Grace Gems for NOVEMBER 2009

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Would you see what sin is?

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book—a Year's Daily Readings")

"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Matthew 27:46

There is a picture which represents the after-scenes on that day of the crucifixion.

It is all over. The crowds have gone away. The evening sun is shining out again on Calvary. The body of the Savior has been borne to the sepulcher. The cross has been taken down, and lies on the ground. A company of little children, bright with the glow of childhood's innocence, led to the place by accident or curiosity, are seen bending over the signs of the day's terrible work. One of the children holds in his hand, a nail which a little time before, had pierced a hand or a foot of the patient Sufferer, and stands spellbound with horror as he gazes at it. His gentle heart is shocked at sin's dreadful work! On all the children's faces, the same expression of horror is depicted.

No one with pure and gentle heart, can ever look at the death of Christ on the cross—with any but feelings of amazement and horror at sin's awfulness!

It was sin that nailed Jesus on the cross!

It was sin that wreathed the circlet of thorns for His brow!

We say the Jews crucified Christ; yes—but WE helped to do it!

Our sins drove the nails!

Would you see what sin is? Stand by the cross and ponder its terrible work, there in the death of the Redeemer. See what it cost the Lamb of God, to take away sin!

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Let nothing be wasted!

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book—a Year's Daily Readings")

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

It seems remarkable, that He who so easily could multiply the five loaves into an abundant meal for thousands, should be so particular about 'saving the fragments'. But Jesus would teach us economy. No matter how great our abundance, we should take care of the 'fragments'. After we have eaten at our tables, there are hungry people who would be glad for the pieces that are left over.

This applies also to the fragments of time. Many busy people waste whole years of time in their life—in the minutes which they lose every day! If at the end of a year they could gather up all these 'fragments', they would have many basketfuls of golden time in which they might do much good!

Likewise, we should not waste our strength. Many people waste their bodily energy, using it in play, or useless amusements, when it belongs to God—and ought to be employed to its last particle for His glory!

Likewise, we should not waste our affections by allowing them to be given to unworthy objects or people.

There is no limit to the application of this principle. We must give account of everything we have, even the minutes of time, the little fractions of strength, and the smallest bits of bread on our tables!

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

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There are 'Jebusites' in every Christian heart!

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book—a Year's Daily Readings")

"The king and his men marched to Jerusalem, to fight against the Jebusites who inhabited the land." 2 Samuel 5:6

The Jebusites still held a stronghold in the heart of the country, never having been dislodged. Just so, there are 'Jebusites' in every Christian heart!

In every heart, there are little 'Jebusite strongholds', which it seems impossible for us to conquer. Sometimes it is a secret sin which lives on, unconquered, amid the general holiness of a life. Sometimes it is a remnant of the old nature—such as pride, worldliness, selfishness, lust, or bitterness. There are many other such citadels of evil, which rear their proud towers and defy conquest.

"We all have our faults!" we say, and under this 'cloak' we manage to tuck away a large number of dear idols that we do not want to give up!

We ought to give attention to these unsubdued parts of our life—that every thought, feeling, and temper may be brought into subjection to Christ. It is perilous to leave even one such unconquered stronghold in our heart!

"We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ!" 2 Corinthians 10:5

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Begin where you can!

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book—a Year's Daily Readings")

"I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be perfect." Genesis 17:1

"Perfection is impossible!" we are in the habit of saying; and therefore we do not try to reach perfection. But it is better for us always to keep our aim high, although we cannot hope to reach it. If we have low ideals and aims—our attainments will be low. We cannot look with approval upon anything lower than the perfect beauty of God Himself—and not have the beauty of our own life dimmed thereby. We should always keep perfection before us—as our aim. We should keep our eyes ever fixed upon the perfect model, Jesus Christ!

He Himself taught, "Be perfect, therefore—as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48. We are always to seek to model our life upon the divine pattern. Of course we cannot reach this lofty standard in a day—but the way to Christlikeness, is to strive toward it.

When a child begins to write, his scrawling lines fall far short of the beauty of the original at the top of the page. Book after book he fills with his scribble—but if he is diligent, each new page shows a little improvement, and by and by—his writing rivals the original. We can learn to live holy and sweetly, only in the same way. Begin where you can, no matter how imperfect or faulty your life—but strive always toward perfection, and at last you shall be like Christ! That is the hope which shines before us: when we shall see Him as He is—and shall be like Him!

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Do not forget all His benefits!

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book—a Year's Daily Readings")

"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and
do not forget all His benefits:
  who forgives all your sins,
  who heals all your diseases,
  who saves your life from the pit,
  who crowns you with love and compassion,
  who satisfies your desires with good things!"
    Psalm 103:2-5

What an enumeration of divine blessings is this!

Any one of them is worth more than all earth's treasures combined!

If we are not forgiven—we must lie forever under the burden of sin, a weight greater than all the Alps! But God forgives—and forgives all our sins—and forgives freely, fully and forever!

If we are not healed—we must be sick forever, sick with the plague and leprosy of sin! But God heals—and heals all our evils, and heals completely!

If we are not saved from the dangers of this ensnaring world—we never can reach heaven! But God keeps, rescues, and saves our life from all impending destructions!

Earth's crowns are made of thorns, and at the best are only what the children call, 'play-crowns', for they are but of leaves that wither, or of gold and gems that will not last. But God crowns His people with crowns of love and compassion, which are real and radiant, which shall never fade—but shall shine forever, becoming crowns of eternal life and glory in heaven!

