Grace Gems for MAY 2021

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The decrees of God!

(Arthur Pink, 1886-1952)  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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"But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations!" Psalm 33:11

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

"This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart Him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?" Isaiah 14:26-27

"I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please." Isaiah 46:10

The decrees of God relate to all future things without exception.

Whatever is done in time, was foreordained before time began.

God's purpose was concerned with everything, whether great or small, whether good or evil.

1. The divine decrees are Eternal. "According to His eternal purpose . . ." Ephesians 3:11. To suppose any of God's decrees to be made in time, is to suppose that some new occasion has occurred, some unforeseen event or combination of circumstances has arisen, which has induced the Most High God to form a new resolution.

2. The divine decrees are Wise. Wisdom is shown in the selection of the best possible ends and of the fittest means of accomplishing them. That this character belongs to the decrees of God is evident from what we know of them. They are disclosed to us by their execution, and every proof of wisdom in the works of God is a proof of the wisdom of the plan, in conformity to which they are performed.

3. The divine decrees are Free. God was alone when He made His decrees, and His determinations were influenced by no external cause. He was free to decree or not to decree; and to decree one thing and not another. This liberty we must ascribe to Him who is supreme, independent, and sovereign in all His doings.

4. The divine decrees are Unconditional. The execution of them is not suspended upon any condition which may, or may not be, performed. In every instance where God has decreed an end, He has also decreed every means to that end.

"In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will." Ephesians 1:11

Don Fortner: "God does not permit things to happen. He purposed all that comes to pass in time, before time began (Romans 11:36; Isaiah 45:7). And all that He ordained from eternity and performs in time, is good."

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Four walls do not make a home

(J.R. Miller, "Home-Making" 1882)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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Four walls do not make a home—though it is a palace filled with all the elegances which wealth can buy! The home-life itself is more important than the house and its adornments. By the home-life, is meant the happy art of living together in tender love.

We enter some homes, and they are full of sweetness—as fields of summer flowers are full of fragrance. All is order, beauty, gentleness and peace.

We enter other homes, where we find jarring, selfishness, harshness and disorder.

This difference is not accidental. They are influences at work in each home, which yield just the result we see in each. No home-life can ever be better than the life of those who make it.

Homes are the real schools in which men and women are trained—and fathers and mothers are the real teachers and builders of life!

Sadly, the goal which most parents have for their home—is to have as good and showy a house as they can afford, furnished in as rich a style as their means will warrant, and then to live in it as comfortably as they are able, without too much exertion or self-denial.

But the true idea of a Christian home, is that it is a place for spiritual growth. It is a place for the parents themselves to grow—to grow into beauty of character; to grow in spiritual refinement, in knowledge, in strength, in wisdom, in patience, gentleness, kindliness, and all the Christian graces and virtues. It is a place for children to grow—to grow into physical vigor and health, and to be trained in all that shall make them true and noble men and women.

A true home is set up and all its life ordered—for the definite purpose of training, building up and sending our human lives fashioned into Christlike symmetry, filled with lofty impulses and aspirations, governed by principles of rectitude and honor, and fitted to enter upon the duties and struggles of life with spiritual wisdom and strength.

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Building their nests in our hair!

(J.R. Miller, "In His Steps" 1897)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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The experience of temptation is universal. Every life must grow up amid unfriendly and opposing influences. Some of them are subtle and insidious, like a pestilence in the air. Some of them fierce and wild, like the blast of storm, or the rush of battle.

The question in life is not how to escape temptation, but how to pass through it so as not to be harmed by it. Christ's way of helping us, is not by keeping us out of the conflicts. This would leave us forever weak, untried, and undisciplined. The price of spiritual attainment and culture, is struggle. Jesus Himself was made perfect through suffering.

All the best things in life, the only things worth obtaining, lie beyond fields of battle—and we can get them only by overcoming. It would be no kindness to us, were God to withdraw us into some sheltered spot whenever there is danger; or if He were to fight our battles for us, thus freeing us from all necessity to struggle.

Yet there is a way of so living in this world, as not to suffer harm in even the fiercest temptations—to pass through them and not be damaged by them. There is even a way of so meeting temptations as to get benefit and blessing from them! "Blessed is the man who endures temptation—for when he has been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him."

Rightly meeting and victoriously resisting temptation, puts new fiber into the soul. The Indians say that when a warrior kills a foe—the spirit of the vanquished enemy enters the victor's heart and adds to his own strength. This is true in spiritual warfare. We grow stronger through our struggles and victories! Each lust conquered, each evil subdued—adds to the strength of our soul.

The question, then, is how to meet temptation so as to overcome it, and thus win the blessing there is in it. We must remember, first of all, that we are not able in ourselves successfully to fight our battles. If we think we are, and go forth in our own name and strength, we shall utterly fail. Life is too large, and its struggles and conflicts are too great—for the strongest human, unaided by divine power.

We must settle it once for all—that we can conquer only in the name and by the help of the strong Son of God. We may come off the field more than conquerors—but only through him who loved us. We can pass safely through all the fierce dangers of this world and be kept unspotted amid its sin and foulness—but only if we have with us, Him who is able to keep us from stumbling, and set us before the presence of His glory without blemish in exceeding joy. Self-confidence in our own ability to overcome temptation, is fatal folly!

Men and devils may tempt us, but men and devils cannot force us to yield! Others may seek to influence us, they may plead, entreat and persuade—but they cannot compel us.

We cannot avoid being tempted, but we ought to avoid yielding to temptation. Luther used to say, "We cannot keep the birds from flying over our heads, but we can prevent them from building their nests in our hair!" Just so, we cannot keep temptations away from our ears, nor prevent them whispering their seductive words close by us—but we can hinder them making their nests in our hearts!

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The two birds!

(J.R. Miller, "Finding God's Comfort" 1896)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty." Job 5:17

He is not happy at the time, at least, in the world's way. No affliction for the present seems to be joyous—but grievous. No one enjoys having troubles, sufferings, trials, sorrows. Therefore this statement made by Eliphaz appears very strange to some people. They cannot understand it. It is contrary to all their thoughts of happiness.

Of course the word 'happy' is not used here in the world's sense. The world's happiness is the pleasure that comes from the things that happen. It depends on personal comfort, on prosperous circumstances, on kindly and congenial conditions. When these are taken away—the world's happiness is destroyed.

But the word happy, here means blessed—and the statement is that blessing comes to him who receives God's correction. To correct, is to set right—that which has been wrong. Surely if a man is going in the wrong way, and God turns his feet back and sets him in the right way—a blessing has come to the man!

Afflictions are 'God's corrections'. They come always with a purpose of love in them. God never afflicts one of His children, without meaning His child's good in some way. So blessing is always intended by God. It is usually afterward that people begin to see and to understand the good that God sent them in their trial. "You do not understand what I am now doing" said Jesus, "but you shall understand hereafter." "No chastening 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." So when we have troubles and afflictions, we may know that God wants to do us good in some way through them.

Since this is so, Job was exhorted by Eliphaz, "Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty." God chastens us to bless us—to do us good. He chastens us because He loves us.

He is not a true parent, who sees his children doing wrong, and yet fails to correct them for fear he may hurt their feelings. He ought to think of their higher good, and chasten them now—to profit them afterward.

