Grace Gems for March 2010

Nursing a viper!

(J. R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible" 1909)

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived." Colossians 3:5-7

A new life in Christ calls for the utter destruction of these evils. It is a shameful list which Paul names. It makes us ashamed to think that such qualities may belong to us—or may nest in our heart! Who would have thought that any these vile things could exist in anyone who wears the human form! Yet many of these ugly things are found in each of us! Our hearts are naturally cages of unclean birds!

What does Paul tell us we should do with these unholy things? He says we are to put them to death. When we find any evil thing in ourselves, we must kill it, for it is not right for it to live. An uncompromising war should be waged against all evil. He who cherishes any impurity in himself—is nursing a viper which will sting him to death by and by!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The way to obtain the help of God

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

"I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike." Acts 26:22

When Paul stood before Agrippa, it was twenty-five years after his conversion. They had been years of toilsome life, amid enemies and dangers; but the heroic old apostle had never given up, never faltered, never turned aside. It was a great record—but he takes no praise to himself. The help came from God—for all these years of faithful witnessing.

Many Christians fear that they will not be able to stand faithful and true to the end. Here is an encouraging word for all such: They shall obtain help from God for every duty, for every hour of danger, for every struggle. They need only to be faithful day by day, doing the day's duty quietly, and trusting God. This help will come from Him, silently, secretly, just as it is needed, always sufficient grace—so that they shall be able to stand faithful year after year. God never puts a burden on us—without giving us the strength we need to carry it. The way to obtain the help of God—is to go faithfully and promptly forward in the way of duty, asking for the help, and sure of getting it. It will not come if we wait to get it before we set out to do His will.

"I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you—will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Every baby starts life as a little savage!

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me!" Psalm 51:5

"Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered: he wants what he wants—his bottle, his mother's attention, his playmate's toys, his uncle's watch, or whatever. Deny him these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is dirty; he has no morals, no knowledge and no developed skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, but all children are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy, given free reign to their impulsive actions to satisfy each want—every child would grow up a criminal, a killer, a thief, and a rapist." (Reb Bradley, "Biblical Insights into Child Training")

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

"Remember that children are born with a decided bias toward evil, and therefore if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong. The mother cannot tell what her tender infant may grow up to be—tall or short, weak or strong, wise or foolish—all is uncertain. But one thing the mother can say with certainty—he will have a corrupt and sinful heart! It is natural for us to do wrong. Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread—let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds!" (J. C. Ryle)

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The first Christians

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

"The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." Acts 11:26

The lives of the converts were so different from their unbelieving neighbors, that they were called Christians. It is supposed that the name was given them in mockery or contempt by the heathen people of Antioch. But the name stuck, and is now used universally to describe those who follow Christ. It may not be the very best of names.

Perhaps disciples is better—disciples means learners, followers. We should all be disciples of Christ and should ever be learning of Him, growing in grace and likeness of Him as we follow Him.

Perhaps believers is a better name. It carries in itself the thought that we are saved by believing on Christ. It is faith which works the victories in this world.

Perhaps followers would be better. To follow Christ is to receive Him as Master and to cling to Him in obedience and devotion wherever we may go.

But the word "Christian," given at Antioch as a sneer—is now used everywhere. It is full of meaning. Those who are Christians should be like Christ—"little Christs". They should represent Christ in the world. Those who see them—should see the image of Christ in them!

Matthew Henry says, "Hitherto the followers of Christ were called disciples, that is, learners, scholars; but from that time they were called Christians. The proper meaning of this name is, a follower of Christ; it denotes one who, from serious thought, embraces the religion of Christ, believes His promises, and makes it his chief care to shape his life by Christ's precepts and example. Hence it is plain that multitudes take the name of Christian—to whom it does not rightly belong! But the name without the reality—will only add to our guilt. While the bare profession will bestow neither profit nor delight, the possession of it will give both the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

In the midst of all the wild scene—Stephen fell asleep!

(J. R. Miller, "
Stephen the First Martyr")

"When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him! But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look!" he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" When he had said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7:54-60

To Stephen, dying was only breathing out his soul into the hands of Jesus Christ! He knew it was not death—but life, which was before him. His body was being mangled and broken—but his spirit, his real self, could not be harmed. Beyond the strange mystery of death—Jesus waits to receive the departing spirit. Death is only a gateway through which the soul passes—and then life and glory burst upon the vision of the emancipated spirit!