This world cannot satisfy our heart's deepest cravings. Its possessions only make our hunger more intense! But God satisfies the souls of His people, and meets all their cravings and hungers with truly good and eternal realities!

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Lord, teach me to number my days!

(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")

"Teach us to number our days aright—that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

We so number our days aright, when we give to each one as it passes, its own measure of faithfulness. Our days come to us 'one by one'. God breaks up His great years, into 'little sections' for us—that we may be able to get along with our work, our burdens, and our struggles. Take the 'single days' as they come to you. He who has learned this secret—has gained a heart of wisdom.

Take the 'one little day', and . . .
do all its duties faithfully;
seize its opportunities;
endure its trials;
meet its temptations victoriously;
bear its burdens;
receive its blessings;
miss not its privileges;
do all the kindness you can;
make it a beautiful day.

Anyone can live 'one single day' sweetly and victoriously. Make today beautiful. Then do the same with tomorrow, and with the next day—and so on, to the end of your life! Thus you will 'number your days' in a way that will make each one profitable. Thus you will write on each day's page—a record of which you will not be ashamed, when it is spread before you on the judgment day.

Our morning prayer each day should be, "Lord, teach me to number my days!"

"As your days—so shall your strength be." Deuteronomy 33:25

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Ten-pound Christians!

(by J. R. Miller)

"So he called ten of his servants—and gave them ten pounds. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" Luke 19:13

We are doing business in this world for Christ. Each one of us has something of His—a pound which He has entrusted to us—to trade with as His agent. Our life itself, with all its powers, its endowments, its opportunities, its privileges, its blessings, its possibilities—is 'our pound'.

Our life is not our own. We are not in this world merely to have a good time for a few years. Life is a trust. We are not done with it either, when we have lived it through to its last day. We must render an account of it to Him who gave it to us. Our business is to gather gains, through our trading with our Lord's money. We are required to make the most that is possible of our life!

"The first came forward and said—Master, your pound has earned ten more pounds!" Luke 19:16

We always find a few of these ten-pound Christians among the followers of Christ. They are those Christians who, from the very beginning, through divine grace—strive to reach the best things attainable in life. They are not content with being merely saved from sin's guilt, with being mere members of the church. They make their consecration to Christ complete, keeping nothing back. They set their ideal of obedience to their Lord—at the mark of perfectness, and are not slack in their striving, until they reach the mark in heaven. They seek to follow Christ entirely, fully, with their whole heart. They accept every duty—without regard to its cost. They seek to be like Christ, imitating Him in all the elements of His character. They give their whole energy to the work and service of Christ. They lie, like John, on the Master's bosom, and their souls are struck through, as it were, with the Master's loving spirit.

These ten-pound Christians grow at last—into a Christ-likeness, a spiritual beauty, and a power of usefulness and influence, by which they are set apart among Christians, shining with brighter luster than other stars, in the galaxy of the church. Their one pound has made ten more pounds! Their high spiritual attainment has been won by their diligent and wise use of the one pound with which they began!

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Stay away from the church service!

(J. R. Miller, "Serving and Following Christ" 1903)

Serving Christ
is something very practical. Some people seem to think it is something aside from their common life, something that belongs only to Sundays, something that can be done only in certain holy moments. But serving Christ is really one's very life—or it is nothing. It does not consist merely in acts of worship. There are times when one's first and most sacred duty—is to stay away from the church service!

A young mother was regretting that she had been able to attend church so rarely during the six months since her baby came. But if the baby really needed a mother's care all those months, she would have been unfaithful to her Master—if she had neglected it even to attend church services.

A pleasant story tells of a dying mother, who left her young daughter in charge of her little sick sister. All her days and nights were filled with this care of love. She could not attend church services nor take any part in Christ's work outside of her little home. It grieved her, for she loved Christ and longed to be of use in His service.
One night she dreamed that the Master had come, and she stood before Him, painfully explaining why she had not been able to do any work for Him, because all her time and strength were required in caring for her suffering sister. "That child is Mine!" said the Master. She could not have served Him better—than in tending this little one of His that needed her care and was her special charge. If she had failed in this duty, even in order to attend church services, if she had neglected this sick child in order to help others outside her home—the Master would have been grieved!

Our duty in serving Christ lies always near to our hand. It is never some impossible thing that He wants us to do.

There was an artist who wished to leave behind him some noble work that would live through all time. He sought for material fine enough for his dream. He traveled to distant lands and journeyed far and near in vain quest for what he sought. He came home an aged man, weary and disappointed, and found that from the common clay beside his own door—his old apprentice had made marvels of loveliness which were praised by all who saw them, and had won him fame.

Just so, many people longing to do noble things for Christ, look far off for the opportunities, missing meanwhile services which wait for them close by their doors. Nothing is grander for us any day, than . . .
  the quiet doing of God's will,
  simple faithfulness in common duty,
  making the best of what lies close to our hand!

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Nothing more

(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master's happiness!" Matthew 25:21
No higher praise can be given to any life—than to say it has been faithful. No one could ask for a nobler epitaph than the simple words, "He was faithful." This will be the commendation given in the great account, to those who have made the most of their talents: "You have been faithful with a few things!" Faithfulness should therefore be the aim in all our living.

It is not great things that God expects or requires of us—unless He has given us great gifts and opportunities. All that He requires of us, is faithfulness. He gives us certain talents, puts us in certain relations, assigns to us certain duties—and then asks us to be faithful—nothing more. The man with the plain gifts and the small opportunities, is not expected to do the great things which are required of the man with the brilliant talents and the large opportunities. We should get this truth fixed deeply in our mind—that God asks of nothing more—than simple faithfulness.

