Evening Thoughts by J R Miller

Evening Thoughts by J R Miller

J.R. Miller, 1907


A little quiet time with God before retiring, makes a fitting close for the day. It gives us an opportunity . . .
  to think over what we have done during the busy hours;
  to recall our mistakes, that if possible they may be corrected; 
  to rekindle the peace of Christ into our hearts, if perchance we have lost it in the day’s distractions;
  to gather the lessons we should get from the day’s experiences; and to commit ourselves into the hands of God.

For such a meditation, the best help is a word of God that will guide our thoughts and lead us into close communion with Christ.

These Evening Thoughts have been prepared in the hope that they may prove helpful to those who are in the habit of enjoying such a silent time at the close of the day. No attempt has been made to follow any definite order in the arrangement of the Scripture verses. Each person has his own course of Bible reading, and these are meant to be only quiet meditations in the last moments of the days.

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God keeps a tear-bottle!

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book!” Psalm 56:8 

Tears are sacred in God’s sight. The Psalmist said that God keeps a tear-bottle, into which He puts the tears of His people. This means that God in Heaven hears the plashing of earth’s tears. It means that His people’s sorrows are sacred to Him, that He cherishes them, keeping them as memorials. 

Our tears are precious to God, also, because in our sorrow He brings to us blessings which we never could receive but for our sorrow. One of our Lord’s Beatitudes is for the sorrowing: “Blessed are those who mourn.” It seems strange to us that mourning ones should be put among the blessed or happy ones. The reason is, because only those who suffer can get God’s comfort, and this is such a blessing that it is worth while to have sorrow just to receive it. 

God holds the tears of penitence as most sacred. Those who weep over their sins, cause joy in Heaven.

“When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them!” Luke 7:37-38

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However low we may sink!

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

Of course God has no arms; but He reveals Himself to us in human language — the only language we could understand. 

We know what a mother‘s arms, a father‘s arms, mean to a child. But human arms are frail, and any hour their embrace may be withdrawn. The other day a child was grieving by her mother’s coffin — but the arms which had clasped her always so tenderly, could not move to comfort her. 

The arms of God are “everlasting.” God holds His redeemed children in the strong embrace of His love! No matter what may come to us of danger, of calamity, of terror — they will still and ever be about us. 

These arms of God are ever and always “underneath” us. However low we may sink away in pain, in weakness, in sorrow — we shall never sink out of the divine arms! Jesus said no one can snatch His loved ones out of His hands. 

In death, when we shall sink out of every human embrace — we shall still be in the clasp of God’s love and the everlasting arms will be underneath us. Such a word as this assures us of eternal security in God’s love!

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We shall have some hard climbing in our upward journey

“And of Asher he said: Your shoes shall be iron and bronze. As your days — so shall your strength be!” Deuteronomy 33:24-25 

Asher’s portion would be rough and hilly. Common shoes of wood or leather would not last. The promise meant that Asher would have shoes that would endure the wear and tear.

For us, the promise suggests that we shall have some hard climbing in our upward journey — or we would not need iron shoes. It assures us also that we need not dread any hardness we may find in our life for the future, for it will be provided for. We shall have shoes of iron to wear, and then we shall not mind the steep and rugged paths. 

God leads us nowhere, without providing for the special difficulties in the way. 

We have the same assurance in the words that follow, “As your days — so shall your strength be.” For easy days, we need less divine help and receive less. Then when the hard days come, the help will increase accordingly. There is not a step in all our journey for which help is not waiting, to be given when we come to the place where we need it.

“Your shoes shall be iron and bronze. As your days — so shall your strength be!”

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The description of the godly man

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

In this Psalm, the description of the godly man is first negative:
  There are certain things he never does. 
  There are places in which he is never seen. 
  He does not make wicked men his advisers. 
  He is not seen with those who are evil. 
  No one ever sees him among mockers.
Thus the godly man is known by what he does not do.

Then there are certain things that the godly man does: 
He loves God’s word, reads it, and feeds upon it. 
He is careful to live where his life may be nourished by the streams of grace. 

As a result, he is like a tree in his beauty and in his fruitfulness. Fruit is the test of Christian character. 

Then the godly man’s life does not wither in heat or drought. It is perennial, and lives in all kinds of weather.

Another feature of his life is that everything he does prospers — not always in worldly things — but even in his losses and trials, he is still blessed. For, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28

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Lord, how can we know the way?

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, how can we know the way?” 
Jesus said to him, “I am the way” John 14:5-6 

This is the first day of a new year. We are setting out on a journey of which we can have no knowledge in advance. The road is one on which we never have gone hitherto. We know not what any day will have for us . . .
  what our duties will be,
  what burdens shall be laid upon us,
  what sorrows we shall have to endure,
  what battles we shall have to fight. 

We cannot see one step before us. How can we know the way? As we sit in the quiet, this first evening, and ask the question, we hear an answer which is full of comfort. Jesus says to us, “I am the way!” 

All we shall have to do, therefore, will be to stay with Jesus. He has made a way through the world for us. He has gone over all the journey and opened a road for us at great cost. He went over the way Himself — we shall find His shoe-prints at every step. 

He has a definite way for each one of us. Every mile of the journey He has chosen — and every place where I pitch my tent He has selected for me!

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The woman had left her only child dead in her home!

“Gehazi asked: Is it well with the child? 
And she answered: It is well.” 2 Kings 4:26 

The woman had left her only child dead in her home, and was riding in haste to the prophet Elisha to tell him her sorrow. Yet on the way, in answer to an inquiry concerning her child, she answered, “It is well.” 

Our Christian faith may always say the same in any circumstances of affliction or trouble or sorrow. This is our Father’s world! God has all power and could save us from any sorrow or suffering if He wished. He is all-loving, and when He permits any trial to touch us, it is because it will be a blessing to us. He is all-wise, and knows what is best for us. 

We do not know what is best for us. We would make pitiful work of our life if, for even a single day, our affairs and experiences were left in our own hands! But in God’s hands, no mistake will ever be made. Whatever may come, therefore, we may say always, It is well!

“He has done all things well!” Mark 7:37

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28

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The beggar died!

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

There is a picture which in the ordinary light, shows only the figure of a weary dying pilgrim lying on a straw pallet, in a wretched city garret. But in another light, one sees above the head of that outcast and dying man, a throng of angels, and a pathway of heavenly light stretches from the sufferer’s cot to the gate of the celestial city. 

The first view is the closing of the earthly side of the life of many a child of God.
The other is the way the same scene looks as seen from Heaven. 

Precisely these two scenes were witnessed when poor Lazarus was dying. The passer-by saw only the wretchedest of beggars, spurned, neglected, suffering, unwept for. But meanwhile there were angels hovering around him with pity in their hearts; and there was a celestial gate standing open, through which the angels would shortly take him. 

Despised on earth — Lazarus was loved in Heaven. 
Neglected by man — God’s angels cared for him. 
Denied admittance to homes of earthly splendor — a place was prepared for him in the Father’s house, and a joyous welcome awaited him!

“Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. Luke 16:25 

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She was taking the flowers to Jesus!

“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me!” Matthew 25:40

A mother read to her little girl those verses with the “inasmuch” in them, and the child was soon off to carry some flowers to a poor sick Christian woman who lived near by, saying that she was taking the flowers to Jesus. She was right.

We may so set Christ before us, that even our drudgeries shall be made divine — we may transform them by doing them all for Him!

If one angel were sent to carry a cup of water to a sick child, and another to guide a nation through some peril — their tasks would be regarded as alike honorable.

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In nothing do we more frequently act recklessly and foolishly

“The tongue has the power of life and death!” Proverbs 18:21 

“I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue!” Psalm 39:1

Some people take no heed to their ways. They go stumbling on, without seeking to know the way, never thinking where they are going. 

In nothing do we more frequently act recklessly and foolishly, than in our speech. Very wise, therefore, is the resolve not to sin with the tongue. To do this we need to keep our mouth as with a bridle.

It is not easy to control one’s speech. James tells us that the tongue cannot be tamed. Even the wildest and most savage beasts can be tamed, he says — but the tongue, “can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison!” 

No member of our body needs more careful watching and more constant curbing, than our tongue. In it there is vast power of help and blessing — but in it also there is measureless power of hurt and evil. Whatever else we do, we should learn to control our tongues, so that with them we may honor God and bless our fellow-men.

“Keep your tongue from evil!” Psalm 34:13 

“Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips!” Psalm 141:3

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A serious blemish on one’s character!

“Love is not easily provoked.” 1 Corinthians 13:5

Irritability and hasty temper are so common, that people do not think much of them. We talk about them as a kind of harmless weakness, so common as to be almost permissible. Men apologize for their friends who are bad-tempered, as if it made little difference. 

But really, irritability is a serious blemish on one’s character. Think of the hurt an ungoverned temper produces in homes where angry words fly like arrows, wounding gentle hearts. Think how an ill-tempered father or mother hurts the lives of children. 

The time to get a sweet temperament is in youth. We have no right to say a harsh word anywhere, especially in our own home!

It was the custom of two particular sisters, that when one of them felt out of sorts, moody, or ill-tempered — she would go away by herself until the ugly mood had passed off. 

This would be a good rule to adopt in every home.
 In place of sulking or showing sullenness, when we feel this miserable demon getting possession of us — we had better go away and fight the battle out alone where our harsh speech will hurt no other one!

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Christ’s great pasture land!

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever!” Psalm 23  

The shepherd looks well to the feeding of his sheep. He leads them into green pastures. 

The Bible is Christ’s great pasture land. Every chapter is a field of rich grass. There are also trees, with abundance of fruits. If any Christians are not well fed, it is because they do not hunger for the food which the Good Shepherd provides. 

In the common ways of life, God’s sheep find food waiting for them. Sometimes the shepherd leads his flock through dark valleys, to get to a bit of pasture on some hillside. Sometimes Christ leads his people through sorrow, struggle, trial; but it is because on the other side of these rough and hard ways, there is rich pasture to which He would take them. 

Wherever a Christian is led in God’s providence, he will always find nourishing spiritual food somewhere. Christ never allows His people to suffer hunger.

“Where streams of living waters flow,
 My ransomed soul He leads,
 And where the verdant pastures grow 
 With celestial food He feeds!”

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We would not be so perplexed by the mysteries of our lives!

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

We are not in this world merely to do a certain work — but to be fashioned into beauty of Christly character. If we would always remember this, we would not be so perplexed by the mysteries of our lives

If joy is ours — it is to make us a greater blessing to others. 

If sorrow is ours — it is to bring out Christ’s image in us more clearly.

If our hopes are disappointed — it is because God has some better thing for us than that which we so earnestly desire. 

If we are called to endure pain — it is because the best in us can be called out only by pain. 

If bereavement comes and we are left without the human arm we have leaned upon — it is because there are elements of strength in our life which never could be developed unless the human support were removed. 

If our burdens are heavy — it is because we grow best under burdens. 

If we suffer wrong — it is to teach us better the great lessons of meekness, patience and sweet temper. 

Always the Master is making us into the beauty of the holy pattern He has set for us, and preparing us for greater usefulness and better service.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

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We have to paint the pictures ourselves! 

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12  

We are always at school. Our business here on earth, is to learn. 

The Christian virtues and graces are not put into our lives, as one hangs up pictures on the wall of a room — finished and perfect in their beauty. Rather, we have to paint the pictures ourselves! 

Paul tells us that he had learned contentment. It did not come into his life at his conversion, as a gift from his new Master. 

The word he uses indicates, too, that the learning was not easy. He says he knew both how to be filled and to be hungry. That is, his contentment did not depend on circumstances. He had the secret in his own heart, and he was content through all manner of experiences.

But it was not always so with him. His contentment was not a matter of temperament, nor was it a divine gift — he had learned it! Nor was he a young man when he said this — it had taken him years to learn the lesson. 

It is the same with all the beautiful things in character — we have to learn them! We have to learn to be patient, to be thoughtful, to be at peace, to be loving, to be kind, to be humble and meek.

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God’s divine wings!

“How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! The children of men take refuge under the shadow of Your wings!” Psalm 36:7 

The figure of a bird sheltering her young, is a favorite one in the Scriptures, as an illustration of the divine love and grace. We have it in this verse: “The children of men take refuge under the shadow of Your wings!” 

God is a refuge to all those who will flee to Him. We find . . .
  refuge from sin in the mercy of God; 
  refuge from danger in the strength of God; 
  refuge from the world’s cruelty and injustice in the gentleness of God; 
  refuge from the world’s sorrow in the comfort of God. 

It is interesting to read what those who flee to God, find under His wings: 
They find abundant satisfaction in the fatness of God’s house. 
They drink of the river of God’s pleasures.
Every need is met, every hunger is satisfied in the love of God. 
They find there also the fountain of life. 

This divine loving-kindness shall continue forever to those who know God. God’s divine wings will make our eternal home!

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The fragrance of Mary’s act of love

Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3 

Mary is always seen at the feet of Jesus. 

First, we see her there as a learner, listening to His words. 
The next time, she is in great sorrow. Her brother has died. Again she is at her Master’s feet. 
The third time, Jesus is at a feast, and Mary is at her old place, this time anointing Him with ointment. 
If she had not gone to the feet of Christ first as a learner, she would not have been able to find comfort there in her sorrow.

In the same way, we should seek Christ in the bright, happy days — and then when the dark days come we shall easily find our way to Him. 

The world has been filled ever since with the fragrance of Mary’s act of love. Just so, we should fill our homes with the fragrances of love. While we have our dear ones, we should seek every opportunity to give them the comfort of love. A home is made sweet, not by pictures on the walls, by rich carpets on the floors, by costly furniture — but by sacrificial love, showing itself in humility, gentleness, kindness, patience.

“Therefore, as God’s elect people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12

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Complaints about the weather!

“This is the day the LORD has made! We will rejoice and be glad in it!” Psalm 118:24 

People speak of different days in different tones. One is said to be a bad day, another a lovely day. There are many complaints about the weather. Some find almost nothing else to talk about, and most that they have to say is in criticism

The writer of this Psalm gives us a hint concerning the days, which we should remember. “This is the day which the Lord has made.” 

The rough days are as really made by Him, as the days that are fair days. It scarcely seems reverent to speak of any day which the Lord has made, as bad or nasty or horrible — words that some people use. The days are all sacred, whatever they are meteorologically.

“All things are in the hands of God, have Him for their Author, and are directed and governed by Him to such ends as are most suitable to His wise providence. Whoever complains of the weather — complains of the God who ordains the weather!” William Law

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God’s chastening hand

“Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2

Sometimes there are too many branches. There is not life enough to nourish them all. Some of them must be cut off, that what remain may receive full nourishment. It is the fruitful branches only that are pruned. The gardener does not trouble to prune the unfruitful branches. 

The object of the pruning is that the branch may bear more fruit.
 It sometimes seems as if the pruning were destructive. Great branches are cut off and the very life of the vine seems to be endangered. But he who holds the knife knows that what he is doing will make the vine in a little time, more luxuriant and its fruit sweeter and more abundant. 

In the same way, it is the true Christian that the Father chastens. If only we would keep this in mind, it would help us to bear God’s chastening hand in patience, and also to submit to God in His design to make us more fruitful. 

Earthly prosperity is often to a Christian like the too great luxuriance in the vine, which must be cut away with relentless hand to save the vine’s life.

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We need to take the lesson to ourselves

“In the LORD I put my trust! How can you say to my soul: Flee as a bird to your mountain”? Psalm 11:1 

When we have God, we do not need to flee to any other refuge.

David’s friends had counseled him to flee as a bird to the mountain, to find safety there from his enemies. From this suggestion David recoils with amazement, “I take refuge in Jehovah; why should I flee to any of earth’s strongholds?” 

We need to take the lesson to ourselves. We say our trust is in Christ. We profess to have committed ourselves to Him, and we sing of our confidence in Him. Yet when troubles come — do we not often begin to seek other refuges and sources of help? It is in such times that we should trust in Christ. There is no fear that the foundations of Christian faith shall be destroyed. We quote the poet’s words:
“God’s in His Heaven — 
 All’s right with the world!”

This is true — God is ever looking down upon us out of Heaven. But this is not all the truth. God is also on the earth, with His people, to guide, to shelter, to keep them. We need no other refuge when we have Him!

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28 

“I will say of the LORD: He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Psalm 91:2 

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A picture of peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 

Our hearts hunger for peace. Everywhere men search for it. But peace is not got by finding a quiet place to hide in, away from the world’s storms. The peace a Christian has must be a peace that will hold the heart quiet, in the midst of the world’s storms.

Two artists each went out to paint a picture of peace.

One painted a silvery lake, embosomed deep amid the hills, where no storm could touch it. 

The other painted a sea swept by tempests, strewn with wrecks. Rising up out of the sea was a great rock, and in the rock, high up, a cleft with herbage and flowers, amid which, on her nest, a dove was sitting calmly.

The latter is the true picture of peace. 

In the same way, the peace of Christ is a peace that holds the heart quiet in the heart of the world’s trials. This peace is offered to us here as Christ’s legacy to us. We can get it only by close fellowship with Christ Himself.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” John 16:33

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The Bible rarely pays compliments

Barnabas was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Acts 11:24

The Bible rarely pays compliments. It tells the goods things men do — but it says very little about the men themselves in the way of praise or commendation. 

Here is an exception, however. The record says that Barnabas was a good man. It is a fine commendation. Goodness is better than greatness. When Walter Scott was dying, he said to a friend who stood by him, “Be a good man.” Many men are great — and not good. Their fame is widespread, and their name is praised everywhere — but they are not good. Some are winsome and attractive — but not a blessing to others. 

Goodness means excellence of character. The name God is simply a contraction of the word good. Goodness is Godlikeness. A good man is patient, gentle, kindly, humble. All the Beatitudes live in him and work out their beauty in him. He is full of gentle ministries. Jesus Himself went about doing good

Whatever else we may be or may not be in this world, we should all try to be good in our character. Thus we shall please God and bless the world.

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A picture of the great castle of divine love!

“He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge. His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart!” Psalm 91:4

It is a wonderful shelter which God makes for us under His wings. We are reminded of what Jesus said about His love for His own people — that He would have gathered them as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. The words seem very rustic — but there is an exquisite tenderness in them. This wonderful Psalm describes the blessings which those enjoy who dwell thus in the secret place of the Most High. 

God is their refuge. He delivers them from the snares and the dangers of the world. They need not be afraid of the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday! 

The Psalm gives us a picture of the great castle of divine love into which all who love God may flee to find refuge. Of course the protection promised must not be understood as always from physical harm. But though the body is hurt or destroyed, the life that is sheltered under the wings of God is ever absolutely safe!

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As we enter a new day, a new experience, or some tangled path

“Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk.” Psalm 143:8

With all our wisdom, we cannot ourselves find the way through this world. It is a privilege then to pray, as we enter a new day, a new experience, or some tangled path, “Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk!”

But will God show us the way? 
Will He condescend to tell us the road through some painful uncertainty? 
Will He mark out our duty for us in some time of perplexity? 
Will He be interested in the guidance of His child through a dark path? 

Yes! He is ready to cause the lowliest Christian to know the way wherein he should walk. God has a plan for every believer; and if He has a plan for us, He certainly would not hide it from us so that we cannot discover what it is. We shall always find the way, if we go on obediently. We have nothing to do but to obey; God will then take care that the way is opened to our feet. Wherever we go, we may go confidently, for God will cause us to know the way.

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

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In most of our lives there are some bleating sheep and lowing oxen!

“But Samuel said: What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” 1 Samuel 15:14 

We cannot hide our sins! We may think we have covered up our evils so that detection will be impossible. Suddenly something tears away the veil, and then we are exposed to the gaze of the world!

A man carries on a series of dishonesties and covers them up by expert book-keeping, thinking he is safe. But some morning he is startled to find that the stolen sheep have been bleating, and all the world knows of his thefts and embezzlements! 

It is the nature of sheep to bleat and of oxen to low, and they have not sense enough to keep quiet when they are expected to. Indeed, they are almost sure to make a noise just when they are expected to keep perfectly still. 

It is the same with sin. It is an unsafe friend. It professes well when it offers its solicitations — but when it has been committed it is a poor confidant. It cannot keep a secret! It is sure to betray a man who depends upon it for prudent silence. In most of our lives there are some bleating sheep and lowing oxen, telling of our sins.

“Be sure your sin will find you out!” Numbers 32:23 

“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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He was only stunned, not killed!

“Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head!” 1 Samuel 17:51 

David was not satisfied with seeing the giant fall to the earth — but he ran and cut off his head. If he had not done this, the old champion would probably have got up by and by and walked away, for he was only stunned, not killed, by the stone. 

Just so, a great many of our attacks upon sin in our own hearts and in the world only temporarily disable, and do not kill the evil. We walk away, thinking we have done a fine thing, and presently we meet the old giant again, stalking abroad as before. We have then to fight the battle over again, and perhaps we fight it in the same half-way, and thus on and on to the end of life.

Most of us have had just such an experience as this. We think we are through with our old temptations — but they are soon as active as ever again. We need to learn to finish our victories by cutting off the head of every giant we strike down. The life is in the head, and the head must come off, or the enemy will be facing us again in a day or two, with but a scar on his forehead!

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

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

“Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 15:33. Like Samuel, we must hew our Agags to pieces!

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We are only so far christianized

“Leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21

“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” John 13:15 

Christianity is constantly suffering from the conduct of its professors. They profess to look to Christ as a Savior — but they do not take Christ for their Example. But these things must not be divided. He who died for our sins — also set us an example that we should follow in His steps. Christ alone should be our standard, and likeness to Him should be our aim. We are only so far christianized, as we are like Christ.

Jesus says, “Learn of Me.” We are not only learn His teaching — but learn His life

The life of Jesus is the model after which the Holy Spirit works. As the Spirit of Christ, His work is to conform us to Christ. And under His teaching and assistance, it should be our daily aim to resemble Jesus in our temper, disposition, and general deportment. 

My life should be somewhat a reflection of the life of Christ. In my conduct, I may in some degree reproduce the conduct of the Lord Jesus. No one can tell how nearly he may be conformed to the life of Jesus, if he makes this his constant prayer and habitual aim.

“He who says he abides in Him, ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1 John 2:6

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A pattern for us of heroic, happy-hearted devotion to duty

“As He went to Jerusalem.” Luke 17:11

This was the beginning of the last journey, at the end of which Jesus saw His cross waiting. Yet He did not shrink from entering upon that dreadful journey. 

We go on through life, not knowing what lies before us, and thus are saved the prolonged anguish of anticipation which would be ours if we knew our future afflictions. 

Jesus knew all that lay before Him. He never turned aside, hesitated, nor parleyed, never sought to delay and thus keep the anguish off longer. He even hastened onward, sometimes pressing on far in advance of His disciples, moving so fast that they could not keep up with Him. 

Nor did the anguish which Jesus knew lay before Him, darken His life. He lost none of His cheerfulness as He moved toward Calvary. 

Some people are rendered almost useless by approaching grief. They lose heart for duty. They drop their tasks out of their hands. But Jesus went on with His work, doing good to all He met with gentle, loving, sunny spirit — just as if He were going forward to a great joy! He is surely a pattern for us of heroic, happy-hearted devotion to duty, no matter what shadow may be looming before us.

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The absolute Ruler, Governor, and Disposer of all things! 

The Lord Jesus is the absolute Ruler, Governor, and Disposer of all things! 
Everything lies open before His eye, 
everything is sustained by His power, and 
everything is disposed of by His wisdom. 

Not a sparrow can fall to the ground without His notice and permission.

O to see Jesus in all things! 

O to see everything at the disposal of Jesus! 

O to see that all things are directed, controlled, and overruled, by Christ alone! This will . . .
  calm my mind,
  compose my spirit, and 
  produce holy resignation in my soul. 

If Jesus arranges all, sends all, directs all, overrules all — then “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” O to see that all things are working out God’s will! O to love the will of God, and consequently prefer it to all besides! May my will be swallowed up in your will, O Jesus!

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The two thieves!

“At that time two thieves were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left.” Matthew 27:38 

There are many striking suggestions in the picture of the three crosses, as they rise before our eyes. 

Jesus was of the very cross which Barabbas should have occupied as chief of the band of thieves. Barabbas had been liberated — and Jesus died in his place. The innocent one died — and the guilty one was set free. 

In the two thieves, we see the twofold effect of Christ’s cross on men. One of the thieves continued mocking, only hardened by what he saw, and perished close by Jesus’ cross. The other thief saw his sins, became penitent, and was saved.

So it is always — the cross has a twofold effect upon those who see it. Some are touched and cry out in the prayer of faith for mercy. Others, just as close, see the same exhibition of the dying love of Jesus, hear the same words of grace — but are unaffected, and go on in sin, only the more hopeless in their impenitence. 

It is possible to perish in the very sight of the cross!

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We run outside the castle of divine love!

“Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Jude 21

The night the firstborn of Egypt were to be slain, the people of Israel were commanded to gather in their homes. They were to keep within the door which was marked by the blood of the paschal lamb. There they would be safe. But if they ventured outside they would have no protection. 

In the same way, Christians are to keep themselves in the love of God, and there no harm can touch them. This does not mean that we are to keep ourselves loving God — but keep ourselves in the love of God for us. Our love is too feeble and too inconstant, to make a sure refuge for us. We are not saved because we love God — but because God loves us! “We love Him — because He first loved us.” 

We may keep ourselves in the love of God, by always remembering that He loves us, that He is our Father, loving us tenderly, then by always being obedient to His commandments. Christ tells us that if we keep His words, we shall abide in His love. The moment we disobey, we run outside the castle of divine love and no longer have its protection.

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Pessimists add greatly to the world’s sorrows

“Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Joshua, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the LORD Almighty.” Haggai 2:1,4 

There were many things to discourage the builders. The people lacked resources. There were great difficulties. It was a noble mission on which the prophet came — as an encourager. 

Every one of us should seek to be an encourager. We certainly never should be discouragers. Life is hard enough, and he who makes it harder for anyone, sins against his brother. 

Yet too many people do this continually. They are hinderers. They always find some way . . .
  to dampen ardor,
  to chill enthusiasm,
  to put clouds into clear skies. 
When they find anyone happy, they must say something to spoil the happiness. When they meet a person in trouble, they must make the trouble seem greater by their gloomy talk about it. 

Pessimists add greatly to the world’s sorrows. We all need to watch ourselves lest we join the ranks of discouragers. As God sent Haggai to cheer these discouraged builders — so He sends us to overburdened people, to those fighting battles, or enduring sorrows — to cheer them, to make them braver. Often this is the best service love can render.

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God’s chisel and hammer!

“Then those who feared the Lord  talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord  and honored His name. ‘These shall be Mine,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘in that day when I make up My jewels!’” Malachi 3:16-17 

In the days when nearly all the people had forsaken God, there were a few who were faithful. These met together and spoke one to another. They became very dear to God, and a book of remembrance was kept in which their names and their faithfulness were recorded. “These shall be Mine in that day when I make up my jewels!”  