This is the way our heavenly Father works. He never loves us better—than when He is correcting us. Therefore we ought not to despise this chastening. We ought not to murmur or complain when God does not give us our own way—but checks us, lays His afflictive hand upon us, and sends trouble upon us! We ought to have such faith in God—that we shall submit quietly, confidently, and sweetly to his will—even when it brings a heavy cross into our life.

A great many people need to pause at this line—and learn it. They do not treat God's chastening with reverence. Sometimes they are crushed by it, and refuse to look up into God's face with submission and love. Sometimes they grow bitter against God and say hard things of Him! We ought to reverence God's chastening; we ought to listen to the voice that speaks to us in our grief or pain.

The way in which God brings blessing through chastening, is emphasized: "For He wounds, but He also binds up; He strikes, but His hands also heal." Job 5:18. God never smites with both hands at once! When one hand is laid upon us in affliction—the other hand is reached out to help, to uphold, to heal.

Sometimes there is a trouble in a man's body which requires the surgeon's knife. There must be amputation, or cutting away, or cutting into. In such a case the skillful surgeon does not hesitate. He thinks far more of his patient's health for the future—than of his comfort at present.
So he uses his knife—that he may cure disease, or save life.
He wounds—to heal.
He makes sore—that he may bind up. It is just so in all afflictions which God sends.
He chastens—that He may deliver from the power of temptation.
He hurts the body—that he may save the soul.
He takes away earthly property—that He may give true, heavenly riches.

One writer tells of two birds and how they acted when caught and put into a cage. One, a starling, flew violently against the wire walls of its prison, in unavailing efforts to escape—only battering and bruising its own wings. The other bird, a canary, perched itself on the bar and began to pour forth bursts of sweet song from its little throat. We know which bird was the wiser and happier.

Some people are like the starling—when they are in any trouble, they chafe and fret and complain and give way to wretchedness! The result is, they only hurt themselves, make themselves more miserable, and do not in any sense lessen their trouble.

It is wiser always, as well as more pleasing to God, for us to bear our trials patiently, singing songs of faith and love—rather than crying out in rebellion and discontent.

Job wanted to get near to God in his great trouble. He cried, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" He felt sure that that would be the best and safest place for him to be.

ought not to lose this lesson. When trouble is upon us—the true thing for us to do, is to flee to God! Some people, in their affliction and sorrow—flee away from God. Thus they lose their joy and peace, missing the comfort which they would get if only they kept near to Him. The right way to respond, is to try to find the way to God's very presence. He is the only safe refuge, when the storms of trouble break upon us. The first thing always, in any time of trouble—is to find God and hide away in His bosom, as a child runs to the mother in alarm, or as the little bird flies to its nest. To find God—is to be safe!

God is our truest and best friend! He is our Father—we need never fear to go to Him. He gives heed unto our cries. He loves us. All His omnipotence is on our side. No mother's heart was ever so full of love for her child—as is the heart of God for us, His children!

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Only a kiss!

(J.R. Miller, "The Friendships of Jesus" 1897)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends—if you do what I command. . . . I have called you friends." John 15:13-15

The central fact in every true Christian life, is a personal friendship with Jesus. Men were called . . .
  to follow Him,
  to leave all and cleave to Him,
  to believe on Him,
  to trust Him,
  to love Him,
  to obey Him;
and the result was the transformation of their lives into His own beauty! That which alone makes one a Christian, is being a friend of Jesus.

Friendship transforms—we become like those with whom we live in close, intimate relations.
Life flows into life,
heart and heart are knit together,
spirits blend, and
the two friends become one.

We have but little to give to Christ; yet it is a comfort to know that our friendship really is precious to Him, and gives Him joy—poor and meager though its best may be. But He has infinite blessings to give to us. The friendship of Jesus includes all other blessings for time and for eternity! If Christ is our friend, all of life is made rich and beautiful to us.

"I have called you friends." No other gift He gives to us can equal in value, the love and friendship of His heart.

When King Cyrus gave Artabazus, one of his courtiers, a 'gold cup'; he gave Chrysanthus, his favorite, only a kiss. And Artabazus said to Cyrus, "The gold cup you gave me, was not so precious as the kiss you gave Chrysanthus."

No good man's money is ever worth as much as his love. Certainly the greatest honor of this earth, greater than rank or station or wealth—is the friendship of Jesus Christ.

The stories of the friendships of Jesus when He was on the earth, need cause no one to sigh, "I wish that I had lived in those days, when Jesus lived among men—that I might have been His friend too—feeling the warmth of His love, my life enriched by contact with His, and my spirit quickened by His love and grace." The friendships of Jesus, whose stories we read in the New Testament, are only patterns of friendships into which we may now enter—if we are ready to consecrate our life to Him in faithfulness and love.

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You can never lose your mother! 

(J.R. Miller, "The SEEDS We Are Scattering" 1896)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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Though all are born "dead in trespasses and sins;" in another sense, when a baby is born—its life is only a patch of soil in which, as yet, nothing is growing.

A mother's hand is the first to plant seeds there—in the looks of tender love which her eyes dart into the child's soul, in her smiles and caresses and croonings, and her thousand efforts to reach the child's heart and shape its powers; and then in the lessons which she teaches.

All the members of the household soon become sowers also on this field; as the life begins to open, every one is dropping some seed into the mellow soil.

In a little while, hands outside the home begin to scatter seeds in the child's mind and heart. The street, the playground, the school. Later, books, papers, and pictures contribute their portion.

As the years advance, the experiences of life—the joys, temptations, tasks, trials, sorrows—all bring their influences. Somewhat in this way, the character of the mature man—is the growth of seeds sown by a thousand hands in the life from infancy.

All our thoughts, words, and acts—are seeds. They have in them a quality which makes them grow where they fall, reproducing themselves. This is true of the good we do.

The mother's teachings enter the mind and heart of her child as mere seeds; but they reappear in the life of the son or daughter, in later years—in strength and beauty, in nobleness of character, and in usefulness of life. Not only is this strange power in the mother's words; her acts, her habits, her tones of voice, the influences that go forth from her life—are also seeds, having in them a vital principle. Where they lodge—they grow.

You can never lose your mother! She may die, and her body may be buried out of your sight, and laid away in God's acre. You will see her face and hear her voice no more; no more will her hand scatter the good seeds of truth and love, upon your life's garden. But you have not lost her! Your mind and heart are full of the seeds which fell from her hand along the years. These you never can lose. No hand of death can root them out of your life. They have grown into the very fibers of your character. They reappear in your habits, your dispositions, your feelings and opinions, your modes of thought, your very phrases and forms of speech! You can never lose your mother; the threads of her life are woven inextricably into your life!

All the noble things that fall from your hands, as you travel along life's paths—are seeds, and will not die. The good things we do, with the true words we speak, with the faithful example we show, with all the influences of our life that are Christlike—are living seeds which we sow in the lives of others. They will not fall into the ground and perish. They will stay where they drop, and you will find them again after many days. They will germinate and grow, and yield a harvest!

Go on doing the little things, no matter how small, only making sure that you breathe love into them. Let them fall where they may, no matter into what heart, no matter how silently, no matter how hopeless may seem the soil into which they drop, no matter how you yourself may appear to be forgotten or overlooked as you do your deeds of kindness, and speak your words of love. These words and deeds and influences of yours are living seeds, and not one of them shall perish!

The same is true, however, of the evil things we do. They, too, have in them the quality of life and reproductiveness. If only our good things were seeds, this truth would have unmingled encouragement for us. But it is startling to remember, that the same law applies to the evil things.

