Grace Gems for February 2010

Only slightly evil

(J. R. Miller, "Christian Essentials" 1904)

"Avoid every kind of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22

Some professors are accustomed to think of some things as 'only slightly evil', while other things are considered as most vile in their eyes.

They appear to think, that if they keep themselves from the worse kind of sins—then they need not be so watchful against the minor forms of evil. They will not lie, nor steal, nor swear, nor do other things which would brand them as 'wicked' in the eyes of the community. But meanwhile they are satisfied to be ungentle, unkind, selfish, bad-tempered, and worldly!

But Paul's exhortation is, "Avoid every kind of evil." We are not to pick out certain things and condemn these alone as evil, abstaining from them; meanwhile indulging in pet vices and sinful habits of our own. Whatever is sinful in even the slightest way—is to be avoided!

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Living out the lessons in daily life!

(J. R. Miller, 1904)

"If you know these things—happy are you if you do them." John 13:17

A great many people know plenty of Scripture truth—but do not live it out. Yet the real test of knowing Scripture—is obedience. We really know only so much truth—as we get into our experience and conduct. The only part of the Bible we have really learned—is what we have learned to live. It is a beautiful thing when a person has been well-taught; it is still more beautiful when he abides in the things which he has been taught, living out the lessons in daily life.

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The one true aim in living

(J. R. Miller, "My Will—or God's Will?")

What is success?

What is the true aim in life?

What should one, setting out to make his way through this world—take as the goal of all his living and striving?

'Views of life' differ widely. Many think they are in this world to make a career for themselves. They set out with some splendid vision of success in their mind—and they devote their life to the realizing of this vision. If they fail in this, they suppose they have failed in life. If they achieve their dream—they consider themselves, and are considered by others, as successful.

The world has no other standard of success:
  it may be the amassing of wealth;
  it may be the winning of power among men;
  it may be the triumph of a certain skill;
  or genius in art, in literature, in music, etc.
But whatever the definite object may be, it is purely an earthly ambition.

Applying this standard to life—but few men are really successful. Great men are as rare as lofty mountain peaks. Only a few win the high places; the mass remain in the low valleys. Only a few win honor, rise into fame, and achieve 'distinction'; while the great multitude remain in obscurity—or go down in the dust of earthly defeat.

Is this the only standard of success in life? Do all men, except for the few who win earth's prizes, really fail? Is there no other kind of success? The world's answer gives no comfort to those who find themselves among 'the unhonored'.

But there is another sphere—there is a life in which success is not material—but spiritual. One may utterly fail, so far as earthly results are concerned; and yet, in the invisible spiritual realm—be a splendid winner in the race!

The true test of life—is character. Everything else is extraneous, belonging only to the husk, which shall fall off in the day of ripening! Character is the kernel, the wheat—that which is true and enduring. Nothing else is worth while—except that which we can carry with us through death, and into eternity! "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

It is altogether possible that a man may fail of winning any earthly greatness, any distinction among men, anything that will immortalize him in this world's calendars—and yet be richly and nobly successful in spiritual things, in character, in a ministry of usefulness, in things which shall abide—when mountains have crumbled into dust! It is possible for one to fall behind in the race for wealth and honor—and yet all the while to be building up in himself—an eternal fabric of beauty and strength!

What is the standard of success in the sphere of the unseen and the eternal? It is the doing of the will of God. He who does the will of God—makes his life radiant and beautiful, though in the world's scale he is rated as having altogether failed in the battle. He who is true, just, humble, pure, pleasing God and living unselfishly—is the only man who really succeeds—while all others fail.

Really, there is no other final and infallible standard of living. One who writes his name highest in earth's lists, and yet has not done God's will—has failed, as God Himself looks at his career.

God had a purpose in our creation—and we only succeed, when our life carries out this purpose. The most radiant career, as it appears to men, means nothing—if it is not that for which God made us. We fail in life—if we do not realize God's will for us.

We live worthily—only when we do what God sent us here to do. A splendid career in the sight of men—has no splendor in God's sight!

Not the making of a fine worldly career, therefore—but the simple doing of God's will—is the one true aim in living. Only thus can we achieve real success. If we do this, though we fail in the earthly race—we shall not fail in God's sight. We may make no name among men, may raise for ourselves no monument of earthly glory—but if we please God by a life of obedience and humble service, and build up within us a character in which divine virtues shine, we shall have attained abiding success!

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In the presence of God

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

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead . . . I charge you!" 2 Timothy 4:1

Life is very serious!

We are always standing before God who is our Judge.

Our commonest days—are judgment days.

We should learn to do everything "in the presence of God". This makes every word and act serious.

If only we were more conscious of God and of eternity—we would live better!

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It is never safe to make pets of tigers!

