrait is drawn for us in the immortal thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." That is the 'picture' of the ideal Christian life!

We have but to turn to the gospel pages—to find the story of a life in which all this was realized. Jesus never lost his temper. He lived among people who tried Him at every point—some by their dullness, others by their bitter enmity and persecution—but He never failed in sweetness of disposition, in patience, in self-denying love. Like the flowers which give out their perfume only when crushed; like the odoriferous wood which bathes the axe which hews it with fragrance; the life of Christ yielded only the tenderer, sweeter love—to the rough impact of men's harshness and wrong. That is the pattern, on which we should strive to fashion our life and our character! Every outbreak of violent temper, every shade of ugliness in disposition—mars the radiant loveliness of the 'picture' we are seeking to have fashioned in our souls!

Bad-tempered people are continually hurting others, ofttimes their best and truest friends.

Some people are sulky—and one person's sulkiness casts a chilling shadow over a whole household!

Others are so sensitive, ever watching for slights and offended by the merest trifles—that even their nearest friends have no freedom of fellowship with them!

Others are despotic, and will brook no kindly suggestion, nor listen to any expression of opinion!

Others are so quarrelsome that even the meekest and gentlest person cannot live peaceably with them!

It would be easy to extend this portrayal of the evils of bad temper—but it will be more profitable to inquire HOW a bad-tempered person may become good-tempered. There is no doubt that this happy change is possible in any case. There is no temper so obdurately bad—that it cannot be trained into sweetness. The grace of God can take the most unlovely life—and transform it into the image of Christ.

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Look up!

(J. R. Miller, "Unto the Hills!" A Meditation on Psalm 121)

"I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2

It is good always to look up. Thousands of people dwarf their lives, and hinder the possibilities of growth in their souls—by looking downward. They keep their eyes ever entangled in mere earthly sights, and miss the glories of the hills that pierce the clouds, and of the heavens that bend over them!

A story is told of a boy who one day found a gold coin on the street. Ever after this—he kept his eyes on the ground as he walked, watching for coins. During a long lifetime, he found a good number of coins—but meanwhile he never saw the flowers and the trees which grew in such wondrous beauty everywhere; he never saw the hills, the mountains, the sweet valleys, the picturesque landscapes; he never saw the blue sky. To him, this lovely world meant only a dusty road, dreary and unbeautiful, merely a place in which to look for coins.

This really is the story of the life of most people. They never lift their eyes off the earth! They live only to gather money, to add field to field, to scheme for power or to find pleasure. Or, if their quest is a little higher, it is still only for earthly things. They never lift up their eyes to God! There is no blue sky in their picture. They cherish no heavenly visions. They are without God in the world.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Colossians 3:1-2

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It took the baby out of the young mother's arms the other night!

(J. R. Miller, "Afterward You Will Understand" 1909)

He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, "Lord, are You going to wash my feet?"
Jesus answered him,
"What I am doing—you do not understand now; but afterward you will understand." John 13:7

We are assured that God has a plan for each individual life of His redeemed children. Jesus had a purpose in washing the feet of his disciples that night. It was not an idle thing that He was doing. He meant to teach these men a great lesson.

He has a purpose in every smallest thing, in each event in our lives. His plans run on through all the years, and are woven of the threads of the common events of our lives. We do not know the meaning of the small things in our everyday experiences—but the least of them is in some way connected with the great divine plan.

God's plan for each life includes the smallest affairs of that life. The things that come into our experience are not mere chance. 'Chance' is not a good word; at least we may not use it to mean something that broke into our life independently of God. Nothing ever comes into our experience by chance, in the sense that it is outside of God's purpose for our life, and beyond God's control.

Suppose someone wrongs you, treats you unkindly, even cruelly. If you are God's child, your Father takes the evil into His hands, and it becomes thenceforth, a secret of blessing; it will be overruled so as to be among the "all things" that work together for your good.

The purpose of God for His children—is always good, always love. It could not be otherwise, for God is love. This does not mean that His plan for us never involves suffering. Ofttimes it does. It brings death to a mother—and pain and grief to her family. It took the baby out of the young mother's arms the other night! It leaves the young widow broken-hearted, with little children to provide for. It permits loss of property to come, leaving a family to suffer pinching poverty and hard struggle. It allows a man to lose his work in the time of financial depression, and to endure experience of sore need. It brings sickness with its pain and cost. It lets us have bitter days of suffering. Godly people ofttimes have to endure bitter things, which are hard and most trying. Nevertheless, the plan of God for our lives is good. It is a plan of love. "What I am doing"—it is the Master who says this, and what He does must be good.

