Grace Gems for JUNE 2021

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God's jewelry!

(Octavius Winslow LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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

Those bright constellations—Christ created them.
Those burning suns—Christ kindled them.
Those snow wreathed alps, those cloud-capped mountains—Christ raised them.
Those verdant valleys—Christ spread them.
That blushing rose,
  that graceful lily,
  that exquisite fern,
  that curious sea flower tossed upon the shore,
  that wayside violet that screens the dew drop from the sun,
  that winding stream,
  that leafy grove—
Christ formed and penciled them all!

Yes, Christ is the one who . . .
  clad that magnificent landscape with its robe of living green;
  scented the air with its fragrance, and
  hollowed out the depth of that expansive ocean, dimpled with beauty by the gentle breeze—or awesome in its grandeur, when trod by the storm.

Truly, He has made everything beautiful in its time!

Oh! I delight to see the Incarnate God, who died to save—scattering from the opulence of His own boundless resources, all this jewelry; making man's sinful home so rich, so lovely, so attractive!

"The heavens tell of the glory of God.
 The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship.
 Day after day they continue to speak;
 night after night they make Him known.
 They speak without a sound or a word;
 their voice is silent in the skies;
 yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
 and their words to all the world." Psalm 19:1-4

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Something to ponder:
Octavius Winslow: "To the Christian pilgrim, death is but the exchange of his lowly abode on earth for the many mansioned home of his Father in Heaven!"

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I had fallen into the company of a raving madman or of some driveling idiot!

(Thomas Guthrie, 1803-1873)  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."
Psalm 19:1-4

The existence of God can be clearly seen in nature. I do not need to open the Bible to learn that. It is enough that I open my eyes and turn them on that great book of nature, where it stands legibly written, distinctly revealed in every page.

That word may be read in the stars and on the face of the sun. It is . . .
  painted on every flower,
  traced on every leaf,
  engraved on every rock,
  whispered by the winds,
  sounded forth by the billows of the ocean, and
  may be heard by the dullest ear in the long rolling thunder.

I believe in the existence of a God, but not in the existence of an atheist; or that any man is so, who can be considered to be in his sound and sober senses.

What would we think of one who attempted to account for any other works of beauty and evident design—as the atheist professes to do for the works of God?
Here is a classic temple;
here stands a statue, designed with such taste and executed with such skill, that one almost expects the marble to leap from its pedestal;
here hangs a painting of some dead beloved one, so life-like as to move our tears;
here, in the Iliad, or Paradise Lost, is a noble poem full of the grandest thoughts, and clothed in sublimest imagery;
here is a piece of most delicate, intricate, and ingenious mechanism.

Well, let a man seriously tell me that these were the work of chance.
Let him tell me, when I ask who made them, that nobody made them.
Let him tell me, that the arrangement of the letters in this poem, of the colors in that picture, and of the features in the statue—was a matter of mere chance!

How I would stare in astonishment at him and conclude without a moment's hesitation, that I had fallen into the company of a raving madman or of some driveling idiot!

Turning away from such atheistic ravings about the infinitely more glorious works of God; with what delight does reason listen, and with what readiness does she assent, and with what distinct and hearty voice does she echo the closing words of the Seraphim's hymn, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." Isaiah 6:3

The stupendous fabric of creation, yon starry vault, this magnificent world, were the work of the hands by which, in love of you—Jesus hung, a mangled form, on the cross of Calvary!

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

(Christopher Sturm, "Reflections", 1750-1786)  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Something to ponder:
John Newton: "A daily portion of both comforts and crosses, each one the most suitable to our case—is adjusted and appointed by the hand which was once nailed to the cross for us!"

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The varied and rich profusion with which God had clothed His world!

(Thomas Guthrie, 1803-1873) LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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

As we looked down on the pleasant scene, we were astonished at the varied and rich profusion with which God had clothed His world.

Nature, like Joseph, was dressed in a coat of many colors—gray, black and yellow lichens clad the rock.

The glossy ivy, like an ambitious child, had planted its foot on the crag, and, hanging on by a thousand arms, had climbed to its stormy summit.

Mosses, of hues surpassing all the colors of the loom, spread an elastic carpet around the gushing fountain.

The wild thyme lent a bed to the weary, and its perfume to the air.

Heaths opened their blushing bosoms to the bee.

The primrose, modesty shrinking from observation, looked out from its leafy shade.

At the foot of the weathered stone, the fern raised its plumes, and on its summit the foxglove rang his beautiful bells; while the birch bent to kiss the stream, as it ran away laughing to hide itself in the lake below, or stretched out her arms to embrace the mountain ash and evergreen pine.

By a very slight exercise of imagination, in such a scene one could see Nature engaged in her adorations, and hear her singing, "The earth is full of the glory of God! How manifold are Your works, O Lord God Almighty! In wisdom You have made them all."

Insects—as well as angels,
the flowers that spangle the meadow—as well as the stars that spangle the sky,
the lamp of the glowworm—as well as the light of the sun,
the lark that sings in the air—and the seraph that is singing in Heaven,
the thunders that rend the clouds—or the trumpet that shall rend the tomb
—these and all things else, reveal God's attributes and proclaim His praise!

"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!" Psalm 150:6

Psalm 148 . . . Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you shining stars. Praise Him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created. He set them in place for ever and ever; He gave a decree that will never pass away. Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds . . . Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His splendor is above the earth and the heavens. . . Praise the LORD.

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Something to ponder:
Mary Winslow: "We are not to be like the world around us—but are to see God in every thing and in every act, and walk humbly and closely with Him. "

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Why did God create the world?

(Charles Spurgeon, "Divine Destruction and Protection")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

Can your minds fly back to the time when there was no time—to the day when there was no day, but the Ancient of Days?

Can you speed back to that period when God dwelt alone—when this round world and all the things that are upon it, had not come from His hand; when the sun flamed not in his strength, and the stars flashed not in their brightness?

Can you go back to the period when there were no angels, when cherubim and seraphim had not been born; and, if there be creatures older than they, when none of them had as yet been formed?

Is it possible, I say, for you to fly so far back as to contemplate God alone—no creature, no breath of song, no motion of wing; God Himself alone, without another?

Then, indeed, He had no rival—none then could contest with him, for none existed.
All power, and glory, and honor and majesty were gathered up into Himself.

And we have no reason to believe that He was less glorious than He is now, when His servants delight to do His pleasure; nor less great than now, when He has crested worlds on worlds, and thrown them into space, scattering over the sky, stars with both His hands.

He sat on no precarious throne.
He needed none to add to His power.
He needed none to bring Him a revenue of praise.
His all-sufficiency could have no lack.