(J. R. Miller, "The Story of Cain and Abel" 1908)
"Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast." Genesis 4:5

"Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him!" Genesis 4:8

See here, the fearful growth of the evil feeling in Cain's heart. It was only a thought at first—but it was admitted into the heart and cherished there. Then it grew until it caused a terrible crime! We learn here, the danger of cherishing even the smallest beginning of bitterness; we do not know to what it will grow!

Some people think lightly of bad temper, laughing at it as a mere harmless weakness; but it is a perilous mood to indulge, and we do not know to what it may lead.

"Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you!" In His reproof of Cain, the Lord likens his sin to a wild beast lying in hiding by his door, ready to leap on him and devour him. This is true of all sin which is cherished in the heart. It may long lie quiet and seem harmless—but it is only a wild beast sleeping!

There is a story of a man who took a young tiger and resolved to make a pet of it. It moved about his house like a kitten and grew up fond and gentle. For a long time its savage, blood-thirsty nature seemed changed into gentleness, and the creature was quiet and harmless.

But one day the man was playing with his 'pet', when by accident his hand was scratched and the beast tasted blood. That one taste, aroused all the fierce tiger nature, and the ferocious animal flew on his master and tore him to pieces!

So it is, with the passions and lusts of the old nature, which are only petted and tamed and allowed to reside in the heart. They will crouch at the door in treacherous lurking, and in some unguarded hour—they will rise up in all their old ferocity!

It is never safe to make pets of tigers!

It is never safe to make pets of little sins!

We never know what sin may grow into—if we let it abide in our heart!

"Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him!" That is what came of the passion of envy in Cain's heart! It was left unrebuked, unrepented of, uncrushed—and in time it grew to fearful strength. Then in an evil moment, its tiger nature asserted itself!

We never know to what dreadful stature—a little sin may grow!

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They want to keep just as near to Sodom as possible!

(J. R. Miller, "The Outcome of Lot's Choice" 1908)

"Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!" Genesis 19:17

This is still the gospel message. We are in danger of God's judgment—and must escape from it—if we would live. We must not stay anywhere in all the plain of sin—for there is no safe spot, no shelter anywhere, no place where the fires of judgment will not fall.

Some people would like to compromise; they are willing to flee from some sins—but not from others. There are some professed Christians who like to stay on the borders of their old life. They are continually asking whether they can do this or that, go here or there—and still be Christians. They want to keep just as near to Sodom as possible—so as not to be burnt up in Sodom's destruction! The answer to all such questions is, "Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!" Even the borders are unsafe! The only safe place is the mountain, the mountain where Christ's Cross stands!

Lot's wife 'looked back'. There had been a specific command, "Do not look back!" Why Lot's wife looked back is not explained. Was it curiosity to see the nature of the terrible destruction that she heard roaring behind her? Or was it her dismay as she thought of her beautiful home, with all its wealth of furnishing and decoration, and all her jewels and garments and other possessions—which were now being consumed in the great conflagration?

It would seem to be, that she was appalled at the thought of leaving and losing all her beloved possessions, and paused in her flight and looked back, with the hope that possibly she might yet run back and snatch some of the ornaments or gems—something, at least, from the awful destruction. "But Lot's wife looked back—and she became a pillar of salt!"

"Remember Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32. We should not miss the 'lesson' which our Lord Himself teaches us from the tragic fate of this woman: we cannot have both worlds! Lot's wife could have escaped with her husband and her daughters—but she could escape only by resolutely and determinedly leaving everything she had in Sodom. Her love for her possessions, cost her her life!

Just so, there are thousands today, to whom God's message comes, "Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!" They somewhat desire to follow Christ—but their love for the world is so intense that they cannot give it up—they cannot renounce it. They must decide, however, which they will renounce—Christ or the world. They cannot keep both!

In Lot's wife—we have an example of one who was almost saved—and yet lost! She was lost because she loved the world.

"Remember Lot's wife!"

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Manifest the life of Christ in our daily living

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

True religion will manifest itself in every phase of life. We sit down in the quiet and read our Bible—and get our lesson. We know it now—but we have not as yet got it into our life—which is the thing we must really do.

Knowing that we should love our enemies, is not the ultimate thing—actually loving our enemies is.

Knowing that we should be patient, is not all—we are to practice the lesson of patience, until it has become a habit in our life.

Many know the cardinal duties of Christian life—who yet have not learned to live them. It is living them, however, that is true religion.

It must always be our aim, to live our religion—to get Christ's love of our heart, wrought out in a blessed ministry of kindness to others. Christ lives in us; and it is ours to manifest the life of Christ in our daily living.

We worship God on Sunday—in order to gather strength and grace to live for God in the six days that follow. It is evident therefore, that it is in the experiences of weekday life, far more than in the quiet of the Sunday worship and the closet, that the real tests of religion come.

It is easy to assent with our mind to the commandments, when we sit in the church, enjoying the services. But the assent of the life itself can be obtained, only when we are out in the midst of temptation and duty, in contact with others. There it is, alone, that we can get the commandments wrought into ways of obedience, and lines of character. This is the final object of all Christian teaching and worship—the transforming of our life into the beauty of Christ!