Faithfulness is not the same in any two people. In the man who has five talents, there must be a great deal more outcome to measure up to the standard of faithfulness, than in the man who has but two talents.

Faithfulness is simply being true to God—and making the most of one's life.
Of those who have received little—only little is required; where much has been received—much is required. Never does God expect anything impossible or unreasonable from anyone. If we are simply faithful—we shall please God.

Jesus said of Mary, after her act of love, when men murmured at her, "She has done what she could!" Mark 14:7. What had she done? Very little, we would say. She loved Jesus truly and deeply. Then she brought a flask of precious ointment and broke the flask, pouring the sacred nard upon her Lord's tired feet—those feet which soon were to be nailed to the cross.

What good did it do? We know it wonderfully comforted the Savior's sorrowful heart. Amid almost universal hatred, and maddening enmity—here was one who sincerely loved Him. While other hands were weaving a crown of thorns for His brow, and others still were forging cruel nails to drive through His feet—Mary's hands were pouring ointment on His head, and bathing His feet with the nard. Who will say that Mary's act did no good? It seemed a little thing—but we cannot fathom how her sweet, pure, loyal love—blessed our suffering Savior in His bitter anguish.

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There is an Eye that sees all things as they are!

(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")

"I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist." Matthew 11:11

These were the strong words which fell from the lips of the Master. It was a wonderful thing to have our Lord speak such praise. He knew what was in men, and He never spoke an insincere word.

Human estimates of greatness are ofttimes defective, sometimes false. Men see only the outward appearance.

Many people are not as great—as they seem to be. They practice tricks which deceive the world. They pass for great—while in reality, they are very small in character. Strip off their gaudy tinsel—and but little would be left.
Other people, however, are greater than they seem. They lack the popular qualities which attract attention and win applause. Yet they are great in their souls, great in spiritual graces, in heart-purity, in the elements of true manhood, in moral strength.

But there is an Eye that sees all things as they are! It pierces all thin disguises, and penetrates to the core of things! It discerns the poor shriveled soul—which is hidden beneath the external glitter. On the other hand, it sees in the humble life, which gets but little praise of men, whose outer form is homely and plain—the true worth, the qualities of holy character.
It is well that we sometimes stop to think—how we appear to God, what God thinks of us. One says, "There is some things in every man's heart, which, if we could know—would make us hate him!" Perhaps this is true; but it is true also that there is something in every Christian, in even the most repulsive, which, if we could know, would make us love him.

As God sees us, we are both worse and better than we seem to any other eyes in all the world. He sees the hidden faults and the secret stains; but He also sees the feeble yearnings which at length will be splendid spiritual qualities. I love to think of this side of the lives of my fellows—not the poor stained fragments of being which my eyes now see—but what they will be when God's work of grace in them is finished!

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To many people—life is very hard

(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")

For the Christian, all of life's conditions and circumstances are transformed.
Take the matter of CARE. Every life has 'cares'. There are cares in business. There are cares in home-life. There are cares of poverty—but no less has the rich man his cares. Childhood has its anxieties; young faces sometimes appear careworn. No one can escape care!

To many people—life is very hard. But Christian faith transfigures care, for those who are Christ's and have learned how to live as He teaches us to live. He tells us not to worry about anything, because our Father is caring for us. He tells us that life is a school, and that all our cares are parts of lessons which He has set for us. That means that every care has hidden in it—a secret of blessing—a gift of love which our Father has sent to us. Every time you come to a hard point in your life—an obstacle, a difficulty, a perplexity—God is giving you a new opportunity to grow stronger, wiser, or richer-hearted.

try to make life easy for our children—but God is wiser than we are. He wants His children to have struggles—that they may grow strong, holy and noble!

Thus it is that common care is transfigured by the grace of Christ! It enfolds blessings for us. It carries in its 'dreary form' secrets of blessing for us. Even our 'drudgeries' have blessings in their wearisome routine; we get many of our best lessons out of them.

All we need to learn is how to meet our worries, and they are transfigured for us! Paul tells us in a wonderful passage how to get this transformation of care: "Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7. God's peace will then shine through all life's frets. Thus care is transfigured, by the love of Christ in the heart.

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A believer's life-mission

(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind!" Romans 12:2

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness." 2 Corinthians 3:18

The character of every true believer is being transformed. If Christ dwells in you, He will produce in you the same kind of life which He himself lived when He was on the earth. This change does not come in its completeness, or instantaneously the moment one believes in Christ. But it does begin then.

Life is large. Life's lessons are many and hard to learn! Paul was an old man when he said, "I have learned, in whatever state I am, therein to be content." It had taken him many years to learn this lesson of contentment.

Likewise, it takes us years to get life's lessons learned. But nothing is clearer, than that a believer's life-mission —is to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. There is to be a transformation of character. Holiness must become the every-day dress of the Christian. We are called to be saints, even in this sinful world.

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

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The school of pain!

(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")

Everyone has sorrow. Being a Christian does not exempt anyone from grief. But faith in Christ brings a transformation of sorrow. Not only are we taught to endure the sorrows that come to us patiently and submissively—but we are assured that there is a blessing in them for us, if we accept them with love and trust.