Very beautiful is the picture of death which is given here: "He fell asleep." Sleep is death's new, sweet name! What a picture of peace the word suggests, right here in the heart and fury of the mob! In the midst of all the wild scene—Stephen fell asleep!

We think of a tired child creeping into the mother's bosom and falling asleep. Sleep is not a terrible experience; it is nothing to be dreaded. We sleep when we are weary—and we awake refreshed. Sleep is not the cessation of life. We expect to awake, after we have slept. As we part for the night, we do not say, "Farewell," but "Goodnight," for we expect to meet again in the morning.

This beautiful Scriptural designation of death tells us, therefore, of life beyond, of resurrection, of immortality. We shall awake from this sleep of death—and our life shall go on again. We shall awake refreshed, lying down weary—and rising strong; lying down sick, or old, or deformed, or worn-out—and rising well, young and radiant in heavenly beauty!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

After you are dead?

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

Did you ever sit down quietly and seriously consider where you will be, and what you will be—after you are dead?

"It is appointed for people to die once—and and after that, to face judgment." Hebrews 9:27

"Then the King will say to those on His right: Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" Matthew 25:34

"Then He will also say to those on the left: Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!" Matthew 25:41

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Is that all we need to do?

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

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" Luke 10:36

That was the Master's question. The lawyer could not help answering, "The one who showed mercy to him."

Then came the application, "Go—and DO likewise." Luke 10:37

It is not enough to hear good lessons, or look on good examples. When we have heard and seen—we must go out and DO the good things which are so beautiful, which our judgment commends.

It is not enough for the artist to have lovely visions in his mind—he must get his visions on the canvas, where they will be blessings to the world.

It is a precious privilege to look at noble lives and to read heavenly counsels. But we must reproduce in disposition, in act, in character, in our own lives—the excellent things we read.

Now we have read and understand the story of the Good Samaritan. Is that all we need to do? No! We must, "Go—and DO likewise!"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~


(Arthur Pink, "Comfort for Christians")

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11

Contentment is the being satisfied with the sovereign dispensations of God's providence. It is the opposite of murmuring, which is the spirit of rebellion—the clay saying to the Potter, "Why have You made me thus?" Instead of complaining at his lot—a contented man is thankful that his condition and circumstances are no worse than they are.

Discontent! Was there ever a time when there was so much discontent and restlessness in the world, as there is today? We very much doubt it. Despite our boasted progress, the vast increase of wealth, the time and money expended daily in pleasure—discontent is everywhere! No class is exempt. Everything is in a state of flux, and almost everybody is dissatisfied. Many even among God's own people are affected with the evil spirit of this age.

Contentment! Is such a thing realizable, or is it nothing more than a beautiful ideal, a mere dream of the poet? Is it attainable on earth, or is it restricted to the inhabitants of heaven? If feasible here and now—may it be retained—or are a few brief moments or hours of contentment the most that we may expect in this life?

The force of Paul's statement will be better appreciated, if his condition and circumstances at the time he made it, are kept in mind. When the apostle wrote the words, he was not luxuriating in a special suite in the Emperor's palace—but was in prison "in chains". The contentment which Paul enjoyed, was not the result of congenial and comfortable surroundings. Most people suppose that contentment is impossible, unless one can have the desires of the carnal heart gratified. A prison is the last place to which they would go—if they were seeking a contented man. This much, then, is clear—contentment comes from within not without; it must be sought from God, not in creature comforts.

Now, there is a vast difference between precept and practice, between the ideal and the realization. But in the case of Paul, contentment was an actual experience! It was something he had learned in the school of Christian experience.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said—Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

He could not love you more!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself!" Jeremiah 31:3

He loved you without beginning. Before years, and centuries, and millenniums began to be counted—your name was on His heart! Eternal thoughts of love have been in God's bosom towards you. He has loved you without a pause; there never was a minute in which He did not love you. Your name once engraved upon His hands—has never been erased, nor will He ever blot it out of the Book of Life.

Since you have been in this world—He has loved you most patiently. You have often provoked Him; you have rebelled against Him times without number, yet He has never stayed the outflow of His heart towards you; and, blessed be His name—He never will. You are His, and you always shall be His. God's love to you is without boundary. He could not love you more—for He loves you like a God; and He never will love you less. All His heart belongs to you!

"As the Father has loved Me—so have I loved you!" John 15:9

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

You say that you want to be like Christ

(J. R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible" 1909)

The art of photography is now so advanced, that a whole page of a newspaper can be taken in miniature so small—as to be carried on a little button, and yet every letter and point be perfect.