Jewels are valuable. God gave His Son for the redemption of His chosen people.

Jewels are prepared by cutting, grinding, and polishing, until they shine in brilliant beauty. God’s chosen people are subjected to many painful experiences in preparing them for their heavenly home. 

Jewels are used for adornment and for honor. They shine in the king’s crown. The saints in Heaven shall shine as jewels in their Jesus’ crown! 

If only we knew how precious we are to God, and what hidden glory shall be ours, waiting to shine out at last — we would rejoice with unspeakable joy! 

What do a few troubles and pains matter now, if it is only the work of God’s chisel and hammer cutting away the hindering crust, to reveal the precious diamond!

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We are like foolish sheep

“To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without blemish and in exceeding joy — to the only God our Savior.” Jude 1:24-25 

Every step of the way between conversion and Heaven, is full of dangers for the believer. There are temptations at every corner. We are like foolish sheep, easily going astray. There are a thousand bypaths leading away from the right road, and we cannot know which way to take. Merely to promise to be faithful unto death, would not assure us of reaching Heaven. If there were no provision made . . .
  for keeping us,
  for sheltering and protecting us,
  and for showing us the way — 
we would never get safely home. 

But Christ is our Keeper as well as our Savior. He is able to guard us ever from stumbling, until at last He sets us before His glorious presence without blemish in exceeding joy!

This does not mean that we have nothing to do ourselves in getting safely through all life’s perils. Our duty is to be true to our Master. We are bidden to be faithful unto death, and then the promise is that we shall receive the crown of life. Revelation 2:10

“The LORD is your keeper!” Psalm 121:5

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Her friends wondered what the secret could be!

“Whom having not seen, you love.” 1 Peter 1:8

One tells of a young girl who became wondrously beautiful in her life, growing into a rare Christ-likeness. Her friends wondered what the secret could be. She wore upon her bosom a little locket which she always kept closed, refusing to allow anyone to see within it. Once, however, when she was very ill, a friend was permitted to open it, and found there only a little piece of paper, bearing the words, “Whom not having seen, I love.” 

This told the whole lovely story. Her love for the unseen Christ was the secret of that beautiful spiritual life which had so impressed itself upon her friends. 

If we love the unseen Friend, our life will be steadfast in all trial, and will be transformed little by little into the beauty of Christ!

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The true way to use the Bible!

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!” Psalm 119:11 

People use God’s Word in different ways. Some have a handsome Bible which they keep on the table — but they do not read it. Some treat the Bible superstitiously; for example, opening it at random to find a verse that will answer some question for them, or decide some perplexity.

But the true way to use the Bible, is to have it laid up in our heart! We can do this only by studying its words until they have become part of our thought. The divine word thus hidden in our heart will transform our life, changing our feelings, our desires, our thoughts, making us like God Himself!

If the Word of God dwells in us richly — it will order our steps. It is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path. It puts into our minds new thoughts, which inspire in us all beautiful things. It . . .
  comforts us in sorrow,
  strengthens us in weakness,
  and delivers us in temptation. 
It brings Heaven down into our hearts!

“I delight in Your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to Your commands, which I love, and I meditate on Your decrees!” Psalm 119:47-48

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One of the most unlovely of the human heart’s unlovely things

“Jesus asked: Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?” Luke 17:17-18 

It is evident that Jesus was deeply pained by the failure of the nine to come again to show their gratitude. The pleasure He received from the gratitude of the one, was sadly marred by the pain which the ingratitude of the nine gave Him.

Ingratitude is one of the most unlovely of the human heart’s unlovely things

Christ’s further question, “Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?” shows that He felt most, not the wrong done to Himself — but the hurt to the heart of God which their ingratitude gave. 

Many of us are pained by ingratitude shown to us, who do not think of the deeper wrong that God bears silently. All of us receive help in countless ways from others — sometimes large help, friendship that blesses our life in countless ways. We should be grateful to those to whom we owe so much. But we should first of all show gratitude to God for every blessing He has given us.

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The only Bible we can really get others to read

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 

One reason why Christians should love one another, is because God would have them interpret His love to the world. This they can do only by love, by showing love’s meaning. Anything unloving is not of God. 

A great many people do not know God — do not know what His character is. We know Him, and we are to make Him known to others. The Bible is full of revealings of God — but it is not enough for us to read the Bible to people. It does little good to quote texts which tell of God’s goodness, kindness, and holiness — if we cannot show the goodness, kindness, and holiness in our own life. 

The only Bible we can really get others to read
, is the one we write in our own conduct, disposition, and character. People must see God’s love in us. We must manifest our teaching in life!

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Who will show us any good?

“There are many who say: Who will show us any good?” Psalm 4:6

All people desire happiness — but few really enjoy it. 
Human nature cannot find it. 
Effort cannot produce it. 
Wealth cannot buy it. 
Wisdom cannot discover it. 

Jesus will take from His redeemed people all that troubles us — and give to us all that is needed by us. He offers to take . . .
  our guilt — and pardon it; 
  our cares — and provide all for us; 
  our various concerns — and overrule all for our good.

If we have . . .
  no guilt to torment us,
  no cares to harass us, 
  no anxieties to pain us; 
  if the present is provided for, and 
  the future left entirely to His wisdom, His wealth, and His love
 — should we not be happy?

Jesus would have us . . .
  cast every care on him,
  leave the management of all our concerns to Him, 
  and expect every necessary good thing from Him. 

This is happiness, to have . . .
  One to love us, 
  One to care for us, 
  One to provide for us — 
One who is at once wise, wealthy, kind, and powerful!

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The real battle was fought under the olive trees!

“When He had finished praying, Jesus left with His disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and He and His disciples went into it.” John 18:1 

The gardens of the Bible make an interesting study. 
The human race began its history in a garden.
Jesus’ agony occurred in a garden. 

Note the contrast in the experiences of that night. Until midnight the Master was with His disciples in the upper room, opening His heart to them in wonderful words of love, and then lifting them up to God in prayer. Right from this scene of peace, He went to Gethsemane. He was about to go to the cross, and went to the garden first to prepare Himself for it. He wanted the lamps of comfort lighted that they might shine in the deep gloom. He sought strength in prayer for enduring the suffering of the cross. 

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death!” The wrestling of Gethsemane made the darkness of Calvary less dark. The real battle was fought under the olive trees, and when the next day came with its anguish He was ready for it, and met it with unbroken peace.

In the same way, the best way for us to prepare for sorrow is in prayer. The season spent in communion with God will make us strong for any struggle or duty.

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What that meant, we never can know!

“Then He said to them: My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death!” Matthew 26:38 

We need not try to understand the sorrow and anguish of Jesus, for it is too deep. The heart of Christ was more sensitive to pain than any other heart that ever beat. Think how any refined, gentle-spirited man would suffer if he were betrayed by a professed friend, arrested by crude officers, his hands tied, a rope put about his neck, and if he were then led away to be tried as Jesus was that night. The mere physical indignities He suffered were terrible. 

But we know there were other elements in His sorrow. He was the Lamb of God bearing the sin of the world. What that meant, we never can know! We have seen mothers and fathers broken-hearted as they have suffered from the sins of their children. This gives us a hint only. 

It was His bearing his people’s sin that caused the sorest part of Christ’s mysterious anguish in the garden. It had a meaning, therefore, for us. Because He bore our sins — we have peace through His grace. 

May the remembrance of Gethsemane help to keep us from sinning against our Savior!

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Conquering other men’s evil with our kindness

“While being reviled, He did not revile in return. While suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” 1 Peter 2:23 

Peter tells us that when people injure us, we are to be like Christ, who committed Himself to Him that judges righteously. He left all His wrongs in the hands of His Father, keeping His own heart sweet and loving, meanwhile even suffering Himself for the sins of those who were inflicting such wrongs upon Him! 

Thus we are to endure evil. Leaving in God’s hands the righting of our wrongs — we are to do only good to those who may injure us. We are not to be overcome of evil — but are to overcome evil with good, never allowing ourselves to be driven into sin by other men’s injustice — but conquering other men’s evil with our kindness

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you!” Luke 6:27-28

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I want to live so that when I am gone

“I will bless you . . . and you shall be a blessing.” Genesis 12:2

God wants every one of His redeemed children to be a blessing in this world. The deepest desire of my heart for myself, is that I may be a blessing to many people. 

I want to live so that when I am gone, the world will be little holier, a little sweeter, and a little more beautiful because I have lived in it. 

I want to make my own life a blessing to all whom I touch with my love or with my influence.

It is my wish and my prayer that I may never give a hurt to any life, nor start any influence which I shall ever wish I could withdraw. 

I want to make every day a little garden-plot in which my hand shall drop seeds that will grow into beauty, fragrance, and fruitfulness. 

I want so to live that people will thank God for me, and think of me as having helped them with all gentle cheer and inspiration. 

I want to be ever an encourager, never a discourager, of others — for many people have heavy burdens, and life is made harder for them by even one hopeless word. 

I want to be in my little measure, just the kind of blessing my Master was!

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We have nothing to do with life in the aggregate!

“Then the LORD said to Moses: Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” Exodus 16:4 

The bread came down from Heaven — but the people had to gather it. Then they were not to lay by in store — but were taught to simply live by the day. When night came they had no food left over — but were entirely dependent upon God’s new supply to come in the morning. 

By this method God was teaching all after generations a lesson. When Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer, He put this same lesson into it, for He taught us to say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” 

We cannot get grace today, for tomorrow’s duties; and if we try to bear tomorrow’s cares and burdens today, we shall break down in the attempt. 

We have nothing to do with life in the aggregate — that great bulk of duties, anxieties, struggles and needs, which belong to the future. Our sole business is with the one little day now passing — and the one day’s burdens will never crush us; we can easily carry them until the sun goes down.

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This old priest and his wife!

“In the time of King Herod, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” Luke 1:5-6 

“In the time of King Herod.” The time was not favorable to piety. 

It is not hard to live a beautiful life in favorable circumstances. If a child has a sweet home with only gentle influences — an atmosphere of love — it is not strange that the child’s life grows up into beauty. But if the home is cold and unkindly, without love and godliness, it seems almost a miracle if a child grows up loving God and with a worthy character. 

“In the time of King Herod” were not days when it was easy to be godly and devout. The times were ungodly, and the prevailing spirit was unrighteous. The holy lives of Zacharias and Elizabeth are like lamps shining in the darkness. Amid the almost universal corruption of the priesthood, and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees — this old priest and his wife lived in godly simplicity. 

In the same way, it is possible for us to be godly though all around us are evil. We need not be like those among whom we live. No matter how corrupt the times or unholy the influences — we ought always to strive to be holy and pure. 

“So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe!” Philippians 2:15

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We find the same red cord running!

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures!” 1 Corinthians 15:3 

The scarlet line of the Redeemer’s blood runs through all the Scriptures.

We find it in the sacrifices

We find it in the Prophets and in the Psalms, where the sufferings of the Messiah for His people are foretold. 

We find it in the Gospels, for the shadow of the cross fell back over all the life of Jesus. He spoke of His death, and said that He had come to give His life a ransom for many. 

In the Acts and the Epistles we find the same red cord running, for we read continually . . .
  of redemption through the blood of Christ; 
  of His suffering, the just for the unjust; 
  of our being redeemed by His precious blood;
  of His blood, which cleanses us from all sin.

Nothing could be clearer than the declarations of the Scriptures, that Christ died for our sins. This tells us what a terrible thing sin is, to require such a costly atoning sacrifice. It reminds us, too, of the greatness of Christ’s love for us, to take away our sins.

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Reasons for loving God

“For you, O LORD, have delivered . . .
  my soul from death,
  my eyes from tears,
  my feet from stumbling!” 
Psalm 116:8 

We can find many reasons for loving God. One is, that God lovesus. “We love Him — because He first loved us.” The Psalmist says, “I love the Lord — because He has heard my voice and my supplications.” 

Another reason for loving God, is because of what God has done for us. “For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling!”

“You have delivered my soul from death.” This Christ did by dying for us. We believers do not die, we only fall asleep. Jesus says, “Whoever lives and believes in Me, shall never die.”

“You have delivered my eyes from tears.” Not always at once. We may have sorrows here in this poor world. But there is blessing in the believer’s tears. Then, some day God shall wipe away all our tears, and it will be found, too, that they have enriched our lives! 

“You have delivered my feet from stumbling.” The world’s paths are rough, and we are in danger of stumbling. But the Lord will keep our feet, so that we shall not fall, and that at last we shall reach our eternal heavenly home!

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What the last act of each day should be

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26

This is a counsel for the closing of the day which we should never forget. Some of us have to spend our days among people who try us exceedingly. Their conduct irritates us. Almost no one passes through a day without having to experience things that are hard to endure. 

When evening comes the heart often has lost its peace, and is disturbed. Things have happened during the day which have stirred resentments and bitter feelings. We feel bitter, angry and unforgiving. Is that the spirit in which we should end our day? 

Each day is a miniature life, complete at nightfall. We should finish up all its affairs, leaving them ready for judgment. Paul tells us what the last act of each day should be“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” If there are irritations and resentments in your heart, when you offer your evening prayer, be sure that all is forgiven as you say, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

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This is the Master’s program for life

“If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

There are three things that we must do if we would follow Christ: 

1. We must deny self. Some people think that denying self is doing without something they want, and that if they give up some luxury, they have done what Jesus requires. But the self-denial meant here is the giving up of self altogether, and the putting of Christ in the place as Lord of our life.

2. The second thing is to take up our cross daily. We are not to make crosses for ourselves — there is no virtue in being miserable. We must give up our own will — and take Christ’s. All these are crosses — our crosses, and we must take them up cheerfully. The word “daily” suggests that some cross is likely to come into every day’s life. We must learn to take up every one that comes, always keeping sweet.

3. The third thing is to follow Christ. We must always follow Him, never let Him get out of sight, ever cleaving to Him.

This is the Master’s program for life.

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The quickest way to conquer an enemy

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” Romans 12:20 

We are apt to resent insults, and retaliate when others say or do evil things to us. The Christian way is either not to speak at all — or to give the soft answer that turns away wrath. 

Not only is this the Christian way — but it is also the way of wisdomThe quickest way to conquer an enemy, is to treat him with kindness! 

Resenting every insult, keeps one continually in turmoil; whereas ignoring slights and going on with our own duty, is the way to peacefulness. The best answer to sneers, is a quiet life of patience and gentleness.

“But I say to you, 
 love your enemies,
 bless those who curse you,
 do good to those who hate you, and
 pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you!”
     Matthew 5:44 

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

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We are immortal until our work is done!

“Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar” Acts 27:24 

If Paul must stand before Caesar in Rome — then he could not perishin the storm on the voyage to Rome. 

In the same way, everyone, doing God’s will, is immortal until his work is done. If God has something for us to do next year — He will not allow us to die this year. 

It ought to be a great comfort to us amid the sicknesses and dangers of this world, to know that each life is in the care of God, that no disease or accident can reach one of God’s children without God’s permission. Even a sparrow shall not fall to the ground without our Father. 

Our only care should be to be true to God, and faithful in duty. Then death cannot touch us until our work on earth is finished.

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Silently, secretly, always grace sufficient

“Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day.” Acts 26:22.

Paul had now been a Christian for twenty-five years, and they had been years of strenuous life. But he had never faltered, never turned aside. The help came from God, for all these years of Christian labor. He obtained help from God for every duty, for every hour of danger, for every struggle. The help came from Him — silently, secretly, always grace sufficient — so that was able to stand year after year.

In the same way, God never puts a burden on us without giving us the strength we need to carry it. The way to obtain help of God is to go faithfully and promptly forward in the way of duty, asking for His help and sure of getting it. It will not come if we wait to get it before we set out to obey God. It will come only as we do God’s will.

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The hard things in life

“O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away, and be at rest!” Psalm 4:6.

These lines make quite a poetic gem, and often they are quoted in sermons and books, and their sentiment commended as something very worthy. 

But really, the words are not to be praised as expressing a noble and lofty spirit. The writer was in the midst of trouble, and he longed for a bird’s wings that he might flee from it all. It would have been nobler, if he had prayed for strength to endure his troubles victoriously. 

It is not heroic for us to desire to fly away from the place where our duty is, however full it may be of difficulty or of peril. We should rather pray for strength to be true and loyal to our Master, wherever He may place us.

The hard things in life are not meant to discourage us and cause us to falter; they are intended rather to put new courage into our hearts, that we may grow strong.

“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:10-11

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We forget that there is such a hand!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all His benefits!” Psalm 103:2

It is easy for us to forget the benefits we receive from God. We see nodivine hand giving us the good things we need — and we forget that there is such a hand! Our common blessings come to us in what we call natural ways, and we fail to remember that every good gift is from above. 

Life would be wonderfully changed for us, if we could keep ourselves always aware that it is God who gives us everything we receive. It would give a new sacredness to all our common blessings. It would make us conscious of the divine love that . . .
  thinks about us continually,
  hears all our prayers, and
  provides all that we truly need. 

Then it would help us to endure the things that seem hard. If our heavenly Father gives difficult things to us — then they must be good, though they are painful. 

Some of God’s greatest kindnesses to us, are His withholdings from us of certain things which we greatly desire and which we think would be good. 

Many of His best kindnesses to us, are things which we even think unkindnesses. We should never forget that God is always giving us the blessings we need.

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits!” Psalm 68:19 

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Why are you cast down, O my soul?

Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me?” Psalm 43:5.

It is well when we are disposed to be discouraged — to find the real cause of the depression. Some good people let the habit of complaining so gain the mastery over them, that their troubles seem far worse than they are. 

It is well to ask then the question to ourselves, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” Is there any real reason for the depression we have allowed to get hold upon us? Are things as bad with us as we think they are? 

Then, even if there are discouragements, troubles — is there nothing in God to meet them or to dispel our anxiety? Is it nothing to us that we have God, that we are God’s children, that God is caring for us? 

The Psalmist found the answer to his “Why?” in the words, “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.” 

Suppose we really do have pain, sorrow, and trial — we have God, too, and God should suffice. A Christian never should complain, and never should be discouraged. If he has the faith he may have, nothing should ever dismay him.

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God has given us two books!

“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.” Psalm 19:1-2 

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” Psalm 19:7

God has given us two books — one in nature, the other in the Holy Scriptures. 

The serious believer is amazed at the vastness of the universe, and sees glory everywhere. He who knows God, sees the divine glory in every common bush, in every flower that blooms, in everything in God’s book of nature. 

But it is in the divine Word that the love of God is most clearly revealed. This Word has the power of God in it. It restores the soul, putting back upon it its lost beauty, its dimmed luster. This work of transformation goes on in every life of trust and obedience, until it bears the full image of Christ. 

Nothing in this world is so precious, as are the divine Scriptures. To have them is better than to have all riches. Gold serves only a temporary need in but a transient way — but the Word of God blesses the inner life. It is faithful in its warnings. It shows us our dangers that we may escape from them. It searches our hearts, finding every secret flaw and hidden fault, and makes our lives pure and holy.

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The alabaster box of our heart’s deepest love!

“They presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11.

The magi were not content merely to worship the King, showing Him homage in word or posture — but they also laid their gifts at His feet. 

In the same way, it is not enough for us . . .
  to sing our songs of praise to Christ, 
  to look up adoringly into His face, 
  to bow before Him in reverent worship, 
  and to speak our heart’s homage in words. 
We should bring our gifts, too, to lay at His feet. 

There is a great deal of mere sentiment in the consecration of many people. It is sentiment only, and when there is a call for gifts, for sacrifice, or for real and costly services — the sentiment instantly vanishes! People sing missionary hymns with great warmth — but when the collection box comes to them, they still continue singing so robustly that they do not see it and allow it to pass by! 

Not only did these magi bring gifts — but they brought rich and costly gifts. We should bring our best — our gold and frankincense and myrrh, the alabaster box of our heart’s deepest love, and the best of all our life and service. Only our best is worthy of our King.

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The question rather is

“Confess your faults one to another.” James 5:16.

Perhaps there is not enough of mutual confession between Christian people. Many of us are ready enough to confess the faults and sins of others. Fault-finding is not uncommon, even in homes where family prayers are said, and where the motto, “God Bless Our Home,” hangs conspicuously on the wall. We do not need to be exhorted to tell others of their faults, as if that were the duty. But the confession which we are to make is different. 

“Confess your faults one to another.” The question is not,
“What have my friends done today that was unkind to me? 
 How have they annoyed or hurt me? 
 How have they added to my burdens and made life harder for me?” 
Love is to cover up all these faults, forget them, forgive them. 

The question rather is
“What have Idone today to pain or harm my friends? 
 What duties of love to them have I neglected? 
 In what have I been unkind to them? 
 What words have I spoken that caused them pain?” 
Then our duty is to confess to them these faults and sins, and seek their forgiveness.

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Where does my help come from?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of Heaven and earth! He will not let your foot slip — He who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you — the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm — He will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore!” Psalm 121

The most faithful human guarding does not assure us of absolute safety, for everything human is fallible. 

But when we have God for our keeper, we know that no harm can befall us. He made all things, is stronger than all evil, and therefore is able to keep us. His care extends to the smallest matters — He will not even let our foot slip. He will guard us from all missteps and stumblings. His guardianship is constant.

The most vigilant human watchfulness is intermittent; the most devoted mother must sleep. Yet He who is keeping us, never slumbers or sleeps. There is never an instant when He is not ready to defend us. God does not merely build a refuge for us — but He Himself is our shade, so that the sun will not smite us by day, nor the moon by night.

If we are under this divine guardianship, we shall be kept from all evil. When we go out and when we come in, God is ever guarding us, and His care of us will never end nor grow weary!

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We would wreck everything!

“The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice!” Psalm 97:1 

There is reason for the greatest joy in knowing that God reigns. If the world were under the rule of ‘chance’ — what confidence could we ever have, what assurance of good? 

But God rules in ALL events and circumstances! God is wise and powerful and loving in all that He does.

This is our Father’s world! It belongs to Him. He controls it, and directs all its forces. 

We have nothing to fear from the elements, from nature’s great convulsions, from storms or earthquakes — for the Lord reigns in nature! 

It is said that at the center of the cyclone is a spot of perfect quiet, where a baby might sleep in safety in its cradle. Just so, at the center of the most perilous experiences of life, is a place of perfect peace.

God’s reigning is a reason for rejoicing, also, because He rules in wisdom, in truth, and in love. If we had our lives in our own hands for one day — we would wreck everything! But there are no mistakes in God’s government. Good comes out of all that He does. The foundations of His throne are righteousness and justice.

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!” Revelation 19:6-7

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God’s best blessings

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Who would think of selecting mourners as blessed or happy ones? We think their condition is most unenviable. Yet here Jesus says that the mourners are blessed

In all this poor world there is nothing so precious before God as tears of contrition — no gems shine with such brilliance in His sight. There is joy in the presence of the angels over one penitent sinner. Those who grieve over their sins, are comforted with the comfort of God’s peace. 

The Beatitude refers also to God’s children who are in sorrow. Some day we shall see that we have received God’s best blessings, not in the days of our joy and gladness — but in the days of affliction. 

Tears are lenses through which our dim eyes see more deeply into Heaven and look more fully upon God’s face than in any other way. We grow best when clouds are hanging over us, because clouds bring refreshing rain. God’s comfort is such a rich experience, that it is well worth while to suffer that we may enjoy the blessing to be received only through pain.

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Great hobgoblins of terror!

“There we saw the giants; and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight!” Numbers 13:33 

There are some people who are afraid of undertaking a Christian life. They look over into it and cannot help confessing that it is a good thing to be a follower of Christ, that there are many blessings for those who believe on Him. But they see giants, too, stalking over the country!

There are enemies to fight, too, strongholds to conquer, evils to overcome. There are giants — giants of temptation — and these seem terrible to the timid people. Too many see only this warlike side of Christian life, the dark side, the side of trial and hardship, of sacrifice and cost — and do not see or think of the divine side — the side of help, of hope, of promise, of victory. They magnify all the difficulties — so the commonest forms of opposition become great hobgoblins of terror to them. It is a poor, cowardly way to live, unworthy of those who are God’s children. 

Of course we must have our battles — every noble thing in life has to be won

Of course there are giants to meet. But if God is with us we need not fear any enemies.

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; You are mine! When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!” Isaiah 43:1-3

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Ten frightened men!

“There we saw the giants; and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight! So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night!” Numbers 13:33-14:1 

Ten frightened men
 spread discouragement among and brought disaster upon a whole nation. They started a panic of fear among the people, the result of which was a revolt. The people even went so far as to organize for a return to Egypt, intending to depose Moses! 

The penalty for this sin was the shutting of the gates of the promised land upon all that generation. For forty years the people wandered in the wilderness, until all the men who rebelled that day had died!

The lesson should not be lost. We never should be discouragers; we should always be encouragers. 

Emerson says, “It is cheap and easy to destroy. There is not a joyful boy or an innocent girl, buoyant with fine purpose of duty, full of eager and rosy faces — but a cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word! Yes, this is easy; but to help the young soul, add energy, inspire hopes, and blow the coals into a useful flame; to redeem defeat by new thought, by firm action — that is not easy; that is the work of holy men.”

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The influence of the beautiful life!

“They have refreshed my spirit and yours.” 1 Corinthians 16:18 

One of the best tests of our life, is that others are helped, cheered, strengthened, or comforted — by the things in us which are beautiful and holy. 

There are some people whose lives are blessings wherever they go. The peace, joy, and love of their hearts — make others happier and holier. 

One of the old legends tells of the visits of a goddess to ancient Thebes, and relates that the people always knew when she had been there, although no eye ever saw her — by the blessings she left behind. She would pause before a lightning-blackened tree — and the tree would be covered with beautiful vines. She would sit down to rest upon a decaying log — and the decay would be hidden under lovely moss. When she stepped on the muddy shores of the sea — violets would spring up in her footsteps. 

This is only a legend — but it illustrates the influence of the beautiful life in which the fruits of the Spirit have full and rich growth. There are lives so full of grace and goodness, that every influence they give forth is toward cheer and hope and purity, that every word they speak is the seed of a new blessing!

“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me.” 2 Timothy 1:16

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The way God’s will is made known to us!

It is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. Deuteronomy 30:11

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.” Deuteronomy 30:11 

An artist wished to leave behind him some noble work which would make him famous for all time. Despising the common clay which was easily found, in which he had always wrought as an apprentice — he went far and near in search of fine material, fit for the beautiful form he wished to fashion. After journeying over all lands in vain quest for what he wanted, he came home at length, weary and disappointed, only to find in the clay by his own doorstep, that from which he molded the masterpiece of his dream. 