One of the deepest truths taught in the Bible—is that earthly sorrow has a mission in the sanctifying of life. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. God disciplines us for our good—that we may share in His holiness." Hebrews 12:10-11

We dread pain! And yet the person who has not experienced pain—has not yet touched the deepest and most precious meanings of life. There are things we never can learn—except in the school of pain! There are heights of life we never can attain—except in the bitterness of sorrow. There are joys we never can have—until we have walked in the dark ways of sorrow. Not to have sorrow, in some form, is to miss one of life's holiest opportunities. We get our best things—out of affliction! "I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10

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The man with the muck-rake

(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")

"Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better." Luke 10:42

Paul prayed that his friends "may be able to discern what is best." Philippians 1:10.

We must be always making choices in this world. We cannot take up everything that lies in our path—and we ought to choose the best things. Even among 'right things' there is room for choice, for some right things are better than others.

There are many Christians, however, who do not habitually choose the best things—but second-rate things. They labor for the food that perishes—when they might labor for the food that endures unto everlasting life. Even in their prayers, they ask for temporal blessings, when they might ask for spiritual treasures!

They are like "the man with the muck-rake", in Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress'—who only looks 'down' and drags his rake among the weeds and worthless rubbish—while over his head are crowns which he might take into his hands! They are like Esau, who sold his valuable birthright, for some lentil stew. They toil for this world's vain things—when they might have been laying up treasures in heaven!
We only have one life to live—and we ought therefore to do the best we possibly can with it. We pass through this world only once—and we ought to gather up and take with us the things that will truly enrich us—things we can keep forever!

It is not worth our while, to toil and moil, and strive and struggle—to do things that will leave no lasting results when our life is done—while there are things we can do which have eternal significance!

"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 best way to run the goats out of the church!

(D. J. Ward)

"Feed My sheep." John 21:17

"Feed the flock of God entrusted to you." 1 Peter 5:2

The best way to purify the church and keep it pure—is to get rid of all the goats! And the best way to run the goats out of the church—is to feed them 'sheep food'. God's sheep will grow in grace under the preaching of grace—but goats will go hungry because they choke on 'sheep food'. They will soon leave and go somewhere else. Preach sovereign grace!

“Now I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified." Acts 20:32

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Here is an arm that never can be broken!

(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")

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

There are some choice thoughts in the figure of 'God's embracing arm'.

One thought is protection. A father puts his arm around his child when it is in danger. Just so, God protects His children. Temptations beset us on every hand. Many people think of 'dying' with dread, fearing to meet it. But life has far more perils than death! It is easy to die—when one has truly lived for Christ; it is only entering into eternal joy and blessedness. But it is hard to live. At every point there are perils. We need protection. Here we have it, "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!"

Another suggestion is affection. The father's arm around the child, means love. The child is held in the bosom, near the heart. John lay on Christ's bosom. The shepherd gathers the lambs with his arms and carries them in his bosom. This picture of God embracing His children with His arm, tells of His love for them. It tells also of intimacy, and closeness of relation. The bosom is the children's place.

There is yet a tenderer phase of the thought here. It is especially in the time of danger or suffering, that the mother carries the child in her arms. She takes it up when it has fallen and hurt itself, and comforts it by enfolding it in her arms. When it is sick, she presses it to her bosom.

We have here, a picture of the special sympathy and tenderness of our heavenly Father for His children—when they are in pain or in trouble. This is one of the blessings of suffering—it gets us to the inner place of divine affection, nearest to the Father's heart! God draws us nearest—when we are in trouble or in pain!

The arm is also the symbol of strength. A mother's arm may be physically frail—but love makes it strong. The arm of God is strong—it is omnipotent. It supports worlds! When that divine arm encircles one of His feeble children—all the power of the universe cannot tear it away!

Every true human friend is more or less a strength to us. Yet the finest, securest human strength—is only a little fragment of the divine strength. "Trust in the Lord always—for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength!" Isaiah 26:4. This is omnipotence! Here is an arm that never can be broken, and out of its clasp we never can be torn!

Another thought concerning the everlasting arms, is endurance. There might be protection, affection, and strength—and yet the blessings might not last. We have all these in human love—but human arms grow weary—even in love's embrace. But the arms of God are everlasting. They shall never grow weary. It is everlastingness, which is the highest blessedness of divine affection and care!

Here is something that lasts, which knows no separation, which never unclasps. The arms of God are everlasting. Neither death nor life can separate. The mountains shall depart, crumble, vanish—but God's kindness shall never depart from His beloved child!

There is a very sacred thought in the word 'underneath'. A father tried to save his child in the waves, clasping his arms around the beloved form. But his arms were too weak, and the child slipped from them, sank away in the dark waters, and perished. But the arms of God are underneath His children—and none can sink out of His embrace! His arms are always 'underneath'.

The waves of sorrow are very deep—but still and forever underneath the deepest floods—are the everlasting arms. We cannot sink below them. If we lie down in sickness, the everlasting arms are underneath us. If human friendships are stripped off, and we stand alone in our bereavement, still we are not alone. Underneath are the everlasting arms. God remains—and God suffices.

Then, when death comes, and every earthly thing is gone from beneath us, and every hand unclasps from ours, and every face of love fades from our eyes, and we sink away into what seems darkness—it will be only into the everlasting arms! To every true Christian, death is only departing from earth's weariness and pain—to forever nest in the bosom of Christ!

If we realized that the eternal God is our refuge, and that the everlasting arms are truly underneath us—our joy would not fluctuate as it does, nor our zeal be so fitful. We need a deeper repose in Christ, a more trustful settling down upon Him and upon His atoning work. Then nothing could disturb our confidence, nothing could chill our ardor, nothing could hinder our consecration. Then in sorrow we would rejoice, in temptation we would be victorious, and in all of life we would be Christ-like and strong!

