Small steps of faith


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So faith looks up and sails on, by Gods great Sun, not seeing one shore line or earthly lighthouse or path upon the way. Often its steps seem to lead into utter uncertainty, and even darkness and disaster; but He opens the way, and often makes such midnight hours the very gates of day.

Let us go forth this day, not knowing, but trusting.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

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August 27, 2014 · 7:00 am

Love grows in the shade


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In one of my garden books there is a chapter with a very interesting heading, “Flowers that Grow in the Gloom.” It deals with those patches in a garden which never catch the sunlight. And my guide tells me the sort of flowers which are not afraid of these dingy corners–may rather like them and flourish in them.

And there are similar things in the world of the spirit. They come out when material circumstances become stern and severe. They grow in the gloom. How can we otherwise explain some of the experiences of the Apostle Paul?

Here he is in captivity at Rome. The supreme mission of his life appears to be broken. But it is just in this besetting dinginess that flowers begin to show their faces in bright and fascinating glory. He may have seen them before, growing in the open road, but never as they now appeared in incomparable strength and beauty. Words of promise opened out their treasures as he had never seen them before.

Among those treasures were such wonderful things as the grace of Christ, the love of Christ, the joy and peace of Christ; and it seemed as though they needed an “encircling gloom” to draw out their secret and their inner glory. At any rate the realm of gloom became the home of revelation, and Paul began to realize as never before the range and wealth of his spiritual inheritance.

Who has not known men and women who, when they arrive at seasons of gloom and solitude, put on strength and hopefulness like a robe? You may imprison such folk where you please; but you shut up their treasure with them. You cannot shut it out. You may make their material lot a desert, but “the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”
–Dr. Jowett

“Every flower, even the fairest, has its shadow beneath it as it basks in the sunlight.”

Where there is much light there is also much shade.

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Let my life be filled, packed and crammed


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Wasted time, it’s often the bane of my existence. I putter and fret and think about wordly stuff that just doesn’t matter. My selfish thoughts take up far too much of my time and I stand surrounded by souls that need Christ. I stand convicted and ashamed. When I think about time, and it’s redeeming I realize I have so little left here to reach out to the people in my path and I try to regroup….let it be my prayer today to stop and share Christ with anyone who is willing to listen.

(Charles Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883)

“When men have much to say in a letter, and perceive that they have little paper left, they write closely.”

Looking at the shortness of life, and the much that has to be written upon life’s tablets–it befits us also to do much in a short space, and so to write closely.

“No day without a line!” is a good motto for a Christian.

A thoroughly useful life is very short, for it is but a span–but how much may be crowded into it for God, our souls, the Church, our families, and our fellows!

We cannot afford wide blanks of idleness. We should not only live by the day, but by the 20 minutes, as Wesley did. He divided each hour into three parts.

So scanty is our life’s space, that we must condense and leave out superfluous matter–giving room only to that which is weighty and of the first importance.

Lord, whether I live long or not, I leave to your discretion. But help me to live while I live, that I may live profitably. You can give life more abundantly. Let me receive it, and let my life be filled, packed and crammed, with holy thoughts and words and deeds to Your glory!

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short!” 1 Corinthians 7:29

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God uses the broken pieces


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And the rest, some on boards, some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land (Acts 27:44).

The marvelous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, with its trials and triumphs, is a fine pattern of the lights and shades of the way of faith all through the story of human life. The remarkable feature of it is the hard and narrow places which we find intermingled with God’s most extraordinary interpositions and providences.

It is the common idea that the pathway of faith is strewn with flowers, and that when God interposes in the life of His people, He does it on a scale so grand that He lifts us quite out of the plane of difficulties. The actual fact, however, is that the real experience is quite contrary. The story of the Bible is one of alternate trial and triumph in the case of everyone of the cloud of witnesses from Abel down to the latest martyr.