Just so, the whole life of Christ is photographed in this one little phrase, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

He did not come to be served—if this had been His aim, He would never have left heaven's glory, where He lacked nothing, where angels praised Him and ministered unto Him. He came to serve. He went about doing good. He altogether forgot Himself. He served all He met, who would receive His service. At last He gave His life in serving—He gave it to save others, to redeem lost souls.

You say that you want to be like Christ. You ask Him to print His own image on your heart. Here then, is the image: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."

It is not a vague dream of human greatness which we are to think of, when we ask to be like our Master.

The old monks thought that they were becoming like Christ—when they went into the wilderness, away from men, to live in cold cells. But surely, such a dream of uselessness is not the thought which this picture suggests. "To serve—to give our life" that is the Christ-like thing! Instead of fleeing away from people—we are to live with others, to serve them, to live for them, to seek to bless them, to do them good, to give our lives for them—that is the meaning of the prayer for Christ-likeness.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

We begin at the lowest grade

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

"Learn from Me—for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:29

All of Christian life is a school. "Learn from Me," said the Master. We are only beginners when we first become Christians, and enter Christ's school. We begin at the lowest grade. We do not have to wait until we know a great deal before we begin to attend school. School is not for finished scholars—but for the most ignorant. We may come to Christ when we know almost nothing. He is the teacher—and all believers are learners.

"Learn from Me—for I am gentle." Gentleness is a lesson which we are to learn. It will probably take us a good long while to learn this lesson—but we must learn it because it is in Christ's curriculum for all His students.

Contentment is another lesson which we must learn. When he was well along in life, Paul said, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." It was a long and difficult lesson for him to learn.

Patience is a lesson that has to be learned. An impatient person is not a complete Christian.

Thoughtfulness is a necessary lesson. There are a great many thoughtless Christians. They are always blundering in their interactions with others. They say the wrong word, they do the wrong thing. They are always hurting other people's feelings, giving pain to gentle hearts. Yet it is all from thoughtlessness. "I didn't mean to offend him. I didn't mean to be unkind. I just never thought!" There are few lessons in Christian life that more people need to learn, than this of thoughtfulness.

We have to learn to trust. Worry is a sin. It is probably as great a sin as dishonesty or profanity or bad temper. Yet a good many Christian people worry—and one of the most important lessons in Christ's school, is to learn not to worry.

Kindness is a lesson we must learn. It takes many years to learn the one little lesson of kindness.

Joy is a lesson to be learned.

Peace is another.

Humility is another necessary lesson.

Praise is a great lesson.

All of life is a school
, and it is in learning these lessons—that Jesus says we shall find rest for your souls. Christ Himself is our teacher, and with Him we should never fail to learn, though it be only slowly. Then as we learn our lessons, our lives will grow continually more and more into quietness, peace and Christlikeness.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A mere scratch of a pin

(J. C. Ryle)

"For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36

The loss of the soul is the heaviest loss that can befall a man. The worst and most painful of diseases; the most distressing bankruptcy of fortune; the most disastrous shipwrecks; are a mere scratch of a pin—compared to the loss of a soul. All other losses are bearable, or but for a short time, but the loss of the soul is forever! It is to lose God, and Christ, and heaven, and glory, and happiness—to all eternity. It is to be cast away forever, helpless and hopeless in hell!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Their religion was all a pious farce!

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

"Go to Bethel and sin! Go to Gilgal and sin yet more! Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings—boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do!" declares the Sovereign LORD. Amos 4:5-6

"Go to Bethel and sin!" cried the prophet. Bethel was their place of worship—but every time they came there, they sinned because their worship was sin. Instead of bowing before the true God and adoring Him, they bowed before idols and gave them the honor which belonged to God alone. The more devout they were, therefore, the more they dishonored the Lord. Their great zeal, as shown in their sacrifices and tithes and free-will offerings, only multiplied their sin and heaped up sorer judgment against them!

Their religion was all a pious farce, and the more there was of it—the more of an abomination it was unto God. God cannot be pleased with mere forms of worship and with ceremonials. The more we multiply these, the more do we grieve Him—if our heart is not in them.

