Grace Gems for JANUARY, 2013

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Character

(J.R. Miller)

Reputation is what a man's neighbors and friends think of him.
Character is what the man IS.


Character is personal. It is not a possession we can share with someone else. We can give a hungry person part of our loaf of bread; we can divide our money with one who needs it; but character is something we cannot give away or transmit. The brave soldier cannot share his courage with the trembling recruit who fights by his side in the battle. The pure, gentle woman cannot give part of her purity and gentleness, to the defiled and hardened woman she meets.

Character is our own a part of our very being. It grows in us over the years. Acts repeated become habits, and character is made up in the long run, of those habits which have been repeated so often, that they become a permanent part of our lives.

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!

As the tree falls so must it lie;
As the man lives so must he die!
As a man dies such must he be;
All through the ages of eternity!

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Two men look at the same scene:

(J.R. Miller)

"Be joyful always!" 1 Thessalonians 5:16

"In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy!" 2 Corinthians 7:4

Thankfulness or unthankfulness is largely a matter of the attitude of our heart.
Two men look at the same scene:

  one sees the defects and the imperfections;
  the other sees the beauty and the brightness.

If you cannot find things to be thankful for today, and every day the fault is in yourself, and you ought to pray for a changed heart a heart to see God's goodness and to praise Him.

A joyful heart transfigures all the world around us! It finds something to be thankful for in the barest circumstances, even in the dark night of the soul. Let us train ourselves to see the beauty and the goodness in God's world, and in our own circumstances and then we shall stop grumbling, and be content and thankful in all situations.

"A happy heart makes the face cheerful!" Proverbs 15:13

"The 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

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What are you doing with your time?

(J.R. Miller)

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

Our days, as God gives them to us are like beautiful summer fields.
The hours are like trees with their rich fruit, or vines with their blossoms of purple clusters.
The minutes are like blooming flowers, or stalks of wheat with their golden grains.

Oh the endless, blessed possibilities of our days and hours and minutes as they come to us from God's hands!

But what did you do with yesterday? How does the little acre of that one day look to you now?

What are you doing with your time? Every moment God gives you, has in it a possibility of beauty or usefulness as well as something to be accounted for.

Are you using your time for God?


"Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life!" Psalm 39:4

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Think of all the hard things there are in your life

(Susannah Spurgeon, "Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls!" 1898)

"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You!" Jeremiah 32:17

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?" Jeremiah 32:26-27

Dear reader, your difficulties and trials may not be similar to those of "the weeping prophet," but they are very real, and seemingly insurmountable to you; and it is a fact that, of yourself, you can neither overcome nor endure them, so I want to remind you that the Lord's hand is not shortened that what was true of His power in Jeremiah's time, is as certainly true today and that whatever present hardship may press upon you, or whatever burden may be weighing you down you, yes, you may look up to Him with confident faith, and say, "There is nothing too hard for You!"

Oh, the blessed peace which such an assurance brings! I do not know what your particular sorrow or hardship may be but I do know that, whatever its nature cruel, or bitter, or hopeless it is as "nothing" to Him! He is able to deliver you as easily as you can call upon Him for support and help.

Now, dear friend, think of all the hard things there are in your life:
  hard circumstances,
  difficult duties,
  grievous pains,
  sore struggles,
  bitter disappointments,
  harsh words,
  sinful thoughts,
  a hard heart of your own,
  a hard heart in others.
Gather all these, and many more together, and pile them one on another till you have one great mountain of afflictions and your God still calmly asks the question, "Is there anything too hard for Me?"

When our hearts are weary of life's cares and crosses, when our courage flags because of our helplessness, and we cry out with the patriarch, "All these things are against me!" what a support and stronghold is the fact that our God has all power in Heaven and on earth! There is nothing too mighty for Him to manage there is nothing too insignificant to escape His notice! Jeremiah's faith . . .
  sees no obstacles,
  stumbles at no hindrances,
  faints under no burden,
  shrinks from no responsibilities
because he realizes the sublime Omnipotence of God, and fortifies himself by calling to remembrance His "outstretched arm" in the creation of the Heavens and the earth. Cannot we do likewise?

I took up a book, in a leisure moment the other day, opened it carelessly, and this is what I read: "It is a scientifically proved fact, that this great globe on which we live, spins around on its axis at the rate of a thousand miles an hour, and propels through space in its orbit at a speed immensely greater!"

The thought of this, seemed almost to take away my breath! Was I calmly and constantly living in the swirl of such a stupendous miracle as this? Then surely I could say, "Ah, Lord God! there is nothing too hard for You! My little troubles and afflictions how small they must be to You; yet with what tender compassion, do You stoop from guiding the worlds in their courses, to support and comfort the hearts of those who fear You!"