The man who writes a wicked book, or paints an unholy picture, or sings an impure song—sets in motion a procession of unholy influences which will live on forever! He, too, will find his evil words again in the hearts of men, long, long afterwards; or see his unclean picture reproduced on men's lives, or hear his unholy song singing itself over again in the depths of men's being!

The evil that men do, lives after them! "Bury my influence in my grave with me!" said a wicked man, dying with bitter remorse in his soul. But that is impossible. Sometimes men who have been sowing evil, wake up to the consciousness of the harm they have been giving to other lives, and go back over their paths, trying to gather up the seeds of sin which they have cast into human hearts. But the effort is unavailing, as no one can take out of men's minds and hearts—the seeds of evil he has dropped there!

We are not done with life—when we die! We shall meet our acts and words and influences again! "Do not be deceived! God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows—he will also reap!" Galatians 6:7. He shall reap the same that he sows—and he himself shall be the reaper!

There is a law of divine justice, in which God requites to every man according to his deeds. We are not living under a reign of mere chance. But sometimes it seems as if the law of justice did not work universally—that some who do wrong, are not requited; and that some who do good, receive no reward. But this inequality of justice is only apparent. Life does not end at the grave! If it did, we might say that the Lord's ways are not always equal. God's dealings with men, are not closed in this earthly life!  The story is continued through eternity!

In this present life—wrong often seems to go unpunished, and virtue unrewarded. But our present lives, are simply unfinished life-stories. There are other chapters which will be written in eternity. When all has been completed, there will be no inequality, no injustice. All virtue will have its full reward—and all sin will receive its due punishment.

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It is not easy for us to learn this lesson

(J.R. Miller, "Losing SELF in Christ" 1903)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Luke 9:23-24

Only as we learn to die to self—do we become like Christ.

Human nature seeks all for self—and none for Christ. Becoming a Christian is the taking of Christ into the life, in the place of self. Then all is changed. Life has a new center, a new aim. Christ comes first. His plan for our lives is accepted, instead of our own. It is no more what we would like to do, but "What does the Master want us to do?" It is no longer the pressing of our own will, but "May Your will, not mine, be done."

This is the foundation of all Christian living
—the dying of self, and the growing of Christ in the heart. So long as there remains any self-will, any unsubmission, any spirit of disobedience, any unconquered self, asserting its authority against the will of Christ—just so long, is our consecration incomplete.

This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ, is the only way to true usefulness. Not until self has been renounced, is anyone ready for true Christian service. While we are thinking how this or that will affect us, whether it will pay us to make this sacrifice or that self-denial; while we are consulting our own ease, our own comfort, our own interest or advantage in any form—we have not yet learned fully what the love of Christ means.

This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ—is the secret of Christian peace. When Christ is small, and SELF is large, life cannot be deeply restful. Everything annoys us. We grow impatient of whatever breaks our comfort. We grieve over little trials. We find causes for discontent in merest trifles. We resent whatever would hinder or oppose us. There is no blue sky in the 'picture' of which SELF is the center!

But when SELF decreases and Christ increases—then the life of friction and worry is changed into quietness and peace. When the glory of Christ streams over this little, cramped, fretted, broken life of ours—peace comes, and the love of Christ brightens every spot and sweetens all bitterness. Trials are easy to bear—when self is small, and Christ is large.

This lesson has its very practical bearing on all our common, every-day life. Naturally, we want to have our own way. We like to carry out our own plans and ambitions. We are apt to feel, too, that we have failed in life, when we cannot realize these hopes. But this is the world's standard! The successful worldling is the one who is able to master all life's circumstances, and make them serve him.

But the greatest thing possible in any life is to have the divine plan for it fulfilled—even though it thwarts every human hope and dashes away every earthly dream. It is not easy for us to learn this lesson—that God's ways are always better for us than our own!

We make our little plans and begin to carry them out. We think we have all things arranged for our greatest happiness and our best good. Then God's plan breaks in upon ours, and we look down through our tears upon the shattered fragments of our fine plans! All seems wreck, loss, and disaster! But no—it is only God's larger, wiser, better plan—displacing our little, imperfect, short-sighted one!

It is true, that God really thinks about our lives—and has a purpose of His own for them, a place He would have us fill, a work He would have us do. It seems when we think of it, that this is scarcely possible—that each one of the lives of His countless children—should be personally and individually thought about by the Father. Yet we know that this is true of the least and lowliest of believers. Surely if God cares enough for us to make a plan for our life, a heavenly plan—it must be better than any plan of ours could be! It is a high honor, therefore—for His plan to take the place of ours, whatever the cost and the pain may be to us!

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I have chosen you!

(George Mylne, "Fear Not!" 1854)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Fear not, I have chosen you!" Isaiah 41:9, 10

Christian reader, God says to you, "I have chosen you!" This is a great mystery—but it is a comforting truth. God does not tell you WHY He chose you. He only tells you the simple fact. It is not for you to question it, or to shrink from it—but to receive it, and be thankful.

God was free to love you—or free to loathe you.
He was free to choose you—or free to reject you.
He says, "I have chosen you!" Believe what God says, and rejoice. "Before the mountains were brought forth, before He had formed the earth and the world," God had chosen you! "From everlasting to everlasting, He is God." From everlasting to everlasting He loved—He chose—He delighted in His people.

Fellow-sinner, if God says, "I have chosen you," He says it . . .
  to encourage you;
  to strengthen you;
  to sanctify you;
  that you may rest upon the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure,
  that you may look away from self, and see that salvation is altogether of the Lord.

God chose you, "not according to your works; but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given you in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Timothy 1:9

Fellow-sinner, you are . . .
  loved in Christ;
  chosen in Christ;
  called in Christ;
  saved in Christ!
Here is your foundation; here your hope; here your safety—you were "chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world!"

This is to humble you—as well as to exalt you.

This is to make you weep—as well as cause you to rejoice.

You are vile in yourself—but chosen to indescribable honor!

You are poor in yourself—but chosen to unspeakable riches!

You are naked in yourself—but chosen to eternal glory!

Child of God, never lose your hold of this precious truth. God has revealed it, that you might delight in it. Let this be the brightest jewel in your crown. This the sweetest cordial to your heart—that God says to you, "Fear not, I have chosen you!"

As you sit at the feet of Jesus;
as you lay your mouth in the dust, and cry, "Unclean, unclean!"
as you take all the shame to yourself, and give all the glory to God,
let this comfort delight your soul—
God has said, "Fear not, I have chosen you!"

"God chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world!" Ephesians 1:4 (amplified bible)

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God's decree

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(The following is from the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in Modern English. Editor's note: This gem is filled with sound doctrine—so it needs to be read carefully.)

From all eternity God decreed all that would happen in time—and this He did freely and unalterably, consulting only His own wise and holy will. Yet in so doing He does not become in any sense the author of sin, nor does He share responsibility for sin with sinners. In this decree God's wisdom is displayed in directing all things, and His power and faithfulness are demonstrated in accomplishing His decree.

God's decree is not based upon His foreknowledge of the future, but is independent of all such foreknowledge.

By His decree, and for the manifestation of His glory—God has predestined (or foreordained) certain men and angels to eternal life through Jesus Christ, thus revealing His grace. Others, whom He has left to perish in their sins, manifest the terrors of His justice.
These predestined and foreordained angels and men are individually and unchangeably designated—and their number is so certain and definite, that it can neither be increased or decreased.

