Google+ Followers

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Being a Christian Between the Sundays

The problem of Christian life, is to live sweetly through the common days. Our religion must not all be crowded into our Sundays. True religion is friendship with Christ — and this is not satisfied by the mere observance of religious days, or by faithful attendance upon religious service.

Anybody should be able to be good, gentle, kindly, on Sundays. Anybody can talk in religious phrase among religious people. But the real test of life, comes in the days between the Sundays, when one is out among people who are not sweet and patient, not devout and reverent, not even easy to get along with. This may not be an easy problem — but it is the problem of Christian life. We are just as truly bound to represent Christ when at our worldly work — as we are at a prayer meeting. We are to manifest the spirit of Christ, which is the spirit of meekness, of humility, of forbearance, of sympathy, of love — wherever we go. We are to be active in helping others, in doing good, not only on Sundays — but on all the week days. Every day of our life is sacred, and sins of unlovingness should never stain the whiteness of any week-day hour!

If we would realize the divine ideal on all the days and in every place — we need to have our hearts filled with the love of Christ.

This is really the essential thing in a Christian. His life is inspired from within. His heart is dominated by Christ's own love. The Master says his people are branches on the great Vine. The vine lives in the branches — Christ lives in his people.

John, the beloved disciple, received his beautiful life by close abiding in Christ. His friendship with Christ became so deep, so absorbing, that Christ's life flowed into his very heart and then flowed out in all the expressions of his life! There is no other way of becoming an ideal Christian! Christ must live in us, or we cannot live the Christ life.

The difficulty with most people, is to keep Christ in their lives amid the secularities of everyday living! However devout and reverent we may be when engaged in worship, however conscious of the presence of Christ, and however willing to yield ourselves to the influence of that presence — the danger is that when we go out into the world, we lose the sacred power which has held such sway over us in our devotions.

One of Paul's exhortations is helpful. He said, "Pray without ceasing." This does not mean that we are to be always on our knees, engaged in formal prayer. We have duties to perform. God would never approve of our neglecting our proper responsibilities, in order to spend the time in formal prayer. The meaning of the exhortation is that we are always to be in the spirit of prayer.

We should never get away from our Master's side. There never should be a moment when we cannot look up into his face and talkto him with simple confidence, and receive his encouragement and help.

The secret of the noble life of Moses is given in one sentence: "He endured as seeing him who is invisible!" His faith made the presence of God as real to him, as if God had actually been present to his natural eyes continually. If we would practice the presence of God as Moses did — we would always be able to live reverently, obediently, patiently and acceptably.

Another thought is that we should take everything to God in prayer. This does not mean that we shall be continually falling upon our knees and asking God's help. We can pray as we walk, and as we work. If we are so close to Christ as to be always conscious of his presence — it is easy for us to speak to him our wishes and our desires, to turn to him in time of danger, to plead his help when the pressure of duty is upon us.

We are often told that we should begin every day with prayer. But besides this, we may perform each different duty of the day with prayer. That was part of what Paul meant when he said, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed — do all in the name of the Lord Jesus."

That is, every word we speak should be winged with prayer. If we lived thus, all our words would be good words.

We are to do all of our acts, too, in the name of the Lord Jesus. Think of a business man going through all his day's affairs with prayer — praying as he makes bargains, as he writes business letters, as he talks with men. Think of a woman, amid her household cares, taking everything to God for his approval and his blessing. We do not know what we miss by leaving God out of so much of our life as we do. We often wonder why we fail, why so little comes of our efforts, why we do not get along better with people. It is because we do not pray!

"Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!"

"But we have not time to pray so much!" someone says. It does not take time. A certain man was mighty in prayer. One who wished to learn the secret of his devotions, watched to see how the saint prayed. All he saw was this — again and again the godly man was heard saying, with bowed head and clasped hands, "Help, Lord Jesus!" That was the way he prayed. It wastes no time to speak that prayer as we enter a new path, or begin a new task, or meet a new struggle.

~J. R. Miller~

The Abiding Meaning of Pentecost # 3

Pentecost Linked with all the Old Testament Scriptures (continued)

In this record of Acts 2 there is a breaking up and opening of the meaning of the Scriptures. Joel: what was the burden of the Word to Joel? "The Day of the Lord". "But this is that which hath been spoken through the Prophet Joel." "This is that," the day when the Lord came into His own. We speak of having our day; the Lord comes into His day. Pentecost is the Lord coming into His day, He is enthroned; and this Day of the Lord is in two parts; the former took place at Pentecost, and the latter part is in the Book of Revelation.

Pentecost was the introduction of the "Day of the Lord" on the grace side of His sovereignty, and in the Apocalypse it is the judgment side of His sovereignty - one day, but in two halves; and as surely as the Lord Jesus has commenced His reign in grace, so surely He will take the rod of iron to smash the nations in judgement who resist and reject His reign in grace.

The Day of the Lord is in our hearts now, He is sovereign Lord; and so He is offered to the nations in grace, but also we have a message of authority, and if there is a refusal of His grace, there "must" be an acknowledgment of that sovereignty in judgment; for everything shall confess Jesus Christ is Lord.

"Wherefore, also God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name which is above every name ... and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9, 11).

In another part of the same record the link is with David and Solomon. With David and Solomon you have introduced a revelation of grace, glory and wonder; it needs the two persons to illustrate the reign and work of the Lord Jesus; and you come into Pentecost where it has its fulfillment and spiritual realization.

David and Solomon are types of the Person of the Lord Jesus, in His work and reign; He is David and He is Solomon, but He transcends them both; He takes up all that is typical in them and fulfills it in His own Person; Pentecost is the climax to the Old Testament Scriptures concerning Christ.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

So I Can Trust

But now, the sun cannot be looked at – it is bright in the skies – after a wind passed and swept the clouds away.—Job 37:21
The world owes much of its beauty to cloudland. The unchanging blue of the Italian sky hardly compensates for the changefulness and glory of the clouds. Earth would become a wilderness apart from their ministry. There are clouds in human life, shadowing, refreshing, and sometimes draping it in blackness of night; but there is never a cloud without its bright light. “I do set my bow in the cloud!”
If we could see the clouds from the other side where they lie in billowy glory, bathed in the light they intercept, like heaped ranges of Alps, we should be amazed at their splendid magnificence.
We look at their under side; but who shall describe the bright light that bathes their summits and searches their valleys and is reflected from every pinnacle of their expanse? Is not every drop drinking in health-giving qualities, which it will carry to the earth?
O child of God! If you could see your sorrows and troubles from the other side; if instead of looking up at them from earth, you would look down on them from the heavenly places where you sit with Christ; if you knew how they are reflecting in prismatic beauty before the gaze of Heaven, the bright light of Christ’s face, you would be content that they should cast their deep shadows over the mountain slopes of existence. Only remember that clouds are always moving and passing before God’s cleansing wind.
“I cannot know why suddenly the storm 
Should rage so fiercely round me in its wrath; 
But this I know—God watches all my path, 
And I can trust.
“I may not draw aside the mystic veil 
That hides the unknown future from my sight, 
Nor know if for me waits the dark or light; 
But I can trust.
“I have no power to look across the tide, 
To see while here the land beyond the river; 
But this I , know—I shall be Gods forever; 
So I can trust.”

~L. B. Cowman~

Monday, June 29, 2015

Can We Learn to be Conented?

Someone has said that if men were to be saved by contentment, instead of by faith in Christ, most people would be lost. Yet contentment is possible. There was one man at least who said, and said it very honestly, "I have learned in whatever state I am, therein to be content." His words have special value, too, when we remember in what circumstances they were written. They were dated in a prison, when the writer was wearing a chain. It is easy enough to say such things in the summer days of prosperity—but to say them amid trials and adversities, requires a real experience of victorious living.

