Grace Gems for JANUARY, 2014


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True beauty is not of the face but of the soul!

(Mabel Hale, "Beautiful Girlhood" 1922)

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the LORD shall be praised!" Proverbs 31:30

Every girl is a lover of beauty. Beautiful homes, beautiful furnishings, beautiful flowers, beautiful clothes, beautiful faces anything wherein beauty is found, there will be found girls to admire it. From the time her little hands can reach up, and her baby lips can lisp the words, she is admiring "pretty things." And when a little of that beauty is her own her pleasure is unbounded.

Every girl longs to be beautiful.
There is in woman a nature, as deep as humanity, which compels her to strive for good looks. There is no more forlorn sorrow for a young girl, than for her to be convinced that she is hopelessly ugly and undesirable. Oh, the bitter tears that have been shed over freckles, or a rough and pimply skin and the energy that has been expended in painting and powdering and waving and curling herself into beauty!

A desire to be beautiful is not unwomanly. But, mark it: true beauty is not of the face but of the soul! There is a beauty so deep and lasting, that it will shine out of the homeliest face and make it lovely! This is the beauty to be first sought and admired. It is a quality of the mind and heart and is manifested in word and deed.

A happy heart,
a smiling face,
loving words and deeds, and
a desire to be of service
will make any girl beautiful!

A beautiful soul shining out of a homely face is far more attractive than a beautiful face out of which looks a soul full of selfishness and pride!

Let your chief charm be of heart and mind not of face and form. Seek the true beauty which lasts even into old age!

Solomon, in one of his wise sayings, expressed plainly the evil that comes to a woman who is beautiful of face, but lacks the true beauty of soul: "Like a gold ring in a swine's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion!" Proverbs 11:22. As the swine would plunge the golden jewel into the filth and the mire as he dug in the dirt so will a pretty woman who is not godly, drag her beauty down to the very lowest.

There are many peculiar temptations to those who are only lovely of face. Without true beauty of soul a pretty face is a dangerous gift!

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight!" 1 Peter 3:3-4

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Thank God for hiding the future!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

There is no more gracious provision for our happiness, than what is contained in that brief saying of Scripture, "You do not know what will happen tomorrow!" James 4:14

If we knew in full, in this grief-stricken world, all that would befall us in the future how sad would existence be! It would leave even prosperity without a note of gladness; for the certainty of losing our blessings, would rob us of all their enjoyment while we retained them. And thus moments of unbounded pleasure, would be clouded with the dark characters of anticipated sorrow.

How would the mother's joy be marred, as the object of her tender solicitude and affection was sporting by her side, or as she hung over the infant cradle if she could pry with certainty into the future, and read the mournful sequel of that little history the lingering sickness, the early grave, the blighted hopes, the desolated household, the broken heart. To know the future, would convert the few brief years of possession of her blessing, into consecutive hours of agony the consciousness and foreknowledge that every moment was drawing nearer the fatal one sitting by Time's sand-glass and marking grain by grain, as they dropped and fell, until the last grain of the diminishing heap announced, "The long-dreaded hour has arrived!"

But, thank God that the future is veiled! The storm and coming wreck are concealed, in order that the calm of the present waveless sea may be enjoyed.

Yes, we again say, thank God for hiding the future, and allowing us only to be conversant with the joys and sorrows of today.

"You do not know what will happen tomorrow!" James 4:14

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The woman had left her only child dead in her home!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"Gehazi asked: Is it well with the child?
 And she answered: It is well." 2 Kings 4:26

The woman had left her only child dead in her home, and was riding in haste to the prophet Elisha to tell him of her sorrow. Yet on the way, in answer to an inquiry concerning her child, she answered, "It is well."

Our Christian faith may always say the same in any circumstances of affliction or trouble or sorrow. This is our Father's world! God has all power and could save us from any sorrow or suffering if He wished. He is all-loving, and when He permits any trial to touch us, it is because it will be a blessing to us. He is all-wise, and knows what is best for us.

We do not know what is best for us. We would make pitiful work of our life if, for even a single day, our affairs and experiences were left in our own hands! But in God's hands, no mistake will ever be made. Whatever may come, therefore, we may say always, "It is well!"