Consider next, if you can, the eternal purpose of God that He would CREATE:
He determines it in His mind.
Could any but a divine motive actuate the Divine Architect?
What must that motive have been?
He creates that He may display His own perfections.
He does beget, as it were, creatures after His own image that He may live in them; that He may manifest to others the joy, the pleasure, the satisfaction, which He so intensely feels in Himself.

I am certain His own glory must have been the end He had in view! He would reveal His glory to the sons of men, to angels, and to such creatures as He had formed—in order that they might reflect His honor and sing His praise.

"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

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Something to ponder:
Jeff Pollard: "God is in absolute control over all the dizzying heights and depths of medical, scientific, and govermental tyranny that is spreading, deceiving, and destroying our sin-sick world." "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!" Revelation 19:6

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The cause of all crime, and the seed of every evil!

(Charles Spurgeon LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

Could we roll all sins into one mass—could we take murder, blasphemy, lust, theft, immorality, and everything that is vile, and unite them all into one vast ball of horrid corruption—they would not even then equal the sin of unbelief!

Unbelief is . . .
  the king sin,
  the quintessence of guilt,
  the mixture of the venom of all crimes,
  the dregs of the wine of Gomorrah,
  the root sin,
  the masterpiece of Satan,
  the chief work of the devil.

Unbelief developed into deicide—and murdered the Lord Jesus Christ!

Unbelief! it has mixed many a cup of poison. It has brought thousands to the gallows, and many to a shameful grave. Many have murdered themselves, and rushed with bloody hands before their Creator's tribunal, because of unbelief.

Give me an unbeliever—let me know that he doubts God's Word—let me know that he distrusts His promises and His threatenings; and with that for a premise, I will conclude that the man shall, by-and-by, unless there is amazing restraining power exerted upon him—be guilty of the foulest and vilest crimes!

Unbelief is a Beelzebub sin; like Beelzebub, it is the leader of all evil spirits. It is said of Jeroboam that he sinned, and made Israel to sin; and it may be said of unbelief, that it not only itself sins, but it makes others sin.

Unbelief is the cause of all crime, and the seed of every evil! In fact, everything that is evil and vile lies couched in that one word—unbelief!

"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." Hebrews 3:12

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Something to ponder:
Charles Spurgeon:
"As we grow older, it is wise to concentrate our energies more and more upon the one and only thing worth living for—the glory of God!"


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Holy shuddering!

(Charles Spurgeon LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

"Horror grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken Your law!" Psalm 119:53

My soul, do you feel this holy shuddering at the sins of others? If not, you lack inward holiness. David's cheeks were wet with rivers of waters, because of prevailing unholiness. Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains, that he might lament the iniquities of Israel. Lot, a righteous man, was distressed because of all the immorality and wickedness around him. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel's vision, were those who sighed and cried because of the abominations of Jerusalem.

It cannot but grieve gracious souls, to see what pains men take to go to Hell. They know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze!

Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates God's holy law, which is to every man's highest interest to keep. Sin pulls down the pillars of the society!

Sin in others horrifies a believer, because it puts him in mind of the vileness of his own heart. When he sees a heinous sinner, he cries, "He fell today—and, but for God's grace, I may fall tomorrow!"

Sin is horrible to a believer, because it crucified his Savior! He sees in every iniquity—the nails and the spear! How can a saved soul behold that cursed Christ-killing sin, without abhorrence?

Say, my heart—do you sensibly join in all this?
It is an awful thing to insult God to His face.
The good God deserves better treatment;
the great God claims it;
the just God will have it, or repay His adversary to his face!

An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is sin! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly!

My soul, never laugh at sin's fooleries—lest you come to smile at sin itself! Sin is your Lord's enemy, and your enemy—view it with detestation, for only so can you evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.

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Something to ponder:
Conrad Murrell: "To have all the so-called pleasures that this mad world scrambles for, and yet be under the wrath of God—is the most miserable state possible for the creature. To have none of this world's goods or none of its favor, and yet have the favor and peace of God—is a joy priceless beyond measure!" "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ!" Philippians 3:8


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The malady—the misery—the shame of our whole race!

(Henry Law,  "The Sin Offering")  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!

"He must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed."
Leviticus 4:3


The sound is brief, but it presents a dark abyss of thought.
No mind can trace its birth, no eye can see its death.
Before the worlds, it scaled the heavens and dragged angels down.
In life's first dawn, it entered Eden and slew innocence.
It ends not with the end of time.
It ever rolls on in its ever-deepening course.

Reader, think much of sin!

It is earth's death-blow.
It marred the beauty of a beauteous world, and stripped it of its lovely robe.
It caused the soil to harden, and the leaves to wither and decay.
It turned fertility into weeds, and armed the brier with its bristling thorns.
It made the clouds to blacken, and the storm to rage.
It raised the tempest's roar, and plumed the lightning with its forked wings.
It placed its foot upon a perfect workmanship, and left it a disordered wreck!

Reader, think much of sin!

It is man's ruin.
Its most tremendous blight fell on our inner life.
It drove the soul from peaceful fellowship with God.
It changed the loving child into a hardened rebel.
It robbed the mind of light.
It rendered reason a bewildered maze.
It made the heart . . .
  a nest of unclean birds;
  a spring of impure streams;
  a whirlpool of tumultuous passions;
  a hot-bed of ungodly lusts;
  a den of God-defying schemes!

It is the malady—the misery—the shame of our whole race!

It is the spring of every tear!
Each sigh which rends the bosom;
each frown which ploughs the brow;
each pain which racks the limbs, are cradled in its arms.

It is the mother of that mighty monster
It digs each grave in every grave-yard.
Each widow and each orphan tastes its gall.
It fills each hospital with the sick.
It strews the battlefield with the slain.
It is the core in every grief.
It is the worm which gnaws the root of peace.

Reader, think much of sin!

Its terrible destructions do not die in the grave.
There is a region where its full-blown torments reign.
It built the prison-house of Hell.
It kindled quenchless flames.
It forged the chains which bind lost sinners to their burning beds.
It sharpened the undying sting of an upbraiding conscience.
It arms the jailer—Satan, with his scourge.
It bars the hopeless in that outer darkness, where . . .
  weeping ever weeps,
  and wailing ever wails,
  and teeth forever gnash,
  and all is woe, which knows neither respite nor end.

Reader, think much of sin!

It works this bitter and eternal anguish, because God's curse attends it.
It raised a rebel-hand against His will.
It dared to violate His holy law.
It strove to lay His honor in the dust.
It trampled on the statute-book of heaven.
Therefore God's anger fiercely burns against it.
Hence every misery follows in its succession.
He must be wretched, who has God against him!

Reader, here is a picture in which all horrors meet!
Regard it with an earnest eye.
No fiction colors it.
No power can over-paint the terrible reality.
No artist's skill can represent a flame.
The dreadful truth exceeds description.
The lost writhe out eternity in fully learning the deserts of sin!