We may say that we have no idols now in our churches; but are we sure of this? Do we truly worship God in our church services? When we sing the hymns—are our hearts fixed upon God? When we pray—are we really talking to God? When we confess sins—is the confession sincere? When we sit in God's house—are we truly in God's presence, breathing out our heart's love and worship to Him? If not, what or whom are we adoring, praising, worshiping? Empty religious forms—must have some idol at the heart of them!

The prophet told them very plainly what was in their hearts. "This is what you love to do!" You love this! You love to make a great display in your religion. This display of piety—is just to your taste. You like to cover up your sins—with forms of worship, appearing as saints before the world, though in secret cherishing and practicing all manner of wickedness!

This is God's own picture of these ancient 'worshipers'. We need to look honestly at it—to see if it is OUR picture. God looks at the heart! No external appearances are of any value—unless they are genuine expressions of what is in the heart! Pirate ships carry reputable flags—to cover their dishonorable character. Religious hypocrisy often puts at its masthead, the colors of devout saintliness. But God cannot be deceived.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The object in putting these verses in the Bible

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

Malachi 1:
The LORD Almighty says to the priests: "You have despised My name!"

But you ask, "How have we ever despised Your name?"

"You have despised My name by offering defiled sacrifices on My altar!"

Then you ask, "How have we defiled the sacrifices?"

"When you bring blind animals for sacrifice—is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals—is that not wrong?" says the LORD Almighty.

The Jewish law required that every sacrifice offered unto God, must be without blemish. No lame, blind, or diseased animal would be accepted. It was an insult to God to bring to His altar anything that was maimed, blemished or worthless. Yet the people had been taking the best of everything for themselves, and then bringing the refuse—the blind and lame animals—as offerings to God!

Well, how is it with ourselves? The object in putting these verses in the Bible—was not to get us to condemn the people who lived twenty-three hundred years ago! It was to make us think whether WE are doing this base thing ourselves!

Do we give God the best of all we have—our best love, our best gifts, our best service? Or do we take the best of all for ourselves—and then give God the blind and the lame?

How many people in the church, when the collection plate is being passed, pick out the smallest bit of money—to put in the plate! We give our strength to our own work or leisure, and then have only our weariness to bring to God. We save our best things for ourselves, and then have only worthless things to offer our wondrous King! What kind of service are we giving to our glorious Lord?

The Lord's answer to the arrogant defense of the priests is startling: "Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not at all pleased with you—and I will not accept your offerings!"

What do WE bring to God—when we go through the forms of prayer, when we sing the sacred words of our hymn, when we make our offerings, when we sit down at the Lord's table? If there is only words, words, words in all our worship—no heart, no love, no real presenting of ourselves to God, no laying of our best on the altar—God has no pleasure in us and will not accept our offerings at our hand!

"Now these things occurred as examples to keep US from setting our hearts on evil things as they did." 1 Corinthians 10:6

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

These poor swine!

(J. R. Miller, "
A Troubled Soul")

"A man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones!" Mark 5:2-5

In this demoniac, we have a sample of the work of Satan—when he gets full control in a man. He destroys every beautiful thing in the life, and leaves only ruin! No chains could bind this demoniac. When sin is on the throne, all other influences and constraints become like spiders' threads in comparison! No chain is strong enough to bind the man—who has yielded himself to the sway of the Evil One! The love of a godly mother is a strong bond—but many a child tears off this holy chain and rushes into wayward and evil paths! Home ties are strong—but these too are broken asunder, by the victim of Satan's ungodly rule.

We see that the demoniac cut and gashed himself with stones. This illustrates what in many ways, Satan's captives do. They may not literally go about cutting their flesh with knives or bruising their bodies with stones; but they do gash and bruise their souls! Sin always wounds the life—and one of its fearful consequences is the self-destruction it works. Every sin one commits leaves an ugly scar! We grieve God by our wrongdoing, and we harm others when we sin against them; but we always injure ourselves—by every evil word we speak, by every wrong act we commit, even by the evil thoughts we think in our hearts. The self-hurt of sin is one of its saddest consequences!

Demons find their pleasure in working mischief, and in ruining lives. Godly men count that day lost—in which they have done no act of kindness to another. Demons count the day lost—in which they have stained no pure soul or led no one into sin!

We ought to tear off Satan's mask and show him as he is! Evil comes to us pretending to be a friend. It holds flowers in its hands and whispers entrancing words, promising rich rewards: "Only do this—and it will bring you pleasure, honor, wealth and joy!" That is the way sin talks. But this is all false. Sin is never a friend to man. It never does good to anyone—but always harm. However plausibly Satan may present his temptations under the guise of pleasure—his secret aim is to destroy the soul he tempts. Nothing gives the Evil One so much pleasure—as to see a fair and beautiful life—stained and debauched!

