Tag Archives: Love

His Banner Over Me


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I like hiking solo. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of people, but being alone outside gives me peace and renewed energy after working long hours at my desk. There is a sense of smallness sometimes being alone in the wilderness, but I realize I am never alone. It’s easy to be consumed by fear and worry that something bad will happen to me but knowing that Christ loves me and cares for me gives me strength to face my fears no matter where I am. My friend Sam Powell writes so beautifully about the gracious love of Christ in this post from his blog : My only comfort

Reading it this morning gives me a renewed sense of hope, a gentle reminder that God’s love isn’t something I can earn or mess up. The love of Christ surrounds his children, I don’t know about you but I can’t meditate on that enough. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. That’s enough to carry me to my eternal home no matter how tough the journey .

My Only Comfort

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. (Sol 2:4 KJV)

Here’s an astounding thought. God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. We are all his workmanship, and he can do with us as he pleases. He has every right to command, to exact obedience and even to kill and destroy. He is a just God. He is a holy God. He cannot dwell with sin. He hates the wicked with eternal, unquenchable fire. And we are all sinners.

But it is God’s will to be merciful. He longs to restore fellowship with his people. But in order for God to restore relationship with His people, his people must put away their evil deeds and obey. They must be cleansed from their sins. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked and he calls all of us to obey, to…

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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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Love of the brethren


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“Love for the brethren is far, far more than finding agreeable the society of those whose temperaments are similar to or whose views accord with my own. It pertains not to mere nature, but is a spiritual and supernatural thing. It is the heart being drawn out to those in whom I perceive something of Christ. Thus it is very much more than a party spirit; it embraces all in whom I can see the image of God’s Son. It is, therefore, a loving them for Christ’s sake, for what I see of Christ in them. It is the Holy Spirit within attracting and alluring me with Christ indwelling my brethren and sisters. Thus real Christian love is not only a Divine gift, but is altogether dependent upon God for its invigoration and exercise. We need to pray daily that the Holy Spirit will call forth into action and manifestation, toward both God and His people, that love which He has shed abroad in our hearts.” ~ A W Pink

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Love of the Brethren.


John Newton’s Letters
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Love to the brethren

Dear Sir,

The Apostle having said, “Marvel not, my brethren,if the world hates you ” , immediately subjoins
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” By the manner of his expression, he sufficiently intimates, that the lack of this love is so universal,until the Lord plants it in the heart, that if we possess it, we may thereby be sure he has given us of his Spirit, and delivered us from condemnation. But as the heart is deceitful, and people may be awfully mistaken in the judgment they form of themselves, we have need to be very sure that we rightly understand what it is to love the brethren, before we draw the Apostle’s conclusion from it, and admit it as an evidence in our own favor, that we have passed from death unto life. Let me invite you, reader, to attend with me a little to this subject.

There are some COUNTERFEITS of this love to the brethren, which it is to be feared have often been mistaken for it, and have led people to think themselves something, when indeed they were nothing. For instance:

1. There is a natural love of the brethren. People may sincerely love their relations, friends, and benefactors, who are of the brethren, and yet be utter strangers to the spiritual love the Apostle speaks of. So Orpah had a great affection for Naomi, though it was not strong enough to make her willing with Ruth to leave her native country,and her idol-gods. Natural affection can go no farther than to a personal attachment; and those who thus love the brethren, and upon no better ground, are often disgusted with those things in them,

which the real brethren chiefly love one another.

2. There is likewise a love of convenience. The Lord’s people are gentle, peaceful,benevolent,swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. They are desirous of adorning the doctrine of God their Savior, and approving themselves followers of him who pleased not himself, but spent his life in doing good to others. Upon this account,those who are full of themselves, and love to have their own way,may like their company, because they find more compliances and less opposition from them, than from such as themselves. For a while Laban loved Jacob; he found him diligent and trustworthy, and perceived that the Lord had prospered him upon Jacob’s account; but when he saw that Jacob flourished, and apprehended he was likely to do without him, his love was soon at an end; for it was only founded in self-interest.