Is affliction good? Can it be good to endure bereavement, to suffer injustice, to bear pain? Some day we shall know that many of the best things in life—are the fruit of these very bitter experiences. Our redemption—comes from the sorrow and suffering of Jesus Christ. Just so, the best blessings and the holiest beauties of God's saints—are the harvest of pain.

We must not forget that the things which are painful, are also parts of Christ's chosen way for us, and that they are always good. In all our life Christ is making us—making godly people of us, fashioning Christian character, transforming us into His beautiful image.

Let not life's pains and trials dismay you. Submit to God, accept the providences that come as part of His discipline, and take the lessons, the enrichings which He sends. Some day you will know that you have learned many of your sweetest songs—in the darkness.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A glance into heavenly bliss

("Solitude Sweetened" by James Meikle, 1730-1799)

All at once I find myself in an unbounded flood of bliss, a spacious sea of glory; lost in wonder amidst ineffable delights, and transported with the raptures of seraphic harmony! While all His saints rejoice in His excellent glory—what ardor glows in every soul—what rapture swells in every song! O the adorable displays of His perfections—the manifestations of His goodness—the outlettings of His love!

Here we received out of His fullness—grace upon grace and glory upon glory. Our possession is worthy of our liberal Giver. We have . . .
  a kingdom which cannot be moved,
  an undefiled inheritance, which does not fade away,
  a city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God,
  garments of glory,
  a crown of righteousness,
  the tree of life to feed upon,
  the fountain of life to drink of,
  the garden of God to walk in,
  life above the reach of death,
  health secured from sickness,
  pleasure without pain.

Our bodies are immortal,
our souls immaculate,
our senses sanctified,
our conceptions spiritualized,
our faculties enlarged, and
our whole soul replenished by divinity.

Our past bliss is with us in the sweet remembrance, our present bliss entrances in the enjoyment, and our future bliss is present with us in the full assurance of our eternal felicity.

Thus we are forever blessed to the highest degree.

We are above all fear, beyond anxiety and doubt, and fixed above all change.

Our service is sincere,
our adorations ardent,
our knowledge profound and satisfying.

Rapture rushes in at every part!

Our eyes are ravished with seeing the King in His beauty;
our ears are ravished with hearing the songs of the inner temple;
our nostrils are ravished with the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon, the plant of renown;
our feet are ravished with standing in His holy place;
our hands are ravished with handling of the word of life; and
our mouths are ravished with the wine of our Beloved, which goes down sweetly, causing our souls to shout aloud, and the lips to sing, and never cease.

Our experience of His fullness, our vision of His perfections and glory—constitute our most exalted bliss, and are the heaven of heavens!

O what torrents of eternal love teem from the throne into our souls!

O the pleasure that is in His presence!

O the exuberant rivers of joy that flow at His right hand!

O love! never to be forgotten—which has brought me safely through so many winding labyrinths and crooked paths, in sight of so many enemies—in spite of . . .
  a tempting devil,
  the accusations of my sins,
  the rebellion of my lusts,
  the carnality of my affections, and
  the weakness of all my graces—
to dwell at last forever in heavenly bliss!

O eternity! once the comfort of our longing expectations—now the transport of our enlarged souls! For we are . . .
  forever with the Lord,
  seeing His unclouded face,
  wearing His divine name,
  drinking at the streams of His pleasures,
  eating of His hidden manna,
  sitting beneath the Tree of life,
  basking under the beams of the Sun of righteousness,
  singing hallelujahs to Him who loved us, who washed us from our sins in His blood, and brought us here to be with Him forever!

O state of complete happiness and consummate bliss!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Ugly corners made beautiful

(J. R. Miller, "Christian Manliness" 1909)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely . . ." Philippians 4:8

Beauty is another quality of true manliness. It is not enough for a man to be true, to live honorably, to be just, to be pure and clean—he must also have in his life, whatever is lovely.

All God's works are beautiful. He never made anything that was not beautiful. It is sin which spoils everything!

There are many lives that are not lovely in every feature. You see things in others which you cannot admire—things which are not beautiful.