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Does God hear when we grumble about the weather?

(J. R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible" 1908)

"The Lord hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him!" Exodus 16:8

This is startling! Does God really hear every discontented word we speak?

Does God hear when we grumble about the weather, about the hard winter, about the late spring, about the dry summer, about the wet harvest, about the high winds, about the storms?

Does God hear when we complain about our circumstances, about the hardness of our lot, about our losses and disappointments?

If we could get into our hearts and keep there continually, the consciousness that every word we speak is heard in heaven, and falls upon God's ears before it falls upon any other ear—would we murmur as we now do?

"The Lord hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him!" Exodus 16:8

"And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak!" Matthew 12:36

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A most valuable lesson for every Christian to learn

(J. R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible" 1908)

"I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day." Exodus 16:4

They were not to lay up in store—but were taught to live simply by the day. When night came, they did not have a supply of food left over for the next day—but were entirely dependent upon God's new supply to come in the morning.

In this method of providing, God was teaching all future generations a lesson. When the Master gave the disciples the Lord's Prayer, He put this same thought of life into it, for He taught us to say: "Give us this day—our daily bread."

This is a most valuable lesson for every Christian to learn. We should make a little fence of trust around each day, and never allow any past or future care or anxiety to break in. God does not provide in advance for our needs. We cannot get grace today—for tomorrow's duties; and if we try to bear tomorrow's cares and burdens today—we shall break down in the attempt.

TIME comes to us, not in years, not even in weeks—but in little days. We have nothing to do with 'life in the aggregate' —that great bulk of duties, anxieties, struggles, trials and needs, which belong to a year or even to a month. We really have nothing to do even with tomorrow.

Our sole business is with the one little day now passing, and the one day's burdens will never crush us; we can easily carry them until the sun goes down. We can always get along for one short day—and that is really, all we ever have.

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They put the nickels and the pennies in the collection plate!

(J. R. Miller, "Saul Rejected as King" 1908)

"Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys!" 1 Samuel 15:3

"Saul and the troops spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, cattle, and fatlings, as well as the young rams and the best of everything else. But they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things." 1 Samuel 15:9

They utterly destroyed all the common spoil—but spared whatever was especially good. They kept all the fat, plump sheep and cattle—and destroyed the poor, lean and worthless ones. That is the way with a good many people. They are quite ready to devote to God the things they do not care much for—but the things that are desirable for their own use, they keep.

This spirit is shown in the way many give to the Lord's service. The gold and silver and the banknotes they keep for themselves; while they put the nickels and the pennies in the collection plate!

It is shown, too, in the way they treat their own vices and lusts. Those that they do not particularly love—they crush out with amazing zeal. But their favorite vices and fat, rich sins—they spare for their own indulgence!

The evil things in us—are our Amalekites, and we are to destroy them! Yet how many of us, like Saul, cut away at the little Amalekites—and spare the big Agags? Do not some of us also see the story of our own disobediences and failures—in the way Saul treated God and His commandments? 

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The quickest way to conquer an enemy

(J. R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible")

"Love your enemies,
 do good to those who hate you,
 bless those who curse you,
 pray for those who mistreat you.
If someone strikes you on one cheek,
turn to him the other also." Luke 6:27-29

We are too apt to resent insults and retaliate, when others say or do evil things to us. The Christian way is either not to speak at all, or to give the soft answer that turns away wrath. Not only is this the Christian way, it is also the way of wisdom.

The quickest way to conquer an enemy—is to treat him with kindness in return for his unkindness. Stopping to resent every insult—keeps one continually fretful; whereas ignoring slights and going on quietly with our own duty—is the way to get the better of them. The best answer to sneers and scoffs and abuse—is a sweet, quiet, beautiful life of patience and gentleness.

The lesson our Master teaches us, is . . .
  to bear wrong patiently,
  to forgive injury,
  to return kindness for unkindness,
  to return good for evil,
  to return love for hate.

It is a fatal injury to his life—when one allows himself to grow bitter, to cherish resentment, to let envy or any hurt feeling rankle in his heart. At last love is utterly driven out, and dark and malignant passions take full possession.

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We do not have to be crucified on pieces of wood!

(J. R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)

"I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1

The godly life is not one of ease, pleasure and self-indulgence.

We are taught to present our bodies, as a living sacrifice unto God. Ancient offerings were brought to the altar, and presented dead. But the Christian sacrifice, instead of being poured out in a bloody oblation, is to be a living sacrifice—of service, of love, of devotion.

The great sacrifice of Christ is both the model for all Christian life, and also its inspiration. We look at His six hours on the cross—as if that were its only act and expression. But the cross was not endured by Christ merely during those six hours on Calvary; it was in all His life, in every day and hour of it. Everything He did was in love, and love is always a living sacrifice. He was always sacrificing Himself. On Calvary, He only wrote the word out in capital letters!