3. A party-love is also common. The objects of this are those who are of the same sentiment, worship in the same way, or are attached to the same minister. Those who are united in such narrow and separate associations, may express warm affections, without giving any proof of true Christian love; for upon such grounds as these, not only professed Christians, but Jews and Turks, may be said to love one another: though it must be allowed, that, believers being renewed but in part, the love which they bear to the brethren is too often debased and alloyed by a mixture of selfish affections.

The principle of true love to the brethren,is the love of God—that love which produces obedience: 1Jo. 5:2; “By this we know that we love the children of God, if we love God, and keep his commandments.” When people are free to form their connections and friendships, the ground of their communion is in a sameness of inclination. Christian love is spiritual. The children of God, who therefore stand in the relation of brethren to each other, though they have too many unhappy differences in points of smaller importance, agree in the supreme love they bear to their heavenly Father, and to Jesus their Savior; of course they agree in disliking and avoiding sin,which is contrary to the will and command of the God whom they love and worship. Upon these accounts they love another, they are like-minded; and they live in a world where the bulk of mankind are against them, have no regard to their Beloved, and live in the sinful practices which his grace has taught them to hate. Their situation, therefore, increases their affection to each other. They are washed by the same blood, supplied by the same grace,opposed by the same enemies, and have the same heaven in view: therefore they love one another with a pure heart fervently.

The properties of this love, where its exercise is not greatly impeded by ignorance and bigotry,are such as prove its heavenly original. It extends to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, cannot be confined within the pale of a denomination, nor restrained to those with whom it is more immediately connected. It is gentle, and not easily provoked; hopes the best, makes allowances for infirmities, and is easily entreated. It is kind and compassionate; and this not in words only, but sympathizes with the afflicted, and relieves the indigent, according to its ability; and as it primarily respects the image of Christ in its objects, it feels a more peculiar attachment to those whom it judges to be the most spiritual,though without undervaluing or despising the weakest attainments in the true grace of the Gospel.

They are happy who thus love the brethren They have passed from death unto life; and may plead this gracious disposition, though not before the Lord as the ground of their hope, yet against Satan,when he would tempt them to question their right to the promises.

But, alas! as I before hinted,the exercise of this love, when it really is implanted, is greatly obstructed through the remaining depravity which cleaves to believers. We cannot be too watchful against those tempers which weaken the proper effects of brotherly love, and thereby have a tendency to darken the evidence of our having passed from death unto life.

We live in a day when the love of many (of whom we would hope the best) is at least grown very cold. The effects of a narrow,a suspicious, a censorious, and a selfish spirit, are but too evident among professors of the Gospel. If I were to insist at large upon the offenses of this kind which abound among us, I would seem almost reduced to the necessity, either of retracting what I have advanced,or of maintaining that a great part (if not the greatest part) of those who profess to know the Lord, are deceiving themselves with a form of godliness,destitute of the power: for though they may abound in knowledge and gifts, and have much to say upon the subject of Christian experience, they appear to lack the great, the inimitable, the indispensable criterion of true Christianity, a love to the brethren; without which,all other seeming advantages and attainments are of no avail. How is this disagreeable dilemma to be avoided?

I believe those who are most under the influence of Divine love, will join with me in lamenting their deficiency. It is well that we are not under the law, but under grace; for on whatever point we try ourselves by the standard of the sanctuary,we shall find reason to say, “Enter not into judgment with your servant, O Lord.” There is an amazing and humbling difference between the conviction we have of the beauty and excellence of Divine truths, and our actual experience of their power ruling in our hearts. In our happiest hours, when we are most affected with the love of Jesus, we feel our love fervent towards his people. We wish it were always so; but we are poor inconsistent creatures, and find we can do nothing as we ought, but only as we are enabled by his grace. But we trust we do not allow ourselves in what is wrong; and, notwithstanding we may in particular instances be misled by ignorance and prejudice, we do in our hearts love the brethren,account them the excellent of the earth,and desire to have our lot and portion with them in time and in eternity. We know that the love we bear them is for his sake; and when we consider his interest in them,and our obligations to him, we are ashamed and grieved that we love them no better.