Never let us give up in despair, while we have such a God to trust in. If there is a great mountain of sorrow or difficulty in your way, dear friend do not be cast down by the darkness of its shadow. Your God can either make a way for you through it or He can guide you around it or, just as easily, He can carry you right over it! There is nothing too hard for Him! Expect Him to make the crooked things straight, and to bring the high things low; and while you keep humbly at His feet, He will work wondrously, and you shall see His salvation!

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Soul-Comfort

(Susannah Spurgeon, "Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls!" 1898)

"When my anxious thoughts multiply within me Your comforts delight my soul." Psalm 94:19

"Your comforts delight my soul!" Blessed Lord, how sweet is this text in my mouth! The taste of it is "like wafers made with honey." It is both food and drink to my heart, for every word has joy and refreshing in it; so that, like the "best wine" of the Canticles, it "goes down sweetly."

The first of Your comforts, gracious God, is this that You have said unto my soul, "I am your salvation!" He saves us, not because of any merit in us, or any deservings of our own; but because sovereign grace chose us, and Divine compassion redeemed us. And when we were afar off, infinite pity brought us back, and made us near by the precious blood of Christ. This may well comfort our hearts coming as it does directly from "our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace!" A saved and pardoned sinner can truly say, "Your comforts delight my soul!"

The next thought is that, having saved us He keeps us. "We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." Comparatively few Christians put God's keeping power fully to the test. If we would trust Him for the keeping, as we do for the saving our lives would be far holier and happier than they are. "I will keep it every moment," is one of those grandly unlimited promises which most of us are afraid of; and we store them away in the background because we dare not believe them, and bring them out into the light of our daily practice. O foolish and unbelieving hearts, how much of soul-delighting comfort do we thus miss!

Then comes another thought He cares for us. Dear friends, if you are His, you know the exceeding comfort of casting all your care upon Him and being quite sure that He will "undertake" for you. Have we not often come to Him oppressed and burdened with an intolerable weight of anxiety and distress and been enabled to roll the whole mass of it on Him, leaving it all at His feet, and returning to our work with a lightened and restful heart? Some of us have had burdens and sorrows, which would have crushed the very life out of us if we had not been enabled to look up and say, "You, O Lord, have helped and comforted me!" Yes, truly, God's care for us is one of the sweetest comforts of our mortal life!

Closely linked with this, is the thought that He knows all about us. Our enemies sometimes, even our friends misunderstand and malign us; they misconstrue our words and actions, and impute to us motives which never actuated us. But our God knows the thoughts and intents of our heart, and never makes a mistake in the judgment He passes on us. The comfort of this knowledge on the Lord's part, to those who are "suffering wrongfully," is inexpressibly precious. They can lift up their heads with joy, and say, "The Lord is good. He knows those who trust in Him." I have known this comfort to so delight my soul, that trials and temptations had no power to vex or annoy it, for my soul was hidden "secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues."

Lastly (though there are many, many more), one of the multitude of thoughts which stand out prominently from the rest, as a comfort which delights the soul is that He loves us. This truth has been running through the fields of previous thought, as a silver streamlet glides through the meadows here, it would deepen and expand to a broad and fathomless ocean, had I the power to speak of its height, and depth, and length, and breadth, and to tell of the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge! But my pen utterly fails here. You who love Him, and know that He loves you must each one say to himself what that "comfort of His love" is to your own heart. This will be a better commentary than any I can offer.

And, if some poor distressed soul is mourning the loss of the sweet consolation which Christ's love alone can give let him call to remembrance a tenderly precious promise which the Lord put into the lips of the prophet Isaiah, "I have seen his ways but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him!" Isaiah 57:18

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What a compassionate, gracious arrangement!

(Susannah Spurgeon, "Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls!" 1898)

"My times are in Your hand!" Psalm 31:15

Why then, need I worry or tremble? That great, loving, powerful hand keeps all the events of my life sealed and secure within its almighty clasp! And only He, my Maker and my Master, can permit them to be revealed to me as His will for me. What a compassionate, gracious arrangement! How eminently fitted to fulfill that sweet promise of His Word, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You!" If we fully believed this, we would be absolutely devoid of the worry which corrodes and chafes the daily life of so many professing Christians.

"My times." Not one or two important epochs of my history only but everything that concerns me:
  joys that I had not expected,
  sorrows that must have crushed me, if they could have been anticipated,
  sufferings which might have terrified me by their grimness, had I looked upon them,
  surprises which infinite love had prepared for me,
  services of which I could not have imagined myself capable
  all these lay in that mighty hand as the purposes of God's eternal will for me.

