Grace Gems for SEPTEMBER 2021

O, eternity! eternity!

(John Fawcett, 1740-1817)

Who do I see in those dark regions, stung incessantly with the ruthless fangs of the never-dying worm?

A numerous crowd, who once despised the gospel of God and turned a deaf ear to the messages of salvation. In neglect and contempt of Christ, and the things of His kingdom, they went away: one to his farm, another to his business; preferring, either the pleasures of sense, or the paltry concerns of this transitory world—to the treasures of the everlasting gospel, and the momentous affairs of eternity. Woe unto them! it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for them!
Who, let me repeat the inquiry—Who do I behold in those infernal flames?

The rich man, Dives!
For eighteen hundred years he has been crying out in vain for one drop of water to cool his scorched tongue. But are his miseries any nearer to a close? Ah, no! The smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever! Their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched!

Should the ablest arithmetician try to number the ages of eternity, he would be forever baffled. O, eternity! eternity! immense, unfathomable depth! Millions of millions of ages, and ten thousand times ten thousand millions more, would diminish nothing from the account of eternity!

Is it possible for dying mortals to push the thought of eternity from their minds? Is it possible for them to be as thoughtless about it, as if it were no more than an idle dream? What can exceed—what can equal the stupidity, the insensibility, the madness of sinful man!

Lost sinner! where are you? Just on the verge of the burning lake! Should the feeble thread of life be cut, should you die in your present state—then inevitable eternal damnation awaits you!

Ask yourself seriously, "Can you dwell with devouring fire? Can you dwell with everlasting burnings?" If you can, go on and add iniquity to sin; still treasure up more wrath against the day of wrath; and, for the sordid, the short-lived pleasures of sin, reap eternal ages of woe and horror! You are purchasing your carnal delights at a dear rate indeed. Such is the horrid nature of sin, that its proper wages, its just desert is everlasting damnation—an eternal Hell of misery!

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Something to ponder
John Fawcett:  When you are tempted to any vanity—set the blessed Redeemer before you, consider His example, and ask yourself, "How would Jesus, my Lord and Master, have acted in such a case? Would He have spent His time upon such trifles? Would He have spoken such and such; or done this or the other thing, which I am solicited to do? And shall I give way to that which would be a manifest deviation from His holy example? God forbid!"

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The Lord has just removed my dear lovely boy

(John Fawcett, 1740-1817)

How fit is it that He who is infinitely wise and immeasurably kind, should choose our path for us! And how does it befit us to acquiesce entirely in His appointment!

Good when He gives, supremely good,
Nor less when He denies;
Afflictions from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise!

The Lord has just removed my dear lovely boy, perhaps, to teach me that He Himself has the highest right and truest claim to my heart. Amen, even so Lord Jesus!

"The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job 1:21

"He is the LORD; let him do what is good in His eyes." 1 Samuel 3:18

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Something to ponder
John Fawcett:  "Love to Jesus is maintained and continued in its warmth and fervor—by frequent meditation on His adorable person, His dying love, and His infinite excellence and preciousness. If we lose sight of Him as the spring of all our happiness, and of His ineffable glories—the fervency of our love for Him will be abated."

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This is what damns men!

("The Vanity of the World!" Ezekiel Hopkins, 1663)

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?
 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:26

What senseless folly it is to purchase a vain and fleeting world, with the loss of our precious eternal souls!

Oh, think what great losers they must be, who lose their souls to gain this poor world; and must at last lose the world too, together with their souls!

This is what damns men: they prefer the pleasures, honors, profits, and pitiful nothings of the world—before their precious and immortal souls, which are worth more than ten thousand worlds!

Think how dreadful and tormenting will be the reflections of worldlings in Hell, to consider that there they must lie and burn to eternity for their inordinate love to that world, of which they have nothing left to them, besides the bitter remembrance! What will it then avail them, that they have lived here in ease and delights—when all their mirth shall be turned into groans and howlings? What will the remembrance of all their earthly treasures and riches then avail them, but to increase their torment?

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What infinite numbers of these infinite sins have we committed!

("Dreadfulness of God's Wrath Against Sinners!" Ezekiel Hopkins, 1633-1690)

Consider how great and manifold our sins and offences have been. And every act of sin, yes the least that ever we committed, is an infinite debt; and carries in it an infinite guilt, because committed against an infinite Majesty.

For all offences take their measures, not only from the sin committed, but from the person against whom they are committed. A reviling, injurious word against our equals, will not be punishable law. But the same reviling, injurious word against the prince, it is high treason, and punishable with death.

Just so, the least offence against the infinite majesty of the great God, becomes itself infinite—the guilt of it is far beyond whatever we can possibly conceive.