If we could not conscientiously say thus much,we should have just reason to question our sincerity, and the safety of our state; for the Scriptures cannot be broken,nor can the grace of God fail of producing in some degree its proper fruits. Our Savior,before whom we must shortly appear as our judge, has made love the characteristic of his disciples; and without some evidence that this is the prevailing disposition of our hearts, we could find little comfort in calling him God. Let not this be accounted legality, as if our dependence was upon something in ourselves. The question is not concerning the method of acceptance with God, but concerning the fruits or tokens of an accepted state. The most eminent of these, by our Lord’s express declaration, is brotherly love. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,if you love one another.”

No words can be plainer; and the consequence is equally plain, however hard it may bear upon any

, that, though they could speak with the tongues of angels, had the knowledge of all mysteries, a power of working miracles, and a zeal prompting them to give their bodies to be burned in defense of the truth; yet if they love not the brethren, they are but as sounding brass or tinkling cymbals: they may make a great noise in the church and in the world; they may be wise and able men,as the words are now frequently understood; they may pray or preach with great fluency; but in the sight of God their faith is dead,and their religion is vain.

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The unchanging friend


The Unchanging Friend

(Anonymous)

The evening was calm and pleasant, enlivened by a gentle breeze and the rays of the declining sun. At the door of a little cottage, sat an old man. His hair was white, his form was bent, and his dim eyes were fixed on the richly-tinted clouds. Was he admiring the simple grandeur of an evening sky? I think not. His features wore a sad and troubled expression, as if his mind were occupied by thoughts which had but little connection with the objects around him. And so indeed it was. He was thinking of the uncertain and unsatisfying nature of earthly friendship; he was musing over a painful proof which he had that day received of the ingratitude and unkindness of one whom he had loved and cherished in years gone by.

“It is trying, very trying,” he said, “to be thus deceived and injured by an old friend. It is not an enemy that has done this — but it was my companion and familiar friend. He was the last person from whom I would have expected such treatment; I always reposed the most perfect confidence in him. Oh, what is friendship? It is like a slender reed, which, when leaned upon, often pierces us through with many sorrows!”

The old man’s feelings had been sadly wounded, and his mind was much disturbed. But, perhaps, just then the serene aspect of nature soothed him, or perhaps bright memories of loved and faithful ones reproached him for his indiscriminate censure; for he added, in a more cheerful tone, “Not that all friends prove false and changeable. Oh no! I have known and shared too much of the warm and unselfish and continued affection of others, to believe that friendship is nothing but a name. In prosperity and in adversity I have found that there are true friends. I have loved — and I have been loved; I have trusted — and I have been confided in. Life would indeed have been dreary without the sympathy and communion of friends — especially of Christian friends.

“And yet, at the best, earthly friendships are very imperfect. Liable to little mistakes — to partial interruptions; or, if unvarying in their character — they are incapable of entering into all our feelings, or of responding to all our emotions. And how slight the tenure by which they are held! A few weeks, a few days, nay, a few hours — and the most loved of our circle may be removed from us! Death severs the closest and the fondest ties. In yonder churchyard lie the remains of those who were once my dearest companions. Many gathered round me in early life, and set out with me on the pilgrimage to the celestial city; but they have finished their course — and now I am left alone. The grave has divided us — at least for a little while.”

Ah, in the last half of that sentence, there was a cheering truth involved, and the old man felt its sweet influence steal over him.

“For a little while! — yes, we shall meet again. They will not return to me — but I shall go to them. I sorrow not as others without hope, for I know that those who sleep in Jesus, God will bring with him — and so shall we ever be with the Lord. In this world of partings, how delightful is the assurance of a speedy and lasting re-union with all those dear friends who have departed in the true faith of Christ!”

Like the sunshine bursting through a dark cloud, this bright anticipation almost dispelled the old man’s sadness; and it was followed by a thought so full of consolation and joy, that he speedily forgot the unpleasant circumstance which had lately agitated his feelings.

“Yet it is still more delightful to remember that I have an ever-living, an almighty Friend! The best earthly friends may change or die — but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will never leave me, he will never forsake me. Oh, why should I mourn over the loss or the inconstancy of earthly friends — when my kind and sympathizing Savior is ever with me?”