But just what did Paul mean when he said, "I am content"? The original word, scholars tell us, contains a fine sense which does not come out into the English translation. It means self-sufficing. Paul, as a Christian man, had in himself all that he needed to give him tranquility and peace. Therefore he was not dependent upon any external circumstances. Wherever he went, there was in himself a competence, a fountain of supply, a self-sufficing. This is the true secret of Christian contentment wherever it is found. We cannot keep sickness, pain, sorrow, and misfortune away from our lives—yet as Christians we are meant to live in any experience in unbroken peace, in sweet restfulness of soul.

How may this unbroken contentment be obtained? Paul's description of his own life, gives us a hint as to the way he reached it. He says, "I have learned to be content." It is no small comfort to us common people, to get this from such a man. It tells us that even with him, it was not always thus; that at first he probably chafed amid discomforts, and had to "learn" to be contented in trial. It did not come naturally to him, any more than it does to the rest of us, to have peace in the heart, in time of external strife. Nor did this beautiful way of living come to him at once as a divine gift when he became a Christian. He was not miraculously helped to acquire contentment. It was not a special power granted to him as an apostle.

He tells us plainly in his old age, that he has "learned" it. This means that he was not always able to say, "I am content in any state." This was an attainment of his later years, and he reached it by struggle and by discipline, by learning in the school of Christ, just as all of us have to learn it if we ever do, and as any of us may learn it if we will.

Surely everyone who desires to grow into spiritual beauty, should seek to learn this lesson. Discontent is a miserable fault. It grieves God, for it springs from a lack of faith in him. It destroys one's own heart-peace; discontented people are always unhappy. It disfigures beauty of character. It sours the temper, ruffles the calm of sweet life, and tarnishes the loveliness of the spirit. It even works out through the flesh, and spoils the beauty of the fairest face. To have a transfigured face, one must have heaven in one's heart. Just in proportion as the lesson is learned, are the features brightened by the outshining of the indwelling peace. Besides all this, discontent casts shadows on the lives of others. One discontented person in a family, often makes a whole household wretched. If not for our own sake, then, we ought at least for the sake of our friends to learn to be contented. We have no right to cast shadows on other lives.

But how can we learn contentment? One step toward it is patient submission to unavoidable ills and hardships. No earthly lot is perfect. No mortal in this world, ever yet found a set of circumstances without some drawback. Sometimes it lies in our power to remove the discomfort. Much of our hardship is of our own making. Much of it would require but a little energy on our own part to cure. We surely are very foolish if we live on amid ills and frets, day after day, which we might change for comforts if we would. All removable troubles we ought, therefore, to remove. But there are trials which we cannot change into pleasures, burdens which we cannot lay off, crosses which we must continue to carry, and "thorns in the flesh" which must remain with their rankling. When we have such trials, why should we not sweetly accept them as part of God's best way with us? Discontent never made a rough path smoother, a heavy burden lighter, a bitter cup less bitter, a dark way brighter, a sorrow less sore. It only makes matters worse. One who accepts with patience what he cannot change, has learned the secret of victorious living.

Another part of the lesson is that we moderate our desires. Paul says, "If we have food and clothing—we will be content with these." 1 Timothy 6:8. Very much of our discontent arises from envy of those who seem to be more favored than ourselves. Many people lose most of the comfort out of their own lot, in coveting the finer things some neighbor has. Yet if they knew the whole story of the life they envy for its greater prosperity, they probably would not exchange for it their own lowlier life, with its homelier circumstances. Or if they could make the exchange, it is not likely they would find half so much real happiness in the other position, as they had enjoyed in their own. Contentment does not dwell so often in palaces—as in the homes of the humble. The tall peaks rise higher and are more conspicuous—but the winds smite them more fiercely than they do the quiet vales. And surely the lot in life which God makes for us—is always the very best that could be made for us for the time being. The cause of our discontent is not in our circumstances; if it were, a change might cure it. It is in ourselves; and, wherever we go, we shall carry it with us.

Envious desires for other people's places which seem finer than ours, prevent our getting the best blessing and good out of our own. Trying to grasp the things which are beyond our reach, we leave unseen, unappreciated, untouched, and despised, the many sweet bits of happiness which lie close about us. Someone says: "Stretching out his hand to catch the stars, man forgets the flowers at his feet, so beautiful, so fragrant, so multitudinous, and so various." A fine secret of contentment lies in finding and extracting all the pleasure we can get from the things we have, while we enter no mad, vain chase after impossible dreams. In whatever state we are, we may therein find enough for our need.

If we would learn the lesson of contentment, we must train ourselves to live for the higher things. One of the ancient wise men, having heard that a storm had destroyed his merchant ships, thus sweeping away all his fortune, said: "It is just as well, for now I can give up my mind more fully to study." He had other and higher sources of enjoyment, than his merchandise, and felt the loss of his ships no more than manhood feels the loss of childhood's toys. He was but a heathen philosopher; we are Christians. He had only his studies to occupy his thought when his property was gone; and we have all the blessed things of God's love. No earthly misfortune can touch the wealth a Christian holds in the divine promises and hopes.

Just in the measure, therefore, in which we learn to live for spiritual and eternal realities—do we find contentment amid earth's trials and losses. If we live to please God, to build up Christlike character in ourselves, and to lay up treasure in heaven—we shall not depend for happiness on the way things go with us here on earth, nor on the measure of temporal goods we have. The lower desires are crowded out by the higher. We can do without childhood's toys when we have manhood's better possessions; we need this world less as we get more of God and heaven into our hearts.

This was the secret of the contentment of the old prisoner whose immortal word is so well worth considering. He was content in any trial, because earth meant so little and Christ meant so much to him. He did not need the things he did not have; he was not made poor by the things he had lost; he was not vexed by the sufferings he had to endure, because the sources of his life were in heaven, and could not be touched by earthly experiences of pain or loss.

These are hints of the way we may learn in whatever state we are therein to be content. Surely the lesson is worth learning. One year of sweet content, amid earth's troublous scenes, is better than a lifetime of vexed, restless discontent. The lesson can be learned, too, by anyone who truly is Christ's disciple, for did not the Master say: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you"?

The artist painted life as a dark, storm-swept sea filled with wrecks. Then out on the wild sea-waves, he made a rock to arise, in a cleft of which, high up, amid herbage and flowers, he painted a dove sitting quietly on her nest. It is a picture of Christian peace in the midst of this world's strifes and storms. In the cleft of the rock is the home of content.

~J. R. Miller~

The Abiding Meaning of Pentecost # 2

Acts 2:1-36; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 16:28; Acts 2:34; 1 Corinthians 15:25

Everything that took place at Pentecost centered in that and related to that enthronement of the Son of Man.

Acts 2:22, 32-36: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God ... this Jesus did God raise up... being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath poured forth THIS, which ye see and hear ... let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified." That is the center, pivot and heart of all that took place at Pentecost.

Too often our attitude suggests that  the Lord Jesus is hardly equal to the situation, and that principalities and powers, and the devil have the dominion and authority, or that it is a very big fight with an almost doubtful issue!

Pentecost represents the beginning of the heavenly sovereignty of the Lord Jesus, and some of them saw the Son of Man coming into His kingdom ere they tasted of death. Jesus said unto them, "Verily I say unto you, That there be some o them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." (Mark 9:1).

Pentecost presents a crisis and a climax, connected with which are quite a number of things. In Acts 2 see the different connections with the Old Testament Scriptures and the climax to them; link Acts 2 with Ephesians 3:9-11. "To make all men see what is the dispensation of the Mystery which for ages hath been hid in God ... to the intent that "now" unto the principalities and power in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord".

Let us trace the connections and the climaxes:

1. As to the Old Testament Scriptures;

2. As to the Lord's Person and work;

3. As to the training and preparing of His instrument - the Church.

First, the climax in relation to the Old Testament. Notice how it is taken up in this record in Acts 2, and read Luke 24:26, 27, 44: "Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself... and He said unto them, "These are My words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning Me".