Paul, more than anyone else, was an example of how much a child of God can suffer without being crushed or broken in spirit. On account of his testifying in Damascus, he was hunted down by persecutors and obliged to fly for his life. but we behold no heavenly chariot transporting the holy apostle amid thunderbolts of flame from the reach of his foes, but “through a window in a basket,” was he let down over the walls of Damascus and so escaped their hands. In an old clothes basket, like a bundle of laundry, or groceries, the servant of Jesus Christ was dropped from the window and ignominiously fled from the hate of his foes.

Again we find him left for months in the lonely dungeons; we find him telling of his watchings, his fastings, and his desertion by friends, of his brutal and shameful beatings, and here even after God has promised to deliver him, we see him for days left to toss upon a stormy sea, obliged to stand guard over the treacherous seaman, and at last when the deliverance comes, there is no heavenly galley sailing from the skies to take off the noble prisoner; there is no angel form walking along the waters and stilling the raging breakers; there is no supernatural sign of the transcendent miracle that is being wrought; but one is compelled to seize a spar, another a floating plank, another to climb on a fragment of the wreck, another to strike out and swim for his life.

Here is God’s pattern for our own lives. Here is a Gospel of help for people that have to live in this every day world with real and ordinary surroundings, and a thousand practical conditions which have to be met in a thoroughly practical way.

God’s promises and God’s providences do not lift us out of the plane of common sense and commonplace trial, but it is through these very things that faith is perfected, and that God loves to interweave the golden threads of His love along the warp and woof of our every day experience.

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sorrowful yet always rejoicing


 

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As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10).

 

Sorrow was beautiful, but her beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the wood, and making little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss below. When Sorrow sang, her notes were like the low sweet call of the nightingale, and in her eyes was the unexpectant gaze of one who has ceased to look for coming gladness. She could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to her.

 

Joy was beautiful, too, but his was the radiant beauty of the summer morning. His eyes still held the glad laughter of childhood, and his hair had the glint of the sunshine’s kiss. When Joy sang his voice soared upward as the lark’s, and his step was the step of a conqueror who has never known defeat. He could rejoice with all who rejoice, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to him.

 

“But we can never be united,” said Sorrow wistfully. “No, never.” And Joy’s eyes shadowed as he spoke. “My path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom for my gathering, and the blackbirds and thrushes await my coming to pour forth their most joyous lays.”

 

“My path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the darkening woods, with moon-flowers only shall my hands be filled. Yet the sweetest of all earth-songs–the love song of the night–shall be mine; farewell, Joy, farewell.”

 

Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of a Kingly Presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him.

 

“I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, “for on His Head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. Before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, and I give myself to Him forever.”

 

“Nay, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great agony. I, too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy that I have known.”

 

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.” Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”

L.B. Cowman from “Streams in the dessert”.

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The Splendor of Kindness


 

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J.R. Miller

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Kindness has been called the small coin of love. The word is generally used to designate the little deeds of thoughtfulness and gentleness which make no noise in the world — rather than the large heroic acts which all men note and applaud. One may live many years and never have the opportunity of doing any great thing — but one may always be kind, filling all one’s day with gentle attentions, helpful ministries, little services of interest and sympathy, and small courtesies. Wordsworth speaks of “That best portion of a godly man’s life — his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”

Kindness is beautiful in its spirit and motive. It usually springs out of the heart spontaneously. The greater things men do are prepared for, planned for, and are done consciously, with intention and purpose. Kindness as a rule, is done unconsciously without preparation, without thought. This enhances its beauty.

There is no self-seeking in it, no thought of reward of any kind. It is done in simplicity, prompted by love, and is most pleasing to Christ.

The things we do consciously, with thought and intention, oft-times have much of self in them. The things we do without purpose or plan, are the truest indexes of the heart and mean most in God’s sight.

The world does not know how much it owes to the common kindnesses which so abound everywhere.

There had been a death in a happy home, and one evening, soon after the funeral, the family was talking with a friend who had dropped in, about the wonderful manifestation of human sympathy which their sorrow had called out. The father said he had never dreamed there was so much love in people’s hearts as had been shown to his family by friends and neighbors, even by mere acquaintances, that week. The kindness had come from all classes of people, from many from whom it was altogether unexpected, even from entire strangers. “It makes me ashamed of myself,” said the godly man, “that I have so undervalued the goodwill of those around me, and that I have failed myself so often in showing sympathy and kindness to neighbors and friends in their times of sorrow.”