But, as they have developed gradually and silently how great has been the love which appeared enwrapping and enfolding each one!
Has not the grief been measured while the gladness has far more abounded?
Have not the comforts and consolations exceeded the crosses and afflictions?
Have not all things been so arranged, and ordered, and undertaken, and worked out on our behalf that we can but marvel at the goodness and wisdom of God, in meting out from that dear hand of His, all the "times" that have passed over us?

You agree with me in all this, do you not, dear reader? Then, I beg you, apply it to your present circumstances, however dark or difficult they may be. They have come directly from your Father's hand to you, and they are His dear will for you!

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The master-key which fits the locks!

(Susannah Spurgeon, "Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls!" 1898)

"The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loved you!" Deuteronomy 7:7-8

My gracious God, there is a honeycomb of delight and sweetness in these words! Will You put the rod of faith into my hand, this morning, and enable me to dip the end thereof into this rich provision, that my soul may eat and be satisfied, and that the eyes of my understanding may be enlightened?

"Because the Lord loved you!"
This is His great "reason" for all of God's dealings with His redeemed people. It is a full and convincing answer to all the doubts and questionings with which Satan can perplex and distress the Lord's timid ones. The enemy of souls has, alas! a powerful confederate in the wicked unbelief which lurks within us; but they will both be vanquished when we have learned to use this weapon of war against them.

Come, my heart, try its blessed force and quality at this moment! The foe says, "Why does God send you affliction, and sorrow, and suffering when those who do not fear His Name have continual quietness and abounding prosperity?"

If you can boldly answer, "It is because the Lord loves me!" then you will have given him such a sword-thrust as will free you, for a time, at least, from his cunning devices and fierce onslaughts.

Or, look at the text as a shaft of sunlight, piercing through a chink in the shuttered window of some dark experience. Bring your fears and forebodings out of their dusky corners, and place them within the radiance of this light of love you will be amazed to see them transformed into confident trusts your doubts will vanish as if they had never been, and the evil and bitter things of life will all be transformed into blessings in a moment.

"Because the Lord loved you!" is the master-key which fits the locks of the hardest question, and opens the mysteries of the deepest problem! It is a charm of wondrous efficacy, and every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ may not only rejoice in its possession but use it constantly to obtain all the desire of his heart in spiritual things.

What ails you, poor soul?
Is it loss of health, or friends, or means? Has God taken from you some dearly-loved one, and left you alone on this sad earth? Is He trying and proving you, by many and varied tests and troubles, "to know what was in your heart"? Whatever may be your immediate and peculiar sorrow, if you have grace and faith enough to say, "This is because the Lord loves me!" then I dare to promise you that all the bitterness of the affliction will melt away and the peace of God will fill you with a sweet contentment which surpasses understanding. No distress can withstand such Divine solace, no anguish can refuse the relief of this balm of Gilead. If all that happens to you can be traced directly or indirectly to the hand of your loving Lord then how gladly should you bear life's burdens, and how perfect should be the rest in which heart and mind should dwell!

O gracious Master, looking back over the years that are gone the interminglings of grief and gladness, pass before my eyes as the clouds sail by on an April day. And though the memories of great affliction and sore bereavement cast deep shadows across the scene, and seem for a time to blot out all the brightness yet, above and beyond those changeful skies the sun has never ceased shining, and darkness as well as day has proclaimed the immutability of Your love. When the ears of my soul are attuned to catch the soft whisper of Your voice, I hear You saying: "All this, My child, was because I loved you! Left to yourself; you would have destroyed yourself; but in Me was your help found. All the tribulations you have endured, were but My servants to whom I entrusted the necessary discipline of your earthly life. Do not forget those words of Mine: As many as I love I rebuke and chasten!"

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Mother, don't you love me?

(Susannah Spurgeon, "Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls!" 1898)

"I have seen his ways and will heal him!" Isaiah 57:18

Here is one of the blessedly incomprehensible paradoxes of God's love and mercy, which startles us by its excess of compassionate grace: "I have seen his ways, and . . ." one would have thought that the next sentence must be, "I will punish him," or at least, "I will rebuke him!" But, instead of wrath here is pardon! Pity makes room for love; and in the place of bitterness, the Lord gives a blessing! "I have seen his ways and will heal him!"

O wanderer, will not these tender words cause you to return to your Lord?
O stony heart will you not break at so loving a touch as this?
O cold and half-dead soul will not such a Divine cordial revive you?

"I have seen his ways." What "ways" has God seen in you? Have they not been "wicked," "crooked," "perverse," "your own ways" "the ways of death?" Have you not turned aside from the path of life, and refused to walk "in all His way," and chosen "a stubborn way" for yourself?