Pentecost linked with all the Old Testament Scriptures,

and was the climax to all that had been written. The Holy Spirit came with the full virtue of everything that had been written in the Old Testament concerning Christ to make them real and to fulfill them; to bring those fulfillments  into the personal experience of the believer. The Holy Spirit's advent was to make all the Old Testament a manifested fulfillment in the Person of Christ Jesus.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

True Worship

The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:19-24

The Samaritan woman was really asking Jesus, "Where is the appropriate place to worship God?”  Her people, the Samaritans, worshiped on Mount Gerizim while the Jewish people worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was very clear that the Jews had the appropriate place of worship at that time because all of the laws of God and prophets of God came through the Jewish race. However, Jesus was quick to explain to her that the "where" would soon change. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, His death restored us to be able to have a personal relationship with God. We do not need to go to a certain mountain or a specific church to worship Him. Because of Christ, God goes with us—everywhere. So wherever you are, you worship.

The next part Jesus explains is "how?" How are we to worship God? His answer is "in spirit and in truth." Because God is Spirit, no matter how good our efforts or good deeds are, sinful man falls short in being able to please a Holy God. We must have the Spirit of God to commune with a God who is Spirit. Therefore, accepting Christ to receive His Spirit is the first step to true worship. The next step is to be trained in the ways of the Spirit. This training process is called sanctification, or being set apart for the works and service of God. Jesus said in John 17:17, "Sanctify them by the truth. Your word is truth." We learn the ways to remain in the Spirit by reading, studying, meditating and applying His truth of the Bible.

We need to be born of the Spirit of God, to receive the Spirit of God, in order to understand the ways of the Spirit of God, written by the Spirit of God in the Bible. The Bible is the truth that sanctifies us (or sets us apart and makes us holy) for His service. The only way to make it through the sanctifying process is by relying on the Spirit of God. Our service is one of worship as we become living sacrifices. A true worshiper is one who worships in spirit and truth, every day and every way. A true worshiper worships daily, from the depths of their heart in their prayer closet to the choices they make every minute of the day.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Broken Lives

There are few entirely unbroken lives in this world; there are few men who fulfill their own hopes and plans, without thwarting or interruption at some point. Now and then there is one who in early youth marks out a course for himself and then moves straight on in it to its goal—but most people live very differently from their own early dreaming. Many find at the close of their career—that in scarcely one particular, have they realized their own life-dreams; at every point God has simply set aside their plans—and substituted his own.

There are some lives whose plans are so completely thwarted, that their story is most pathetic as we read it; yet we have but to follow it through to the end—to see that the broken life was better and more effective—than if its own plan had been carried out.

The story of Harriet Newell is an illustration of a broken life. Listening to the cries of the perishing and to the call of duty—she sailed away as a missionary. She had in her heart a great purpose, and a great hope. She planned to devote her rich and beautiful life, with all its powers of love, sympathy and helpfulness, to the cause of Christ in heathen lands; she hoped to be a blessing to thousands as she lived a sweet life amid the darkness and heathenism, and told the story of Christ's cross, to perishing ones. With these desires and hopes in her soul, she sailed away to India—but she was never permitted to do any work for Christ among those she so yearned to save. Driven from inhospitable shores and drifting long at sea, first her baby died, and then she herself soon sank into death's silence. In one short year she was—bride, missionary, mother and saint.

Truly, her life seemed a broken one—defeated, a failure. Not one of the glorious hopes of her own consecration, was realized. She told no heathen sister of the love of Christ; she taught no little child the way of salvation; she had no opportunity to live a sweet life in the midst of the black heathenism she so wanted to bless; yet that little grain of wheat let fall into the ground and dying there—has yielded a wonderful harvest. The story of her life has kindled the missionary spirit in thousands of other women's souls. Harriet Newell, dying with all her heart's holy hopes unrealized, has done far more for missions by the inspiration of her heroic example, and by the story of her life's sacrifice—than she could ever have done in the longest life of the best service in the field. The broken life became more to the world than it could have become by the carrying out of its own plans.

The story of David Brainerd is scarcely less moving. At Northampton, Massachusetts, his grave is seen beside that of the fair young girl whom he loved—but did not live to wed. His death seemed untimely, like the cutting down of a tree in the springtime when covered with buds—just ready to burst into bloom, and then grow into rich fruit. In that noble life, as men saw it, there were wondrous possibilities of usefulness. The young man seemed fitted to do a great work and he had consecrated himself on God's altar, with large hopes of service for his Master. But all these hopes and expectations were buried in the early grave of the young missionary, and to human eyes there was nothing left but a precious memory and a few Indian Christians, whom he had been permitted to lead to the Savior.

His seemed indeed, a broken life. But we must not write our judgments on God's work—until it is finished. A skillful hand inspired by tender love, gathered up the memorials of the fragment of consecrated life Brainerd had lived—and put them into a little biography. The book was wafted over the sea, and Henry Martyn, busy in his studies, read it. The result was that that brilliant young student felt his own heart fired with missionary zeal, as he pondered the story of Brainerd's brief but beautiful life, and was led to devote himself, with all his splendid gifts, to God for India. Thus the broken life of Brainerd became the inspiration in a distant country of another noble missionary career. And who can tell what other lives through this glorious missionary century, have likewise been kindled at young Brainerd's grave?

The story of Henry Martyn is that of another broken life. He went to India, and there laid his magnificent powers upon God's altar. He wrought with earnestness and with great fervor—but at the end there seemed to be small gain to the cause of Christ from all his toil and self-denial. Then, broken down, sick and dying—he turned his face homeward and dragged himself in great suffering and weakness as far as that dreary khan at Tocat by the Black Sea, where he crouched under the piled-up saddles to cool his burning fever against the earth, and there died alone among unbelievers, no Christian hand to tend his agony, no Christian voice to speak in his ear the promises of the Master whom, as it seemed to men, he had so vainly served." Both these young missionary lives appeared to be entire failures, wasted lives, costly ointment poured out to no purpose; but from the grave of Brainerd at Northampton and from the desolate resting-place of Henry Martyn at Tocat has come much—who can tell how much?—of the inspiration of modern missions. God broke the alabaster caskets which held their rich lives that the fragrance might flow out to fill all the world.

There is another class of broken lives—of those who, disappointed in their own early hopes and turned aside—yet live to realize in other lines and spheres than those of their enthusiastic choosing far nobler things than they could ever have wrought—had their own plans been carried out.
John Kitto, when a lad, met with a misfortune which seemed altogether to unfit him for usefulness. By a terrible fall he received severe bodily injuries and was rendered totally and permanently deaf. The result was the turning of his life into new channels, in which he achieved a marvelous success, becoming one of the most voluminous and most instructive of all writers of books to help in the illumination and interpretation of the Bible. God allowed the breaking and the complete shattering of the boy's hopes—that the man might do a far grander work in other lines. But for the misfortune that seemed to unfit him for any useful pursuit, and to leave him a hopeless and pitiable object of charity, he probably would never have been more than an obscure mechanic; but now his books are in hundreds of thousands of libraries and his name is a familiar household word in nearly every intelligent Christian home in the English-speaking world.

A young man at the completion of his theological course, offered himself as a missionary, and was accepted. Full of glowing earnestness and animated by a deep love for Christ, he sailed away to a foreign field, hoping there to spend his life in telling the story of redemption. After a brief experience, however, he was compelled to abandon his missionary work—and with great grief and reluctance return to his native country. Not only was his health broken—but he had permanently lost his voice in the experiment, and was thus disqualified for the work of preaching anywhere. It was a sad hour to the ardent young minister, when this fact became apparent to his mind. His was indeed a broken life. All his hopes and expectations of consecrated service, lay like dead flowers at his feet; he seemed doomed thenceforward to an inactive and a fruitless life.

So it appeared at that moment. But, returning to his own land, he soon found work for his brain and pen in editorial lines, and entered upon a service of incalculable value to the Church. In this field for thirty busy years, he wrought incessantly for his Master. God allowed his life as a missionary to be broken, that in another sphere—one no less important—he might render a service probably greater far than he could have rendered, had he wrought all his thirty years in a foreign land.