No doubt it often takes trouble or sorrow to draw out the love there is in people. We all feel sympathetically even toward a stranger who is in grief or suffering. Death-crape on the door of a neighbor makes us walk by the house more quietly, more softly, as we think of those within sitting in their grief.

It may require sorrow or suffering to call out the kindly feeling — but the feeling is there all the time. No doubt there is cruelty in human hearts — but this is only the exception. The majority of people have hearts of kindness if only the right chord is struck.

It has been noted that among the poor there is even more neighborliness shown than among the rich. The absence of conventionality makes the life simpler. The poor mingle more freely in their neighborhood life. They share each other’s burdens. They minister to each other’s needs. They nurse each other in sickness and sit with each other in times of sorrow. Their mutual kindness does much to lessen their hardships and to give zest and happiness to their lives.

The ministry of kindness is unceasing. It fills all the days and all the nights. In the true home, it begins in pleasant greetings with the first waking moments, and all day goes on in sweet courtesies, in thoughtful attentions, in patience, in quiet self-denials, in obligingness and helpfulness.

Out in the world kindness goes everywhere with . . .
its good cheer,
its gladness of heart,
its uplift for those who are discouraged,
its strengthening words for those who are weary,
its sympathy with sorrow,
its interest in lives that are burdened and lonely.

Some of us, if we were to try to sum up the total of our usefulness, would name a few great things we have done:
a gift of money to some benevolent object,
the starting of some good work which has grown into strength,
the writing of a book which has done good to many lives,
the winning of honor in some service to our community or to our country.

But in every worthy life, that which has left really the greatest measure of good, has been its ministry of kindness. No record of it has ever been kept. People have not talked about it. It never has been mentioned in the newspapers. We do not even remember it ourselves. But wherever we have gone, day after day, if we have simply been kind to everyone, we have left blessings in the world which in the aggregate mean far more than the few large things we set down as the measure of our usefulness among men!

Our Lord’s wonderful picture of the Judgment reveals another phase of the splendor of kindness. He tells us that the little things we do — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, showing hospitality to the stranger, visiting the sick, and the other nameless ministries of love of which we take no account — if done in the right spirit, are accepted as though they had been actually done to Christ himself! He tells us that the godly will be surprised to know that in their kindly acts they had been ministering to the King, when they supposed they were only doing little things for needy neighbors. This revealing exalts to highest honor, the lowliest things of the common days, wrought in love for the Master.

The best thing we can do with our love, is not to watch for a chance to perform someone fine act that will shine before the world — but to fill all the days and hours with little kindnesses which will make countless hearts nobler, stronger and happier.

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

 

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Hearts broken, poured out


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I had a tiny box, a precious box
Of human love–my spikenard of great price;
I kept it close within my heart of hearts,
And scarce would lift the lid lest it should waste
Its perfume on the air. One day a strange
Deep sorrow came with crushing weight, and fell
Upon my costly treasure, sweet and rare,
And broke the box to atoms. All my heart
Rose in dismay and sorrow at this waste,
But as I mourned, behold a miracle
Of grace Divine. My human love was changed
To Heaven’s own, and poured in healing streams
On other broken hearts, while soft and clear
A voice above me whispered, “Child of Mine,
With comfort wherewith thou art comforted,
From this time forth, go comfort others,
And thou shalt know blest fellowship with Me,
Whose broken heart of love hath healed the world.”

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God will not throw away His jewels!


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(William Secker, “The Consistent Christian” 1660)

“Lord, I believe—help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

Lord, I see—but enlighten my darkness!
Lord, I hear—but cure my deafness!
Lord, I move—but quicken my dullness!
Lord, I desire—but help my unwillingness!

Wherever sin proves hateful—it shall not prove hurtful.

What an apology does a sorrowful Savior make for His
sleeping saints!
“The spirit is willing—but the flesh is weak!”