Our heart must give a sad assent to all these charges. As we bow humbly before Him, and say, "You are acquainted with all my ways" we feel that such knowledge of us on His part, intensifies our wonder and gratitude at the loving compassion with which He regards us!

When I was a little child, and had been troublesome to my mother her reproof or punishment would often be followed by my trembling question, "Mother, don't you love me?" And my mother's reply invariably was, "Yes, I do love you; but I do not love your naughty ways!" Poor mother! Doubtless I tried her very much, and this was the best that grieved parental love could say. But our heavenly Father has sweeter, choicer words than these, for His erring children.

His love is Divine, so He says, "I have seen his ways and will heal him!" O sweet pitifulness of our God! O inexplicable tenderness! O love surpassing all earth's loveliest affection! Do not our hard hearts yield under the power of such compassion as this?

God knows all our wickedness, He has seen all our waywardness; yet His purpose towards us is one of healing and pardon and not of anger and estrangement.

As I learn more of God, I get so sick of my sin indwelling-sin, heart-sin, that my soul welcomes this Word of the Lord, as a condemned prisoner embraces a pardon, or as a drowning man clutches the life-buoy thrown out for his rescue. To be healed of the disease which wastes us, to be delivered from the deadness and indifference which enchain us, to have a perfect heart with the Lord our God, and to walk before Him in a perfect way this, I take it, is the blessed prospect held out by this promise. Who will claim its fulfillment at once? Who will take our gracious God at His Word, and believingly receive the priceless blessing which His love offers?

O blessed Lord, Your forbearance with us in the past, has been a miracle of mercy! You have seen so much in us which Your soul has abhorred and yet You come now with this gift of healing in Your hands, which means not only pardon but the power to be holy.

Lord, we lift up our empty, beseeching hands to Your full ones. Our own ways have led us farther and farther from You; now let Your forgiving, healing love draw us so close to You, that we can never again be among those "who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness."

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The plank of free grace!

A minister lay dying in Scotland. A fellow-minister called to see him, and inquired, "Well, my brother, what are you doing?"

"Doing?" answered the dying servant of God. "Doing? I will tell you: I am gathering together all my prayers and sermons, all my good deeds and bad deeds and am going to throw them all overboard together, and swim to glory on the plank of free grace!"

"We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved!" Acts 15:11

"It is by God's grace that you have been saved!" Ephesians 2:5

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Christian liberty

(J.R. Miller)

We should keep watch over our words and deeds, not only in their intent and purpose but also in their possible influence over others. There may be liberties which lead to no danger for us but which to others with less stable character, and less wholesome environments would be full of peril. It is part of our duty to think of these weaker ones, and of the influence of our example upon them. We may not do anything in our liberty, which might possibly harm others. We must be willing to sacrifice our liberty if by its exercise, we endanger another's soul. This is the teaching of holy Scripture:

"Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another." Romans 14:19

"Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall." Romans 14:20-21

"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." 1 Corinthians 8:9-13

"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

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Black seeds without beauty

(J.R. Miller)

"Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." Luke 22:42

"Lord, what do You want me to do?" Acts 9:6

The first condition of consecration, must always be entire readiness to accept God's will for our life. It is not enough to be willing to do Christian work. There are many people who are quite ready to do certain things in the service of Christ, who are not ready to do anything He might want them to do.

God does not send us two classes of providences
one good, and one evil. All are good. Affliction is God's goodness in the seed. It takes time for a seed to grow and to  develop into fruitfulness. Many of the best things of our lives come to us first as pain, suffering, earthly loss or disappointment black seeds without beauty but afterward they grow into the rich harvest of righteousness!

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11

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Think about such things!

(J.R. Miller)

"The cheerful heart has a continual feast!" Proverbs 15:15

We pretty much see just what we are looking for. If our mind has become trained to look for troubles, difficulties, problems, and all gloomy and dreary things then we shall find just what we seek. On the other hand, it is quite as easy to form the habit of looking always for beauty, for good, for happiness, for gladness and here too we shall find precisely what we seek.

It has been said that the habit of always seeing the bright side in life, is worth a large income to a man. It makes life a great deal easier.

None of us are naturally drawn to a gloomy person, who everywhere finds something to complain about but we are all attracted to one who sees some beauty in everything. Joy is a transfiguring quality. Its secret is a glad heart.