"He has done all things well!" Mark 7:37

"And 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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Lord, how can we know the way?

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

Thomas said to Him, "Lord, how can we know the way?"
Jesus said to him, "I am the way" John 14:5-6

This is the first day of a new year. We are setting out on a journey of which we can have no knowledge in advance. The road is one on which we never have gone hitherto. We know not what any day will have for us . . .
  what our duties will be,
  what burdens shall be laid upon us,
  what sorrows we shall have to endure,
  what battles we shall have to fight.

We cannot see one step before us! How can we know the way?

As we sit in the quiet, this first evening, and ask the question, we hear an answer which is full of comfort. Jesus says to us, "I am the way!"

All we shall have to do, therefore, will be to follow Jesus. He has made a way through this dark world for us. He has gone over all the journey and opened a road for us at great cost. He went over the way Himself we shall find His shoe-prints at every step.

He has a definite way for each one of us. Every mile of the journey He has chosen and every place where I pitch my tent He has selected for me!

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

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The Lord Will Provide!

"So Abraham called that place Jehovah-Jireh The Lord Will Provide!" Genesis 22:14

Write deep in your heart this New Year's day, this word of sublime confidence: Jehovah-Jireh. It tells you . . .
   that you can trust God always;
   that no promise of His ever fails;
   that He does all things well;
   that out of all seeming loss and destruction of human hopes, He brings blessing.

"You have never traveled this way before." Joshua 3:4. There will be sorrows and joys, failures and successes, this year, just as there were last year. You cannot forecast individual experiences. You cannot see a step before your feet! Yet Jehovah-Jireh calls you to enter the new year with calm trust in Him. It bids you put away all anxieties and forebodings, "The Lord will provide!"

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We shall have some hard climbing in our upward journey

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"And of Asher he said: Your shoes shall be iron and bronze. As your days so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:24-25

Asher's portion would be rough and hilly. Common shoes of leather would not last. The promise meant that Asher would have shoes that would endure the wear and tear.

For us, the promise suggests that we shall have some hard climbing in our upward journey or we would not need iron shoes. It assures us also that we need not dread any hardness we may find in our life for the future, for it will be provided for. We shall have shoes of iron to wear, and then we shall not mind the steep and rugged paths.

God leads us nowhere, without providing for the special difficulties in the way.

We have the same assurance in the words that follow, "As your days so shall your strength be." For easy days, we need less divine help and receive less. Then when the hard days come, the help will increase accordingly. There is not a step in all our journey for which God will not give us help, when we come to the place where we need it.

"Your shoes shall be iron and bronze. As your days so shall your strength be!"

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However low we may sink!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

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

Of course God has no arms; but He reveals Himself to us in human language the only language we could understand.

We know what a mother's arms, a father's arms, mean to a child. But human arms are frail, and any hour their embrace may be withdrawn. The other day a child was grieving by his mother's coffin but the arms which had clasped the boy always so tenderly, could not move to comfort him.

But the arms of God are "everlasting." God holds His redeemed children in the strong embrace of His love! No matter what may come to us of danger, of calamity, of terror they will still and ever enfold us.

These arms of God are ever and always "underneath" us. However low we may sink away in pain, in weakness, in sorrow we shall never sink out of the divine arms! Jesus said no one can snatch His loved ones out of His hands.

In death, when we shall sink out of every human embrace we shall still be in the clasp of God's love and His everlasting arms will be underneath us. Such a word as this assures us of eternal security in God's love!

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Would we grumble as we now do?

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"The Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him!" Exodus 16:8

The fact that God hears all that we say, ought to make us guard our words. But does God really hear every fretful word we say? Does He hear when we grumble about the weather, about the hard winter, about the late spring, about the dry summer, about the wet harvest, and about the grub-worm? Does He hear when we grumble about the drought, about the high winds, about the storms?

Does He hear when we complain about the hardness of our lot?

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 grumble as we now do?

We are always on our guard when we think that anyone is within hearing. Are we as careful concerning what we say in the hearing of our heavenly Father?

We are careful, too, never to speak words which would give pain to the hearts of those we love dearly. Are we as careful not to say anything that will give pain to the heart of Christ?