Before the world was made, God's eternal, immutable purpose, which originated in the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, moved Him to choose (or to elect), in Christ—certain men to everlasting glory. Out of His mere free grace and love, He predestinated these chosen ones to life, although there was nothing in them to cause Him to choose them.

Not only has God appointed the elect to glory in accordance with the eternal and free purpose of His will, but He has also foreordained the means by which His purpose will be effected.

Therefore, those who are elected, being fallen in Adam—are redeemed by Christ and effectually called to faith in Christ by His Spirit working at the appropriate time. They are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. None but the elect are redeemed by Christ—or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved.

The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care so that those heeding the will of God revealed in His Word and obeying Him, may be assured of their eternal election, by the certainty of their effectual calling. In this way the doctrine of predestination will give reasons for praise, reverence, and admiration of God—as well as humility, diligence and rich comfort to all who sincerely obey the gospel.

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Something to ponder:

"To deny the Divine decrees would be to predicate a world and all its concerns, regulated by undesigned chance or blind fate. Then what peace, what assurance, what comfort would there be for our poor hearts and minds? What refuge would there be to fly to in the hour of need and trial? None at all. There would be nothing better than the black darkness and abject horror of atheism. O my reader, how thankful should we be that everything is determined by infinite wisdom and goodness! What praise and gratitude are due unto God for His Divine decrees!" Arthur Pink

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(Charles Spurgeon, "Even so, Father!")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"At that time Jesus said: I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Even so, Father, for this was Your good pleasure." Matthew 11:25-26

What! Is God glorified in the damnation of the wise and prudent?

Yes, tremendous fact!

At the winding up of this world's drama, God will be glorified in the men that shut their eyes against his grace, as well as in the men whose eyes are opened to receive it.

The 'yells of Hell' shall be but the deep bass of the everlasting music of which the 'songs in Heaven' are the sweeter high notes.

God, the terrible one, shall have praise from the wise and prudent when their folly shall be discovered, when their wisdom shall be dashed in pieces or torn to shreds.

God, the terrible avenger of his own gospel shall be glorified when those are cast out, who having heard the gospel were too wise to believe it, and having listened to it were too prudent to give their praise to it.

In either case God is glorified, and in either case Christ devoutly gives thanks.

"At that time Jesus said: I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Even so, Father, for this was Your good pleasure." Matthew 11:25-26

"Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens." Romans 9:18

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder:

Charles Spurgeon: "With lowly reverence at the foot of the Cross, bow down your soul and say, "My Lord, between me and the worst reprobate, there is no difference—but what Your grace has made. Between me and lost souls in Hell, there is no difference—except what Your infinite compassion has been pleased to make!" "By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The softest pillow and the strongest staff!

(Charles Spurgeon, "A Basket of Summer Fruit")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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I am persuaded that the doctrine of predestination is one of the 'softest pillows' upon which the Christian can lay his head, and one of the 'strongest staffs' upon which he may lean in his pilgrimage along this rough road.

Cheer up, Christian! Things are not left to chance; no blind fate rules the world!

God has purposes, and those purposes are fulfilled!
God has plans, and those plans are wise, and never can be broken!

Your trials always come to you at the right moment. The language of your faith should be, "Great God, I leave my times and seasons in Your hand, for well I know if You smite me again and again, and again, it is that You may multiply blessings to me, that my manifold trials may produce in me manifold blessings."

So be of good cheer, my hearer. He knows when your strength is spent and you are ready to perish; then shall the Sun of Righteousness arrive with healing beneath his wings. Your deliverances from trouble shall always come to you in time enough; but they shall never come too soon, lest you be proud in your heart.

Learn, believer, to be resigned to God's will.

Learn to leave all things in His hand.

Tis pleasant to float along the 'stream of providence'.

There is no more blessed way of living, than the life of faith upon a covenant-keeping God—to know . . .
  that we have no care, for He cares for us;
  that we need have no fear, except to fear Him;
  that we need have no troubles, because we have cast our burdens upon the Lord, and are conscious that He will sustain us.

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

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder:

Charles Spurgeon: "All things are ordained by God and are settled by Him, according to His wise and holy predestination. Whatever happens here on earth—happens not by chance, but according to the counsel of the Most High God."

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Absolute Predestination!

(Jerome Zanchius, 1516-1590)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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Without a due sense of predestination, we shall lack the surest and the most powerful inducement to patience, resignation and dependence on God under every spiritual and temporal affliction. How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer!

(1) There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God.

(2) He has given me in times past, and is giving me at present (if I had but eyes to see it), many and
signal intimations of His love to me—both in a way of providence and grace.

(3) This love of His is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it.

(4) Whatever comes to pass in time, is the result of His will from everlasting, consequently:

(5) my afflictions were a part of His original plan, and are all ordered in number, weight and measure.

(6) The very hairs of my head are (every one!) counted by Him, nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His determination. Hence:

(7) my distresses are not the result of chance, accident or a fortuitous combination of circumstances, but:

(8) the providential accomplishment of God's purpose, and

(9) designed to answer some wise and gracious ends, nor

(10) shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees fit.

(11) He who brought me to it, has promised to support me under it, and to carry me through it.

(12) All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good, therefore:

(13) "The cup which my heavenly Father has given me to drink, shall I not drink it?" Yes, I will, in the strength He imparts, even rejoice in tribulation. I will commit myself and the event to Him, whose purpose cannot be overthrown, whose plan cannot be disconcerted; and who, whether I am resigned or not, will still go on to work all things after the counsel of His own will.

"In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will" Ephesians 1:11

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder:

Charles Spurgeon: "All things are ordained of God and are settled by Him, according to His wise and holy predestination. Whatever happens here on earth—happens not by chance, but according to the counsel of the Most High! The acts and deeds of men below, though left wholly to their own wills, are the counterpart of that which is written in the purpose of Heaven.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Our Pilot! 

(Charles Spurgeon, "Multitudinous Thoughts and Sacred Comforts")

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Remember that your way is ordered by a higher power than your will and choice.

The eternal destiny of God has fixed your every footstep. Believe that wisdom, not blind fate, but God's wisdom, has ordained the bounds of your life, and fixed your position and your condition so definitely that no fretfulness of yours can change it for the better.

In the decree of God, all your history is fixed—so as to secure His glory and your soul's profit.

Your present sorrow, is the bitter bud of greater joy.
Your transient loss, secures your ultimate and never ceasing gain.

How I rejoice to believe that the Lord shall choose my inheritance for me!

All things are fixed by my Father's hand—by no arbitrary and stern decree, but by His wise counsel and tender wisdom. He who loved us from before the foundations of the world, has immutably determined all the steps of our pilgrimage!

Why then, should you worry yourself?

There is a hand upon the helm which shall steer your vessel safely enough between the rocks, and by the quicksands, and away from the shoals and the headlands, through the mist, and through the darkness—safely to the desired haven!

Our Pilot
never sleeps, and His
hand never relaxes its grasp.

It is a blessed thing, after you have been
muddling and meddling as you ought not to do with the affairs of providence, to leave them alone and cast your burden upon the Lord.

I charge you, therefore, children of God—in
times of dilemma, to roll your burdens upon God, and He will sustain you, and make you to rejoice in beholding His wisdom and His love.

