Grace Gems for AUGUST 2013

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Take all the tangled threads!

(J.R. Miller, "Family Prayers")

Heavenly Father, we would be strong for this new day, and we wait upon You to renew our strength. We need spiritual strength for the day that is before us. We shall have . . .
   burdens to carry,
   and battles to fight,
   and trials to endure,
   and duties to perform,
   and temptations to conquer,
   and conflicts with the evil world.
We need strength for all these experiences. You alone can give us what we need. You are our refuge and our strength a very present help in times of trouble. You have promised to be with us, and to strengthen us. You have said that as our days are so shall our strength be; and that Your grace is sufficient for us. We accept these assurances, believing that we shall obtain help from You for every duty and every struggle this day.

We would lean . . .
   our weakness on Your strength,
   our ignorance on Your wisdom,
   our trembling insecurity on Your unchangeableness.

Restrain us . . .
   from all excess, of whatever kind,
   from all extravagance of speech,
   from all foolish vanity,
   from inordinate affection and emotion.
Make us thoughtful, serious, solemn, watchful, and prayerful.

May we be . . .
   stronger in faith,
   more earnest in purpose,
   more holy in thought and feeling
because of our communion with You this day.

We ask You for grace . . .
   to perform our allotted tasks with diligence;
   to guide our affairs with discretion;
   to do all things, whatever we do, in the name of the Lord Jesus;
   and in all our ways to acknowledge You.
Order our steps in Your word and let not any iniquity have dominion over us.

Take all the tangled threads of our lives into Your own hand, and unravel them, weaving them into a web of beauty.

"Those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength! They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint!" Isaiah 40:31

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Remember, God's arrows never miss the mark!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Treasury of David")

"God is a righteous judge and God is angry with the wicked every day!" Psalm 7:11.
God not only detests sin, but is angry with those who continue to indulge in it. We have no ignorant or indifferent God to deal with; He can be angry, nay, He is angry today and every day with you you ungodly and impenitent sinners! The best day that ever dawns on a sinner, brings a curse with it. From the beginning of the year even to its ending, there is not an hour in which God's oven is not hot, and burning in readiness for the wicked, who shall be as stubble before Him!

"If he does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready!" Psalm 7:12.
What blows are those which will be dealt by that long-uplifted omnipotent arm! God's sword has been sharpening upon the revolving stone of our daily wickedness, and if we will not repent, it will speedily cut us in pieces! Turn or burn is the sinner's only alternative.

"He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts!" Psalm 7:13.
Even now God's thirsty arrow longs to wet itself with the blood of the ungodly! His bow is bent, His aim is taken, His arrow is fitted to the string and what, O sinner, if the arrow should be let fly at you even now! Remember, God's arrows never miss the mark, and are, every one of them, "instruments of death." Judgment may tarry, but it will not come too late. The Greek proverb says, "The mill of God grinds slowly but grinds to powder!"

"The sharpening of God's sword is but to give a keener edge, that it may cut the deeper. When God's sword is sharpened it is to cut; and when God's bow is bent it is to kill! Woe be to that man who is God's target!" William Secker

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" Hebrews 10:31

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Liquid prayers!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Treasury of David")

"The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping." Psalm 6:8

Is there a voice in weeping? Does weeping speak? In what language does it utter its meaning? Why, in that universal tongue which is known and understood in all the earth, and even in Heaven above. When a man weeps, whether he is a Jew or Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free it has the same meaning in it. Weeping is the eloquence of sorrow. It is an eloquent orator, needing no interpreter but understood by all.

It is sweet to know that our tears are understood, even when words fail. Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers, and of weeping as a constant dropping of importunate intercession which will surely wear its way right into the very heart of God's mercy, despite the stony difficulties which obstruct the way. My God, I will "weep" when I cannot plead, for You hear the voice of my weeping!

"It is a sight fit for angels to behold, tears as pearls dropping from a penitent eye!"
Thomas Watson

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We had only arrived at the borders of the works of God!

(Christopher Sturm, "Reflections", 1750-1786)

"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4

Could we transport ourselves above the moon, could we reach the highest star above our heads we would instantly discover new skies, new stars, new suns, new systems, and perhaps more magnificently adorned! But even there, the vast dominions of our great Creator would not terminate; we would then find, to our astonishment, that we had only arrived at the borders of the works of God!

It is but little that we can know of His works, but that little should teach us to be humble, and to admire God's wisdom, power and goodness. How great must that Being be, who produced these immense globes out of nothing, who regulates their courses, and whose mighty hand directs and supports them all!

What is this clod of earth which we inhabit, with all the magnificent scenes it presents to us in comparison of those innumerable worlds? Were this earth annihilated, its absence would no more be observed, than the removal of a grain of sand from the vast sea shore! What then are all our fine homes and belongings when compared with those infinite worlds? They are but atoms dancing in the air, which are revealed to us by the sunbeams!

What then am I, when reckoned among the infinite number of God's creatures? I am lost in my own nothingness!