Fretting is not beautiful.

Bad temper is unlovely.

Discontent, jealousy, irritability, unkindness, selfishness are unattractive.

It is the work of God's grace—to make lives beautiful. All that grace does in us—is toward the fashioning of beautiful Christian character in us.

On a florist's signboard are the words, "Ugly corners made beautiful". The florist had reference to what he could do to beautify an ugly spot or a piece of landscape. He would trim out the weeds, plant flowers and shrubs, and transform a wilderness into a garden.

That is what grace can do in our lives. Some men seem to think that the fine and graceful things are only for women, not for men. But Christ was a man—a perfect, complete man—and there was not a single unlovely thing in His life.
  He was strong—but also gentle.
  He was just—but kindly.
  He was firm—but patient.
  He was righteous, and his indignation burned like fire against all hypocrisy and injustice—but his tenderness never failed.

Fine manliness is beautiful, like Christ. "Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Their photograph flatters them!

(J. R. Miller, "What God Thinks of Us" 1909)

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, is
what God thinks of us.

One has pointed out that in every man, there are four different men:

the man whom the neighbors see,

the man whom one's family sees,

the man whom the person himself sees,

and the man whom God sees.

The community knows us only in a general way, superficially. What people think of us, we sometimes call 'reputation'—what we are reputed to be. It is a composite made up of all that people know about us, gathered from our conduct, our acts, our dispositions, our words, the impressions of ourselves we give to others.

The knowledge the community has of a man, is only superficial. It is evident that the world's opinion about people is not infallible, is not complete, is not final.

A person may be better than his reputation; his external manner may do him injustice. Some men, by reason of their shyness, their awkwardness, or some limitation in power of expression, fail to appear at their true value. The world knows only a man's outward life, and there may be good things in him which it does not know.

Then some people, on the other hand, are worse than their reputation. Their photograph flatters them! What they pretend to be—exceeds the reality. They practice tricks which give a glamour to their lives, so that they pass in public for more than they are. They wear veils, which hide defects and faults in them, and thus they seem better than they are.

Hence we cannot accept the judgment of the community, regarding anyone—as absolutely true, fair, and final.

But there is another man in us—the man GOD sees. And this is most important of all. We do not even know all the secret things of our own hearts. There is an Eye that sees deeper than ours! It is pleasant to have people commend us, when we have tried to do our duty. It gives us great joy to have the approval of our own hearts. But if we do not have the commendation of the Master, human praise and self-approval amount to nothing! "What does God think of me?" is always the final question.

Men are cruel. They judge often harshly. They know only part of the truth concerning us. They are not patient with our infirmities. But we are safe in the hands of God. He knows the worst in us—but He also knows the best. We may trust our lives, therefore, to God's judgment, even if they are full of defects and flaws. He knows all, and will bring to light all the hidden things.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Look at the King in His beauty!

(David Harsha, "Wanderings of a Pilgrim")

"Your eyes will see the King in His beauty and view a land that stretches afar." Isaiah 33:17

Contemplate your blessed Redeemer, seated on His great white throne, encircled with heavenly glory!

Look at the King in His beauty!

It is the sight of a glorified Savior—that will make the heaven of the believer.

Endeavor now, by the eye of faith, to behold the Lord Jesus in all His matchless beauty and excellence.

Contemplate . . .
  His glorious character;
  His infinite mercy;
  His unparalleled condescension,
  and His boundless love!

There is enough in Jesus to employ the soul in rapturous meditation through a vast eternity!

His excellence, His goodness, and His love—can never be fathomed!

O keep your eye fixed on this adorable Savior, while you sojourn in this valley of tears; and in a little while you shall see Him as He is; face to face, and ascribe to Him unceasing praise!

"In a loud voice they sang: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Revelation 5:12

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A grey head, and a carnal worldly heart

(James Meikle, "The Traveler" Dec. 26, 1761)

Hitherto I have looked upon myself as young, and coming to the prime of my life. But henceforth I shall consider myself as in my declining years. I am certain how long I have lived in the world—but quite uncertain how soon I must leave the world. And therefore I should be preparing for my final departure, and daily be ripening for the regions of bliss!

A young man, and a holy life; one in his prime, and all his graces flourishing—is lovely to behold.