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

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:

Charles Spurgeon: "It is most important for us to learn that the smallest trifles are as much arranged by the God of Providence, as the most momentous events! He who counts the stars, has also numbered the hairs of our heads. Our lives and deaths are predestined—but so, also, are our sitting down and our rising up."

  ~ ~ ~ ~

How is it that some of us are converted?

(Charles Spurgeon)   LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.' What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses, '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." Romans 9:13-16

No doctrine in the whole Word of God has more excited the hatred of mankind, than the truth of the absolute Sovereignty of God! Some men cannot endure to hear the doctrine of election. I suppose they like to choose their own wives—but they are not willing that Christ should select His bride, the Church!

How is it that some of us are converted—while our companions in sin are left to continue in their godless course? Was there anything good in us that moved the heart of God to save us? God forbid that we should indulge the blasphemous thought! "By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10

From the Word of God I gather that damnation is all of man, from top to bottom—and that salvation is all of grace, from first to last. He who perishes, chooses to perish; but he who is saved, is saved because God has chosen to save him.

Electing love has selected some of the worst people, and made them into the best!

Whatever may be said about the doctrine of election—it is written in the Word of God as with an iron pen, and there is no getting rid of it! To me, it is one of the sweetest and most blessed truths in the whole of Scripture. Those who are afraid of it are so, because they do not understand it. If they could but know that the Lord had chosen them, it would make their hearts dance for joy!

Do not stagger at the truth of electing love—it is one of the highest notes of heavenly music! Do not be afraid of such a verse as this, "I have loved you with an everlasting love—therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you." Jeremiah 31:3

God's electing love has, in many cases, selected great fools and great sinners:
"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world—to put to shame the wise;
 and God has chosen the weak things of the world—to put to shame the strong; 
 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen . . . 
 so that no one may boast before Him!" 1 Corinthians 1:29

I can never cease to be astonished that God has elected unworthy me!

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
Charles Spurgeon: "The sovereign electing grace of God chooses us to repentance and to faith—and afterwards to holiness of living, to Christian service, to zeal, and to devotion."

  ~ ~ ~ ~

The predestined moment has not yet struck!

(Charles Spurgeon)

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"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." Acts 18:9-10

This should be a great encouragement to evangelize, since God has . . .
  among the vilest of the vile,
  among the most reprobate,
  among the most debauched and drunken
—an elect people who must be saved!

When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it—for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by Christ's blood, as the saints before the eternal throne! They are Christ's property—yet perhaps they are at present, lovers of the ale-house and haters of holiness. But if Jesus Christ has purchased them—He will have them.

God is not unfaithful to forget the price which His Son has paid. He will not allow His substitutionary sacrifice to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet—but regenerated they must be! This is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God.

Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. "My prayer is not for them alone," says the great Intercessor, "I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message." Poor, ignorant souls, they do not pray for themselves—but Jesus prays for them! Their names are on His breastplate, and before long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace.

The predestined moment has not yet struck!
But when it comes, they shall obey—for God will have His own redeemed people! They must obey—for the Spirit is not to be withstood when He comes forth with the fullness of His saving power. They must become the willing servants of the living God.

"My people shall be willing in the day of My power."

"He shall see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied."

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Let nothing be wasted!

(J.R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book, a Year's Daily Readings")  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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

It seems remarkable, that He who so easily could multiply the five loaves into an abundant meal for thousands, should be so particular about 'saving the fragments'. But Jesus would teach us economy. No matter how great our abundance, we should take care of the 'fragments'. After we have eaten at our tables, there are hungry people who would be glad for the pieces that are left over.

This applies also to the fragments of time. Many busy people waste whole years of time in their life, in the minutes which they lose every day! If at the end of a year they could gather up all these 'fragments', they would have many basketfuls of golden time in which they might do much good!

Likewise, we should not waste our strength. Many people waste their bodily energy, using it in play, or useless amusements—when it belongs to God, and ought to be employed to its last particle for His glory!

Likewise, we should not waste our affections by allowing them to be given to unworthy objects or people.

There is no limit to the application of this principle. We must give account of everything we have, even . . .
   the minutes of time,
   the little fractions of strength, and
   the smallest bits of bread on our tables!

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

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
Thomas Watson: "Keep your heart as you would keep a garden. Your heart is a garden (Song of Solomon 4:12); weed all sin out of your heart. Among the flowers of the heart, weeds will be growing: the weeds of pride, malice, and worldliness; these grow without planting and cultivating. Therefore be weeding your heart daily by prayer, examination, and repentance.

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Ten-pound Christians!

(J.R. MillerLISTEN to audio! Download audio

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"So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" Luke 19:13

We are doing business in this world for Christ. Each one of us has something of His—a pound which He has entrusted to us, to trade with as His agent. Our life itself, with all its powers, its endowments, its opportunities, its privileges, its blessings, its possibilities—is 'our pound'.

Our life is not our own. We are not in this world merely to have a good time for a few years. Life is a trust. We are not done with it either, when we have lived it through to its last day. We must render an account of it to Him who gave it to us. Our business is to gather gains, through our trading with our Lord's money. We are required to make the most that is possible of our life!

"The first came forward and said: Master, your pound has earned ten more pounds!" Luke 19:16

We always find a few of these ten-pound Christians among the followers of Christ. They are those Christians who, from the very beginning, through divine grace—strive to reach the best things attainable in life. They are not content with being merely saved from sin's guilt, with being mere members of the church. They make their consecration to Christ complete, keeping nothing back. They set their ideal of obedience to their Lord, at the mark of perfectness, and are not slack in their striving, until they reach the mark in Heaven. They seek to follow Christ entirely, fully, with their whole heart. They accept every duty, without regard to its cost. They seek to be like Christ, imitating Him in all the elements of His character. They give their whole energy to the work and service of Christ. They lie, like John, on the Master's bosom, and their souls are struck through, as it were, with the Master's loving spirit.

These ten-pound Christians grow at last into a Christ-likeness, a spiritual beauty, and a power of usefulness and influence, by which they are set apart among Christians, shining with brighter luster than other stars in the galaxy of the church. Their one pound has made ten more pounds! Their high spiritual attainment has been won by their diligent and wise use of the one pound with which they began!

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
J.R. Miller: A Christian is not called to an easy, comfortable, self-indulgent life—but to self-denial, sacrifice, and cross-bearing. "Then Jesus said to his disciples: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me!" Matthew 16:24

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Little slips!

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book—a Year's Daily Readings") 

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"Whoever is faithful in very little—is also faithful in much;
 and whoever is unrighteous in very little—is also unrighteous in much." Luke 16:10

We are apt to under-estimate little failures in duty.

It seems to us, a small matter:
  that we do not keep an engagement,
  that we lose our temper,
  that we say an impatient or angry word,
  that we show an unkind or harsh spirit,
  that we speak uncharitably of another,
  that we treat someone with discourtesy, or
  fail in some other way which appears trivial.

We think that so long as we are honest, faithful, and loving in the larger things—that it of small importance, that we make 'little slips'.

But we never can tell what may be the consequences of our failure, in even the most minute duty.

A little slip hurts our own life! It leaves us a little weaker in our character, a little less able to resist the next temptation that comes at the same point. It breaks our habit of faithfulness, and makes it easier for us to break it a second time. We sin against ourselves, when we relax our diligence or our faithfulness, in even the least thing!