These are only illustrations of what God does with earth's "broken lives" that are truly consecrated to him. He even seems sometimes to break them himself—that they may become more largely useful. At least, he can use broken lives in his service—just as well as whole ones! Indeed, it often appears as if men cannot do much for God and for the blessing of the world—until they are "broken"!

God seems to be able to do little with earth's unbroken things, and therefore almost always he chooses broken things with which to do his work in this world. It was with broken pitchers that Gideon won his great victory. It was on broken pieces of the ship that Paul and his companions escaped to land after their shipwreck. It was by the breaking of Mary's alabaster box that the Master was anointed and the world filled with the gracious perfume of love. It was by the breaking of the precious humanity of Jesus, that redemption was made for man!

It is by the breaking of our hearts—that we become acceptable offerings on God's altar. It is by broken lives—broken by pain, trouble and sorrow—that God chiefly blesses the world. It is by the shattering of our little human plans—that God's great perfect plan goes on in us and through us. It is by crushing our lives until their beauty seems entirely destroyed—that God makes us blessings in this world. Not many men nor many women without suffering in some form, become largely helpful to others. It seems as if we could not be fit instruments for God to use, to speak his words, and breathe the songs of his love, and carry to others the blessings of his grace—until his chastening hand has done its sharp, keen work upon our lives!

piece of wood once bitterly complained, because it was being cut and filled with rifts and holes; but he who held the wood and whose knife was cutting into it so remorselessly, did not listen to the sore complaining. He was making a flute out of the wood he held, and was too wise to desist when entreated so to do. He said, "Oh, you foolish piece of wood, without these rifts and holes you would be only a mere stick forever—a bit of hard black ebony with no power to make music or to be of use in any way. These rifts that I am making in you, which seem to be destroying you, will change you into a flute—and your sweet music then shall charm the souls of men. My cutting you—is the making of you, for then you shall be precious and valuable and a blessing in the world."

This little parable, suggested by a passage in an eloquent sermon, needs no explanation. The flute whose music is so sweet as we hear its notes in the great orchestra—was made a flute only by the knife that filled the wood with rifts and holes which seemed its destruction. Without these merciless cuttings it would have been forever only a piece of dull wood, dumb and musicless.

It is the same with most human lives; it is only when the hand of chastening has cut into them—that they begin to yield sweet music. David could never have sung his sweetest songs—had he not been sorely afflicted; his afflictions made his life an instrument on which God could breathe the music of his love—to charm and soothe the hearts of men. This is the story, too, of all true poetry and true music: not until the life is broken—is it ready for the Master's use. At best we are but instruments, musicless–except when God breathes through us.

Then, we cannot even be instruments fit for God's use—until our hearts have been broken by penitence, and our lives torn by suffering.

There ought to be great comfort in this for those who are under God's chastening hand. His design is to fit them for nobler usefulness, to make them instruments whose keys will respond to the divine touch and through whose rifts the divine Spirit can breathe strains of holy love. We ought to be better able to endure pain and suffering—when we remember what God is doing with us.

Thus we see that a life is not a failure—because it is broken. Broken health is naturally discouraging; but if God is in it, we need not be disheartened: he is able to make more of us with our shattered health—than we could have made of ourselves with athletic robustness.

Broken life-plans appear to be failures; but when God's great plan runs on in our life, without hindrance or interruption, through the fragments of our little purposes—there is no failure.
We groan over our broken days—when by outside interruptions, we are prevented from accomplishing the tasks we had set for ourselves in the morning; but if we give our day to God at its beginning, and he chooses to assign us other things to do than those we had purposed—his things instead of our own—we ought not to say in the evening—that we have had a lost day. What we call interruptions, are simply God's plan breaking into ours! There is no doubt that his way is better than ours. Besides, it is necessary for us all to learn our lesson of submission, and there is need for the discipline of interruption.

Many of God's children are found among earth's unsuccessful ones. This world has no use for broken lives; it casts them aside and hurries on, leaving them behind. Only successful men reach earth's goals, and are crowned with its earth's crowns. But God is the God of the unsuccessful. Christ takes earth's "bruised reeds" and deals with them so gently—that they get back again all their old beauty. No life is so broken, whether by sorrow or by sin—that it may not through divine grace enter the kingdom of God and at last be presented faultless, arrayed in heavenly brightness, before the throne of glory! Heaven is filling with earth's broken lives—but there, no life will be broken or marred; all will be perfect in their beauty and complete in their blessedness, bearing the image of the Redeemer!

Many of earth's noblest and most useful lives, appear to end in the very midst of their usefulness, to be cut off while their work is unfinished—perhaps when it is scarcely begun. We easily reconcile ourselves to the dying of an aged Christian, because he has filled up the allotted measure of human life. We quote the Scripture words about a shock of corn coming in in its season; probably we lay a little sheaf of wheat on the coffin, or cut a sheaf on the stone set up to mark the place where the weary body sleeps.

But when a young person dies—we do not have the same feeling. We do not so easily reconcile ourselves to the ending of the life. We had expected our friend to live to be old, and are sorely disappointed in his early death. We do not quote the words about the corn, nor do we put the handful of wheat in the cold fingers or carve it on the stone. We seek for emblems rather which denote too early a death, cutting on the marble an unopened bud, a broken shaft or other symbol of incompleteness.

Yet when we think more deeply of the matter, should a death in bright sunny youth, or in mid-life be regarded as untimely? Should the life thus cut off be considered an incomplete one? Should not Christian faith lay the ripe sheaf on the coffin of the godly young man, and speak of his life, if it has been noble and true, as a shock of corn coming in in its season?

If every life is a plan of God—is not the date of its ending part of that plan? We would not call the life of Jesus incomplete, although he died at thirty-three. Indeed, as he drew to the end, he said to his Father, "I have finished the work which you gave me to do," and with his expiring breath he cried aloud in triumph, "It is finished!" It does not, therefore, require years to make a life complete. One may die young—and not depart too soon. It is possible for a life to remain in this world but a short time—and yet be complete according to God's plan for it.

To our view, it is a broken life—which is taken away in the midst of great usefulness. It seems to our limited vision—that everyone should live to complete the good work he has begun. But this is by no means necessary.

The work is not ours—but God's; each one of us does a little part of it, and then as we die—another comes and does his part just next to ours. One may sow a field and die before the reaping-time, and another gathers the sheaves. The reaping was not part of the sower's work. We may begin something, and then be called away before finishing it. Evidently, the finishing was not our work—but belongs to some other's life-plan. We must not say that a man's life is a broken one—because he did only a little part of some great and good work; if he was faithful—he did all that was allotted to him. God has some other one ready—whose mission it is to do what we supposed it was our friend's mission to do.

It is, then, a lesson of faith that we should learn. We ought never to be afraid of God's providences, when they seem to break up our lives and crush our hopes—even to turn us away as Christ's true disciples from our chosen paths of usefulness and service. God knows what he wants to do with us—how he can best use us—and where and in what lines of ministry, he would have us serve, or whether he would have us only "stand and wait." When he shuts one door—it is because he has another standing open for us. When he thwarts our plans—it is that his own plan may go on in us and through us. When he breaks our lives to pieces—it is because they will do more for his glory and the world's good, broken and shattered, than whole.

~J. R. Miller~

The Abiding Meaning of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-36; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 16:28; Acts 2:34; 1 Corinthians 15:25

Acts is preeminently a book of principles; and it is just here we so often go wrong in looking for the repetition of the form by which those principles were expressed; forms of expression change, but the principles abide.

Though the Lord may do a fresh thing, He will not necessarily use the same form, but He will do it on the same principles; these principles are eternal, changeless; they abide for ever.

