Grace Gems for DECEMBER, 2018

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An easy Hell!

(Thomas Watson, "The Art of Divine Contentment")

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need." Philippians 4:11-12

Whatever affliction or trouble a child of God meets with—it is all the Hell he shall ever have! Whatever eclipse may be upon his name or estate—it is but a little cloud which will soon be blown over, and then his Hell is past!

Death begins a wicked man's Hell.
Death ends a godly man's Hell.

Think with yourself, "What is my affliction? It is but a temporary Hell. Indeed, if all my Hell is here on earth—it is but an easy Hell. What is the cup of affliction—compared to the cup of damnation!"

could not get a crumb; he was so diseased that the dogs took pity on him—and as if they had been his physicians, licked his sores. But this was an easy Hell—the angels quickly fetched him out of it!

If all our Hell is in this life—and in the midst of this Hell, we have the love of God—then it is no more Hell, but paradise! If all our Hell is here on earth, we may see to the end of it; it is but skin-deep, it cannot touch the soul. It is a short-lived Hell. After a dreary night of affliction, comes the bright morning of glory!

Since our lives are short—our trials cannot be long!

As our riches take wings and fly away—so do our sufferings!

Let us learn then, to be content whatever our circumstances.

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Sin is shut out—and they are shut in!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"The sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more!" Isaiah 65:19

The glorified weep no more, because all causes of grief are gone!
There are no broken friendships, nor blighted prospects in Heaven.
Poverty, famine, peril, persecution and slander—are unknown there.
No pain distresses, and no thought of death or bereavement saddens.

They weep no more, because they all are perfectly sanctified!
No "evil heart of unbelief" prompts them to depart from the living God.
They are without fault before His throne, and are fully conformed to His image!
Well may they cease to mourn—who have ceased to sin!

They weep no more, because all fear of change is past!
They know that they are eternally secure!
Sin is shut out—and they are shut in!
They dwell within a city which shall never be stormed!
They bask in a sun which shall never set!
They drink of a river which shall never run dry!
They pluck fruit from a tree which shall never wither!

Countless cycles may revolve—but eternity shall not be exhausted; and while eternity endures, their immortality and blessedness shall co-exist with it. They are forever with the Lord!

They weep no more, because every desire is fulfilled!
They cannot wish for anything—which they don't already have in full possession.
  Eye and ear,
  heart and hand,
  mind and imagination,
  desire and affection,
  all the faculties—
are completely satisfied!

As imperfect as our present ideas are of the things which God has prepared for those who love Him—yet we know enough by Scriptural revelation, that the glorified saints are supremely blessed.

The joy of Christ, which is an infinite fullness of delight, is in them.

They bathe forever in the bottomless, shoreless sea of infinite blessedness!

That same joyful rest remains for us! It may not be far distant.
Before long, sorrow's dewdrops will be transformed into the pearls of everlasting bliss!

"The sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more!" Isaiah 65:19
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain!" Revelation 21:4

"Therefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:18

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Overcoming the world!

(Arthur Pink, "Faith as an Overcomer")

"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4

One of the fruits of the new birth, is a faith which not only enables its possessor to overcome the sensual and sinful customs, and the carnal maxims and policies by which the profane world is regulated—but also the lying delusions and errors by which the professing world is fatally deceived.

The only thing which will or can "overcome the world" is a God-given—but self-exercised faith.

Faith overcomes the world firstly, by receiving into the heart God's infallible testimony of the world. He declares that "the world" is a corrupt, evanescent, hostile thing, which shall soon be destroyed by Him. His Holy Word teaches that the world is "evil" (Galatians 1:4); that "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father—but is of the world" (1 John 2:16); that "the whole world lies in wickedness" (1 John 5:19) and shall yet be "burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). As faith accepts God's verdict of the world, the mind is spiritually enlightened; and its possessor views it as a worthless, dangerous, and detestable thing!

Faith overcomes the world secondly, by obeying the Divine commands concerning it. God has bidden us, "Do not be conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2); "Do not love the world, nor the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15); and warns us that "Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world, becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4). By heeding the Divine precepts, its magic spell over the heart is broken.

Faith overcomes the world thirdly, by occupying the soul with more glorious, soul-delighting and satisfying objects. The more the substance of spiritual realities engages the heart—the less hold will the shadows of the world have upon it. "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10).

Faith overcomes the world fourthly, by drawing out the heart unto Christ. As it was by fleeing to Him for refuge, that the soul was first delivered from the power and thraldom of this world—so it is throughout the Christian life. The more we cultivate real communion with Christ—the less attraction will the baubles of this world have for us! The strength of temptation lies entirely in the bent of our affections, "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). While Christ is beheld as "the chief among ten thousand" (Song 5:10) and as "altogether lovely" (Song 5:16) —the things which charm the poor worldling, will repel us.

The world gains the victory over the unregenerate by captivating their affections and capturing their wills. But the Christian overcomes the world, because his affections are set upon Christ and his will is yielded to Him.

Here—then, we have a sure criterion by which we may determine our Christian progress or spiritual growth. If the things of this world have a decreasing power over me—then my faith is becoming stronger. If I am holding more lightly the things most prized by the ungodly—then I must be increasing in an experimental and soul-satisfying knowledge of Christ. If I am less cast down when some of the riches and comforts of this world are taken from me—then that is evidence they have less hold upon me.

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Too wise to err—and too loving to be unkind!

Arthur Pink, "The Sovereignty of God")

Because God is righteous—His judgments fall upon those who rebel against Him.

Because God is faithful—the solemn threatenings of His Word are fulfilled.

Because God is omnipotent—none can successfully resist Him, still less overthrow His counsel.

Because God is omniscient—no problem can master Him, and no difficulty baffle His wisdom.

Faith endures "as seeing Him who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27) Faith endures the disappointments, the hardships, and the heart-aches of life—by recognizing that all comes from the hand of Him who is too wise to err—and too loving to be unkind.