Reader, receive the soul-reviving voice:
Though sin is death, the sinner need not die.
There is a fortress of escape.
There is a remedy to heal these wounds.
What though your sins are as countless as the sands? They all may disappear.
What though the dye of each sin is double crimson? Each may be washed away.
The filth may all be cleansed.
The debts may be wiped out.
The soul may meet Jehovah's eye without one stain.
There is a way, by which the vilest may stand pure.
God's love decreed a plan.
He willed a ransom, and His Son achieved it.

Let us draw nearer to the amazing sight!

Each sin must bear its merited load of woe.
Each curse must be endured.
Each violation of the holy law must drink the dregs of condemnation.

Jesus comes forth to help!
The guiltless One takes the guilty place.
The God-man represents His chosen flock.
He stands as their complete sin-offering.
He pays in anguish and in blood, their every due.
Their wrath is endured.
Their penalties are paid.
Their sufferings are suffered.
Their agonies are agonized.
The saving work requires infinity of woe. Infinity of woe is borne by Him.
His Deity enables—His manhood qualifies.
Thus their sin is fully punished—thus the redeemed are fully saved!

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The refuge in sorrow

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

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

'Where to go in sorrow' is one of life's great questions. For there are none to whom sorrow does not come at some time. The Master, whose footprints are on all life's paths, shows us the way to the refuge in the time of trouble. He found it in prayer. "Being in agony, He prayed."

We may listen at the gate of the Garden of Gethsemane, and learn how our Master prayed. He was facing a great sorrow and He pleaded with His Father, that it might not come to Him. We have a right, therefore, to ask in prayer that the trouble which seems imminent may pass, or that we may be relieved of the bitter anguish we are enduring. God will never blame us for such pleading.

There was another element, however, in our Lord's praying. In His most intense pleading for the passing of His sorrow, He still referred all to His Father. "Nevertheless, not as I will—but as You will."

There is no true prayer, which is not modeled after this pattern. We do not know what is best. We do not know what is in the sorrow for us, for others, or for the divine glory; nor what would be lost if we failed to endure it. We must leave all with our Father, saying, "Nevertheless, not as I will—but as You will."

Then the Master found the comfort which He sought. His prayer was answered. The cup of suffering did not pass. The bitterness was not lessened in the smallest degree. So far as we know, not a single cruel element in the terrible experience was eliminated or even mitigated, because of the prayer in the Garden.

The answer came in another way. The Holy Sufferer was strengthened to accept the sorrow and endure it! And was not that an answer? Was it not a better answer, than if the dreadful anguish had been diminished? The pleading grew less intense as He went back again and again into the depths of the Garden, and at the end—the struggle was over, victory had been won, and He was at peace!

Prayer is always answered. It is answered either directly in the giving to us of what we ask; or in ourselves, in enabling us to accept the will of God and rejoice. We shall never seek this refuge of prayer in vain. We shall always find comfort there, and peace—and always God will meet us to strengthen us!

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Something to ponder:
John Calvin, "The human heart is a factory of idols. Everyone of us is, from his mother's womb, expert in inventing idols!"

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Our invisible building

(J.R. Miller, "Unfinished Life-building")  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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

"This fellow began to build, and was not able to finish!" Luke 14:30

We are all builders. We may not erect any house or temple on a city street for human eyes to see, but every one of us builds an edifice which God sees!

Life is a building. It rises slowly, day by day, through the years. Every new lesson we learn, lays another block on the edifice which is rising silently within us.
Every experience,
every touch of another life on ours,
every influence that impresses us,
every book we read,
every conversation we have,
every act in our commonest days—
adds something to our invisible building.
All of life furnishes the materials which add to our life-wall.

Many people build noble character structures in this world. But there are also many who build only base, shabby huts, without beauty—which will be swept away in the testing fires of judgment!

There are many, too, whose life-work presents the sorry spectacle of an unfinished building. There was a beautiful plan to begin with, and the work was promising for a little time, but after a while it was abandoned and left standing, with walls halfway up—a useless fragment, open and exposed, an incomplete inglorious ruin, telling no story of past splendor, as do the ruins of some old castle or coliseum—a monument only of folly and failure!

Sin in some form draws many a builder away from his work, to leave it unfinished.
It may be the world's fascinations, which lure him from Christ's side.
It may be evil companions, which tempt him from loyal friendship to the Savior.
It may be riches, which enter his heart and blind his eyes to the attractions of Heaven.
It may be some secret debasing lust, which gains power over him and paralyzes his spiritual life.

Many are those now amid the world's throngs, who once sat at the Lord's Table and were among God's people! Their lives are unfinished buildings—towers begun with great enthusiasm, and then left to tell their sad story of failure to all who pass by. They began to build, and were not able to finish.

It is sad to think how much of this unfinished work, God sees as He looks down upon our earth. Think of the good beginnings which never came to anything in the end. Think of the excellent resolutions which are never carried out. Think of the noble life-plans entered upon by so many young people with ardent enthusiasm, but soon given up. Think of the beautiful visions and high hopes which might have been splendid realities—but which have faded out, with not even one earnest attempt to work them into life!

In all aspects of life, we see these abandoned buildings. Many homes present the spectacle of abandoned dreams of love. For a time, the beautiful vision shone, and two hearts tried to make it come true—but they gave their dream up in despair, either enduring in misery, or going their own sad and separate ways.

So life everywhere is full of beginnings, which are never carried on to completion.

There is  . . .
  not a soul-wreck on the streets,
  not a prisoner serving out a sentence behind prison bars,
  not a debased, fallen person anywhere—
in whose soul, there were not once visions of beauty, high hopes, holy thoughts and purposes, and high resolves of an ideal of something lovely and noble. But alas! the visions, the hopes, the purposes, the resolves—never grew into more than beginnings. God bends down and sees a great wilderness of unfinished buildings, bright possibilities unfulfilled, noble might-have-beens abandoned; ghastly ruins now, sad memorials only of failure!

The lesson from all this, is that we should . . .
  finish our work,
  allow nothing to draw us away from our duty,
  never become weary in following Christ,
  persevere from the beginning of our ideals, steadfast unto the end.

We should not falter under any burden, in the face of any danger, before any demand of cost or sacrifice.

No discouragement,
no sorrow,
no worldly attraction,
no hardship—
should weaken for one moment our determination to be faithful unto death! No one who has begun to build for Christ—should leave an unfinished, abandoned life-work, to his own eternal grief!

"This fellow began to build, and was not able to finish!" Luke 14:30

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Something to ponder:
John Calvin, "God made world that it might be a theater of His divine glory!"
"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

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Afflictions, when sanctified

(J.R. Miller, "Weekday Religion" 1880)  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word." Psalm 119:67

"It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I could learn Your statutes." Psalm 119:71

By affliction, the Master Artist is adding some new touch of loveliness to the picture He is bringing out in our souls.