The cross stands not merely for the sufferings of Christ endured in redeeming sinners—but also for the law of love and of sacrifice in every department of Christian living. It is not enough to have the cross on our churches, as a symbol of redemption; or to wear crucifixes as ornaments; the cross and the crucifix must be in the heart—and manifested in the life!

We talk a great deal about the love of Christ—but we must strive to illustrate it and reproduce in our own lives, in our own measure—the sweetness, the charity, the kindness and the helpfulness of Jesus Christ. The cross is everywhere. The more of the 'sacrificial' quality we get into our life—the diviner and the lovelier our life will be.

We do not have to be crucified on pieces of wood—to bear a cross, and make a living sacrifice. The cross must be in the lives of those who follow Christ; not branded on their bodies—but wrought into their character, their disposition, their conduct, their spirit! We cannot live a Christian life for a day, without coming to points of sacrifice. The cross of Christ does not take our own cross from us—Christ does not bear our cross for us. His cross becomes the law of our life, and makes it all sacrificial. Every sacrificial thing we do, reveals the cross. The Beatitudes are all sacrificial. No one can live the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and not crucify self continually.

All sacrifice at length blossoms into Christlike beauty, sweetness and joy.

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Grow old sweetly and beautifully

(J. R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible" 1908)

It takes a great deal of grace to grow old sweetly and beautifully. It is not possible to carry the alertness and energy of young manhood, into advanced years. Yet if we live wisely and rightly all our lives—old age ought to be the best of life. We certainly ought to make it beautiful and godly, for our life is not finished until we come to its very last day.

We ought to be wiser when we are old—than ever we have been in any former years. We ought to have learned by experience. We ought to be better in every way—with more of God's peace in our hearts, with more gentleness and patience. We ought to have learned self-control, and to be better able to rule our own spirit. We ought to have more love, more joy, more thoughtfulness, to be more considerate, to have more humility.

Old age never should be the dregs of the years, the mere cinder of a burnt-out life. One may not have the vigor and strenuousness of the mid-years—but one should be every way truer, richer-hearted, holier. If the outward man has grown weaker and feebler—the inner man should have grown stronger and Christlier.

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Our birthdays!

(J. R. Miller, "The Beauty of Every Day" 1910)

Some people come to birthdays regretfully. They do not like to think that they are growing older. But there is no reason for regret, if only we are living our years as we should live them, as we may live them.

years—are a dishonor. Years filled with sin—are blots in the calendar. We should be ashamed to come to a birthday at the close of a year of idleness, indolence, neglect, or unfaithfulness. Jesus said we must give account for every idle word we speak. It will be an unhappy reckoning that we must make, after an idle year, or for idle hours and days in a year.

But there need never be a shadow of regret in coming to a birthday, when we have lived our best through all the days. If we go through a year walking with God—we shall come to its close with enlarged life, with nobler character, with richer virtues—in every way a more godly man or woman.

Growth is a law of life. When growth ceases, death is beginning. God counts our age, not by our birthdays—but by the advances which His eye sees in our inner life. Growth, too, is not marked by height or weight or by accumulations of money or property or earthly honor—but by an increase in godly character.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

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Our invisible building

(J. R. Miller, "Unfinished Life-building")

"This fellow began to build—and was not able to finish!" Luke 14:30

We are all builders. We may not erect any house or temple on a city street for human eyes to see—but every one of us builds an edifice which God sees!

Life is a building. It rises slowly, day by day, through the years. Every new lesson we learn, lays another block on the edifice which is rising silently within us.
Every experience,
every touch of another life on ours,
every influence that impresses us,
every book we read,
every conversation we have,
every act in our commonest days—
adds something to our invisible building.
All of life furnishes the materials which add to our life-wall.

Many people build noble character structures in this world. But there are also many who build only base, shabby huts, without beauty—which will be swept away in the testing fires of judgment!

There are many, too, whose life-work presents the sorry spectacle of an unfinished building. There was a beautiful plan to begin with, and the work was promising for a little time—but after a while it was abandoned and left standing, with walls halfway up—a useless fragment, open and exposed, an incomplete inglorious ruin—telling no story of past splendor—as do the ruins of some old castle or coliseum—a monument only of folly and failure!

Sin in some form draws many a builder away from his work—to leave it unfinished.

It may be the world's fascinations, which lure him from Christ's side.

It may be evil companions, which tempt him from loyal friendship to the Savior.

It may be riches, which enter his heart and blind his eyes to the attractions of heaven.

It may be some secret debasing lust, which gains power over him and paralyzes his spiritual life.

Many are those now amid the world's throngs—who once sat at the Lord's Table and were among God's people! Their lives are unfinished buildings, towers begun with great enthusiasm—and then left to tell their sad story of failure to all who pass by. They began to build—and were not able to finish.