So long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself—there will be neither rest for the heart, nor peace for the mind. But when we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand—then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings—whether in a hovel, a prison-dungeon, or a martyr's stake—we shall be enabled to say, "The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places!" (Psalm 16:6). But that is the language of faith—not of sight or of sense.

There is no higher aspect of faith, than that which brings the heart to patiently submit unto whatever God sends unto us; to meekly acquiesce unto His sovereign will; and to say, "Shall I not drink the cup of suffering which my Father has given me?" Faith when it reaches the pinnacle of attainment declares, "though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him!"

"Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine!" Luke 22:42

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Even the casting of the reprobate into the Lake of Fire is an act of mercy!

(Arthur Pink, "The Mercy of God" 3 pages)

It is pure sovereign grace which alone determines the exercise of divine mercy. God expressly affirms this fact in Romans 9:15, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy."

It is not the wretchedness of the creature which causes Him to show mercy, for God is not influenced by things outside of Himself as we are. If God were influenced by the abject misery of leprous sinners, He would cleanse and save all of them. But He does not. Why? Simply because it is not His pleasure and purpose so to do.

Still less is it the merits of the creatures which causes Him to bestow mercies upon them, for it is a contradiction in terms to speak of meriting mercy. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5)—the one standing in direct antithesis to the other.

The merits of Christ make it possible for God to righteously bestow spiritual mercies on His elect—justice having been fully satisfied by the Surety! Divine mercy arises solely from God's imperial pleasure.

Though it is true, blessedly and gloriously true, that God's mercy "endures forever"—yet we must observe carefully the objects to whom His "saving mercy" is shown.

Even the casting of the reprobate into the Lake of Fire is an act of mercy! The punishment of the wicked is to be contemplated from a threefold viewpoint:

   1. From God's side, the punishment of the wicked is an act of justice, vindicating His honor. The mercy of God is never shown to the detriment of His holiness and righteousness.

   2. From their side, it is an act of equity, when they are made to suffer the due penalty of their iniquities.

  3. But from the standpoint of the redeemed, the punishment of the wicked is an act of unspeakable mercy. How dreadful would it be if the present order of things, when the children of God are obliged to live in the midst of the children of the Devil, should continue forever! Heaven would at once cease to be Heaven, if the ears of the saints still heard the blasphemous and filthy language of the reprobate. What a mercy that in Heaven, "Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life!" Revelation 21:27

But let our final thought be of God's spiritual mercies unto His own people—the riches thereof transcend our loftiest thought. "For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him" (Psalm 103:11). None can measure it.

The elect are designated "vessels of mercy." Romans 9:23

It is divine mercy which quickened them when they were dead in sins. Ephesians 2:4-5

It is God's mercy which saves them. Titus 3:5

It is His abundant mercy which begat them unto an eternal inheritance which can never perish, spoil or fade! 1 Peter 1:4

Time would fail us to tell of His preserving, sustaining, pardoning and supplying mercies!

Unto His own, God is "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort!" 2 Corinthians 1:3

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Preach with your feet!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." 1 Peter 2:12

It is well to preach as I do, with my lips. But you can all preach with your feet and by your lives—and that is the most effective preaching! The preaching of holy lives is living preaching! The most effective ministry from a pulpit is that which is supported by godliness from the pew! A holy life is a missionary enterprise.

There are many more flies caught with honey than with vinegar. In the same way, there are many more sinners brought to Christ by joyful Christians than by doleful Christians!

"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives." 1 Peter 3:1-2

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven!" Matthew 5:16

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That spiritual chemistry which turns all metals into gold!

"But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night." Psalm 1:2

William Bates: "Meditation is the serious exercise of the mind, whereby our thoughts are fixed on the observation of spiritual things, in order to practice them. Meditation is that spiritual chemistry which turns all metals into gold!"

Arthur Pink: "Reader! You will derive far more benefit from a single verse of Scripture read slowly and prayerfully, and duly meditated upon—than you will from ten chapters read through hurriedly! Meditation is nearly a lost art. Lack of meditation is at the root of most of our spiritual troubles."

Edmund Calamy: "The reason why all the sermons we hear do us no more good, is for lack of divine meditation. For it is with sermons as it is with food—it is not having food upon your table that will nourish you, but you must eat it. And you must not only eat it, but digest it—or else your food will do you no good.
So it is with sermons: it is not hearing sermons that will do you good, but pondering in your hearts what you hear, and digesting them by meditation. One sermon well digested, well meditated upon—is better than twenty sermons without meditation! I am confident the great reason why we have so many hunger-starved Christians who are lean in grace and lean in practice, though they hear sermon upon sermon—is because they digest nothing. They never ponder and meditate upon what they hear!
There are some men sick with a disease that makes them vomit up whatever they eat—the food never does them any good. So is the custom of many of you: you hear a sermon, you go away, and never think of it afterward. This is just like food that you vomit up! That is the reason why you are so lean in grace—though you are so fully fed with sermons!"

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What a contrast!

("Every Day!" Author unknown, 1872)

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

What a contrast there is between a man of this world—and a child of God!

The one wishes to avoid the scrutiny of God—and the other desires and prays for it.

The one loves sin, and cherishes it—the other abhors sin, and desires to be delivered from it.

The one walks hand in hand with iniquity—the other grieves that he bears about with him a body of sin and death.

It is the earnest desire of all who are born of God, and made partakers of the Divine nature—to be delivered from the power of sin that dwells in them. They would have no lust spared—and no corruption unmortified.

by the Father in eternity past,
by the precious blood of Christ and justified freely by His grace
—they would also be sanctified by His Spirit.

They would be holy as He is holy—and their desires will eventually be satisfied! He who has begun a good work in them, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. He will present them "faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy!"

"Search me, O God, and try my thoughts,
 And make my heart sincere;
 Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
 And keep my conscience clear!

"Make me to walk in Your commands,
 'Tis a delightful road;
 Nor let my head, or heart, or hands,
 Offend against my God!"