And yet, what infinite numbers of these infinite sins have we committed! The psalmist tells us in Psalm 40:12, "My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me!"

Our thoughts are incessantly in motion: they keep pace with the moments, and yet "every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil all the time." What multitudes of them have been grossly wicked and impious, atheistic, blasphemous, impure, worldly, or malicious!

And besides the sins of our thoughts, how much have our tongues added to the sum of our sins! We have talked ourselves into debt to the justice of God; and, with our own breath, have been blowing up our everlasting and unquenchable fire!

And add to these, the numberless crowd and sum of our sinful actions, wherein we have busily employed ourselves to provoke the holy and jealous God to wrath. We shall find our sins to be doubly infinite, in their own particular guilt and demerit.

Thanks be to "Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath!" 1 Thessalonians 1:10

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It all started with a talking serpent!

(Jeff Pollard, slightly edited)

It all started with a talking serpent! The temptation to sin that any child of God, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, has struggled with or yielded to originated in that reptilian deceiver's mental seduction of the first woman on earth. The conflict was simple, as far as it goes—God's words versus the serpent's words.

In the sinless environment of the Garden of Eden—that holy place in which God, Adam, and Eve walked in perfect communion—it hardly seems possible that a talking snake had the slightest prospect of triumphing over the pure word of the Creator. But the inconceivable—really the incomprehensible—happened: Eve believed the serpent instead of God! The serpent tempted, she believed him, and she ate of the fruit that God had forbidden. The result was catastrophic. The holocaust of temptation entered history, the cataclysm of God's image-bearers surrendering to sin transformed human life, and the hungry mouth of Hell began to swallow human souls!

The devil's temptations are always thoroughly man-centered and custom-crafted for the individual. He knows that we do not all bite on the same bait.

Whatever sparkling fool's gold it adorns itself with, temptation promises satisfaction. Temptation always talks about happiness, fulfillment, gratification, delight, comfort, pleasure, excitement, and the like. It can involve good things or foul perverse things: either way, temptation always lures the flesh to believe its promises instead of God's Word. But when temptation results in sin—whatever sparkling package it comes in, whatever flesh-arousing promises it makes, whatever delightful pleasures it offers—it is never soul-satisfying for a true child of God.

So, temptation is a profoundly serious matter with profound consequences. Believers must realize that it always sets before us a choice between God's Word and the serpent's word.

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

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The divine Gardener

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

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We may think that our lot is especially hard, and may wish that it were otherwise. We may wish that we had a life of ease and luxury, amid softer scenes—with no briers or thorns, no worries or provocations. We think that then we would be always gentle, patient, serene, trustful, happy. How delightful it would be never to have a care, an irritation, a trouble, a single vexing thing!

But the fact remains that the place in which we find ourselves, is the very place in which the Master desires us to live our life! There is no haphazard in God's world. God leads every one of His children by the right way. He knows where and under what influences, each particular life will ripen best.

One tree grows best in the sheltered valley, another by the water's edge, another on the bleak mountain-top swept by storms. Every tree or plant is found in the precise locality to enhance its growth. And does God give more thought to trees and plants, than to His own children? No!

He places us amid the circumstances and experiences in which our life will grow and ripen the best. The peculiar trials to which we are each subjected is the exact discipline we each need to bring out the beauties and graces of true spiritual character in us. We are in the right school. We may think that we would ripen more quickly in a more easy and luxurious life. But God knows what is best for us—He makes no mistakes!

There is a little fable which says that a primrose growing by itself in a shady corner of the garden, became discontented as it saw the other flowers in their mirthful beds in the sunshine, and begged to be moved to a more conspicuous place. Its prayer was granted. The gardener transplanted it to a more showy and sunny spot. It was greatly pleased, but a change came over it immediately. Its blossoms lost much of their beauty and became pale and sickly. The hot sun caused them to faint and wither. So it prayed again to be taken back to its old place in the shade. The wise gardener knows best, where to plant each flower.

Just so, God,
the divine Gardener, knows where His people will best grow into what He would have them to be. Some require the fierce storms; some will only thrive in the shadow of worldly adversity; and some come to ripeness more sweetly under the soft and gentle influences of prosperity—whose beauty, rough experiences would mar. The divine Gardener knows what is best for each one!

There is no position in this world in the allotment of Providence, in which it is not possible to be a true Christian exemplifying all the virtues of godliness. The grace of Christ has in it, potency enough to enable us to live godly—wherever we are called to dwell. When God chooses a home for us, He fits us for its peculiar trials.

God adapts His grace to the peculiarities of each one's necessity. For rough, flinty paths—He provides shoes of iron. He never sends anyone to climb sharp, rugged mountain-sides, wearing silken slippers.