"Finally, brothers,
 whatever is true,
 whatever is noble,
 whatever is right,
 whatever is pure,
 whatever is lovely,
 whatever is admirable
 if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
think about such things!" Philippians 4:8

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Our plans and dreams

(J.R. Miller)

"In his heart a man plans his course but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9

"Many are the plans in a man's heart but it is the LORD's purpose which prevails." Proverbs 19:21

There are few entirely unbroken lives in this world; there are few men who fulfill their own hopes and plans, without thwarting or interruption at some point. Now and then, there is one who in early youth marks out a course for himself and then moves straight on in it to its goal.

But most people's lives turn out very different from their own early dreams. Many find at the close of their life, that in scarcely one particular, have they realized their own life-dreams; at every point God has simply set aside their plans and substituted His own. There are some people whose plans are so completely thwarted, that their story is most pathetic. Yet we have but to follow it through to the end, to see that the broken life was better and more effective, than if their own plans had been carried out.

"We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28
 

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Our best striving

(J.R. Miller)

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on" Philippians 3:12

The highest reaches of holiness which we can attain here on earth, are but broken fragments of the full Divine beauty. At the best, we can only become dimly transfigured; only faintly does the beauty of the Lord appear in us.

The last design made by the great painter, Albert Diirer, was a painting showing Christ on His cross. It was all completed, except the face of the Divine Sufferer, when the artist was summoned away by death.

Just so, at the end of the longest and holiest life we shall have but a part of the picture of Christ wrought upon our soul. Our best striving shall attain but a fragment of His matchless beauty. We cannot reproduce the glory of that incomparable Face. But when we depart from our little fragment of transfiguration, we shall look a moment afterward upon the Divine features, and, seeing Jesus we shall transformed into His lovely image!

"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is!" 1 John 3:2

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We are not saved by believing a creed

(J.R. Miller)

"Do not be amazed that I said to you: You must be born again!" John 3:7

That which makes one a Christian, is not . . .
  the agreeing with Christ's teachings,
  the uniting with His Church,
  the adoption of His morals,
  the espousing of His cause
but the receiving of Him as our personal Lord and Savior, and entering into a covenant of eternal friendship with Him. We are not saved by believing a creed which gathers up in a few golden sentences, the essence of the truth about Christ's person and work we must have the Christ Himself, whom the creed holds forth, in His radiant beauty and grace!

Many people think that being a Christian is . . .
  to pray a few moments morning and evening,
  to read a daily chapter or two in the Bible,
  and to attend church on Sundays.
These duties are important as means of grace but they are not true religion. Real religion is living out the principles of Christianity in one's ordinary week-day life. It is getting the Bible and the prayers and the services into our thoughts and acts and character.

We must not cut our lives in two, and call one part secular, governing it by one set of principles and regarding the other part as sacred, to be controlled by another set of rules. All of life is to be made sacred in the sense that everything is to be done in such a way as to please God, under the direction of His counsel. We have just as much true religion as we get into our week-day life, and not a whit more!

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What a man IS

(J.R. Miller)

There are virtues, fruits of character, treasures, spoils of moral conquests which men carry with them out of this world. Someone says, "The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried, is character." This is true. What a man IS survives him. It never can be buried. His character lingers about his home, when his footsteps come there no more. It lives in the community where he was known. And that same thing what a man IS he carries with him into the next life. Money and rank and circumstances and earthly gains, he leaves behind him but his character, he takes with him into eternity!

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True religion is intensely practical

(J.R. Miller)

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

No better definition of practical religion 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 temptations to which we are exposed. We need to live a life that will please God, and which will witness to the genuineness of our piety.

True religion is intensely practical
. Only so far as it dominates one's life, is it real. We must get the commandments down from the Sinaitic glory amid which they were first engraved on stone by the finger of God 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 down from its bright setting in our Lord's 'Sermon on the Mount' and get it wrought into our daily actual life!

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Work out your own salvation

(J.R. Miller)

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

Each one's battle must be a personal one. We may decline the struggle but it will also be declining the joy of victory. No one can reach the summit without arduously climbing the steep mountain. We cannot be carried up on another's shoulder.

God does not put virtues and graces into our lives as the jeweler sets gems in a ring. God does not automatically remove and replace our unholy and sinful elements with holy ones. Through personal efforts, each must win his way through temptations, struggles and difficulties to all noble attainments. The help of God is given in cooperation with our aspiration and energy. While God works in us we are to work out our own salvation.

"To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!" Colossians 1:29

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Giddily gliding along the broad road that leads to destruction!

(
Arthur Pink, "Laughter")

There is a natural laughter, which is innocent and harmless.

There is a spiritual laughter, which is God-pleasing and beneficial.

There is a carnal laughter, which is sinful and injurious.