"The desire of the righteous will be granted!" Proverbs 10:24

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Do not reckon that God will give you a life without difficulty!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward!" Job 5:7

"How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!" Job 14:1

"My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak." Psalm 31:10

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous" Psalm 34:19

David did not expect to pass through life without experiencing difficulties. He had many severe trials. He expected to have troubles, and he certainly was not disappointed. Nor will you be.

Do not reckon that God will give you a life without difficulty! Tell me, if you can, of any child of His who ever had such a portion? He had one Son without sin—but no son without sorrow. No, that Son who had no sin, was the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. So you must expect the Lord to deal with you as He does with the rest of His household.

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

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:10-11

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"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves" 2 Timothy 3:1-2

(A.W. Tozer)

We all have a number of self-sins:
  self-love and
  a host of others like them!
These self-sins are not something we do, they are something we are—and therein lies both their subtlety and their power. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures, to come to our attention—until the light of God is focused upon them.

The grosser manifestations of these sins—egotism, pride, arrogance, self-elevation, self-promotion—are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy! They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust that it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the  visible Church.

Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ—is currently so common as to excite little notice!

"They do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely" Philippians 1:17

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Who is regulating affairs on this earth today—God, or the Devil?

(Arthur Pink, "The Sovereignty of God")

Who is regulating affairs on this earth today—God, or the Devil?

That God reigns supreme in Heaven, is generally conceded; but that He reigns supreme over this earth, is almost universally denied—if not directly, then indirectly. More and more men are relegating God to the background in their philosophizing and theorizing.

Take the material realm. Not only is it denied that God created everything, by personal and direct action—but few believe that He has any immediate concern in regulating the works of His own hands. Everything is supposed to be ordered according to the (impersonal and abstract) "laws of Nature". Thus is the Creator banished from His own creation! Therefore we need not be surprised that men, in their degrading conceptions, exclude Him from the realm of human affairs.

Throughout Christendom, with an almost negligible exception, the theory is held that man is "a free agent", and therefore, man is the master of his fortunes and the determiner of his destiny.

Who is regulating affairs on this earth today—God, or the Devil?

What do the Scriptures say? If we believe their plain and positive declarations, no room is left for uncertainty. They affirm, again and again . . .
  that God is on the throne of His universe;
  that the scepter is in His hands;
  that He is directing all things "after the counsel of His own will". Ephesians 1:11

The Scriptures affirm, not only that God created all things, but also that God is ruling and reigning over all the works of His hands. They affirm . . .
  that God is the Almighty,
  that His will is irreversible,
  that He is absolute sovereign in every realm of all His vast dominions.

And surely it must be so. Only two alternatives are possible:
  God must either rule—or be ruled;
  God must either sway—or be swayed;
  God must either accomplish His own will—or be thwarted by His creatures.

Accepting the fact that He is the "Most High God", the only Potentate and King of kings, vested with perfect wisdom and illimitable power—the conclusion is irresistible, that He must be God in fact—as well as in name!

It is in view of what we have briefly referred to above, that we say, present-day conditions call loudly for a new examination and new presentation of God's omnipotence, God's sufficiency, and God's sovereignty. From every pulpit in the land it needs to be thundered forth—that God still reigns! What is needed now, as never before, is a full, positive, constructive setting forth of the Godhood of God. Drastic diseases call for drastic remedies. We know of nothing which is more calculated to infuse spiritual vigor into our souls, than a scriptural apprehension of the full character of God!

"Our God is in Heaven! He does whatever He pleases!" Psalm 115:3

"The LORD does whatever pleases Him throughout all Heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths!" Psalm 135:6

"All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of Heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: What have you done?" Daniel 4:35

"Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!" Revelation 19:6

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You must keep the circus going!

(Ernest Reisinger)

Whatever means you use to get people into the church, is precisely what you must use to keep them.

If you get them with a 'religious circus' then you must keep the circus going—you must keep up the entertainment.

If you get them with biblical preaching and teaching, then that will keep them and you will not need the entertainment.

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." 2 Timothy 4:2-3

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statue of a stone lamb!

(J.R. Miller)

"Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us!" 1 Corinthians 5:7

On a little church in Germany stands a
statue of a stone lamb, which has an interesting history. When some workmen were engaged on the roof of the building, one of them fell to the ground. His companions hastened down, expecting to find him dead. They were amazed, however, to see him unhurt. A lamb had been grazing just where he struck the ground, and falling upon it, the little creature was crushed to death, while the man himself escaped injury. He was so grateful for this wonderful deliverance, that he had a statue of the lamb carved in stone, and placed on the building as a memorial. The lamb saved his life, by dying in his place.
In the same way, every saved soul can point to the Lamb of God, and say, "I am saved—because Jesus died in my stead!"

What memorial have we set up to witness to our gratitude and love?

"The Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20

"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" Revelation 5:12

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There would be a jubilee in Hell at the very thought of it!

(Charles Spurgeon)

In Hell, there is no hope.

They have not even the hope of dying, or the hope of being annihilated.

They are forever—forever—forever lost!

On every chain in Hell, there is written, "forever!"

In the fires, there blaze out the words, "forever!"

Up above their heads, they read, "forever!"

Their eyes are galled, and their hearts are pained with the thought that it is forever!

Oh! if I could tell you tonight that Hell would one day be burned out, and that those who were lost might be saved—there would be a jubilee in Hell at the very thought of it! But it cannot be, for "They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever!" Revelation 20:10

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The man who has God for his portion!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"You are my portion, O LORD!" Psalm 119:57

If God is my portion, then I ought to be content without any other portion. He is . . .
  enough in poverty,
  enough in persecution,
  enough in life,
  enough in death,
  enough for evermore!

If God gives me Himself—then it is more than as if He had given me the whole world, or ten thousand worlds like this! O how happy was the apostle Paul, who knowing God to be his portion could say, "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 need!" Philippians 4:11-12

If God is my portion, I ought to be thankful. It is enough. There is no losing it. What dignity, what honor is conferred on the man who has God for his portion! I deserved to be stripped of everything, and to be turned out of God's presence eternally penniless, wretched, and miserable. But instead of this, God in His free grace, in His infinite mercy—gives me . . .
  a heavenly mansion,
  a glorious city,
  an eternal kingdom,
  more, He gives me Himself!
God in all His glory, in all His grace—is mine!