He always gives sufficient grace.
As the burdens grow heavier, the strength increases.
As the difficulties thicken, He draws closer.
As the trials become sorer, the trusting heart grows calmer.

Jesus always sees His disciples, when they are toiling in the waves—and at the right moment He comes to deliver them. Thus it becomes possible to live a true and victorious life in any circumstances.

Christ can as easily enable Joseph to remain pure and true in heathen Egypt, as Benjamin in the shelter of his father's love. The sharper the temptations, the more of divine grace is granted. There is, therefore, no environment of trial, or difficulty or hardship—in which we cannot live beautiful lives of Christian fidelity and holy conduct.

Instead, then, of yielding to discouragement when trials multiply and it becomes hard to live right, or of being satisfied with a very faulty life—it should be our settled purpose to live, through the grace of God—a patient, gentle and unspotted life in the place, and amid the circumstances, He allots to us. The true victory is not found in escaping or evading trials, but in rightly meeting and enduring them.

The questions should not be, "How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the distractions that continually harass me?" There is nothing noble in such living.

The questions should rather be, "How can I pass through these trying experiences—and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles—and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these testings of my temper—and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?" This is the true problem of Christian living.

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We should learn a lesson from the old heathen artist!

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

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"In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah . . . and his wife Elizabeth . . . Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." Luke 1:5-6

This is a beautiful thing which God said of them. Yet, after all, that is the test which every life must endure. It is not enough to have human commendation. The question is: How do we stand before God? How does our life appear to Him? It does not matter how men praise and commend us, if God sees that we are living wrong. The Pharisees were righteous before men; but if you would see how they stood in God's eye, read the twenty-third chapter of Matthew: "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to Hell!" (verse 33)

We are in reality, just what we are before Godnothing less, nothing more! The question we should always ask ourselves is, "What does God think of me?" If we would meet His approval, we must first have our hearts right—and then we must be blameless and upright in every part of our life.

One of the old heathen artists was chiseling the back part of his marble statue with great pains. "Why do you carve the tresses on back of the head of your statue so carefully?" asked one; "it will stand high in its niche against the wall, and no one will ever see its back." "The gods will see it!" was the reply.

We should learn a lesson from the old heathen artist! We should do our work just as honestly, where it will be covered up and never seen by human eyes—as where it is to be open to the scrutiny of the world. For God will see it! We should live just as purely and beautifully in secret, as in the glare of the world's gaze!

There really is no such thing as secrecy in this world. We imagine that no eye is looking, when we are not in the presence of men. But really, we always have a spectator—we are living all our life in the presence God Himself! We should train ourselves, therefore, to live for the Divine eye in all that we do—that our life may stand the Divine inspection, and that we may have the approval and commendation of God Himself!

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account!" Hebrews 4:13

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You have saved the best until now!

(J.R. MillerLISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Everyone brings out the choice wine first . . . But You have saved the best until now!" John 2:10

The world gives its best first—and the worst comes afterwards!

It is so in all sinful pleasures: first exhilaration—and then bitter remorse.

It is so in the chase for wealth, power, and fame: gratification first—and then painful disappointment. At first money brings gladness—a sort of satisfaction. But as time rolls on and wealth increases—cares multiply, anxieties thicken, burdens grow heavier, and at last the rich man finds that in all his riches, he has less satisfaction than he had in the days when he was just a poor boy!

It is so in all mere worldly ambitions. The first cups of fame are sweet, but soon they pall upon the taste.

This truth holds especially in the sinful life. We need not deny that at the beginning, sin is sweet—but bitterness is found at the bottom of the cup!

In grace, however, this is reversed—the good wine is kept to the last! Christ Himself first had humiliation, darkness, and the shame of the cross—and then exaltation, power, glory!

In the Christian life, the same law holds:
  First there comes bitterness—but out of the bitterness, sweetness flows.

  There is first the deep sorrow of penitence—but this gives way to the blessed joy of forgiveness.

  First comes self-denial and cross-bearing—but out of these experiences comes a holy peace which fills all the heart.

  Sorrows are to be endured—but the good wine of comfort is poured into the emptied cup.

There is also a constant progression in the blessings of the divine life. We never get to the end of them! Indeed, we never get to the best! There is always something better yet to come. Christ keeps the really best wine until the very last—in Heaven! As sweet as Christ's peace now is to the Christian—he will never know the fullness of the love of God until he gets home to the Father's house!

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Something to ponder

"The best interpreter of a book is the one who wrote it. The Holy Spirit wrote the Scriptures. Go to Him to get their meaning, and you will not be misled." Charles Spurgeon

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Surely there was no more royal moment in all of Christ's life!