Reader, you cannot have advanced thus far in the experience of life without having learned, like this aged pilgrim, that instability and uncertainty are associated with all human affections. You have doubtless mourned over those friends whom time or circumstances, or death have parted from you; but have also rejoiced in the assurance of Christ’s perpetual and never-changing friendship? Ah, there are many who have been deceived and disappointed in the trust which they have reposed in their fellow-creatures — and who have also never sought that Heavenly Friend with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning! There are many who have hewn out to themselves broken cisterns which could hold no water — who have yet refused to turn, when weary and dissatisfied, to the Fountain of living waters.

“O you who driest the mourner’s tear,
How dark this world would he,
If, when deceived and wounded here,
We could not fly to Thee!”

And it is dark to those who, in their hours of sorrow and desertion — have no confidence in the Savior, no reliance on his love and sympathy. The heart that has none on earth or in Heaven around whom to entwine, must indeed be a desolate and drooping heart! God grant that it may never be ours! Nor can it if we are united by a simple and living faith to Christ, for we are then linked with those whom he graciously calls his “friends;” and are assured that we possess at all times and under every circumstance, his tender and unwavering regard. How cheering and all-sustaining, amidst the separations, the imperfections, and the declensions which mark the fairest of earthly friendships — is the consciousness that we have an unchanging and unfailing Friend, who is always ready to impart to us his sympathy and his support.

We would not undervalue the preciousness of earthly love. It is one of the choicest gifts which God bestows upon a fallen world. It is a relic of Paradise and a type of Heaven. Yet still we are taught by experience, how precarious is the tie which binds us to the dearest and most beloved earthly friend. It is impossible to help feeling — without the least inclination towards misanthropy — that our affections are sometimes misplaced, that our dependence is often productive of disappointment. Imperfection and uncertainty are stamped on all the objects and relationships of earth; for “this is not our rest — because it is polluted!” Micah 2:10. We are destined for a better country, the bright inhabitants of which are linked in pure and immortal friendship.

And while we anticipate with gladness, the period which shall unite us with that wholly and happy brotherhood — we will remember our best Friend — the Friend that sticks closer than a brother — and fearlessly anchor our troubled and unsatisfied hearts in his deep and changeless love. That resting-place for the heart never has failed — never can fail. The circumstances which enfeeble, suspend, and terminate many of the friendships which are formed between man and man — possess no influence over the emotions which the Savior feels towards his chosen friends, and are incapable of altering the position in which, if Christians, we stand with regard to Christ.

For instance, it frequently happens that the distance which intervenes between some friend and ourselves diminishes, and at length, perhaps, closes our friendship. He does not intend, when separated, to forget us — but absence gradually lessens the strength of his attachment; his correspondence almost imperceptibly declines, or, through unavoidable circumstances, is hastily ended; and as time rolls on, he grows more and more indifferent towards us. Had he always remained near us, and continued the personal fellowship which once subsisted between us, he might not have changed; but in his removal, he verifies the truth of the old adage, “Out of sight — out of mind.” Our aged readers can doubtless confirm by their own experience, the truth of this statement. They can recall to mind some, it may be several, of their early acquaintances thus geographically divided from them, who have for many years been as strangers to them.

But the Savior, although personally absent from his people, never for one moment forgets them. From the time when he departed from his disciples at Bethany, where a cloud received him out of their sight — he gave them the most indisputable and uninterrupted proofs of his unchanged affection. He ascended then as a triumphant conqueror to Heaven, and was enthroned at the right hand of God; but the glory which as the Mediator was bestowed upon him could not intercept from his view the few poor fishermen of Galilee; nor could the songs of angelic adoration which he received, hush the earnest supplications that rose from that little band who were assembled in an upper chamber at Jerusalem. No, his love was the same in Heaven — as it had been on earth; and the rich and abundant gifts which were poured forth upon his faithful disciples were the immediate results of his exaltation and intercession. He consoled and guided them by his Spirit, and strengthened them for the avowal and defense of his truth.