If God is my portion, then I ought to be living upon Him. If I live upon anything outside of God—then I live upon what is finite, and will change. But if I live upon God, I live upon the infinite, and upon what is unchangeable. As a believer, I should live befitting the dignity of my lofty character, position, and prospects. The man of fortune ought not to live like the pauper. Just so, the Christian ought to live above other men.

If God is my portion, I ought to be making a proper use of it. I should set my portion over and against . . .
  all my pains and privations,
  all my griefs and grievances,
  all my sadnesses and sorrows.

I should look above all my trials and troubles—and rejoice that throughout eternity, I shall have . . .
  eternal ease—instead of pain,
  eternal plenty—instead of privation,
  eternal joy—instead of grief,
  eternal gladness—instead of sadness,
  and eternal bliss—instead of sorrow!

Beloved, is the Lord your portion? Are you living upon Him as such?

But if God is not your portion—then what is?
Where are your thoughts most?
Where do your affections center?
After what do you pursue?
The world? It is a poor, fleeting, unsatisfying portion!
It will be found insufficient, unsatisfactory, and perishing!

Unless God is your portion, you will be . . .
  unsatisfied in life,
  wretched in death, and
  indescribably miserable to all eternity!

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:26

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The Savior's abiding presence with His redeemed people!

(J.R. Miller, "The Practical Value of a Promise")

"O LORD, You have searched me and You know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
 You perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
 You are familiar with all my ways!
 Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely, O LORD!" Psalm 139:1-4

Doctrines are not such cold, lifeless things as some would have us to believe. There is no doctrine of Scripture which is not fitted to affect the life of him who believes it. Consider the proper influence upon us, of the doctrine and promise of the Savior's abiding presence with His redeemed people. If we believe and always recollect that Christ is truly with us always—how will it affect us?

For one thing it will make us very thoughtful and careful in all our words and acts. Christ is present in His holiness as well as in His love and tenderness. His pure eyes see all our life, and see into our hearts. He is ever beholding us—our real inner life.

The thought of the Master's eye upon us should . . .
  make us holy,
  rebuke our sins, and
  hold us back from evil.

We cannot do wicked things in the presence of even a pure and holy human friend. But could we be continually conscious of Christ's perpetual presence with us, of His eye ever resting upon us, then . . .
  Could we run into sin?
  Could we live carelessly?
  Could we trifle?
  Could we speak sharp, bitter, or unkind words?
  Could we do unholy, unlovely things?

Surely the realizing of His perpetual abiding presence would make us live reverently, purely, lovingly—so as always to please and never to grieve Him.

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Prayer is just talking to Jesus

(J.R. Miller, "The Practical Value of a Promise")

"The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.
 He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him;
 He hears their cry and saves them.
 The LORD watches over all who love Him." Psalm 145:18-20

The firm believing of this promise will give new meaning and reality to prayer. Many people are perplexed at times, as they think about prayer. Is there really an ear to hear the words we speak when we bow in prayer? How can God hear us so far away? Then suppose ten thousand of God's children, in different parts of the world, are praying at the same moment—how can He hear them all, and disentangle the confusion of the words as they come up to Him, and distinguish the supplications of each?

Who has not at times been puzzled and even perplexed by such questions? But the promise of Christ's abiding presence makes it all plain. He is not way off in any imagined central Heaven, up to which all prayers of earth must fly through the air before they can be heard or answered. He is close beside each one of us!

We remember how it was when Jesus was on the earth in human form.
The people came to Him with their needs and sorrows.
Those who sinned came with their confessions, bathing His feet with their penitential tears.
Those who were in trouble came with their burdens.

That is what prayer is now, only now Christ can be with millions at the same moment of time, as He could not be when in the flesh.

Prayer is just talking to Jesus . . .
  weeping at His dear feet, if we have sinned;
  leaning upon His bosom, if we are weary or in sorrow;
  breathing our heart's longings into His ear;
  telling Him our needs, whatever they may be.

Does not the realization of this truth of the Lord's presence with us, take from prayer all its mystery?

"Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age!" Matthew 28:20

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What shall we ask God to do?

(J.R. Miller)

"We do not know what we should pray for as we ought." Romans 8:26

A minister sat with a father and mother by the bed of a child who was hovering between life and death. He was about to pray for the little sufferer, and turning to the parents he asked, "What shall we ask God to do?" After some moments the father answered, with deep emotion: "I would not dare to choose—leave it to God."

Would it not be better always to leave the decision to God, letting Him choose what it is best for Him to do for us or to give to us? We are not in the world to always have ease and pleasure, to always succeed, to do great things—we are here to grow into strength and beauty of life and character, to accomplish the will of God, and to have that will wrought out in our own life. Ofttimes . . .
  the present must be sacrificed for the future,
  the earthly given up to gain the Heavenly, and
  pain endured for the sake of spiritual refining and enriching.
Christ does not seek to take away the burden—rather, He would make us strong and brave to bear it.

If we are willing to let God choose for us, and accept what He gives—we shall never fail to receive the best. Perhaps not what the world would call the best—but always God's best. We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, and we had better leave it to God.

We should be content to leave the guidance and choices of our lives in His hands. Think how wise He is—knowing all things, knowing how to choose the best for us. Who does not know that this is better, safer, wiser than if we were to choose the way for ourselves?

The truest prayer is often that in which we creep into the bosom of God and rest there in silence. We do not know what to ask, and we dare not say even a word, lest it might be the wrong word, hence we simply wait before God in quietness and confidence. We know that what is best—our Father will do, and we trust Him to do what He will.