It is most comforting to us, to find that Christ is able to dislodge even the most obdurate and persistent demon! No one could bind this demoniac, nor resist his superhuman strength. But at His word—the foul spirit was compelled to leave the man he had possessed for so long. No human hand can break the chains of sinful habits. No mere resolution can free one from Satan's bondage. Only Christ can set the devil's captives free! Those who have long been trying in vain to reform, to break away from evil practices—see in Christ, the Friend who alone can deliver them and save them. No demon-power can resist His command. Only Christ can free the poor slaves of Satan, and save them from his terrible sway!

"The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the swine. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned!" Mark 5:13

In the swine, under demoniac possession, rushing down the steep cliff and perishing in the lake—we have another illustration of the end of all Satan's ruinous work. It is with men—as it was here with the swine. It never yet has been known that Satan impelled anyone upward to a better life or to anything noble and lofty; he always drives down sin's steep ways—into choking floods. God's ways leads upward—it is always uphill to Christ and to heaven. But the devil always drives downward. These poor swine, demon-possessed, rushed down the steep bank, into the lake—and perished. Just so do human souls, demon-possessed, rush down sin's precipitous course and perish!

It would be well to keep this dreadful picture in our mind when we are tempted in any way by the devil; for if we follow him—this is the way it will surely end with us!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

This is not an easy lesson to learn!

(J. R. Miller, "The Law of Love")

Christ did not so much give rules for special cases—as principles to govern all conduct.

"I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you." Luke 6:27

Loving enemies is not a natural affection.

This is not an easy lesson to learn!

It is never easy to be a Christian.

The easy way does not lead toward heaven!

The lesson of love continues, "Bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you." Luke 6:28

These counsels are intensely practical. In answer to men's cursings, revilings and insults—we are to return words of peace, kindness and love. Those who mistreat us—we are to pray for, instead of uttering threats against them, or imprecations upon them.

We remember how Jesus Himself lived out this law of love. There were many who cursed Him and reviled Him—but He never lost the sweetness of love out of His heart. He never on any occasion returned a word of cursing or anger or even of impatience—in response to the bitterest revilings of His enemies. "When He was reviled—He did not revile in return; when suffering—He did not threaten, but committed Himself to the One who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:23

That is the example for us. We are to be silent when others speak evil of us or to us; or, if we speak, it is to be the soft answer that turns away wrath. We need not worry ourselves about the deserts of those who treat us unjustly, feeling that we should see to their punishment. We are to leave that to God—who judges righteously and who will take care also that no real harm shall come to us, from the wrongs which others inflict on us, provided we keep ourselves in His love and in an obedient spirit.

The lesson has its ideal exemplification in our Lord's prayer on His cross for His murderers. His only answer to the driving of the nails through His hands and feet was, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!" That is the way He wants us to answer the cruelties and injuries which others may inflict upon us!

We must be ready to endure not one—but many injuries from the others. We must be unresisting, like our Lord. No wrongs from others—should ever turn our love to hate. Christ's own life was an illustration of this. He was treated wrongfully at every step—but His heart never lost its sweetness, its gentleness, its patience, its desire to bless others and do them good.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Our words and deeds are irrevocable

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

"But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken!" Matthew 12:36

We cannot recall any word we have spoken. It may be a false word or an unkind word—a word which will blast and burn! Instantly after it has been spoken—we may wish it back and may rush after it and try to stop it—but there is no power in the world that can unsay the hurtful word—or blot it out of our life!

It is just so with our acts. A moment after we have done a wicked thing, we may bitterly repent it. We may be willing to give all we have in the world to undo it, to make it as though it never had been. But in vain. A deed done takes its place in the universe as a fact—and never can be recalled.

We should be sure before we speak a word or do an act—that it is right, that we shall never desire to have it recalled—for when once we have opened our lips, or lifted our hand—there will be no unsaying or undoing possible.

Our words and deeds are irrevocable. We cannot recall anything we have done, neither can we change it. But by other words and deeds, we may in some measure modify the effect of that which we cannot blot out. Paul could not undo his persecutions of Christians—but by a life to devotion to Christ's cause—he could in a sense make reparation for the terrible harm he had done.