But as little as I appear in this respect I find myself great in others. There is great beauty in this starry skies which God has chosen for His throne! How admirable are those celestial bodies! I am dazzled with their splendor, and enchanted with their beauty! But notwithstanding this, however beautiful, and however richly adorned yet this sky is void of intelligence. It is a stranger to its own beauty while I, who am mere clay, molded by a divine hand, am endowed with sense and reason. I can contemplate the beauty of these shining worlds; nay, more, I am already, to a certain degree, acquainted with their sublime Author; and by faith I see some small rays of His divine glory.

O may I be more and more acquainted with His works, and make the study of them my employ, until by a glorious change I rise to dwell with Him above the starry regions!

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Man that puny worm of the dust!

(Thomas Dick, "The Solar System", 1774-1857)

"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? Psalm 8:3-4

A survey of the solar system has a tendency to moderate the pride of man, and to promote humility.

Pride is one of the distinguishing characteristics of puny man, and has been one of the chief causes of all the contentions, wars, devastations, systems of slavery, and sinful projects which have desolated and demoralized our sinful world. Yet there is no disposition more incongruous to the character and circumstances of man!

Perhaps there are no rational beings throughout the universe, among whom pride would appear more unfitting or incompatible, than in man, considering the situation in which he is placed. He is exposed to numerous degradations and calamities:
   the rage of storms and tempests,
   the devastations of earthquakes and volcanoes,
   the fury of whirlwinds,
   the tempestuous billows of the ocean,
   the ravages of the sword, famine, pestilence, and numerous diseases;
   and at length he must sink into the grave, and
   his body must become the companion of worms!

The most dignified and haughty of men are liable to these and similar degradations as well as the lowest of the human family. Yet, in such circumstances, man that puny worm of the dust, whose knowledge is so limited, and whose follies are so numerous and glaring has the effrontery to strut in all the haughtiness of pride, and to glory in his shame! "For dust you are and to dust you will return!" Genesis 3:19

When other arguments and motives produce little effect on certain minds, no considerations seem likely to have a more powerful tendency to counteract this deplorable propensity to pride in human beings, than those which are borrowed from the objects connected with astronomy. They show us what an insignificant being what a mere atom, indeed, man appears amidst the immensity of creation!

What is the whole of this globe on which we dwell compared with the solar system, which contains a mass of matter millions times greater? What is this earth in comparison of the millions of suns and worlds which have been scattered throughout the starry regions?

Could we take our station on the lofty pinnacles of Heaven, and look down on this scarcely distinguishable speck of earth we would be ready to exclaim with Seneca, "Is it to this little spot, that the great designs and vast desires of men are confined?"

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The most secret, subtle, and insinuating of all sins!

(Edward Payson, 1783-1827)

"In his pride, the wicked does not seek God; in all his thoughts, there is no room for God!" Psalm 10:4

The pride of the wicked is the principal reason why they will not seek after the knowledge of God. Pride renders God a disagreeable and undesirable object of contemplation to the wicked.

Pride consists in an unduly exalted opinion of one's self. It is, therefore . . .
  impatient of a rival,
  hates a superior, and
  cannot endure a master!

In proportion as pride prevails in the heart, it makes us wish . . .
  to see no God above us,
  to acknowledge no law but our own wills,
  to follow no rule but our own inclinations.
Thus pride led Satan to rebel against his Creator and our first parents to desire to be as gods.

Since such are the effects of pride, it is evident that nothing can be more painful to a proud heart, than the thoughts of such a being as God . . .
  one who is infinitely powerful, just, and holy;
  one who can neither be resisted, deceived, nor deluded;
  one who disposes, according to His own sovereign pleasure, of all creatures and events;
  one who, in an especial manner, hates pride, and is determined to abase and punish it!
Such a being, the proud man can contemplate only with feelings of dread, aversion, and abhorrence! The proud man must look upon God as his natural enemy, his great enemy, whom he has to fear!

But the knowledge of God directly tends to bring this infinite, irresistible, irreconcilable Enemy fully to the view of the proud man. It teaches proud man that he has a superior, a master . . .
  from whose authority he cannot escape,
  whose power he cannot resist,
  and whose will he must obey
or be crushed before Him, and be rendered miserable forever! It shows proud man what he hates to see . . .
  that, in despite of his opposition God's counsel shall stand,
  that God will do all His pleasure, and
  that in all things, God is above them.

These truths torture the proud unhumbled hearts of the wicked, and hence they hate that knowledge of God which teaches these truths, and will not seek it. On the contrary, they wish to remain ignorant of such a being, and to banish all thoughts of Him from their minds.

They endeavor to believe that God is altogether such a one as themselves.
How foolish,
how absurd,
how ruinous,
how blindly destructive of itself
  does pride appear!
By attempting to soar pride only plunges itself in the mire!
And while endeavoring to erect a throne for itself pride undermines the ground on which it stands and digs its own grave!