We are sure that God could relieve us of the things which are so hard for us to bear—could, if He desired to. This is God's world, and nothing can get out of His hands. All we have to do is to lay our need before the throne of mercy, and to let God answer us as He will.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A beautiful story is told of a devout home in which were twin boys who were greatly beloved. In the absence of the father, both boys suddenly died. When the father returned, not knowing of the sorrow in his home, the mother met him at the door and said, "I have had a strange visitor since you went away."

"Who was it?" asked the father, not suspecting her meaning.

"Five years ago," his wife answered, "a friend lent me two precious jewels. Yesterday he came and asked me to return them to him. What shall I do?"

"Are they his?" asked the father, not dreaming of her meaning.

"Yes, they belong to him and were only lent to me."

"If they are his, he must have them again, if he desires."

Leading her husband to the boys' room, the wife drew down the sheet, uncovering the lovely forms, as white as marble. "These are my jewels," said the mother. "Five years ago God lent them to me, and yesterday He came and took them back again."

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

"Going a little farther, He fell with his face to the ground and prayed: My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will—but as You will." Matthew 26:39

"O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it—may Your will be done." Matthew 26:42

"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

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Market-Driven Christianity

(Don Fortner)

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men—or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men—I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

Religion in America is big business. Scads of money, powerful personalities, huge egos, and positions of prominence, influence, and recognition are at stake in the business of religion, just as they are in any other business. There was a time when the concern of churches and preachers in this country was the glory of God and the truth of God. Today, like any business, the concern is for success.

Christianity today is market-driven. The goal of all marketing is to make both the buyer and the seller satisfied. Consequently, market-driven churches, in utter abandonment of God's glory and God's truth, in their insatiable quest for success and recognition—do whatever it takes to win customers and keep them.

Be warned! False doctrine and worldliness always go hand in hand. Worldliness usually leads the way. The early modernists did not aim at destroying biblical Christianity. They simply tried to make Christianity palatable to an unbelieving world. It cannot be done. When Christianity becomes acceptable to unregenerate people—it has ceased to be Christianity!

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing!" 1 Corinthians 1:18

   ~  ~  ~  ~

It is not a Sunday religion, but a week-day lifestyle!

(J.R. Miller, "What Is a Christian Life?")

A great many people seem to misunderstand Christianity and the Christian life.

In some cases, no more is implied than intellectual belief of the doctrines of Christianity. Some people seem to think that a Christian is one who is "sound in the faith"—although the personal character may be very faulty, and there may be no practical application of the principles of the gospel to the conduct. Pride, bitterness, selfishness, malice, dishonesty, and harshness may abound. But because the person believes the facts of the gospel, he considers himself to be a Christian man.

A Christian life is a regenerated life. Thus the teaching of the Scriptures is that a true Christian life is one that has come under new influences, a new life, a divine principle—entering the heart and changing all within and then without. It is the Spirit entering into him and influencing his whole life.

In a true Christian life, the beliefs in the heart manifest themselves, in greater or lesser measure—in the conduct and the character. Thus it is character which is the true and final test of religion. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control." These are the things that manifest one to be a Christian. Not those who say, "Lord, Lord"—but those who "obey His commandments," shall enter into Heaven.

Men talk about holiness and pray for it, as if it were something entirely apart from their everyday life—something that has nothing whatever to do with their conduct in their domestic, social and business relations. But holiness is not a mere sentiment—it is the most real and practical thing in this world! If being holy means anything at all, it means being true, honest, upright, noble, pure, gentle, patient, unselfish. Holiness is not only church-going and hymn-singing—it is life and conduct. It is not a Sunday religion, but a week-day lifestyle. We really have no more religion than we get into our everyday life—at home, in business, in all our conduct. We are Christians only so far as the Christ living in us, is manifested in a Christlike life.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Paul's three-word description of what sin does to all people

"People will be lovers of themselves" 2 Timothy 3:2

   It's the inescapable, destructive commitment of every person that was ever born. It marches down a pathway of separation from God and our ultimate doom. None of us successfully avoid it. We see it in others and it bothers us, but somehow we are blind to it in ourselves. It shapes what we think, desire, say, and do. It shapes our unwritten law for the people we live with and a host of unrealistic expectations for the situations we live in. It explains why we are so often irritated and impatient. It describes why some of us are perennially unhappy and some of us trudge through life depressed. It causes us to want what we will never, ever have and to demand what we do not deserve. It puts us at odds with one another and in endless fights with God. It is one of the deep diseases of our sin nature and a core reason for the birth of Jesus.

   Paul says that Jesus came so "that those who live might no longer live for themselves" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Consider Paul's three-word description of what sin does to all people: "live for themselves." That's what we all do from the first moment of our lives. We all demand to be in the center of our world. We all tend to be too focused on what we want, on what we think we need, and on our feelings. We all want our own way, and we want people to stay out of our way. We all want to be sovereign over our lives and to write our own rules. We demand to be served, indulged, agreed with, accepted, and respected. In our self-centeredness, we convince ourselves that our wants are our needs, and when we do, we judge the love of God and others by their willingness to deliver them. When we are angry, it's seldom because the people around us have broken God's law; most often we are angry because people have broken the law of our happiness. Because we live for our happiness, happiness always eludes us—because every fulfilled desire is followed by yet another desire.

[Taken from "Come Let Us Adore Him" by Paul David Tripp, 2017, pp. 82-82. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,]

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Christ came to save those who are lost at last in Hell

(Don Fortner)

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He shall save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21

The promise here given is that the Lord Jesus Christ "shall save His people from their sins." Who are His people? Who are these people specifically designated "His people," whom He came into this world specifically to save?

All of God's elect were redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary—and only God's elect.

All the redeemed, and only the redeemed, are called by irresistible grace and omnipotent mercy and born again by the mighty operations of His grace.

All the called, and only the called, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ by the gift of His grace.

And all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are preserved and kept by His grace and power unto life everlasting.

Almost everyone presumes that Christ came here to save everybody. Lost preachers everywhere love to please their lost hearers and tell them exactly what they are hired to tell them:
  "God loves you—and Jesus died for you."
  "The Lord wants to save you—but the decision is yours."