In the same way, the common tasks of our everydays furnish us the elements which go to make the divinest deeds.
To be kind to a poor woman, to a sick man, or to a little child;
to visit one who needs our sympathy; 
to minister to one who is in need — 
is fit work for a child of God to do. 

We may always seek our work for the Master close at our hand. We may begin with the common tasks that await us as we go out any morning; and then go on doing always the next thing, however simple it may be. That is the way God’s will is made known to us!

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The moment there is a break in the current of pleasant things!

“You shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness — to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2 

When we are called to remember the way by which the Lord has led us, it is intended that we should think of the goodness and mercy of the way. 

Many people have an unfailing memory for the unpleasant things — the losses, the sorrows, the difficulties of the way; while they are most forgetful of the divine love that attends them at every step. They will take blessings from God as they come in continuous flow — with scarcely a thought of thanksgiving. But the moment there is a break in the current of pleasant things, they cry out in complaint! 

Believers are God’s children, and we should have eyes for the divine goodness in all the way in which He leads us. 

There are some people who never see the lovely things in nature. They walk through scenes of inimitable beauty — and see nothing to admire. 

In the same way, there are those who partake of God’s goodness for a lifetime — and yet never think gratefully of God.

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Blessed is he who considers the poor

Blessed is he who considers the poor.” Psalm 41:1 

We ought not to forget the poor. If we have plenty, and our neighbor lacks — then we cannot ask God to bless our own daily bread, while we are not ready to share with our poor brother. 

It is not enough, either, just to give to the poor. The blessing is upon the man who “considers the poor.” To consider is to think of, to have an interest in, to show compassion upon. We must give love as well as alms — or our almsgiving counts for nothing.

We are to “consider” the poor. This may not be giving alms at all. Perhaps money is not the best help for him. Giving money is often the last thing to do — perhaps we ought not to give money at all. 

Our poor neighbor may be more in need of encouragement and cheer, or of sympathy and kindness — than he is of alms. Anyway, if we give money it should be only after we have considered the case of the person in need. We must “consider” people. . .
  love them,
  sympathize with them,
  pray for them — and 
then thoughtfully and carefully decide how best to help them.

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The most sacred and precious household treasure!

“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Job 1:1

Job was not perfect — but blameless

Someone has said that no doubt many of the most beautiful things in Heaven, are the outcome of earth’s blunders — things which God’s children, with loving hearts, tried to do to please God. Our blunders tell of our love, and are dear to God. 

There is a rich home that I visit in which the most sacred and precious household treasure is a piece of puckered sewing. The little girl of the home one day picked up the mother’s sewing — some simple thing she had been working on — and after half an hour’s quiet, brought it to her and gave it to her, saying, “Mother, I’s been helping you, ’cause I love you so.” The stitches were long and the sewing was puckered — but the mother saw only beauty in it all, for it told of her child’s love and eagerness to please her. That night the little one sickened, and in a few hours was dead. No wonder the mother keeps that piece of puckered sewing among her rarest treasures. Nothing that the most skillful hands have wrought, among all her household possessions, means half so much to her as that handkerchief with the child’s unskillful work on it.

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Peace is their pillow!

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 

Evidently God loves the quiet life. Quietness is a secret of spiritual power. In times of public excitement, it is the quiet man who speaks thoughtfully and temperately, and never rashly — who is the benefactor of society. 

The lesson has its application also to the times of suffering. The moment one has learned to acquiesce cheerfully and uncomplainingly in any pain or trouble — half the battle is fought.

“Does it hurt you much?” one asked of a friend who lay with a broken arm. “Not when I keep still,” was the answer. 

The secret of much of the victoriousness of Christian life is told in this answer. Christian people conquer pain and bitterness, by keeping still. They are so assured of God’s infinite love and wisdom, that they are pained by no doubt, and are disturbed by no fear or uncertainty. Peace is their pillow, because they have learned to be still. Quietness robs . . .
  trial of its sharpness,
  sorrow of its bitterness,
  death of its sting, and
  the grave of its victory!

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The Christliest life!

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

Thanksgiving should never be lacking in a Christian’s life. It is not enough to observe one day in the year for thanksgiving, although that is a beautiful thing to do. Nor is it enough to put a sentence of thanksgiving into our daily prayers, although this also is proper. It is the grateful spirit which pleases God — the spirit that is always full of praise. 

Too many of us go to God only with requests, our burdens, our worries — while we but rarely go to Him with thanksgiving and praise.

We are not to be thankful only for the pleasant things that come into our days — we are to be thankful, too, for the things that appear to us to be adversities. “In everything give thanks.” That means, in the sad days — as well as in the glad days; when clouds are in the sky — as well as when the sunshine is pouring everywhere. 

It is especially said here that thanksgiving is the will of God for us. This is the way that God would have us to live. A rabbinic teaching says that the highest angel in Heaven, is the angel of praise. The Christliest life is one that is always keyed to the note of praise and thanksgiving!

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It seemed a strange time and place to be holding a prayer-meeting!

“The jailer put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God!” Acts 16:24-25 

It seemed a strange time and place to be holding a prayer-meeting, down there in the dungeon, about midnight. It is not so surprising to hear of men praying to God in such circumstances — but it certainly was unusual to hear hymns sung in such a place.

Most people are in the singing mood, only when their circumstances are pleasant. But here were men singing in the midst of greatest pain and trouble! 

What was the secret? 
It was their strong faith in God. They had learned to rejoice even in tribulations. Christ was with them, and instead of being cast down, they rejoiced. 

In the same way, we should learn to rejoice in our tribulations. If we are true Christians, there can come to us no experience that ought to stop our singing. We know that our Father’s loving hand is in every trial; and we know also that whatever He sends or allows, must have in it some real blessing. 

It will be well to take a lesson from these singing prisoners. 
The best thing we can do with pain and anguish, is to pray and sing hymns to God.

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God buries the worker — but carries on the work!

“So Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, just as the LORD had said.” Deuteronomy 34:5 

“Now Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom. So the people of Israel obeyed him, doing just as the LORD had commanded Moses.” Deuteronomy 34:9 

We sometimes think when a godly man dies, that the loss is irreparable. But God is not dependent on any one man for the carrying on of His work. The dying of Moses did not interfere with the fulfillment of the divine purpose for the people of Israel. The great leader was removed — but the work was not allowed to suffer or even to pause. Already another man was ready to take it up. 

We think the that taking away of this or that person is an irreparable loss. So it may be in the inner personal relations. Yet in the larger sense, “God buries the worker — but carries on the work.” 

Moses is gone — but Joshua is ready and takes up his unfinished tasks. The people are led across the Jordan into the promised land by him. One person sows and then dies — and another comes and reaps the harvest. One lays the foundation of a great building and then dies — and then another comes and builds up the walls

Let us learn to trust God more perfectly when death takes away those we have leaned upon.

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There is a lesson here!

“After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said: Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.” Joshua 1:1-2 

Moses was dead and the people were mourning for him. It was right to mourn for so good and great a man — but possibly Joshua and the people were allowing their grief so to absorb them that they were neglecting their duty. Hence this call from God came to arouse them. Sorrow was not a duty of many days — the Lord’s work was waiting meanwhile. 

There is a lesson here for all who are called to mourn the death of loved ones. They are not to sit down in inconsolable grief and tears. They are to arise and take up the work that waits for them. Our duties do not fall out of our hands when our friends die. Our grief is not to be allowed to break up our work. 

Often, indeed, the death of a friend puts upon us new responsibilities. When a father dies, the son is called to take up the burden that the father has carried heretofore. The death of a husband lays new responsibilities on the wife, which she must now assume. There is a very important lesson in the ringing call, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise!”

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Can such faith save him?

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” James 2:14 

That is, a faith without works — faith which is only of the intellect, having no influence on the life. 

We are saved by faith, because the faith unites us to Christ. There is no virtue in faith itself, but as it brings us into union with Jesus, the source of all blessing. 

One of the figures Jesus Himself uses is the vine and its branches. As the life of the vine flows into the branches, so the life of Christ flows into those who believe on Him. They do the same kind of works that Jesus did, because He lives in them. 

It is obvious that the faith which saves, produces holy life. Hence any faith which does not produce good works, is not saving faith.

There are many people whose creed is excellent — they believe all the great truths in the Bible. Yet they do not keep God’s commandments — they do not live the Christian life. “Can such faith save them?” 

Nothing is more clearly taught than that only those who are holy, can enter into the kingdom of Heaven. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” — they, and they alone!

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Unless you forgive your brother from your heart

“This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you, unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:35 

One says, “If you receive pardon from God — you will give pardon to your brother. If you withhold pardon from your brother — you thereby make it manifest that you have not got pardon from God.” 

An unforgiving spirit is a root of bitterness, from which there springs a tree whose leaves are poisonous, and whose fruit, carrying in it the seeds of evil — is death to all who taste it!

“Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Matthew 6:12 

“Forgive — and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

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There was no funeral that day!

“Jesus came near and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said: ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Luke 7:15  

“Jesus came near.” He always comes near to His children who are distressed. He does not stand far off and speak His words of comfort through chilling air. We should learn a lesson here. If we would do people good, we must get near to them. 

Jesus touched the coffin. He was not afraid of being defiled. There is wondrous power in His touch. The bearers let their burden down on the ground and did not have to lift it again. 

There was no funeral that day! Death on his triumphal march, carrying another captive to his dark prison, was met by the Prince of life, and was compelled to yield up his prey!

Jesus spoke to the dead. Can the dead hear? Yes, there is one voice they can hear, and that all the dead must some day hear. Here at Nain that day the voice called, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” Then, strange wonder! “The dead man sat up and began to talk!”

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The good Samaritan

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” Luke 10:33-34 

The sympathy of this good Samaritan took the practical form of doing something — something, too, which cost. He bound up the man’s wounds — that was practical loving. He stanched the bleeding of the sufferer. He set him on his own donkey. He did not leave him there on the roadside, but rested not until he had him safe in a warm shelter. He did not even content himself with getting the man into an inn. After doing so much, he might have said, “I have done my share; let someone else look after him now.” But he was in no hurry to get the case off his hands. He took care of the man for a time, and then, when he had to go on his way, provided for the continuation of the care as long as it would be needed. 

The good Samaritan is Christ’s own picture of what Christian love should be in every one of His disciples.

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The unconscious influences of our lives

“After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:12 

It is not in noise that God usually reveals Himself in greatest power. He works silently, without noise. It is the silent things, the unconscious influences of our lives, which make the deepest and most lasting impressions — and not the things which get advertised in the papers, and are most talked about.

Jesus was a still small voice in this world. He did not strive nor cry out; neither was His voice heard in the streets. He did not break a bruised reed, so gentle was He in His goings and in His workings. Yet that one sweet, quiet life, pouring forth its spirit of love and tenderness, wrought more than has been wrought by all the armies of conquerors since the world began!

If we would be effective in our work, we must learn to work quietly. 

The greatest preacher is the one who most deeply impresses men, in matters that affect their living and serving, inciting and inspiring them to worthy deeds and beautiful godly living. The best Christian workers are those who make the least noise. We never can do our best work if we have not learned to work quietly, for Christ and not for ourselves.

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We all live in glass houses!

“Don’t grumble against each other, brothers!” James 5:9 

Perhaps few faults are more common, than grumbling against one another. 

Some people seem absolutely unwilling ever to say a kind, generous thing of another. They will listen to your praises of one you admire very much and appear to admit all you say, yet they cannot let it pass without putting in a “But” to qualify your enthusiastic approval. Even their most intimate friends are not allowed to escape the bit of damaging criticism which they think ought to mar every fair picture! 

Our lesson sets another rule for us, “Don’t grumble against each other.” If we insist on being judges of others and condemning them — then we are inviting others to look into our lives to find faults, foibles, blemishes. We all live in glass houses — and should never throw stones at another! 

Then it is true also that in judging others, we are condemning ourselves. The blot we see in another is, after all — but a reflection of the blot in ourselves!

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Difficult people!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 

It costs to live congenially with people. We have to give up many of our own preferences to please them. We have to deny ourselves many enjoyments, so as not to irritate and give them pain. The price of living with others sweetly and harmoniously, is always self-forgetfulness, self-effacement. 

But this cost is the very gold of life! 
It is the only antidote for selfishness! 
It is the way of Christlikeness! 

Difficult people are means of grace to us in many ways, and not in the smallest measure, through the self-denials which we are required to make in living with them. It is the self-discipline of friendship and home and human fellowship — which makes us men and women of strong character, which makes us at last like Christ. We may thank God, therefore, for what difficult people do for us in life’s contacts.

Sometimes we say certain people are hard to live with. Possibly they find us hard to live with, too! We do not know how many quirks there are in our disposition and temper, nor how we try our friends by our selfish and thoughtless ways. Yet living with others is our only hope. If we lived alone, we would harden into selfishness and worthlessness.

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It is because God loves us, that we are permitted to suffer!

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand!” John 13:7 

Sorrow sometimes staggers us. There is a mystery about it which we cannot solve. 

One was speaking of the intense suffering of a father in a long illness. At times his pain was almost unendurable. “I cannot understand why God permits it,” said his daughter. “He has always been such a godly man — so gentle, so kindly, so patient, so unselfish, so faithful! Why is it that now he has to endure such suffering?” 

No one can answer this question, to say exactly why this godly man suffers so, yet we know that blessing and good will surely come out of the experience in the end. Possibly he is suffering, that his own life may be made more radiant. Possibly he is permitted to suffer as a witness for Christ — his patience, trust, and joy being the fruit of the Spirit in him. In some way at least, we know that pain is meant to yield blessing to him who endures it, or to those who look on and note the courage and victoriousness with which it is borne. Of one thing we may always be sure — it is because God loves us, that we are permitted to suffer!

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

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We may trust our Master to choose our every situation, place, and work!

“He has done all things well!” Mark 7:37

In preparing for a great battle, one of the most able and successful generals was assigned by the commander to the guarding of a certain bridge which seemed entirely out of the field of conflict. The general thought himself dishonored in being thus kept out of the battle. He heard the noise of the engagement far away, and fretted at being kept in his obscure place, with his command absolutely idle. But at length the line of battle swerved and moved toward him. The enemy was falling back, and the bridge he was guarding became the very key to the situation. So it came about that this brave and valiant soldier was in the end the hero of the battle. The commander had foreseen the importance of this bridge, and had assigned his ablest general to defend it.

In the same way, we do not know the importance in the Master’s eye, of the obscure position we are set to occupy, or of the inconspicuous work we are set to do. It may be the vital element in some great providential movement. We may trust our Master to choose our every situation, place, and work!

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28 

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There is no other secret of Christian joy

“When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD also began!” 2 Chronicles 29:27 

The offering was on the altar, and the great choir was waiting. The moment the smoke began to rise, the choir began to sing. The burnt offering meant the consecration of the offerer to God. The song could not begin until the offering began. 

The teaching is, that true spiritual joy and growth comes only from devotion to duty. We must lay ourselves on the altar, before we can know what Christian joy is. We shrink from hard tasks, from duties that involve self-denial, from self-sacrifice — thinking that we are making happiness for ourselves by avoiding the hardness and the cost. Really, however, we are missing true joy, which can come to us only through the surrender of self. 

No one ever found joy in doing a selfish thing. Doing a base act never yet made anyone happy. The priest and the Levite were not made glad by sparing themselves trouble and cost when they passed on and did not help the wounded man. It was the good Samaritan who had a song in his heart after his helping of the poor sufferer. There is no other secret of Christian joy.

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Meekness is weakness

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

The world calls that a cowardly spirit, which leads a man to be patient and quiet under insult, to endure wrong without resentment. Men of the world say that meekness is weakness

But the truest example of manliness the world ever saw was that of Jesus Christ, and when we turn to His life we see that meekness was one of the noblest qualities of His character. When He was reviled He reviled not again, when He suffered He threatened not. Having all power, He never lifted a finger to avenge a personal affront. He answered men’s bitterest wrath with tender love; and upon His cross, when the blood was flowing from His wounds, He prayed for His murderers.

We are not poorer for quietly accepting wrong and injury. “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Those who commit their life to Him who judges righteously, leaving to Him the adjustment of the inequalities of human treatment — will be great gainers in the end. God takes into His care those who suffer for righteousness’ sake, and their loss becomes gain.

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The wicked man’s prosperity

“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.” Psalm 37:1-2 

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him. Do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7 

Some good people envy others who are not Christians, who seem to have less trouble than they have who obey God. They vex themselves because unbelievers appear to have fewer difficulties and greater prosperity than believers. This Psalm throws light upon such experiences. 

The wicked do not always have prosperity. They are soon cut down like the grass. 

Those who are God’s children need only to trust in the Lord and do good, to be diligent in duty, delighting themselves in God, feeding upon His faithfulness — for His promise is, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28 

We need never fret because of the wicked man’s prosperity. It is short-lived at the best, while he who does the will of God abides forever. 

One godly man put it thus: “God does not settle His accounts every December.” 

One blessing out of all this for those who trust in God, is the disciplining of their faith. The difficulty is to believe that God is in control of His world, even when all appearances are against it.

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Each little life is long enough

“As long as it is day, I must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4 

As Christians, we must do the work of God each day. To do this work we have just a “day” of time. Each one’s day, is his lifetime. A day is brief — it is not long from the rising to the setting of the sun. A day is a fixed time — when the sun comes to his going down, no power can prolong his stay for one minute. Yet the day is long enough for the accomplishing of God’s work. The sun never sets too soon for His purpose. 

Each little life is long enough for the work God allots to it. This is true even of the infant that lives but an hour, merely coming, smiling its blessing and flying away. It is true of the child, of the young man, of him who dies in the maturity of his life, with his hands yet full of unfinished tasks. 

To have our work completed at the end, we must do it while the day lasts, for there will be no opportunity afterward.

“Today is ours only; 
 Work, work while you may; 
 There is no tomorrow,
 But only today.”

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We must prove our love by our life

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

We must prove our love by our life. In one of his epistles, the disciple of love writes, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18 

John is speaking of the proving of love to our fellow men — but the same principle applies to our profession of love to Christ. It is not enough that we sing about love in our hymns, affirm love in our prayers, and recite love in our creeds; we must show it in our everyday life by obedience to His commandments.

A fruit-tree proves its usefulness, by bearing fruit. The rose-bush proves its right to the distinction, by producing beautiful flowers. When we claim to be Christ’s friends, we must show it by doing continually what He bids us do.

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It is not easy to keep the Pharisaic feeling out of our hearts!

“Jesus told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.” Luke 18:9.

Most of us think well of ourselves. We condemn the Pharisee as the great Teacher depicts him in the parable — but we are in danger of growing like him! 

If we are good in character, and are doing good in the world — it is not easy to keep the Pharisaic feeling out of our hearts. The sin is not only in thinking too highly of ourselves — but in thinking of ourselves at all.

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If the Son shall set you free

If the Son shall set you free — you shall be free indeed!” John 8:36.

The way to become free from all other masters, is to become Christ’s slave. Paul delighted to call himself a slave of Christ. He who knows no master but Christ, is free indeed. We are never free until we accept Christ’s yoke. When we do this, Christ breaks every other chain and sets us free. 

There is a story of a stranger who entered an Oriental city, and as he walked through the market-place he saw many birds in cages. He asked the price of one bird and cage, and, paying for it, opened the door. The bird flew out, and, rising a little way in the air, it caught a glimpse of its native mountains far away, and then flew swiftly toward them, dropping sweet songs as it hastened toward home. The traveler then bought the other cages, one by one, and set the birds free, until all had been liberated. 

That is what Jesus would do for us in our captivity. He would set us all free, breaking our chains, opening our prison doors, that we may fly away toward our eternal home!

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Our daily bread

“Give us day by day our daily bread.” Luke 11:3

“But,” someone says, “why should we pray for bread, when we have it already in our house?” Even if we have it in our house, it is not ours until God gives it to us. The reverent heart that seeks God’s blessing at the table gets a double blessing — the blessing of physical nourishment and the blessing of grace. 

We are dependent upon God even for daily bread. Harvests do not come through our labor alone; we must wait for God’s rain and sunshine. 

The word “our” teaches that the bread for which we ask has become ours through our own effort. We must work for what we eat. We must procure it honestly, otherwise it will not have a blessing with it. A man who gets bread by any wrong or dishonest means, cannot ask God to give his blessing with it. 

The word “our” teaches us also that it is not enough to pray for bread for ourselves; we must remember others who need the same blessing. 

The words “day by day” remind us that we need to ask only for bread for one day. We are not to worry about food for tomorrow.

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This is a very bad character flaw! 

“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” Acts 11:23 

Barnabas was glad because he saw that God was working in the Christians in Antioch. Just so, it should always make us glad to see other Christians listening to the Scripture and obeying its message. 

We should notice here that the work which pleased Barnabas was not his own — but that which others had been doing. Sometimes people who are pleased when what they do themselves is successful — do not rejoice when they find the work of others favored and prospering. It makes them very envious. This is a very bad character flaw! 

Barnabas rejoiced when he saw that the blessing of God attended the work of other preachers, even of plain, common men. 

It is not easy to do this. Some people seek always to belittle others. Boys and girls in school should be glad when other members of their class succeed, and should never be envious of them. Teachers should rejoice when they see the class of another teacher growing interested and prosperous. The success of others, should never make us envious. It should but stimulate us to better, nobler efforts.

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Many of us fail to appreciate the value of single days

“Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” Ephesians 5:15-16 

Many of us fail to appreciate the value of single days
. A day is so short a space, we say, that it cannot make much difference if one, just one, is dropped, or idled away in pleasure. Yet the days are links in a chain — and if one link is broken, the chain is broken.
In God’s plan for our life, each little day has its own burden of duty, its own record to make. 

Then, we never know the sacredness of any particular day — what it may have amid its treasures for us. Its sunshine may be no brighter than that of other days, there may be no peculiar feature in it to mark it among a thousand common days — and yet it may be to us a day of destiny. Often we see afterward, that certain past days were bearers to us of heavenly gifts which we had not the wisdom to recognize, nor the grace to accept. When they have gone beyond recall, then we see what we missed in disregarding them!

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 

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God has two homes

“For this is what the high and lofty One says — He who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit!” Isaiah 57:15 

God has two homes — one in Heaven, and the other in humble hearts.

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We grow like the things we love

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth!” Colossians 3:2 

We grow like the things we love
. Our affections change us into their own color. If we love pure things — we shall grow pure. If we love heavenly things — we shall become heavenly-minded. If we love the Bible — its words will sink into our hearts and run through all our life, and make us like the things the words mean or describe. If we love the Father’s house in this world — we shall be prepared for the Father’s house in the other world. 

Many people, however, who want to go to Heaven when they die — show very little affection for heavenly things in this life. The puzzling question is: how they will enjoy Heaven in all its purity — when they cannot enjoy heavenly communion and service here on earth.

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The mysteries of life!

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God.” Deuteronomy 29:29 

Many people perplex themselves a great deal over the mysteries of life. Of course there are mysteries — it cannot be expected that we shall understand all that God does. 

There are mysteries in God’s providences. We do not know what certain difficult things in our lives mean. We are told that God is our Father, and when we have great sorrows, or are taken into dark ways — we wonder why all these things happen to us, if we are really God’s children. 

We have here a key to the solution of such mysteries as these. The secret things do not belong to us — but to God. The fact that they belong to Him, assures us that they are not mysteries to Him. Enough is revealed to us to make our duty plain. In eternity, the things that are now hidden will be revealed. Then we shall know that all things that God does are right, that even the deepest mysteries are full of divine wisdom. 

For years Joseph suffered wrongs — but at last it became known that all the difficult events were in the hands of divine love. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 

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Practicing the presence of God

“Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 14:2

We sometimes speak of “practicing the presence of God.” The phrase is very suggestive. Asa seems to have understood something about this. 

It would be good for all of us if we always realized the truth — that the eyes of the Lord are upon us and upon all our work. We believe it — at least, we claim to do so. “You O God see me!” is part of every Christian’s belief. There is not a moment when God is not looking upon us! 

Now practice this truth! Live as if God were indeed always standing visibly close beside you. It ought not to embarrass or frighten you, for the kindliest eyes in the world are the eyes of God. He does not watch us critically, as a stern master might watch a pupil, or as the Pharisees watched Jesus, to find some fault with Him. He watches us in love — to cheer, to encourage, to inspire, and to help.

We should always do the things we know will please Him whose eyes are upon us by day and by night. It is a fine record of anyone, that he did what was right in God’s eyes!

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We grow like the things we love

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth!” Colossians 3:2 

We grow like the things we love
. Our affections change us into their own color. If we love pure things — we shall grow pure. If we love heavenly things — we shall become heavenly-minded. If we love the Bible — its words will sink into our hearts and run through all our life, and make us like the things the words mean or describe. If we love the Father’s house in this world — we shall be prepared for the Father’s house in the other world. 

Many people, however, who want to go to Heaven when they die — show very little affection for heavenly things in this life. The puzzling question is: how they will enjoy Heaven in all its purity — when they cannot enjoy heavenly communion and service here on earth.

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Then the tone changes

“I will remember the works of the LORD. Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12 

God is the only resource in trouble. 

This Psalm opens sadly. It is a story of sorrow, and there seems to be no comfort. The writer cries to God — but is not helped. His heart makes diligent search, but seems to find no hope. “Will the Lord cast off forever? Is His loving-kindness clean gone forever? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” 

Then the tone changes. The Psalmist checks himself in his complaining. “This is my infirmity.” Many good men have their weak hours when they give way to fear. But now the writer begins to think of God’s goodness — and that saves him. The memory of a happy past, full of God’s love, breaks in upon him and comforts him. 

There is a lesson here for those who are in danger of growing disheartened. Always God is good, always He is our Father and cares for us. What He was to us in the past — He is to us today, though the clouds may hide His face. We should never yield to discouragement.

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The gates of prayer are never shut!

“O God, do not be silent!” Psalm 83:1 

No trouble could be so great as that God should be silent to us. Dark indeed and desolate would be our state, if there were  . . .
  no love in Heaven to care for us,
  no one there to hear our pleading when we are in trouble,
  no hand to help us in our need.

But we know that God never is silent to those who love Him. Come to Him when and where we will, in whatever need — we shall always find Him ready to hear and help. The gates of prayer are never shut! God is never indifferent.

Sometimes people think that God does not answer their prayers, because the answer does not come in the form they sought. But He is silent to us today — that He may give us a far better answer tomorrow. Then, the answer may not be in just the manner we desired, and yet may be an infinitely better answer than we hoped to receive!

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We like to have people praise us

“The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all: One mightier than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie!” Luke 3:15-16 

John might have let the people think He was the Messiah and have received the honor they were ready to give him. 

Many of us are willing to accept honors for ourselves when we are doing Christ’s work. We like to have people praise us. Sometimes we are in danger of striving to get honor for ourselves, rather than to put honor upon Christ. How much more beautiful was John’s self-renunciation! Always there is One coming after us, yes, standing unseen beside us, while we do our work, who is far mightier than we — and we should strive always to put the honor upon Him, forgetting ourselves. He will honor us if only we will seek always His honor and never our own. 