Pride . . .
  plunged Satan from Heaven into Hell,
  banished our first parents from paradise, and
  will, in a similar manner, eternally ruin all who indulge in it!

Unrepented pride . . .
  keeps us in ignorance of God,
  shuts us out from His favor,
  prevents us from resembling Him,
  deprives us in this world, of communion with Him, and
  will bar the door of Heaven forever against us, and close upon us the gates of Hell.

O then, my friends, beware, above all things, beware of pride! Beware, lest you indulge it imperceptibly, for it is the most secret, subtle, and insinuating of all sins!

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The greatest blessing on this side of Heaven!

John MacDuff, "Encouragements to Patient Waiting" 1864)

God's children have found that suffering times were blessed times that they never had such nearness to their Father, such holy freedom with Him, and such heavenly comforts from Him as under affliction; it only took away what checked the current of His love, His peace, and His joy in their hearts.

The afflictive cross, be it what it may pain, sickness, calamity, loss of friends, fortune, fame is the greatest blessing on this side of Heaven because by it the Father . . .
  keeps His children in the closest communion with Him,
  purges them of vanity,
  makes them partakers of His holiness,
  increases their graces,
  crucifies the life of sense,
  deadens them to the world, and
  mortifies their lusts and sinful passions!

As the outward man perishes the inward man is renewed day by day. In times of affliction, they . . .
  receive new life, new strength, new comfort, new peace;
  become more and more conformed to Jesus;
  tread the steps of those who have "entered into rest," and
  come up "from the wilderness leaning on the arm of the Beloved One."

Christian, take comfort when you think of the mighty cloud of witnesses who would thus testify to your Savior's constant care and unchanging love!

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We would wreck everything!

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

Not only does God love us and desire our good but His wisdom is infinite. He knows what is best for us, what things will do us the good we need. We ourselves do not know. The things we think would bring us blessing perhaps would bring us irreparable harm! The things we dread as evil, and shrink from perhaps are the bearers to us of divinest good! We would make pitiful work of our lives if we had the ordering of our affairs in our own hands. If for but one day we could take matters into our own hands, out of God's hands we would wreck everything!

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

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The broken fragments of a life

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

In Florence, one of the treasures of art admired by thousands of visitors is Michael Angelo's representation in marble of the young David. The shepherd boy stands with firm foothold, the stone grasped tightly in his right hand, ready to be sped on its holy errand. When the statue was unveiled, three hundred and fifty years ago, it caused an unparalleled sensation among all lovers of art. It is, indeed, a marvelous piece of sculpture.

But the strangely winning thing in the story of that statue, is that it was the stone's second chance. A sculptor began work on a noble piece of marble but, lacking skill, he only hacked and marred the block. It was then abandoned as spoiled and worthless, and cast aside. For years it lay in a back yard, soiled and blackened, half hidden among the rubbish. At last Angelo saw it, and at once perceived its possibilities. Under his skillful hand, the stone was cut into the lovely and marvelous beauty which appears in the statue of David.

Just so, God can take the broken fragments of a life, shattered by sorrow or by sin and out of them make a new life whose music shall thrill many hearts. If one is discouraged, if the life seems to be hopelessly broken the gospel of divine love brings encouragement. There are no ruins of life, out of which God cannot build beauty and blessing!

God is infinitely patient with all whose lot is hard. He never exacts more of us than we can do. He is never unreasonable. He knows when the burdens are too heavy for us. Once He, "being wearied with His journey, sat down by the well" in His exhaustion. He sympathizes with those who are weary, and helps them.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are" Hebrews 4:15

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He preached from the bloody tree!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good news" Isaiah 61:1

"I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." Luke 4:43

We may profitably note how earnestly our Lord kept to His work. It was His business to preach, and He did preach He was always preaching!

Even His miracles were sermons; they were acted discourses, full of instruction.

All of His actions were sermons He preached by every movement.

He preached when He did not speak His silence was as eloquent as His words! He preached from the bloody tree! With hands and feet fastened there, He delivered the most wonderful discourse . . .
  on divine justice and on love,
  on divine vengeance and on grace,
  on death and on life,
on damnation and on salvation
which was ever preached in this poor world!

Oh, yes, He preached He was always preaching; with all His heart and soul He preached. He wept in secret, that He might the more compassionately preach the gospel which wipes men's tears and sins away. As He walked the streets, He preached as He went along. This was His one calling; and this one calling, He pursued in the power of the eternal Spirit.

As our Lord ascended He said, "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." His charge in brief was preach, preach even as I have done before you!

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An easy, self-indulgent life

(J.R. Miller)

"And He was saying to them all: If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." Luke 9:23

We cannot live a life that will please Christ without great cost to ourselves. It is never an easy thing, to be a disciple of Christ. An easy, self-indulgent life can never be a Christ-like life.

It was not easy for Christ to redeem sinners. From beginning to end of His earthly ministry, He poured out His own precious life. The people thronged about Him with their sins, their sorrows, and their needs and virtue went out of Him continually to heal them, to comfort them, to feed their heart-hunger. He utterly forgot Himself and gave His life and love without stint to every one who asked. At last He literally gave Himself, emptying out His heart's blood to give eternal life to sinful and dead souls.