But a grey head, and a carnal worldly heart, is a wounding sight! Henceforth, be gone bewitching vanities, and all the enchantments of the world! The last years of my life are not to be trifled away with you!

Death attends me!

The grave awaits me!

Eternity is at hand!

"It is appointed unto men once to die—but after this the judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Spiritual beauty

(J. R. Miller, "Strength and Beauty")

"Worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth!" Psalm 96:9

"Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." Psalm 90:17

Paul enjoins that, "whatsoever things are lovely" shall be in the vision of life, into which we aim to fashion our character.

We are to follow in the footsteps of our Master. Jesus Himself was, "Altogether lovely!" Song of Songs 5:16

Humanity was made to be beautiful. God's ideal for man was spotless loveliness—man was made at first, in God's image. But sin has left its foul trail everywhere! We see something of its debasement, wherever we go. What ruins sin has wrought!

All of Christ's work of grace—is towards the restoration of beauty of the Lord in His people.

Spiritual beauty is holiness. Nothing unclean is lovely. Character is Christ-like, only when it is beautiful.

All the precepts of the Bible are towards the fashioning of beauty in every redeemed life. We are to put away . . .
  all that is sinful,
  all marring,
  every blot and blemish,
  every unholy desire, feeling and affection,
  everything that would defile—
and put on whatsoever is lovely and Christ-like.

The one great work of Christ in Christian lives—is the fashioning of holiness in them. We are to grow away from . . .
  our deformities,
  our faults,
  our infirmities,
  our poor dwarfed stunted life
—into spiritual beauty!

The mark set before us is the likeness of Christ, which, at last, we shall attain! "We know that when He appears—we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is! And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself—just as He is pure." 1 John 3:2-3

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Motes and beams

(J. R. Miller, "The Duty of Fault-Finding")

There is a duty of fault-finding. The Master Himself teaches it. In the Sermon on the Mount, He makes it very plain. We must note carefully, however, where the duty begins. We are to look first after our own faults. "Why do you look at the mote that is in your brother's eye—but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye?"

We must consider the beam that is in our own eye!

The form of this question suggest that we are naturally inclined to pay more attention to flaws and blemishes in others—than in ourselves; and also that a very small fault—a mere mote of fault in another person—may seem larger to us than a blemish many times greater in ourselves!

Of course, it is far easier to see other people's faults—than our own. Our eyes are set in our head in such a way—that we can look at our neighbor, better than at ourselves. Yet we all have faults of our own. Most of us have quite enough of them to occupy our thought, to the exclusion of our neighbor's faults—if only we would give them our attention.

Really, too, our own faults ought to interest us, more than our neighbor's, because they are our own; and being our own, we are responsible for them. We do not have to answer for any other one's sins—but we must answer for our own sins, "Each one must give an account of himself."

Also, the responsibility for getting rid of them, is ours. No faithful friend, no wise teacher, can cure our faults for us. If ever they are taken out of our life—it must be by our own faith, our own firm, persistent effort.

It is a fact, that the faults which we usually see and criticize in others—are the very faults which are the most marked in us! In our judgment of others—we show a miniature of ourselves. If this is true, we should be careful in judging others, for in doing so—we are only revealing our own faults! This should lead us also to close scrutiny of our own life, to get rid of the things in us which are not beautiful.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The man who never laughs

(J. R. Miller, "The Duty of Laughter")

The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." Acts 13:52

"The fruit of the Spirit is joy" Galatians 5:22

The Wise Man says that there is "a time to laugh." That is, there is a time when laughter is right, when it is a duty—and when it would be wrong not to laugh. Perhaps we have not been accustomed to think of laughter in this way. We regard it as an agreeable exercise—but are not apt to class it among duties, like honesty or kindness.

It would be a sad thing, however, if laughter should be altogether crowded out of life. Think of a world of human beings with no laughter—men and women always wearing grave, serious, solemn faces. Think of the laughter of childhood, departing from the world—how dull and dreary life would be! Nothing on earth is more beautiful, than the merry laugh of childhood.

Laughter has its place in every wholesome, healthy, holy life. The man who never smiles—is morbid! He has lost the joy chords out of his life. He has trained himself to think only of unpleasant things, to look only and always at the dark side. He has accustomed himself so long to sadness—that the muscles of his face have become set in hard, fixed lines—and cannot relax themselves. His thoughts of life are gloomy—and the gloom has entered his soul and darkened his eyes!