Take a carnal man, and what he can do—that he will not do.
Take a Christian man, and what he would do—that he cannot do.

God will pity impotency—but He will punish obstinacy.

It would be folly, indeed, to think that our fields have
no grain
in them—because there is some chaff about
the wheat; or that the ore had no gold in it—because
there is some dross mixed among it.

In heaven, there is service alone—without any sin.
In hell, there is sin alone—without service.
But on earth, there is sin and service in the same man
—as there is light and shade in the same picture.

Above us—there is light without any darkness.
Below us—there is darkness without any light.
But in this world—it is neither all day nor all night.

Though the lowest believer is above the power of sin—
yet the highest believer is not above the presence of sin!

It is in a living Christian that sin is to be mortified—but
it is only in a dying Christian that sin is to be destroyed.

When the body and the soul—are separated by mortality
—sin and the soul—will then be separated to eternity!

Sin never ruins—but where it reigns!

Sin is not damning—where it is disturbing!

The more trouble sin receives from us
—the less trouble sin does to us.

Sin is only a murderer—where it is a governor!

Our graces are our best jewels—but they do
not yield their brightest luster in this world.

The moon, when she shines brightest—has its spots;
and the fire, when it burns the hottest—has its smoke.

Sin is an enemy at the Christian’s back
—but not a friend in his bosom.

Although believers should be mournful—because
they have infirmities; yet they should be thankful
—because they are but infirmities.

It is true, they have sin in them—and that should
make them sorrowful. But it is just as true, that
they have a Savior for them—and that should
make them joyful.

The conduct of a Christian may sometimes
be spotted with infirmity—when the heart is
sound in the love of sanctity.

Jacob halted—and yet was blessed. As his blessing
did not take away his halting—so his halting did
not keep away his blessing.

The heavenly Bridegroom will not put out a believer’s
candle—because of the dimness of its burning; nor
will He overshadow a believer’s sun—because of the
weakness of its shining.

Though that vice may be found in us—for which God
might justly damn us; yet that grace is to be found
in Him—by which He will justly save us. He does not
come with water to extinguish the fire—but with wind
to disperse the smoke!

As death leaves the body soulless
—so death leaves the soul sinless.

“You of little faith—why did you doubt?” Poor Peter
had faith enough to keep him from drowning—but
not enough faith to keep him from doubting.

As Alexander’s painter could find a finger
to conceal the scar on his master’s face—so
when Jesus Christ draws the picture of the
saint’s excellency—He can find a covering
for all the scars of his infirmities!

God will not throw away His jewels—for
every speck of dirt which may be on them!

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The Cross


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It’s been so since long I have been here. My heart was injured but slowly healing. The past three years have been the most intense and difficult of my life. Loss and illness, sadness and frustration filled it and I needed time to process that and figure out how to keep moving. Battle weary, but not worn down I had to guard my heart for a season. I think I forgot how to do this blog thing in the process so this may be a jumbled mess. I apologize for that, but it’s at the least an exercise of opening my heart a little again.

In this season of my life I found myself pondering some strange things.  Well strange to most people probably.  I wondered what life would really be like if all of your comforts in life were taken away? I thought about why so many people I know are comfortable…cozy in homes with two car garages and plenty to eat, full of toys and Bluetooth and happy families.  Work all week and church on Sunday if you are a Christian, or a weekend full of honey-do lists and fun,  maybe a trip to a theme park or the beach. The occasional tragedy and hard times that we all face but even after life often goes back to trying to grasp that sense of comfort and normalcy again.   Vanity of all vanities as the very comfortable King Solomon would say.  Some people are born into abject poverty or chaos,  in one way or another much less comfortable circumstances.  Age old questions I guess and I  don’t have any answers, but  I still find myself mulling them over once in a while.  This story caused me to really stop and think about riches in this earthly kingdom, and far greater things  in the one to come http://www.lifenews.com/2014/06/10/meriam-ibrahims-brother-in-law-brutal-pre-execution-flogging-will-take-her-skin-off/