Just so, we cannot undo the wrong things we have done—but we should strive to set in motion other influences which may at least compensate in some sense for the harm they have wrought. We cannot unsay the sharp word which wounds our friend's heart—but we can by kindness and loyal devotion—yet bring good and blessing to his life.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Oh, live for eternity!

(Mary Winslow)

What poor creatures we are—if left to ourselves!

What a mercy there is One that loves us better than we love ourselves, and will watch over us all our journey here, and who has engaged, by all the varying dispensations of His providence, to prepare us for that blessed home He has gone to prepare for us.

   And oh, what a place will that be!

   Love Him supremely!

   Live for eternity!

   Live for Jesus!

   Have much to do with Him!

   This world is not worth living for!

Its honors, its riches, its glories are things ever passing away; but the love of Jesus is as eternal as Himself.

Oh, live for eternity! The glory of this world is fading, and is soon gone, and gone forever!

Again I say, live for a glorious eternity!

If you could have the glory, the wealth, and the honors of this world laid at your feet—how short would be the empty enjoyment of them.

Then, live and act with reference to eternity!

And oh, the glory that awaits the true follower of Christ, who has cast overboard all that the world calls good and grand, and taking the Bible as his directory, walks as Jesus did.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Post-mortem kindnesses

(J. R. Miller)

Do not keep the alabaster boxes of your affection sealed and laid away—until your friends are dead. Fill their present days with tenderness. Speak your words of commendation, while their ears can hear them! The things you mean to say when they are dead and gone—say before they go! The flowers you mean to send for their coffins—send beforehand to brighten and sweeten their homes, before they leave them forever!

I have often said—and I know I speak for thousands of other weary, plodding toilers—that if my friends have vases laid away, filled with the perfumes of sympathy and affection, which they intend to break over my dead body—I would far rather they would bring them out now along my toilsome days and open them—when I can enjoy them and be refreshed by them!

Post-mortem kindnesses do not cheer the burdened spirit. Tears falling on the icy brow of death, make poor and too tardy atonement for coldness, neglect, and cruel selfishness in life's long, struggling years. Appreciation, after the heart is stilled in death—has no inspiration for the departed one; it comes too late, when it is pronounced only in funeral eulogies. Flowers piled on the coffin—cast no fragrance backward over weary days.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Shun them as they would the plague!

(Arthur Pink)

"Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them!" 2 Timothy 3:5

There are a multitude of such today!

"Having a form of godliness." This means that they have a religious veneer. They bear the name of Christ, belong to some so-called evangelical church, and seek to create the impression that they are regenerate people. But like the foolish bridesmaids of Matthew 25, they "took their lamps—but took no oil with them." These professors are neither indwelt by the Holy Spirit, nor made partakers of the transforming grace of God.

It is said of them, secondly, "but denying its power." The reality of vital godliness is lacking, the beauties of holiness are not found in them. By their lips, they claim to be godly—but by their lives, they give the lie to it. "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good!" (Titus 1:16)

"Have nothing to do with them!"
With such people, the children of God are to have nothing to do with—but are to shun them as they would the plague!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Spiritual beauty!

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

"But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language." Colossians 3:8

All the precepts of the Bible are aimed towards the fashioning of spiritual beauty in every redeemed life. We are to put away . . .
  all that is sinful,
  all that is marring,
  every blot and blemish,
  every unholy desire, feeling, and affection,
  everything that would defile.
And we are to put on whatever is lovely and Christlike.

The one great work of Christ in Christian lives—is the fashioning of holiness in them. We are to grow away from our deformities, our faults and infirmities, our poor dwarfed, stunted life—and into spiritual beauty! The mark set before us is the likeness of Christ, which, at last, we shall attain! "We shall be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is!" 1 John 3:2

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

How much did he leave?

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

"Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle." Proverbs 23:5

People are badly cheated in this world. They imagine that the things they can see are the real things—that the gold, lands, and stocks are the true treasures. So they toil for those things and gather them into their possession, piling up what they suppose to be wealth. Thus they live in pomp, with their fine houses, and all their brilliant show. But one day their supposed riches sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Or they may keep their wealth, perchance, and die at last in the midst of it, and have a great funeral; but they find that they cannot carry a penny of it with them. "How much did he leave?" was asked about a rich man who had died. "All of it!" was the answer.