Afflictions, when sanctified . . .
  temper worldly ambitions,
  burn out the dross of selfishness,
  humble pride,
  quell fierce passions,
  reveal the evil in our hearts,
  manifest our weaknesses, faults and blemishes,
  teach patience and submission,
  discipline unruly spirits,
  deepen and enrich our graces.

Afflictions, when sanctified, plough the hard soil and cut long and deep furrows in the heart. The heavenly Sower follows, and fruits of righteousness spring up.

"No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11

Affliction is a messenger of God, sent to minister to us in the best of ways!

When under God's chastening hand, we should ask,
What would God have this sorrow do for me?
What is its mission?
What its great design?
What golden fruit lies hidden in its husk?

How shall it . . .
  strengthen my virtue,
  nerve my courage,
  chasten my passions,
  purify my love, and
  make me like Him who . . .
    bore the cross of sorrow while He lived,
    and hung and bled upon it when He died,
    and now wears the victor's crown in glory!

I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me!" Psalm 119:75

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Something to ponder:
John Calvin, "Our physical illnesses serve us for medicines to purge us from our vanity, and from the love of the world."

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The art of living a Christian life

(J.R. Miller, "How to Live a Beautiful Christian Life" 1880)

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"Whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

We have only successfully acquired the art of living a Christian life, when we have learned to apply the principles of true religion and enjoy its help and comfort in our daily life.

It is easy to join in devotional exercises, to quote Bible promises, to extol the beauty of the Scriptures. But there are many who do these things—whose religion utterly fails them in the very places and at the very times, when it ought to prove their staff and stay!

All of us must go out from the sweet services of the Sunday, into a week of very real and very commonplace life. We must mingle with people who are not angels! We must pass through experiences, that will naturally worry and vex us. Those about us, either wittingly or unwittingly, annoy and try us! We will meet many troubles and worries in ordinary week-day life—there are continual irritations and annoyances!

The problem is to live a beautiful Christian life, in the face of all these hindrances! How can we get through the tangled briers which grow along our path, without having our hands and feet torn by them? How can we live sweetly—amid the vexing and irritating things, and the multitude of little worries and frets which infest our way, and which we cannot evade?

It is not enough merely to 'get along in any sort of way', to drag to the close of each long, wearisome day—happy when night comes to end the strife. Life should be a joy, and not a burden. We should live victoriously, ever master of our experiences, and not tossed by them like a leaf on the dashing waves. Every earnest Christian wants to live a truly beautiful life, whatever the circumstances may be.

A little child, when asked 'what it was to be a Christian,' replied: "For me, to be a Christian is to live as Jesus would live, and behave as Jesus would behave—if He were a little girl and lived at our house."

No better definition of the Christian life could be given. Each one of us is to live just as Jesus would—if He were living out our little life in the midst of its actual environment, mingling with the same people with whom we must mingle, and exposed to the very annoyances, trials and provocations to which we are exposed. We want to live a life that will please God, and that will bear witness to the genuineness of our piety.

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

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
J.R. Miller, "Life is not measured by the number of its years—but by the completeness of its devotion to the will of God."

  ~ ~ ~ ~


One cannot have an omelet without breaking eggs!

(J.R. Miller, "Choosing to Do Hard Things" 1902)  LISTEN to audio! Download audio

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The goal of noble living is to gather new virtue and grace from all life's struggles, cares and sorrows.

A mark of a all noble character is its desire to do hard things!

The man who seeks only easy things will never make much of his life.

One who is afraid of hard work will never achieve anything worth while.

In an art gallery, before a lovely masterpiece, a young artist said to Ruskin, "Ah! If only I could put such a dream on canvas!" "Dream on canvas!" growled the old master. "It will take ten thousand touches of the brush on the canvas, to put your dream there!"

No doubt, many beautiful dreams die in the brains and hearts of people, for lack of effort to make them realities.

In all departments of life this indolent, easy-going way of getting on in life is working its mischief. People do only what is easy, and never grapple with anything that is hard.

Indolence is the bane of countless lives! They do not rise, because they have not the courage and persistence to climb!

There are too many people who try to shirk the hard things. They want to get along as easily as possible. They have ambition of a certain sort—but it is ambition to have the 'victory' without the battle; to 'get the gold' without digging for it. They would like to be learned and wise—but they do not care to toil in study, and "burn the midnight oil," as they must do if they would realize their desire. They may have a certain longing to be noble and Christlike, with a character that will command respect and confidence—but they have not the spirit of self-denial and of earnest moral purpose, which alone can produce such a character.

They may want to be godly and to grow into worthy manhood—but lack that passionate earnestness which alone will yield vigorous piety, and manly virtue, and the heroic qualities of true Christlikeness. Mere "holy dreaming" will yield nothing better than spiritual effeminacy! No religion is worthy which does not seek to attain the best things; and the best can be won only by the bravest struggle and the most persistent striving!

We should not forget that no one ever did anything of great value in this world—without cost. A quaint old proverb says, "One cannot have an omelet without breaking eggs!" If we would do anything really worth while, that will be a blessing in the world—we must put into it, not merely . . .
  easy efforts,
  languid sympathies,
  conventional good wishes, and
  courtesies that cost nothing!

We must put into it . . .
  sleepless nights,
  exhausting toil.

There is a legend of an artist who had found the secret of a wonderful 'red' which no other artist could imitate. The secret of his 'color' died with him. But after his death an old wound was discovered over his heart. This revealed the source of the matchless hue in his pictures. The lesson of the legend is . . .
  no great achievement can be made,
  no lofty attainment can be reached,
  nothing of much value to the world can be done
—except at the cost of heart's blood!

"I labor, struggling with all His energy which so powerfully works in me!" Colossians 1:29

    ~  ~  ~  ~


Teach me how to pray, mother!

(J.R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Lord, teach us to pray!" Luke 11:1

A little child missed her mother at a certain time every day. The mother's habit was to slip away upstairs alone, and to be gone for some time. The child noticed that the mother was always gentler, quieter and sweeter after she came back. Her face had lost its weary look, and was shining! Her voice was gladder, more cheerful.

"Where do you go, mother," the child said thoughtfully, "when you leave us every day?"

"I go upstairs to my room," said the mother.

"Why do you go to your room?" continued the little questioner. "You always come back with your face shining. What makes it shine so?"

"I go to pray," replied the mother reverently.

The child was silent for a little while, and then she said softly: "Teach me how to pray, mother!"

"When you pray, say: Our Father . . ." Luke 11:2. That one word is the key to the whole mystery of prayer. When Jesus taught his disciples to speak to God, calling Him by that blessed name—He gave them the greatest of all lessons in prayer. When we can look into God's face and honestly say Father, it is easy to pray. God loves to be called Father. It opens His heart to hear all that we say, and to grant all that we ask.