"Woe unto you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep!" (Luke 6:25). The laughter which Christ here denounced, was a state of heart which lived only for the present, and had no serious concern for the future. It was His censure of those who are giddily gliding along the broad road that leads to destruction! In the light of the immediate context, the reference is to those who rejoiced in the abundance of their worldly possessions, and found their delight in making gods of their bellies.

"I said of laughter, 'It is madness,' and of pleasure, 'What does it accomplish?'" (Ecclesiastes 2:2). Those were the words of one who was granted the opportunity and afforded the means, of gratifying every carnal desire and of obtaining every object which the natural heart and eye can covet only to prove from experience, that all were but "vanity and vexation of spirit." There is no real or lasting happiness in anything which money can purchase. The void within the human heart cannot be filled by the objects of time and sense. For one to pursue the shadows and miss the substance; to devote himself to the things which perish with the using yet be indifferent to those which are eternal; to seek his delight in gratifying the lusts of the flesh and neglect the welfare of his soul, is nothing but a species of insanity! "For as the crackling of thorns under a pot [noisy, but of brief duration] so is the laughter of the fool!" (Ecclesiastes 7:6).

"All who see Me, laugh Me to scorn!" (Psalm 22:7). So far were they from pitying Him, they added to His afflictions with their ribaldry, making jest of His very sufferings! Horrid humanity! Fearful impiety! None should ever doubt the total depravity of man, as they see here to what unspeakable depths of iniquity man sinks, when the restraining hand of God is removed from him! The spectators of the dying Redeemer's agonies, exerted the utmost of the venom of their hearts upon Him! This was a Diabolical laughter!

There is also a divine laughter, which is dreadful and disastrous. To such David referred: "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh" (Psalm 2:4), which is the laughter of derision against those who think to defy Him with impunity.

And again God says, "I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear comes!" (Proverbs 1:26), which is the laughter of divine retribution. He has "called" by His Word, His providences, His ministers, and their own consciences but they "refused" to heed Him. They were neither melted by the abundance of His mercies nor awed by the dreadfulness of His threats. They did not respect His Law and had no heart for His Gospel. But though He bears the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction with much long-suffering, He has appointed a day when they shall be made to reap as they have sown. As they scorned His messengers when they warned of the wrath to come so shall He turn a deaf ear then to their cries for mercy, and righteously laugh at their calamity! Oh, that none our readers may ever be the objects of this laugh!

The memory

(Arthur Pink, "
Forgetting" 1950)

What a wonderful thing is the memory one of the many precious faculties with which the Creator has endowed us. By it we are enabled . . .
  to live the past over again in our minds,
  to revive the early experiences of childhood,
  to recall the words of those who are no longer with us.
By it, we may review the Lord's dealings with us in grace and in providence, call back to mind His interventions on our behalf, delivering us when in straits or rejoicing our hearts while He talked with us along the way. By it, we can turn over the pages of our chequered lives, and read what is recorded both for and against us.

Memory is the power of retention, the storehouse in which all our knowledge is preserved. It is not possible to assess its value in silver and gold. How much poorer would we be if everything were erased from its tablets! One of the greatest tragedies of life, is for a person to lose his mind and memory. It is indeed hard to part with any faculty, but, if compelled to make the choice, probably most of us would rather be deprived of our limbs, our hearing, or even our sight, than our mentality yet comparatively few cultivate and use it as they should.

The memory is indeed of vast importance, for it is the treasurer of the soul. What the understanding takes in the memory stores up. Knowledge, intellectual growth, social fellowship, the spiritual life all have their roots in this faculty of retention. But this invaluable gift, like all others, entails a corresponding obligation. Each talent that God has bestowed upon us is for use and if it is not employed, it will deteriorate. As unexercised limbs become stiff, and muscles flabby so an unused memory becomes enfeebled. The memory may be developed and controlled though time and trouble are required for this, as for everything else of worth.

Memory is largely a matter of volition. Said the Psalmist, "I will not forget your word" (119:16). Definiteness of purpose is required, whether we shall recall a thing or dismiss it from our minds. Remembering is a setting of knowledge to work, reviewing the notions and impressions we have received, by exercising our thoughts about and meditating upon them.

The seat of the memory is the heart. Of Mary it is said, that she kept all these things "in her heart" (Luke 2:19, 51) things kept there, are never lost.

This leads us to point out that there is both a notional or speculative remembering and a practical or influential one. The former is where we barely think of things and receive no profit or benefit from them. The latter is where the mind is so engaged with the object recalled that the affections are fired and the will moved by it. Thus the faculty of memory is given us by God as a means unto an end to be a help in promoting piety.