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Evil chapters in your 'life story'

(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")

"May you have the power to understand, as all God's people should—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is! May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!" Ephesians 3:18-19

Think of the length of the love of Christ—in its wonderful forgiveness, its infinite patience, its mercy that endures forever.

Human mercy is usually very short. There are evil chapters in your 'life story', which you would not for the world, uncover to the eye of even your gentlest friend! "He would detest me!" you say, "if he knew these things about me!"

There are evil thoughts in your inner life—feelings, emotions, desires, lusts, imaginations, jealousies, envyings—which you would not dare to lay open to your neighbor's gaze! "He would loathe me!" you say, "if he knew these things about me!"

Yet Christ sees all, knows all—and still He loves. He loves unto the uttermost. His mercy endures forever. His patience never fails. When the love of Christ clasps a human life—its clasp is for eternal years! He says to each of His children, "I have loved you with an everlasting love!" "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from you!"

We may think also of the depth of Christ's love. How shall we fathom it? Human love is often a stream so shallow—that it cannot cover even the minor faults and the trivial mistakes of its object. But the love of Christ is so deep—that it covers everything, hides completely out of sight, the multitude of our sins, and buries them forever in its unfathomable abysses!

"May you have the power to understand, as all God's people should—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is! May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!" Ephesians 3:18-19

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God does not deal with us in this 'sentimental' way!

(J. R. Miller, "The SILENT Christ")

"A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to Him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession!' Jesus did not answer her a word!" Matthew 15:22

We are apt to forget that the aim of God with us, is . . .
  not to flood us with tenderness all the time,
  not to keep our path always strewn with flowers,
  not to continually give us everything we want,
  not to save us from all manner of suffering.

No! God's aim with us, is . . .
  to make something of us,
  to build up strong and noble character in us,
  to mature qualities of grace and beauty in us,
  to make us more like Christ!
To do this—He must ofttimes deny us what we ask for, and must seem indifferent to our cries. "Jesus did not answer her a word!"

There are 'sentimental ideas of God' prevalent, which are dishonoring to Him. There are those who imagine that God's love means tenderness that cannot cause pain. They think that He cannot look a moment on suffering, without relieving it; that He must instantly hear and answer every cry for the removal of trouble.

Not such a God—is the God of the Bible! When suffering is the best thing for us—He is not too sympathetic to let us suffer—until the work of suffering is accomplished in us. He is not too kind to be silent to our prayers—when it is better that He should be silent for a time, to allow . . .
  faith to grow strong,
  self-confidence to be swept away, and
  the evil in us—to be burned out in the furnace of pain!

There is a danger with all of us—our tenderness lacks strength. We cannot tolerate to see people suffer, and so we hasten to give relief—before the ministry of suffering is accomplished. We think of our mission to others, as being only 'to make life easier for them'. We are continually lifting away burdens, which it were better to have left resting longer on our friend's shoulder! We are eager to make life easy for our children—when it were better if it had been left hard.

We must learn that God does not deal with us in this 'sentimental' way. He is not too tender to see us suffer—if more suffering is needed to work in us the discipline that will make us like Christ!

Here we have the key of many of the 'mysteries of Providence'. Life is not easy for us—and God does not intend it to be easy!

Suppose for a moment, that God immediately gave us everything we ask for—and immediately removed every little pain, trouble, difficulty, and hardness that we seek to have removed; what would be the result on us? How selfish it would make us! We would become weak, unable to endure suffering, to bear trial, to carry burdens, or to struggle. We would be only children always—and would never rise into manly strength. God's over-kindness to us—would pamper in us all the worst elements of our nature, and would make us only poor driveling creatures!

On the other hand, however, God's wise and firm treatment of us, teaches us the great lessons which make us strong with the strength of Christ Himself.
He teaches us to yield our own will to Him.
He develops in us—patience, faith, love, hope and peace.
He trains us to endure hardness—that we may grow heroic, courageous and strong.

It is well for us to make careful note of this—that in all God's delays when we pray—His aim is some good in us.

Perhaps we are willful, asking only for our own way—and must learn to say, "May Your will be done."

Perhaps we are weak, unable to bear pain or to endure adversity or loss—and we must be trained and disciplined into strength.

Perhaps our desires are only for earthly good, not for heavenly blessings—and we must be taught the transitory character of all worldly things, and led to desire things which are eternal.

Perhaps we are impatient—and must be taught to wait for God. We are like children in our eager restlessness—and need to learn self-restraint.

At the least, we may always know that silence is not refusal—that God hears and cares, and that when our faith has learned its lessons—He will answer in blessing!

"The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12:6

"God disciplines us for our good—that we may share in His holiness." Hebrews 12:10

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One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life

(J. R. Miller, "One Day at a Time" 1903)

"As your days—so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:25

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life
, is to live one day at a time. Really, we never have anything to do any day—but the bit of God's will for that day. If we do that well—we have absolutely nothing else to do.
Time is given to us in days. It was so from the beginning. This breaking up of time into little daily portions means a great deal more than we are accustomed to think. For one thing, it illustrates the gentleness and goodness of God. It would have made life intolerably burdensome if a year, instead of a day—had been the unit of division. It would have been hard to carry a heavy load, to endure a great sorrow, or to keep on at a hard duty—for such a long stretch of time. How dreary our common task-work would be—if there were no breaks in it, if we had to keep our hand to the plough for a whole year! We never could go on with our struggles, our battles, our suffering—if night did not mercifully settle down with its darkness, and bid us rest and renew our strength.