Such power has the word father spoken by a child, to open a human heart. Such power too, has the name Father to find and open the heart of God! If we can sincerely say Father when we come to the 'gate of prayer', we shall be sure to find entrance. If God is really our Father, we will no longer have any question as to whether we may pray to Him, or as to how to pray.

Some of us find life hard. It is full of cares and questions, of tasks and duties, of temptations and dangers. There are thorns and briers among its roses. There are pitfalls in its sunniest paths. If we do not know how to pray, we can never get through the days. The privilege of prayer is always ours. The gate of prayer is always open! Any moment we can look up and say Father, lay our need before the throne of mercy—and God will answer us as He desires!

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
Ralph Venning, "Man has become so sottish and brutish, that he looks for happiness in the creature—and not in the Creator. Man is fond of toys and trifles, and seeks contentment where there is nothing but vexation. The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life is the trinity that he worships!"

  ~ ~ ~ ~


A poor shoemaker in his dreary little shop

(J.R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16

"For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die!" 1 Corinthians 15:53

The lesson of the imperishable life, has a special application to those who suffer from sickness or from any bodily affliction. It will help us to endure physical sufferings quietly and unmurmuringly, if we will remember that it is only the outward man that can be touched and affected by these experiences, and that the inward man may not only be kept unharmed, but may be growing all the while in beauty and strength, being spiritually renewed through pain and suffering.

A poor shoemaker in his dreary little shop in a great city, one day noticed that there was one little place in his dark room, from which he could get a view of green fields, blue skies and faraway hills. He wisely set up his bench at that point, so that at any moment he could lift his eyes from his dull work—and have a glimpse of the great, beautiful world outside.

Just so, from the darkest sick-room, and from the midst of the keenest sufferings, there is always a point from which we can see the face of Christ and have a glimpse of the glory of Heaven. If only we will find this place and get this vision, it will make it easy to endure even the greatest suffering.

"For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down—when we die and leave these bodies—we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing." 2 Corinthians 5:1-2

Sickness is discouraging and is hard to bear. But we should remember that the doing of the will of God is always the noblest, holiest thing we can do any hour—however hard it may be for us. If we are called to suffer, let us suffer patiently and sweetly. Under all our sharp trials, let us keep the peace of God in our hearts. The outward man may indeed decay, but the inward man will be renewed day by day.

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
Jared Waterbury: "We can only view sin's turpitude in the blood-stained cross!"

  ~ ~ ~ ~


Our conception of Christian life

(J.R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 2:5

Paul tells us that we ought to have . . .
  the same spirit as Jesus,
  the same temper and disposition as Jesus,
  and the same principles as Jesus.

The life of Christ must be the pattern of our lives.

We can learn what were the qualities of Christ's life by a study of the Gospels. These precious books not only tell us about Christ, of the facts of His life, the works He did, the words He spoke; they also show us . . .
  His sympathy,
  His kindness,
  His helpfulness,
  how He lived,
  how He interacted with people,
  how He bore enmity, unkindness and persecution.

Perhaps we do not think enough of Christ's beauty of character and disposition in forming our conception of Christian life. It is one thing to profess to be a Christian; and another thing to grow into the loveliness of Christ. One may be altogether sincere in confessing Christ—and yet be full of faults, only a beginner, having everything of Christian duty yet to learn; and all the beautiful qualities of Christian character yet to acquire.

"Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

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

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
James Smith:
Our misery can never exceed God's mercy!
"Your mercy is great above the heavens!" Psalm 108:4

  ~ ~ ~ ~


He had to 'learn the lesson' just as we do!

(J.R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"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

Life is a 'school'. All its experiences are 'lessons'.

We are all in 'Christ's school'—and He is always 'educating' us.

Disciples are 'learners' and all true Christians are disciples.
We enter the lowest grade when we begin to be Christians.
We have everything to learn.
Each new experience, is a new lesson set for us by the great Teacher.

The business of noble Christian living, is learning. We know nothing when we begin. Learning is not confined to what we get from reading books. All of life is a school. 'Christ's books' are ever being put into our hands, and 'lessons' are set for us continually.

Paul tells us of one of the lessons he had learned in the 'school of experience'. "I have learned," he said, "the secret of being content in any and every situation." We are glad to know that Paul had to learn to be contented. We are apt to think that such a man as he was, did not have to learn to live as we common people do; that he always knew, for instance, how to be contented. Here, however, we have the confession that he had to 'learn the lesson' just as we do. He did not always know 'the secret of contentment'. He was well on in years when he said this, from which we conclude that it took him a long time to learn the lesson—and that it was not easy for him to do it. Christ's school is not easy.

Sorrow is a choice lesson in Christ's school. Sorrow is not an accident breaking into our life, without meaning or purpose. God could prevent the coming of the sorrow, if He so desired. He has all power, and nothing can touch the life of any of His children—unless He is willing. Since we know that God loves us and yet permits us to suffer—we may be quite sure that there is a blessing, something good, in whatever it is that brings us pain or sorrow.

We shrink from pain. We would run away from afflictions. We would refuse to accept sorrow. But there are things worth suffering for—things dearer than ease and pleasure. We learn lessons in pain, which repay a thousand times the cost of our tears!

The Bible tells us that God preserves the tears of His children, putting them in His tear-bottle. Tears are sacred to God, because of the blessings that come through them, to His children. In Heaven, we will look back on our lives of pain and sorrow on the earth, and will find that our best lessons have come through our tears!

All the Christian graces have to be learned in 'Christ's school'. There Paul had learned contentment. He never would have learned it, however, if he had had only pleasure and ease all his life. Contentment comes from learning to do without things, which we once supposed to be essential to our comfort. Paul had learned contentment through finding such fullness of blessing in Christ—that he did not need the 'secondary things' any more.

Perhaps we would succeed better in learning this same grace—if we had fewer of life's comforts, if sometimes we had experience of need. The continuity of blessings that flow like a river into our lives, gives us no opportunity to learn contentment.

When sufferings come into our life . . .
  disagreeable things, instead of pleasant things;
  hunger and poverty, instead of plenty;
  rough ways, instead of flower-strewn paths;
God is teaching us the 'lesson of contentment', so that we can say at length, that we have learned the secret of being content!

  ~ ~ ~ ~


Tangles which our fingers cannot unravel

(J.R. Miller, "For a Busy Day" 1895)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Show me the way I should walk, for I have come to you in prayer." Psalm 143:8

We cannot know the way ourselves. The path across one little day seems very short, but none of us can find it ourselves. Each day is a hidden world to our eyes as we enter it in the morning. We cannot see one step before us, as we go forth. An impenetrable veil covers the brightest day, as with night's black robes. It may have joys and prosperities for us, or it may bring to us sorrows and adversities. Our path may lead us into a garden, or the garden may be a Gethsemane. We have our plans as we go out in the morning, but we are not sure that they will be realized. The day will bring duties, responsibilities, temptations, perils, tangles which our fingers cannot unravel, intricate or obscure paths in which we cannot find the way.