Where there is no laughter—all evils nest. Demons do not laugh!

The man who never laughs, must not blame his fellows if they think there is something wrong with his life, something dark within.

If the streams which flow out are only bitter—the fountain cannot be sweet!

The Wise Man says:
"A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." Proverbs 15:13
"A cheerful heart has a continual feast." Proverbs 15:15
"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace" Romans 15:13

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

We fritter away days, weeks, months!

(J. R. Miller, "The Sacredness of Opportunity")

"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16

"Gather up the fragments that are left over. Let nothing be wasted!" John 6:12

"Time is short!" 1 Corinthians 7:29

Time is made up of golden minutes—not one of which we should allow to be wasted! The Master said that for every idle word that men speak—they must give account. This can be no less true of idle minutes or hours.

Most of us live as if we had a thousand years to stay here in this world! We loiter away the golden hours of our little days—as if the days were never to end! We do not see how swiftly the sun is whirling toward his setting, while our work is but half done, our task perhaps scarcely begun!

We fritter away days, weeks, months—not noticing how our one little opportunity of living in this world is being worn off, as the sea eats away a crumbling bank until its last shred is gone! We set slight value on time, forgetting that we have only a hand-breadth of it—and then comes eternity!

Many of us fail to appreciate the value of 'single days'. "A day is too short a space," we say, "that it cannot make much difference if one, just one, is wasted—or idled away in pleasure!" Yet the days are links in a chain, and if one link is broken—the chain is broken. In God's plan for our life—each little day has its own load of duty.

How these lost days shame us—as they turn their reproachful eyes upon us, out of the irrevocable past!

Many people are wasteful of time. They fail to realize its value. They appear to have it in such abundance—that they dream it can never end. They do not know that a day lost—may mean misfortune or failure for them sometime in the future. They do not know that squandered hours, minutes spent in idleness—may cost them the true success of their life, bringing failure or disaster!

They should not make the mistake of imagining they have so much time—that they can afford to let days or hours or even minutes be wasted. They cannot afford to lose one golden minute of any day. We do not know what momentous issues, affecting all our future—are involved in any quietest hour of any common-place day. There is 'a time for everything'—but the time is short, and when it is gone, and the thing is not done—it never can be done!

What you make of your life—you must make in a few years at the most; for the human span is short—and any day may be your last one! Every day that passes—leaves life's margin a little less for each of us. Our allotment of time is ever shortening!

There are a great many things it is not worth our while to do. Some of us spend our days in poor trivialities which bless no one, and which will add no lustre to our crown.

Therefore, waste no opportunity! Squander no moment! There is just time enough for you to live your life well—if you spend every moment of it in earnest, faithful duty. One hour lost—will leave a flaw. A life thus lived in unbroken diligence and faithfulness, will have no regrets when the end comes.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

It is the student who must learn the lesson!

(J. R. Miller, "Strength and Beauty")

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" Philippians 2:12-13

People sometimes think that salvation imparts . . .
  godly virtues,
  fine qualities of Christian character,
  lovely traits of disposition, and
  elements of spiritual beauty—
without any cost or effort to the believer himself!

Christ's followers are transformed—old things pass away, and all things become new. Those who believe in Him—are fashioned into His image. But these blessings do not come easily. The heavenly graces are not put into our life—as one might hang up lovely pictures on the walls to adorn a home! They must be wrought into our life in a sense, by our own hands. We must work out our own salvation, although it is God who works in us, both to will and to work.

For example, patience is not put into anyone's life—as one brings in a piece of new furniture. You cannot merely receive patience as a gift from God. Patience is a lesson to be learned—through long and watchful self-discipline. Christ is the teacher—but you are the student, and it is the student who must learn the lesson! Not even Christ will learn it for you—to spare you the effort. Nor can it be made an easy lesson for you. It costs to grow patient, and you must pay the price yourself!

The same is true of all the elements of a godly and worthy character.

We are always at school in this world. God is teaching us the things we need to learn. The lessons are not easy—sometimes they are very hard! But the hardest lessons are the best—for they bring out in us the finest qualities, if only we learn them well.