We are in the habit of saying that we do things in Christ’s name. To do anything in Christ’s name is to do it for Him, and all the glory should be given to Him. We should take care, therefore, that He receives the commendation when we have done any work for Him.

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The application may be made to all departments of life

“What are you doing more than others?” Matthew 5:47 

It is not enough for us to be as good as others. We are not to take any other person as our model, or anyone’s life as our standard. The only model life is Jesus Christ’s! He came to show us how to live. 

It is not enough either for Christian people to live just as well as unbelievers live. Anybody may be polite to those they like — the Christian must be polite to people he does not like! What are you doing more than others — when you are only kind to those who are kind to you?

The application may be made to all departments of life. The Christian carpenter should do better carpentering than the man who is not a Christian. The plumber who confesses Christ, should do more careful and conscientious plumbing than the plumber who does not love Christ. The Christian businessman should do business more honestly than the businessman who does not know Christ. The Christian home should be sweeter, kindlier, happier in every way — than the home where Christ is not a guest. 

Always the question comes, “What are you doing more than others?”

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What should the difference be?

“And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God, should love his brother also.” 1 John 4:21 

Do people see Christ in us in so marked a way, that they know we must be His followers? Are we so different from people who are not Christians, that no one needs to ask if we are Christians? Do we show by our lives that, though in the world, we are not of the world? Do we do more deeds of kindness?

What should the difference be? “That the one who loves God, should love his brother also.” Christian love means a great deal. It means gentleness, kindness, charity, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, patience, forbearance. Does the world see this Christian love in us who call ourselves His followers? Is our love so unselfish, that its influence pervades the neighborhood where we live like a sweet fragrance? 

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples — if you love one another!” John 13:35 

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What had been regarded as a misfortune!

“He led them forth by the right way” Psalm 107:7 

The breaking up and setting aside of our ambitions and plans, is often the greatest blessing that can come to us. 

A young woman who had been an intense student of music for several years, devoting herself with great enthusiasm and with distinct success to her art, found it necessary to give up her work and rest for a year. She accepted the disappointment cheerfully, and turned quietly to other occupations. The result was that her lost year proved the very best year of her life. It gave her time for quiet heart-culture, and for reading and thought on lines neglected before. The influence on her character was enriching and sweetening. She was also led into new experiences which proved gateways into treasure-houses of blessing and good, which she never could have found in her eager, unresting life. She learned more of the sweetness of friendship than she had ever dreamed of before, more too of the reality, the tenderness, the infinite satisfaction of God’s divine friendship. What had been regarded as a misfortune, proved to have been divine leading in most gracious ways.

“He has done all things well!” Mark 7:37 

“We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 

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Like tearing the flesh off my bones!

“Do not fret.” Psalm 37:1 

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret.” Psalm 37:7 

Some people make life hard for themselves by their habit of fretfulness. They see something to find fault with in every condition and situation. 
They fret about their work
They fret about their food
They fret the government
They fret about the weather
They fret about their health.
They fret about other people’s lack of faithfulness and diligence. 
They fret about the way this neighbor or that one annoys them. 
Sometimes it is a barking dog that distresses them.
Or a child next door is learning to play the piano or the violin. 

The truest Christian never frets. We shall add greatly to the beauty of our life, if we avoid fretting forever. 

“By the grace of God, I never fret,” said Wesley. “I am discontented with nothing. And to have people at my ear fretting and murmuring at everything, is like tearing the flesh off my bones!

Do not fret — it leads only to evil.” Psalm 37:8 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!” Philippians 4:6-7 

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We must come always as children

“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in Heaven . . .” Matthew 6:9 

That is the way we are always to begin when we pray. The words need not always be precisely these — but we must come always as children. God is our Father. This name assures us of welcome when we pray. We cannot think of a true human father shutting his door on his children when they come to him with needs or questions. He may not always give them what they ask for. Sometimes it would be greatest unkindness to do this. But he will always consider their requests, and then if what they desire would be a real blessing to them — he will grant it. If it is something that they had better not have, which would do them harm rather than good — he will withhold it. 

If God is our Father, then He will deal with us as a Father. He will patiently listen to our requests and will do for us what is right and good. We must trust Him to decide whether our requests should be granted or not. 

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11

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The Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him!

The Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him!” Exodus 16:8

The fact that God hears all we say ought to make us guard our words. But does God really hear every fretful word we say? Does He hear when we grumble about the weather, about the hard winter, about the late spring, about the dry summer, about the wet harvest, and about the grub-worm? Does He hear when we grumble about the drought, about the high winds, about the storms? 

Does He hear when we complain about the hardness of our lot? 

If we could get into our hearts and keep there continually, the consciousness that every word we speak is heard in Heaven, and falls upon God’s ears before it falls upon any other ear — would we grumble as we now do? 

We are always on our guard when we think anyone is within hearing. Are we as careful concerning what we say in the hearing of our heavenly Father? 

We are careful, too, never to speak words which would give pain to the hearts of those we love dearly. Are we as careful not to say anything that will give pain to the heart of Christ?

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There is a great lack in affectionateness in many Christian homes

“Be kindly affectioned to one another in brotherly love.” Romans 12:10 

Perhaps the Church has never yet made enough of love, as the law of Christian life. It is well to be sound in the creed — but it is quite as essential to be sound in love. Men have thought Paul the apostle of orthodoxy and John the apostle of love — a sort of lower apostleship. But really Paul has far more to say about love than has John. 

This one little part of a verse is matchless in its portraiture. Christians are brethren, members of the same spiritual household. They are to love as brethren — not as brothers sometimes do, with strifes, bickerings, and quarrels — but with all gentleness, patience, thoughtfulness, and tenderness. 

“Kindly affectioned” suggests not only love that does no ill to another — but love that is positive and practical in its tenderness. 

There is a great lack in affectionateness in many Christian homes. There may be love that would die for one another — but which utterly fails in its affectionateness. It is formal, cold, reserved. Its flowers are under the snow. We need a love that will melt the snow.

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We never can hope to get out of love’s debt

“Owe no man anything — but to love one another.” Romans 13:8

We ought to be able to say every night before we sleep, that we have left no duty of love undone. 

But even if this is true at the end of a day, we shall awake next morning to find the whole debt standing against us large as ever, and we shall have to begin again to pay it off as before. We never can hope to get out of love’s debt

The Master in judgment will charge us with many neglects of love’s duty. We shall be condemned then, not for unloving things we have done — but for the not doing of things of love which we ought to have done.

It will be well, then, if we test ourselves each night before we sleep, by asking whether we have paid all of love’s debt for that day.

Do we still owe a kindness, overlooked in the day’s hustle and bustle? Has a letter been left unwritten, a kindness not paid? Let us go quickly and pay what we owe before the sun goes down.

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Analogy between manna and Christ

“This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.” Exodus 16:15

There are many interesting points of analogy between manna and Christ

Manna is called “bread from Heaven,” and Christ is “the Bread out of Heaven,” “which comes down out of Heaven, and gives life unto the world.” 

Manna was indispensable — without it the people would have perished. Without Christ our souls must perish. 

Manna was a free gift from God — there was nothing to pay for it. Christ is God’s gift, without money and without price. 

Yet manna had to be gathered by the people; Christ must be received and appropriated by personal faith. 

Manna came in great abundance. There is such abundance in Christ that He can supply all the needs of all souls that will feed upon Him. 

Manna had to be gathered each day. We must feed upon Christ daily. We cannot feed tomorrow on today’s bread.

Manna had to be gathered early, before the heat of the sun melted it. We should seek the blessings of Christ’s grace in life’s early morning, before the hot suns of care and trial beat upon us.

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You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain!

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain!” Exodus 20:7

We cherish every memento of a precious friend — the book he reads, the picture he paints, the letter he writes. 

So we hallow in our hearts anything that suggests God or any thought of Him. 

No wonder we have a commandment against any dishonoring of God’s name. There are many ways of taking His name in vain.

One is, to use it without reverence and love. One tells of seeing a miner, with grimy hand, plucking a pure, sweet flower. It seemed unfit, almost a desecration, for the lovely flower to be held in the soiled hand. How infinitely more of a desecration is it when in trivial speech we speak the name of God! 

The ancient Jews would never utter the sacred name of Jehovah; they said it was too holy to be taken upon human lips. If only we thought more of the holiness and majesty of God, we would surely honor His name more.

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Incense was an emblem of prayer

“The fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.” Exodus 31:11 

Incense was an emblem of prayer
. There was a divine prescription for it. Any compound different from that prescribed in the law of Moses was not acceptable. 

Just so, we are clearly taught how we must pray — of what ingredients we must mix our incense. 

The fire used for incense must be holy fire from the altar of burnt offering. Prayer is not a sweet savor unto God, unless it is kindled by the fire from the altar of Christ’s sacrifice, the fire of God’s love, and by the Holy Spirit. 

Burning incense was fragrant; true prayer is sweet perfume before God. As the fragrance of flowers is pleasing to us — so is the prayer of earth which ascends from homes and sanctuaries, from secret closets and from supplicating hearts. 

The incense was offered by the priest within the holy place while the people were praying outside. Christ in Heaven offers our prayers before God, purifying them and adding to them the incense of His own sacrifice, the intercessions of His love. 

Of the most ancient offerings of sacrifices, it is said the Lord smelled a sweet savor. So it is with our prayers.

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He is always testing us! 

“Then the LORD said to Moses: Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” Exodus 16:4

We are here at school. God’s purpose in all His providences is to teach us to do His will, and to live a holy and beautiful life. He is always testing us! 

Trials test us, whether we will submit with humility and obedience to the experiences that are sore and painful — or rebel and murmur. 

Life’s needs test us, whether we will trust God in the time of extremity or not — or whether we will fear and chafe when we think of tomorrow’s needs. 

None the less, do the gifts and favors of God test us:

They test our gratitude. Do we remember God always as the Giver of each new blessing? Are we grateful to Him for all that we receive? 

These favors also test our faith. Do we still lean on Him while we have plenty? Often one who turns to God when help is needed — fails to look to Him when the hand is full. 

The divine mercies also test our obedience. Do we obey God as carefully, as closely and trustingly, when our tables are full — as when the pressure of poverty or need drives us to Him? Every day is a test for us!

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It is a window in Christ’s bosom, showing us His very heart!

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

That was part of Jesus’ way of comforting Mary — He wept with her. He entered into full, deep sympathy with her in her grief. 

This is the shortest verse in the Bible — but few verses, however long, reveal so much. It is a window in Christ’s bosom, showing us His very heart. This is the way the risen, glorified Christ feels for us and sympathizes with us in our griefs. We must not think that He has changed in passing from earth into Heaven, so that these tender qualities have been lost out of His heart. He is the same now in Heaven, that He was that day when Mary lay at His feet and He wept with her. 

He is with us in our sorrows, and sympathizes with us in every grief we have. 

It is a great deal to have even a human friend enter into our experience and weep with us in our sorrow. It brings into our loneliness, a sense of companionship. It puts another shoulder under our load. But when it is Christ Himself who cares, is touched, sympathizes with us, and comes up close beside us in tender affection, it is comfort indeed!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” Hebrews 4:15

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The story of the chest is interesting

“All the officials and all the people brought their contributions gladly, dropping them into the chest until it was full.” 2 Chronicles 24:10 

The story of the chest is interestingAll the people gave. Princes and people alike came with their offerings.

There is a good suggestion, too, in the way they gave. They set a chest in a convenient place and asked all to drop their contributions into that. No one knew what any other one gave. Thus even the poorest would not be made to feel ashamed by the smallness of the gift. The money was given to the Lord, and He understood the circumstances of each. 

In the temple, our Lord sat near the treasury, watching how the people gave, and commended as the most liberal of all, the poor widow who gave only a farthing. So the Lord always watches, honoring what the heart does. 

These people rejoiced as they gave. There was no reluctant giving, no giving merely through a sense of duty. The Lord loves a cheerful giver. God may use what men give reluctantly, and it may do good — but the giver gets no blessing from it. We only receive when we give with love and gladness.

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Life’s experiences cannot be transferred

“Every man shall bear his own burden.” Galatians 6:5 

This seems to contradict the teaching that we are to: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2. But there is no contradiction. Love cannot but share the burdens of others. 

At the same time no one really can bear the burden of another. If your friend is sick, you cannot come in and take his sickness. If he is in sorrow, you cannot make the sorrow yours in such a way that it will be his no longer. 

Life’s experiences cannot be transferred. A mother cannot take her child’s pain. No one can learn a lesson for another; each pupil must work out his own problems, do his own tasks, master his own difficulties. A rich student can pay for services and luxuries of many kinds — but he cannot pay for the mental culture of another. 

In moral life, too, each must bear his own burden. 
No one can choose for us, 
no one can make our decisions,
no one can believe in Christ for us, 
no one can obey God’s commandments for us. 

Each one must live his own life, and must answer in judgment for himself.

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The lesson applies to other things besides bread!

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

“Waste not, want not,” says the proverb.

It seems remarkable that He who could so easily multiply the few loaves into an abundant meal, should be so particular about saving the fragments that remained left over. But He would teach us economy by His own example. 

The lesson applies to other things besides breadWe should never waste anything! Many people waste whole years of time in the little fragments which they lose every day. If, at the end of a year, they could gather up all these fragments, they would have many basketfuls of precious pieces of golden time. 

In mints where gold is coined, the sweepings of the floor, the settlings of the water in which the men wash their hands, the very smoke from the furnaces, are all carefully swept through for fine particles of precious gold; and during the years large sums are recovered in this way. 

If only we would learn to care as scrupulously for the fragments of the precious things which pass through our hands, we would be far richer at the end of our life.

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There is a wonderful secret of beautiful life in these words

“In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

That is God’s plan for our lives. That was God’s thought for His people in those olden days. Instead of looking to human strength and human defences, He wanted them to trust Him, leave to Him their deliverance and protection, and settle down to a life of peace.

There is a wonderful secret of beautiful life in these words. We are too noisy. We talk too much. We had better aim to be quiet. We had better keep our boastings, and also our frets and anxieties, to ourselves. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 

Much harm comes every way of unbridled speech. Our untamed tongues are often the foes of our own households which make most trouble for us and others, and most work our undoing. We are weak while we cannot master our speech. We shall find strength in quietness. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 

Another element of strength is in confidence. Those who are always doubting and fearing, are weak. Every alarm disturbs them. Confidence makes us strong. When we are trusting in God, the Rock of Ages is under us. Then we are strong.

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It is the little word “my” that is the key to it all

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.” Psalm 23:1 

This psalm has been going through the world for three thousand years. It is the children’s psalm — but no less is it the song of the elderly. Nothing else in all literature has touched so many lives with blessing. 

It comes fitly after the twenty-second — the Psalm of the Cross — it could not have come before. Only those who know the redeeming, sheltering love of God can truly sing it. 

Its first line holds the secret of all that follows. If we can say “The Lord is my Shepherd” — then we can say 
“I have all that I need,” 
“He makes me lie down in green pastures,”
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness,” 
down to the last word, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

It is the little word “my” that is the key to it all. It is not “The Lord is Shepherd,” but “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Until we can say “my” the psalm means nothing to us. When we can, it means everything. 

If the Lord is my Shepherd, then the world is changed from a wilderness, with its danger — to a place of peace, with safety. Every spot is a place of green pasture. In every dark valley, the Shepherd is with us.

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God knows all about our griefs!

“Comfort, comfort My people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1 

God is a comforter. There are many in every church community who are sorrowing. In many homes is the empty chair. But there are many other troubles besides bereavements. 

God knows all about our griefs. He sympathizes with us. He sends out His messengers with the bidding, “Comfort, comfort My people.” 

The very words, “My people,” reveal a Father’s heart. As believers, we belong to God. He calls us His. It is comforting to us when a noble human friend calls us his, as if we belonged to him. It is infinitely more comforting when God calls us His own! 

Then it is “your God” who sends us the message. Some will read this page on a sad night, just after a great sorrow, and will find wonderful uplifting in the words, “Comfort, comfort My people, says your God.” It will be sweet then to listen to God’s comfort and accept it. Elsewhere He says this also: “As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you.”

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The influence of such a habitual encourager never can be measured!

“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 

Like the apostle Paul, we should strive to be encouragers. He who makes it harder for a brother to live nobly and do his work well, has sinned against one of Christ’s little ones. 

We dare not go about among our fellows saying discouraging things, dispiriting things — for if we do, we are imperiling those whose burdens are already as heavy as they can bear. One disheartening word may cause them to weaken and sink down in despair.

The law of love bids us bear one another’s burdens, and there is no other way in which we can do this so effectively, as by living a life of joy. He who goes among men throughout the day with glad heart and cheerful face, speaking to everyone he meets some encouraging words, saying something uplifting in every ear — is a wonderful inspirer of strength, courage, and hope, in others. His is a divine ministry of good to others. He makes every one a little braver and stronger. Weary plodders pluck up fresh energy after meeting him. Fainting ones awake to new courage when his hopeful words have fallen upon their ears. The influence of such a habitual encourager never can be measured!

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 

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This is our Father’s world!

“These all look to You to give them their food at the proper time. When You give it to them — they gather it up. When You open your hand — they are satisfied with good things. When You take away their breath — they die and return to the dust.” Psalm 104:27-29 

The Bible that God is ruling in His world. This psalm, for instance, speaks of God . . .
  arresting the floods by His rebuke, 
  sending the springs into the valleys, 
  causing the grass to grow for the cattle,
  giving food to all His creatures in due season. 

Unsaved people do not speak in just this way about God’s relation to the world. They speak of the “laws of nature”. But God really . . .
  feeds the birds, 
  hears the cries of the ravens, 
  stretches out the heavens like a tent,
  sends the rain, 
  makes the winds His messengers,
  sends the rivulets to water the valleys, 
  and checks the storms by His word. 

It is a joy to us to know that this is our Father’s world, that all things are in His hands. We need not be afraid of anything that happens in God’s world. He is our Friend, and nothing can harm us when He is watching!

“How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures!” Psalm 104:24

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The thousand little kind things

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 

“Be kind to one another.” Kindness is love in exercise

We can think of some who love — yet are not kind. There are fathers who would give their lives for their children — but who are not kind to them. They are ready to do large things for them, to make great sacrifices for them — but they lack in the thousand little kind things which mean so much to young lives. 

When we are exhorted to be kind one to another, the meaning is that we shall always be loving. We may show kindness to one another not only in the things we do — but in the things we refrain from doing. There is much lack of kindness which leaves uncheered, those to whom by simply being kind, we might prove great blessings. 

The word “tender-hearted” suggests sympathy, patience, and gentleness like a mother’s, in all our relations with others. 

The words about “forgiving each other” remind us that we are not to hold grudges, nor cherish bitterness and resentment, nor be kind merely to those who are so to us; but are to show the best of our love even to our enemies.

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What then shall I pray for?

“Pray one for another.” James 5:16

Some good people never go outside the circle of self in their prayers. Yet the last place in the world where we should be selfish, is when we are on our knees.

A minister made a strange request of a parishioner — that for a month he should not offer a single word of prayer for himself, or for any of his family, nor bring any of his own affairs to God.

What then shall I pray for?” asked the friend. 

“Anything that is in your heart, only not once for yourself.” 

When the man came to his first season of prayer it seemed that he could find nothing to pray for. He would begin a familiar petition — but had to drop it, for it was something for himself.

It was a serious month for him — but he learned his lesson. He found that he had been praying only for himself and his own household, and had not been taking the interests of any others to God. 

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray for others with ourselves. It is not, “Give me this day my daily bread,” but, “Give us our bread today,” leaving out no other hungry one.

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God is not kind to me any more!

“Though the mountains are shaken and the hills are removed — yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you!” Isaiah 54:10 

Everything else shall depart from us. We have nothing material that we can keep forever. Earthly things are all temporal. 

The mountains are regarded as the firmest and most enduring things on earth, and yet even these symbols of perpetuity shall crumble and pass away. 

God’s unfailing love of God, however, shall never depart from His children. If the earth were destroyed, leaving no place for us to stand upon — the unfailing love of God would remain, and we would be safe in its shelter and its care.

But does God’s loving-kindness really never depart from us? Is there never a day when He is not loving towards His redeemed children? 

There are days when it seems to us He is unkind. He allows us to be bereft and left lonely. “God is not kind to me any more!” we complain. But if the physicians say that the only way to save your friend’s life is to amputate the blood-poisoned limb, do you call it unkindness when the sufferer is carried to the operating-room? 

Is God unkind when to sanctify us, He lets us suffer?

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

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Only be strong and courageous!

Only be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them!” Joshua 1:6

This vision must have been very cheering to Joshua as he set out. It was no mere experiment to which he was going. His dream of conquest was no vague, uncertain thing. God had pledged him full success, if he would do his part faithfully. It must have been a great inspiration to Joshua in times of discouragement, to remember that he was destined to finish the work. He could not fail. 

Every Christian has the same assurance for Heaven’s promised land. There are hardships, obstacles, and enemies. But he has the assurance, at the very beginning, that he will not fail in the end, if only he is faithful. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life!” This should be a strong inspiration to every Christian. The way may be hard — but the promise is sure that he cannot fail.

Each one of us has a mission in life, a mission on which God Himself sends us. If we accept this mission and go forth on it in faith, and with earnestness and fidelity, we cannot fail.

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He was nothing but a big body!

“Only be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7 

A great many times in the Bible we are urged to be strong. It is not mere strength of body that is meant. Of course, we should take care of our health, so as to keep well and to be physically as strong as possible. 

But Goliath was not God’s ideal of manly strength; he was nothing but a big body, with neither intellectual nor spiritual strength. 

The strength the Bible makes so much of, is . . .
  strength of character,
  firmness of purpose,
  steadfastness of principle,
  and moral strength. 

The secret of it is faith in Christ. If we are in Him, His strength is assured to us. Paul said he was strongest when he was weakest — that is, he had most strength from Christ then. 

Henry of Navarre, riding in front of his troops before a battle, said, “You are Frenchmen; yonder is the enemy; I am your king.” Then, pointing to the white plume in his helmet, he said, “Soldiers, if your standard falls, rally round the white plume — it will lead you to victory!”

Just so, we may always be sure of victory if we rely on Christ’s strength.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me!” 2 Corinthians 12:9

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We have not passed this way before

“You have not passed this way before!”
“See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you.” Joshua 3:4,11 

The ark was a symbol of God’s presence, and the meaning was that God Himself would lead them that day as they went over the Jordan into the promised land. 

In the same way, God is always ready to go before us. Indeed, we never can go anywhere victoriously, unless He leads us. To go without Him into any of life’s experiences — struggles, dangers, or duties — is to utterly fail. 

When Joshua gave the people their instructions about crossing, he said, “You have not passed this way before!” Therefore he charged them to keep in sight of the ark, which would be carried in advance.

The same may be said of our every day’s experiences. We have not passed this way before. We have lived thousands of other days, yet each new day presents an unknown path to us. We know not what new experiences it may bring to us. We may meet bitter sorrows, sore temptations, sudden trials. The only safe thing to do is always to keep the ark (God’s presence) in sight and to follow it. Then whatever may come, we shall be ready for it.

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What is it to wash one another’s feet?

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” John 13:14-15 

What is it to wash one another’s feet? It means that we should have in our hearts the spirit of service, and be ready to show kindness to all with whom we come in contact. We are not to go about seeking opportunities for a display of humility — this is mockery. But we are to have in our hearts the love which will lead us into the lowliest service. That is what washing the feet meant — it was the task of the most menial servant. 

The beggar we meet on the street, should at least receive kindly treatment from us.

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The strongest wall yields at length to the pounding that never ceases

“Then on the seventh day they rose early at the dawning of the day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times; only on that day they marched around the city seven times.” Joshua 6:15 

“So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat!” Joshua 6:20

For six days the little procession had gone daily round the wall. How useless it seemed! At last patience had its reward. 

Just so, there is a great deal of dull monotony in all duty. It is the same routine over and over again, day after day; not for days only, or weeks, or years — but for a lifetime!

Many good things can be accomplished only by long continuance. At first there was no impression made, no result achieved, and it seemed utterly vain to try any longer. But perseverance wins at length. Had the people of Israel wearied of the monotonous and unavailing marches around Jericho, and at the close of the fifth or sixth day given up — all would have been lost. 

Success depends upon continuance to the very end. Many things fail in our hands because we tire and give up too soon. “He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved.” Spurts amount to but little. The strongest wall yields at length to the pounding that never ceases.

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They do not stop to consider the cost of faithfulness!

“But Ruth replied: Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God!” Ruth 1:16
Ruth illustrates truest human friendship. Her strong and faithful love for Naomi, caused her to cleave to her with an unwavering and unalterable attachment. She did not look forward to ask where her devotion to Naomi would lead her — into what sacrifice or loss. Her love for Naomi was such that she would cleave to her though it should lead her to death. 

All love is measured by what it will do, or give, or suffer, or sacrifice, for its object. 

Orpah went back to her home. Ruth clung to Naomi. Ruth’s love stood the sorest test. Ruth illustrates both human friendship and friendship for Christ. 

Christ’s true followers cling to Him, though He leads them into paths of poverty, trial, suffering, and cross-bearing. They do not stop to consider the cost of faithfulness. They make choice of Christ without conditions, and where He goes they follow Him.

Christian history is resplendent with the names and stories of countless friends of Christ who, through the centuries, have followed Him at the cost of personal suffering, trials and afflictions.

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Must we quietly bear wrongs?

“The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed.” 1 Samuel 26:23 

Must we quietly bear wrongs and let those who wrong us go without punishment? Our sense of right is sometimes so outraged, that our souls cry out in remonstrance when we are told that we never should resist. But we are not judges. There is but one Judge, God, and we must leave all judgment with Him. 

We are not required to say that . . .
  a certain person’s treatment of us was kind, when it was harsh;
  no wrong was done to us, when there was grievous wrong; 
  the person deserves no punishment, when he deserves severe punishment. 

But we are to recognize the truths . . .
  that judgment is God’s matter, not ours;
  that we are to be patient, meek, and non-resisting, leaving the whole matter in God’s hands.

We have the example of our Master. “When they hurled their insults at him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23. 

We may commit the wrong done to us into God’s hands, as David did here, and leave it there with perfect confidence.

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The best thing to do with this letter

“After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the Temple of the Lord, and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord.” 2 Kings 19:14-15 

That is, the insulting and threatening letter which Hezekiah had received. He read it and it troubled him. Then he spread it before God and prayed. 

We ought to get a good lesson from the king’s example. We may one day receive a letter which troubles us, and which we do not know how to answer. It may tell us of some danger or of some sorrow. It may be from an enemy and full of unkind words. It may cause us perplexity in some other way.