We do not understand how great a mercy there is for us in the briefness of our short days. If they were even twice as long as they are—life would be intolerable! Many a time when the sun goes down—we feel that we could scarcely have gone another step. We would have fainted in defeat—if the summons to rest had not come just when it did.

We see the graciousness of the divine thoughtfulness in giving us time in periods of little days, which we can easily get through with—and not in great years, in which we would faint and fall by the way. It makes it possible for us to go on through all the long years and not to be overwrought, for we never have given to us at any one time—more than we can do between the morning and the evening.

If we learn well the lesson of living just one day at a time, without anxiety for either yesterday or tomorrow, we shall have found one of the great secrets of Christian peace. That is the way God teaches us to live. That is the lesson both of the Bible and of nature. If we learn it, it will cure us of all anxiety; it will save us from all feverish haste; it will enable us to live sweetly in any experience.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

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Our thoughts build our character

(J. R. Miller, "The Lesson of Love" 1903)

"When, on my bed, I think of You, I meditate on You during the night watches." Psalm 63:6

It is a law of life—that our thoughts build our character.

If we meditate on the purity, the holiness, the goodness, the love, the righteousness, of Christ—these qualities will print themselves upon our own hearts.

Paul has given us an infallible direction for the best spiritual culture.
"Whatever is true,
 whatever is noble,
 whatever is right,
 whatever is pure,
 whatever is lovely,
 whatever is admirable—
 if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
 think about such things
!" Philippians 4:8

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If we were directing the affairs of our own lives

(J. R. Miller, "The Lesson of Love" 1903)

We often think we could do better—if we were directing the affairs of our own lives. We think we could get more happiness and greater good out of life—if things were in our hands. We would at once eliminate all that is painful and unpleasant in our lot. We would have only prosperities, with no adversities; only joys, with no sorrows. We would exclude all pain and trouble from our life. Our days would all be sunny, with blue skies—and no clouds or storms. Our paths would all be soft and easy, and strewn with flowers—without thorns or any rough places. Would we not be happier—if we could direct our own affairs, and leave out the painful, the bitter, the adverse, and the sorrowful?

So most of us would probably say at first, before we have thought of the question deeply and looked on to the end. But really the greatest misfortune that could come to us in this world—would be to have the direction of the affairs, and the shaping of the experiences of our lives, put into our own hands!

We have no wisdom to know what is best for ourselves. Today is not all of life—there is a long future, perhaps many years in this world, and then immortality hereafter. What would give us greatest pleasure today—might work us harm in days to come. Present gratification might cost us untold loss and hurt in the future.

We want pleasure, plenty, and prosperity—but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, and the giving up of things that we greatly prize.

We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle—but perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most good for us, which will best mature our Christian graces, which will fit us for the largest service to God and man.

We should always remember that the object of living here, is not merely to have present comfort, to get along with the least trouble, to gather the most we can of the world's treasures, to win the brightest fame. We are here to grow into the beauty of Christ, and to do the portion of God's will that belongs to us!

There is something wonderfully inspiring in the thought, that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, for each life. We do not come drifting into this world—and do not drift through it like waves on the ocean. We are sent from God, each one of us with a divine plan for his life—something God wants us to do, some place He wants us to fill. All through our lives we are in the hands of God, who chooses our place and orders our circumstances, and makes all things work together for our good—and His glory. 

It is the highest honor that could be conferred upon us, to occupy such a place in the thought of God. We cannot doubt that His way for us is better than ours, since He is infinitely wiser than we are, and loves us so. It may be painful and hard—but in the pain and the hardness, there is blessing.

Of course we may not know all the reasons there are in the divine mind, for the pains and sufferings that come into our lives, or what God's design for us in these trials is. Yet without discovering any reasons at all, however, we may still trust God, who loves us with an infinite love—and whose wisdom also is infinite!

When we get to heaven, we shall know that God has made no mistake in anything He has done for us, however He may have broken into our plans—and spoiled our pleasant dreams!

It should be reason for measureless gratitude, that our lives are not in our own poor feeble hands—but in the hands of our infinitely wise and loving Father!

"My times are in Your hands!" Psalm 31:15

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The more Christ has suffered for us!

(Thomas Brooks, "The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures")

Christ is that golden pipe through which the golden oil of salvation runs!

The more Christ has suffered for us—the dearer Christ should be unto us. The greater and the bitterer Christ's sufferings have been for us—the greater and the sweeter should our love be to Him. O my friends! there is no love but a superlative love, which is any way suitable to the transcendent sufferings of dear Jesus. Oh,
  love Him above your lusts,
  love Him above your relations,
  love Him above the world,
  love Him above all your contentments and enjoyments;
  yes, love Him above your very lives!

Certainly the more bitter His sufferings have been for us, the more eminent should be our love to Him. Oh, how should this inflame our love to Christ! Oh, that our hearts were more affected with the sufferings of Christ! Who can tread upon these hot coals—and his heart not burn in love to Christ?

Oh, the infinite love of Christ—that He should leave His Father's bosom, and come down from heaven—that He might carry you up to heaven; that He who was a Son should take upon Him the form of a servant:
  that you slaves—should be made sons;
  that you enemies—should be made friends;
  that you heirs of wrath—should be made heirs of God!