Those, therefore, who find themselves in what may seem adverse conditions, compelled to face hardship, endure opposition, and pass through struggle—should quietly accept the responsibility; and, trusting in Christ for guidance and strength, go firmly and courageously forward, conscious that they have now an opportunity to grow strong, and develop in themselves the qualities of worthy and noble character!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

If our lives were as good as our prayers

(J. R. Miller, "Living up to our Prayers" 1905)

If we only tried seriously to live up to our praying—it would have a powerful effect upon our character and conduct!

There is no prayer that most Christians make oftener—than that they may be made like Christ. It is a most fitting prayer, and one that we should never cease to make. But if we very earnestly wish to be transformed into Christ's likeness—we will find the desire growing into great intensity in our daily lives, and transforming them. It will affect every phase of our behavior and conduct. It will hold before us continually, the image of our Lord, and will keep ever in our vision—a new standard . . .
  of thought,
  of feeling,
  of desire,
  of act,
  of speech.
It will keep us asking all the while, such questions as these, "How would Jesus feel about this—if He were personally in my circumstances? What would Jesus do—if He were here today where I am?"

There is always danger of mockeries and insincerities in our praying for spiritual blessings. The desires are to be commended. God approves of them and will gladly bestow upon us the more grace we ask for:
  the increase in love,
  the greater faith,
  the purer heart,
  the new advance in holiness.
But these are attainments which are not bestowed upon us directly, as gifts from heaven. We have much to do in securing them. When we ask for spiritual blessings or favors, the Master asks, "Are you able to pay the price, to make the self-denial, to give up the things you love—in order to reach these attainments in holiness, in grace, in spiritual beauty?"

If our lives were as good as our prayers, we would be saint-like in character.

If we find that our prayers are beyond our living, our duty is not to lower them to suit the tenor of our living—but to bring our lives up to the higher standard of our praying!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A secret of victorious living

(J. R. Miller, "Thread for a Web Begun" 1894)

There is a secret of victorious living which, if people knew it, would make all of life easier for them. It may be stated thus: that as we take up any duty and go forward with it, we shall receive the strength we need to do it. There are several Divine promises that give this assurance.

One reads, "As your days—so shall your strength be." Deuteronomy 33:25. This seems to mean that the help which God gives, varies according to the necessity of the particular day. God fits His blessing—to our days.
When we are faint—He increases strength.
When we are sorrowful—He gives comfort.
When we are in danger—He grants protection.
When we are weary—He gives rest.
"As your days—so shall your strength be."

Another of Christ's promises reads, "My grace is sufficient for you." Every word of this assurance shines with radiant light.

"My grace is sufficient for you." It is Christ's grace that is sufficient. We know that He has all Divine fullness, and therefore we are sure that no human need can ever exhaust His power to give help!

"My grace is sufficient for you." It is Christ's grace that is sufficient. If it were anything else but grace, it might not give us such comfort. Grace is undeserved favor, goodness shown to the unworthy. We deserve nothing, for we are sinners. But it is Christ's grace which is sufficient, and so we can claim it.

"My grace is sufficient for you."
It is present tense—IS sufficient. Christ is always speaking personally to the one who is in any need, and saying, "My grace IS sufficient for you."

"My grace is sufficient for you." The word "sufficient" is one whose meaning expands and amplifies with the measure of the need. No necessity is so small as not to be included; and none is so great as to go beyond the capacity of the blessing that is promised.

"My grace is sufficient for you." The grace is sufficient for each of His redeemed children—"for you" the promise runs.

Life lies before us, with . . .
  its burdens,
  its duties,
  its responsibilities,
  its struggles,
  its perplexities.
It does not come to us all in one piece. God breaks our years—into months and weeks and days, and never gives us more than just a little at a time—never more than we can bear or do for the day.

If we take up the present duty or burden—we shall always have strength to do it. If we do not have strength of our own sufficient for the work or struggle, we need not falter—but should go on, just as if we had omnipotence in our arm; for as we obey God, though the task is impossible to our ability—He will sustain us by giving us all the help we need.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Is Jesus like anybody we know?

(J. R. Miller,  The Joy of Service" 1902)

"The one who says he abides in Him—ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked." 1 John 2:6

A little child, after reading in the New Testament one day, asked her mother, "Is Jesus like anybody we know?" The child was eager to discover just what were the elements of the character of Christ, His disposition, His spirit, the mind that was in Him.

The mother ought to have been able to answer, "Yes, I am trying to be like Jesus; if you will look at my life, and study my character—you will see a little of what Jesus is like."