If only people knew that there are things which will never fly away—they would no longer live for fleeting worldly wealth. They would pass by the glittering unrealities, to lay hold of the true riches. He who is rich toward God—is the truly wealthy man.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The happiest homes in the world

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

Nothing is lovelier in life, than the spirit of contentment. Fretting mars the beauty of many a face. Discontent spoils all one's world. Out of whatever window he looks—the discontented person sees something that is not pleasing.

But a contented person sees only good everywhere. The happiest homes in the world are not those in which are the finest carpets, the costliest pictures, the most luxurious furniture—but those in which contented, joyful hearts dwell. A mind at peace, beautifies the plainest surroundings and even the hardest conditions.

"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. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Gather more worldly trinkets

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed! A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15

Few people think of the danger of getting rich.

Most think that they become great—just in proportion as they gather wealth. Yet there never was a more fatal error!

A man is really measured by what he IS—not by what he HAS. We may find a shriveled soul in the midst of a great fortune; and a noble soul in the barest poverty.

A man's real "life" is what would be left of him—if everything he has were stripped off. His real 'worth' is his character, as it appears in God's sight.

We will make a great mistake if our goal in life—is simply to gather more worldly trinkets than our neighbor!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The BOOK you are writing

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

"You ought to live holy and godly lives." 2 Peter 3:11

The only way to have a stainless and beautiful year at its close—is to keep the days, as they pass, all pure and sweet, with the loveliness of holy, useful living.

It is thus, in little days—that our years come to us. We have but the one small fragment to fill and beautify at a time.

The year is a book, and for each day—one fair white page is opened before us.

And we are artists, whose duty it is to put something beautiful on the page.

Or we are poets, and are to write some lovely thought, some radiant sentence, on each leaf as it lies open before us.

"That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." 1 Timothy 2:2

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The only refuge in sorrow

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

"Being in anguish—He prayed more fervently." Luke 22:44

We see the Master at prayer in Gethsemane. It was here that He prepared for His Cross. We should notice that His refuge in His exceeding sorrow—was prayer; and that, as the sorrow deepened—the refuge still was prayer. Prayer is the only refuge in sorrow. The lesson from the garden prayer is that we should take all the hard things, the anguishes, the insufferable pains, the bitter griefs of our lives—to God in prayer. We may be sure, too, that God will answer. If He does not relieve us of the suffering, He will strengthen us so that we can keep it, and still go on trusting and singing.

"Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

When earth's wine gives out!

(J. R. Miller, "Come with Me" Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ, 1890)

"When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to Him: They have no more wine." John 2:3

This incident is a very fitting illustration of the failure of all this world's joys. The wine gave out at a wedding-feast. There was not enough of it to last through to the end of the feast. It is just so with all earth's pleasures. It comes in cups—not in fountains; and the supply is limited and soon exhausted. It is especially so with sin's pleasures. The prodigal soon ran out of money, and began to be in need. A poet compared the pleasures of sin to a snowflake on the river, "a moment white—then gone forever!"

But it is true in a sense also—of pure pleasures. Even the sweetness of human love is but a cupful which will not last forever. The joy which so fills us today, tomorrow is changed to sorrow. Amid the gladness of the marriage altar there is the knell of the end, in the words "until death do us part." One of every two friends must hold the other's hand in farewell at the edge of the valley of the shadow of death—and must stand by the other's grave, and walk alone for part of the way.

The best wine of earthly life and of love—will fail. If there were nothing better in this world—how sad it would be! But it is here that we see the glory of Christ's gospel. Jesus comes when earth's wine fails—and gives heaven's wine to supply the lack. How beautiful and how true is the picture here: the failing wine, and then Jesus coming with power and supplying the need! That is what He is doing continually. He takes lives which have drained their last drop of earthly gladness—and He satisfies them with spiritual good and blessing, so that they need nothing more.

When human joy fails—Jesus gives new joy, better than the world's, and in unfailing abundance. How sad it is for those who have not taken Christ into their lives, and who have nothing but the empty cupwhen earth's wine gives out!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

As the tree falls—so must it lie

(J. R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible" 1909)

Let him who does wrong—continue to do wrong; let him who is vile—continue to be vile" Revelation 22:11

The character with which men reach the final judgment—will be their permanent character forever. The man who lives in sin unto the end—is making his own destiny. Habits of sin—make the whole life sinful. It is this that gives such solemnity to life. The seeds of our future eternity—lie in our present.

   Out of our little acts—habits grow;
   from our habits—character springs;
   and our character—fixes our destiny!