It is sad to think how much of this unfinished work, God sees as He looks down upon our earth. Think of the good beginnings which never came to anything in the end. Think of the excellent resolutions which are never carried out. Think of the noble life-plans entered upon by so many young people with ardent enthusiasm—but soon given up. Think of the beautiful visions and high hopes which might have been splendid realities—but which have faded out, with not even one earnest attempt to work them into life!

In all aspects of life—we see these abandoned buildings. Many homes present the spectacle of abandoned dreams of love. For a time, the beautiful vision shone—and two hearts tried to make it come true—but they gave their dream up in despair, either enduring in misery—or going their own sad and separate ways.

So life everywhere is full of beginnings, which are never carried on to completion.

There is  . . .
  not a soul-wreck on the streets,
  not a prisoner serving out a sentence behind prison bars,
  not a debased, fallen person anywhere—
in whose soul, there were not once visions of beauty, high hopes, holy thoughts and purposes, and high resolves of an ideal of something lovely and noble. But alas! the visions, the hopes, the purposes, the resolves—never grew into more than beginnings. God bends down and sees a great wilderness of unfinished buildings, bright possibilities unfulfilled, noble might-have-beens abandoned; ghastly ruins now, sad memorials only of failure!

The lesson from all this, is that we should . . .
  finish our work,
  allow nothing to draw us away from our duty,
  never become weary in following Christ,
  persevere from the beginning of our ideals—steadfast unto the end.

We should not falter under any burden, in the face of any danger, before any demand of cost or sacrifice.

No discouragement,
no sorrow,
no worldly attraction,
no hardship—
should weaken for one moment our determination to be faithful unto death! No one who has begun to build for Christ—should leave an unfinished, abandoned life-work, to his own eternal grief!

"This fellow began to build—and was not able to finish!" Luke 14:30

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A sort of a strange, indefinable something

(J. R. Miller, "The Shadows We Cast")

Every one of us casts a shadow.

There hangs about us, a sort of a strange, indefinable something, which we call personal influence—that has its effect on every other life on which it falls. It goes with us wherever we go. It is not something we can have when we want to have it—and then lay aside when we will, as we lay aside a garment. It is something that always pours out from our lives . . .
  as light from a lamp,
  as heat from flame,
  as perfume from a flower.

The ministry of personal influence
is something very wonderful. Without being conscious of it, we are always impressing others by this strange power that exudes from us. Others watch us—and their thinking and actions are modified by our influence.

"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." Ephesians 5:15-16

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An arm that can never be broken!

(J. R. Miller, "A Life of Character")

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!" Deuteronomy 33:27

The picture suggested, is that of a little child, lying in the strong arms of a father who is able to withstand all storms and dangers.

At the two extremes of life, childhood and old age—this promise comes with special assurance.

"He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom" (Isaiah 40:11), is a word for the children.

"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He; I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!" (Isaiah 46:4), brings its blessed comfort to the aged.

The thought of God's embracing arms is very suggestive. What does an arm represent? What is the thought suggested by the arm of God enfolded around His child?

One suggestion, is protection. As a father puts his arm about his child when it is in danger—so God protects His children. Life is full of peril. There are temptations on every hand! Enemies lurk in every shadow—enemies strong and swift! Yet we are assured that nothing can separate us from the love of God. "Underneath are the everlasting arms!"

Another thought, is affection. The father's arm drawn around a child—is a token of love. The child is held in the father's bosom, near his heart. The shepherd carries the lambs in his bosom. John lay on Jesus' bosom. The mother holds the child in her bosom, because she loves it. This picture of God embracing His children in His arms—tells of His love for them—His love is tender, close, intimate.

Another thought suggested by an arm, is strength. The arm is a symbol of strength. His arm is omnipotence. "In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength" (Isaiah 26:4). His is an arm that can never be broken! Out of this clasp—we can never be taken. "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" (John 10:28)

Another suggestion is endurance. The arms of God are "everlasting." Human arms grow weary even in love's embrace; they cannot forever press the child to the bosom. Soon they lie folded in death.

A husband stood by the coffin of his beloved wife after only one short year of wedded happiness. The clasp of that love was very sweet—but how brief a time it lasted, and how desolate was the life that had lost the precious companionship!

A little baby two weeks old—was left motherless. The mother clasped the child to her bosom and drew her feeble arms about it in one loving embrace; the little one will never more have a mother's arm around it.

So pathetic is human life with—its broken affections, its little moments of love, its embraces that are torn away in one hour. But these arms of God—are everlasting arms! They shall never unclasp!

There is another important suggestion in the word "underneath." Not only do the arms of God embrace His child—but they are underneath — always underneath! That means that we can never sink—for these arms will ever be beneath us!

Sometimes we say the waters of trouble are very deep; like great floods they roll over us. But still and forever, underneath the deepest floods—are these everlasting arms! We cannot sink below them—or out of their clasp!