Every follower of Christ should be able to say the same to all who know him. The likeness is imperfect, for in many things we come short; but, if we are true Christians, we must be trying to live as He would—if He were in our place.

"Leaving you an example—so that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

There are some things that money cannot buy!

(J. R. Miller)

There are things that can be bought with money—but there are some things that money cannot buy!

With money—we may build a house, and adorn and furnish it. But money cannot buy home happiness, and the sweetness, comfort, and refinement which make true home life!

With money—we may purchase food and clothing, coal for the fire, and luxuries for physical enjoyment. But money cannot buy . . .
  fine character,
  moral beauty,
  a gentle spirit,
  peace in the heart, or
  any of the elements which make up a noble personality!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

My Shepherd!

(J. R. Miller "Bethlehem to Olivet" 1905)

"The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need!" Psalm 23:1

The shepherd is a favorite Scriptural picture of the divine love and care. In the Old Testament, the twenty-third Psalm gathers the whole wonderful truth in exquisite lines, which are dear to young and old wherever the Bible is known. Then in the New Testament, when our Lord would give His friends the sweetest revealings of His heart toward them, and tell them what they are to Him, and what He would be to them—He says, "I am the Good Shepherd."

The Hebrew shepherd lives with his sheep. If they are out in the storm—he is with them. If they are exposed to danger—so is he. Just so, Christ lives with His people. He enters into closest relations with them.

The shepherd knows his sheep. He has a name for each one and calls them all by their names. Just so, Christ knows each one of His friends, has intimate personal knowledge of each one. He knows the best in us—and also the worst—our faults, our sins, our wanderings. Yet, knowing us as we are—He loves us still and never wearies of us!

The shepherd is most gentle with his sheep. He does not drive them—but goes before them and leads them. When they need rest on the way—he makes them lie down, and chooses for their resting-place, not the dusty road—but green pastures. He is especially kind to the lambs, gathers them in his arms and carries them in his bosom. All this is an exquisite picture of the gentleness of our Good Shepherd in His care of His sheep. He is thoughtful toward the weak. He loves the lambs and makes room for them on His bosom. Whatever the need is, there is something in the heart of Christ which meets its craving and supplies its lack!

The shepherd defends his flock in all danger. Often he had to risk his own safety, even his life, in protecting his sheep. Just so, the Good Shepherd gives His life—for His sheep!

Christ's sheep are absolutely safe in His keeping. "I give unto them eternal life," He said; "and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" Then at last, He will bring His own all safely home, "and they shall become one flock—with one Shepherd!"

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The burning of these old Ephesian books!

(J. R. Miller, "Paul's Message for Today" 1904)

"Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number of them who had been practicing magic brought their books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars!" Acts 19:18-19

One proof of the power of Christianity, was in the way these new believers at Ephesus renounced their evil ways and gave up their profitable sins. They saw the emptiness and folly of the things in which they had been trusting, and openly confessed the sinful deeds they had been doing. Many of them who had been engaged in the practice of magic arts, brought their books together and made a bonfire of them in the public square.

Always, those who follow Christ should be ready to part with whatever is sinful in their life and work, that Christ may be honored above all. Sins kept in the heart—poison the life, hide God's face, and shut out blessing. No matter what it may cost, our sins must be sacrificed, or they will destroy us!

The burning of these old Ephesian books suggests that we should have bonfires of our evil books. There are many books which ought to be burned! They carry in them Satan's poison! To read them is to debauch our own souls. To put them into the hands of others—is to ruin them.

In India, a man took down a book from the shelf—and a viper came out of the book and stung him to death! Just so, there are many books in which deadly vipers lie hidden! We should be most careful in choosing the books we read. A good book is a great blessing—but a bad book is a curse!

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If we are in any of these prisons

(J. R. Miller, "Paul's Message for Today" 1904)

"Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake
 that the foundations of the prison were shaken.
 At once all the prison doors flew open, and
 everybody's chains fell off!" Acts 16:26

There is no prison too strong for God to break open;
there are no chains too heavy for Him to snap asunder,
there are no walls too thick for Him to shatter.

There are other kinds of prisons besides those built
with stone—prisons of trial, of temptation, of trouble,
of circumstances. If we are in any of these prisons,
God is just as able to bring us out of them!