To save us from everlasting ruin, Christ was willing to be made flesh, to  be tempted, deserted, persecuted, and to die upon a cruel cross! Oh what flames of love to Christ, should these things kindle in all our hearts!

Oh, let a suffering Christ lie nearest your hearts!

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Plato's wish

(J. R. Miller)

You are absolutely beautiful, my Beloved; there is no flaw in You!" Song of Songs 4:7

Plato expressed a desire that the moral law might become a living personage, that men seeing it thus incarnate, might be charmed by its beauty. Plato's wish was fulfilled in Jesus Christ! The holiness and the beauty of the divine law were revealed in Him. The Beatitudes contain an outline of the ideal life—but the Beatitudes are only a transcript of the life of Christ Himself! What He taught about love—was but His own love stated in a course of living lessons for His friends to learn. When He said that we should be patient, gentle, thoughtful, forgiving, and kind—He was only saying, "Follow Me!"

If we could gather from the most godly people who ever have lived, the little fragments of lovely character which have blossomed out in each, and bring all these fragments into one personality—we would have the beauty of Jesus Christ! In one person you find gentleness, in another meekness, in another purity of heart, in another humility, in another kindness, in another patience. But in the holiest of men, there are only two or three qualities of ideal beauty—along with much that is stained and blemished, mingled with these qualities. In Christ, however, all that is excellent is found, with no flaw!

"You are absolutely beautiful, my Beloved; there is no flaw in You!" Song of Songs 4:7

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The test of amusements

(J. R. Miller)

"Lovers of pleasure—rather than lovers of God" 2 Timothy 3:4

Is the love of pleasure growing upon you, gaining the power and the ascendency over you? Is it dulling the keenness of your zest for spiritual pleasures? Is it making Bible-study, prayer, communion with Christ, meditation upon holy themes—less sweet enjoyments than before? Is it making your hunger for righteousness, for God—less intense? Is it interfering with the comfort and blessing you used to find in worship services, or in Christian work?

If so, there is only one thing to do—hasten to return to God, cut off the pleasure which is imperiling the soul, and find in Christ the joy which the world cannot give, and which ever enhances the life. We must test all our pleasures and amusements by this rule—Are they helping us to grow into Christ-likeness and spiritual beauty?

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The ruined handkerchief

(J. R. Miller, "The Lesson of Love" 1903)

"We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

It is one of the wonders of divine love, that God will take even our blemishes and sins, when we truly repent of them and give them into His hands—and make them blessings to us in some way.

A friend once showed Ruskin a costly handkerchief, on which a blot of ink had been made. "Nothing can be done with that!" the friend said, thinking that the handkerchief was now ruined and worthless. Ruskin carried it away with him and after a time sent it back to his friend. In a most skillful and artistic way—he had made a fine design on the handkerchief, using the blot as its foundation. Instead of being ruined, the handkerchief was made far more beautiful and valuable.
Just so, God takes the flaws and blots and stains upon our lives, the disfiguring blemishes, when we commit them to Him, and by His marvelous grace—changes them into strength and beauty of character!

David's grievous sin, was not only forgiven—but was made a transforming power in his life.

Peter's pitiful fall
, became a step upward through his Lord's forgiveness and gentle dealing. Peter never would have become the man he afterward became—if he had not denied his Lord, and then repented and been restored.

There is one thing always to be remembered. Paul tells us that we become more than conquerors in all life's trials, dangers, struggles, temptations, and sorrows—only "through Him who loved us." Without Christ—we must be defeated. There is only one secret that can turn evil into good, pain into blessing—that is the love of Christ. There is only one Hand which can take the blotted life—and transform it into beauty.

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It is not easy for us to learn this lesson

(J. R. Miller, "Losing SELF in Christ" 1903)

"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Luke 9:23-24

Only as we learn to die to self—do we become like Christ.

Human nature seeks all for self—and none for Christ. Becoming a Christian is the taking of Christ into the life—in the place of self. Then all is changed. Life has a new center, a new aim. Christ comes first. His plan for our lives is accepted, instead of our own. It is no more what we would like to do—but "What does the Master want us to do?" It is no longer the pressing of our own will—but "May Your will, not mine, be done."

This is the foundation of all Christian living
—the dying of self—and the growing of Christ in the heart. So long as there remains any self-will, any unsubmission, any spirit of disobedience, any unconquered self, asserting its authority against the will of Christ—just so long, is our consecration incomplete.

This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ—is the only way to true usefulness. Not until self has been renounced, is anyone ready for true Christian service. While we are thinking how this or that will affect us, whether it will pay us to make this sacrifice or that self-denial; while we are consulting our own ease, our own comfort, our own interest or advantage in any form—we have not yet learned fully what the love of Christ means.

This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ—is the secret of Christian peace. When Christ is small, and SELF is large—life cannot be deeply restful. Everything annoys us. We grow impatient of whatever breaks our comfort. We grieve over little trials. We find causes for discontent in merest trifles. We resent whatever would hinder or oppose us. There is no blue sky in the 'picture', of which SELF is the center!

But when SELF decreases, and Christ increases—then the life of friction and worry is changed into quietness and peace. When the glory of Christ streams over this little, cramped, fretted, broken life of ours—peace comes, and the love of Christ brightens every spot and sweetens all bitterness. Trials are easy to bear, when
self is small—and Christ is large.

This lesson has its very practical bearing on all our common, every-day life. Naturally, we want to have our own way. We like to carry out our own plans and ambitions. We are apt to feel, too, that we have failed in life, when we cannot realize these hopes. But this is the world's standard! The successful worldling is the one who is able to master all life's circumstances, and make them serve him.