In his remonstrance with the persecuting Saul, he distinctly identified himself with his people, estimating the injuries done to them as if inflicted upon himself: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

But it is unnecessary to multiply proofs, either from the early or subsequent history of the Church, of the unvarying character of that regard which the ascended Redeemer cherishes for all those who through grace, have accepted his gracious overtures of friendship. We need only appeal to yourselves, dear readers, as witnesses to the cheering fact that the love of Christ — that love which surpasses knowledge — is unaffected by the withdrawal of his personal presence from among us. His continued intercessions on our behalf, his rich impartation to us of all needful grace, and his preparation of a place for us in his Father’s house — are sure evidences of his perpetual and affectionate remembrance.

Again, one of the causes which render human friendship so variable, is alteration in worldly circumstances. When competency is exchanged for poverty; when, in the expressive language of Scripture, we are “made low” — what a change passes over the little world in which we dwell! That friendship is indeed true and valuable, which will stand such a testing-time; for while many gather round us in prosperity — few cleave to us in adversity.

It is a bitter trial to find ourselves neglected and forsaken when we are most in need of support and comfort; but it is a sanctified trial if it teaches us that it is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man; if it endears to us that Heavenly Friend, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. Lowly indeed was his lot on earth; he had nowhere to lay his head; and his chosen friends and associates were from the humblest ranks of society. It was to “the poor” that he especially proclaimed the blessings of his gospel; and the sarcastic designation of his opponents, which styled him “a friend of publicans and sinners,” was, in reality — beautifully expressive of his true character.

By his own position in the world, by his mingling chiefly with those who were poor and despised of men, and by the low and obscure situations in which the majority of his disciples have served him — poverty has been elevated and dignified. Not many noble, not many mighty, does the Savior call; but he chooses the poor in this world, and makes them heirs of that glorious kingdom which he has promised to those who love him.

The wealthy and the fashionable may grow cold and distant — when poverty and distress enter our home; but Christ makes our season of affliction — only the means of drawing us more closely to himself. Our loss of property or income, instead of raising a barrier between him and us — links us more firmly together! He soothes our spirit, sympathizes with our grief, and promises that he will never forsake us.

Or it is possible that the natural infirmities of old age and a long-declining state of health — may gradually narrow the circle of our friends. Deafness, or blindness, or immobility, or sickness — makes our society less attractive than formerly. It is wearisome, perhaps, for them to sit beside us day after day and strive to interest us; and, therefore, some who were once warm and even sincere in their professions of attachment to us — grow tired of the society of an aged invalid, and their visits become few and far between. We feel sometimes, when contrasting the present with the past, that we are forsaken and alone in the world, that we are a burden to ourselves and to others. Old age brings with it a sensitiveness on this point which occasions much mental disquietude, and frequently produces a fretful and repining spirit.

Let us endeavor, in moments of loneliness and depression, to tranquilize and divert our thoughts — by dwelling upon the steadfastness of Christ towards us. He does not cast us off in the time of old age, nor forsake us when our strength fails; he is not weary of listening to the oft-repeated narrative of our needs and ailments, nor reluctant to cheer the solitude of life’s evening; but he beautifully fulfills to us his own promise, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!” Isaiah 46:4

As we walk with trembling steps through the valley of the shadow of death, as we miss from our side the friend on whose arm we might have leaned for support and protection; the Savior bids us to fear no evil, because he is with us; his rod and his staff will comfort us; and his presence shall perpetually abide with us. Our weakness and our infirmity may tend to loosen some of our earthly ties — but cannot diminish his kind sympathy with us. Friends may fail us — but Jesus will never leave us.

And even should our friends prove faithful, should they retain in old age, the affection which they manifested towards us in youth — yet how suddenly and irrevocably may they be parted from us by death! “Our days on earth are like a passing shadow — gone so soon without a trace!” 1 Chronicles 29:15.