The Scriptures abound with exhortations to remembrance. At the fore of them, we would place that one where those of tender years are bidden, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come" (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Bear in mind that, since He is your Maker, He is therefore your rightful Lord and Owner so conduct toward Him as such, rendering unto Him the homage and honor that are His due. Meditate much upon His glorious perfections; call Him to mind constantly while your heart is yet impressionable, and habits for good or evil are being formed for life; and thereby you will be fortified against the temptations of youth. All of men's wickedness and misery comes through forgetting God, hence the warning, "Beware that you forget not the LORD your God!" (Deuteronomy 8:11).

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Family devotions

(J.R. Miller)

Hearts that are drawn together at God's feet every day in family devotions cannot drift very far away from each other. The domestic frictions of the day are forgotten when all voices mingle in the same heavenly song. As the tender words of Scripture fall with their gracious counsels all feeling of unkindness melts away. The family altar in the midst wondrously hallows and sweetens the whole home. Besides, the family altar . . .
  puts new strength into every heart,
  comforts all sorrows,
  is a shield against temptation,
  smoothes out the wrinkles of care,
  inspires strength for burden-bearing,
  quickens every holy sentiment, and
  keeps the fires of devotion burning on every heart's altar.

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Life comes to us in such little bits

(J.R. Miller)

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

"As your days so shall your strength be." Deuteronomy 33:25

We should be thankful that life comes to us in such little bits.

We can always live one day well enough.
We can always carry one day's burdens.
We can always do one day's duties.
We can always endure one day's sorrows.

It is a blessing that one day is all that God ever gives us at a time. We should be thankful for the nights that cut off our tomorrows from our view, so that we cannot even see them until they dawn. The little days, nestling between the nights like quiet valleys between the hills, then seem so safe and peaceful.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own!" Matthew 6:34

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The questions should rather be

(J.R. Miller)

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33

True victory is not found in escaping or evading trials but in rightly meeting and enduring them. The questions should not be, "How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper, or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the troubles which continually harass me?" There is nothing noble in such living. The soldier who flees when the battle approaches, is no hero; he is a coward.

The questions should rather be, "How can I pass through these trying experiences and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these reproaches and testings of my temper and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?"

"He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be My son!" Revelation 21:7

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God has three axes!

(J.R. Miller)

God has three axes! One He uses in pruning His trees, that the fruitful branches may bring forth more fruit. The work of this axe is not judgment or destruction but mercy and blessing. It is the good, the fruitful tree which feels its keen edge. "Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2

Then God has another axe, which He uses only in judgment in cutting down those trees which after all His culture of them, bring forth no fruit. "The axe already lies at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit, will be cut down and thrown into the fire!" Matthew 3:10. The picture is very suggestive. The axe at the tree's root, or raised in the woodman's hand to strike shows that judgment impends, hangs ready to fall. At any moment, the tree may be cut down! "Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil!" Luke 13:7

The axe of death really lies all the while, at the root of every life. There is not a moment when it is not true that there is but a step between us and death! Life is all very critical. There is not a moment in any day, on which may not turn all the destinies of eternity. It certainly is an infinitely perilous thing, for an immortal soul to rest an hour with the axe of judgment waiting to strike the blow which will end the day of mercy forever! Only supremest folly can be blind men to such vital interests!

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An ox stands between an altar and a plough

(J.R. Miller)

It is always a solemn hour when anyone stands before God and men, to make a public profession of Christ. The act is nothing less than the consecration of a human soul to Christ's service, for life or for death.

On the seal of an old missionary society, an ox stands between an altar and a plough, and written below is the motto, "READY FOR EITHER!" That is, ready for sacrifice or for service.

This should be the heart-motto in every public profession; it should be . . .
  a solemn devotement to Christ,
  an entire surrender to Him for obedience, duty and sacrifice;
  a consecration of the whole life to Christ and His service.
Such consecration all have made, who have publicly given themselves to Christ.

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A time to laugh!

(J.R. Miller)

"A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." Proverbs 15:13

"All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the 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

"I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live." Ecclesiastes 3:12

"There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance" Ecclesiastes 3:4
 

There is no inconsistency between holiness and laughter. It is no sin to smile. Indeed, a somber religion is unnatural. Gloom is morbidness. Our lives should be sunny and songful. Christ's religion is joyous, even amid sorrows. We hear songs in the night.

There is a flower which is most fragrant after the sun has set, and in the darkness pours its richest aroma on the air. Just so, true religion grows in sweetness as the shadows deepen. He misrepresents Christianity and the likeness of the Master whose piety is cold, dreary, cheerless, joyless, or who frowns upon innocent gladness and pure pleasures.