The best thing to do with this letter is to spread it out before the Lord. We cannot answer it ourselves. Too often we try to . . . .
  handle our own difficulties,
  unravel with our own hands, the tangles which we find in life,
  or defend ourselves from the dangers. 
We had better put them all into the hands of the wise Master. 

Hezekiah prayed over this letter, asking God to bend His ears to listen and open His eyes to see. Then he besought God to interpose for His own honor and glory, that the Assyrian’s challenge might be taken up, and that all the nations might learn that Jehovah was the only true God!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

It is worth a fortune!

“But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid.” Ezra 3:12 

The aged men wept because they thought the new temple could not be so great as the old one had been. It was natural for these old men to feel so — but we cannot commend their spirit. 

There are some people who always find the discouraging side. It is worth a fortune to be able to see all life through happy, cheerful eyes, and to see habitually the bright, lovely things. 

Sometimes there is a tendency also among elderly people to think that nothing is quite so good as it used to be in “the old days.” Distance lends enchantment. Besides, the old people’s eyes are a little misty, and see far-away things in a haze. Yet it is not wise to say that the old days were better than our own. Of course, many things are different — but in the truest sense the present is the best time we have ever seen.

“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Ecclesiastes 7:10

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A deed done takes its place in the universe as a fact

“Reckless words pierce like a sword!” Proverbs 12:18 

We can never recall any word we have spoken. It may be a false word, or a word which will blast and burn. Instantly after it has been spoken we may wish it back, and may rush after it to try to stop it — but there is no power in the world that can unsay it or blot it out of the world’s life.

A moment after we have done a wrong thing, we may bitterly repent of 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. 

“Don’t write there, sir!” said a boy to a young man in the waiting-room of a rail-way station, as he saw him take off his ring and begin with a diamond to scratch some words on the mirror. 

“Don’t write there, sir!”

“Why not? “asked the young man. 

“Because you can’t rub it out!” 

We should be sure before we speak a word or do an act, that we shall be willing to have it stand forever!

“When words are many, sin is not absent; but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19 

“Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips!” Psalm 141:3 

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A bit of God’s green pasture!

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Psalm 23:2-3 

We all need to get these resting times into our lives to fit us for toil. We should have little patches of green pasture along the rugged and steep way, where we may feed and rest. All seasons of devotion are little pasture places in which we may lie down. 

true Christian home is a pasture field to the children who grow up in it. Not only are they fed there and cared for — but their hearts find food in love’s gardens, their minds are nourished, and their spiritual needs are provided for. 

The word “makes,” is suggestive. Some of us are so busy and have so much to do, that we will not take time to rest. Meanwhile our spiritual life is suffering for lack of communion with God. Then the Shepherd leads us into some quiet spot and makes us lie down awhile. 

Perhaps it is in a sick room. This does not seem to us to be a pasture field — but in the end we find that we have been receiving countless blessings there. 

A young girl wrote from a hospital, after a long illness, “I have found my little white cot in the hospital a bit of God’s green pasture!

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The comfort of the believer in life’s dark ways

“Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil — for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 

The fourth verse of this little psalm has been the Good Shepherd’s rod and staff for thousands of believers. The words have been repeated beside countless deathbeds, and by innumerable dying ones; and have been taken up and said, over and over, by those whose feet were slipping over the brink. Perhaps no other words have been so often said during the centuries.

The reason the Oriental shepherd led his sheep through dark valleys was not to frighten them or bring them into danger — but because beyond these valleys there lay bits of green pasture to which he wished to take them. 

Just so, when God leads us through dark ways, it is not because He wishes to give us dread or pain — it is because there are blessings beyond these experiences, to which we never could come, except by walking through the valleys

The comfort of the sheep in the dark valley, was the shepherd’s presence. Just so, the comfort of the believer in life’s dark ways, is the divine presence. Where Christ is we need not be afraid.

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Our Heavenly Father’s prunings!

“My Father is the gardener . . . Every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

The care of this vine is not left to any hired gardener. It ought to be a great comfort for us to know that our life’s culture is under our heavenly Father’s care. We are sure of His love, and sure also that He is a wise gardener.

If an ignorant, inexperienced, unskillful man were to enter a beautiful vineyard and begin cutting at the vines — he would soon destroy them. But if the man who comes to prune understands vines, has had experience, and is skillful, though he may sometimes seem to be cutting away the best branches — yet we know that he is not making any mistake, and that his most painful prunings are for the vine’s good. 

We have similar confidence when God seems to be dealing sorely with us — pruning us. Our Father is the gardener, and He has all wisdom and love, and never gives us pain, nor cuts away any of our joys — except when such pruning is for our good. 

The experiences that sometimes so break into our plans and seem to be destroying us are not accidents, nor are they the work of an enemy — but our Heavenly Father’s prunings!

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The chained hand was not idle

“I have worked been in prison more frequently” 2 Corinthians 11:23 

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them!” Acts 16:25 

Paul was a prisoner, and yet there was in him nothing of the spirit of the captive. A canary bird, when put into a cage, flies up on a bar and begins to sing. That is the kind of prisoner Paul was. When a criminal looks upon his chain he sees in it a token of degradation. But Paul’s chain never brought a blush to his cheek. He gloried that he could wear a chain for Christ. “I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus” Ephesians 3:1 

Then, the chained hand was not idle. While in his prison he wrote many letters. No part of his ministry yielded better influence than that from his prison. 

We shall not likely have the privilege of wearing literal chains for Christ — but there are hindrances and limitations in every Christian life, which are really chains upon us. Sickness shuts us in. Poverty ties the hands of many. Christians who are not free to do what their hearts prompt them to do for Christ, should study Paul with his chain, and gather the lesson of victoriousness and rejoicing. From his place of captivity, there went continually rich blessings for his fellow men.

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The secret of a sweet and beautiful life

“The news spread quickly that He was back home.” Mark 2:1 

Jesus could not be hidden. You cannot hide fragrance. You cannot hide love. 

A young woman tells of being on an excursion in the woods when she picked up a bunch of sweetbrier, and put it in her pocket. She soon forgot what she had done — but all day long she smelled the spicy fragrance. Every woodland path seemed to have the same sweet aroma, even if there were no sweetbrier visible. She climbed over the rocks and walked through dark caves, and everywhere she detected the perfume. As the party went home in the boat, she remarked to a friend, “Someone is carrying home a bunch of sweetbrier.” When she came to retire, the sweetbrier dropped from her dress. All day long she had been carrying it, and it had perfumed everything. She said to herself, “How good it would be, if I could carry such a sweet spirit in my heart, that every one I meet would be influenced by the fragrance!” 

One in whose heart the love of Christ lives, has the secret of a sweet and beautiful life.

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Our burden is God’s gift!

“Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you. He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22 

There are things from which we shrink, which we regard almost as calamities, for which we shall some day thank God. For example, we are not accustomed to thank God for the burdening, torturing trouble which causes so much pain. We do not dream that in any sense it is a good for which we ought to be grateful. Yet if we could see into our own inner life, no doubt we would find that it is one of our best blessings. 

The word rendered “burden” signifies a gift and so the words are translated by many, “cast your gift upon the Lord”. Our burden is a gift of God to us.

It is a new and inspiring revelation to the Christian, to learn that the load under which he is bowing is his Father’s gift to him. When we remember who God is, how gracious He is always — we cannot doubt that His gift must be good, whatever it is. It may be suffering; it may be a heavy cross of care; it may be a bodily defect or infirmity. It may be the burden of a broken relationship. It may be a burden of sickness, of pain, or sorrow. Whatever it is, our burden is God’s gift.

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Surrounded by God

“Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people, both now and forever.” Psalm 125:2 

It gives us a feeling of confidence and security to think of being  surrounded by God. No harm can come to us when thus walled around by divine power and love. It gives us a restful peace, when we lie down at night, to think of the protection we shall have in the darkness. 

The prince of a humble but loyal people said that he could call any of his subjects to him and sleep among them at night, knowing that he would be safe amid all danger, because his men loved him so that they would give their lives in his defense. 

The believer has a better refuge than the love and loyalty of any men — he has the eternal God for his defense! With such protection about us, why should we ever be afraid? “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Yet many of us dread the thunder, we are afraid of the storm, afraid of noises in the darkness, afraid of shadows. If we truly believed this Scripture’s assurance, could anything disturb us?

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Life seems hard for them

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5 

The best things seem always to come out of pain and suffering. Many people sow in tears. Life seems hard for them. They work hard — but little comes from it. They never get away from the pressure of heavy burdens. Sometimes they lose heart and almost give up. But out of all such experiences, joy will come in the end if only they continue faithful and true.

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” The good we do will never be lost. Not a grain of the golden seed we drop into the ground shall perish. “Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” The harvest may be long in coming. Not always shall the sowers gather it in this world. 

But the comfort is that life here on earth is only a half-told story. It ends in this world in an unfinished serial. None get their full reward in the present time. Things do not right themselves before the end comes. But the story goes on, and in its other half all unfinished things will be finished. All we need to be careful about is that we do our duty even in tears.

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One of God’s most wonderful gifts

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows. So He gives His beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2 

God needs to give them sleep — He does not want them to vex themselves with care. All through the Bible we are charged against fretting and anxiety. We can be at our best, only if we have sufficient sleep. 

Sleep is one of God’s most wonderful gifts. Think what it does for us, how it renews our wearied and exhausted life, how it fills up the emptied fountains. 

We do not realize the rich blessings which God gives to us in sleep. Not only does He give physical renewal — but mental and spiritual also. We sometimes ponder great problems without finding a solution. We sleep, and in the morning all is clear. We lie down distracted by the cares and trials of the day, and rise with peace in our hearts and with shining faces. He gives to His beloved in sleep.

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All our life is open to the divine eye!

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me!” Psalm 139:1 

There is nothing in us hidden from God. There are things which our neighbors do not know and cannot find out. We shut our doors, and no one can see what goes on inside. Even our closest friends do not know what our thoughts are.

But there is One who sees into all the depths of our being. God knows our words before we speak them, and our thoughts before they take form in our minds. 

Sometimes men go off, and nobody knows where they are. But we cannot flee anywhere that God cannot find us. All our life is open to the divine eye! We should never go anywhere we would be ashamed to meet Christ. We should never do anything we would be sorry to have Christ see us doing. 

Someone asked another, “Do you think our loved ones in Heaven see us and know what we are doing?” The answer was, “We do not know; but let us live as if they did.”

We are sure that God sees and knows; let us live as if we truly believed He does. It will make us brave and strong in all temptation and danger.

“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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The God of those who fail

“The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” Psalm 145:14 

Some people think that only the strong have any chance in life. Life is a great battle, and only the strong are victorious come through successfully; the weak are defeated, fall, and perish. It may seem so in this world. 

If there were no other measure of life, we might be discouraged. But God is on the field, and many who seem to have failed, really reach a glorious success. 

A Christian man may work hard all his life and die poor. But he has lived righteously, and has built up in himself a worthy character. He has given himself to good deeds and has left beautiful things behind which shall last forever. He has been an encourager and inspirer of others, and countless people have made more of their lives because of his influence. He has set up no great monuments in the world — but he has made the world sweeter and better. 

God is the God of those who fail, and out of the ruins of their lives, as men measure, He brings the things that shall last forever.

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The touch of Christ

“A man with leprosy came and knelt before Him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cured of his leprosy!” Matthew 8:2-3 

There was wonderful power in the touch of Christ when He was on the earth. Wherever He laid His hand, He left a blessing — and sick, sad, and weary ones received health, comfort, and peace.

There is a sense in which the touch of Christ is still felt yet in men’s lives. He is as really in this world today as He was when He walked in human form through Judea and Galilee. His hand is yet laid on His weary, the suffering, the sorrowing children, and, though its pressure is unfelt — its power to bless is the same as in the ancient days. 

But there is another way in which the hand of Christ is laid on human lives. He sends His disciples into the world to represent Him. “As the Father has sent Me, even so send I you,” is His own word. Of course the best and holiest Christian life can only be the dimmest, faintest reproduction of the full blessed life of Christ. But as far as we imitate Him, we are Christ’s agents on the earth for cheering and strengthening His people!

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It is not ours to write the score

“My people will dwell in quiet resting places.” Isaiah 32:18 

If only we understood it, we would see that the rests which God writes into the bars of our life, are necessary to make the music perfect. 

We think we have lost time when we have been sick for a season. No; the passive duty of the sick days, when we were shut away from the world, the duty of being just patient and trustful — was quite as sacred as were the urgent duties of the days of health. 

Not without design, does God write the music of our life. Be it ours to learn the tune and not be dismayed at the rests. They are not to be omitted, and are not to destroy the melody nor change the keynote. It is not ours to write the score; it is ours only to sing it as God has written it. We have no right to change a note or a point, to insert a rest or to omit one. We must play it as it is given to us.

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The beauty and gracefulness which belong to all true Christian life

There are certain conventional rules regulating one’s conduct in good society which everyone should know and follow. There is a place for etiquette, and no one has a right to ignore the formalities which prevail among refined people. 

But the essential element in all godly manners, is the heart. The love which Paul so earnestly commends inspires gentleness, kindliness, thoughtfulness, unselfishness, humility, good temper, self-control, patience, endurance of wrong, and all the Christian graces. A daily study of the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, with hearty and earnest effort to get its teachings into the heart, and then to live them out in all life’s relations — will ultimately change the most faulty manners into the beauty and gracefulness which belong to all true Christian life.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 

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If his child had not been sick

“When this man heard that Jesus had arrived, he went to Him and begged Him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.” John 4:47 

Probably he would never have gone to Jesus, if his child had not been sick. He had heard of this great Healer — but probably had never sought Him, nor even thought of seeking Him. But when his child was stricken down and seemed about to die, he remembered the things he had heard about Jesus, that He was able to heal. So he hastened away to Cana to find the Healer. 

We all owe far more than we know, to our troubles. We do not recognize our need of divine help until we are in some distress, when human help can do nothing for us. 

If we never had a sense of sinfulness, we would not seek Christ as our Savior. If we never realized our powerlessness in the midst of temptation, we should not turn to Christ as our Helper. 

Indeed, the Bible becomes a new book to us in times of trouble. Many of the best things in it we never would have found, had it not been for some great need which made their meaning real to us. We do not turn with our heart’s cravings to God, until we find the insufficiency of this world’s friendships and blessings.

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What did you do yesterday?

“Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” John 12:35

Most of us live as if we had a thousand years to continue here on earth! We do not see how swiftly the sun is whirling toward his setting, while our work is but half done, or our task perhaps scarcely begun. We fritter away days, weeks, months, not noticing how our one little opportunity of living in this world is being worn away, as the sea eats up a crumbling bank until its last shred is gone. 

What did you do yesterday that edified others and glorified God? 
What burden did you lift off another heart? 
What noble, heartening word did you speak? 
What tear did you wipe away? 
On what soul did you leave a mark of beauty? 
Where is your yesterday?

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Inviting the devil to ensnare him!

“It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.” John 18:18 

That was another of Peter’s mistakes. He should have kept far from the fire, suffering in the cold — rather than to have taken the comfortable place in the warmth, getting in among his Master’s enemies. 

Many a Christian, while warming himself before some of this world’s fires, is in danger. The world’s comforts are not the safest places for a follower of Christ. 

Peter’s mistake was, that in going up to the fire he associated himself with the wrong company. One of the marks of the godly man in the first Psalm, is that he does not stand in the way of sinners. A Christian who tries to be jolly fellow with scoffers and mockers, is really inviting the devil to ensnare him!

The only safe way for Christians is to take their place quietly, yet boldly and firmly, among the friends of the Lord Jesus. In doing this they already confess Him as their Master. This will set them right, too, before the world. Everybody knows then, where they stand. 

A sailor who had confessed Christ on shore, nailed up on his bunk a placard announcing, “I am a Christian!” It was a wise beginning.

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The cup of kindness!

“Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.” John 19:28-29 

This is the only gleam of humanity we have in all the dark story of cruelty and hardness. It is a comfort to us to know that even so little a kindness was wrought for Him who has filled the world with the fragrance of His love, blessing so many millions of suffering ones. 

We should train ourselves to deeds of thoughtful kindness
 to anyone in distress. We remember that beautiful word of our Lord’s, that the giving of even a cup of cold water to a disciple in His name, will not go unrewarded. There are thirsty ones coming near us continually, and countless are the opportunities of doing good in Christ’s name. We should never fail to put the cup of kindness to the lips that are burning with life’s fever

Since Jesus thirsted on the cross and was refreshed, if only by so much as the moisture of a sponge — He is quick to recognize the smallest kindness to one of His redeemed people who thirst. 

There are people about us these common days who scarcely ever receive a word of kindness. Shall we not seek to give to some of these at least a touch of love?

“Be kind and compassionate to one another” Ephesians 4:32 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved — clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 

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We should learn to be considerate of the weaknesses of others

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” Romans 14:13 

Paul is speaking here of strong and weak Christians. The strong were disposed to be critical of the weak, and to be impatient with their infirmities. 

Of course, if a man lies, or steals, or is immoral, then he is surely sinning. But there is a vast amount of fault-finding, condemning, and criticizing that has to do with things of mere indifference . . .
  people’s manners,
  their personal habits,
  their dress,
  their way of living,
  their private affairs. 

We ought not to allow ourselves to judge others and go about criticizing them as if their very idiosyncrasies were just grounds for complaint. We should learn to be considerate of the weaknesses of others. If they are not as wise as we are, let us have patience with their ignorance. If they have yet some odd habits, let us deal kindly with them. Let us not judge one another any more.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14 

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The things which are unseen are the eternal things

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!” 2 Corinthians 4:18 

A writer tells of a man who, though he lived on barren level land beside the sea, talked to his neighbors of purple mountains which his eyes saw. They could see no mountains, and laughed at his delusion, as they called it. Still he persisted in his belief, and one day he sailed away to find the mountains of his dreams, and returned in due time laden with treasure! 

The world laughs when a Christian sings of the visions of his faith, and lifts up his eyes unto invisible hills which he says he sees. But the most real things of the universe are the things of Christian faith. Paul tells us that the things which are seen are only temporal — for time, unsubstantial, unreal; and that the things which areunseen are the eternal things — the real, enduring things. 

The mountains which our eyes can see shall depart — even now they are crumbling. But when earth’s mountains have crumbled — the hills of God will stand firm and eternal. Those who lift up their eyes to those heavenly heights will never be disappointed in their trust.

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Every man shall bear his own burden

Every man shall bear his own burden.” Galatians 6:5 

His own burden, not another’s. Some good people try to carry burdens which are not their burdens at all. They fret themselves over matters for which they suppose they are responsible, when really they have nothing whatever to do with them. It is very foolish for anyone to do this. 

We would get along a great deal better, if we confined ourselves to our own things — the tasks and duties of our own life. There never are more of these than we can carry, with God’s help; and if we would not go outside of our own allotment we would get on without trouble. But many people insist on traveling far afield, taking up things God never intended them to look after. Of course they are overloaded, and their life and work are hurt. 

Some people fret over unfinished work. After they have done their best, but little seems to have been accomplished. It appears to them that they have failed because they have not completed what they began. But the truth is, that only a fragment of the great task was allotted to them, and this they have accomplished. What is yet to be done is another’s, not theirs.

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The mystery of the life of Christ

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it!” John 20:25 

Said an old writer, “There are many hands offered to help you; how shall you know the right one? Because in the center of the palm, there is the scar of a wound received long ago.” 

Everyone, however like Christ he may appear, must be subjected to this test. A religion without the cross is not Christ’s religion. He did not come merely to blaze the way for us through the tangled forest, or to give us an example of true living. He came to be a Savior. 

Woven into the very fibre of the Gospel, dyed into the texture of its very threads, is the thought of sacrifice. There is no satisfactory solution of the mystery of the life of Christ, but that which recognizes Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He took our nature that He might redeem us, cleanse our lives, and restore us to our lost place. When the veil is withdrawn from the heavenly glory, we have a glimpse of Him in the midst of the brightness, as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne!” Revelation 5:6 

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Eternal shelter, rest, and bread!

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Revelation 22:21

The Bible closes with a blessing. Its last word is grace. It is interesting to compare with this the last word of the Old Testament, which left a threat of curse hanging over the earth. The New Testament, however, closes with a message of grace and mercy

As the sunshine floods the fields and hills and waters — so the love of Christ is poured out upon this earth. God’s thoughts toward men are thoughts of peace. If we are not saved, it will be because we reject the light, and love darkness (sin) better than light (holiness). With this blessing resting over us, shall we not hasten now to rest under its bright wings? 

A traveler plodded on, weary and hungry, not knowing where to turn to find food and rest. A storm broke, and he fled under a wide-spreading tree for shelter. Here he found not only refuge from the storm — but food also, for the tree gave him of its fruits to eat. So the weary ones who will flee under this blessing, will find eternal shelter, rest, and bread!

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Our faithfulness

“I have zealously served the LORD God Almighty!” 1 Kings 19:10

Suppose Elijah had not stood loyal for God that day, what would have been the consequence? Baal would have held his place unquestioned, and God’s name would have been in a measure forgotten. 

We never know what may depend upon our standing loyally at our post. Wherever God sets us, our faithfulness is essential to the interests of His cause. 

In the school-books the children read of the boy who found a little leak in one of the dikes that protect Holland. The child knew that unless the water was held in check the leak would increase, and before morning be a flood. So he called aloud for help, and then stopped the leak with his hand. No relief came, and all night long the boy’s hand was the only protection the country had from the great sea. 

We never know what floods of danger and trouble it may be ours to hold back from people’s lives and homes any day, by simply being faithful. This responsibility should inspire us to be loyal to God and true to our duty, wherever we are placed, for we are the only one God has where we are standing.

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God reveals His plan to His children step by step

“The Lord has sent me to Jordan.” 2 Kings 2:6

God has something for us to do every day of our life, down to the last moment. 

Elijah’s last day was a busy one. He was sent from place to place — to Bethel, to Jericho, to the Jordan. 

In the same way, God reveals His plan to His children step by step as they go on.

Elijah was faithful also to the last moment, and went swiftly from task to task. It was to visit the schools of the prophets that he went to Bethel and Jericho. He wished to give his last counsels to these young students whom he had been training, and on whom the religious work of the people would depend.

Just so, we should continue at our work until we get to the end. In fact, when we know that the time is short, we should desire all the more earnestly that nothing may be left undone. Some Christians think that they can retire from active service when they get older, living leisurely for their own enjoyment. But the knowledge that we have but a little while to stay here on earth, should make us eager to do all we can in the world where so much needs to be done.

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He would never have been anything but an imbecile!

“Your gentleness has made me great!” 2 Samuel 22:36 

Love’s gentleness has wonderful power in bringing out what is good. 

A writer tells the story of a boy who, at the age of eight, was regarded as hopelessly imbecile. The boy’s father was an educator. Inspired by his deep love for his child, he took personal charge of his training, devoting himself to it most assiduously. If the boy had been sent to ordinary schools, he would never have been anything but an imbecile. As it was, however, he became bright and talented, and became a man of ability and influence. The father’s gentleness made him great. His genius as a teacher, inspired by his strong love for his child, took the poor life, and by patience developed its latent possibilities. 

That is what God’s gentle love does with us. As the warm sunshine falling upon the bare, dried, briery bush, unsightly and apparently useless, woos out leaves and buds and marvelous roses — so the love of God, falling upon our poor, sin-hurt lives, awakens in them heavenly longings, and leads them out and beautifies them.

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“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45

There is nothing wrong in desiring high places in the kingdom — the mistake of the disciples was that they did not understand what were the real first places. The world thinks that those who rule others are greatest. In the kingdom of Christ it is just the reverse of this. The greatest are those who serve.

According to this, all men’s scrambling for place and power is really scrambling downward rather than upward. The true high places among men, are the places of self-forgetfulness and loving service.

Of course, this does not mean that a Christian never is to accept or hold any position of honor or trust. A king, ruling millions, may be the very chief of servants by ruling only for the glory of God and for the good of His subjects. A rich man has an opportunity to get very near to Christ if he uses his wealth to bless the world. A servant in a family may be a great deal farther from the spirit of serving, than the mistress she serves.

The kind of serving that our Lord means, is that which forgets self and thinks only and always of the needs and interests of others.

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“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” John 1:23

John would hide himself away, and point all eyes to Christ. It is perilous to form the habit of talking about ourselves and what we have done. Some Christian people allow themselves to drift into an easy way of self-promoting which soon becomes self-exaltation. Even in the minds of those to whom they talk thus, they defeat their own purpose — for talking of one’s own fine doings detracts greatly from the fineness of the doings in the thought of those who thus hear of them.

The truest work for Christ is wrought in self-forgetfulness, without consciousness of the important part one has taken. The work that is done for Christ without a thought of self, is the heavenliest work. Humility, though it hides its beauty and veils its shining, is the brightest of all the graces. No other quality means so much to a Christian, either in beauty of character or in the peace of the heart.

Moses knew not that his face shone.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less!” John 3:30

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“The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” John 2:9

Jesus always sought to work quietly. An ancient prophecy said of the Christ, that His voice would not be heard in the streets. He wrought quietly. He never sought to make a display. He never advertised Himself nor called attention to what He was going to do. The people about Him that day at the feast, did not know of the wonderful work which had been done in their midst. Nobody knew, except those servants who had had a share in it.

Just so, Christ works today. He is not in the storm, in the earthquake, in the whirlwind — but in the “still small voice.” His kingdom comes into men’s hearts, not with show — but silently, without parade. The wicked life is changed by His word into moral purity. Silently help comes in the hours of need. Silently prayer’s answers glide down. Silently the angels come and go.

We should learn to work in the same way. Those who are trying to draw attention to themselves, are missing one of the most Christlike qualities of Christian life. We should never work for men’s praise. We should hide ourselves away, keeping ourselves out of sight, and exalt Christ.

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“The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him: We have found the Messiah!” John 1:41

One who claims to be a Christian, and yet is not interested in bringing others to Christ, had better examine the grounds of his faith. “Even a dog that has had his leg mended, will bring other limping dogs to the man who was kind to him.” The human heart which has received the blessing of salvation, should certainly be no less eager to have other lost ones share it.

It is interesting to notice that it was Andrew’s own brother whom he brought first. Our love for souls, while it should embrace the whole world, should make us think first of those who are nearest to us. We ought to begin with our own family. Yet, strange to say, it is the last place many of us speak about Christ. The old proverb has it, “The shoemaker’s wife is always the worst shod.”

We say it is harder to speak to our own dear ones than those who are less familiar. Perhaps the trouble lies in the fact that our own dear ones know too much about us, or rather in the fact that we are not living up to our Christian profession in the intimacies of our own home!