The dearest ones around whom our affections are so firmly entwined, may soon be summoned into the presence of their Maker, and leave us to tread the remainder of our lengthened journey alone. We may have to see the grave opened for those whose hands we imagined would tenderly close our eyes at the last. Have we not already seen this? Have not the separations of the tomb, been painfully realized in our past history? The green hillock, the marble tablet — are they not cherished memorials of the departed, who still live in our hearts and are enshrined in our recollections? More eloquent than the preacher’s words, more powerful than the written admonition — are the vacant seats in our households — yes, and at our firesides!

Ah! the stern precept, “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” — has received frequent and practical illustration in the events of bygone days. The tolling bell has mournfully reminded us that change and decay are stamped upon all the things of earth. This has darkly shadowed forth the solemn truth that “In the midst of life we are in death.”

Well, be it so; we will not murmur that God gathers the ripest fruit and the choicest flowers from our gardens — since he gives us himself as our portion. We will not forget, as we sorrow over the dead, that “the Lord lives!” While thinking of the friends whom the last enemy has snatched from our grasp, we will gratefully remember that Savior from whom neither death nor the grave can part us. Around our desolated hearths, and in our solitary evening, his voice is heard sweetly saying unto us, “Fear not — for I am with you!”

Yes, Lord, you are with us — our firm, our changeless, our undying Friend! “You are the same, and your years shall have no end.” Death cannot divide you from your people, for that vanquished foe has no power over its almighty Conqueror; and it cannot separate them from their Savior, for its touch will only usher them into his immediate and visible presence. “There is no death; what seems so, is transition.”

Oh, we are “persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature — shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

Then let us comfort one another with this thought. Let the recollection of our indissoluble union with Christ, and of his eternal and unchanging affection for us, solace and refresh our spirits. “Having loved his own who were in the world — he loved them unto the end.” Yes, neither external circumstances, nor the decay of nature, nor even continual infirmity and sinfulness — can alienate the heart of the Savior from those whom he has loved, chosen, and called, and blessed. Heaven and earth may pass away — but his Word — that Word which assures us of the freeness and perpetuity of his love — abides forever.

Aged Christian! dwell much on the character and conduct of this mighty and faithful Friend! “Casting all your care upon him — for he cares for you.” As life declines — let his preciousness increase. As the associations of earth gradually lessen — cling more closely and confidingly to him. Think of him as preparing a place for you in the Heavenly mansions, and as coming to receive you unto himself, that where he is — there you may be also. And if, while now you see him not, you can rejoice in him with joy that is unspeakable and full of glory — what will be the rapture of your emancipated spirit when you are admitted to full and uninterrupted communion with him! If now, while you only behold him as through a glass darkly, he is in your apprehension the fairest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely one — then how will your admiration be increased when you behold him face to face! If now, while you know him but in part, your acquaintance with him is the source of purest and inexpressible pleasure — then who shall estimate the happiness and the delight which shall result from your knowing even as you are known?

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Biblical Friendship


Fantastic Sermon from Sonship Ministries:

http://sonshipministries.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/biblical-freindship.mp3

A wonderful article on Biblical Friendship from Joseph E.  O ‘Day.

A look at what makes a real friend

Having friends and being friends are two very different things.

At the end of the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence the Angel leaves George Bailey a copy of Mark Twain’s adventure story, Tom Sawyer. Surrounded by scores of friends singing in celebration of Christmas, George smilingly opens the front cover, and we see what Clarence has wisely written: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”

Friendship experiences are universal. Many of us have known the satisfaction, security and benefits of good friendships. We have also known people who we thought were friends, only to have them betray us, hurt us or disappoint us. And if we were brutally honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that at sometime in our lives, we too have betrayed, hurt or disappointed our friends.

We all have our own ideas about friendship. Children usually think of friends as those with whom they play or have fun. Teens often define their friends as the kids they cruise around with on a Friday night or whoever is available to do things with. Others consider their friends to be the people they know. But maybe a real friend is something more: perhaps it’s one who is willing to do things for you even if it’s inconvenient, someone who will stick up for you, someone who really cares.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about friendship, especially in Proverbs. But its perspective is different from what we might think. Our preoccupation is usually with having friends. The Bible’s focus is on being a friend. This subtle shift of simple participles creates an antithetical view of staggering proportions. The difference in perspective is paramount, and the implications are life-changing.