His sufferings were finished, when He bowed His head on the cross. It is now our privilege to suffer for Him to perpetuate the self-sacrificial love of Christ on this earth. Only in so far as we do this, are we living a life that will please Him.

"I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death!" Philippians 3:10

"Anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me." Matthew 10:38

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The seed, the source, the essence of unhappiness

(James Smith
, "The Way of Salvation Set Forth")

Sin is the seed, the source, the essence of unhappiness. "There is no peace to the wicked," nor is there any happiness for the sinner in his sins. The carnal mind may find something like pleasure in carnal things but real, solid, lasting joy, cannot be found, never has been found by the sinner, until converted to God. Carnal pleasure is empty, fleeting, and unsatisfactory in its very nature.

The true Christian has enough to make him genuinely happy!
All of his sins are forgiven and forgotten.
He is adopted into God's family.

His person is justified before God.
He is clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
He is a child of God.
He is regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
He has the Spirit of adoption in his heart.
He is at peace with God, and God is at peace with him.

All the promises of God are his, which represent Jehovah as pledged to support, sustain, comfort, supply, and bless him in time and eternity! His God is with him. His God is for him. His God will never fail him in any trial, nor leave him under any circumstances for one moment.

Such is the Christian's blessed state, and such are his blessed privileges though he may appear poor, afflicted, and despised among men.

In proportion . . .
  as sin is subdued,
  as sanctification is deepened,
  as the Savior is prized,
  as our talents are laid out for the Lord's glory
  are we happy. But if sin is allowed to conquer, if personal sanctification is neglected, if the intimations of the Holy Spirit are slighted then the believer is not, and cannot be happy.

Let the Christian therefore . . .
  cleave unto the Lord with full purpose of heart,
  cultivate close fellowship with God,
  walk softly, uprightly, and daily with God
so will his peace be like a river, and his path be like the shining light which shines more and more unto the perfect day.

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You!" Isaiah 26:3

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The key of death!

(William Thoseby, "Foot-prints on the Sands of Time" 1869)

"It is appointed unto man once to die; but after death the judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

"I hold the keys of death and the grave!" Revelation 1:18

Christ has the key of death suspended at His belt!

None can enter among the immortals until Christ has turned the key for him!
None can stay among the mortals after that key has been turned upon him!

And as the key may be turned at any possible hour how important it is that we should get ready and keep ready for its turning. We know not "what a day nor an hour may bring forth." There may be the sudden burst, the instant call, the midnight cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom comes!"

Both the sinner and the saint should remember that death comes unexpected, and the arrow is unseen which strikes through the heart!

"Prepare to meet your God!" Amos 4:12

"Like crowded forest trees we stand,
 And some are marked to fall;
 The axe will smite at God's command,
 And soon will smite us all!"

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What is Heaven?

(Octavius Winslow)

Beloved, what is Heaven? What is the final glory of the saints? It is the best place, the richest inheritance provided by the Father for the people ransomed and redeemed by the precious blood of His dear Son! And when we enter there, we shall enter as children welcomed to a Father's home! It will be the best that God can give us! He will bestow upon us, who deserved the least the best in His power to bestow:
  the best Savior,
  the best robe,
  the best banquet,
  the best inheritance.

In Heaven, there will be . . .
  nothing more to taint,
  nothing more to sully,
  nothing more to embitter,
  nothing more to wound,
  no serpent to beguile,
  no Eve to ensnare,
  no spoiler to destroy,
  no sin to defile,
  no adversity to sadden,
  no misunderstanding to alienate,
  no tongue to defame,
  no suspicion to chill,
  no tear,
  no sickness,
  no death,
  no parting.
It will be the best part of the pure, radiant, glorified universe which God will assign to His redeemed people!

Let the prospect cheer, sanctify, and comfort you! It will not be long that you are to labor and battle here on earth. It is but a little while that you are to occupy your present sphere of conflict, of trial, and of sorrow. The time is coming oh, how fast it speeds! Soon the Lord Jesus Christ will bring you home to Heaven!

"In My Father's house are many rooms; I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am!" John 14:2-3

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He shall judge the world in righteousness!

(Thomas Tymme)

"He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness." Psalm 9:8

In this final judgment,
  tears will not prevail,
  prayers will not be heard,
  promises will not be admitted,
  repentance will be too late; and
  as for riches, honorable titles, scepters, and crowns these will profit much less! The inquisition shall be so minute and diligent, that not one light thought nor one idle word shall be forgotten. For Truth Himself has said, not in jest, but in earnest, "Of every idle word which men have spoken they shall give an account in the day of judgment!"

Oh, how many who now sin with great delight, yes, even with greediness (as if Christians served a God of wood or of stone, which sees nothing, or can do nothing), will be then astonished, ashamed, and silent! Then shall the days of your vain mirth be ended and you shall be overwhelmed with everlasting darkness; and instead of your fleeting pleasures you shall have everlasting torments!