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“While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up to Heaven.” Luke 24:51

Wherever we see Christ in the gospel story, He is giving out blessings. Now it was on the children’s heads, now on the leper, now on the blind eyes, now on the sick, now on the dead, that He laid His gracious hands — and always He left some rich gift with His touch. One day, those gentle hands were drawn out and nailed back on the cross, yet even then it was in blessing that they were extended.

Then in the very last glimpse we have of Jesus in this world, He was in the attitude of imparting a blessing. It was on the mount of Ascension. He had been talking with His disciples, and then He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them He left them and received up into Heaven.

There could be no truer picture of Jesus taken at any point in His life than as He appeared in that last view which this world had of Him. In Heaven, now, He is still a blessing Savior, holding up pierced hands before God in availing intercession, and reaching down gracious hands, full of blessing for our sad, sinful earth.

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“But when you are invited, take the lowest place” Luke 14:10

The religion of Jesus Christ teaches the most beautiful courtesy. True lowliness thinks always of others first.

One said that of all natural emblems, he would choose for his life the dew. It makes no noise, seeks no praise, writes no record — but is content to sink away and be lost in the flowers and grass blades, to be remembered only in the new beauty and sweetness it imparts to nature.

Those who always demand that they shall be recognized, and their name attached to everything they do, have not learned the mind of Christ as well as have those who are content to have Christ honored, to do good to others, and to be remembered only in the new blessing and good which they leave in other lives.

Jesus assures us that those “Who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted!” Luke 14:11

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“Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

We need to be taught HOW to pray. Prayer opens all God’s storehouses of love for us — but if we have not learned the secret of prayer, these all remain closed to us. If we do not know how to pray, life means to us only a dreary, dusty road, with no stars and no blue sky above us, no Heaven and no God. If we know how to pray, life is a shining way, with all divine blessings.

Jesus answered the request of His disciples, and He will also teach us the lesson of prayer, if we ask Him. He taught it to His disciples all in one word. “When you pray, say, FATHER.” When we can with our hearts say “Father,” we are praying.

We need to learn also WHAT to pray for. We do not know ourselves. The things we think we need — might be the very things we ought not to have! And the things we shrink from and would pray to have kept from us — may be the very things we need most, which would be fullest of blessing and good for us. We know not what to pray for as we ought. Lord, teach us to pray!

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“As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you!” So the two of them walked on.” 2 Kings 2:6

Elijah seemed to want to get away from Elisha. Did he want to be alone when the last moment came? Or was he only testing his friend? The old prophet must in his heart have wanted the younger man to stay by him. We remember how our Master craved companionship in the Garden, and how it grieved Him when His friends failed Him. Elisha’s friendship must have been a great comfort to Elijah. He clung to him to the very last. Elisha owed everything to Elijah, and it was fitting that He should cling to Him to the last and refuse to be separated from Him.

Just so, there are many young people that owe more than they know to older friends — parents, teachers, pastors — and they should show their grateful love and interest to the last.

Notice, too, what Elisha would have missed if he had not clung to his master. He would not have seen the miracle at the Jordan or the glorious translation, nor would he have received the mantle of the ascending prophet.

Just so, there are rich rewards at the end of every path of faithfulness, and the harder the path the greater are the rewards.

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“A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.” Luke 10:31

Neither the priest nor the Levite did the wounded man any injury. They did not beat him, they did not rob him. Yet as we read the story, we feel that they really treated him unkindly, and were guilty of grievous sin against him. The sin, however, was one of not doing, one of the things we leave undone which we ought to have done.

Yet we are continually passing by on the other side of human needs. We see people in trouble — but do not do anything to help them. We hear the cries of distress and we could give assistance — but we do not — we pass by.

In our Lord’s description of the last judgment He makes the decision to turn not so much upon sins committed — as on duties neglected, “Then He will also say to those on His left: Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.” Matthew 25:41-43

Those who go to the left hand, are sent there because they have not done the duties of love which they ought to have done.

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“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Matthew 6:25, 26

Elsewhere Jesus says that not even a sparrow is forgotten by our Father. The sparrows are among the most worthless, the most useless, the most troublesome of all birds. You can buy two of them for a farthing. Yet God watches over them, and not one of them shall fall to the ground without His permission.

The Bible says that God feeds the birds. If God so cares for sparrows, He will care much more for His own children. The God Who cares for the soulless little bird, will surely care much more thoughtfully, more tenderly, for His own redeemed children. God is our Father — He is not the birds’ father; He is their Creator and Provider — but they are not His children. A woman will give more thought to her baby than to her canary. Our Heavenly Father will certainly provide for His children. So we need never worry.

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“But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word!” Matthew 15:23

This is one of the strangest incidents in all the story of Jesus. Usually He was quick to hear every request made of Him by any sufferer. Yet now He stood and listened to this woman’s piteous pleading, and gave her no reply, not even a word! Why was He thus silent?

Was this a weak hour with Him, when He could not give help? The most compassionate man has days when he can do nothing — but there never were such hours in the life of Jesus.

Was it because He was so engrossed in His own coming sorrow, that He could not think of any other one’s trouble? No, for even on the cross He forgot His own anguish, prayed for His murderers, and cared for His mother.

The reason for His silence was to draw out the woman’s faith. He was preparing her to receive in the end, a far richer, better blessing than she could have received at the beginning. Our Lord sometimes yet seems to be silent to His people when they cry unto Him. Is His silence a refusal? No; often, at least, the silence is meant to make the suppliants more earnest, and to prepare them to receive better blessings.

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“He called a little child and had him stand among them.” Matthew 18:2

Our Lord’s answer to the question, “Who is greatest?” was, a little child. “This is greatness,” He said.

A child in the midst teaches many lessons. When a new baby comes into a home, God sets it in the midst of a family as a teacher. Parents suppose they are training their child, and so they are, if they are faithful; but the child also trains them. Godly parents learn more of the meaning of the fatherhood of God, and the way He feels toward His children, in one week after the first baby comes — than they had learned from teachers and books, even from the Bible, in all the preceding years of their life.

Every child’s life is a book, a new page of which is turned over every day. Children are not angels, yet they bring to earth many fragments of heavenliness. Their influence is a constant blessing. They change the center of life in their parents — it is no more self; they begin now to live for their child. Children train their parents in patience, gentleness, thoughtfulness. While a young child is in a home, a school of Heaven is set up there.

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“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:3

Thus Jesus rebuked His disciples’ ambition. Their grasping for great places, proved that they were not great. Lowliness is greatness.

What is it to become as a little child?

There is a legend of a man whom the angels loved and wished to have honored. They asked God that some remarkable gift might be bestowed upon him. They were bidden to find out what the man would like to have. Urged to name something which would be given to him, the man said he would like to do a great deal of good in the world without even knowing it. So it came about that whenever his shadow fell behind him it had healing power — but when it fell before his face it had not this power.

That is childlikeness — goodness, power to do good, without being conscious of the possession of these qualities. Ambition to win distinction, craving for human praise, consciousness of being good, or smart, or useful, or great — all are marks of a worldly spirit, which is neither childlike nor Christlike. Moses knew not that his face shone.

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“In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you, unless you forgive your brother from your heart!” Matthew 18:34-35

This matter of the forgiveness of others who have sinned against us, is of the gravest importance. If we cannot forgive a fellow-man some little wrong that he has committed against us — then how can we ask God to forgive us our great sins against Him?

The Master makes the lesson very plain. We have it also in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” The unforgiving man — is still unforgiven. As one says, “If you get pardon from God — then you will give it to your brother. If you withhold it from your brother — you thereby make it manifest that you have not got it from God.”

Thus we are brought face to face with a most definite, practical teaching, which we dare not ignore. To refuse to forgive, is to destroy the only bridge on which our feet can pass into the kingdom of Heaven. People say that revenge is sweet; but the saying is false. “The unforgiving spirit is the root of bitterness from which springs a tree whose leaves are poisonous, and whose fruit is death to all who taste it!”

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“While He was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” Mark 14:3

“She has done what she could, and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.” Mark 14:8

Whether Mary knew or not that Jesus was to die in a few days, her anointing served the purpose of love’s burial honor. We should show our love to our friends while they are with us. Many people would have kept that alabaster jar sealed up until He was dead, then breaking it and pouring out the ointment on His lifeless body.

When a man dies, there is never any lack of kind words said about him. Sometimes it takes several carriages to bear the flowers to the grave. This may be right in its way — but Mary’s way was better. Let us not wait until our friends are dead, before we show our love for them. Let us bring our alabaster jars and break them while they are alive to enjoy the perfume. Let us fill the lives of our friends with sweetness, speaking approving, cheering words, while their ears can hear them and while their hearts can be blessed by them. The flowers you mean to send for your friends’ coffins — send to brighten and sweeten their homes before they die. Let us learn of Mary to anoint our friends for burial ahead of time!

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“But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent.” Matthew 27:12

We should learn from Jesus the wisdom of silence under false accusation. There was no use in His arguing with His accusers.

In the same way, we may sometimes have to meet false accusations, and usually our true course will be to be silent.

A certain godly man in the olden times, when grievously and unfairly accused by enemies, refused to give even one word of denial. He said that God knew all about it, and while it was God’s will that he should live under the shadow of false accusations, he would do it in silence, like his Master on His trial.

Jesus answered nothing — but “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” He left his name, his life, and the whole matter of his vindication to his heavenly Father. It was safe in those hands. There is no spot today on the name of Jesus, though He died as a malefactor.

Just so, we may trust ourselves in the hands of God when we are wrongly accused, standing in silence, answering nothing, committing all to Him Who judges righteously.

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“He took Peter, James and John along with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” Mark 14:33

It is not weakness that craves companionship. Love longs for companionship, especially in hours of sorrow. Loneliness is one of the heaviest burdens a human life can meet.

Jesus knew that He must meet His Gethsemane alone, and He wanted some of His friends near Him. It was a high honor He showed to the three He chose to go with Him into the depths of the Garden.

Jesus does not now need such watchers, yet His followers are often led into deep shadows of sorrow. We know that in the least of His own in pain, Jesus appeals to us for sympathy. It may be a lowly man, alone and sick, who needs us to sit and hold his hand while he suffers. Or it may be one in sorrow, or one in temptation. Let us not fail the least of them. “And the King will answer and say to them: Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me!” Matthew 25:40

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“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

That is, consider yourself when you are judging another. He has stumbled and fallen, and is down. What is your duty toward him? To keep him down? Is mercy to be shown to him, or no mercy? Is his fall final? Does it cast him off altogether?

The exhortation is, “Restore him.” Help him to rise. Look upon him graciously. Treat him in a spirit of meekness. Meekness means gentleness instead of severity.

The motive of all this is, “Considering yourself.” Suppose the cases were reversed, you down and he unfallen — how would you want him to treat you? What is it that makes the difference between him and you? Why did not you go down in the temptation in which he fell? Was it because you were better and stronger than he? Perhaps his weak point is your strong one.

In any case you should thank God for the grace that kept you from falling when he fell.

“Considering yourself.” It may be your turn tomorrow. Therefore deal in love with this brother who is in the dust. Restore him to his place, that he may begin again.

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“Be of the same mind with one another.” Romans 12:16

The art of living together is not always easy. It certainly is easier to live with some people, than with others. The home is meant to be a place where the members of the household are of the same mind with one another. Yet there are homes which lack this quality.

Some may ask, “How can we learn to be of the same mind — it is not possible for any two intelligent people to have the same opinions, tastes, and preferences in all matters?”

If they are to be of the same mind in everything — then there must be mutual patience, forbearance, and a disposition to yield to one another.

One man said he and his were always of one mind — but the fact was that he was a despot, and that his wife always gave way, never daring to object or even express a preference. But that is not what Paul meant when he said, “Be of the same mind with one another.” Love is the heart of all Christian life — in loving, each yields.

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“It is high time to awake out of sleep!” Romans 13:11.

The picture suggested is of one still asleep when the sun is high in the heavens. There is a great pressure of duty — but the man sleeps on, indifferent to all calls.

There are many people who are doing this in a literal way, making nothing of their life, needing nothing so much as to be torn out of their self-indulgent slumber.

Life is only a little day. During our small day we have duties and responsibilities which would crowd every moment if we were to do them all. But here are men with consciences asleep, leaving their real life-work untouched.

The man who never thinks of eternity is asleep; yet he may be busy in earthly things, a “wide awake man.” His neighbors may call him, ambitious, alert, diligent, successful; but if he does not think of God and the other world, he is asleep. The world is full of such people, and we ought to try to wake them up before it is too late.

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“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” Matthew 18:12

One evening General Garibaldi met a shepherd who had lost a lamb out of his flock, and was in great distress because he could not find it. Garibaldi became deeply interested, and proposed to his staff that they should scour the mountains and help to find the lost lamb. A searching party was organized, lanterns were brought, and these old soldiers started off, full of eager earnestness to look for the fugitive. The quest was in vain, however, and by and by the soldiers all returned to their quarters.

Next morning Garibaldi’s attendant found the general in bed and fast asleep long after his usual hour for rising. The servant aroused him at length, and the general rubbed his eyes, and then took from under his bed-covering the lost lamb, bidding the attendant carry it to the shepherd. Garibaldi had kept up the quest until he found the lamb.

This illustration helps us to understand how Jesus Christ seeks His lost ones, continuing the search long after others have wearied, seeking until He finds.

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

In a certain sense our departed human friends stay with us — as we have them still . . .
in memory,
in the influences which they left in our lives,
in the things they did for us, and
in the lessons they taught us.

We have sweet memories of Christ, too, and the influence of His life and teaching is still in the world.

But this is not what is meant in the promise. He meant that He would stay with each one of His own. It is a wonderful thing to have Christ with us. If we realized the truth of this promise, what power it would give us!

Notice the present tense, “Surely, I am with you always.” To every believer He says, “I am with you now, this very moment!”

The word “always” also is important. A marginal reading has it “all the days.” The dark days — as well as the bright days; the days of struggle, conflict, sorrow — as well as the days of sunshine and joy.

There are two things to do if we would get the blessing of such a promise — to believe it and always to remember it!

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“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free!” Luke 4:18

What a picture this is of humanity! And anyone who goes about and looks honestly at life, knows that the picture is not overdrawn. On every hand we see the wreck and ruin caused by sin. Then suffering and sorrow follow, and hearts and lives are crushed and bruised.

But there is something here a great deal brighter than this picture. Light breaks on the ruin as we read that it was to repair just such moral desolations that Jesus came. He came to “bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free!”

He saw in all these ruins of humanity, something that by His grace, He could make beautiful for Heaven. Christ is a restorer.

There are men who take old, dimmed pictures and restore them, until they appear nearly as beautiful as when they first came from the artist’s hand. In the same way, Christ comes to ruined souls, and by the power of His grace He restores them until they wear His own beauty in the presence of God!

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“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!” Luke 4:21

Seven hundred years before, had the words been written. Now Jesus reads them and says to the people, “I am the One to whom the description refers. I am the One the prophet meant!”

The Old Testament is full of Christ, and the New Testament is full of fulfillments. It is pleasant to take this particular passage and show how Christ fulfilled in His life and ministry, the mission which the prophet marked out for Him. He preached to the poor, He healed the broken-hearted. Wherever He went, the sorrowing and the troubled flocked about Him.

As a magnet draws steel filings to itself out of a heap of rubbish — so did the heart of Christ draw to Him the needy, the suffering, the oppressed. He was the friend of sinners. He brought deliverance to sin’s captives.

He opened blind eyes — not only blind natural eyes to see the beauty of this world — but also blind spiritual eyes to see spiritual things.

He lifted the yoke off the crushed and oppressed, inviting all the weary to Himself to find rest for their tired hearts.

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“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

We are told much about Christ’s death for us. We do not think so much, however, of the blessings that come to us from His broken grave. But if He had died only, He could not have been the Savior we need. It is a great thing for us that we have a Savior who was dead and is alive again.

One blessing is that He knows the way of death, just as He knows the way of temptation, and the way of sorrow — and can guide us when we come to enter the dark valley.

Another blessing is that He has proved Himself stronger than death, He could not be held by it. During His life, He met all the other enemies of our souls. He met all temptation and was victorious. He encountered diseases and demons, and showed His power over them. He ruled the forces of nature — multiplying food, walking on the sea, quelling the storm. He showed Himself master over death, when He called the dead back to life. Now He met death and proved Himself its master!

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“And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus: Master, it is good for us to be here!” Luke 9:33

Peter was right; it was good to be there. They were having a glimpse of the real glory of Christ. Yet it would not have been best for them to stay there. Peter had forgotten, in his glad ecstasy, that there was a lost world lying in the darkness below him. He had forgotten the other disciples down there at the mountain’s base. He had forgotten the people with their needs, their sicknesses, their sorrows, waiting for the Master. He had forgotten the church which was yet to be established.

In the same way, it is good for us to be in the presence of God and to enjoy the rapture of divine love. But in our own deep joy, we must not forget those who are outside the hallowed place in which we are communing with Christ. It is good to be in the place of prayer or at the Lord’s table — but meanwhile work waits for us outside, and we must hasten out, when we have been strengthened and blessed, to carry to others something of the good which we have received and which they sorely need.

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you! Luke 17:6

The mustard seed was very small — but the plant grows into a large bush. In the same way, a very little faith will grow into strength, if properly exercised.

What Jesus says about a Mulberry tree is a little parable. It strikes its roots down deep into the soil, and then grows into a great trunk, with wide-spreading branches. The plucking up of such a tree is a work that would require immense strength. It is given here as one of the hardest of all things to accomplish. Yet living faith will do even this. That is, it will do things that are most difficult.

Christian faith has not spent its strength in plucking up trees and planting them in the sea, achievements which would not have blessed any one. But it has gone through the world, uprooting old powers of sin, and planting trees of righteousness. It has been regenerating men’s lives and transforming them into Christlike beauty.

We may take this promise for ourselves. We may bring to our hard tasks all the strength of God, if only we have faith like the little seed.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” Psalm 108:2

There is an ailment called sleeping sickness, which appears to be quite serious in some parts of the world, always terminating fatally. There would seem to be a moral trouble of the same kind. At least, there are people who are disposed to sleepiness and need to be waked up.

The psalmist felt that he needed to be waked up. He wanted to sing praises — but his harp hung silent on the wall and he calls, “Awake, harp and lyre!” There is a good deal of spiritual lethargy in many of us. We are sluggish and need to be roused up. The psalmist said he would awake right early.

It is said that Rev. Adam Clark was in the habit of rising early. A young minister was lamenting that he could not wake up early, and asked the doctor how he had learned to do it, “I suppose you prayed a great deal about it?”

“No,” said the Adam Clark, “I got up.”

Instead of praying to get spiritually awake, we should simply get up. Prayer is a mockery unless we rise and begin at once to do God’s will.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” Psalm 92:1.

Thanksgiving to God is fitting, because we have countless reasons for it. God is our Father, and He fills all our days and years with blessings. There is never a moment when we have not something new for which to praise Him. There is blessing in everything He does for us and sends to us.

We would be most ungrateful if we did not give thanks unto God. Prayer should not be all clamor for new favors, it should be full of recognition of mercies and good things.

It is good, also, to give thanks, because it makes our own lives sweeter, truer, and more beautiful. Joy is beauty. Praise is lovely. One who does not give thanks, lacks the highest element of loveliness. Ingratitude is dark and somber; praise is light and beautiful.

Giving thanks also makes us greater blessings to others. Praising people scatter inspiration wherever they go. They make others happier, braver, stronger. Our days should be full of praise and song. Then God will be pleased with our lives and this world will be made sweeter and better.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him: Lord, is it I?” Matthew 26:22

It was a terrible word the disciples heard, “One of you shall betray Me.” But not one of them suspected any other. Each one shuddered at the possibility that he himself might, after all, be capable of the dark crime.

“Surely not I!” is a more accurate rendering. It is not so much a denial of the possibility of such a thing — as a frightened feeling at the startling announcement.

We get two suggestions: one is that we should examine ourselves, rather than look at others for sins we find condemned. It is much easier to think others capable of doing wrong things, than to suppose it possible that we should do them. But our business is with ourselves. We have not to answer for the sins of our neighbors.

The other suggestion is that in self-examination we should ask not merely whether we have done such and such things — but also whether we are in danger of committing them in the future. “Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.”

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“And there arose a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.” Luke 22:24

This is not a pleasant thing to read of Christ’s apostles. If a modern biographer were writing about a company of Christian ministers, he would not likely tell of their differences, nor expose the things of their fellowship which were not beautiful.

But the Bible goes straight on and withholds nothing. One reason for this, is that the aim of the Bible is not to praise men — but to glorify God.

In a certain sense it is comforting to us to know that Bible saints were not perfect, for the best among us fall far short of the high standard that Christ has set for us. Faultless people dishearten us, because we cannot be like them. But when we find that these good men of old stumbled just as we do, that even the apostles had their strifes and contentions — we find them much less discouraging examples than if we saw them only in more saintly moods.

We also get a glimpse here of Christ’s patience. He bore with his disciples’ faults, and He will bear with us in all our mistakes, if only we are sincerely trying to follow Him.

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“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain!” 1 Corinthians 15:14

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep!” 1 Corinthians 15:20

If the body of Jesus yet sleeps in the grave, we simply have no Savior, and all the hopes of Christianity are but empty dreams.

“But now has Christ been raised from the dead!” No other fact in all history is more indubitably established, than the resurrection. Hence all the promises and hopes of Christianity are sure.

There is an Eastern legend of a child who saw a silver spangle lying in the sand. Picking it up, she found that it was attached to a necklace of gold. As she drew this up, there were other spangles on it, and the necklace seemed to be endless. She wound it about her head and neck and arms and body, until she was covered from head to foot with golden threads and silver spangles.

So it is when we take up this one truth of the resurrection of Christ. As we lift it we find that it is attached to a thread of gold, and as we draw up the thread we find all other blessings, promises, and hopes clinging to it.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God!” Mark 14:25

Right there on the edge of the awful darkness of His cross, Jesus was thinking of His heavenly glory! It is a very tender thought that He craved to be remembered.

We give keepsakes to those we love, not because we fear we shall be forgotten — but because these mementos have a strange power to deepen and intensify affection. They are seals of the covenant that unites our hearts. Every time you look upon a keepsake given you by a loved one you feel a new thrill of tenderness.

So the Lord’s Supper warms our hearts. We keep it aright, when it calls up before us Christ’s love for us and all His sacrifice. Then it is more than a memorial. Memories alone will not feed our souls. It is a feast, and a feast refreshes. It is also the seal of a covenant; it reminds us of what we have engaged to do, and of what Christ has promised to do for us.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

God is always wanting errand-runners to go for Him to others. Angels fly swiftly and eagerly. There is not an angel in glory who would not gladly come to earth any day on any mission, however lowly.

A legend tells of one of the highest angels sent to earth one day with two commissions — to deliver a king from the power of some temptation, and to help a little struggling ant home with its burden of food. The latter errand was done just as dutifully and joyously by the great angel as the former.

But God needs men as well as angels for messengers in this world. Angels are not sent to preach the Gospel, to carry to men God’s revealings of love and mercy and truth. Those who have been redeemed themselves, must become ministers of God to others. God is always asking this question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” He has sick people, or sorrowing ones, or imperilled ones somewhere, to whom He would send blessing by some human hands. Who will refuse to go for such a Master?

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“I will rain bread from Heaven for you.” Exodus 16:4

The Bible represents God as caring minutely for the needs of the world. Even the birds He feeds — and much more His own children. Some people laugh at the belief that there is One who looks after our needs in this way. But we need not be disturbed by such sneers.

God is not limited to ordinary means — but He never works needless miracles. He did not send manna while the people were in Goshen, because there was no need for it then, and as soon as they reached Canaan it ceased, for there bread was abundant. But here in the wilderness, where food could not be obtained in any ordinary way, God supplied it supernaturally.

God’s love to us is just as watchful and as faithful now, as it was in the days of miracles. We may always with perfect confidence depend on our Father to provide for us, when we are following His guidance.

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“The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.” Psalm 112:6

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked shall rot.” Proverbs 10:7

Nobody needs to be forgotten. Everyone desires to be remembered. Jesus Himself revealed this longing in giving His disciples the memorial supper. We are making our own memorials all the common days. The memory of the godly is blessed. They live holy lives, lives of unselfishness and service, and they are remembered by what they have done.

The character of the remembrance depends upon the life. If we would leave a sweet memory, we must do beautiful things. Those who do good, who, wherever they go, perform deeds of kindness, who live for others — will leave a memory behind them which will always be fragrant.

One cannot live selfishly, impurely, dishonestly, or dishonorably, and hope to leave a good memory. If we plant briers, briers will grow in our gardens, entwining about our windows and doors. But if we plant roses, roses will grow and make one spot of the world more beautiful because we have lived in it. If we live under the law of Christian love, we shall be had in everlasting remembrance.

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Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” 2 John 1:8

We need to keep the closest watch upon our own lives. We are ever receiving good from those who love us and seek to help us. But we go out from holy influences, and are in danger of losing the heavenly impressions they have made upon us. Every one whose life touches ours, puts part of himself into us. The companion with whom we spend even a few minutes, imparts to us something of his own spirit. Those with whom we live, continually stamp their very likeness on us. Some there are who love God and yearn to be a blessing to us.

Paul wrote to his friends in Rome that he longed to see them, that he might impart to them some spiritual gift. This should always be friendship’s yearning. The Beloved Disciple had this desire for his influence upon the good woman and her family to whom he wrote his letter. But he knew the dangers of the world and wrote this caution, “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought.”

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” Luke 22:25-26

Christ does not mean that the servants of a family are greater than their mistress, that the salesmen in a shop are greater than the merchant, that the scholars are greater than the teacher. One in the position of a servant may have the temper of a tyrant, and one who occupies the place of master may have the true heart of loving service.

Whatever our position, high or low, we should seek to have the spirit which serves. We should look upon other people, asking, not how we can make them useful to us — but how we can do them good.

The secret of this spirit is love. If we truly love another we shall seek his good in all ways. He may occupy the lowest place under us, and we the highest place among men; yet love will make us see in him a brother to whom we owe all of love’s sweet, kindly ministry. The despotic spirit puts one far down in the rank of men — but humble, unselfish serving makes men kings.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“If he found any there who belonged to the Way.” Acts 9:2

This is a singular term to use to describe the religion of Christ. It was a common designation, however, in early days. Believers were of “the way.” They had a certain way of life — they . . .
followed One who was their Master, 
obeyed His words, 
believed His promises, 
belonged to His party, 
imitated His example.

We remember that Jesus said once of Himself, “I am the Way.” On another occasion He called Himself the Door — through which those who would enter the kingdom of Heaven must pass. The word “Way” is suggestive, as describing the Christian life after we enter at the door. Christ does not merely tell us about or show us the way; He is Himself the Way. He made the way. He is the Way.