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We have to paint the pictures ourselves!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"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 want." Philippians 4:11-12 

We are always at school. Our business here on earth, is to learn.

The Christian virtues and graces are not put into our lives, as one hangs up pictures on the wall of a room finished and perfect in their beauty. Rather, we have to paint the pictures ourselves!

Paul tells us that he had learned contentment. It did not come into his life at his conversion, as a gift from his new Master.

The word he uses indicates, too, that the learning was not easy. He says he knew both how to be filled and to be hungry. That is, his contentment did not depend on circumstances. He had the secret in his own heart, and he was content through all manner of experiences.

But it was not always so with him. His contentment was not a matter of temperament, nor was it a divine gift he had learned it! Nor was he a young man when he said this it had taken him years to learn the lesson.

It is the same with all the beautiful things in Christian character we have to learn them! We have to learn to be patient, to be thoughtful, to be at peace, to be loving, to be kind, to be humble and meek.

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Her friends wondered what the secret could be!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"Whom having not seen, you love." 1 Peter 1:8

One tells of a young girl who became wondrously beautiful in her life, growing into a rare Christ-likeness. Her friends wondered what the secret could be. She wore a little locket upon her bosom which she always kept closed, refusing to allow anyone to see within it. Once, however, when she was very ill, a friend was permitted to open it, and found there only a small piece of paper, bearing the Scripture verse, "Whom not having seen, I love."

This told the whole delightful story. Her love for the unseen Christ was the secret of that beautiful spiritual life which had so impressed itself upon her friends.

If we love the unseen Friend, our life will be steadfast in all trial, and will be transformed little by little into the beauty of Christ!

"Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious!" 1 Peter 2:7

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God's chisel and hammer!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"Then those who feared the Lord  talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A book of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord  and honored His name. 'These shall be Mine,' says the Lord Almighty, 'in that day when I make up My jewels!'" Malachi 3:16-17

In the prophet Malachi's time, when nearly all the people had forsaken God, there were a few who were faithful. These met together and spoke one to another. They became very dear to God, and a book of remembrance was kept in which their names and their faithfulness were recorded.

"These shall be Mine in that day when I make up My jewels!"

Jewels are valuable. God gave His beloved Son for the redemption of His chosen people.

Jewels are prepared by cutting, grinding, and polishing, until they shine in brilliant beauty. God's people are subjected to many painful trials and experiences in preparing them for their heavenly home.

Jewels are used for adornment and for honor. They shine in the king's crown. The saints in Heaven shall shine as jewels in Jesus' crown!

If only we knew how precious we are to God, and what hidden glory shall be ours, waiting to shine out at last we would rejoice with unspeakable joy!

What do a few troubles and pains matter now, if it is only the work of God's chisel and hammer cutting away the hindering crust, to reveal the precious diamond!

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The lesson applies to other things besides bread!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

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

"Waste not, want not," says the proverb.

It seems remarkable that He who could so easily multiply the few loaves into an abundant meal, should be so particular about saving the fragments that remained left over. But He would teach us economy by His own example.

The lesson applies to other things besides bread. We should never waste anything! Many people waste whole years of time in the little fragments which they lose every day. If, at the end of a year, they could gather up all these fragments, they would have many basketfuls of precious pieces of golden time.

In mints where gold is coined, the sweepings of the floor, the settlings of the water in which the men wash their hands, the very smoke from the furnaces, are all carefully swept through for fine particles of precious gold; and during the years large sums are recovered in this way.

If only we would learn to care as scrupulously for the fragments of the precious things which pass through our hands, we would be far richer at the end of our life.

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The influence of such a habitual encourager never can be measured!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory." 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Like the apostle Paul, we should strive to be encouragers. He who makes it harder for a brother to live nobly and do his work well, has sinned against one of Christ's little ones.

We dare not go about among our fellows saying discouraging things, dispiriting things for if we do, we are imperiling those whose burdens are already as heavy as they can bear. One disheartening word may cause them to weaken and sink down in despair.