Then, we do not know what the consequences to others will be—when we fail in their presence. An outburst of temper in a Christian, may hinder many others in their Christian life. The failure of a Christian minister to pay a little debt, may destroy the minister's influence over many in his church.

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
J.R. Miller: "The winds and storms make the well-rooted tree stand all the more firmly. So it is with the Christian life which is truly rooted in Christ. It has its temptations, its trials, its struggles—but they only strengthen it, making it cleave to Christ the more closely and firmly, and grow into all the more beautiful character."

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Nothing more

(J.R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master's happiness!" Matthew 25:21

No higher praise can be given to any life, than to say it has been faithful. No one could ask for a nobler epitaph than the simple words, "He was faithful." This will be the commendation given in the great account, to those who have made the most of their talents: "You have been faithful with a few things!" Faithfulness should therefore be the aim in all our living.

It is not great things that God expects or requires of us, unless He has given us great gifts and opportunities. All that He requires of us, is faithfulness. He gives us certain talents, puts us in certain relations, assigns to us certain duties, and then asks us to be faithful—nothing more. The man with the plain gifts and the small opportunities, is not expected to do the great things which are required of the man with the brilliant talents and the large opportunities. We should get this truth fixed deeply in our mind—that God asks of nothing more than simple faithfulness.

Faithfulness is not the same in any two people. In the man who has five talents, there must be a great deal more outcome to measure up to the standard of faithfulness, than in the man who has but two talents.

Faithfulness is simply being true to God, and making the most of one's life.
Of those who have received little, only little is required. Where much has been received, much is required. Never does God expect anything impossible or unreasonable from anyone. If we are simply faithful, we shall please God.

Jesus said of Mary, after her act of love, when men murmured at her, "She has done what she could!" Mark 14:7. What had she done? Very little, we would say. She loved Jesus truly and deeply. Then she brought a flask of precious ointment and broke the flask, pouring the sacred nard upon her Lord's tired feet—those feet which soon were to be nailed to the cross.

What good did it do? We know it wonderfully comforted the Savior's sorrowful heart. Amid almost universal hatred, and maddening enmity—here was one who sincerely loved Him. While other hands were weaving a crown of thorns for His brow, and others still were forging cruel nails to drive through His feet—Mary's hands were pouring ointment on His head, and bathing His feet with the nard. Who will say that Mary's act did no good? It seemed a little thing—but we cannot fathom how her sweet, pure, loyal love blessed our suffering Savior in His bitter anguish.

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
J.R. Miller: Doing the thing which Christ Himself would do if He were precisely in our place—that is the rule for Christian living. "Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

  ~ ~ ~ ~

The best that most of us can do in this world

(J.R. Miller, "Silent Times")  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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"Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27

"Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20

Christ within us, will be made manifest. If we have this divine indwelling, we will also have an ever-increasing measure in all of our life—of the gentle and loving spirit of the Master. We should not claim to have Christ in us—if, in our conduct and speech, in our disposition and temper, and in our relations with our fellow-men, there is none of the mind and temper of Christ. If Christ truly is in us, He cannot long be hidden in our hearts, without manifestation. There will be a gradual transformation of our outer life, into Christ-likeness.

As He lived—so we will live;
as He ministered to others—so we will minister;
as He was holy—so we will be holy;
as He was patient, thoughtful, unselfish, gentle and kind—so will we be.

Christ came to our world to pour divine kindness on weary, needy, perishing human lives. Christ truly in our hearts—would send us out on the same mission. The world today needs nothing more than true Christ-likeness in those who bear Christ's name and represent Him.

If we truly have Christ in our hearts, it will work out in transformed life and in Christly ministry; it will lead to the brightening of one little spot, at least, on this big earth.

There are a few people whom God calls to do great things for Him. The best that 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 others 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.

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
J.R. Miller: The holiness and the beauty of the divine law were revealed in Jesus. The Beatitudes are only a rewriting of the life of Christ Himself. What He taught about love—was but His own love stated in a course of living lessons for His friends to learn. When He said we should be patient, gentle, thoughtful, forgiving, and kind—He was only saying, "Follow Me!"

  ~ ~ ~ ~

This is a hard teaching; who can accept it?

(Charles Simeon, 1759-1836)

"On hearing it, many of His disciples said: This is a hard teaching; who can accept it?" John 6:60

Many people reject Christ because of the radical self-denying nature of His precepts. The very first condition He imposed on His disciples was to "Deny themselves, and take up their cross daily, and follow Him." He told them plainly that they must be no more of the world than He was. He warned them that He would acknowledge none as His disciples unless they were truly willing, at any time and in any manner, to lay down their lives for Him.

How offensive these precepts and injunctions were to the carnal hearts of His hearers, we may judge by the conduct of the Rich Youth, who, though convinced in his judgment that Jesus was the Messiah, could not prevail upon himself to follow Him—but abandoned all his hope in Christ, rather than make the sacrifice that was demanded of him.

And what is it that at this day forms the principal ground of offence against the Gospel? It is the purity and radicalness of its precepts. If only we would leave men at liberty to indulge their corrupt desires and to retain their earthly and sensual dispositions, they might listen to us. But, if we require from our hearers the mind that was in Christ Jesus, and a conformity to His heavenly example and holy precepts—we put a stumbling-block before them which they fall over to their eternal ruin! They cannot, they will not endure to hear of such requisitions; and on account of their aversion to such restraints, they reject the Gospel altogether.

It is impossible for the human mind, blinded as it is by innumerable lusts and prejudices, to see the truth and excellence of the Gospel—unless it has been first enlightened by the Holy Spirit. "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

"But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear!" To have the mind brought to a cordial acquiescence to all the precepts of Scripture, is indeed a reason for thanksgiving. Blessed is that man who has attained it, for that acquiescence clearly shows that he is taught of God.

Psalm 19:8  The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
                  The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

Psalm 119:4  You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.

Psalm 119:15  I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways.

Psalm 119:40  How I long for Your precepts!

Psalm 119:56  This has been my practice: I obey Your precepts.

Psalm 119:93  I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have preserved my life.

Psalm 119:104  I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

Psalm 119:141 Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget Your precepts.

Psalm 119:168  I obey Your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to You.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Life's highest and best lesson

(J.R. Miller, "The Story of Joseph, Practical Lessons")  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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We read that Joseph bore himself so congenially and did his work so well, and was so capable, so true, so trustworthy—that Potiphar "left all that he owned under Joseph's care; he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate." Genesis 39:6. Joseph would never have won such a success . . .
  if he had given up to discouragement,
  if he had brooded over his wrongs,
  if he had sulked and complained,
  if he had spent his time in vain regrets or in vindictive feelings.
We should learn the lesson, and it is worth learning—for it is life's highest and best lesson.

The problem of life is to keep the heart warm and kindly amid all injustice and wrong; to keep the spirit brave and cheerful in the midst of all that is hard in life's circumstances and conditions; to be true, and right, and strong in all moral purpose and deed—however others may act toward us.

Our inner life should not be affected by our external experiences. Right is right, no matter what others around us may do. We must be true—no matter if all the world is false, even false to us. We must be unselfish and loving, though even our nearest friends prove selfish and cruel to us. We must keep our spirit strong, cheerful and hopeful—though adversities and misfortunes seem to leave us nothing of the fruit of all our labors.

In a word, we are to live victoriously, truly, nobly, sweetly, cheerfully, joyfully—in spite of whatever may be uncongenial in our condition!