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Forgetters of God!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Treasury of David")

"The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God!" Psalm 9:17

How solemn is this verse, especially in its warning to forgetters of God!
The moral who are not devout,
the honest who are not prayerful,
the benevolent who are not believing,
the amiable who are not converted
these must all have their own portion with the openly wicked, in the Hell which is prepared for the devil and his demons! There are whole nations of such; the forgetters of God are far more numerous than the openly profane or profligate!

According to the very forceful expression in the Hebrew, the nethermost Hell will be the place into which all of them shall be hurled headlong! Forgetting God seems to be a small sin, but it brings eternal wrath upon the man who lives and dies in it!

(The following is by Thomas Watson)
"The wicked shall be turned into Hell." The ungodly at death must undergo God's fury and indignation. I have read of a lodestone which has two corners with one it draws the iron to it, with the other it thrusts the iron away from it. Just so, God has two hands of mercy and justice: with the one He will draw the godly to Heaven with the other He will thrust the sinner to Hell!

And oh, how dreadful is that place! It is called a fiery lake (Revelation 20:15).
A lake, to denote the plenty of torments in Hell.
A fiery lake, to show the fierceness of them!

Fire is the most torturing element. Strabo in his geography mentions a lake of such a pestiferous nature, that it scalds off the skin of whatever is cast into it. But, alas! that lake is cool compared with this fiery lake into which the damned are thrown!

To demonstrate that this fire is terrible, there are two most dreadful qualities in it:
It is sulphurous it is mixed with brimstone, which is stinking and suffocating.
It is inextinguishable though the wicked shall be choked in the flames, yet not consumed.

"And the devil was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever!" Behold the deplorable condition of all ungodly ones in the eternal world they shall have a life that always dies and a death that always lives! May not this affright men out of their sins, and make them become godly unless they are resolved to experience how hot Hell-fire is!"

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A Christian is one who follows Christ

(J.R. Miller, "Young People's Problems" 1898)

You must receive Christ as your Master and Lord. A Christian is one who follows Christ. This means the surrender of the whole life to Him. The heart must be given up. There can be no Christian life, without love to Jesus. Jesus demands the first place in the affections of His followers. If anyone loves father or mother, brother or sister, wife or child, more than Him he is not worthy of Jesus, and cannot be His disciple.

But the most perfect obedience, if the heart is not in it, would not make one a Christian. We might devote our life and strength to Christian work, toiling unweariedly in the service of the church, giving our money lavishly for the advancement of Christianity or for the relief of suffering and yet not be Christians. Love for Christ must be the motive at the heart of all our work for Christ. "Do you love Me?" is the test.

But the heart draws the whole life after it. If we truly love Jesus we will obey Jesus. "If you love Me keep My commandments." "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you."

We cannot accept Christ as our Savior and not at the same time accept Him as our Lord and Master. We must begin at once to obey Him. Our obedience must be without reserve, without condition, without question. It must also be cheerful and glad-hearted not compulsory, reluctant, or constrained.

Christians are soldiers of Christ and the soldier's first duty is to obey. Whether the will of Christ is made known to us in His Word, through our own conscience, or in providence we should always promptly and cheerfully accept and obey. It may not be always easy it may be very hard and costly; but when the will of our Master is made known, if we are His followers we can only obey, and our obedience should be sweet with love.

We love Him because He first loved us. We know Him because He first calls us. Christ is ours and we are Christ's. Being a Christian is living out His same life of love, obedience, surrender, and service, through all the days.

As Christians, we are to live out the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

True faith will make us more gentle, more patient, more unselfish. A Christian life is a new Christ-life lived out in this world we are to be Christ to others!

The heart of the Christian should be a well of living water, a fount of holy and blessed influences, whose streams flow in all directions carrying comfort, cheer, encouragement, help, and gladness to every other life they reach. Mere orthodoxy of belief does not make one a Christian, nor does attention to church rituals and rules. A Christian is one in whom the life of Christ pulses, and the love of Christ glows and burns!

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Oh, how pleasant to lean upon an almighty arm!

(Letters of John Newton)

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

Oh, how pleasant to lean upon an almighty arm, and to commit ourselves without anxiety to the guidance of infinite wisdom and love!

"This God is our God for ever and ever! He will be our guide even unto death!" Psalm 48:14

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Some people use pepper instead!

(J.R. Miller, "Christian Conversation" 1898)

"Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Matthew 12:34

Hence we must get our heart right if we would speak words that are Christlike. A bitter heart cannot give out sweet words nor can an impure heart speak wholesome, pure words.

Most people talk too much they chatter on forever. Silence is far better than idle, sinful, or foolish speech.

We have suggestions in the New Testament as to the kind of speech that is worthy of a redeemed life. Paul has some very plain words on the subject: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may impart grace to the hearers." Ephesians 4:29. That is, no word should be spoken which does not . . .
 help to build up character,
 make those who hear it better,
 inspire some good thought, some holy feeling, some kindly act,
 or put some touch of beauty upon the life.