We are so often wanting a repetition of Pentecost in the form it took then, of manifestations and demonstrations on the outside. The Lord will do a new thing; and things basic to His activity then will be basic to His activity always. Principles, and not forms, are the things for which we are to look.

The basis of everything at Pentecost centered in and related to one thing, the enthronement of the Lord Jesus in heaven in the full virtue of His universal triumph. So far His universal triumph has not reached its full end: "Sit Thou on My right hand, UNTIL ..." (Psalm 110:1). He sits there in virtue of His universal triumph; and that triumph in this age is working out to its full issue; "until ..."

First Corinthians 15:25, 26, 57: "For He must reign, till He hath put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." "But thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." He must reign until - His reign has now begun!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Influences From Childhood

No one's childhood is perfect. What we experienced during those years has a profound impact, even into adulthood. Things we saw, heard, felt, and even things we did not feel can affect us later in life.

As one might expect, external influences do help to shape our personality. However, the result is not always predictable. For example, early years full of painful experiences leave deeps wounds in some, but in others, they contribute to the development of depth and perseverance.

Whether your younger years were joyful or painful, it can be valuable to consider what their impact was, back then as well as in the present. You might start by exploring your responses to key childhood events. Next, identify traits that you appreciated in your parents and others--qualities you'd like to nurture in your own life. Finally, think about people with characteristics that impacted you negatively. Ask God for healing and freedom from the patterns you may have developed in response. Then shift your focus to godly attributes you want to exhibit instead, such as peace, grace, and gentleness.

The heavenly Father wants to free you from any negative trends that took root early in life. He can break any unhealthy pattern and replace it with hope and deep satisfaction in Him.

As you explore the effects of childhood experiences, pray to see through a lens of truth. When you recognize ways that others negatively influenced you, pray for strength to forgive and God's help in mending areas of brokenness--whether spiritual, emotional, relational, or mental.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Life as a Ladder

"Beauty and truth, and all that these contain,
Drop not like ripened fruit about our feet;
We climb to them through years of sweat and pain!"

"When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a ladder resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven." Genesis 28:11-12

It was a good while ago, that a young man sleeping one night in the open air in a very desolate place, had a wonderful vision of a ladder which started close beside him and sprang up into the very glory of heaven! The vision was meant to show him in heavenly picture, what were his life's possibilities. The way lay open, clear up to God; he could have communication with heaven now and always. Then the ladder envisioned a path which his feet might tread, up and up, step by step, ever rising higher, until at the last he should be in the midst of heaven's glory!

We may say, too, without any straining of exegesis, without reading any fanciful interpretations into Scripture narrative, that the bright ladder was a picture of the Christ. Did not Jesus himself say, with this old-time vision in his mind, "You shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man"? As down to Jacob in his sinfulness came the ladder, so down into this lost world came the Savior. The ladder reached from earth to heaven. See a picture of Christ's double nature: the Incarnation was the letting of the ladder down until it touched the lowest depths of human need; at the same time, our Lord's divinity reached up into heaven's blue, above the tallest mountains, above the shining stars, into the midst of the glory of God.

A ladder is a way for feet to climb; Christ is the way by which the worst sinners may go up out of their sins, into the purity and blessedness of heaven. Homely though the figure of the ladder may be, it has many striking and instructive suggestions.

The ladder's foot rested on the ground; our lives start on the earth, ofttimes very low down, in the common dust. We do not begin our career as radiant angels—but as fallen mortals. We are all alike in this; the holiest saints—began as vile sinners. He who would go up a ladder must first put his foot on the lowest rung. We cannot start in Christian life at the top—but must begin at the bottom and climb up. He who would become a great scholar—must first hold in his hand and diligently master the primer and the spelling-book. Likewise, he who would rise to Christlikeness, must begin with the simplest duties and obediences.

This ladder did not lie along the level plain—but rose upward until its top rested at the feet of God. Thus the path of every true life leads upward and ends in heaven. It is thus that the Scriptures always paint the way of Christian faith. "Whom he did foreknow, he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son." In God's first purpose of salvation for a sinner, he has in mind the sinner's final transformation into the likeness of Christ. "It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him!" Whatever mystery may lie about the future state, this one thing is clear and sure—that every one who believes on Christ—shall dwell with him, and shall bear his image! The ladder of faith leads upward into the heavenly glory!

A ladder is climbed step by step; no one leaps to the top. No one rises to sainthood at a bound; slowly, step by step, we must rise in the heavenward way. No one gets the victory once for all over his sins and his faults. It is a struggle of long years, of the whole of life, and every day must have its own victories if we are ever to be crowned. Many people are discouraged because they seem never to get any nearer the end of their struggle; it is just as hard to be good and true this year—as it was last year. This vision of life as a ladder shows that we may not expect to get beyond conflict and effort until our feet stand in heaven.

A ladder is never easy to ascend; it is always toilsome work to go up its rungs. Railroad-tracks suggest speed and ease—but a ladder suggests slow and painful progress. We rise upward in spiritual life, not at railway speed, nor even at the racer's rate of progress—but slowly, as men go up a ladder.

Yet we may turn the lesson the other way: men do not fly up ladders—yet they go up step by step, continually rising. We certainly ought always to be making some progress in Christian life as the years go on. Each day should show at least a little advance in holiness, some new conquest over the evil that is in us, some wrong habit or some besetting sin gotten a little more under our feet. We ought always to be climbing upward, though it be but slowly. We ought never to stand still on the ladder.

The figure suggests, again, that we must do the climbing ourselves. A ladder does not carry anyone up: it is but a way of ascent provided for one who is willing to climb. God has made a way of salvation for us—but we must go in the way. He has let down the ladder and it springs from our feet up to the foot of heaven's throne—but we must climb its rungs; God will never carry us up. Hehelps us on the way—there were angels on the radiant stairway of Jacob—but we can never get upward one step, without our own exertion. We are bidden to work out our own salvation, although we are assured that God works in us both to will and to do. He puts the good desires and impulses in our hearts, and then gives us the grace to work them out in life. It is God who cleanses us—but we must wash in the cleansing stream. God bears us to heaven—but our feet must do the climbing. Mr. Holland's lines are suggestive:

"Heaven is not reached by a single bound,
But we build the ladder by which we rise
From the lowly earth to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its summit rung by rung.

"We rise by the things that are under our feet—
By what we have mastered of good or gain,
By the pride deposed, and the passion slain,
And the vanquished ills, that we hourly meet."

Every true life should thus be a perpetual climbing upward. We should put our faults and flaws and sins under our feet—and make them steps on which to lift ourselves daily a little higher.

We have here the key to all growth of Christian character. We can rise only by continual self-conquests. We must make stepping-stones of our dead selves. Every fault we overcome, lifts us a little higher. All low desires, all bad habits, all longings for ignoble things, that we vanquish and trample down—become ladder-rungs on which we climb upward out of earthliness and sinfulness, into purer and Christlier living. There really is no other way by which we can rise upward. If we are not living victoriously on these little common days, we surely are not making any progress. Only those who climb—are mounting toward the stars. Heaven itself at last, and the heavenly life here on the earth, are for those only who overcome.

There is another suggestion in the figure: the ladder which began on the earth and pressed upward step by step—reached to the very feet of God. It did not come to an end at the top of one of earth's high mountains. God's way of salvation is not partial, does not leave any climber halfway to glory—but conducts every true believer to the very gates of pearl.

The true Christian life is persistent and persevering; it endures unto the end. But we must notice that it is ladder all the way—it never becomes a plain, smooth, flower-lined or descending path! So long as we stay in this world—we shall have to keep on climbing slowly, painfully, upward. A really true and earnest Christian life—never gets very easy; the easy way of life—does not lead upward. If we want just to have a good, pleasant time in this world—we may have it; but there will be no Christian progress in it. It may be less difficult to live righteously, after one has been living thus for a time—but the ladder never becomes a level path of ease.