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"Today you shall be with Me in paradise!" Luke 23:43

This was the second saying of the Savior on the cross. Something touched the heart of one of the robbers—may it not have been the Savior's prayer for His murderers? He became penitent in his dying hour, and cried to Jesus for mercy: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." Quickly from the lips of the dying Redeemer, came the gracious response, "Today you shall be with Me in paradise!" The words are full of meaning, of which only broken hints can here be given.

Though in the agony of death Himself, Jesus could yet give life to a dead soul. Though draining the dregs of the cup of woe, He could give a cup of blessedness to a penitent sinner. Though His hand was nailed to the cross—it yet carried the key of paradise, and opened the gate to allow a repentant soul to enter. Surely there was no more royal moment in all of Christ's life than this!

The promise itself, tells us what death is for the believer. "Today you shall be with Me!" There is no long, dark passage, therefore, through which the freed soul must go to reach blessedness. There is no "purgatory" in which it must punished for its sins for many years, before it can enter Heaven. At once, the redeemed spirit goes into the presence of Christ!

Paul teaches us the same truth when he describes death as departing to be with Christ; and says that to be absent from the body, is to be at home with the Lord. That same day, said Jesus—this penitent thief would be in paradise! We ought not then, to be afraid to die, if we are Christ's redeemed and holy ones.

The words tell us also, what Heaven's blessedness really consists of. "You shall be with Me." Being with Christ, is glory! No sweeter, more blessed Heaven can be conceived of!

We know but little about Heaven as a place—where it is, what it is like; but this much we know—that there, we shall be with Christ! Is not that enough to know?

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Something to ponder:
"Our little time of suffering on earth, is not worthy of our first night's welcome home to Heaven!" Samuel Rutherford, 1600-1661

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As the tree falls—so must it lie!

(J.R. Miller, 1909) LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

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

Out of our little acts, habits grow.
From our habits, character springs.
And our character, fixes our destiny!

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

   As the tree falls, so must it lie;
   As the man lives, so must he die!
   As a man dies, such must he be;
   All through the ages of eternity!

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

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

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

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Something to ponder

"Be careful what books you read! For as water tastes of the soil it runs through—so does the soul taste of the authors that a man reads." John Trapp, 1601-1669

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Nursing a viper!

(J.R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible" 1909)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

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

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

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Something to ponder

Arthur Pink:
"Whom God legally saves, He experimentally saves.
 Whom He justifies, those He also sanctifies.
 Where the righteousness of Christ is imputed to an individual, a principle of holiness is imparted to him. It is impossible to obtain a Scriptural knowledge that the merits of Christ's finished work are reckoned to my account, except by proving that the efficacy of the Holy Spirit's work is evident in my soul!"

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This strange, double picture of Jesus!

(J.R. Miller, "Heavenly Worship" 1909)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

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

He was a lion in His conflicts and victories, and as such overcame all His enemies and ours also.

But He was a lamb in the gentleness of His character and disposition.
The lamb is an emblem of meekness and of unresisting obedience and submission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The third symbol in the picture is the "seven eyes". An eye sees and seven eyes represent the perfection of vision, seeing everywhere. The eyes of Christ are in all parts of the earth, and on all events.

This thought of the omniscience of Christ is dreadful to the unrepentant sinner—but to the Christian at peace with God, it has great comfort! Christ is watching over us and is ready to fly to our help and rescue at any moment. His eye is fearsome only to the wicked; to those who are His friends and are saved by Him, it gives no terror to think of the unsleeping divine eye ever looking down upon them with love!

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A lamp for my feet!

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"Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path." Psalm 119:105

God's Word is represented as a lamp for the feet.

It is a "lamp"—not a blazing sun, nor even a lighthouse—but a plain, common lamp or lantern which one can carry about in the hand.

It is a lamp "for the feet," not throwing its beams afar, not illumining a hemisphere—but shining only on the one little bit of road on which the pilgrim's feet are walking.

The law of divine guidance is, "Step by step". One who carries a lantern on a country-road at night, sees only one step before him. If he takes that step, he carries his lantern forward, and thus makes another step plain. At length he reaches his destination in safety, without once stepping into darkness. The whole way has been made light for him, though only a single step of it at a time. This illustrates the usual method of God's guidance.

If this is the way God guides, it ought never to be hard for us to find our duty. It never lies far away, inaccessible to us—but is always near. It never lies out of our sight, in the darkness, for God never puts our duty where we cannot see it. The thing that we think may be our duty, but which is still lying in obscurity and uncertainty—is not our duty yet, whatever it may be a little farther on. The duty for the very moment is always clear, and that is as far as we need concern ourselves; for when we do the little that is clear, we will carry the light on, and it will shine on the next moment's step.