And when death comes, and every earthly thing is gone from beneath us, and we sink away into what seems darkness—out of all human love, out of warmth and gladness and life—into the gloom and strange mystery of death—still it will only be—into the everlasting arms!

This view of God's divine care is full of inspiration and comfort. We are not saving ourselves. A strong One, the mighty God—holds us in His omnipotent clasp! We are not tossed like a leaf on life's wild sea—driven at the mercy of wind and wave. We are in divine keeping. Our security does not depend upon our own feeble, wavering faith—but upon the omnipotence, the love, and the faithfulness of the unchanging, the eternal God!

No power in the universe can snatch us out of His hands! Neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come—can separate us from His everlasting arms!

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You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain

(Arthur Pink, "The Ten Commandments")

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, who takes His name in vain." Exodus 20:7

This commandment bids us to speak of God with that frame of spirit which is agreeable to His dignity and solemnity and the majesty: that is, with the utmost sincerity, humility and reverence. O what high thoughts ought we to entertain of such a Being! In what holy awe should we stand of Him!

Anything pertaining to God should be spoken of with the greatest sobriety.

God’s Name is taken in vain—when we use it without due consideration and reverence. Whenever we make mention of Him before whom the seraphim veil their faces—we ought seriously and solemnly to ponder His infinite majesty and glory—and bow our hearts in deepest prostration before that Name.

God's Name is not to be sported with and tossed to and fro upon every light tongue. O my reader, form the habit of solemnly considering whose Name it is you are about to utter. It is the Name of Him who is present with you, who is hearing you pronounce it. He is jealous of His honor, and He will dreadfully avenge Himself upon those who have slighted Him!

It has become almost impossible to walk the streets or to enter mixed company without hearing the sacred Name of God treated with blasphemous contempt. The novels of the day, the stage, and even radio (and more lately television, the cinema, and the press) are terrible offenders, and without doubt this is one of the fearful sins against Himself, for which God is now pouring out His judgments upon us.

God is dreadfully incensed by this sin, and in the common commission of this Heaven-insulting crime, our country has incurred terrible guilt! "The Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes His Name in vain." Sore punishment shall be his portion, if not in this life, then most assuredly so, eternally so, in the life to come!

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I am a living commentary!

(Letters of John Newton)

We are poor, weak, inconsistent creatures—if left but a little to ourselves.

When I think how cold, dull and heartless I have been; how often I have wandered, how often trifled upon the brink of temptation; when I consider what powerful, vigilant, and subtle enemies are combined against me; and how many professors have fallen on my right hand and my left—I am amazed at the greatness of His mercy in preserving me! I am a living commentary, that there is forgiveness with Him—and that He is able to save to the uttermost!

"Hold me up—and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117

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An infallible test of our real self

(J. R. Miller, "Psalm 19" 1912)

We have a beautiful prayer at the close of Psalm 19: "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer." There could be no higher standard of life, than is set for us in this prayer.

The conduct may be blameless—while the thoughts are stained with sin. It is easier to keep our acts without fault—than to keep our feelings, our desires, and our affections pure. We may do no outward act of cruelty or unkindness; while our hearts may be full of jealousies, envies, and all selfishness. We are to seek that our thoughts be so white and clean—that they will be acceptable in God's sight.

The prayer covers our words, our thoughts, and our meditations; each a closer test than the one before. It is a great thing to be faultless in speech—but perfect grammar is not enough. Our words may be beautiful and graceful—and yet our thoughts may be full of hypocrisy, of deceit, of all evil! The prayer here is that our thoughts may please God. This is a higher spiritual attainment, than merely faultless words.

Then, a still higher test of life—is our meditation. Meditations are our deepest thoughts, the quiet ponderings of our hearts. Meditation is almost an obsolete word in these times of hustle and bustle. The word belongs rather to the days when men had much time to think—and think deeply. We meditate when we are alone, when we are shut away from others. Our minds then follow the drift of our own desires, dispositions, and imaginations. If our hearts are clean and good—our meditations are pure and holy. But if our hearts are evil and unclean—our meditations are of the same moral quality. Thus, our meditations are an infallible test of our real self. "As a man thinks in his heart—so is he." Proverbs 23:6

This prayer is, therefore, for a life of the highest character—one acceptable to God, not only in words and thoughts—but also in meditations. Such a life, everyone who loves God and would be like God—should seek to live!

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They play with fire—and wonder why they are burned!

(J. R. Miller, "The Way of Safety", 1912)

"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression." Psalm 19:12, 13

Here the Psalmist prays to be kept from committing presumptuous sins. He knows the danger there is in such sins—and so pleads to be held back from them, that is, from willful, conscious, high-handed sins.

Mark the teaching, too, that these presumptuous sins spring out of the minute hidden faults. From hidden, obscure, undiscovered faults—come presumptuous sins.

A slight moral weakness—grows into an evil tendency;
and the evil tendency indulged—develops into a loathsome vice;
and the loathsome vice—ripens into a presumptuous sin!

