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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Treasures from J. R. Miller

Treasures from J.R. Miller

1840 — 1912

(choice excerpts)

"If any 19th century American Christian writer warrants reprinting, it is J. R. Miller! His writing style is delightfully smooth, his insights are spiritual diamonds on every page, and his pastoral applications are delivered with the skill of a well-seasoned physician of souls." (Pastor Bill Shishko)
"His books are restful and soothing, full of quiet but fresh inspiration and cheery optimism. They have comforted and encouraged countless thousands of readers."
One friend paid this tribute to J. R. Miller: "We all loved him. His gentleness made him great. His winsomeness had no weakness in it. Somehow everybody felt drawn to him. He seemed so closely in touch with the best in heart and life. He was as gentle as a child, yet firm as a rock. He was lovable and helpful; always true, always tender."
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Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living — than the habit of getting a verse or phrase of Scripture into the mind and heart in the morning. Its influence stays through the day, weaving itself into all the day's thoughts and words and experiences.
Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us to live — and a good devotional book opens up the precious teachings which are folded up in its words.
A devotional book, which takes a Scripture text, and so opens it for us in the morning — that all day long it helps us to live, becoming a true lamp to our feet, and a staff to lean upon when the way is rough — is the very best devotional help we can possibly have. What we need in a devotional book which will bless our lives — is the application of the great teachings of Scripture — to common, daily, practical life.
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A lamp for my feet!

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

God's Word is represented as a lamp for the feet.
It is a "lamp" — not a blazing sun, nor even a lighthouse — but a plain, common lamp or lantern which one can carry about in the hand.
It is a lamp "for the feet," not throwing its beams afar, not illumining a hemisphere — but shining only on the one little bit of road on which the pilgrim's feet are walking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God adapts His grace to the peculiarities of each one's necessity. For rough, flinty paths — He provides shoes of iron. He never sends anyone to climb sharp, rugged mountain-sides, wearing silken slippers. He always gives sufficient grace. As the burdens grow heavier — the strength increases. As the difficulties thicken — He draws closer. As the trials become sorer — the trusting heart grows calmer.

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

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

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

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

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

"Unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" Ephesians 3:20

God often does better for us — than we ask.
We go to Him — with our little requests.
We are in need — and ask for temporal relief.
We are suffering — and ask that our pain may cease.
We are poor — and ask Him for more money.

We are just like the beggar, holding out our hands for paltry alms to eke out the day's need. Then God looks down upon us and says, "My child, are these littletrifles all you want Me to give to you — daily bread, clothing, fuel for your fire, medicine for your sickness, comfort for your grief? The small things to supply your common needs — are these the only gifts and blessings you want and ask from the hand of your heavenly Father, who has infinite treasures to give to you?"

Yet thousands never get beyond just such requests in their praying! Bowing daily before a God of infinite power and love, in whose hands are unsearchable riches— they never ask for anything but fleeting earthly comforts and worldly trinkets! They ask only for things for their bodies, or to beautify their homes — making no requests for the heavenly and spiritual gifts that God has for their souls! We should learn to ask for the best things in all God's treasure house!

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2
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The problem of living in this world, is to pass through life's vicissitudes without being harmed by them — growing into more and more radiant and beautiful Christly life, whatever our circumstances and experiences may be.

It is in this phase of our living, that we need Christ most of all. We cannot escape meeting temptation; but we are so to meet it as not to be hurt by it, coming from it rather with new strength and new radiancy of soul.

We cannot find a path in which no sorrow shall come into our life — but we are to pass through sorrow without having our life marred by it.

None but Christ can keep us thus unhurt — amid the manifold perils through which we must move continually. It is only by committing our life into the hands of Christ, that there ever can be absolute safety in this world so full of evil, or that our life ever can reach its holiest possibilities.
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In the same ruthless way!
One day when the tide was out, a man went out to gather sea plants on the rocks, and in stepping from ledge to ledge — his foot slipped down and became jammed in a crevice. He attempted to pull it out — but could not. He cried aloud, he shrieked, he prayed — but all in vain — no one heard him! So the tide came rolling in, and rose up higher and higher until it rolled over him and drowned his last gurgling cry in its remorseless waters.

In the same ruthless way — sin clutches men! Even one sin, one secret sin, one evil habit — may hold the soul that indulges it — until the floods of judgment come and roll over it, engulfing it in eternal damnation!
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What is it for you to be a Christian?

We ought to seek to gather in this world — treasure that we can carry with us through death's gates, and into the eternal world. We should strive to build into our lives — qualities that shall endure. Men slave and work to get a little money, or to obtain honor, or power, or to win an earthly crown — but 
when they pass into the great vast forever, they take nothing of all this with them!

Yet there are things — virtues, fruits of character, graces — which men do carry with them out of this world. What a man IS — he carries with him into the eternal world. Money and rank and pleasures and earthly gains — he leaves behind him; but his character, he takes with him into eternity!

This suggests at once, the importance of character and character-building.

Character is not what a man professes to be — but what he really IS, as God sees him.

A man may not be as good as his reputation. A good reputation may hide an evil heart and life. Reputation is not character. Reputation is what a man's neighbors and friends think of him; character is what the man IS.

Christ's character is the model, the ideal, for every Christian life. We are to be altogether like Him; therefore all of life's aiming and striving should be towards Christ's blessed beauty. His image we find in the Gospels. We can look at it every day. We can study it in its details, as we follow our Lord in His life among men, in all the variations of experience through which He passed.

A little Christian girl was asked the question, "What is it for you to be a Christian?

She answered, "It is to do as Jesus would do, and behave as He would behave — if He were a little girl and lived at our house."

No better answer could have been given. And there is scarcely any experience of life — for which we cannot find something in Christ's life to instruct us. We can find the traits and qualities of His life, as they shine out in His contact . . .
 with temptation,
 with enmity,
 with wrong,
 with pain,
 with sorrow.

The next thing, when we have the vision of Christ before us, is to get it implanted into our own life. We cannot merely dream ourselves into godly manhood or womanhood; we must forge for ourselves, with sweat and anguish, the beautiful visions of Christ-likeness which we find on the Gospel pages! It will cost us self-discipline, oftentimes anguish, as we must deny ourselves, and cut off the things we love. SELF must be crucified.

It is not easy to become a godly man, a Christlike man.

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