Jesus said, "He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness." Prompt, unquestioning, undoubting following of Christ—takes all the perplexity out of Christian life and gives unbroken peace. There never is a moment without its duty; and if we are living near to Christ and following Him closely, we shall never be left in ignorance of what He wants us to do.

Our daily prayer should be, "Direct my footsteps according to Your Word; let no sin rule over me." Psalm 119:133

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The God of the broken-hearted

(J.R. Miller, "The Beatitude for the Unsuccessful" 1892)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"The Lord is near the broken-hearted." Psalm 34:18

The God of the Bible is the God of the broken-hearted.

The world cares little for the broken hearts. Indeed, people oftentimes break hearts by their cruelty, their falseness, their injustice, their coldness—and then move on as heedlessly as if they had trodden only on a worm! But God cares. Broken-heartedness attracts Him. The plaint of grief on earth, draws Him down from heaven.

Physicians in their rounds do not stop at the homes of the well, but of the sick. So it is with God in His movements through this world. It is not to the whole and the well—but to the wounded and stricken, that He comes with sweetest tenderness! Jesus said of His mission: "He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted." Isaiah 61:1

We look upon trouble as misfortune. We say that the life is being destroyed, which is passing through adversity. But the truth which we find in the Bible, does not so represent suffering. God is a repairer and restorer of the hurt and ruined life. He takes the bruised reed, and by His gentle skill makes it whole again, until it grows into fairest beauty. The love, pity, and grace of God, minister sweet blessing of comfort and healing—to restore the broken and wounded hearts of His people.

Much of the most beautiful life in this world, comes out of sorrow. As "fair flowers bloom upon rough stalks," so many of the fairest flowers of human life grow upon the rough stalks of suffering. We see that those who in heaven wear the whitest robes, and sing the loudest songs of victory—are those who have come out of great tribulation. Heaven's highest places are filling, not from earth's homes of glad festivity and tearless joy—but from its chambers of pain; its valleys of struggle where the battle is hard; and its scenes of sorrow, where pale cheeks are wet with tears, and where hearts are broken. The God of the Bible is the God of the bowed down—whom He lifts up into His strength.

God is the God of those who fail. Not that He loves those who stumble and fall, better than those who walk erect without stumbling; but He helps them more. The weak believers get more of His grace, than those who are strong believers. There is a special divine promise which says, "My divine power is made perfect in weakness." When we are conscious of our own insufficiency—then we are ready to receive of the divine sufficiency. Thus our very weakness is an element of strength. Our weakness is an empty cup, which God fills with His own strength.

You may think that your weakness unfits you for noble, strong, beautiful living—or for sweet, gentle, helpful serving. You wish you could get clear of it. It seems to burden you—an ugly spiritual deformity. But really it is something which, if you give it to Christ—He can transform into a blessing, a source of His power. The friend by your side, whom you envy because he seems so much stronger than you are—does not get so much of Christ's strength as you do. You are weaker than him—but your weakness draws to you divine power and makes you strong.

"He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3

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The first Christians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder

Arthur Pink:
"Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him: Where are you?" Genesis 3:9
It was not Adam who sought God, but God who sought Adam.
And this has been the order ever since.

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He never misses a sermon or a prayer meeting!

(William Plumer, "Earnest Hours" 1869)

"The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4

Though not omniscient, yet Satan knows much that is in our hearts.

He is skilled in deceiving.

He is very daring.

He assailed even Christ.

He quotes Scripture with great readiness, Matthew 4:6

He is dreadfully malignant.

Innocence is no barrier against his wiles.

He entered Eden itself.

He has no compassion on the weak or the ignorant.

He assumes every appearance from that of a roaring lion, to that of an angel of light.

False religion pleases him as well as total atheism.

He has great ability in deluding men and making them think they are something, when they are nothing.

He rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience.

Under his influence men call good, evil; and evil, good.

He is always busy.

He never misses a sermon or a prayer meeting!

He corrupts our secret devotions.

He closely watches his prey and tightens his fetters.

He is often most busy with us, when we least think of his presence.

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

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder

William Plumer: "Those who have honestly and heartily received the righteousness of Christ, will be sure to mark His footsteps and walk as He walked."

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You say that you want to be like Christ

(J.R. Miller, 1909)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Something to ponder

Arthur Pink: "Because God is God indeed—He does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. His great concern is the promotion of His own glory. He is the Supreme Being, and therefore Sovereign of the universe!" 

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Flying through the air with an angel-escort!

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

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"The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." Luke 16:22

Nothing is said about his funeral. Of course, if he had one—it was only a pauper's funeral. Earth had no honor for the beggar, no splendid coffin, no flowers. But the angels came—and were his bearers and escort to glory!