Every step of the heavenly way is uphill, and steep at that! Heaven always keeps above us, no matter how far we climb toward it! We never in this world get to a point where we may regard ourselves as having reached life's goal; as having attained the loftiest height within our reach; there are always other rungs of the ladder to climb! The noblest life ever lived on earth, but began here its growth and attainment.

Mozart, just before his death, said, "Now I begin to see what might be done in music." That is all the saintliest man ever learns in this world about living—he just begins to see what might be done in living. It is a comfort to know that that really is the whole of our earthly mission—just to learn how to live, and that the true living is to be beyond this world!

This wonderful vision-ladder was radiant with angels; we are not alone in our toilsome climbing. We have the companionship and ministry of strong friends whom we have never seen. Besides, the going up and coming down of these celestial messengers told of never interrupted communication between God and those who are climbing up the steep way. There is never a moment nor any experience in the life of a true Christian, from which a message may not instantly be sent up to God—to which help may not instantly come. God is not off in heaven merely, at the top of the long, steep life-ladder, looking down upon us as we struggle upward in pain and tears. As we listen, we hear him speak to the sad, weary man who lies there at the foot of the stairway, and he says, "Behold, I am with you always, and will keep you in all places where you go; I will never leave you—nor ever forsake you." Not angel companionship alone, precious as that is, is promised—but divine companionship also, every step of the toilsome way, until we get home. It is never impossible, therefore, for anyone to mount the ladder to the very summit—with God's strong, loving help, the weakest need never faint nor fail!

~J. R. Miller~

On Knowing the Lord # 3

The greatest of the problems of the Christian life is -

The Problem of Guidance

How much has been said and written upon this subject! The last word for so many is, "Pray about it, commit it to God, do the thing that seems right, and trust God to see that it turns out all right." This to us seems weak and inadequate. We make no claim to ability to lay down the comprehensive and conclusive basis of guidance, but we are strongly of the conviction that it is one thing to get direction for the events, incidents, and contingencies of life, and quite another thing to have an abiding, personal, inward knowledge of the Lord. It is one thing to call upon a friend in emergency or at special times for advice as to a course to be taken; it is another thing to live with that friend so that there is derived a sense of his mind in general that will govern in particular matters.

We want instructions and commands, the Lord wants us to have a 'mind.' "Have this "mind" in you," "We have the mind of Christ." Christ has a consciousness, and by the Holy Spirit He would give and develop in us that consciousness. The inspired statement is that "His anointing teacheth you concerning all things." We are not servants, we are sons.  Commands - as such - are for servants, a mind is for sons.

There is an appalling state of things among the Lord's people today. So many of them have their life almost entirely in that which is external to themselves - in their counsel and guidance, their sustenance and support, their knowledge, their means of grace. Personal, inward, spiritual intelligence as a very rare thing. No wonder that the enemy has such a successful line in delusions, counterfeits, and false representations. Our greatest safeguard against such will be a deep knowledge of the Lord through discipline.

To know the Lord in a real way means steadfastness when others are being carried away - steadfastness through times of fiery trial. Those who know the Lord do not put forth their own hand and try to bring things about. Such are full of love and patience, and do not lose their poise when everything seems to be going to pieces. Confidence is an essential and inevitable fruit of this knowledge, and in those who know Him there is a quiet restful strength which speaks of a great depth of life.

To close let me point out that in Christ "are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden," and the Lord's will for us is to come to an ever-growing realization and personal appreciation of Him in Whom all the fullness dwells.

We have only stated facts as to the Lord's will for all His own, and their greatest need.

The absence of this real knowledge of the Lord has proved to be the most tragic factor in the Church's history.

Every fresh uprising of an abnormal condition has disclosed the appalling weakness among Christian people because of this lack. Waves of error; the swing of the pendulum to some fresh popular acceptance; a great war with its horrors and many-sided tests of faith; all these have swept away multitudes and left them in spiritual ruin.

These thins are ever near at hand, and we have written this message to urge upon the Lord's people to have very definite dealings with Him that He will take every measure with them that they might know Him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

A Call to Godly Living

The apostle Paul lived in an age when sensuality, the pursuit of pleasure, and rebellion against the Lord were prevalent. In response, he wrote letters urging Christians not to follow in the ways of the world. Like those early believers, we are to pursue godliness by...
  1. Presenting our bodies to God. Our total being--mind, will, emotions, personality, and physical body--are to be turned over to our heavenly Father (James 4:7a). Submitting ourselves to the Lord requires a definite decision to give Him control and a daily commitment to remain under His authority. By surrendering to Him, we will position ourselves for godly living.

  2. Becoming living sacrifices. The Christian life is built around the concept of sacrifice. Jesus left the perfection of heaven to dwell among a sinful people so He might reconcile us to God. He offered up His life to make payment for our sins (1 John 3:16) and brought us into His family. As believers, we are to follow His example. Paul called it a living sacrifice, because it is ongoing--one that is repeated daily.
Life is full of options. Many decisions involve a choice between following God's way or our own. Maturing Christians will increasingly sacrifice their own desires and embrace His will.
A life of godliness is characterized by a heart and mind bent toward the things of God. Although we will live imperfectly, our focus is to be on obeying His will and pleasing Him. Let's commit to becoming more like Jesus, the One who willingly gave Himself to God as a sacrifice for us.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Friday, June 26, 2015

Cheerful Counsel for Christians

Philippians 4:1-13

The Epistle to the Philippians is full of cheer and inspiration. Although written in a prison, a sweet song sings though it all. No other of the churches established by Paul, seems to have given him so much comfort—as did this church at Philippi. His cheerful counsels to these church members are golden words for all Christians. The passage begins with an expression of the apostle's love for his people, from whom now he was separated. He speaks to them as beloved and longed for, his joy and crown. No reward that a pastor can have is so great as souls led to Christ and lives helped, built up, and enriched.

The first lesson taught is that of steadfastness. "Stand fast in the Lord."

Next, he exhorts them to unity in spirit and life. It would seem that two women, Euodias and Syntyche, had been estranged in some way, and Paul writes to his yoke-fellow, urging him to seek a restoration of kindly relations between them. Paul thus sought to realize the Beatitude, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God." It is a pleasant thought, that the names of all those who live and work for Christ are in the book of life. They may not be written in the list of those who are distinguished on the earth—but the humblest and lowliest name is down in the register of heaven.

The keynote of Paul's life from the first to last is joy. We have it here, "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice!" This word sounds a little strange, coming from a prison. But Paul had in his heart, that which mastered all gloom and depression. Christians ought always to be happy. Of course this does not mean that they should be foolish. Christian joy is not silly giggling, nor mere light-heartedness. Life is not all fun—it is real and earnest, ofttimes grave and serious, sometimes solemn and tearful. "Rejoice. . . always" does not mean that one never is to have a serious thought, is always to be in some round of gaiety. This word is for the sick room and the hour of sorrow, as well as for the play room and the wedding day. It does not draw its inspiration from circumstances—it is in the heart. It is not joy which this world's favors and pleasures give—it is joy which springs from fellowship with Christ.

Another lesson in Christian living is gentleness, "Let your gentleness be evident to all." This does not mean that you are to go about telling everybody how patient, gentle and meek you are. That would be a troublesome task, and then, people might not always believe you. There is a better way of letting others know that you possess these traits. Show your gentleness in your life and conduct, in your daily interaction with men. Be patient under injury, provocation, or annoyance. Be forgiving. Show yourgentleness as Christ showed his: in your speech, in the returning of love for hate, of kindness for unkindness, of love for rudeness. Such a quality in the life is like sweet perfume–you cannot hide it, and it needs no advertising. It makes itself known, if only you have it truly in your life.

Another life-lesson is never to be anxious. "Do not worry about anything." This seems rather strong counsel for ordinary mortals. It would apparently be a great deprivation to many people—if they could not worry and fret about something. A state of peaceful repose would be very wearisome and monotonous to them. Anxiety is a chronic state with too many. What a change it would bring about in the world, if every Christian would learn this lesson—in nothing to be anxious! It would add almost infinitely to the sum of human happiness, if we would eliminate this one element of misery. Worry does double work in the way of wretchedness—it makes wretched, first—the man himself who worries; then it makes his neighbors wretched.