I think of people like Corrie Ten Boom who never really had a lot of money or luxury, but in a providence only God understands was asked to give up her comforts, most of her family and nearly her own life for the cause of Christ in the Holocaust.  I am so guilty of scanning social media, comparing myself to friends and wondering why I am less comfortable than them when in fact I am rich compared to most of the planet, and spiritually rich beyond all measure. God forgive this sinner for her discontent! Comfort, ease and a false sense of security are lures to my flesh and I know so much better than to even think they might make living temporarily better.  I don’t know a whole lot but in these past few years I have learned that  no matter the mood or circumstance I can lift my eyes to Christ, trusting that my heart will follow soon when I read His word and believe and contentment and joy flood my soul. What a gift we have Christian Brothers and Sisters! Like Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians  I can say “ for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”.   God’s promises are eternal, never fading and they are available to the most comfortable of us and the least.

I am going to quit yapping….Martyn Lloyd-Jones got me started and now I will let his words finish this. 

 

“To whom does the invitation of this cross come?  It comes to the failures, the people who know they have gone wrong, the people who are filled with a sense of shame, the people who are weary and tired and forlorn in the struggle. . . .

Do you despise yourself, kick yourself metaphorically, and feel you are no good?  Weary, forlorn, tired, and on top of it all, sad and miserable?  Nothing can comfort you.  The pleasures of the world mock you.  They do not give you anything.  Life has disappointed you, and you are sad, miserable and unhappy, and on top if it all, you have a sense of guilt within you.  Your conscience nags at you, condemns, raises up your past and puts it before you, and you know that you are unworthy, you know that you are a failure, you know that there is no excuse, you are guilty. . . .

And then on top of all this, you are filled with a sense of fear.  You are afraid of life, you are afraid of yourself and your own weakness, you are afraid of tomorrow.  You are afraid of death, you know it is coming and you can do nothing about it, but you are afraid of it. . . .

This is the amazing thing about the cross.  It comes to such a person, and it is to such a person above all others that it brings its gracious and its glorious invitation.   What does it say to you? . . . You are not far off, and the cross speaks to you with sympathy.  That man dying on that cross was known as the friend of sinners.  He was reviled by the good and the religious because he sat down and ate and drank with sinners.  He had sympathy. . . .

Not only that, he will tell you that he is ready to accept you.

The world picks up its skirt and passes by.  It leaves you alone, it does not want to associate with you, you have gone down, you belong to the gutters, and the world is too respectable to have any interest in you.  Here is one who is ready to receive you and to accept you. . . . Sit down, he says.  Wait, stop, give up your activities.  Just as you are, I am ready to receive you.  In your rags, in your filth, in your vileness.  Rest.

What else?  Pardon.  The cross speaks of benediction, of pardon, joy and peace with God.  It tells you that God is ready to forgive you.  It says, listen to me, your sin has been punished.  I am here because this is the punishment of sin.  Listen to me, says the blood of sprinkling.  I have been shed that you might be forgiven, pardoned, at peace with God.  Oh, thank God, there is also cleansing here.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Cross (Wheaton, 1986), pages 168-170.

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The birds and lilies teach me better


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(Alexander Smellie, “The Hour of Silence” 1899)

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

Let me not worry — the birds and lilies teach me better. God spreads a table for the sparrows, and clothes the wayside anemones with their exquisite beauty. And I am dearer to Him by far. I, who am made in His image, and for whom His Son has died, and whom He means to dwell with Him in His Heaven — I occupy a larger place in His heart of hearts.

Let me not worry — it serves no good purpose to fret and worry. I cannot, with all my solicitude, add a cubit either to my stature or to my age. Anxiousness will only plunge me into mental distress and annoyance and sorrow, without bringing me any compensating advantage whatever. It knows how to wound; but ah! it does not know how to heal.

Let me not worry — a child should have more confidence in his Father’s wisdom and watchfulness and love. It may be excusable for worldly men and women to worry — but not a son in the royal and wealthy family of the King of kings! There is no justification for him if he goes worried and burdened during the day, and lies down to hours of sleeplessness at night.

“So do not worry . . . For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them!” Matthew 6:31-32

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