That is not what we read in Matthew 1:21. That is not the doctrine of our Holy Scripture. If Christ came to save everyone in the world, if He died for everyone—then where is the love of God? If Christ died to redeem and save all men, if He loves all, then His love is meaningless.

Where is the justice of God? If Christ died for all and yet some perish under the wrath of God—then the justice of God falls to the ground, for He punishes sin both in the sinner and in His Son!

Where is the immutability of God? If He gave His Son to die for all because of His great love for them, and then sends many to Hell—then His love changes to wrath.

Where is the divinity of Christ? If He tries to save any whom He fails to save—then He cannot be God.

Someone may say, "All people are the people of God." In a sense that is true, inasmuch as they are His creatures. Yet, the Scriptures expressly tell us that not all are His redeemed people. Those who are redeemed by Christ are redeemed "out of every people" (Revelation 5:9).  "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her" (Ephesians 5:25).

The objects of redemption are described by such words and characteristics as show them to be a special and distinct people. "For the transgressions of My people," says the Lord our God, "was He stricken"—stricken by the rod of Divine justice!

Redemption is not universal, but special. By the precious blood of Christ, atonement has been effectually accomplished, and redemption has been obtained for God's elect. Christ is not the Redeemer of all men, but of many. If the redeemed are those who are the objects of God's special love and favor, then not all men are redeemed. 

If, as the Scriptures teach that the redeemed are the elect of God and them only—then not all men are redeemed, for all are not chosen. "The elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded" (Romans 11:7).

"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep." (John 10:11) If the redeemed are the sheep of Christ to whom He gives eternal life—then the goats who go into everlasting punishment are not redeemed.

All honest people who read the Bible must acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ died for and redeemed His people alone, with the special, effectual purchase price of His own precious blood!

To teach that Christ came to save those who are lost at last in Hell is to deny the very deity of Christ. He is not and cannot be our Savor:
  if He fails to do what He came to do,
  if people whom He loves now, can become the objects of His wrath later,
  if His blood does not fully satisfy the justice of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ did not come to save all people everywhere. He came to save His people everywhere—His distinct, peculiar, chosen people. Who are His people? They are:
  His seed (Psalm 22:30; Isaiah 53:10-12),
  His sheep (John 10:11, 15, 26),
  His chosen bride (Ephesians 5:25-27),
  His elect (Ephesians 1:3-6),
  all who savingly trust Him (1 Thessalonians 1:4).

Who are His people? They are those people:
  whom God the Father chose in Christ before the world began,
  whom He loved with an everlasting love,
  whom He predestined unto the adoption of sons from eternity by Jesus Christ to Himself, to the praise of the glory of His grace, according to the good pleasure of His own will (Romans 8:28-31).

   ~  ~  ~  ~

But there is a condition

(J.R. Miller, "In All Your Ways!")

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

We all need direction in our life paths.

We turn to our friends for counsel, but human wisdom is inadequate. It is short-sighted and cannot certainly know what is best. It is ignorant and may mislead unwittingly. Wrong advice, though meant for good, has wrecked many a life destiny! Human guidance is not enough; we need something truer, wiser, safer—something infallible; and that is just what we have assured to us in this promise of divine direction.

But there is a condition—we must acknowledge the Lord in all our ways. The "all" is emphatic. Most of us acknowledge the Lord in some of our ways. We turn to Him in the time of great trials, or in great and sore dangers. Even scoffers and atheists have been known, in the moment of peril, as in a storm at sea—to fall upon their knees and call upon God for help. The worst people, when alarming sickness is on them, or when death stares them in the face, want to take hold of the hand of God. There are none of us who do not at certain times crave divine direction and help.

But the promise reads, "In all your ways"—that is the condition of the promised direction.

We are very willing to acknowledge God while He directs us in the paths in which we are inclined to go—paths that are pleasant and agreeable to us. We can easily submit to the sweet will of God, when it is indeed sweet to our natural taste. But how is it when God directs us to go the way we do not want to go—to do the thing that is unpleasant, and will cause pain, or require sacrifice or loss?

How is it when the voice of God, answering to our request . . .
   bids us to take the path which leads to a cross;
   bids us to turn away from the pleasant thing that we crave;
   bids us to give up the dear friendship, which is drawing us away from Him;
   bids us give into His hand, the child or loved one we so desire to keep with us?

"In all your ways" means the hard ways—as well as the easy ways; the thorny path—as wall as the path of flowers. Yet we are continually coming to points at which we hesitate. We say: "In all but this, dear Lord—I can take Your way and do Your will." Still the answer comes, "In all My ways, My child."

There must be no reserve, no withholding, no exception.

The beloved sin must be given up—though it seems only a little one, though giving it up is like cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye.

The hard path must be taken—though it leads among thorns that pierce the feet, over the sharp stones, and through fire and flood.

The painful duty must be done—though it costs us popularity, ease, or position; though it leads to poverty, suffering, or homelessness.

The bitter grief must be accepted—though it seems to take all, and leave nothing.
It must be accepted sweetly, lovingly, cheerfully, with unquestioning surrender.

The lesson is plain. Nothing must be withheld from God—whether it be in obedience, or in submission.

The darling sin must be given up.

The rough path must be walked over.

That hard duty must be accepted.

We must acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, if we would have Him direct our paths.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

One essential element of all true prayer

(J.R. Miller, "According to His Will")

"Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed: My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 26:39

One essential element of all true prayer, is its final reference of all requests to the will of God. Yet this quality of prayer is often forgotten or overlooked in our pleading. We often pray earnestly—but it is for the doing of our own will that we ask, not for the doing of our Father's will. Yet nothing is clearer than that no prayer is acceptable to God which, after all its intensity and importunity—is not referred to God and left to His superior wisdom.

How can we know what is best for us?
How can we tell whether or not the thing we desire would prove a real blessing if we had it?
How do we know that it will be best for us to have the bitter cup which is held out toward our quivering lips, pass away?