The law of love bids us bear one another's burdens, and there is no other way in which we can do this so effectively, as by living a life of joy. He who goes among men throughout the day with glad heart and cheerful face, speaking some encouraging words to everyone he meets, saying something uplifting in every ear is a wonderful inspirer of strength, courage, and hope, in others. His is a divine ministry of good to others. He makes every one a little braver and stronger. Weary plodders pluck up fresh energy after meeting him. Fainting ones awake to new courage when his hopeful words have fallen upon their ears. The influence of such a habitual encourager never can be measured!

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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Do it as Jesus would do it!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"Whatever you do, whether in word or deed do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus." Colossians 3:17

To do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, is to do it as Jesus would do it, if He were in your place. One may do the lowliest things in a heavenly way and another may do heavenly things in a worldly way. One may work in the humblest calling and live a saintly life; while another may be engaged in what is called a sacred calling and yet may do his work in an undevout manner. A street-sweeper may be more saintly, may live nearer to God, and may be a better follower of Jesus than a minister who is busy in incessant religious duties.

Browning represents the angel Gabriel taking a boy's tasks in this world, doing the work well, and praising God meanwhile.

We have something finer even than that, however, not in a mere poet's imagination but in the gospel narrative. Jesus, the son of God, came to earth, lived a human life, and worked at a common trade!

"Yes, yes, a carpenter same trade as mine,
 It warms my heart as I read that line.
 I can stand the hard work, I can stand the poor pay,
 For I'll see that Carpenter at no distant day!"

"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done." John 13:15

"Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps!" 1 Peter 2:21

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The small coins of love!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"Be kind and compassionate to one another" Ephesians 4:32

We should be always kind. Nothing is more helpful than kindness. Nothing else does more to brighten the world and sweeten other lives.

Kindnesses are the small coins of love. We should always be ready to scatter these coins wherever we go. Kindnesses are usually little things that we do as we go along our daily path wayside acts, touches, words, little helpful things. We never know when we do any little thing in love for Christ, what the end of it will be what a harvest of good will finally come from it. It is better to do a thousand little kindnesses every day, than to do a great deed of love once in a year, and then fail to be kind in the common days.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12

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We would not be so perplexed by the mysteries of our lives!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. 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 12:10-11

We are not in this world merely to have a pleasant time but to be fashioned into beauty of Christly character. If we would always remember this, we would not be so perplexed by the mysteries of our lives.

If joy is ours it is to make us a greater blessing to others.

If sorrow is ours it is to bring out Christ's image in us more clearly.

If our hopes are disappointed it is because God has some better thing for us, than that which we so earnestly desire.

If we are called to endure pain it is because godly character can only be matured by affliction.

If bereavement comes and we are left without the human arm we have always leaned upon it is because there are elements of character in our life which never could be developed unless the human support were removed.

If our burdens are heavy it is because we grow best under burdens.

If we suffer wrong it is to teach us better the great lessons of meekness, patience and sweet temper.

Always the Master is making us into the beauty of the holy pattern He has set for us, and preparing us for greater usefulness and better service!

"And 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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The unconscious influences of our lives

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper." 1 Kings 19:12

It is not in noise that God usually reveals Himself in greatest power. He works silently, without noise.

Jesus was a still small voice in this world. He did not strive nor cry out; neither was His voice heard in the streets. He did not break a bruised reed, so gentle was He in His goings and in His workings. Yet that one sweet, quiet life, pouring forth its spirit of love and tenderness, wrought more than has been wrought by all the armies of conquerors since the world began!

In the same way, it is the silent things, the unconscious influences of our lives, which make the deepest and most lasting impressions and not the things which get advertised in the papers, and are most talked about.

If we would be effective in our work, we must learn to work quietly.

The greatest preacher is the one who most deeply impresses men, in matters that affect their living and serving, inciting and inspiring them to worthy deeds and beautiful godly living. The best Christian workers are those who make the least noise. We never can do our best work if we have not learned to work quietly, for Christ glory, and not for our own exaltation.

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I love to trace there the footsteps of my Father!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge!" Psalm 19:1-2

GOD IN NATURE! I love to trace there the footsteps of my Father!

His watchful stars look down kindly and lovingly from their heights.

There is a touch of beauty even in Alpine solitudes the piles of driven snow like white mantles woven by angels; the translucent light of fairy grottoes, their roofs pendent with icicle, and distant or overhanging peaks gleaming with the gold of the morning, or with evening ruby.