A Christian's words should "impart grace to the hearers." That is, they should impart blessing in some way. We all know people whose words have this quality. They are not always exhorting, preaching, or talking religiously and yet we never speak with them without being the better for it. Their simplest words do us good. They give cheer, courage, and hope. We feel braver and stronger after a little conversation with them, even after a moment's greeting on the street.

In another place Paul says, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:6. This means graceful speech, not merely as to its manner but also as to its quality. It must be speech such as Christ Himself would use if He were in our place, and we know that every word of His was a holy seed. Our speech is to be "full of grace" it is to be true, reverent, helpful, inspiring.

Our speech should be "seasoned with salt," that is, it should be pure and clean. Salt preserves from decay and putridity. The Christian's speech should have in it the divine quality of holiness, and its effect should be cleansing and purifying. Someone speaks of the words of Jesus as a handful of spices cast into this world's bitter waters to sweeten them. Every Christian's words should have like influence in society, wherever they are spoken.

The seasoning is important our speech is to be "seasoned with salt." Love is salt. Truth is salt. Our speech should be always kindly. It should be without bitterness, without malice, without unlovingness in any form. The seasoning should be salt. Some people use pepper instead and pepper is sharp, biting, pungent. Their speech is full of sarcasm, of censure, of bitterness, of words that hurt and burn. This is not Christlike speech.

We should never be content to talk even five minutes with another, without saying at least a word or two that may do good, that may give a helpful impulse or kindle an upward aspiration.

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One of the finest things in a complete Christian character

(J.R. Miller, "Learning to Be Thoughtful" 1898)

One of the finest things in a complete Christian character
, is thoughtfulness. It gives a wondrous charm to a life. It makes one a blessing wherever he goes. It tempers all his conduct, softening all natural harshness into gentleness, and giving a spirit of kindliness to his every word and act, and to all his bearing.

A thoughtful person does not have to be asked to help others he helps, as it were, instinctively. He is ever ready . . .
  to do the obliging thing,
  to say the encouraging word,
  to show an interest in the life of others,
  to perform those countless little kindnesses which so brighten the common pathway.

In much home-life, there is a lack of thoughtfulness shown. Not always is the speech gentle sometimes it is sharp and bitter, even rude. Without being aware of it, many of us are miserably selfish in our life among others. We practically forget that there are any other people, or that we ought to make any sacrifices, or practice any self-denials, for their sake.

Thoughtfulness will seek always to say kindly words, never words that will give pain but ever those that will give pleasure. We have no right, for the sake of saying a bright thing, to let loose a shaft, however polished, that will make a loving heart bleed!

We all know in our own experience, the value of sincere and Christly thoughtfulness. We do not like to come in contact with thoughtless people. We know well how it hurts and how unbeautiful, how unchristian, it seems when we see it in another and when our heart is the one that suffers from its harsh, rude impact. We all long for thoughtfulness in others; our hearts hunger and thirst for it. It is bread and wine to us.

What we long for in others in their relation to us we should be ready to give to them. What in others hurts us, gives us pain we ought to avoid in our contact with others. Thoughtfulness is one of the finest, ripest fruits of Christian love and all who would be like the Master must seek to learn this lesson, and wear this grace.

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We would be growing into monsters of selfishness!

(J.R. Miller, "Getting Along with People" 1898)

At every point as we go on into the thickening experiences of life the lesson of living with others meets us. It is not always easy to gracefully accept these contacts with others, and to enter into kindly relations with them.

There are some people who seem to be very good alone, while no one comes near them, while no other life touches theirs, when they have to think of no one but themselves who make wretched business of living when they come into personal relations with others! Then they are selfish, tyrannical, despotic, willful, and exacting! They will not yield to any other one's desire or needs. They must have their own way; and they drive their life like a rough plow-share right through the comforts, the desires, the feelings, of others!

It seems almost a pity there could not be a few corners fenced off in this great world for such people as these, where they could live altogether alone, with no one ever to interfere with their rights or liberties, or to impinge upon their comfort in any way.

But this is not God's ordinance for human lives. We are to live together in families, in communities, in friendship's circle. Indeed, no worse fate could befall us, than to be doomed to live alone.
We might thus be absolved from the duties of love,
we could then have our own way,
we would not be required to think of anybody but ourselves,
and there would be no call for self-denial or sacrifice.
But meanwhile, we would be growing into monsters of selfishness!

We never can learn love's lessons, except in life's school, where the lessons are set for us in actual human relationships.

"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8 

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John learned his lesson by lying on the bosom of Jesus!

(J.R. Miller, "On the Control of Temper" 1898)

Many Christian people are willing to confess to an ungentle temper. They seem to think it a matter of not very grave importance. Perhaps the very commonness of the infirmity, blinds our eyes to its unbeauty and its sinfulness. We are apt to regard the malady more as a weakness than as a sin which makes us guilty before God.