Then there is another way of looking at it. Is it the true child spirit for us to insist on having our own way with God, to press our will without regard to His? Are we not God's creatures, His redeemed children? Is it not ours, then, in all things to learn obedience and submission to Him?

The beloved disciple has given us this word: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." This, then, is the test of all praying—it must be according to God's will.

But how can we know what His will is?

There are certain classes of blessings which we know it is God's will to give us. This is true in general of spiritual blessings. But in things which concern this present life, we cannot be sure. Yet no prayer which is not according to God's will can be heard or answered. The least shade of self-will vitiates any prayer. Things that we know to be according to His revealed will in Scripture, we may press with all boldness. In such cases, our will is God's will. We never can want to receive spiritual blessings, half so earnestly as He wants to give them to us.

But there are other things concerning which we cannot be certain—which we cannot know what the will of God may be. If you are very sick—you cannot be sure whether it may be the Father's purpose that you should recover, or that you should die. If your child, or your mother, or some other loved one is in the shadow of death—you cannot be sure what the will of the Lord is, whether longer life or death. If you have some bodily affliction or infirmity, some burden of trial or pain, or something in your circumstances that it seems to you that you cannot bear, you may earnestly pray God to take it away—but you cannot be sure that it is your Father's will to remove it.

How, then, can you ask "according to His will"—when you cannot know what His will is? There is but one way: ask what you want, ask in a childlike, trustful, loving spirit—and then leave it all to your Father, ending your supplication with the refrain of our Lord's garden prayer, "Yet not as I will, but as You will."

It follows, then, that the answers to many prayers do not come in the granting of the thing asked for—but in grace to do without it. We have a striking illustration of this in our Lord's pleadings in Gethsemane. The cup did not pass from Him, but the struggle died away in His heart and at the close He was at peace. He had not received what He had sought—but He had gained the victory. He had been victorious, not by prevailing with God—but by prevailing over Himself and bringing His own spirit into perfect acquiescence to His Father's will. Was not that better by far, than if the bitter cup had passed away?

So we learn that sometimes God answers our prayers, not by bringing His will down to ours—but by lifting our will up to His. Far oftener than we think, in matters which belong to this present earthly life, are prayers answered in this way. The things we seek are not given—but as we plead in the spirit of submission, divine grace is poured into our souls, and we grow strong so as to need no longer to cry for relief. We can now bear the heavy load, without asking to have it lightened. We can now endure the sorrow, without beseeching God to spare us from it. We can now go on in quiet peace, without the new blessing which a little while ago we thought was so essential to our happiness. We have not been saved from the battle we so shrank from entering—but we have fought it through, and have gained the victory.

We sometimes talk thoughtlessly and shallowly about answers to prayer. We tell people that if they go to God in trouble, that He will deliver them. But that is not the promise. Take this one word from the Psalms for example: "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain you." We quote this, however, for ourselves and for others as if it read, "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will remove it, or bear it for you."

But the promise is, "and He shall sustain you." It is not an assurance . . .
  that the bitter cup shall pass from us,
  that your sick child shall recover,
  that your property shall not be lost,
  that your broken health shall be restored.
It is a pledge only that you shall be sustained, that you shall not faint under the burden, that if it is not lifted away, as most likely it will not be—you shall be helped to carry it.

God's ways may not bend to yours, but you will be enabled to walk with Him. Your prayer may not bring God down to you—but instead it may lift you up to God. And is not that the better, the larger blessing?

The final result of all such prayers of submission, is peace.
Lying at our Father's feet, in our strong cryings and tears . . .
  we learn obedience,
  our sobbings end in praises,
  our struggles end in acquiescence,
  our tears are dried,
  and we rise victorious.
We may not get our own way—but we are glad, happy and peaceful in God's way.

   ~  ~  ~  ~ 

His Heaven mine—my Hell His!

(Octavius Winslow)

It is astonishing that I should so be one with Christ, that all that He is becomes mine, and all that I am becomes His!

His glory mine—my humiliation His.

His righteousness mine—my guilt His.

His joy mine—my sorrow His.

His riches mine—my poverty His.

His life mine—my death His.

His Heaven mine—my Hell His!

The daily walk of faith, is a continuous development of the wonders of this wondrous truth.
That in traveling to Him empty—I should return from Him full.
That in going to Him weak—I should come away from Him strong.
That in bending my steps to Him in all darkness, perplexity, and grief—I should retrace them all light, and joy, and gladness.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

They sing best in their cages!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name!"  Psalm 33:21

Christians can rejoice even in the deepest distress. Although trouble may surround them, they still sing. Like many birds—they sing best in their cages!

The waves may roll over them, but their souls soon rise to the surface and see the light of God's countenance.

In times of trouble, the presence of the Son of God in the fiery furnace with him fills his heart with joy.

He is sick and suffering, but Jesus visits him and makes his bed for him.

He is dying, but Jesus puts His arms around him and cries, "Fear not, beloved, to die is to be blessed—the waters of death have their fountainhead in Heaven. They are not bitter—they are as sweet as nectar, for they flow from the throne of God."

As the departing saint wades through the stream and the billows gather around him, the same voice sounds in his ears, "Fear not, I am with you! Be not dismayed, I am your God."

As he nears the borders of the infinite unknown, Jesus says, "Fear not, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom!"

Thus strengthened and consoled, the believer is not afraid to die. No, he is even willing to depart, for since he has seen Jesus as the morning star, he longs to gaze upon Him as the sun in its strength. "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" Philippians 1:23

Truly the presence of Jesus is all the Heaven we desire!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Their constant pleasure-ground!

(Henry Law)

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed are those who find their constant pleasure-ground in the luxuries of the Bible!
They commune with the mind of God.
They listen to a heavenly voice.
They bask in rays of purest light.
They feed in wholesome pastures of refreshment.
They fear no poison from the weeds of error.
No devious path can lead their steps astray.
Wisdom from above guides sweetly them.
The Spirit, as great Teacher of the Church, instructs the students.
They advance safely, happily, from grace to grace.