That great and wide sea, with its dancing waves and troughs of chameleon hue.

The whisper of the forest and the sympathetic music of its million leaves.

The pastures clothed with flocks, the valleys also covered over with grain.

The sparkling rivulet winding its thread of silver, singing with gentle ripple, and taking its part in the blessing of Creation.

The Almighty has thus put His loving and creative thoughts into His world. We can devoutly say, "How precious also are Your thoughts unto me, O God; how great is the sum of them!"

Yes, with all this apparent to his vision who can see and recognize the Great Ruler of all only in mists and storms, the boom of the thunder, the flash of the lightning, the tremors of the earthquake, and the havoc of the avalanche? These are the abnormal occurrences in His mighty sway a few exceptional notes in the great hymn and harmonies of eternal love.

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So mighty yet so loving!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

What a wonderful Savior! So mighty yet so loving!

Spurning, indeed, all baseness and vileness, all mere lip-homage and hypocrisy.
Upsetting all false human ideals and empty philosophies.
At war with conventional empty religious rituals.
Denouncing every white-washed sepulcher that serves only to screen spiritual rottenness.

But welcoming . . .
  many of those who were looked at askance by their fellows;
  some who were the subjects of social ostracism;
  those deemed fit only to be trampled, as bruised battered flowers, underneath the feet;
  the repentant harlot and sinner, the prodigal, the outcast, the lost.

His heart is a very hive of tenderness . . .
  washing His disciples' feet in token of humility;
  standing by the grave of buried affection;
  wiping away the tear of bereavement;
  calming the paroxysms of untold sorrow;
  arrested by the penitential sighings of the contrite spirit.

In a word, imparting . . .
  rest to the weary and heavy-laden,
  hope to the desponding,
  sympathy to the mourner,
  healing to the brokenhearted; and
  finally showing, in the scenes of Gethsemane and Calvary which crowned that Incarnation of suffering love what He the Divine Man could do and dare for perishing sinners.

The kindness of the kindest on earth has a limit His had none.
Human affection and love may come and go but His flows on forever!

"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you!" Jeremiah 31:3

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The world's pleasures are often curses in disguise!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

"Jabez called on the God of Israel saying: 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed!' So God granted him what he requested." 1 Chronicles 4:10 

There is much apparent good not worth calling by the name. What the world speaks of as blessings are, some of them, often worthless, and many of them positively evil and detrimental. They are counterfeits they do not bear upon them the coinage and currency of Heaven. Satan has disguised them stamped them as true metal while they are base alloy!

Let us leave our blessings, and the method of their bestowal, with the Giver of every good and perfect gift into His hand committing our earthly all, with this prayer of intense fervor yet of simple faith, "Oh that You would bless me indeed!" I want nothing which the world calls a blessing, unless You think it proper for me. I want no shadows no baubles. I do not ask for riches they may be a snare to me. I do not ask for . . .
  the cup running over,
  the barns full,
  the fig-tree blossoming,
  the home-nest without the thorn.
These might alienate me from Yourself, and bind me only closer to earth!

I want blessings indeed. God of Israel! I am no judge of this. Whatever YOU give, will be a true blessing to me. And even if You take it away I will strive to believe that the dark, painful dealing, is Your kindness to me also.

Yes, we repeat, the world's pleasures are often curses in disguise like Cleopatra's viper, which was hidden in a basket of flowers. There is often . . .
  an adder lurking in the bed of roses,
  a fly in the ointment,
  poison in the wine-cup!

But the blessings of God are blessings bearing His own divine seal and signature. They may come . . .
  in frowning providences,
  in baffling dispensations,
  in strokes of the chastening rod.
For the present they may seem not joyous, but grievous. But I am content to be in His hands joyful or sorrowful, in health or in sickness, living or dying. O my Father, give Your own blessing, and I shall bow my head in submission; for I can only hear in it accents of paternal love!


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A meaningless gospel, a meaningless god, and a meaningless savior!

(Don Fortner)

"You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins!" Matthew 1:21

The angel's message to Joseph was a message of grace, redemption, and salvation to sinners. By God's command, He was named, "JESUS," Savior, because He was sent by God to save His people from their sins. What He is called, that He is Jesus, our Savior.