But there is no question that bad temper is unchristlike. We cannot think of Jesus as acrimonious, touchy, irritable, peevish, or vindictive. Love ruled all His dispositions, His words, His feelings. He was put to the sorest tests but never failed. He endured all manner of wrongs, insults, and hurts; but, like those flowers which yield their sweetest perfume only when crushed His life gave out the more sweetness, the more it was exposed to men's rudeness and unkindness. We are like Christ, only in the measure in which we have the patience, gentleness, and good-temper of Christ.

We all agree that bad temper is very unlovely in other people. We know, too, what discomfort and pain a bad temper causes wherever the person goes. Bad temper is not any more lovely in us, as we appear to others' eyes.

An essential teaching of Christianity, is that marred human nature can be changed. The worst temper can be schooled into the most divine sweetness of spirit. The tongue which no man can tame Christ can tame, so that, instead of bitterness, it shall give out only words of love.

Paul was quite an old man when he said he had learned in whatever state he was therein, to be content. His language implies also that it was not easy for him to learn this lesson, and that he had not attained full proficiency in it until he had reached old age.

The lesson of sweet temper is probably quite as hard as that of contentment. It has to be learned, too, for it does not come naturally. This lesson can be learned. We need only to put ourselves into the school of Christ and stay there, accepting His teaching and discipline, and advancing little by little, until at last we can say, "I have learned in whatever circumstances I am, under whatever provocation, irritation, or temptation to anger or impatience always to keep sweet-tempered!"

This lesson can be learned. Among Jesus' own disciple family, there was one who at the first was hasty, fiery, and vindictive but who at length grew into such sweet beauty of disposition and character that he was known as the beloved disciple, the disciple of love. John learned his lesson by lying on the bosom of Jesus. Intimacy with Christ, close, personal friendship with Him, living near His heart of love, will transform the most unloving, selfish nature into sweetness of spirit!

Such love within the heart will soon get control of all the outer life the dispositions, the speech, the manners, and all the expressions of the inner life. Thus bitterness, wrath, clamor, and all evil speaking will give place to gentleness, goodness, and grace.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

This burden of ours!

(J.R. Miller, "Help for the Day")

This burden of ours is God's gift to us and to lay it down would be to lay down a blessing. Surely it is a wiser love which puts new strength into your heart and arm, so that you can go on with your hard duty, your heavy responsibility, your weight of care, without fainting than would be the sentimentality which would take all the load away, and leave you free from any burden.

God's purpose always is to make something of us, to bring out the best that is in us. Hence He does not clear the forest for us, but puts the axe into our own hands, and bids us to cut it down for ourselves. And while we prepare the ground for tillage we grow healthy and strong ourselves through the toil. He does not drive out the enemies for us. He puts the sword into our own hands and sends us to drive them out. The struggle does us good. The wrestling makes us strong.

"Moreover let us exult in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance develops maturity of character." Romans 5:3-4

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The best thing most of us can do in this world!

(J.R. Miller, "Help for the Day")

There are a few people whom God calls to do great things for Him. The best thing most of us can do in this world, is just to live out a real, simple, consecrated, Christian life in our allotted place. Thus, in our little measure, we shall repeat the life of Christ Himself, showing men some feeble reflection of His sweet and loving face; and doing in our poor way, a few of the beautiful things He would do if He were here Himself.

"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 Christ who gives me strength!" Philippians 4:11-13

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Our weakness

(J.R. Miller, "Help for the Day")

When we are strong, or deem ourselves strong we are really weak, since then we trust in ourselves, and do not seek Divine help. But when we are consciously weak, knowing ourselves unequal to our duties and struggles we are strong, because then we turn to Christ and get His strength.

Too many people think that their weakness is a barrier to their usefulness, or make it an excuse for doing little with their life. Instead of this, however, if we trust Christ, He will transform our weakness into strength. He says His strength is made perfect in weakness; that is, what is lacking in human strength, He fills and makes up with Divine strength.

Paul had learned this when he said he gloried now in his weaknesses, because on account of them the strength of Christ rested upon him so that when he was weak, then he was strong.

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong!" 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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Love's ministry

(J.R. Miller, "Help for the Day")

"God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good." Acts 10:38

There is need everywhere for love's ministry. The world today needs nothing more than true Christlikeness in those who bear Christ's name and represent Him. Christ went about doing good; He sought to put hope and cheer into all He met.

We should strive to perpetuate this Christ-ministry of love in this world. Hearts are breaking with sorrow, men are bowing under burdens too heavy for them. Duty is too large, the battles are too hard. It is our mission to do for these weary, overwrought, defeated, and despairing ones what Christ Himself would do if He were standing where we stand. He wants us to represent Him; and He fills us with His Spirit, that we may be able to scatter the blessings of helpfulness and gladness all about us. Yet one of the saddest things about life is, that, with so much power to help others by kindliness of word and kindliness of act many of us pass through the world in silence or with folded hands.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

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Faithfulness in littles

(John Colwell, "Little Foxes; The Little Sins That Mar the Christian Character" 1882)

"Catch the foxes the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes!" Song of Songs 2:15

The little things of life are most important. Those who affect to despise the importance of little things, are in danger of becoming little people. Certainly no great man will ever do so. He will the rather prove his greatness by a hearty recognition of the truth of the wise saying, "He who despises little things, shall fall little by little."