This is the lesson of all Christian life. We should not let the outside darkness into our soul. We should seek to be delivered from all morbidness and all unwholesomeness. We should not allow anything to crush us.

Remember, your task in living is to keep sweet; to keep your heart gentle, brave, strong, loving, full of hope—under the worst that the years can bring you of injustice, hardship, suffering, and trial.

  ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
J.R. Miller: As the summer sunbeams enter into the flowers, and reappear in their lovely hues and sweet fragrance—so does Christ enter into the lives of His redeemed people, and permeate and transform them, until they become like Him in spirit, in character, in disposition, in every feature.
"Until Christ is formed in you." Galatians 4:19
"Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27

  ~ ~ ~ ~

There is no habit that we should more sedulously form

(J.R. Miller, "Prayer in the Christian life" 1903)  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

N.B. This one is longer, but it is choice!

What place should prayer have in a Christian's life? Should we pray little or much? Should we confine our praying to certain days—Sundays, for example; or to certain hours or moments of our days—mornings, for example? Should we pray only about certain things, certain affairs, certain portions of our life? Are there things we have no permission to take to God in prayer? Should we pray only in certain places—in our accustomed room at home, or in places 'set apart for divine worship'? Is there any place, where we may not pray?

There is a verse of Paul's which seems to answer all these questions. "Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17. That means, pray always and everywhere. There is nothing we may not take to God in prayer, asking for His help. There is no hour of the day when we may not turn to God, and find Him ready to hear and bless us. The gates of prayer are never shut!

To pray without ceasing, is to do everything with prayer. This does not mean that every piece of work we undertake, must be begun with a 'formal act' of prayer—stopping, kneeling down, and offering a spoken petition. To pray without ceasing is to have the heart always in converse with God. It is to live so near to God—that we can talk with Him wherever we go—and seek His help, His wisdom, His guidance. God is our Father, with infinite love in His heart for us, ready and eager to help us and bless us in every way!

True prayer is not a matter of times and places. Wherever we go, we are with God. Whatever we are doing, our hearts may go out to Him. "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath—the Christian's native air!"

There is no habit that we should more sedulously form, than that of talking with God about everything we do. We are often told that we should begin every day with prayer—that is very needful and beautiful. The first face our eyes see in the morning, should be Christ's! His too, should be the first voice we hear; and to Him, our first words should be spoken! Ten minutes in the morning, yes, two minutes—spent really with Christ, will change all our day for us.

It is often said that we should 'count that day lost' in which no kindness is done, no deed of love to anyone, no help given. But sadder far is a day without prayer! It is a day without God, without heaven's light shining into it—a day unblessed! That morning you forget to pray, is a sad morning for you!

We should form the habit of praying at every step, as we go along through the day. That was part of Paul's meaning when he said, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed—do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." He would have us include every word we speak, as well as every deed we do. Think what it would mean to have every word that passes our lips winged and blessed with prayer—always to breathe a little prayer before we speak, and as we speak. This would put heavenly sweetness into all our speech! It would make all our words kindly, loving, inspiring words—words that would edify and minister grace to those who hear. We can scarcely think of one using bitter words, backbiting words, unholy words—if his heart is always full of prayer; if he has trained himself to always pray before he speaks.

But we are to do all our deeds also, in the name of the Lord Jesus. That means that we should do everything for Him, to please Him. If we could get this lesson learned, if we would really pray without ceasing—how beautiful our lives would be! How well we would do all our work!

Only think of a man in business doing all his day's business in a spirit of prayer—breathing a little prayer as he makes a bargain, as he writes a business letter, as he talks with other men. Think of a woman amid her household cares—taking everything to God for His blessing, for His approval, for His direction. These are not by any means impossible suppositions. Indeed, this is the way a Christian is to live, should always live—doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus!

"In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

"Pray at all times and on every occasion." Ephesians 6:18

It is well for us to learn this lesson—to take everything to God in prayer, to pray as we go from task to task. We may form the habit of putting up little 'sentence prayers' continually. When you feel an inclination to speak bitterly, or to answer sharply; when you have been stung by another's speech or act; when you are tempted to refuse a request for help, to do some selfish thing, to pass by a human need, to speak an untruth—lift up your heart in the prayer, "Jesus, help me to do Your will." Or if you meet a sudden temptation and are in danger of being swept away, look up and cry, "Jesus, save me!" We do not know what we miss, by leaving God out of so much of our life!

We often wonder . . .
  why we fail,
  why so little comes of our efforts,
  why we do not get along better with people,
  why we are not happy,
  why joy is so lacking in our experience,
  why we are so easily fretted and vexed,
  why we are so discontented,
  why we fall so easily into surliness and bad temper.
It is because we cease to pray!

It is impossible to tell of the blessing of such a spirit and habit of prayer. Those who have not learned to "pray without ceasing" have no conception of what they are missing. If we all had learned this lesson, what a company of overcoming Christians we would be! The world would have little power over us—we would tread it under our feet! We would be strong, where now we are so weak. We would be victorious over temptation, where now we fail so sadly. If you knew that Christ was always actually walking with you, how strong you would be! There is no lesson we need to take more to heart, than this lesson of unceasing prayer! All the best things of Christian living, are the fruit of silent meditation.

Life is not easy for any of us. We can live nobly, purely, Christly—only by being much with Christ! We will rob ourselves of Divine blessing, of beauty of character, of power in service—if we fail to make room in all our busy days for quiet retreats from the noise and strife, where we may sit at Christ's feet—to hear His words, and lie on His bosom that we may absorb His spirit, to prepare us for the toil of the day!

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Better to rot in prison!

(J.R. Miller, "Practical Lessons from the Story of Joseph")  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

"How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God!" Genesis 39:9

"After hearing his wife's story, Potiphar was furious! He took Joseph and threw him into the prison!" Genesis 39:19-20

Sometimes it costs very dearly to be true to God. Joseph lay now in a dungeon. But his loss through doing right, was nothing in comparison with what he would have lost—had he done the wickedness to which he was tempted. His prison gloom, deep as it was—was as noonday, compared with what would have been the darkness of his soul under the blight of evil, and the bitterness of remorse. The chains that hung upon him in his dungeon, were but like feathers—in comparison with the heavy chains which would have bound his soul, had he yielded to the temptation. Though in a prison, his feet hurt by the fetters—he was a free man because his conscience was free and his heart was pure!

No fear of consequences should ever drive us to do a wrong thing.

It is better to suffer any loss, any cost, any sacrifice—than be eaten up by remorse!

Better be hurled down from a high place for doing right, than win worldly honor by doing wrong.

Better lose our right hand, than lose our purity of soul.

Better to rot in prison, than to sin against God!

It was the prayer of a young queen, which she wrote with a diamond point on her castle window, "Keep me pure—make others great." That is the lesson of Joseph's victory over temptation: dishonor, loss, dungeon, death—anything before sin!

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Something to ponder:
J.R. Miller: "Every Christian can preach sermons every day, at home and among neighbors and friends—by the beauty of holiness in his own common life. Wherever a true Christian goes, his life ought to be an inspiration. Our silent influence ought to touch other lives with blessing—shining like holy lamps into sad and weary hearts. Our lives ought to be blessings to human sorrow and need all about us.

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We must hew our Agags to pieces!