The ladder of Jacob was a picture of the Incarnation. It reached from earth’s valleys, to Heaven’s hills. There was no road up to Heaven, no way of communication, and no one could ever have climbed up. Then Jesus came and became a ladder, a way, reaching from the depths of earth to the heights of Heaven!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.” Revelation 1:16

A sword proceeding out of the mouth seems at first strange; but it means that Christ’s weapon of conquest is His Word, “the sword of the Spirit.” He is the King of Truth. He rules over men’s minds and hearts by Scripture truth. He sets up no kingdom with pomp and pageant, with armies and navies. He rules men’s lives, and the sword He wields is His Word.

This sword is sharp, and it is two-edged. It slays sin and all lust!

We should learn to use the Word of God with great confidence. We remember that this was the sword Jesus used when Satan assaulted Him. His reply to each temptation was, “It is written.” This is the sword we should use also in all our encounters with the tempter. So in all our efforts to fight evil in the world, the only sword that never fails and is invincible is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

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“And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward Heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.” Mark 6:41

Jesus is going to feed the hungry people with the disciples’ loaves — but the bread must pass through the disciples’ hands. It is in this way that Christ usually blesses men.

When He would give His word to the world, He inspired holy men, and they wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. When He would save or bless a life, He sends one who has been saved already by His grace to carry the message. The redemption is divine — but human hands must dispense it.

Suppose the disciples had fed themselves — but had not passed on the food; the people would have hungered still, with provision for them close at hand. Is it not thus sometimes with us? We must not merely feed ourselves — but we must carry food to hungry souls, or they will die in their sins.

“I expect to pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there is any kindness I can do to any fellow-being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” Luke 24:29.

We always need Christ with us — but when evening draws on, we need His presence in a special way. It is growing dark — and in the shadows we need His protection. Night gives us a sense of loneliness — and we need His companionship. Night has its dangers — and Christ’s presence gives us a feeling of safety.

Life is full of evenings in which this prayer is fitting. There are evenings when the skies grow dark, and if we do not have Christ to come in and abide with us, we shall be uncomforted, while His presence fills our hearts with light.

To all of us will come at last the evening of death. It will be very still about the house. The breathing will become shorter and quicker — the end will be near. Then we shall need Christ. If He does not come in to abide with us, it will be unutterably dark for us. We shall need Him to light us through the valley of shadows. Our prayer should be, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening.” Then His coming will bring light and joy.

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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race!” 2 Timothy 4:7

Paul saw his life as a FIGHT. It was a strife against sinfulness within himself, and evil without. We cannot take off our armor, nor sheathe our sword, nor cease to fight — while we are in this hostile world. But we need not fail, for the Captain of our salvation is strong. He has met every enemy and will help us to be victorious, more than conquerors, if only we keep close to Him and let Him fight for us.

Paul thinks of his life also as a RACE. “I have finished the race.” Paul had now run the race almost to the end. Just before him was the goal, and he saw the crown shining, ready to be put upon his brow. The racer strains every muscle, and puts all his strength into the race. So Paul had lived. We must do our very best always if we would win in life’s race. The contest in the Christian race is not to surpass others — but to win the goal — all who reach it will be crowned, not one only, as in earth’s races.

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“The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him!” Psalm 25:14

Those who fear God He takes into confidential relations with Himself. He reveals to them the secrets that He would not make known to the world.

In the Revised Version the verse refers to friendship. We confide in our friend. God gives His friendship to those who fear Him. We love to have friends. Good human friends bring to our lives great blessing.

But perhaps we do not think enough of the privilege of having God for a friend. We speak of Him as strong and able to help us and defend us. But we are not so accustomed to think of Him as coming into our life in close, familiar ways.

If we would find the best that is in Christ, we must know Him as a personal friend. It is not enough to know Him as our Provider, supplying our needs. We need friendship as well as food.

Friendship may seem only a sentiment — but sentiment enriches our lives. Let us seek more the gentle friendship of Christ, that our hearts may be kept warm.

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“LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart” Psalm 15:1-2

We want to stand well with good people, to have their confidence and favor, and to be admitted to their friendship. We ought to desire especially to stand well with God. Who are those that are permitted to enter His presence and dwell near to Him?

Those who walk uprightly are admitted. Straightness and erectness, in a moral sense, belong to those who conform to God’s laws and walk in God’s ways.

Those who would live with God must work righteousness, that is, do right things.

Some special qualities are named:

They must speak truth. Lying excludes. All liars are found without the heavenly gates. The slanderer is not admitted — one who does evil, or is untrue to his friend.

Taking up a reproach against a neighbor shuts out from God’s favor. Promises are kept by the godly man, whatever it may cost to keep them. He must not be a usurer, taking base advantage of men’s necessities to demand exorbitant interest.

It really does make a great difference how we live.

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“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Some people have so much to do in looking after other people’s affairs — that they have little time left for their own. We should learn that our first responsibility is for our own life, the way we manage our own affairs. We had better learn to keep our hands off other people’s matters, unless in cases where they need our help, when it is part of our duty to look upon the things of others.

Then we must learn to mind our own business. This means that we must not expect other people to do it for us. It is unmanly for one who is strong and in health, to wish to be helped through life, letting others bear the burdens for him. We must take up our own burden and carry it courageously.

The lesson teaches also that we must actually do our own business, that is, put our whole heart into it. Some people who claim to be very devout and holy, are too indolent to do anything, and their lives prove to be miserable failures. Have some business of your own, and put your life into it, that it may be a blessing in the world.

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“At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed!” Luke 20:10

Of course none of us ever treat the servants God sends just that way. We do not stone them. We love them very much, and, as a rule, we listen with great respect to what they have to say to us. We never think of putting them in prison, or of sawing them asunder. Surely, then, this part of the parable cannot refer to us.

But wait a moment. On what errands are the servants sent? They come to get the rental which we owe to God, to receive the fruits which are His due. We do not beat the messengers — but do we grant what in God’s name they ask from us for Him? Do we give up our sins when they ask us to do it? Do we yield our hearts to God and begin to love and obey Him, when they ask these things of us?

We are very respectful to God’s servants, but they carry back from us no fruit to the God whose we are. We treat the messengers with honor — but the message we disregard, and Him who sends it we reject and despise.

“So Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, just as the LORD had said. The LORD buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place.” Deuteronomy 34:5-6

No other funeral in the world was ever so remarkable as that of Moses. No such honor was ever given in burial to any other man. We think it a comfort to know the place where our loved ones sleep, that we may go and stand by their tombs and keep the place beautiful by our tender care. But no pilgrim feet ever went to the grave of Moses, since no one knew where to find it.

There are many others of earth’s dead whose graves are not known. In soldiers’ cemeteries, on battlefields, there are many mounds, with only the word “Unknown” to mark them. Somewhere there are loved ones whose dead sleep unrecognized in these unnamed graves, and who yet know not where the sepulchers of their lost heroes are to be found. Thousands, too, have gone down in the sea. Others have perished on desert sands, and no man knows of their sepulcher.

God buried these, too, when there were no human friends to do honor to their dust, and God knows where each one of them sleeps.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it’ and immediately he will send it here.” Mark 11:3

We say that Christ owns all things, and does not need our small possessions. But He works through His people, and uses the commonest things in His service. He needed the water which the servants carried when He wrought the miracle of the wine, and the boy’s five barley loaves when He fed the five thousand people. He needed Simon’s boat for a pulpit when He preached to the multitude, and this colt when He rode into the city as the Prince of Peace.

In this sense, He needs our money, our hands, our feet, our lips, our affections, and we do well when we hold all that we have at His call. Everything we possess belongs to Christ, and whatever we have that He needs in His service, we should quickly give up. We are only the stewards of God’s property.

It would be strange if when a man came to his agent and asked him for something of his own — the agent should refuse to give it to him. What right has the agent to refuse? The things we have are only lent to us to be used and then accounted for.

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“Who do you say that I am?” 
Peter answered, “The Christ of God!” Luke 9:20

This is a wonderful confession of faith — the true Apostles’ Creed. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter had a glimpse of Jesus in His glorious beauty. He saw Him as the Messiah who had been long promised. From the very gates of the lost paradise, the world had been watching for a Savior. Again and again had the promise been renewed, growing brighter and clearer along the ages.

At last the Promised One had come, and now Peter saw and believed in Him as the Christ. Not only so — but He saw Him, too, as divine — the Son of the living God. We ought to study this creed and make it our own. It tells us what we ought to think about Christ. He is the Messiah, that is, God’s Anointed One. God chose Him to come to earth on His errand of love. He is anointed to be our Savior. He became man, thus coming down close to us. Then He is the Son of God, divine, possessing all power, infinite in His love and grace, able to do for us all that we need, and to lift us up to eternal life and glory.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“They looked to Him and were radiant!” Psalm 34:5

We like to have shining faces. We read of Moses that after he had been long in the mount with God, that his face shone. We read also of Stephen, that while he stood before his accusers his face grew so bright that those who looked upon it saw it as if it had been the face of an angel.

Here we learn how we, too, may have shining faces. “They looked unto Him and were radiant.” Paul teaches us the same truth: “We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image.”

The things we look at, whatever their character, reflect their likeness upon our lives. If we think of evil things — our thoughts and lives become evil. If we look upon things that are lovely — the beauty gradually weaves itself into our own features. Another prayer runs thus: “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.” We can get this divine beauty by thinking of God until our hearts glow with love for Him, and the shining of His face transfigures our dull lives.

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“And the Lord said: Simon, Simon! Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat!” Luke 22:31

The better the person is — the more eagerly does Satan try to get him. No wonder he wanted the disciples, for he well knew that they would make terrible havoc in his kingdom if they were not destroyed. He had already secured one of them — Judas — and thought to get all the others.

Jesus said that Satan wished to “sift” Peter. His idea of sifting was to sift away their loyalty to their Master. God sifts also — but His sieve cleans out the chaff, saving the wheat; while Satan would save the chaff only and cast out the wheat.

Satan is always trying to get us from Christ. When you feel discouraged, beware, for Satan has you in his sieve and is trying to shake out your faith and love.

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“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

This was John’s message. Light stands for everything that is beautiful and good and holy. Light is life-giving.

A friend asked Tennyson once, “What is Jesus Christ to you?” They were walking in the garden at the time, and, pointing to a rose-bush full of blossoming roses, Tennyson said, “What the sun is to this rose-bush, Jesus Christ is to me.”

As we open our heart and life to Christ, the life-giving influence spreads everywhere, and we grow into whatever things are true, and lovely, and pure.

In the night we see nothing; but when the sun rises, all the beauty about us is manifested. One might walk through a great are gallery at night and he would not behold anything. At length, however, the day breaks, and he finds himself in the midst of the loveliest creations. They were there before — but were invisible to him until the light revealed them. So the light of God makes all lovely things visible to us. Let the light flood your soul.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” James 1:19

It has been said that we have two ears and only one mouth — to teach us that we should hear twice as much as we speak. At least we should learn to listen well.

We miss a great deal by not being good hearers. The world is full of sweet music — bird songs, the chirping of insects, the sweet murmur of all nature, the whispering of the wind through the trees, the plashing of the waters; and yet some people never hear one melodious sound as they go through the fields and the forests.

God is ever speaking . . .
in our ears,
in our conscience, 
in His word, 
in the gentle voice of His Spirit
 — but many of us miss all this wonderful divine speech.

We ought to train ourselves to listen. There is nothing so base, so lowly, that it may not have some message for us. A deaf ear misses many a beautiful stirring message.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” James 1:13

Do not think that God is to blame for your temptations. Some people get tangled up in their theology and have the impression that God tempts them; or that at least, if He would, He might keep them from falling when they are tempted. But the evil is in ourselves, never in God.

He sets us to live in a world where sin is, and where we cannot miss being tempted. But temptation is not sin. Christ was tempted — but never sinned. The sin comes in when we yield to temptation.

Paul shook off the viper that fastened upon his hand, and was not harmed in the least by its fangs. So may we do with temptation, through Christ’s help. He helps us to meet and overcome temptation if we look to Him for help. Therefore if we fall the fault is our own, never God’s.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death —  even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8

Christ’s condescension is the ideal for every Christian life. Each in his own sphere, should live over again this marvelous story. “Let this mind be in you.” We are not merely to copy Christ in His acts and say over His words — but are to seek to have the spirit of humility which was in Him.

All true life must begin within. A new heart is the starting-point. There is little use in a bad man changing his habits or manners — while his spirit remains bad. He is the same man still. The only true change is that which begins in the heart. If we have the mind that was in Christ — then we shall have no trouble in getting the Christ-like life.

If Christ really rules in us, we have His mind swaying, influencing, directing, and controlling us.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” Psalm 107:2

When God has blessed us in any way, we should say so. It is ingratitude not to do it. We miss half the blessing, too, when we do not thank God for His goodness.

Yet there are many for whom God has done great things, who never say a word in praise. We may say that God does not mind, that He does not care for such recognitions. But God does care for gratitude.

A musical leader stopped his orchestra in the midst of a performance, because the little piccolo was not playing. He missed even the smallest of all the instruments when it failed to do its part.

Just so, earth’s music as it rises to Heaven, pleases God, and He misses the smallest voice that is not heard.

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” Let not one who has been blessed by Him, fail to speak out and tell the world of the loving-kindness of Jehovah. Let no heart keep its love unspoken. God’s blessings do not really come to be ours, until we have given Him thanks for them.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him: Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:3-5

Jesus knew this little publican’s name. Wherever you are, Jesus knows you are there, and knows your name! He called Zaccheus by name.

The Bible invitations seem to rain down on the world for everybody, yet when one touches your ear and heart, you hear your name spoken with it, and you know that you are called.

Jesus asked Zaccheus to come down. He is always calling people to come down. It is a lowly place where He stands to receive sinners — the place of humility, of penitence.

He wanted Zaccheus to come close to Him. He always wants us near.

Zaccheus was bidden to come immediately. There is always haste in Christ’s calls. He is passing on and away, and if we linger He will be gone.

Jesus was going home with Zaccheus. That is what He always does with us. He needs to be received by us, needs to be our guest, and bring into our lives that peace which passes all understanding.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Honor your father and your mother.” Exodus 20:12

We cannot too highly honor our parents. If the freshness is gone from their lives — it was in caring for us that they lost it.

An artist was painting a picture of a dead mother, copying it from a photograph. He was trying to take out some of the lines, that the face might seem younger. But the son said to him, “Don’t take out the lines — but leave them, every one. It wouldn’t be my mother if all the lines were gone.”

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“I will bless you . . . and you shall be a blessing.” Genesis 12:2

IT is told of Thoreau that when he had built a fire and stood before it, he would call himself to the bar of conscience and demand, “What did you do when you were warmed?” Thoreau was right. The comfort he had received from the heat was not his to keep all to himself; it ought to have made his life mean more to others.

We may ask ourselves, after receiving any favor or blessing from God, “What did you do when you were blessed?” For one thing, we ought to be better when God has given us joy. If we are not richer-hearted after God has given us some new, sweet gladness, we have failed to get from His gift what He meant us to get. Whenever we have a day of radiant joy, sweet peace, or blessed vision, and are not better therefor — we have missed the real object of the blessing which God intended us to get. Our mountain-top days are not merely experiences to be enjoyed; the radiance should become part of our life thereafter. The object of living is not to be happy — but to grow in character.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“So they started out for the first time according to the command of the LORD by the hand of Moses.” Numbers 10:13

The cloud led them. It is a great thing to have heavenly guidance in the earthly life.

Dr. Peabody tells of a ship lying calmly on a glassy sea. There is not a breath of air to fill a sail. While the men wait and watch, however, they notice that all at once the little pennant, far up on the masthead, begins to stir and lift. There is not a ripple on the water, nor the faintest moving of the air; but when they see the pennant stirring, they know that there is a wind rising in the higher air, and they quickly spread their upper sails. Instantly the vessel begins to move under the power of the higher currents, while the water’s surface is still glassily calm.

Just so, there are lower and higher currents in life. Too many set only the lower sails and catch but the winds that blow on earthly levels. But there also are winds which blow from the mountains of God. We should seek to catch the upper currents, to put our lives under heavenly influences.

The people of Israel in their earthly journeys had heavenly guidance. So may we have.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” Joshua 3:13

The people were not to wait in their camps until the way was opened. They were to walk by faith. They were to break camp, pack up their goods, form in line to march, and move down to the very banks before the river would be opened. If they had come down to the edge of the river and then had stopped for the stream to divide before they would step into it, they would have waited in vain. They must take one step into the water before the river would be cut off.

Just so, we must learn to take God at His word and go straight on in duty, although we see no way in which we can go forward. The reason we are so often balked by difficulties, is that we expect to see them removed before we try to pass through them. If we would move straight on in faith, the path would be opened for us. No doubt we fail in overcoming difficulties many times because of our lack of faith. We stand still, waiting for the obstacle to be removed, when we ought to go forward as if there were no obstacle.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.” Joshua 3:15-16

God does not promise to open ways before we come to them. For example, people think of death as a dark river through which they must pass, and they dread it. The truth is, however, that when the Christian moves quietly forward with faith, he finds no river to be crossed.

Some people read of certain Christians who have passed through the experience of dying triumphantly, and they say, “I could not do that. I have not grace enough to meet death in that way. I fear I shall fail in the hour of trial.” But why should they have grace for dying — when death yet lies far on in advance? There was no occasion to work the miracle of Jordan for the Israelites when they were still staying quietly in their camp.

Just so, we do not need dying grace for today’s active life — but grace for duty, for patience, for holy living. Then when we come to the door of death we shall receive the grace we need for the dying hour. The river will be open and we shall pass through without hindrance.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets.” Joshua 6:13

It was a strange kind of attack — a few soldiers, some priests with horns, more priests carrying a box, more soldiers. They made no assault, just walked round the city and went back to camp.

What was the use of calling out the men to make this daily march? Since God was to give the city into their hands without any fighting on their part, why should they be called to do anything at all?

By doing the seemingly apparently useless thing they were commanded to do, they showed that they believed in God. If they had not marched about the city — the walls never would have fallen.

Just so, while all blessings come from God — we have something to do before they can be given to us. God has given us salvation — but we must have faith. He will give us victory over temptation — but we must put on our armor and go against temptation, as if the victory altogether depended upon ourselves. Every promise of God has its condition, which requires us to show our faith.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people: Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!” Joshua 6:16

There was to be no shouting until the right moment. We should not do our exulting when we are only half through with our battle, still less when we are only beginning it. We had better save our breath for struggle, until the work is finished. Besides, it is well to train ourselves to quietness.

Words are good in their place — but there are times when eloquent silence is infinitely better than the most eloquent speech. These men must have wanted many times to talk as they marched — but their lips were sealed, and they restrained and controlled their speech.

Just so, we ought to have our speech so thoroughly under control that we shall never say any rash word. Then we shall be able to check the angry word that flies to the door of our lips, when we are hurt in some way by another.

We never can estimate the value of self-discipline which results in perfect self-mastery. It is for lack of self-control that many of our battles are lost. He who can rule his own spirit, is greater than he who takes a city!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart.” Joshua 14:7

The memory of a good act is a sweet comfort to one’s heart in after years. Caleb had been faithful when sent as one of the spies, and that good deed of his youth was a joy to him all through his life.

Doing right always makes happiness in the end. It gives joy to the conscience, and peace in the conscience sheds a holy blessing throughout the heart and life. It makes sweet memories, too, through the after years. Caleb never forgot that day when he made a loyal report to Moses, while the other spies were reporting their own cowardly fears.

Young people in their bright and happy days are making the memories amid which they must live in their mid-life and old age. If they do wrong things, they are making bitterness for themselves by and by. But if they do the right things at whatever cost, if they follow the Lord wholly, though they go alone; if they do brave, noble, unselfish deeds — they will walk all their after days in the light of their early faithfulness, and their hearts will be blessed with sweet recollections.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“So Moses swore on that day, saying: Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.” Joshua 14:9

The story of Caleb is one of peculiar interest. When the other spies, through unbelief, while praising the richness of the land, yet spoke fearingly of its conquest because of the warlike character of its inhabitants, Caleb and Joshua boldly said that with God’s help they could take possession of the land.

Forty-five years after the return of the spies, Caleb comes to Joshua to claim the land which Moses had promised him. He is eighty-five years old — but he is every inch a man and a hero still. Forty-five years was a long time to keep a promise in remembrance — but the old man had a good memory for God’s Word. Not only did he remember the promise — but he believed in it. He had no other thought but that the divine word would be fulfilled.

Just so, we should remember what God has promised us, and expect it to be fulfilled. Yet some of us do not seem even to know that God ever made us any promises. How can we know, if we do not look into our Bible and search there for what God has said?

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Now then, give me this mountain about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.” Joshua 14:12

It is refreshing to find Caleb so heroic at eighty-five. Most old people ask for easy places — but Caleb had a young man’s heart. He did not seek easy things. He asked for a mountain which giants still held, saying that he would drive them out.

It develops our own powers and graces to have to fight to get possession of our inheritance. God puts the gold deep down among the rocks, that we must dig and search for it if we would get it. He gives a man a farm — but the farm has to be cleared and cultivated before it is ready to yield its harvest. He gives a young man a fine education — but the young man must study hard to get it. He gives a young girl splendid musical talent, and to get it developed into its possibilities she has to spend months and years in weary practice. God gives us great grace, holiness, likeness to Christ, power in Christian work, meekness, patience; but we must struggle long with our old nature to obtain these gifts.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Then Joshua blessed Caleb and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.” Joshua 14:13-14

That was a great thing to do. It cost much at the time — it almost cost Caleb his life — but he never was sorry for it.

There are too many who follow the Lord only partially. They follow Him while it is easy, and no dangers are to be met. But the moment the first hard pinch comes, when something has to be given up, when friends have to be parted with, when scoffs have to be endured — they falter in their following, drop behind, turn back.

That was the way many people followed Jesus when He was on the earth. One young man ran to Him and kneeled down, eager to be His disciple. But when the Master said, “Sell all you have and give it to the poor, and come, follow Me, just yourself, empty-handed,” the young man got up and went away. He wanted to follow Christ — but he could not accept the condition.

The only true way is to follow Christ wholeheartedly, without question, or evasion, or hesitation, or faltering, without abating one jot or tittle from what He requires.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard of what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their valiant men journeyed through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them.” 1 Samuel 31:11-12

It was a brave and noble thing which these men did. Once Saul did a great kindness to the people of Jabesh Gilead. Now, when he was dead, the memory of this kind act revived, and these valiant men did this heroic deed.

The worst of men have always some to mourn them. Never was there a tyrant guilty of more crimes and cruelties than Nero. One would say that no one mourned his death. Yet it is recorded that on the day after he was buried, amid universal execration, some unknown hand strewed flowers upon his grave. There was one person, at least, who remembered Nero gratefully.

While we read of the kindness of the men of Jabesh-gilead to their dead king, we recall another instance of a King who hung dead on a cross, when two friends, long secret, came forward to do honor to the torn and dishonored form. It was a noble deed, and it saved that sacred body from being cast away with the bodies of common malefactors, giving it an honorable burial.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“She said to the king: The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard!” 1 Kings 10:6-7

The visiting queen was astonished at the splendor of everything she saw. Her expectations were high from hearing glowing reports. But everything she saw surpassed her expectations.

People often doubt when they read or hear what is said about Christ and His love. They think that Christ’s friends must exaggerate the greatness of the blessings which He bestows upon them. But when they come and see for themselves, they learn that, instead of the reports being too highly colored — the half was not told!

No one ever is disappointed in coming to Christ. We need never be afraid to say to our friends, “Come and see for yourselves!” If they only will come to Christ, accept His friendship, experience His love, let His grace into their hearts, trust His promises — they will find that the truth far surpasses the reports of others.

It will be the same of Heaven’s glories. We read wonderful things about the home that Christ has gone to prepare. But when we reach it, we shall find that the half was never told us. Christ is far better than the best that His friends can report to us!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Then she said: Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say” Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up?” 2 Kings 4:28

The woman’s words seem to mean that it would have been better if she had remained childless as she was, with no voice of love in her home, with her heart unblessed by love, for then she would not have had the sorrow which was now so hard to bear. She felt that it would have been better not to have had the child at all, than to have had him for a time, and so soon taken away again.

Many times godly people have felt the same way when they have been bereft. In their first grief it seems to them that it would have been better if they had never had the friend, than to learn to love him so, and then to lose him. But this is not true.

“Tis better to have loved and lost,
 Than never to have loved at all.”

The loving blesses us. Then the taking away of our dear ones does not rob us of the blessing which the love wrought in us. Even if this child had not been restored, the mother would still have kept forever, the impressions and the influences which the child in its brief, beautiful years had left upon her life.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“But the man of God was angry with him: You should have struck the ground five or six times! Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.” 2 Kings 13:19

Without knowing it, the king was being tested. By the way the king struck the ground with the arrows, he showed the kind of man he was. He smote indolently, only three times. He showed no enthusiasm, no energy. His act was the tell-tale of his character. He did everything in the same way — half-heartedly and not thoroughly. If he had smitten with all his might and persistently, he would have shown himself to be a man of unconquerable spirit, doing his work with energy. As it was, he had proved himself to be unequal to the responsibility laid upon him.

Just so, we are always revealing our character by little things in our life. Even in his play, a child shows the quality of his spirit, whether he is going to be a man of persistence and courage, or indolent, easily satisfied, and half-hearted.

We should never stop at less than our best. “Not failure — but low aim, is crime.”

The boy who does his best in school, in play, in everything — will make his mark in the world, for the same spirit will control him in his after life.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Some time later Joash decided to restore the temple of the LORD. He called together the priests and Levites and said to them, ‘Go to the towns of Judah and collect the money due annually from all Israel, to repair the temple of your God. Do it now!’ But the Levites did not act at once.” 2 Chronicles 24:4-5

No reason is given for their lack of energy. But we see the effect of their indolence. The house of the Lord remained year after year in its condition of decay — a standing dishonor to God, and a reproach to the priests and Levites who had been commanded to repair it.

We get a lesson on the sin of indolence. Procrastination is a sad sin. It takes out of life much of its power for good.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Guard these treasures well until you present them to the leading priests, the Levites, and the leaders of Israel, who will weigh them at the storerooms of the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.” Ezra 8:29

These treasures were a holy trust which the men were to carry through all the dangers of the thousand-mile journey, until they deposited them in the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.

In the same way, every one of us is continually receiving trusts which we are to guard amid the world’s dangers and deliver at last. This journey through the wilderness, illustrates our life’s journey. God Himself puts into our hands certain talents, gifts, opportunities, privileges, powers, which we are not only to keep untarnished and unwasted — but are also to use for the divine honor and the world’s good. Our Lord’s parable of the Talents tells us how these trusts will be required at our hands.

There are many applications of the same truth.