The Lord Jesus came into the world to save "His people" from their sins. Those He came to save were His people before He came to save them, His by eternal election. There are some people in this world, an elect multitude, chosen in Him before the world began, who are peculiarly and distinctively His people, the objects of His everlasting love, chosen in Him unto salvation (Ephesians 1:2-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

The Lord Jesus Christ is an almighty, effectual Savior! He saves His people from . . .
   the penalty of their sins by His blood atonement,
   the dominion of their sins by His regenerating Spirit,
   the being of their sins when He takes them out of this world,
   all the evil consequences of their sins in resurrection glory!
 

Universal love, universal grace, and universal redemption is meaningless love, meaningless grace, and meaningless redemption. To preach such, is to preach a meaningless gospel, a meaningless god, and a meaningless savior!

"You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins!"

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A child can lisp it but an archangel cannot fathom it!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

"But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions!" Ephesians 2:4-5

MERCY! It is a sinner's word. A child can lisp it but an archangel cannot fathom it!

"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy!" Psalm 103:8

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Afflicted one, you cannot believe it now!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

"I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of affliction!" Isaiah 48:10

Afflicted one, you cannot believe it now
but you will come out from that furnace seven times purified in the refining fires of God.

"When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold!" Job 23:10

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We are to learn to live the things which are Christly!

(J.R. Miller, "Living Victoriously")

Jesus says, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me." Matthew 11:29

The course of instruction is long, and the lessons are many. The learning is not merely intellectual, but essentially practical. It is not enough to know what a Christian life should be what qualities and virtues go to make up Christlikeness. We are to learn to live the things which are Christly! We are not merely to know what self-denial, patience, unselfishness, thoughtfulness, and kindness are but we are to get these qualities wrought into our own disposition and character!

"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them!" John 13:17

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The necessity of daily Bible reading

(J.R. Miller, "Living Victoriously")

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly!" Colossians 3:16

Probably prayer is less neglected in devotions, than is the reading of the Bible. Many people who would not go out any morning without a few moments of prayer, will go forth day after day into the thick of life's duties and perils, without reading even a verse of Scripture! They feel the necessity of asking God to keep, guide and bless them but they fail to realize that it is in and through meditating on His Word, that God chiefly gives His richest and best blessings.

It is in His Word, that God reveals Himself. We cannot know what He is like, nor what the attributes of His character are unless we ponder the Scriptures. We cannot learn what God's will is, nor what He would have us to do and to be if we do not look into His Word. There is nothing that we need more, than to hear God speaking to us every morning. This is possible, only as we open the Bible and let its words whisper their messages to us.
 

No matter how familiar we may be with the teachings of the Scriptures, we need to ponder them anew every morning to keep their pure ideals and lofty requirements ever before us, lest we allow our standard of holy living to be lowered.

A celebrated painter always kept some purely-colored stones on his table. When asked by a visitor why he did so, he said it was to keep his eye up to tone. When he was working in pigments, unconsciously his sense of color was weakened. By keeping a pure color near him he brought his eye up to tone again, just as the musician by his tuning-fork brings himself up to the right pitch. In the same way, we continually need to turn to God's Word to keep our thoughts, and character, and life up to the true standard.

Rubenstein used to say that he could never omit his daily practice on the piano, for if he did, the quality of his playing would at once begin to deteriorate. He said that if he missed practice for three days the public would know it; if he missed practice for two days his friends would know it; and if he did not practice for even one day he himself knew it!

It is no less true in Christian life, that in order to keep its holy tone up to what it should be, there must never be a break in the continuity of the study of God's Word. If we leave off for only one day, we shall become conscious of a loss of power in living. If for two successive days we fail to look into God's perfect law, our friends around us will notice the failure in the beauty, the sweetness and the grace of our character and disposition. If for three days we fail to study the Scriptures, to see how God would have us live, even the people of the world will see a lowering of the spiritual quality of our life!

One of the ways the Bible helps us, is by making Christ known to us. The noblest Christian is he before whose eyes, the character of Jesus shines in brightest splendor. Indeed, it is only when we have clear visions of Christ, that we really grow like Him.