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book—a Year's Daily Readings")  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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"Since he had no sword, he ran over and pulled Goliath's sword from its sheath. David used it to kill the giant and cut off his head!" 1 Samuel 17:50-51

If he had not cut off the giant's head—the old Philistine champion would have gotten up by and by, and walked away; for he was only stunned, not killed, by the stone. David made sure work of his victory!

A great many of our attacks upon sin in our own hearts, and in the world—only stun, and do not kill the evil. We walk away, thinking we have done a fine thing. But shortly, we meet the 'old giant' again, stalking abroad as before! He soon recovers from our blow, and we have to fight the battle over; and perhaps we fight it again in the same half-hearted way—and thus on and on, to the end of our life!

Most of us have had just such experience as this with our own evil lusts and passions. We overcome them very often and think each time that we are through with them, but soon again they are as active as ever.

We need to learn a lesson from David and finish our victories by cutting off the head of every giant we strike down!

There is no other way of killing sins!

The life is in the head, and the head must be struck off—or the enemy will be facing us again in a day or two, with but a scar on his forehead!

The only way to get a real victory over vices is to decapitate them! Bruises and wounds are not enough. There must be thorough work done, in the name of the Lord. Half-way measures will not avail.

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5

"Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord." 1 Samuel 15:33

Like Samuel, we must hew our Agags to pieces!

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Something to ponder:
J.C. Ryle: "Experience supplies painful proof that TRADITIONS once called into being are first called useful. Then they become necessary. At last they are too often made idols, and all must bow down to them or be punished."

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The Lesson of Service

(J. R. Miller, 1905)  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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"He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him." John 13:4-5

is not an easy lesson to learn. But it is a lesson we must learn, if ever we would become like our Master. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. He served to the uttermost, just as He loved to the uttermost. Any service that needed to be done for another, He did as naturally and as simply as He breathed! He loved people, and was interested in them and was ready always to be helpful to them. It never mattered what the service was—whether it was the saving of a soul, the curing of a grievous sickness, or the giving of a cup of water. He did the least service as graciously and as divinely as the greatest!

The washing of feet
was the lowliest service any man could do for another. It was the work of the lowliest slave. Yet Jesus without hesitation, did this service for His own disciples. Thus He taught them that nothing anyone may ever need to have done by another, is unfit for the holiest hands. We begin to be like Christ, only when we begin to love others enough to serve them, regardless of the lowliness of the particular service.

One day a stranger entered an artist's studio in Milan. The artist was busy within. He was working on a painting of the head of Christ and appeared to take no notice of the stranger. At last he broke the silence, looked at the man and asked: "Sir, does it look like Jesus, or not?"

There is no surer test of the genuineness of Christian life, than in this matter of serving others. In serving others, we should inquire, "Are we like Jesus, or not?"

We are too careful of our dignity. When we see the Son of God washing His disciples' feet, we should be ashamed ever to ask whether anything another may need to have done, is too menial for us to do. A king may do the lowliest kindness to the poorest peasant in his realm, and his honor will only be enhanced by it.

"O blessed Jesus, when I see You bending,
 Girt as a servant, at Your servants' feet,
 Love, lowliness, might— in zeal all blending,
 To wash their feet, and make them meet
 To share Your feast—I know not to adore,
 Whether Your humbleness, or glory more!"

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Something to ponder:
William Tiptaft, 1803-1864
If rich men only knew when they died, how . . .
  their relatives would scramble for their money,
  the worms would scramble for their bodies, and
  the devil would scramble for their souls,
they would not be so anxious to save money!"

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The Lord is my Shepherd!

(J.R. Miller "Bethlehem to Olivet" 1905)  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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"The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need!"
Psalm 23:1

The shepherd is a favorite Scriptural picture of the divine love and care. In the Old Testament, the twenty-third Psalm gathers the whole wonderful truth in exquisite lines, which are dear to young and old wherever the Bible is known. Then in the New Testament, when our Lord would give His friends the sweetest revealings of His heart toward them, and tell them what they are to Him, and what He would be to them—He says, "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." John 10:11 

The Hebrew shepherd lives with his sheep. If they are out in the storm—he is with them. If they are exposed to danger—so is he.
Just so, Christ lives with His people. He enters into closest relations with them.

The shepherd knows his sheep. He has a name for each one and calls them all by their names.
Just so, Christ knows each one of His friends, and has intimate personal knowledge of each one. He knows the best in us—and also the worst. He knows our faults, our sins, our wanderings. Yet, knowing us as we are—He loves us still and never wearies of us!

The shepherd is most gentle with his sheep. He does not drive them—but goes before them and leads them. When they need rest on the way—he makes them lie down, and chooses for their resting-place, not the dusty road—but green pastures. He is especially kind to the lambs, gathers them in his arms and carries them in his bosom.
All this is an exquisite picture of the gentleness of our Good Shepherd in His care of His sheep. He is thoughtful toward the weak. He loves the lambs and makes room for them in His bosom. Whatever the need is, there is something in the heart of Christ which meets its craving and supplies its lack! "He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." Isaiah 40:11

The shepherd defends his flock in all danger. Often he had to risk his own safety, even his life, in protecting his sheep.
Just so, the Good Shepherd gives His life—for His sheep!

Christ's sheep are absolutely safe in His keeping. "I give unto them eternal life," He said; "and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" Then at last, He will bring His own all safely home, "and they shall become one flock—with one Shepherd!"

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Something to ponder:
Andrew Bonar: "Ask God for anything, but let Him judge as to the manner, measure, and timing of the giving."

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In that time before all time!

(Charles Spurgeon, 1864)  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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Meditate, dear friends, upon the whole range of God's works in Creation and Providence.

There was a period when God dwelt alone, and creatures were not. In that time before all time, when there was no day but "the Ancient of Days," when matter and created mind were alike unborn, and even space was not—God, the great I AM, was as perfect, glorious, and as blessed as He is now.

There was no sun, and yet Jehovah dwelt in ineffable light.
There was no earth, and yet His throne stood fast and firm.
There were no heavens, and yet His glory was unbounded.

God inhabited eternity in the infinite majesty and happiness of His self-contained greatness. If the Lord, thus abiding in solemn solitude, should choose to create anything—the first thought and idea must come from Him, for there was no other to think or suggest. All things must be of Him in design. With whom can He take counsel? Who shall instruct Him? There existed no other to come into His council-chamber, even if such an assistance could be supposable with the Most High.

In the beginning of His way, before His works of old, eternal wisdom brought forth from its own mind the perfect plan of future creations—and every line and mark therein must clearly have been of the Lord alone.

He ordained the pathway of every planet, and fixed the abode of every star.
He poured forth the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and girt Orion with its bands.
He appointed the bounds of the sea, and settled the course of the winds.
As to the earth, the Lord alone planned its foundations, and stretched His line upon it.

He formed in His own mind, the mold of all His creatures, and found for them a dwelling and a service. He appointed the degree of strength with which He would endow each creature, settled its months of life, its hour of death, its coming and its going.

Divine wisdom mapped this earth—its flowing rivers and foaming seas, the towering mountains, and the laughing valleys. The divine Architect fixed the gates of the morning—and the doors of the shadow of death.

Nothing could have been suggested by any other, for there was no other to suggest. It was in His power to have made a universe very different from this—if He had so pleased. That He has made it what it is, must have been merely because in His wisdom and prudence, He saw fit to do so.

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power—for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being!" Revelation 4:11