Notice also, that nothing is said about what became of his body. The body is of little matter, for the man himself was no longer in that old, worn-out, battered frame. He was soon far away in the realm of eternal glory! When his body was dropped into the ground—the beggar, the real man, was carried away to Heaven! We see him there, no longer a beggar—but enjoying eternal blessedness.

There is still another thought here. We dread death. It seems like the end of existence. But really, to the Christian—death is only a fleeting incident in his life. It is just a moment's passage through an experience which we never can understand; and then—eternal glory!

One minute, this poor beggar lies at the rich man's gate—despised, suffering, and starving!
The next moment, a strange sensation passes over him, and all is confusion.
And then he awakes—flying through the air with an angel-escort!
And in a moment—he is inside the celestial city, to dwell forever with the Lord!
There is no break in his life.

Death came also to the rich man. His riches could not save him from death. No doubt he had a splendid funeral. There would be a long procession, many mourners, a luxurious coffin, and every show of honor.

But who would not rather have the beggar's escort after death—than the finest funeral earth ever gave to a mortal?

There have been funerals of rich men at which there was genuine sorrow, where those who had been blessed by their benevolence came and wept by their coffins. But in this rich man's case, there were no sincere mourners, for the man had allowed the needy to lie hungry at his gates! He had lived for himself only—and no one really missed him when he was gone.

"The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus in his bosom!" Luke 16:22-23

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder:
"God has set that grim porter Death at His gate; to see that, as we brought nothing into the world, so we carry nothing out of it. Certainly, dying must needs be a terrible thing to those who have gotten nothing but what they can no longer keep, when their souls must be set on shore in a vast and dark eternity, all naked and destitute, having nothing to relieve or support them.
" Ezekiel Hopkins, 1663

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We begin at the lowest grade

(J.R. Miller, 1909)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy is a lesson to be learned.

Peace is another.

Humility is another necessary lesson.

Praise is a great lesson.

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

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I belong to the church; I suppose I am a Christian

(J.C. Ryle, "Are You Born Again?")

Are you born again? This is one of life's most important questions. Jesus Christ said, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God!" John 3:3

It is not enough to reply, "I belong to the church; I suppose I am a Christian." Thousands of nominal Christians show none of the signs of being born again which the Scriptures have given us in the First Epistle of John.

"No one who is born of God will continue to sin" 1 John 3:9

"We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin" 1 John 5:18

A person who has been born again, or regenerated, does not habitually commit sin. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination. There was probably a time when he did not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did not always feel grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. But the true Christian . . .
  hates sin,
  flees from sin,
  fights against sin,
  considers sin his greatest plague,
  resents the burden of sin's presence,
  mourns when he falls under sin's influence,
  and longs to be completely delivered from sin.

Sin no longer pleases him, nor is it even a matter of indifference to him; it has become the horrible thing which he hates. However, he cannot eliminate its presence within him.

If he said that he had no sin, he would be lying, 1 John 1:8. But he can say that he hates sin, and that the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all. He cannot prevent bad thoughts from entering his mind, or shortcomings, omissions, and defects from appearing in both his words and his actions. He knows that "we all stumble in many ways," James 3:2. But he can truly say in the sight of God, that these things cause him grief and sorrow, and that his whole nature does not consent to them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

"No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous." 1 John 3:6-7

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Their religion was all a pious farce!

(J.R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

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

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

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

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

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

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder

Arthur Pink: When contemplating what he is in himself—the Christian mournfully cries, "O wretched man that I am!" But when he views himself in Christ—he triumphantly exclaims, "Who shall lay anything to my charge!"

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The object in putting these verses in the Bible

(J.R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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Malachi 1:
The LORD Almighty says to the priests: "You have despised My name!"
    But you ask, "How have we ever despised Your name?"
"You have despised My name by offering defiled sacrifices on My altar!"
    Then you ask, "How have we defiled the sacrifices?"
"When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong?
 When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong?" says the LORD Almighty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder

Thomas Watson,
1620-1686: "There is more evil in a drop of sin, than in a sea of affliction!"

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These poor swine!

(J.R. Miller, "A Troubled Soul")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder

"To forsake Christ for the world, is to leave a treasure for a trifle!" William Jenkyn, 1613-1685

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Do we love the Word?

(Thomas Watson, 1620-1686, "The Godly Man's Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil")

A godly man is a lover of the Word of God. Christ is the fountain of living water, the Word is the golden pipe through which it runs!

A godly man diligently reads the Word of God. The noble Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11). Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24). The Word is the field where the Pearl of Great Price is hidden. How we should dig for this pearl! A godly man's heart is the library to hold the Word of God; it dwells richly in him (Colossians 3:16). By diligent conversing with Scripture, we may carry a Bible in our heads!