"It seems to me," says a writer, "that nowadays men think and talk too much about improving their own character but meditate too little on the perfectness of the divine character." Christ will never appear really great in our eyes, unless we make His Word our daily study. And only as He becomes great and glorious in our thought will our character and standard of life be lifted up to what they should be.

Many of the blessings we seek in prayer, can come to us only through the Word of God:

We ask to be kept near the heart of Christ but our Master tells us that only those who keep His commandments shall abide in His love. In order to keep His commandments, we must know them and we can know them only by reading and re-reading them.

We ask God in the morning to guide us through the day, and in one of the psalms is the prayer, "Order my steps according to Your Word." That is, God leads us by His Word. If then we do not read the words of God, how can we get His guidance?
 

The leading He promises is not general, by long stretches but by little steps. The Psalmist says, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet." It is not said that prayer is the lamp but the Word. We must carry it in our hand, too, as one carries a lantern to throw its beams about his feet.

We pray to be kept from sin, and in the Scriptures one says, "Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Our prayers to be kept from sin, can be answered only by getting the Word of God into our heart!

These are suggestions of the necessity of reading the Bible daily, as well as of praying. Neither is complete in itself alone. We must talk to God but we must also listen to God talk to us through His Word. We must pray for blessings but only through the divine words of Scripture, can these blessings come to us.

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The necessity of daily prayer

(J.R. Miller, "Living Victoriously!")

"But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you openly." Matthew 6:6

In the Christian's devotional life, prayer has an essential place. The godly men of the Bible were all men of prayer. Jesus, who showed us in Himself the ideal Christian life had regular habits of prayer. He who would live the Christian life well, must regularly commune with God!

It is important, however, that we understand clearly what it is to pray. It is not enough that at stated times we go over certain forms of prayer. We only pray, when we speak to God what is in our heart as a desire, a longing, or a burden.

Jesus teaches that we are to pray to God as our Father. We must come to Him, therefore, as His redeemed children with the genuineness, the simplicity, the confidence of children. When we stand at God's throne of grace and speak the name "Father" and ask for a child's blessing we are sure of instant welcome.

Many people think of prayer only as coming to God with requests. They only tell Him their needs. They never bow before Him nor speak to Him, unless there is something they wish Him to do for them.

What would you think of a friend of yours who never came to you nor talked with you, except when he wanted to ask some favor of you? True friendship finds many of its sweetest moments, when there is no help to ask but when only love's communion fills the happy time. It should be so in our relation with our heavenly Father. If we care to be with Him only when we have a favor to ask of Him then there is something lacking in our love!

We are not to suppose that when Jesus spent whole nights in prayer, He was making requests all the time. He went away from the trying, struggling, troublesome life of the busy days among the people to find shelter, rest, and renewal of strength, in sweet converse with His Father. Just so, most of the time we spend in prayer should be given to communion with God.

A minister relates that one Saturday morning, when he was in his study preparing his sermon, his little child opened the door and came in, stealing softly to his side. Somewhat impatiently, the father turned to her and asked, "What do you want, my child?"

"Nothing, papa," the child replied. "I only want to be with you."

This is oft-times the only desire of the true Christian when he comes to pray. He has no requests to make he just wants to be with his Father!

The most profitable season of devotion, is that in which there is also meditation upon God's Word. It is related of a godly Christian who was known to spend much time in his prayer-closet, that a friend once secreted himself in his study to learn something of his devotional habit. The godly man was busy all the evening at his work. At eleven o'clock he put away his books and pen and opened his New Testament. For a whole hour he bent over its pages, reading, comparing, pondering the sacred words. Sometimes he would linger long over a sweet verse and his heart would glow with rapture. When the clock struck twelve, he closed the book and sought his bed.

He was not once on his knees during all the hour. He offered no petition in words. He had spent the whole time in communing with God in His Word, breathing out his love, his adoration, his longings and desires and receiving into his heart the assurances, the encouragements, the promises, the joys of the Father's love.

There could be no better way of devotion than this!

Praying alone, without meditation on the Word of God, meets only one phase of our need. We talk to God when we pray. But it is quite as important that God talks to us and He will only talk with us, when we open the Scriptures and wait reverently to hear what He will say to us.

What is the HELP that we are to receive from prayer?