How useless worrying is, too! It removes no trouble, lightens no burden, and softens no hardness in one's lot. On the other hand, it only makes the trial greater and the heart in its feverishness, less strong for endurance. Even philosophy, without religion, would seem to teach us to be anxious for nothing. The trouble is, however, that philosophy is more plentiful than philosophers. Everybody can tell you how not to worry—but nobody seems to live his own philosophy.

What to do with one's worries, Paul tells us also. We are to put them into God's hands—and leave them there. "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Take them to God, tell him all about them, and leave them with him. You are God's child; he is caring for you and also for your affairs. You have no troubles or perplexities which he does not understand, which he is not able either to remove—or to carry you through. This is the divine cure for care, and the result will be that "the peace of God. . . shall keep your hearts and minds."

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things!" Philippians 4:8. The next life-lesson the apostle teaches is contained in the wonderful cluster of "whatevers." This is one of the great ethical texts of the Bible. All of these qualities belong to a noble Christian character. Those first named are the sturdy elements—truth, honor, justice, purity; then come the more delicate and beautiful things—qualities that are winning and attractive. Some people cultivate the first class and neglect the other. They are sturdy and just—but not lovable. We have no right to make our religion repulsive; it ought to be lovely and attractive. Then there are some who cultivate the aesthetics of religion and leave out the grand qualities of truth and uprightness. This is worse than the other omission. It takes both classes to make a full-rounded Christian character.

Paul tells us to think of these things—but thinking is not enough—he says, also, "These things. . . do." Thinking and doing are both important. Our thoughts make our character. They build it up little by little, as coral insects build up great reefs. Every thought we nourish leaves an impression, a touch—a mark of beauty or blemish. How important that we think only holy and beautiful things! That is what Paul teaches here. The things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, are what we are to think on. Thinking on false things, dishonorable things, unlovely things, makes us like those things; but pondering the noble qualities transforms us into the same nobleness.

"Beautiful thoughts—make a beautiful soul,
And a beautiful soul—makes a beautiful face."

But thinking is not enough. One only really knows—what one practices. It is not enough to raise the standard of pure and holy thoughts—we must follow the thoughts with acts; we must think right things—and then do them.

Another of the great life-lessons taught here, is contentment. "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." There may be some who study this lesson who cannot yet say this. It may be a comfort to such, to remember that Paul says he had "learned" it. He was not always so contented. It probably took him a good while to get the lesson learned, for he was quite an old man when he wrote this sentence. All lessons in life have to be learned; they do not come to us as gifts of God—but only as copies set for us, which we are to try to follow. Of course the great secret lies within the heart. If we have in us the "well of water" which Christ gives, we need not be dependent on the little springs of earthly water which go dry so often. If we have Christ—we really ought not to be greatly affected either by the possession or the loss of earthly comforts. That was Paul's secret.

The last life-lesson taught, is the ability of the Christian to do anything that God really gives him to do. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Here Paul puts the honor where it belongs. His contentment was not his own achievement. It was not the result of philosophy, was not caused by the dying out of ambition in his breast; it was because he was in Christ—that he could be content; Christ gave him strength for it, so that in whatever circumstances he was—he could quietly trust and rejoice. Christian life is full of impossibilities—things that are impossible to anyone with only human strength. But when God gives us a command—he always means to give the strength required to keep the command. It was a prayer of Augustine's, "Command what you will—and give what you command." We should never hesitate to attempt any task that God gives, for he will always give us all the strength we need!

~J. R. Miller~

On Knowing the Lord # 2

"That I may know him ..." (Phil. 3:10)

"Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know Me" (John 14:9; Phil. 1:10" Hebrews 8:11; 1 John 2:20, 27)

Toward the end of the Gospel of John, which especially brings into view this very matter, "to know" occurs some fifty-five times. Our Lord makes the statement that "this is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him, Whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ." (John 17:3). This does not mean merely that eternal life is given on the basis of this knowledge. There can be life with very limited knowledge. But life in fullness is closely related to that knowledge, and the increasing knowledge of Him manifests itself in increasing life. It works both ways; knowledge unto life and life unto knowledge.

Seeing, then, that the Lord Jesus Himself, as Man, represents man according to God, we are well prepared to see that - 

The Dominating Objective of the Divine Dealings with Us

is that we may know the Lord.

This explains all our experiences, trials, sufferings, perplexities, weakness, predicaments, tight corners, bafflings, pressures. While the refining of spirit, the development of the graces, the removing of the dross, are all purposes of the fires, yet above and though all is the one object - that we may know the Lord. There is only one way of really getting to know the Lord, and that is experimentally.

Our minds are so often occupied with service and work; we think that doing things for the Lord is the chief object of life. We are concerned about our lifework, our ministry. We think of equipment for it in terms of study and knowledge of things. Soul-winning, or teaching believers, or setting people to work, are so much in the foreground. Bible study and knowledge of the Scriptures, with efficiency in the matter of leading in Christian service as the end in view, are matters of pressing importance with all. All well and good, for these are important matters; but, back of everything the Lord is more concerned about our knowing Him than about anything else. It is very possible to have a wonderful grasp of the Scriptures, a comprehensive and intimate familiarity with doctrine; to stand for cardinal verities of the faith; to be an unceasing worker in Christian service; to have a great devotion to the salvation of men, and yet, alas, to have a very inadequate and limited personal knowledge of God within. So often the Lord has to take away our work that we may discover Him. The ultimate value of everything is not the information which we give, not the soundness of our doctrine, not the amount of work that we do, not the measure of truth that we possess, but just the fact that we know the Lord in a deep and mighty way.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3 - (The Problem of Guidance)

Selfish Christianity

Which interests you more—who Jesus is or what He can do for you? I’m afraid that too many of us are more concerned about what He can give us than we are about getting to know who He is.

But this is nothing new—Jesus had this problem when He walked on earth. The crowds often sought Him out for what He could do for them. Even though their needs were quite often legitimate, Christ knew their motives.

There is a fine line between selfishly trying to use the Lord to get what we want and humbly coming to Him with our needs and struggles. Some of the issues we bring to Him are so pressing and urgent in our minds that our desire for Him to take action in the way we want becomes greater than our willingness to submit to His will. At times, what we call “faith” is really a demanding spirit.

We must remember that our needs will come to an end, but Jesus Christ will remain forever. If our prayers have dealt only with presenting our requests to the Lord, we’ve missed a great opportunity to get to know the One with whom we’ll spend eternity. Let’s invest time in pursuing intimacy with Christ. Then we can enjoy the benefits of that relationship forever.

How much of your communion with God is devoted to your needs—even legitimate ones? Are you spending any time getting to know the Lord? Although God delights in our prayers and tells us to pray about everything, He also wants us to come to Him just because we enjoy being with Him. 

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Nevertheless, Afterward

Things are not finished—as we see them today. Tomorrow they will appear larger, greater. The bud you see one morning in the garden—will be a full-blown rose in a little while. The brown seed you dropped in your window-box, will be a beautiful plant by and by. Wherever there is life—there is growth. Every act has its consequences. We cannot foretell what results shall follow from any choice we may make. We must always take account of the afterward, whatever it is we are doing, through whatever experiences we are passing. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews has a suggestive passage about chastening. He quotes from the Book of Proverbs: "And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as a son."

People sometimes chafe when they have troubles. They fret and blame God. "What have I done" they ask, "that God is punishing me so?" But God may not be punishing them at all. Chastening is not punishing. "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. Afterwards, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." The present is hard and painful—but there will be an "afterward." Chastening now; afterward, a harvest of righteousness and peace.