A godly man frequently meditates on the Word of God. "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." (Psalm 119:97). A pious soul meditates on the truth and holiness of the Word. He not only has a few transient thoughts, but leaves his mind steeping in the Scripture. By meditation, he sucks honey from this sweet flower, and ruminates on holy truths in his mind.

A godly man delights in the Word of God. It is his recreation. "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight" (Jeremiah 15:16). Never did a man take such delight in a dish that he loved, as the prophet did in the Word. And indeed, how can a saint choose but take great pleasure in the Word? All of his eternal hopes are contained in it. Does not a son take pleasure in reading his father's will and testament, in which he bequeaths his estate to him? "I delight in your commands because I love them!
(Psalm 119:47)

A godly man hides the Word of God. "Your word have I hidden in my heart" (Psalm 119:11)—as one hides a treasure so that it should not be stolen. The Word is the jewel; the heart is the cabinet where it must be locked up. Many hide the Word in their memory—but not in their heart. And why would David enclose the Word in his heart? "That I might be kept from sinning against You." As a man would carry an antidote about him when he comes near an infected place, so a godly man carries the Word in his heart as a spiritual antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. Why have so many been poisoned with error, others with moral vice—but because they have not hidden the Word as a holy antidote in their heart!

Do we love the Word?
When we need direction, do we consult this sacred oracle?
When we find corruptions strong, do we make use of this "sword of the Spirit" to hew them down?
When we are disconsolate, do we go to this bottle of the water of life for comfort?
Then we are lovers of the Word!

"I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold!"
(Psalm 119:127)

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder

"Think of Christ as the very substance, marrow, soul, and scope of the whole Scriptures!" Isaac Ambrose
, 1604-1664

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This is not an easy lesson to learn!

(J.R. Miller, "The Law of Love")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

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

Loving enemies is not a natural affection.
This is not an easy lesson to learn!

It is never easy to be a Christian.

The easy way does not lead toward Heaven!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our words and deeds are irrevocable

(J.R. Miller, "Devotional Hours with the Bible")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Something to ponder

"There is no surer characteristic of a sincere lover of Christ, than a habitual desire to be like Christ, and an ardent zeal to promote His glory!" Archibald Alexander, 1772-1851

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They will never be weary of gazing on His lovely face!

(Archibald Alexander, "Love to an Unseen Savior!" 1772-1851)

"Whom having not seen, you love!" 1 Peter 1:8

If we here love the Savior whom we have never seen, and whom we can only approach by faith—then how strong will our love be when we shall see Him face to face, and find ourselves not only in His actual presence, but forever enclosed in His loving embrace!

Here our love to the Savior is feeble, on account of the dimness of our faith, and often interrupted by dark clouds and earthly affections which draw us away from the contemplation of the matchless character of our Redeemer. But in Heaven there will be no interposing obstacles to veil His glory, or counteracting affections to enfeeble or interrupt our perfect love for Him.

Happy, happy condition of those who love a Savior whom they never saw—when they shall see Him as He is, and be like Him. They will never be weary of gazing on His lovely face! They will never cease to give Him thanks and praise for His unparalleled, unspeakable love, to which they will forever acknowledge their indebtedness for salvation!

"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.
 We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is!" 1 John 3:2

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When earth's wine runs out!

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

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

This incident is a very fitting illustration of the failure of all this world's joys. The wine ran out at a wedding-feast. There was not enough of it to last through to the end of the feast.

It is just so with all earth's pleasures. It comes in cups—not in fountains; and the supply is limited and soon exhausted.

It is especially so with sin's pleasures. The prodigal son soon ran out of money, and began to be in need. A poet compared the pleasures of sin to a snowflake on the river, "a moment white—then gone forever!"

But it is true in a sense also of pure earthly pleasures. Even the sweetness of human love is but a cupful, which will not last forever. The joy which so fills us today, tomorrow is changed to sorrow. Amid the gladness of the marriage altar—there is the knell of the end, in the words "until death do us part." One of every two friends must hold the other's hand in farewell at the edge of the valley of the shadow of death—and must stand by the other's grave, and walk alone for part of the way. The best wine of earthly life and of love, will fail. If there were nothing better in this world, how sad it would be!

But it is here that we see the glory of Christ's gospel. When earth's wine fails—Jesus comes, and gives Heaven's wine to supply the lack. How beautiful and how true is the picture here: the failing wine, and then Jesus coming with power and supplying the need! That is what He is doing continually. He takes lives which have drained their last drop of earthly gladness—and He satisfies them with spiritual good and blessing, so that they need nothing more.