Other people are continually putting into our hands the gold and silver of their love, their confidence — trusting us with things which we are to guard and keep for them. Have you ever thought of the responsibility of being a friend? One confides in you and comes under your influence; how careful you must be lest you harm the life entrusted to you!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them: Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” Nehemiah 4:14

The motive suggested here — fighting for one’s home and loved ones — is among the strongest of motives. Every man with even a spark of manhood in him, will fight to the death for his home. And this motive is always present when we are defending the right. We must seek the purity and the safety of the town in which we live, because our family is in it, and peril to the population is peril to them. We must seek a wholesome water supply, good drainage, and clean streets, because our children and friends live in the city. So in all movements for education, reform, and religion, there is the same motive.

A distinguished man was speaking at the opening of a reformatory institution for boys, and remarked that if only one boy was saved by it, it would repay all the cost. After the exercises a friend asked the speaker if he had not put it a little too strongly when he said that the cost of founding the institution would be repaid if only one boy were saved. “Not if that were my boy!” was the answer.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Psalm 85:10

These have been called the four cardinal virtues of Christ’s kingdom. The setting of them here in one shining cluster, should inspire us with a passion to have them in our lives.

Sometimes we find mercy, and not truth in a man. He is kind, compassionate, patient, long-suffering — but he lacks that unswerving devotion to truth which is also a quality of all true character.

Sometimes we see a man who is righteous, with integrity from which no influence can draw him — and yet he does not have the peace of God in his own heart.

In the ideal character all four of these virtues should coexist. We should be merciful toward all men — and yet true; honoring the law of God — and following it. We should be unswervingly righteous, and yet in our heart there should be sweet peace. We should be gentle toward all men, never quarrelsome or contentious.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” Psalm 92:14

It takes much grace to grow old sweetly and beautifully. We may not be able always to keep the alertness and activity of youth — but there is no reason why we may not continue to bear fruit even in oldest age.

There is much talk in our own days about the “dead line,” which seems to be set down at about fifty. It is not easy for a man who has crossed that line to get a position. Yet if we live wisely and rightly all our years — old age ought to be the best of life. We certainly ought to make it beautiful and good, for our life is not finished until we come to its very last day. It may be full of usefulness, bearing the best fruit.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“But there is forgiveness with You!” Psalm 130:4

What if there were not? “If You, Lord should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” We know we have sinned, we have come short, we are unworthy. What shall we do?

“There is forgiveness with You.” That is our hope. There is no evening when, if we look back over our record, we shall not find a blotted day, a stained day. If there were no forgiveness, there could be no peace.

The beatitude tells us that the pure in heart shall see God. But who are pure in heart? Those who never have sinned? Then not one can see God. But it is possible for those who have sinned to become pure in heart. An Old Testament beatitude says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven.” All the beatitudes of the Bible are for those who have sinned and have been forgiven. There are no other kinds of saints in the heavenly multitude but those who once were sinners and now have been forgiven. The only song the glorified can sing will be a song of redemption to Him who has washed us from our sins in His own blood.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up!” Daniel 3:18

Whether delivered or not, they would not fail God.

There are some people who call themselves Christians and who never get above self-interest even in their religion. Their consolation in their religious service, is that God will compensate them in some way. It is true that we shall never lose anything in the long run by doing right. Yet this should not be the condition of serving God. We should serve Him for Himself, even if we know that serving Him will bring loss that shall never be made up to us.

There is a story of one in ancient days who walked the streets of Alexandria, bearing in one hand a torch, in the other a vessel of water, crying, “With this water I will put out Hell, and with this torch I will burn up Heaven, that God may be served for Himself alone.” It surely is not the highest kind of faith that thinks always of the benefit to ourselves; it is far higher if we say, as these men said, “Whether God shall deliver us or not from the furnace — we will serve Him”; or as Job, “Though He slays me — yet I will trust Him!”

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Look! Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!” Daniel 3:25

So this was what came from all the king’s rage. The fire burned up the men sent to cast the martyrs into the furnace — but the martyrs themselves walked about in the flames with no hurt. The inference is not that earthly fires will not burn God’s faithful martyrs, for a great many times since it has quickly burned to ashes men just as loyal as these three.

The lesson, however, is that God is able to deliver His people even from the power of fire, and will always, in some way, deliver them. Bodies may be burned up — but the bodies are not the saints themselves. Burning up the flesh, only frees the spirit. No fire can hurt the soul.

The king thought he saw four men in that furnace. No doubt there were four. There is One Who has promised, “When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you.”

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!” Philippians 3:13-14

We leave the days behind us when we have lived them, and never can live them over again. But the gifts the days brought to us from God, the lessons we learned from their experiences — we must not fail to carry with us.

Sometimes we say that if we could live our past over again, we would live it better. This is an unavailing yearning. The true use of our past, is learning from our mistakes and follies. So we may go on, giving up things that are dear — but losing nothing that was good in them, forgetting the things that are behind — but passing ever to new things. Thus we shall go ever from good to better, from blossom to fruit, from hope to fruition.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“May Your kingdom come.” Matthew 6:10

The kingdom for whose coming we pray, is God’s reign in His own world, over the hearts and lives of men. The part of this kingdom for which we are immediately responsible, is in our own hearts and lives. Our prayer is that we may yield ourselves more and more fully to the sway of Christ. When we pray this prayer, we must seek to give up our lives wholly in consecration.

Is the kingdom of God in us? Is God the actual King in our hearts?

Is His rule recognized by us in everything? Do we always and only do those things that please Him?

Only in Heaven can this kingdom have its perfect development in us — but it must begin on earth. Heaven must begin in us here, or we cannot enter Heaven at last.

Then, besides praying for the coming of the kingdom of God in ourselves, we are also to seek its advance in the world, in the hearts and lives of those about us. This includes the great work of missions. Christ sent out His disciples to bring the whole world to His feet, and this is the work we are set to do.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“May Your will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven.” Matthew 6:10

Here also, the petition refers first to ourselves. We must look after our own life before we can do much for the lives of others. We must seek the doing of God’s will by ourselves. The responsibility for this submission is ours.

“As it is in Heaven” is the ideal for everyone who makes this prayer. In Heaven God’s will is done cheerfully. It is done without question. It is done wholly. In the same way we should seek to do it here.

Heaven begins here and now. Earthly life is the school for the heavenly life. If we do not learn to love to do the will of God in this world, then how can we love to do it when we reach eternity?

Sometimes the prayer requires submission — the acceptance of God’s will when it is hard. Whether active or passive, what the will of God is, we want to do with song and gladness.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

We are half-way through the Lord’s Prayer, and come only now to the first request for anything for ourselves. We have learned to put God first and to ask for the hallowing of His name, the coming of His kingdom, and the doing of His will — before giving thought to any matter of our own. Yet it is a comfort to know that we may bring our needs, even our bodily needs, to God. He is interested in all that concerns us. We may ask Him for bread.

However much we may have in our storehouses, the bread of each day should be asked for, since it is not ours until He gives it to us. The plural, “us” and “our,” teaches us also that we must include others with ourselves in this request for bread. The last place for selfishness is in prayer.

There is a lesson also of faith in this prayer. We may ask only for enough bread for a day, and then trust God for tomorrow.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Matthew 6:12

This is the first sad note in the Lord’s Prayer. The first three petitions, it has been said, angels and saints in Heaven could offer. The next could have been used in Eden. But the fifth petition is only for sinners. It is a cry out of the depths — but one we must all make, or else stay in our sins.

Our sins are debts we owe to God. Their burden is so enormous that our only hope is free and full forgiveness. Yet God is most merciful. He loves to forgive. The most precious thing of earth to God, is the cry of penitence.

God’s forgiveness transforms us. It makes us hate and forsake our sin. Then it puts into our heart the same spirit which God has shown to us. Forgiven ourselves, we become forgiving people. So there is linked to our request for forgiveness, an assurance that we will forgive as we have been forgiven. This lesson is not easy to learn. It is hard for us to forgive those who have done us an injury. But it is made very clear that if we will not forgive, then we are not forgiven. To refuse to forgive is to shut ourselves outside.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, ‘Tell him to come here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Cheer up, they said. ‘He’s calling for you!'” Mark 10:49

The people thought Jesus would not want to be troubled that day with a beggar. But how mistaken they were!

There is a story of President Lincoln, that one day he was ill, and refused audience to all who called — senators, diplomats, chief justices — the greatest and most distinguished in the land. Then a poor woman came, begging to see the President. Her dress was plain and worn, her face was thin and sorrowful, and in her arms she carried a baby. When she was told that the President was ill and could not see her, she begged so earnestly to be allowed to speak to him for a moment — that the attendant went to the President and told him of her. “Show her in,” was the prompt reply. Though Lincoln would not see the great and noble who came to honor him, he could not refuse to see this poor woman who came in her distress to beg for her soldier-husband’s life.

Is it not thus with Christ? Even if there would be a day when angels and saints would be kept away — He would still welcome the penitent or the poor sufferer who comes with his bitter needs.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” Luke 2:51

Jesus found childhood in a peasant home, a large enough place for the living out of His divine life. If only some young people understood life’s real meaning, they would find room enough in the lowliest conditions to work out the divinest ideals.

Robert Browning represents the angel Gabriel taking the place of a poor boy and working at his trade, as contentedly as if engaged in the highest service.

But here is something sublimer than even the poet’s imagine. Should any true-hearted child, however great his gifts, consider his place in the lowliest home too small — since the Son of God found room in a peasant home for the development of His glorious humanity?

Farrar says, “A life spent in brushing clothes, washing crockery, and sweeping rooms — a life which the proud of the earth would have treated as the dust under their feet — a life spent at the clerk’s desk, a life spent in the narrow shop, a life spent in the laborer’s hut — may yet be a life so ennobled by God’s loving mercy, that for the sake of it a king might gladly yield his crown.”

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Then He said to them all: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

Let him take up HIS cross daily — not another’s. Many of us vex ourselves a great deal over matters which never concern us. We worry because others fail in their duties. Men’s follies, mistakes, and ignorances, fret us, as if it were our business to look after all the world’s affairs. But really we have only our own little section of duty to do any day.

One writes, “I am glad to think I am not responsible to make the world go right — but only to discover and to do with cheerful heart, the work that God appoints for me.”

When any particular course is clear to us — we should enter upon its tasks with cheerfulness, accept its responsibilities with confidence, and take up with delight the duties it presents. But when we do this, there are a thousand other possible things which we cannot do. Yet this should give us no concern, for these are not our tasks at all — but belong to others. There is a duty of leaving things undone, which is quite as binding in its obligation as the duty of doing things.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Greet no one along the road.” Luke 10:4

This word seems almost to commend discourtesy. But this was not the thought. Oriental greetings took much time. To stop and greet several people on the way to preach somewhere, would take most of the preacher’s day.

In our modern civilization one does not require to waste time in being courteous. We can make graceful and happy salutations as we hasten on our way, and need not even lose a minute in doing so. The Christian should always carry in his face and in his whole bearing, a kindly welcome to every one he meets — a greeting, though unspoken, which will give inspiration and cheer.

But we should never waste in empty formalities, time which is needed for the duties of life. Jesus would not give a would-be disciple permission even to return and bury his father before following Him. The business to which He had called the man required instant haste, and even this duty of affection must give place to the higher duty of preaching the gospel.

Just so, it is possible to waste in the pleasures of a happy home life, or even in sweet friendships, time which ought to be given to the service of Christ.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders!” Luke 15:3-5

The shepherd seeking one lost sheep reveals a wonderful truth of which we ought to try to understand something. The shepherd’s seeking of itself is beautiful. But Jesus would not have described this merely for its own sake. It is pictured here to show us what goes on visibly whenever one of Christ’s own people is lost. The Good Shepherd does not allow it to stray on and on, making no effort to find it and bring it back again. If this were the way with Christ, if He never gave any thought to those who drift away from Him or fall into temptation, or are lured away — if He never went after them, nor tried to get them back, none would ever be saved.

Like foolish sheep, we would never get home again, and would only perish if the Good Shepherd did not seek us. But it was for this that He came in His Incarnation. We do not see him now — but His feet are on every mountain and in every valley where one of His lost sheep is wandering. He follows us when we do wrong things, when we he hurt, stained, and wretched amid the rocks!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.” Luke 17:14

The method of the miracle is remarkable. The lepers were bidden to go and show themselves to the priests. Lepers, when they had been healed, went to the priest for a certificate of health. But when Jesus gave this command the men were still lepers. The healing was to come through their faith and obedience.

Suppose they had said, “There is no use in our showing ourselves to the priests, for we are not healed,” and had stayed still, looking at themselves to see if the change was beginning to come — would they ever have been cleansed? The healing could not come until they manifested their faith. They seem not to have questioned the bidding of Christ — but to have obeyed promptly. Then, as they went, they were cleansed.

Christ bids us follow Him. But following Him is the very thing we cannot do. We cannot even think a holy thought. Yet, if we settle back on our inability and say that we must get the power before we try to follow Christ, we never shall be saved. We must instantly make the effort to obey, and as we make the effort, power will be given.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).’ John 1:42

No one starts at his best, yet Christ always bring us to the best. We have here two pictures — Simon, the man as he was then — and Peter, the man as he would become when Christ’s work in him was finished.

The story of Christ’s dealings with Simon during the three years of His ministry is the story of the making of a Christian man. It is very interesting to trace it, and see the various steps through which this poor, blundering Simon had to be led — the discipline through which he had to be taken. At first he was rash, boastful, self-confident, impulsive. Jesus took him as he was, with all his faults, kept him in His school during three years, teaching him patiently, dealing with him gently, and at last bringing him out ready for a glorious work.

This should be encouraging to all of us. Many of us are just like Simon, full of faults, altogether unfit for discipleship. We get discouraged sometimes, and say we never can become a good Christian. But if only we will stay patiently in Christ’s school, by and by we shall be trained into such disciples as Christ can use.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:6

Nicodemus could not understand the teaching about the new birth, and Jesus told him that a man must be born of water and of the Spirit. That is, the change in him must be wrought by the Holy Spirit. He explained further that that which is born of the flesh is flesh. That is, a natural birth can yield only a natural life. Every tree brings forth fruit of its own kind.

The change which makes us fit for the heavenly kingdom must be wrought by the Holy Spirit. Then the new life is a spiritual life.

Paul tells us what some of the fruits of the Spirit are — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, meekness. When the Spirit does His work in a human heart — the life which results has in it the features of God Himself. If we would know, then, whether we are born again or not, we have but to study our own life. If the features of the Spirit of God are not in us, what evidence have we that we are indeed God’s children? Of course these features will be very dim at first — but they will come out more and more clearly continually.

“And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:9

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” John 3:16

God did not love the world because Christ died for it. It was because of His love for the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. Love always gives; love that does not give, is not love at all. The measure of the giving, is always the measure of the love. When we stop short in our willingness to suffer or sacrifice, we have come to the limit of our loving.

Then we have here also the way of salvation, “whoever believes on Him.” Believing on Christ is receiving Him as our Lord and Savior; and trusting to Him our life, with all its sin and sinfulness.

The “whoever” is important — none are left out.

In the word “perish” we have a glimpse of the condition of all men by nature, and of the darkness of eternal death, in which we must have remained forever if God had not given His Son.

On the other hand, the words “eternal life “give us a glimpse of the blessedness and glory into which they enter who do believe on Christ.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life!” John 4:14

It is a beautiful thought that grace opens a fountain in the heart of him who receives it. He is not then dependent on outside comforts — but carries in himself the source of his blessing. Wherever a Christian may go, whatever his conditions or circumstances may be — he need not be affected by them. His real spiritual life is in him.

Paul hints at this when he says that in whatever state he is in, he has learned to be content. His thought was that he carried in himself the source of supply for all his needs. He was not dependent upon the weather, upon men’s favor, upon the kindness of friends, upon provision made for him by others. He could enjoy himself in the midst of abundance, with the rich — but he could also enjoy himself in the midst of poverty, with the poor, for he carried in himself the secret of his contentment — peace, joy, strength.

Changes of circumstances should not affect a Christian’s joy. He should be independent of life’s sorrows and losses. Then he becomes also a fountain of blessing in the world.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.” John 5:35

Our Master needs us to shine so as to make one little spot of the world brighter. Shining is always costly. Light comes only at the cost of that which produces it. An unlit candle does no shining. Burning must come before shining. We cannot be of great use to others without cost to ourselves.

Burning suggests suffering. We shrink from pain; we do not set it down among the pleasant things of our life. We are apt to feel that we are doing the greatest good in the world when we are strong and able for active duty, and when heart and hands are full of kindly services. When we are called aside and can only suffer, when we are sick, when we are consumed with pain, when all of our activities have been dropped — we feel that we are no longer of use, that we are not doing anything.

But if we are patient and submissive, it is almost certain that we are a greater blessing to the world in our time of suffering and pain, than we were in the days when we thought we were doing the most by our work. We are burning now, and shining because we are burning.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Some of us feel that we are not yet free. We cannot live the true, sweet life we want to live. But Christ is able to set us free. He overcame the world, all the power of evil, and in His name we can be more than conquerors. This is the good news which the Gospel brings.

From old crusading times comes this story: A certain king, on his way back from the Holy Land, was captured and cast into prison — where, none of his friends knew. The king had a favorite minstrel, who determined to find his master. He went throughout the country, pausing before the door of every prison, singing the songs he had been accustomed to sing before his king. He hoped thus to find the captive monarch. Long he journeyed in vain — but at last, as he stood before a prison window and sang, he heard a voice within — the voice of him he sought. The old songs, sung at the prison window, were heard by the captive, who was soon released.

So the messengers of Christ go through this world singing the song of Christ’s love before every prison door. And whoever hears the song is made free.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:32

But Jesus had remained away purposely. “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” Then, when He announced to His disciples that Lazarus was dead, He did it in these remarkable words, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

The delay of Jesus was no accident, no mistake — but part of the plan of divine love. How common it is when a friend has died to regret that something had not been done. If we had had another physician, or if some other remedy had been tried, or if our loved one had not gone out that rough night, or if only he had been more careful — he would not have died.

The reading of this story to the close, shows that Christ is never absent from the affairs of His friends. He is as really with us, and His love is as much concerned in our griefs as in our joys. What seems to show He has been absent really shows that He has been here.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served . . . ” John 12:2

Some people criticize Martha as if she were to blame for the way she took of honoring her Master. Jesus did not say so. What He reproved was not her serving — but her fretfulness, and her impatience with her sister because she did not honor Christ in the same way.

There is great need for Marthas in this world. Beautiful as is the Mary-spirit, it would not do if all women were Marys; for who then would do the work that needs so much to be done? A wife and mother who would spend all her time in Bible reading, giving no thought to her household duties — would not make a happy home for her family!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Jesus said to her: Mary!” John 20:16

Jesus had been dead and was now alive again. In His revealings of Himself after the resurrection, He is showing us what we ourselves and our loved ones are in the immortal life. It was an ancient belief that death washed away completely all memory of the earthly life — its loves even passing from recollection. But we see Jesus here on the other side of death, and the old affections are found unchanged in Him. He met His old friends as if He had been absent from them only over-night. He took up the threads of the story of love just where they had been broken off three days before, and went on weaving the webs of sacred friendships, as if nothing unusual had happened.

Death made no real break in His life. Nothing was blotted out, nothing beautiful or good, nothing that was worth while. When our Christian friends pass through death, whatever changes may be wrought in them through the leaving behind of their mortal part, we know that there will be no change in their love for us. When we meet them again they will call us by the old familiar names of earth.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Paul left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.” Acts 17:15

It would seem that Paul had become discouraged in some way. At least we are told that when his friends, Silas and Timothy, came, his strength was renewed. Paul had an affectionate heart. He was a man who needed human love. His epistles show us that he hungered for sympathy. The coming of Silas and Timothy made him all the more earnest as a preacher.

This suggests one way in which we can help in the work of Christ. If we cannot ourselves be great workers, then we can give cheer and encouragement to those who are carrying the burdens, putting fresh hope and earnestness into their hearts. We should never be discouragers of others — we should always seek to be encouragers. We do not know what help a little kindness or a word of cheer may give to one who is working under great pressure.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision: Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are My people.” Acts 18:9-10

In the midst of Paul’s discouragements, when he thought he was making no impression, the Lord brought him a cheering message. He assured him that there were many people in Corinth who would yet be saved. It was as when Jesus told the weary, discouraged disciples, after their fruitless, all-night toiling, to cast their nets again and they would find fish.

Paul was thinking there was no use in preaching any more in Corinth, that there could be no results. Then the Lord told him that He had many people in that city, and that they would believe if the apostle continued to preach faithfully. They were sinners yet, buried away in the world — but when the Gospel was preached they would accept it and be saved. This was a wonderfully inspiring assurance.

We should never allow ourselves to give up too soon. We should labor on, believing that there are yet blessings to be obtained by our continued faithfulness.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” Acts 23:17

Paul had received a promise from the Lord that he would bear testimony at Rome. Therefore he knew that he could not die in Palestine. Yet he took every possible precaution to thwart the plot of his enemies. He did not fall back passively on this divine promise in the hour of danger, and refuse to do anything for his own safety. He did his part. He believed that God had brought him a knowledge of the plot against himself, in order that he might have a hand in circumventing it.

God’s promises are conditioned upon our diligence in doing our part. While we believe God and trust Him, we usually have something to do ourselves to secure the divine help. God has His plan for every life, and each one is to help to work out the plan for himself.

God promises deliverance from danger, and victory in temptation — but we ourselves have something to do in realizing the deliverance and the victory. It will not do to take a promise and plead it — while we put forth no hand of our own.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“They lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.” Acts 27:38

There come experiences in every life when material things must be sacrificed for the sake of higher interests.

We have an illustration of this truth in the history of the flight of Cortez, on that fearful night when the Aztecs compelled the invaders to escape for their lives. The vast masses of gold that had been accumulated were more than could be carried off, as the soldiers would have to fight their own way through the army of the enemy. Each man was allowed to take what he would — but the commander warned them of overloading. Said he, “He travels safest in the dark night, who travels lightest.” The more cautious men heeded the advice of Cortez — but others were less self-restrained. Some bound chains of gold about their necks, and some filled their pockets with ingots, until they staggered under their burdens. All who tried to carry off the gold, became prey to the lances of the enemy.

On that night, poverty itself was the greatest riches. We must drop earthly treasures if we would win Heaven.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Paul gathered a pile of brushwood” Acts 28:3

It was just like Paul to be foremost in this work, as he was foremost in every good work. He was not ashamed to join the humblest people in gathering sticks to help to build a fire for the comfort of all.

This is a mark of a noble nature. Nothing is unfit for the finest hands to do, if it is duty. Some people are so proud that they will not soil their hands in menial work, even in emergencies. True greatness, however, never struts about as if too fine for common use. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet when none of them would condescend to the task.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift.” Romans 1:11

What is my desire concerning my friends? Is it the pleasure they will give me — or the good I may do them? Paul was not thinking of how happy he would be when he saw his friends — but of the comfort and help he could give them.

His longing suggests, also, that we should seek to help our friends in the highest ways. He wished to impart to them some spiritual gift. Is it this higher thought of friendship, that most of us put into our conception of what belongs to its mission? If we are Christians, we represent Christ in this world. He would reach other lives through us. He would pour His grace into their hearts through our hearts.

In all this world there is no other privilege more sacred than that of being a friend to another. When God sends to us someone in this holy way, we should lift up our hearts in reverent and grateful recognition of the honor conferred upon us. We stand in Christ’s place, to the life that looks to us in love and confidence, and waits for the help we are to bring. Let us always give the best.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body!” Philippians 3:20-21

If our citizenship is truly in Heaven — then we shall receive inspiration and strength from God for all of our life, until the end of our journey.

It is never easy at the best to live worthily and victoriously. From first to last, every step in life is a struggle. The rewards and honors of life, are only for “the one who overcomes.” We never can live victoriously, if we fight in our own strength. But if we are living in communion with Christ, we have all the strength of His omnipotence with us in every struggle, in every striving, under every burden. Christ is alive and is with us always, to strengthen and uphold us.

“Let us love one another, for love is of God.” 1 John 4:7

The Christian is known by his love. It shows itself in his disposition, and in all of his life.

A Christian woman tells of her experience in making a fuller consecration to Christ. “Did you ever have a person in your home,” she writes, “who acted as a perpetual rasp on the feelings of your household? I had. One day, when I wit’s end, I called on Christ to help me. And what do you think He asked me to do? To love this woman. This was the only ladder He offered me up out of the depths. Then I grew uglier than ever, and almost hated my Savior. The struggle continued until I could stand it no longer. In agony I rushed to my closet and besought Jesus to help me. It seemed as though, in a most tender, loving voice, He asked, ‘Can’t you love her for My sake?’ I said, ‘Yes, Lord, I will.’ At once peace filled my heart. My feelings toward her changed entirely. I had yielded my will to Christ.”

That to which He had called the woman was not easy — it had on it the print of the nails — but it was the way to spiritual joy.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 1 Corinthians 12:21

Each member has its place in the body. So each Christian has his own place in the Church, and his own duties. We need never envy anyone the gift he possesses. That is his gift, and we have ours. Ours may not seem as great or as important as his — but that need not concern us. We are responsible only for what God has given us — and all we have to do is to make the fullest possible use of it. If another’s gift is more brilliant than ours — then the other has a greater responsibility than we have, and we need not envy him. Besides, we do not know what particular gift is most important, or does most for the upbuilding of Christ’s kingdom.

Perhaps it means more to be able to pray well, than to speak well. Power with God may be a mightier factor in doing good than power over men. It may be that the quietest people, who are not often heard of, who work obscurely and without fame, are quite as well known in Heaven and as highly honored — as those who are in conspicuous positions and receive praise from men.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” 1 Corinthians 12:7

God knows where He wants us and what He wants us to do. We please Him best and do the best work, when we cheerfully accept our place, however lowly, and do sweetly and as well as we can, the work He has given us to do. It ought to impart zest to the humblest calling, to know that that and not something else is our part in the divine allotment of duty. There can be nothing greater in this world for anyone, than the doing of God’s will. We make the most of our life, when we accept our own place and do well our own work. We work then with God, and we shall not fail either of His help or of His reward.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

December 31, 1907

This is the last evening of the year. I am trying to sum up my year’s life. The days have come to me like clean, white pages, and I have tried to put upon each something beautiful to keep for me when the eternal books shall be opened.

It has been a year of opportunities. I am conscious of not having embraced them all. I have neglected duties of love, not always doing the things I should have done. I have not grown in heart-culture and spiritual life as I ought to have done. These neglects and all my sins, I humbly confess.

Yet I thank God for the past year. I cannot now change anything in it. But I want to learn lessons of experience from my failures and mistakes, and carry them forward into the new year.

I would forget the good things I have done, and try to do better things next year. No year’s life, however beautiful, is beautiful enough to simply repeat — it must be improved upon. So I leave my year, with all its blots and blessings, with God, who will forget nothing worthy, and will look graciously upon my mistakes. With Him all is safe.

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