The lessons are as vast as the mine from which they spring.
They are as pure as the realms to which they call.
They warn of sin—its filth—its misery—its end.
They unfold Jesus in all the glories of redeeming love.
They exhibit holiness, as the only road to holy Heaven.

Reader! heed a beneficial admonition:
Study the Bible, as holding treasure for your soul.
Study in the earnestness of prayer.
Study with eternity outspread before you.
Study with the lowliness of a poor sinner before a speaking God.
Study with faith devoutly grasping every word.

Do not close not the volume without inquiring,
"Is sin more hateful—is the world more worthless—is the flesh more treacherous in my sight?
 Is Jesus brought nearer to my adoring soul?
 Is my heart won to more entire devotedness?
 Am I more resolute to live for Him, who died for me?"

   ~  ~  ~  ~

We do not know which to wonder the most at

(Charles Spurgeon)

Isaiah 49:14. "Zion said: The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me!"

How amazed the divine mind seems to be at this wicked unbelief! What can be more astounding, than the unfounded doubts and fears of God's favored people?

Isaiah 49:15-16. "Can a mother forget the baby at her bosom and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Behold! I have engraved you on the palms of My hands!"

The Lord's loving word of rebuke should make us blush. He cries, "How can I have forgotten you—when I have engraved you on the palms of My hands?"

We do not know which to wonder the most at
: the faithfulness of God—or the unbelief of His people. He keeps His promise a thousand times—and yet our next trial makes us doubt Him. He never fails—and yet we are as continually vexed with anxieties, molested with suspicions, and disturbed with fears.

"Behold!" is a word intended to excite admiration. Here, indeed, we have a theme for marveling. Heaven and earth may well be astonished that sinful rebels should obtain so great a nearness to the heart of infinite love, as to be written upon the palms of His hands.

The name is there, but that is not all: "I have engraved you—your image, your case, your circumstances, your sins, your temptations, your weaknesses, your wants, your works—I have engraved you, everything about you, all that concerns you—I have engraved you altogether on the palms of My hands!"

Will you ever say again that God has forsaken you—when He has engraved you upon His own palms?

   ~  ~  ~  ~

We allow our hearts to be captured by the idol of idols!

"He is Lord of lords and King of kings!" Revelation 17:14

"His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns!" Revelation 19:12

Here is the amazing truth of the Christmas story: that baby in the manger is the sovereign Savior come to earth.

Why would the Lord of lords debase himself in this way?

He was on a single, focused mission, and no amount of poverty, homelessness, or rejection would deter him from his mission. What was this mission?

The sovereign Savior came to earth because sin causes all of us to live as self-appointed self-sovereigns. We all put ourselves in the center of our world. We all are way too focused on what we want, what we feel, and what we think we need. We all want control over things that we will never control. We all get angry when someone or something gets in the way of our self-designed sovereign plans.

We go through days without consciously thinking about God's will or his glory. We allow our hearts to be captured by the idol of idols: SELF.

Jesus willingly humbled himself and lived in poverty, rather than sovereignty, so that through his life and death he would rescue self-sovereigns from themselves. He placed himself under broken and unjust human rule in order to liberate us from self-rule and transform us into people who celebrate and willingly submit to his rule.

And by sovereign grace he calls us to himself, opens our eyes to his glory and grace, convicts us of our sin, forgives us, welcomes us into his family, transforms us by his grace, and expends his power to keep us for all eternity. The sovereign Son became a submitting man so self-sovereign sinners would be rescued from themselves and become those who love and submit to his rule.

[Taken from "Come Let Us Adore Him" by Paul David Tripp, 2017, pp. 126-128. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,]

"Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for His wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him." Psalm 2:12

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The devil's chessboard!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)

"So that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes!" 2 Corinthians 2:11

"Be watchful; the world is the devil's chessboard! You can hardly move backward or forward, but he is ready to attack you with some temptation!"

Those who play at the game of chess know that great caution is needed. Your opponent is working toward a design of which you know nothing; and while you imagine that you are doing exceedingly well, he is entrapping you!

The game of life
, as against Satan, is one in which . . .
  his maneuvers and artifice,
  his long practice and stratagems,
  his superior skill and deceptiveness,
  and his unscrupulous schemes—
give him an immense advantage over our poor self-conceited folly!

Lord, help us! You know our adversary; be pleased to deliver us out of his hand.

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes!" Ephesians 6:11

   ~  ~  ~

December 31, 1855

(James Smith, "Marvelous Mercy!" 1862)

The following is an excerpt from the diary of James Smith:

December 31, 1855.
The last day of the year 1855—a year characterized by . . .
  many severe trials,
  many sore temptations,
  and innumerable mercies.

In some things, it closes differently to what I expected—but how differently it may have closed!

I might have been in Hell!
O terrible thought!

I might have been on a sick bed, tormented with excruciating pain, or reduced to a state of infantile weakness.

I might have been in great and sore troubles, tossed with tempests, and not comforted.

I might have been without a pastorate—and without a loving people.

Or I might have been guilty of some heinous sin, lost my character, and been a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth!

Blessed, forever blessed be the Lord—that such is not my case!
My health is good,
my hope in Christ is steady,
my congregation good, and
I trust the Lord will yet work a great work by me.

And now, Lord, I desire to confess before you the sins of this past year:
I have sinned with my tongue—and with my temper.
  I have sinned in my heart—and in my life.
  I have omitted duties.
  I have committed sins.
  My motives have often been impure.
  My aims have not been sufficiently high and holy.
  I have been impatient, fretful, irritable, rash, jealous, envious, discontented and ungrateful.

O may the blood of Jesus wash out every stain!

I renounce all hope—but what centers in Jesus!

I have no refuge, no hiding-place, no strong tower, no place of safety—but Jesus.

Christ in His person,
Christ in His finished work,
Christ in His glorious intercession—
is all my hope, all my confidence, all my joy!
I am His servant—and wish to serve Him alone.
I am His subject—and wish to be ruled by Him alone.
I am His purchased property—and wish to be consecrated entirely, eternally, and altogether to Him!