What could be more fitting in the morning than the prayer, "Show me the way I should walk!" God knows all that is in the day for us. His eye sees to its close, and He can be our guide.

There is no promise given more repeatedly in the Bible, than that of divine guidance. We have it in the shepherd psalm, "He leads me in the paths of righteousness." Paths of righteousness are right paths. All God's paths are clean and holy. They are the ways of His commandments.

But there is another sense in which they are right paths. They are the right ways—the best ways for us. Ofttimes they are not the ways which we would have chosen. They do not seem to be good ways. But nevertheless they are right, and lead to blessing and honor. We are always safe, therefore, in praying this prayer on the morning of any day, "Show me the way I should walk!"

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
To doubt the genuineness of our faith because we have not full assurance, is not wise. He . . .
  to whom Christ is precious,
  to whom the Word of God is sweeter than honey,
  to whom sin is odious,
  to whom secret devotion is a delight,
  who makes it the aim of his life to honor his Master,
  and who regards the world as a broken idol—
has the witness that he is passed from death unto life!
William Plumer

  ~ ~ ~ ~


Then the worm became a splendid butterfly!

(J.R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your hearts on things above!
 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2

Paul reminds us that those who believe on Christ, should live a risen life.

We live on the earth at present. We walk on earth's streets. We live in material houses, built of stones, bricks, or wood. We eat earth's fruits, gathering our food from earth's fields, orchards and gardens. We wear clothes woven of earthly fabrics. We adorn our homes with works of art that human hands make. We engage in the business of earth. We find our happiness in the things of this life.

But there will be a life after this! We call it Heaven. We cannot see it; there is never a rift in the sky, through which we can get even a glimpse of it. We have in the Scriptures hints of its beauty, its happiness, its blessedness. We know it is a world without sorrow, without sin, without death. Paul's teaching is that the Christian, while living on the earth, ought to begin to live this heavenly life.

One day a friend sent me a splendid butterfly, artistically mounted, known as the Luna Moth. This little creature is said to be the most beautiful of North American insects. Its color is light green with variegated spots. In its caterpillar state, it was only a worm. It died and entered its other or higher state, as we would say—and then the worm became a splendid butterfly!

This illustrates the two stages of a Christian's life. Here we are in our earthly state; after this will come the heavenly condition. "The things that are above" belong to this higher, spiritual life. But the Christian is exhorted to seek these higher things, while living in this lower world. We belong to Heaven, although we are not yet living in Heaven.

Paul presents the same truth in another form, when he says, "Our citizenship is in Heaven." Though we are in this earthly world, we do not belong here. We are only strangers and pilgrims.

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Hebrews 11:13

"Dear friends, I urge you, as strangers and pilgrims in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." 1 Peter 2:11  

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:

Thomas Watson, "If a wicked man seems to have peace at death, it is not from the knowledge of his happiness, but from the ignorance of his danger."

  ~ ~ ~ ~


The process was not easy!

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

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"Jesus looked at him and said: You are Simon, son of John.
You will be called Cephas (which means 'Rock')." John 1:42

"You are Simon." That was his name then.
"You will be called Cephas." That was what he would become.

This did not mean that Simon's character was changed instantly into the quality which the new name indicated. It meant that this would be his character by and by—when the work of grace in him was finished. The new name was a prophecy of what he was to become—the man that Jesus would make of him. Now he was only Simon—rash, impulsive, self-confident, vain—and therefore weak and unstable.

The process was not easy!

Simon had many hard lessons to learn!

had to be changed into humility.

Impetuosity had to be disciplined into quiet self-control.

Presumption had to be awed and softened into reverence.

Heedlessness had to grow into thoughtfulness.

Rashness had to be subdued into prudence.

Weakness had to be tempered into calm strength.

Thus lesson after lesson did Simon have to learn, each one leading to a deeper humility.

It took a great deal of severe discipline to make him into the strong, firm man of rock, that Jesus set out to produce in him. The price which he had to pay to attain this nobleness of character and this vastness of holy influence—was not too great.

But how about ourselves? It may be quite as hard for some of us to be made into the image of beauty and strength which the Master has set for us. It may require that we shall pass through experiences of loss, trial, temptation and sorrow.

Life's great lessons are very long, and cannot be learned in a day; nor can they be learned easily. But at whatever cost, they are worth while. It is worth while for the gold to pass through the fire, to be made pure and clean. It is worth while for the gem to endure the hard processes necessary to prepare it for shining in its dazzling splendor. It is worth while for a Christian to submit to whatever severe discipline may be required—to bring out in him the likeness of the Master, and to fit him for noble living and serving.

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
Thomas Brooks, "Riches and honors and titles, and all worldly grandeur—won't go with us beyond the grave. Death, as a porter, stands at the gate, and strips men of all their worldly wealth and glory!"

    ~  ~  ~  ~


How good I am! What fine things I have done!

(J.R. Miller, "The Beauty of Quietness" 1903)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"They will be like dew sent by the Lord." Micah 5:7

The lives of godly people are sometimes compared to the dew. One point of likeness, is the quiet way in which the dew performs its ministry. It falls silently and imperceptibly. It makes no noise. No one hears it dropping. It chooses its time in the night when men are sleeping, when none can see its beautiful work. It covers the leaves with clusters of pearls. It steals into the bosoms of the flowers, and leaves new cupfuls of sweetness there. It pours itself down among the roots of the grasses and tender herbs and plants. It loses itself altogether, and yet it is not lost. For in the morning there is fresh life everywhere, and new beauty. The fields are greener, the gardens are more fragrant, and all nature is clothed in fresh luxuriance!

Is there not in this simile, a suggestion as to the way we should seek to do good in this world? Should we not wish to have our influence felt—while no one thinks of us; rather than that we should be seen and heard and praised? Should we not be willing to lose ourselves in the service of self-forgetful love, as the dew loses itself in the bosom of the rose—caring only that other lives shall be sweeter, happier, and holier—and not that honor shall come to us? We are too anxious, some of us, that our names shall be written in large letters on the things we do, even on what we do for our Master; and are not willing to sink ourselves out of sight, and let Him alone have the praise.

Our Lord's teaching on the subject is very plain. He says: "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." That is, they have that which they seek—the applause of men.

"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." The meaning would seem to be, that we are not to wish people to know of our good deeds, our charities, our self-denials; that we should not seek publicity, when we give money or do good works; indeed, that we are not even to tell ourselves what we have done; that we are not to think about our own good deeds so as to become conscious of them; not to put them down in our diaries and go about complimenting ourselves, throwing bouquets at ourselves, and whispering: "How good I am! What fine things I have done!"