Sanctified wit has a blessed mission. Life is so hard, so stern, with so many burdens and struggles that there is need for all the bright words we can speak. The most wretched people in the world are those who go about in sackcloth, carrying all their griefs in their faces and casting dark shadows everywhere. Every Christian should be a happiness-maker. We need a thousand times more joy in our lives, than most of us get. We would be better men and women, if we were happier.

"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones." Proverbs 15:30

"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." Proverbs 12:25

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The grace of forbearance

(J.R. Miller)

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Matthew 5:38-39

There are at least two motives which should be sufficient to lead us to cultivate the grace of forbearance. One is that no insult can do us harm unless we allow it to irritate us. If we endure even the sorest words, as Jesus endured His wrongs and revilings they will not leave one trace of injury upon us. They can harm us only when we allow ourselves to become impatient or angry. We can get the victory over them and utterly disarm them of power to do us injury by holding ourselves superior to them. The feeling of resentment will change to pity when we remember that not he who is wronged but he who does the wrong, is the one who suffers.

And to help in bearing with disagreeable people or those with unamiable qualities, there is nothing better than a sincere wish to do them good.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13

"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." 1 Peter 3:8-9

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This is a wonderful secret which all of us ought to learn!

(J.R. Miller)

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame!" Hebrews 12:2

"In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice. In the morning I will order my prayer to You and look up!" Psalm 5:3

This is a wonderful secret which all of us ought to learn
: We should not think so much about the toil and hardness of the way but to look beyond to the brightness of the end! It does not matter how rough the road is if only it brings us HOME at last!

Many of us go worrying all through this life, keeping our eyes always downcast on the path we are treading. We see all the troubles, the difficulties, and discouragements but we never raise our eyes to see the joys and the eternal blessings which are waiting for us. We ought to learn this life-secret, which made Christ look past the shame and sorrow of His cross and see the glory beyond. Learn to look up toward Heaven! Think of its joys and its blessedness until earth's trials shall melt away in the brightness, and its griefs and losses are forgotten in the hopes of eternal glory!

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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 4:16-18

"For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body!" Philippians 3:20-21

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We might find it filled with sharp thorns under the flowers!

(J.R. Miller)

"Then He said to them all: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." Luke 9:23

It is our own cross, and not some other man's which we are to take up. It is the particular cross that God lays at our own feet, which we are to bear. We are never to make crosses for ourselves but we are always to accept those which our heavenly Father has allotted to us. Each one's own cross is the best for him.

Sometimes we think that our circumstances are peculiarly hard, and we compare it with the circumstances of this or that other person, and wish we had his cross instead of our own. But we do not know what other people's crosses really are. If we did, we might not want to exchange. If we put that cross which seems woven of flowers on our shoulders we might find it filled with sharp thorns under the flowers! That cross of gold which seems so bright we would find so heavy that it would crush us!

The easiest cross for each one of us to bear, is our own!

"Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation which God called him to!" 1 Corinthians 7:24

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in poverty. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength!" Philippians 4:11-13

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Our own imperfections unfit us for judging fairly

(J.R. Miller)

"Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law." James 4:11

"And why do you look at the mote in your brother's eye, but do not consider the beam in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3

Our own imperfections unfit us for judging fairly
. With beams in our own eyes we cannot see clearly to pick motes out of our brother's eye.

One of the qualities which make us incapable of impartial judgment of others, is envy. There are few of us who can see our neighbor's life, work, and disposition without some warping and distortion of the picture. Envy has a strange effect on our moral vision. It shows the beautiful things in others, with the beauty dimmed. It shows the blemishes and faults in them, exaggerated.

Then, the lack of personal experience in struggle and pain, makes many people incapable of sympathy with sorely afflicted ones. Those who have never known a care, nor felt the pinching of poverty cannot understand the experiences of the poor.

Thus in very many ways, we are unfitted to be judges of others.

"Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls." Romans 14:4

"You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?" Romans 14:10

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The subtle beginnings of self-indulgence!

(J.R. Miller)

We do many things which to our own eyes appear innocent and harmless but which have in them a hidden evil which we cannot see.

We indulge ourselves in many things which do not appear sinful to us but which leave on our soul a touch of blight, and a soiling of purity of which we do not dream!

We permit ourselves many little habits in which we see no danger but which are silently entwining their invisible threads into a strong cable which may some day bind us hand and foot!

We spare ourselves self-denials and sacrifices, thinking there is no reason why we should make them, unaware that we are lowering our standard of holy living, and permitting the subtle beginnings of self-indulgence to creep into our hearts!

"Blessed is the man who does not . . .
  walk in the counsel of the wicked,
  or stand in the way of sinners,
  or sit in the seat of mockers!"
    Psalm 1:1