We need to guard against carelessness concerning 'little sins'. The hidden fault lurking in the nature—may grow into a presumptuous sin!

   Sow a thought—and you will reap an act;
   sow an act—and you will reap a habit;
   sow a habit—and you will reap a character;
   sow character—and you will reap a destiny!

The course of sin is terrible! The little beginnings of sin—grow into appalling consequences! Be afraid of little sins and temptations.

There are some people who are always courting danger. Sin seems to have a fascination for them. One of the petitions of the Lord's Prayer is, "Lead us not into temptation." To expose ourselves needlessly to temptation, is presumption! Yet there are many who do this. They play with fire—and wonder why they are burned! They dally with 'little sins', and end in shameful degradation at the last! They pay the penalty in moral and spiritual ruin.

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A god who does not rule all things absolutely

(Don Fortner)

"Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him!" Psalm 115:3

A god who does not rule all things absolutely is no God at all—but only a weak, frustrated, defeated idol, carved from one of the trees in the dark forest of man’s depraved imagination!

"I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!" Psalm 135:5-6

"All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'What have You done?' " Daniel 4:35

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For final revision and approval

(J. R. Miller, "Readings from the Psalms", 1912)

"No good thing will He withhold, from those who walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11

This may seem to be a surprising statement at first glance. Does God withhold no good thing from His people? We must focus on the word "good". It is not merely the things which we want—that God always gives. Nor is it not the things which we think are good—that God gives. Perhaps they are not really 'good things'—as God sees them. We must always leave to Him—to decide whether they are good or not. He is wiser than we are—and knows just what effect on us, the things we crave would have. We must submit all our requests to Him—for final revision and approval, when we make them.

This is the teaching about prayer, so prominent in the New Testament, which bids us to add to all our most earnest pleadings: "Nevertheless not my will—but may Your will be done." If the thing we ask for does not come—we must therefore conclude that in God's sight, it is not a "good thing" for us. Thus it is—that God's withholdings are as great a blessing to us—as His bestowings!

There is another phrase here, which we must study. It is "from those who walk uprightly" that God will withhold no good thing. It is only when we are walking obediently, in God's ways—that we have a right to claim this promise. For, "if I regard iniquity in my heart—the Lord will not hear me!" Psalm 66:18

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If you were to meet yourself on the street some morning

(J. R. Miler, "Looking One's Soul in the Face" 1912)

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way!" Psalm 139:23-24

It will be worth our while—to think seriously of the things in us—that only God can see. There are sins which are hidden from ourselves, of which our conscience is not aware—our unknown errors. The evil in us which lies too deep to be discovered. There is a SELF in us, which even we ourselves do not see! There are depths of our being—into which our own eyes cannot pierce. You may say that you know of no sins, errors, or faults in yourself, and you may be sincere; still this is not evidence that you are sinless.

Our conscience is not the final court. It is not enough to have the approval of our own heart. There are errors and evils in the holiest life on earth—which only God's eye can detect. We must ask God to search us, if we would be made clean.

We cannot see our own faults—even as our neighbors can see them. There is wisdom in the wish that we might see ourselves, as others see us—for it would free us from many a blunder and foolish notion.

We are prejudiced in our own favor. We are disposed to be charitable toward our own shortcomings. We make all sorts of allowances for our own faults. We are wonderfully patient with our own weaknesses. We are blind to our own blemishes. We look at our good qualities through magnifying glasses; and at our faults and errors with the lenses reversed—making them appear very small. We see only the best of ourselves.

If you were to meet yourself on the street some morning
—that is, the person God sees you to be—you would probably not recognize yourself!

We remember the little story that the prophet Nathan told King David, about a rich man's injustice toward a poor man, and how David's anger flamed up. "This man must die!" cried the king. He did not recognize himself—in the man he so despised, until Nathan quietly said, "You are the man!"

We are all too much like David.

If the true chronicle of your life were written in a book, in the form of a story, and you were to read the chapters over—you probably would not identify the story as your own!

We do not know our real self. We do not imagine there is so much about us that is morally ugly and foul, that is positively wicked. But God searches and knows the innermost and hidden things of our heart!

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way!"

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A wonderful Mecca for weary pilgrims

(J. R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible")

Every church should be in its community, as nearly as possible—what Christ would be—if He lived again in human form in a house just where the church stands.

Imagine Jesus living here, and people coming to Him just as they used to do when He had His home for many months at a certain home on a certain street in Capernaum. Would not our church become a wonderful Mecca for weary pilgrims? The sorrowing, would come to find comfort. People having problems and perplexities, would come to have them solved. Those who have stumbled and fallen, would come to be forgiven and helped to start again. The weary, would come to get rest. This corner would be a great resort—for all who feel any need of help.

Then all who come—would find a home for their souls here. We know how Christ welcomed all who came to Him. He was everybody's friend! No one was ever turned away from Him, unhelped. The church should be to the people who come to it—what Christ was to those who came to Him. It should be a true home of the soul.