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

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We may be doing Satan's work!

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

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"Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him: Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You! But He turned and told Peter: Get behind Me, Satan!" Matthew 16:22-23

It was Peter's love for Christ which made him so rebel at the thought of such a dire fate for Him. In his love, he sought to hold the Master back from so throwing away His life. But in doing this, he was acting the part of Satan in seeking to tempt Jesus away from His great work of atonement. This way of the cross was not an accident; it was the way marked out for Christ; to swerve from it, would be to fail in His mission.

Our best friends may become our tempters in the same way. In their love for us, they may seek to keep us from entering paths of duty which will lead us to great sacrifice. Mothers may seek to restrain their children from going to foreign mission fields. Any of us, in the warmth of our affection for our friends, may seek to dissuade them from perilous or costly service—which it may be their duty to undertake. We need to guard ourselves at this point.

The path of true success does not always lie along the sunny hillside! Sometimes it goes down into the dark valley of self-sacrifice! And if we try to hinder any from entering upon hard duties, urging them to choose easier wayswe may be doing Satan's work! We may be plucking the crown from the brow of our friend, by holding back his feet from the way of the cross.

We all need to guard, too, against the counsels of friends who would restrain us from costly or perilous service. In matters of duty—we must know only one guide, and follow the call of only one voice.

We are not put in this world to have a pleasant and easy time! We are not put here to consult our own inclinations at all. We are here, to go where Christ leads; to follow Him to sacrifice and to death—if He leads us in these paths. We dare not allow ourselves to be turned aside by any tenderness of human love. It is the way of duty, however hard, that takes us home to Heavenly glory!

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A great and noble army of holy women

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

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"And many women were there beholding from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him" Matthew 27:55

These were the earliest of a great and noble army of holy women—attached to Christ by deep, personal love, following and ministering unto Him.

In all the ages since, Christian women have shown similar devotion and constancy to Christ—and similar heroic love in serving Him. The record of women's ministry to Christ, is one of the brightest in all the world's history!

Women owe an incalculable debt to Christ. He has lifted them up from base thraldom and from degradation. Women have always been grateful too, and have served Christ with great devotion.

Women are found in every sickroom, bending over the sufferer with unwearying solicitude, with matchless tenderness ministering to bodily comfort, and pouring the warmth of affection upon feverish spirits. They are found in the wards of hospitals, and upon battlefields, moving like God's angels in blessed, loving ministry.

Faithful Christian mothers are following the Master and doing work which will shine forever in glorious luster!

Faithful Christian Sunday school teachers are doing quiet service in lowly paths—which in God's sight, is nobler than that of many of earth's famous ones!

Everywhere, too, there is an open field for woman's ministry. Christ is no longer here in person to be served, as He was served by these women who followed Him from Galilee; but in His needy and suffering followers, He is ever present; and whoever will, may minister unto Him! For He said that in doing acts of kindness to the least of His people, we do them unto Him.

Much practical teaching is in this picture, which is here held up before every woman, inspiring her to wholeheartedly follow Christ.

Why do so many young Christian girls choose a life . . .
  of idleness,
  of love of pleasure,
  of aimless, purposeless existence,
  of mere dressing, promenading, and trifling—
when such a life of glorious service is open to them?

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There are few things at which people enact greater farces!

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

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"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

There are few things at which people enact greater farces, than in their feeble and foolish efforts at self-denial. Very few seem to have the remotest conception of what self-denial is!

One does without meat on Fridays, eating fish instead—and thinks that he has denied himself in a most commendable way.

Another gives up candy or a certain amusement for forty days in Lent, and is proud of his great self-denial.

Others make themselves miserable in various ways: inflicting pain, making useless and uncalled-for sacrifices—as if God were somehow pleased when they suffer!

But none of these things constitute self-denial. There is no merit or virtue in . . .
  giving up anything,
  suffering any loss or pain, or
  making any sacrifice, merely for its own sake.

True self-denial
is the renouncing of SELF—and the yielding of the whole life to the will of Christ. It is SELF—coming down from the heart's throne, laying crown and scepter at the Master's feet—and thenceforth submitting the whole life to His sway.

True self-denial
is living—not to please ourselves, not to advance our own personal interests, but to please our Lord and do His work. It is denying ourselves anything which is sinful in His sight. It is the glad making of any sacrifice which loyalty to Him requires. It is the giving up of any pleasure or comfort for the good of others—which the living out of His gospel may demand. The essential thing is that SELF gives way altogether to CHRIST, as the purpose and end of life.

True self-denial, like all other traits of Christlikeness, is unconscious of itself. We deny ourselves when we follow Christ with joy and gladness, through cost and danger and suffering—wherever He leads!