The Great Teacher drew some of His most beautiful and important lessons from little things, such as little flowers, little birds, little dew-drops, little children. He insisted on faithfulness in littles.

My friend, life is great because it is the aggregation of littles.

As the coral reefs which rear themselves high above the crawling sea beneath, are all made up of minute skeletons of microscopic animalcules; so life, mighty and solemn as having eternal consequences life that hangs over the sea of eternity, is made up of these minute incidents, of these trifling duties, of these small tasks; and only those who are faithful in the least are, or can be, faithful in the whole.

Little things make either . . .
  the joy or the sorrow,
  the success or the ruin,
  the safety or the danger,
  the grandeur or the smallness
  of human life. Illustrations of this principle abound.

Little neglects lead to great ruin.

Little precautions lead to great safety.

Little wastings make great losses.

Little savings make great gains.

Little troubles make us miserable.

Little virtues make us godly.

Little vices make us wicked.

Therefore, says inspired Wisdom, "Catch the foxes the little foxes that spoil the vines," which is equivalent to saying, "I know you will keep out the more hateful and destructive full-grown foxes by stopping all the large holes in the vineyard fence. Your danger lies in overlooking the smaller gaps by which the little foxes may enter, and thus spoil your vines by robbing them of the tender grapes."

How forcibly may this advice be urged upon Christian people! They will be almost certain to secure the vineyard against the intrusion of shameful vices, destructive sins, and great scandals; but are they always so careful to stop the smaller breaches in the fence of their Christian character against the little foxes, lesser sins, smaller vices, and trifling moral blemishes which, nevertheless, spoil the loveliness and perfection of their lives? Judging from observation and experience, we fear not.

In the following chapters we will point out some "little foxes" that do much damage in the Christian vineyard, and invite our readers to hunt them down!

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The boaster!

(John Colwell, "Little Foxes; The Little Sins That Mar the Christian Character" 1882)

"As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil!" James 4:16

All that the boaster has to say revolves around one center, namely, SELF. The only really important part of speech in his grammar, is the first person singular. When he speaks of himself, which he too often does, it is always in such a way as to impress you with his virtues, his wisdom, or his greatness. And when he does not speak of himself he elevates self, though it may be in a less direct manner.

The boaster is full of little histories, in which the historian or narrator is always the chief actor. His stock phrases will be painfully familiar to us all:
  "When I was in such a place."
  "When I was a young man."
  "I will tell you what I once did."
Every one of these expressions is the introduction to a long glorification of self.

Why should we employ ourselves in self-praise? "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" 1 Corinthians 4:7

It is a hard and delicate subject for a man to speak of himself.
Therefore, let him who aspires after wisdom take the advice of Scripture, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips!" Proverbs 27:2

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The end of God's goodness?

(J.R. Miller, "Help for the Day")

"The incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:7

"The unsearchable riches of Christ!" Ephesians 3:8

God never gives all He has to give. The time will never come, when He has nothing more to bestow. We never reach the best in Divine blessings: there is always something better yet to come. Every door that opens into His treasury of love shows another door into another treasury beyond. The yet unrevealed, is ever better than the already revealed. We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of God's goodness, or to any experience for which He will have no blessing ready.

"No eye has seen,
 no ear has heard, and
 no mind has imagined
  what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9

"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 4:19

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Black seeds without beauty!

(J.R. Miller, "Help for the Day")

"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

God does not send us two classes of providences one good, and one evil. All are good.

Affliction is God's goodness in the seed. It takes time for a seed to grow and to develop into fruitfulness. Many of the best things of our lives come to us first as pain, suffering, earthly loss, or disappointment black seeds without beauty but afterward they grow into the rich fruits of righteousness!

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

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We are not saved by a creed!

(J.R. Miller, "Help for the Day")

That which makes one a Christian is not . . .
  the acceptance of Christ's teaching,
  the uniting with His church,
  the adoption of His morals,
  the espousing of His cause
but the receiving of Him as our personal Savior, the entering into a covenant of eternal friendship with Him as our Lord and Master.

We are not saved by a creed which gathers up the essence of the truth about Christ's person and work, in a few golden sentences. We must have the Christ Himself, whom the creed holds forth, in His radiant beauty and grace.

A good many people think that being a Christian is . . .
  to pray a few moments morning and evening,
  to read a daily chapter or two in the Bible,
  and to attend church on Sundays.
These duties are important as means of grace but they are not vital religion.

True religion is living out the principles of Christianity in one's ordinary week-day life. It is getting the Bible and the prayers and the services into thought and act and character!

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