First of all, prayer holds us close to Christ. We breathe Heaven's air when we commune with Christ. Life in this sinful world is not easy. It has its struggles, its duties, its difficulties, and its sorrows which exhaust our strength. Hence we need continually to return to Christ to have our grace renewed. We cannot live today, on yesterday's food; every morning we must pray for our daily bread. Nor can we be faithful, strong, happy and helpful Christians today on yesterday's supply of grace. We need to pray daily. Thus our life is kept from running down, and we are held near our Master all the while.

The true Christian life also grows and it can only do so by daily communing with God. Our life should never run two days on just the same level. The days should be ladder rungs lifting our heart ever a little higher, nearer to God, into purer air, into loftier experiences, into holier consecration.

Prayer brings God down into our life. It was when Jesus was praying, that He was transfigured. True prayer always transfigures! One who lives habitually with Christ, becomes like Christ. Our earthly affairs become means of grace, if Christ is with us. Prayer lifts all the experiences of our life and lays them in the hand of Christ who makes them all work together for our eternal good!

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Our blessings are always greater than our trials!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

Beware of a morbid dwelling on self with its crosses and losses. Our blessings are always greater than our trials; and most assuredly always greater than we deserve!

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Ebenezer!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it 'Ebenezer' saying: Thus far has the LORD helped us!" 1 Samuel 7:12

What a retrospect will that be at the end of life's journey! The rough paths, the jagged precipices, the valleys of humiliation all will be seen to have been bathed in the luminous light of God's love. There will be nothing more but to erect earth's farewell monument, and to carve upon it, "Ebenezer!"

"And 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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The Gospel crucible!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God!" 1 Corinthians 1:18

It will never cease to be one of the marvels of Christianity, that her antidotes are the same in every climate, every age, and every bosom. Just as the chemist can infallibly pronounce on the action of the various elements he throws into his crucible so in the Gospel crucible, cast the human heart in its every form and type, that of . . .
  the degraded African,
  the superstitious Hindu,
  the ferocious Arab,
  the reprobate European
the Gospel of Christ, by a heavenly alchemy, melts that heart! It dissolves . . .
  the pride of reason,
  the power of superstition,
  the curse and misery of vice!
It is the only universal balm!

It was tried . . .
  on ignorant fishermen of Galilee,
  on poor wayside beggars of Judea,
  on hardened Roman soldiers and
  on crouching slaves of sin and Satan.
It was tried on the great persecutor of the church and by him on the disciples of Plato on Mars Hill. It was tried amid the tears of Bethany and amid the courtly splendor and uncongenial influences of Caesar's household. And in not one of all these varied cases, has it failed!

The king clothed in ermine,
the pauper clothed in rags,
the statesman in his senate-house,
the merchant at his desk,
the artisan in his workshop,
the cottager at her wheel
all feel the power of the same Gospel, all own the beauteous simplicity of the same healing words, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!"

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The world's coveted possessions!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

The pride of title and the pride of riches hereditary rank high-sounding names barns filled to repletion piles of hoarded gold these are the world's coveted possessions!

But pause and ask:
Will these bribe death?
Will these arrest the winged arrow in its flight?
Will these ferry a man easier across Jordan?
No!
The monarch and the slave;
the king and the peasant;
the millionaire and the beggar
  are the same at last!

But, here is a glorious title enduring riches which death cannot rob, and the grave cannot spoil, "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!" 1 John 3:2

"In Your presence is fullness of joy! At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore!" Psalm 16:11

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The chisel and mallet of affliction!

(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)

"And 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. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son!" Romans 8:28-29

In that great block of uncut marble, there is, in the mind of the sculptor, a slumbering angel. As chip by chip flies off, the form becomes crudely and slowly developed. In the course of time after months of long labor his conception is realized, and the masterpiece is completed.

God is the Supreme Sculptor, and it is very often by the chisel and mallet of affliction that He is now fabricating and fashioning His people for Heaven. The tools are in His hands. Let us trust Him that no stroke is unnecessary or redundant in the working out of His own Divine ideal, which is nothing short of this, "to be conformed to the image of His Son."

"Now He who has fashioned us ('chiseled' so the word means) for this very thing is God." (2 Corinthians 5:5)