When I’m concerned with having friends, my focus is on myself and my own needs. But when my desire is to be a friend, I’m thinking about other people—I’m caring more about others than I do about myself. The simple and ironic truth is that those who want to have friends must first be a friend to others. Those who are true friends to others will never lack for friends. True, many people will never reciprocate with friendship in return, but many others will. The wounds will be many, but so, too, will be the rewards.

Unfortunately, our society has watered down the concept of friendship so much that many people have never had a true friend and therefore do not know what it means to be a true friend. In his book Making Friends and Making Them Count (IVP®), Em Griffin calls friendship an art. More than ever before, we each need to learn, or relearn, the art of being a true friend. This is the perspective we must bring to bear on our lives, and we can find this perspective in the Bible: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, NIV).

A frequent element of Hebrew poetry is parallelism, and we see such a device used in this verse. The first line makes a general observation which is qualified, explained or expanded by the second line. We learn several things from this verse. First, a friend is someone who continues to love, and to show that love, whatever the circumstances. Second, a friend is born for adversity—not his or her adversity, but yours. In other words, the true test of a friend is whether or not he or she is there for you in the bad times, the tough times. Third, a friend is like a brother—short of death, you can never get rid of him.

WHAT REAL FRIENDS ARE

A true friend is someone who helps you when the need is very great, jumping willingly into the fray, possibly suffering harm, just out of love and friendship. In this respect, a true friend may prove more dependable than a real brother. Blood is supposed to be thicker than water, but many of us have experienced siblings who would rather not be bothered with our problems. Some of us have found friends to compose a much better family than the one into which we were born. Such is the teaching of Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)—“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” But wait . . . Proverbs has more to say:

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.

Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father. . . .

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:6, 9–10, 17, NIV).

It’s easy to remember those movies or books where the main character is fooled both by the kindness of an enemy and the effrontery of a friend. This is the whole plot of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Lear’s two older daughters tell him how much they love and honor him, when in reality they despise him. Meanwhile, his youngest daughter refuses to boast of her love for him, so he believes her to be a disloyal and unfaithful daughter. Therefore, he divides his kingdom between the older daughters but throws out the youngest. Later, the two older daughters betray him, depose him and put out his eyes. It is then that he realizes his folly and who it is who really loves him.

Sometimes friends can fool us, too, just like King Lear’s youngest daughter. For they are the ones who care enough to hurt our feelings if it means we will be better off for it. After all, who is going to tell you that your breath smells like a dog’s except your best friend or your worst enemy?

friendship isn’t easy

Sometimes it’s tough to be a friend. But a real friend does not shy away from the abrasiveness that comes from rubbing iron against iron, as the proverb describes it. Though it may grate on our nerves, we have to take a risk and hope that our friend of today will still be our friend tomorrow.

Jesus shows us the ultimate commitment of friendship when he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Have you ever risked your life for a friend? Are you enough of a friend to anyone that you would dare to risk injury or death for them? These are hard questions, but such questions are the ultimate measure of friendship. Jesus met the test; he went the distance for his friends.

Another person who went the distance for his friend was Jonathan. His friendship with David is one of the most outstanding and moving stories in all of Scripture, perhaps in all of literature. We are introduced to Jonathan’s great friendship to David in 1 Samuel 19. In that chapter the jealous king Saul issues the order to kill David. But Jonathan defies the order. Not only this, he finds David and warns him of Saul’s plot. This puts Jonathan into a position of family disloyalty, but he manages to convince Saul to countermand his order.

In chapter 20 we find out that Jonathan loves David “as he loved himself.” He risks his very life to be David’s friend, because when Saul finds out that Jonathan would be happy to let David become king, he tries to kill Jonathan with a spear, just as he frequently did with David. Jonathan’s commitment to David was such that he defied and betrayed his own father. In Hebrew culture, this was unthinkable. Jonathan was faced with a tragic choice: to remain a faithful son to his treacherous and ungodly father and thus ensure David’s death, or to remain a faithful friend to David, the “man after God’s own heart,” and thus end the reign of his own family. It was a hard decision, but he chose the latter.

Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David. In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. . . . Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever’” (1 Samuel 20:34–35, 41–42, NIV).

Later, when Jonathan was killed in battle with the Philistines, David lamented his passing: “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women” (2 Samuel 1:26, NIV).

Few are the people blessed enough to know a committed friendship such as Jonathan’s. David calls Jonathan his brother, reminiscent of the verses from Proverbs. Jonathan was closer to David than a brother. He was closer than a wife. Such analogies speak deeply of commitment, for the fundamental bond between brother and brother, or husband and wife, is commitment. Commitment is the word that unlocks the real meaning of friendship.

tough love

David wrote a psalm which describes the person who loves both God and his neighbor. It also speaks pointedly of friendship. Psalm 15 summarizes the characteristics of the true friend.

Friends “speak the truth from their heart [and] do not slander with their tongue.”

Friends “do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors.”

Friends “stand by their oath even to their hurt.”

Friends “do not lend money at interest.”

Friendship is love expressed in acceptance and commitment. It is acceptance of another person and commitment to another person regardless of the consequences. Friendship is not a flippant relationship. It is consistent and unfailing love. It is being there when you’re needed and making no excuses. To be a true friend is to be a person someone can count on.

Joseph E. O’Day is Marketing Editor at Trinity International University and an elder in his church. Besides numerous articles, he has written Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts (IVP) and Imperial Guard, a science fiction novel available online at http://www.amazon.com.

©2001

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God with us


Psalm 46

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

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The Befriended Orphans


Jesus the Comforter

“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said”:
“No, I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you.”
John 14:18

Does the Christian’s path lie all the way through Beulah? No, he is forewarned it is to be one of “much tribulation.”

He has his Marahs as well as his Elims—his valleys of Baca as well as his grapes of Eschol.

Often is he left un-befriended to bear the brunt of the storm—his gourds fading when most needed—his sun going down while it is yet day—his happy home and happy heart darkened in a moment with sorrows with which a stranger (with which often a brother) cannot understand.

There is One Brother “born for adversity” who can.

How often has that voice broken with its silvery accents the muffled stillness of the sick-chamber!

“I will not leave you comfortless: the world may, friends may, the desolations of bereavement and death may; but I will not; you will be alone, yet not alone, for I your Savior and your God will be with you!”

Jesus seems to have a special love and affection for His orphaned and comfortless people. A father loves his sick and sorrowing child most; of all his household, that child occupies most of his thoughts.

Christ seems to delight to lavish His deepest sympathy on “him that has no helper.”

It is in the hour of sorrow His people have found Him most precious; it is in “the wilderness” He speaks most “comfortable unto them;” He gives them “their vineyards from thence”; in the places they least expected, wells of heavenly consolation break forth at their feet.

As Jonathan of old, when faint and weary, had his strength revived by the honey he found dropping in the tangled thicket; so the faint and woe-worn children of God find “honey in the wood”; everlasting consolation dropping from the tree of life, in the midst of the thorniest thickets of affliction.

Comfortless ones, be comforted! Jesus often makes you portionless here in this world, to drive you to Himself, the everlasting portion! He often dries every rill and fountain of earthly bliss, that He may lead you to say, “All my springs are in You.”

“He seems intend,” says one who could speak from experience, “to fill up every gap love has been forced to make; one of his errands from heaven was to bind up the broken-hearted.”

How beautifully in one amazing verse does He conjoin the depth and tenderness of his comfort with the certainty of it—“As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you, and you SHALL be comforted!”

Ah, how many would not have their wilderness-state altered, with all its trials, and gloom, and sorrow, just that they might enjoy the unutterable sympathy and love of this Comforter of the comfortless, one ray of whose approving smile can dispel the deepest earthly gloom!

As the clustering constellations shine with the most intense luster in the midnight sky, so these “words of Jesus” come out like ministering angels in the deep dark night of earthly sorrow. We may see no beauty in them when the world is sunny and bright; but He has laid them up in store for us for the dark and cloudy day.

“These things have I told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”

by John MacDuff

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