Everyone goes to his own place—that is, the place for which he is fitted by his life on the earth. He who has always sinned here on earth—will continue to sin forever. Eternal death—is simply eternal sin, along with the punishments and consequences thereof. The punishment of the wicked will not be an arbitrary punishment—but the natural result of their own choices and acts in this life.

   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!

It makes a great difference, therefore, how we live in this world. There is an false impression in some people's minds, that they can live in sin all their days, and then by a few tears of penitence and a few cries of mercy in a dying hour—can change all the course of their life and spend eternity in heaven. This verse does not favor such a view. The future life—is but the harvest of this present life.

Men will be judged by their deeds. The New Testament everywhere teaches the same solemn truth. This does not mean that salvation is by works. We are saved by grace—but grace changes the life and makes us holy.

"To die is gain"—only to those who can sincerely say, "To me, to live is Christ!"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Most punctilious in their religious rituals!

(J. R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible" 1909)

"To avoid ceremonial uncleanness—the Jews did not enter the palace." John 18:28

The religious rulers carried their pious scruples even to the palace of Pilate. Amazingly, they had no scruples about their wicked treatment of an innocent man—but they were scrupulously conscientious about matters of mere ceremonial requirement! They would not set their feet on the Gentile's floor—for that would have defiled them! Yet meanwhile their hearts were full of evil and murderous thoughts and resolves!

There will always be people who are most punctilious in their religious rituals—but who in practical life, are little better than heathen!

We should learn well, that God is grieved more by our bitter feelings, our lack of love, our hate and envy—than He is with little omissions in religious ceremonies and formalities.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

This strange, double picture of Jesus!

(J. R. Miller, "
Heavenly Worship" 1909)

"Look! The LION of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed!
Then I saw a LAMB, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne!" Revelation 5:5-6

John was looking for a Lion—and he saw a Lamb. This strange, double picture of Jesus as He appears in heaven, is very suggestive.

He was a lion in His conflicts and victories, and as such overcame all His enemies and ours also. But He was a lamb in the gentleness of His character and disposition. The lamb is an emblem of meekness and of unresisting obedience and submission.

As we think about Christ, we soon see how true both of these pictures are.

Like a lion, He has power and majesty, and is dreadful to His enemies! As a lion He met and overcame Satan, and triumphed over death and the grave. As a lion He is able to defend us from all our enemies, and the feeblest believer is safe under His protection. He is the omnipotent God—and has all power in heaven and on earth.

At the same time, the other picture is just as true.

He is like a little lamb in His gentleness. The whole spirit of His life on earth shows this. Never was a mother so gentle to her children, as was Jesus to the weary, troubled and penitent ones who came to Him. He was lamb-like, too, in the way He endured wrongs and sufferings. Other animals fight in their own defense—but the lamb does not resist. When Christ was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten in return. "Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers—He did not open His mouth."

He is the same Jesus now in the midst of the throne—and it is this astonishing combination of strength and gentleness which makes Him such a wondrous Savior! In Him, we have the union of all the truest qualities of love that our hearts so hunger for: tenderness, affection, patience, sympathy. Then, when we have laid ourselves down to rest in all this blessed warmth of love, we look up and see that we are in the bosom of Omnipotence! Mere gentleness may be very weak—but while He is a lamb—He is also a lion!

"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne. He had seven horns and seven eyes." Revelation 5:6. Here we have three other thoughts about Christ.

1. Not only did He appear as a lamb—but as a lamb that had been slain. There were wound marks on Him, telling that once He had been dead. One suggestion of the emblem of the lamb, is sacrifice. Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away sin—by bearing it Himself! Thus even in glory, the fact of salvation by His sacrificial death, is set forth to the eyes of all. Thus we are always to be reminded of the cost of our redemption.

2. A second suggestion about Christ, is in the representation of the "seven horns." The horn in the Bible is the symbol of strength, and seven is the symbol of completeness. Jesus appears there as the omnipotent One, having all power.

3. The third symbol in the picture is the "seven eyes". An eye sees, and seven eyes represent the perfection of vision, seeing everywhere. The eyes of Christ are in all parts of the earth, and on all events. This thought of the omniscience of Christ is dreadful to the unrepentant sinner—but to the Christian at peace with God—it has great comfort! Christ is watching over us and is ready to fly to our help and rescue at any moment. His eye is fearsome only to the wicked; to those who are His friends and are saved by Him, it gives no terror to think of the unsleeping divine eye ever looking down upon them with love!