The figure of pruning is used by our Master. He tells us that the wise gardener prunes every fruitful branch of the vine—the fruitful, not the unfruitful, branch. It is a wonderful comfort to suffering Christians to know that pruning is therefore really a mark of divine approval. "Whom the Lord loves—he chastens." There is a purpose also in the pruning. It is not any reckless cutting—the gardener knows what he is doing. Pruning seems destructive. Sometimes it appears as if the whole vine is being cut away. But there is an afterward—that it may bear more fruit.

One tells of a visit to a great hot-house, filled with wonderful clusters of luscious grapes. The owner said, "When my new gardener came, he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clear down to the stock; and he did, and we had no grapes for two years. But this is the result." Stems and branches cut, bleeding, almost destroyed; afterward, a marvelous vine bending under its load of fruit.

It is only when we learn the truth about life—that we are able to live with faith and courage. Because they have not learned it, many people fall into despair in the midst of present disappointments and sufferings. They see only the hard things in their circumstances, and pains that make the days almost unbearable, the wrongs and injustices that are crushing them. They stand right in the midst of all the bitter trials—and see no light, no hope, no comfort.

We need to learn to stand away from the immediate present—and get a view of the experience from a remoter distance. We see only part of the experience, while we are in its midst.

A visitor to Amsterdam had heard about the wonderful church chimes—so the legend runs. He was told that he must hear them, whatever else he might miss in the old Dutch city. The tourist did not know how best to hear the chimes, so he went up into the tower of the church to get as close as he could to the bells. He thought he would thus be best able to get the full benefit of his visit. There he found a man with great wooden gloves, like hammers, pounding on a keyboard. All he could hear was the crash of the keys, the harsh clanging and the deafening noise of the bells above his head. He wondered why his friends had talked so enthusiastically of the chimes. To his ears there was no music in them, nothing but terrible clatter and clangor. Yet at that very time, there floated over and beyond the city—the most entrancing music. Men in the fields a mile or more away paused in their work to listen. People in their homes and travelers on the highways were thrilled by the marvelous notes that fell from the tower. The place to listen to chimes is not close to them—but a distance away, where the clangor has softened into sweet music.

So it is with the experiences of life. When we are in their midst—we hear only the jarring notes of pain, the bitter cries of suffering. "All chastening for the present seems to be not joyous but grievous." We are too close to it yet. But when we get farther away, when the sharpness of the pain is past, when the hardness is over and forgotten—the music grows sweet. Not until afterward comes, with its comfort, its alleviation, its peaceable fruit, its new blessing—do we begin to understand the meaning of the discipline of the experience that was so hard. Afterward it yields peaceable fruit.

It is only afterward that the meaning of many of God's providences can be clearly read. Now we see through a glass darkly;afterward we shall see face to face. Now we know in part; afterward we shall know fully. The things we think destructive and calamitous, are really blessings yet in their first stage, fruits still green and bitter, not yet ripened and mellowed.

Life is a school. All its experiences are lessons. God is educating us. School is not easy. All true education looks to the building of the finest, noblest character, in the end. It is especially so in God's school, for he is the perfect Teacher. His purpose is not to give us an easy time at present—but to make something of us afterward. Sometimes we chafe and fret, saying that God is harsh and severe, perhaps that he is even unkind. We cannot see that good ever can come out of the painful discipline. But perhaps we can only attain godly character, in 'the school of severity'.

There are some plants that would die in the warmth of a conservatory. They must be kept in the cold, if they would live and grow. One of the papers not long since told of a strange plant recently discovered in northern Siberia. It shoots up out of the ice and frozen ground. Its leaves grow on the side of the stem toward the north. Each leaf appears to be covered with little crystals of snow. On the third day the extremities of the anthers show minute glistening specks like diamonds. These are the seeds.

Is not this plant an illustration of many Christian lives? God seems to set them in beds of ice and snow—and yet they grow up out of the wintry cold—into lovely and wondrous beauty. We would say that the loveliest lives of earth, would be those that are reared amid the kindliest influences, under summer skies, in the warm atmosphere of ease and comfort. But the truth is, that many of the noblest developments of Christian character, can only grow in the wintry gardens of hardship, struggle, and sorrow.

Trial, therefore, is not something meant to discourage us, to stunt and dwarf our life and mar its beauty. The snow plant would die in a tropical garden. There are lives that never could become Christlike and never could reach heaven without the discipline of severe affliction. No hardness is too severe—which teaches us to live worthily.

"To serve God and love him," says someone, "is higher and better than happiness, though it be with wounded feet, bleeding hands, and heart loaded with sorrow."

We must guard against the dreading of the cost of life's best things. If we cannot pay the price—we cannot get the blessings. We must have the sharp, biting winter—if we would get, by and by, the genial spring with its bursting blossoms. We must have the plough-share cutting through the ground—if we would have the harvest of golden grain. There is no trial in our lives—which does not come to us as the bearer of good.

We meet a grievous loss, when we are not profited by the hard or painful experience that comes to us. We cannot see this today. It seems to us in the keenness of our sorrow, that nothing which may come in any afterward will make up for what we are now suffering. But if not in this life, then somewhere in the great eternal afterward we shall be able to say: "Now I understand." "All chastening seems for the present grievous; yet afterward it yields peaceable fruit."

Remember Joseph. He was cruelly wronged by his brothers, torn away from his home, sold as a slave, maligned and cast into chains—a dark beginning, surely, for a young man's life. Yet afterward came honor, influence, glory. It takes time to work out God's best things.

There is a story of a rabbi who met a child carrying a basket closely covered. "Tell me, little maid," said the rabbi, "what you have in that basket." The child answered, "If my mother had wished that any one should know what is in this basket, she would not have covered it up." If God had meant us to know all his plans of love for us, he would not have covered them up under experiences of pain and suffering. We may be sure, however, that for all our times of chastening and trial—there is an afterward, full of glorious good, waiting for us.

We miss a great deal by living so entirely in the present—and not thinking of the afterward. We are alarmed when we find ourselves in hard conditions and circumstances, forgetting altogether that these are only processes through which we must pass to reach fineness of character, sweetness of spirit, strength, courage, discipline, and all the qualities which go to make up the best life. We are too short-sighted when we are in trouble. We see only the suffering, the loss, the struggle—and do not think of the mission of the trouble and what is coming out of it. We should widen our vision, so as to take in the afterward as well as the present hour.

Life is all one piece. One experience follows another. God always loves us—loves us just as surely and as tenderly, when all things seem to be against us—as he does when all things seem to be favoring us. When trouble comes, no matter what its direct and natural cause—it has a mission: it comes to make us better, to cure us of some fault, to cleanse us of some blot, to make us gentler, to teach us to be trustful and strong, to make us more thoughtful and more helpful. Instead of vexing and fretting ourselves with the question how God can truly love us—and yet allow us to suffer, to endure loss, to be treated unjustly and wrongfully; we would better change our attitude altogether toward our trials, and ask rather what errand this pain or affliction has for us, what lesson it should teach us, what change it should work in us.

There is no trial in our lives that does not come to us, as the bearer of a blessing. We meet a grievous loss, when we are not profited by any hard or painful experience that comes to us.

The other morning, one told of an unhappiness which came from the loss of a friend—not by death—but by the friend's unfaithfulness. Well, it is hard when one has to lose out of one's life such a friend, who for years has seemed to be true and whose friendship has come to mean so much of strength, of companionship, of joy. But there will be an afterward, and we may be sure that when the afterward has opened its treasures into the lonely life, it will be seen that God is good and loving in just what he did. You do not know what poison was hidden in the cup—which you thought was filled to the brim with happiness. God took it out of your hand—to save you from a deeper, bitterer sorrow than that which you are now enduring.

You cannot see this today. It seems to you in the keenness of your sorrow, that nothing that may come in afterward, which will make up for what you have lost. But trust God with that. The future is long. It stretches away into the eternal years. If not in this life, then somewhere in the great eternal afterward, you will be able to say: "Now I understand!"

~J. R. Miller~