But the greatest thing possible in any life—is to have the divine plan for it fulfilled—even though it thwarts every human hope and dashes away every earthly dream. It is not easy for us to learn this lesson—that God's ways are always better for us than our own!

We make our little plans and begin to carry them out. We think we have all things arranged for our greatest happiness and our best good. Then God's plan breaks in upon ours—and we look down through our tears upon the shattered fragments of our fine plans! All seems wreck, loss, and disaster! But no—it is only God's larger, wiser, better plan—displacing our little, imperfect, shortsighted one!

It is true, that God really thinks about our lives—and has a purpose of His own for them, a place He would have us fill, a work He would have us do. It seems when we think of it, that this is scarcely possible—that each one of the lives of His countless children—should be personally and individually thought about by the Father. Yet we know that this is true of the least and lowliest of believers. Surely if God cares enough for us to make a plan for our life, a heavenly plan—it must be better than any plan of ours could be! It is a high honor, therefore, for His plan to take the place of ours, whatever the cost and the pain may be to us!

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We begin to be like Christ

(J. R. Miller, "The Life of Jesus")

"I am among you as one who serves." Luke 22:27

"He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him." John 13:4-5

Serving is not an easy lesson to learn. But it is a lesson we must learn—if ever we would become like our Master. He did not come to be served—but to serve. He served to the uttermost, just as He loved to the uttermost. Anything that needed to be done for another, He did as naturally and as simply as He breathed. He loved people, and was interested in them, and was ready always to be helpful to them. It never mattered what the service was, whether it was the saving of a soul, the curing of a grievous sickness, or the giving of a cup of water—He did the least as graciously and as divinely, as the greatest.

The washing of feet was the lowliest service any man could do for another. It was the work of the lowliest slave. Yet Jesus without hesitation, did this service for His own disciples. Thus He taught them that nothing anyone may ever need to have done—is unfit for the whitest hands. We begin to be like Christ—only when we begin to love others enough to serve them.

There is no surer test of the genuineness of Christian life, than in this matter of serving others. When we see the Son of God washing His disciples' feet—no service is too menial for us to do. A king may do the lowliest kindness to the poorest peasant in his realm, and his honor will only be enhanced by it.

"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet—you also should wash one another's feet." John 13:14

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The highest attainment in Christian life

(J. R. Miller, "The Life of Jesus")

"Do this in remembrance of Me." 1 Corinthians 11:25

The secret of all the noble heroisms of the Church, has been passionate love for Jesus!

The Lord's Supper was intended to keep Christ always vividly in remembrance. We are to think of Him, when we have the sacred memorials of His love in our hands, reminding us of what He did to redeem us. But we are to think of Him just as devoutly, when we are away from the sacred table—in the midst of worldly tasks and circumstances.

If we always remember Christ, it will keep us faithful in our loyalty—as true to Him out on the streets, and when we are tempted and tried—as when we are at His feet in prayer.

Remembering Christ, will transform us into His likeness. Our thoughts are the builders, which rear the temple of our character. If we think of unclean things—our lives will become unclean. If we think of earthly things—we will grow earthly. If we think of Christ, if thoughts of Him are in our mind and heart continually, we will be changed, moment by moment, into His beauty!

The highest attainment in Christian life—is to always remember Christ, never to forget Him, to keep His blessed face ever before us. Then we shall never lose His peace out of our hearts. Then we shall never fail Him in any duty or struggle. Then we shall never be lonely, for remembering Christ will keep us ever conscious of His gracious presence.

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Any moment we may be stricken down!

(J. R. Miller, "For a Busy Day" 1895)

"Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You." Psalm 143:9

Each day is full of dangers—dangers we cannot see, and from which we cannot protect ourselves. Disease lurks in the air we breathe, and hides in the water we drink, or in the food we eat. Along the street where we walk, on the railway over which we ride—there are perils. Any moment we may be stricken down! There may be enemies who are plotting against us, conspiring to do us harm.

There are certainly spiritual enemies, who are seeking to destroy us! The sunniest day is full of them. No African jungle is so full of savage and blood-thirsty wild beasts—as the common days in our lives are full of spiritual enemies and perils. These dangers are unseen—and hence cannot protect ourselves. "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy! He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!" 1 Peter 5:8

What, then, can we do? As we go out in the morning we can offer this prayer, "Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You." We can thus put our frail, imperiled lives—into the hands of our almighty God!

"Cast your burden upon the Lord—and He shall sustain you." Psalm 55:22. We are not promised that our prayers shall take the perils and temptations out of our day. It is not thus, that God usually helps. We are bidden to cast our burden upon the Lord—but we are not told that He will lift it away from us. The promise is that we shall be sustained and strengthened in bearing it.

We need the burden! It is God's gift to us, and has a blessing in it, which we cannot afford to miss. Prayer does not take our trials away—but it puts our life into the hands of God—so that in His keeping, we shall be kept from harm while we pass through our trials. It brings God's grace into our heart—to preserve us from falling into sin; and God's strength into our life—that we may be victorious over our enemies.

Not to pray as we go into the day's dangers and trials—is to meet them without the help of Christ, and surely to suffer hurt, and possibly to fall into sin!

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We have published Grace Gems for NOVEMBER in one file—most of which are from J. R. Miller. Miller has become a favorite author with many of our subscribers; a re-reading of his insightful, inspiring and challenging gems would be most profitable.