This is an insightful test of our lives. Are we willing to be as the dew—to steal abroad in the darkness, carrying blessings to men's doors, blessings that shall enrich the lives of others and do them good—and then steal away again before those we have helped or blessed awaken, to know what hand it was that brought the gift? Are we willing to work for others  . . .
  without gratitude,
  without recognition,
  without human praise,
  without requital?

Are we content to have our lives poured out like the dew, to bless the world and make it more fruitful—and yet remain hidden away ourselves? Is it enough for us to see the fruits of our toil and sacrifice in others' spiritual growth, and deeper happiness; yet never hear our names spoken in praise or honor—perhaps even hearing others praised for things we have done?

If you go about doing good in simple ways, in gentle kindnesses, not thinking of reward, not dreaming of praise, not hoping for any return—you are enshrining your name where it will have immortal honor! Our lesson teaches us that this is the way we are to live, if we are followers of Christ!

   ~  ~  ~  ~


Afterwards you will understand

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

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"He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel He had around Him." John 13:4-5

"What I am doing, you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand." John 13:7

At this time Peter did not know why the Messiah he really needed, was a Messiah with basin and towel. He was thinking of a Messiah with throne and crown and scepter and earthly pomp! He did not understand it, until after the blood of Calvary had been shed. Christ referred to these days by "afterwards."

This saying of Christ, however, may be used in a much wider sense. There are a great many things that He does, which at the time we cannot understand; yet in due time, all of them will become clear. As they appear to us, while we are passing through them, they are unfinished acts; when the work is completed, it will appear beautiful. This is especially true of many mysterious providences in our lives.

One time Jacob thought and said, "All these things are against me!" But he lived to see that the very things which he thought were against him, were really all working together for his good.

So it is always, in the providences of God with His own people. "We know that all things work together for good, to those who love God."

The back side of a tapestry appears to be a mystery of tangle and confusion, but there is a beautiful picture on the other side. Just so, we are looking at our lives, largely on the back side. We cannot see the Master's plan, until 'afterwards'.

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Something to ponder:
Thomas Brooks, "Christ is a jewel worth more than a thousand worlds, as all know who have Him. Get Him, and get all! Miss Him and miss all!"

   ~  ~  ~  ~


It is only a heathen lodging-place!

(J.R. Miller, "Our New Edens" LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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Parents are the custodians of their children's lives. If they would meet their responsibility and be able to look God and their children in the face at the judgment, they must make their homes as nearly 'gardens of Eden' as possible.

The way to save your children from the temptations of the streets—is to make your home so bright, so sweet, so beautiful, so happy, so full of love, joy and prayer; that the streets will have no attractiveness for them, no power to win them away. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

The place of the home-life among the influences which mold and shape character, is supreme in its importance. Our children are given to us in tender infancy—to teach them and train them for holy, worthy, beautiful living.

It is not enough to have an opulent house to live in. It is not enough to have fine foods, and luxurious furniture, and expensive entertainments. Most of the world's worthiest men and women, those who have blessed the world the most—were brought up in plain homes, without any luxury.

It is the tone of the home-life, that is important. We should make it pure, elevating, refining, inspiring.
The books we bring in,
the papers and magazines,
the guests we have at our tables and admit to our firesides,
the home conversation,
the pictures we hang on our walls
—all these are educational.

As in everything, LOVE is the great master-secret of home happiness!

The religious influences are also vitally important. In that first 'garden home', the Lord came and went as a familiar friend. Christ must be our guest, if our home is to be a fit place either for our children or for ourselves. If there is no sincere prayer in it, it is not a true home at all—it is only a heathen lodging-place!

How can we make 'new Edens' of our homes? What are some of the secrets of home happiness? I might gather them all into one word and say, CHRIST! If we have Christ as our guest, our home will be happy! He must be welcomed into all our life. He must be in each heart. He must sit at our tables and mingle with us in all our family interaction. Christ can bless our home, only through the lives of those who make the home circle.

Make your home so sweet, so heavenly, with love and prayer and song and holy living—that all through it, there shall be the fragrance of the heart of Christ!

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Something to ponder:
Thomas Brooks, "Strong faith will yield us a Heaven here on earth; but any faith, if true, will yield us Heaven hereafter."

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The supreme thing in Christian life!

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

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

"To obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Samuel 15:22

Many people set a great deal more stress on religious rituals, than upon practical obedience. They will be faithful in attendance upon church services, devout and reverent in worship—and yet in their daily life, they will disregard the plain commandments of God! They fill the week with selfishness, pride, bitterness, and evil-speaking—and then go to church on Sunday with great show of devotion, to engage in the worship of God!

But what God desires before our worship can be acceptable, is that we obey what He commands us. He bids us to love one another, to be unselfish, patient, kind, honest, pure, true; and unless we obey these commands, our religious rituals, no matter how conspicuous, how costly, how seemingly devout and reverent—are not acceptable to God!

There are many other phases of the truth. It is exact obedience which God desires, and not something else of our own substituted. When He tells a mother to care for her child, He is not satisfied if she neglects that duty to attend church. When God wants a man to help a poor family in some obscure street, He is not satisfied if instead of that lowly service, the man does some brilliant thing that seems to bring ten times as much honor to the Lord.

The supreme thing in Christian life, is to obey God. Without obedience, nothing else counts. The obedience must also be exact, just what God commands, not something else.

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." John 14:15

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Something to ponder:
Thomas Brooks

  "Your life is short,
   your duties are many,
   your assistance is great,
   and your reward is sure.
Therefore do not faint, persevere in the way of holiness—and Heaven shall make amends for all!"

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We ought not to spend our life in picking up rubbish!

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

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

"Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life—which the Son of Man will give you!" John 6:27

We need to be continually reminded of the unsatisfying nature of the things of this world, and exhorted to seek eternal realities. We live in a material age when the quest of people is for money, for power, for things of the earth.

John Bunyan gives a picture of a man with a muck-rake, working hard, scraping up the rubbish at his feet—and not seeing the crown which hung above his head. It is a picture of the great majority of the people in this world. They are wearing out their life in scraping up worldly rubbish, not thinking of the heavenly treasures, the divine and imperishable gifts, which they might have with half the toil and care!

We ought not to spend our life in picking up rubbish which we cannot carry beyond the grave! If we are wise, we will seek rather to gather lasting treasures and riches, which we can take with us into eternity!

Whatever we build into our character, we shall possess forever!

Money which we spend in doing good in Christ's name, we lay up as safe and secure treasure in Heaven.

All true service for Christ—stores up rewards for us in the future.

What we keep—we lose!

What we give in love—we keep forever!