It is in a spiritual way, that the church should chiefly serve us. Some people forget this, and think that it is the business of the church to provide entertainment for those who come to it. We sometimes hear people complain that the church does nothing to furnish 'good times' for the young. But frankly, that is not the purpose of the church.

Are schools—public schools, high schools, colleges—established to entertain those who come to them? Places of amusement are established to entertain—but the purpose of a school is to teach, to educate, to train the mind, to develop the intellect.

Just so, the mission of a church is not to amuse, to provide fun and entertainment—but to lead people to Christ, to train them in Christian duties, to build up godly character in them, and to prepare them for usefulness and service to the souls of men.

Entertainment is never to be the great purpose of the church. The aim must always be to honor God—and make the worshipers more holy!

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There is no spot in you!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"You are absolutely beautiful, My beloved! There is no spot in you!" Song of Solomon 4:7

Having pronounced His Church positively full of beauty—our Lord confirms His praise by a precious negative, "There is no spot in you!" As if the thought occurred to the Bridegroom that the carping world would insinuate that He had only mentioned her lovely parts—and had purposely omitted those features which were deformed or defiled—He sums up all by declaring her universally and entirely lovely, and utterly devoid of stain.

A spot may soon be removed, and is the very least thing that can disfigure beauty—but even from this little blemish, the believer is delivered in his Lord's sight. If He had said there is no hideous scar, no horrible deformity, no repulsive ulcer—we might even then have marveled. But when He testifies that she is free from the slightest spot—all these other forms of defilement are included, and the height of wonder is increased.

If He had but promised to remove all spots in heaven, we would have had eternal reason for joy. But when He speaks of it as already done—who can restrain the most intense emotions of satisfaction and delight! O my soul, here is marrow and fatness for you; eat your full, and be satisfied with royal dainties!

Christ Jesus has no quarrel with His spouse. She often wanders from Him, and grieves Him—but He does not allow her faults to affect His love. He sometimes chides—but it is always in the tenderest manner, with the kindest intentions—it is "My love" even then. There is no remembrance of our follies. He does not cherish ill thoughts of us—but He pardons and loves as well after the offence—as before it! It is well for us that it is so, for if Jesus were as mindful of injuries as we are—how could He commune with us? Our precious Husband knows our silly hearts too well—to take any offence at our follies and faults!

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The sin of wasting life!
 (J. R. Miller, "Numbering our Days", 1912)
 "So teach us to number our days aright—that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12 
 What is it to number our days?
 One way is to keep a careful record of them. That is a mathematical numbering. Some people keep diaries and put down everything they do—where they go, what they see, whom they meet, the books they read. But mere adding of days is not the numbering that was in the thought of the Psalmist.
 There are days in some lives—that add nothing to life's treasures, and that leave nothing in the world which will make it better or richer. There are people who live year after year—and might as well never have lived at all! Simply adding days—is not living! If that is all you are going to do with the new year—you will only pile up an added burden of guilt.
 Why do people not think of the sin of wasting life?
 If you saw a man standing by the sea—and flinging diamonds into the water—you would say he was insane. Yet some of us are standing by the sea—and flinging the diamond days, one by one, into its dark floods! Mere eating and sleeping, and reading the papers, and going about the streets, and putting in the time—is not living!
 Another way of numbering our days, is illustrated by the story of a prisoner who when he entered his cell, put a mark on the wall for each of the days he would be incarcerated. Then each evening he would rub off one of these marks—he had one day less to stay in prison.
 Some people seem to live much in this way. Each evening—they have one day less to live. Another day is gone, with its opportunities, its privileges, its responsibilities and its tasks—gone beyond recall.
 Now, if the day has been filled with duty and love and service—its page written all over with pure, white thoughts and records of gentle deeds—then it is well; its passing need not be mourned over. But merely to have to rub it off at the setting of the sun, leaving in it nothing but a story of idleness, uselessness, selfishness, and lost opportunities, is a sad numbering!
 What is the true way of numbering our days? The prayer tells us, "So teach us to number our days aright—that we may gain a heart of wisdom." That is, we are so to live—that we shall get some new wisdom out of each day to carry on with us.
 Life's lessons cannot all be learned from books. The lessons may be set down in books—but it is only in actual living—that we can really learn them.
 For example, patience. You may learn all about patience from a sermon, from a teacher, or from a book, or even from the Bible. But that will not make you patient. You can get the patience—only by long practice of the lesson, in life's experiences.
 Or take gentleness. You can read in a few paragraphs what gentleness is, how it lives. But that will not make you gentle.
 Take thoughtfulness. You can learn in a short lesson what it is and how beautiful it is. But you will not be thoughtful, the moment you have learned the definition. It will probably take you several years—to get the beautiful lesson learned.
 "So teach us to number our days aright—that we may gain a heart of wisdom."