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Something to ponder:
Thomas Brooks,

  "Books may preach . . .
    when the author cannot,
    when the author may not,
    when the author dares not,
    yes, and which is more,
    when the author is not."

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Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me!

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

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

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me! But He said to me: My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness!" 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Many prayers which seem to be unanswered, are really answered. The blessing comes, but in a form we do not recognize. Instead of the very thing we sought, something better is given!

The burden is not lifted away, but we are sustained beneath it.

We are not spared the suffering, but in the suffering we are brought nearer to God, and receive more of His grace.

The sorrow is not taken away, but is changed to joy.

Our ignorant prayers are taken into the hands of the great Intercessor, and are answered in ways far wiser than our thought!

Instead of earthly trifles—heavenly riches!

Instead of things which our poor wisdom sought—things God's infinite wisdom chose for us!

Instead of pleasure for a day—gain for eternity!

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Something to ponder: 
"When we eat an apple, we usually first cut out the blemishes, then eat what is good, and lastly throw the core away. Such a rule I would observe in reading human authors—the best may be defective, and the wisest may be mistaken. We are not only permitted, but enjoined, to call no man master." John Newton

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A device for saving people from toil, struggle and responsibility

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

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

"But we prayed to our God, AND posted a guard day and night to meet this threat!" Nehemiah 4:9

We are in danger of making prayer a substitute for duty; or of trying to roll over on God, the burden of caring for us and doing things for us—while we sit still and do nothing! When we pray to be delivered from temptation—we must keep out of the way of temptation, unless duty clearly calls us there. We must also guard against temptation, resist the Devil, and stand firm in obedience and faith. When we ask God for our daily bread, pleading the promise that we shall not lack—we must also labor to earn God's bread, and thus make it ours honestly.

A lazy man came once and asked for money, saying that he could not find bread for his family. "Neither can I!" replied the industrious mechanic to whom he had applied. "I am obliged to work for it!"

While we pray for health—we must use the means to obtain it.

While we ask for wisdom—we must use our brains and think, searching for wisdom as for hidden treasure.

While we ask God to help us break off a bad habit—we must also strive to overcome the habit.

Prayer is not merely a device for saving people from toil, struggle and responsibility. When there is no human power adequate to the need—we may ask God to work without us, and in some way He will help us. But ordinarily we must do our part, asking God to work in and through us, and to bless us through faithful obedience.

"I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!" Colossians 1:29

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The rose taught me a lesson

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

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

"Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless." Psalm 119:37

We must be always turning—if we would keep our life true and according to God's commandments.

There are some flowers which always turn toward the sun. There was a little potted rose-bush in a sick-room which I visited. It sat by the window. One day I noticed that the one rose on the bush was looking toward the light. I referred to it, and the sick woman said that her daughter had turned the rose around several times toward the darkness of the room—but that each time the little flower had twisted itself back, until again its face was toward the light. It would not look into the darkness.

The rose taught me a lesson: never to allow myself to look toward any evil, but instantly to turn from it. Not a moment should we permit our eyes to be inclined toward anything sinful. To yield to one moment's sinful act, is to defile the soul. One of the main messages of the Bible is, "Turn from the wrong, the base, the crude, the unworthy—to the right, the pure, the noble, the godlike!" We should not allow even an unholy thought to stay a moment in our mind—but should turn from its very first suggestion, with face fully toward Christ, the Holy One.

"I will set before my eyes no vile thing!" Psalm 101:3

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things!" Philippians 4:8

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Something to ponder: 
"My mind being now more open and enlarged, I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees, laying aside all other books and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proved food indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light, and power from above. I got more true knowledge from reading the Book of God in one month, than I could ever have acquired from all the writings of men!" George Whitefield, 1714-1770

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He saw that they were in serious trouble!

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

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

"Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray.
He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o'clock in the morning He came to them, walking on the water." Mark 6:45, 46, 48

Jesus did not come immediately; indeed, it was almost morning when He came, and the disciples had been struggling all night in the storm. Yet He had not been indifferent to them meanwhile. From the mountainside where He was praying, He kept His eye upon them. "He saw that they were in serious trouble." All that dark night, He kept a watch upon that little boat that bore His disciples in the midst of the waves.

There is something very suggestive in the narrative. This 'boat in the storm', is a picture of 'Christ's friends in this world, in the storms of life'. Sometimes we think we are forgotten—but from His place in glory, Christ's eye is always on us! He sees us struggling, battling with the waves, beaten, and distressed. He has full sympathy with us in all our struggles. It ought to be a great strength and comfort to us in trial, to know this. Jesus intercedes for us in our distresses!

It may not be best always to deliver us immediately—but His prayer continually ascends, that our faith may not fail in the struggle. This also should encourage us.

Then, He always comes in time. He may delay long, but it is never too long. If we call upon Him in trouble—we may be sure that He hears and sees us, and knows just how hard it is for us to endure; that He prays for us that we may not fail, and that He will come at the right time for our deliverance!

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Something to ponder:
"Anticipated sorrows are harder to bear than real ones, because Christ does not support us under them." Edward Payson

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Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us!

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

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

"He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:4

If your faith stops at the cross—it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ!

You need a Savior who not merely two thousand years ago went to death to redeem you—but one who also is alive to walk by your side in loving companionship!

You need a Savior . . .
  who can hear your prayers,
  to whose feet you can creep in penitence when you have sinned,
  to whom you can call for help when the battle is going against you.

You need a Savior who is interested in all the affairs of your common life, and who can assist you in every time of need.

You need a Christ who can be a real friend—loving you, keeping close beside you, able to sympathize with your weaknesses.

You need a Savior who will come into your life, and will save you, not by one great act of centuries past—but by a life warm and throbbing with love today, and living again in you.

A DYING Christ alone, will not satisfy our heart. We must have the living One for our friend! Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us! And that is the Christ the gospel brings to us: one who was dead—and is now alive for ever and ever!

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God!" cried the psalmist, and cries every redeemed soul. It is only as we realize the truth of a living Christ—that our hearts are satisfied. We crave love:
  a bosom to lean upon,
  a hand to touch ours,
  a heart whose beatings we can feel,
  a personal friendship that will come into our life with . . .
    its sympathy,
    its inspiration,
    its companionship,
    its shelter,
    its life, and
    its comfort.

All this, the living Christ is to us!

"I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" Revelation 1:18

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Something to ponder:
"Dear friend, make God your Confidant. Carry to Him all your needs, disclose to Him all your sorrows, confide to Him all your secrets, confess to Him all your sins. He will do all, soothe all, supply all, and pardon all—for who is a God like Him? He cares for you, His loving heart is towards you, His unslumbering eye is upon you! Oh, how condescendingly kind and gentle is Jesus to poor sinners who feel their need of Him, and are conscious that they can do nothing without Him! You will always meet with a kind welcome from Jesus, come when you may and how you will." Mary Winslow