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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Think of Me
Back in the summer of 2018 I attended a presentation of Phantom of the Opera at my previous university (CYU) and took this video of one of my former students. I shot this with the camera on my Samsung tablet, so it is not professional by any means, but I think you can kinda get the feel of the Moment.
Rainfall is not a Drama major or even an English major, but like so many of my students, she is willing to step out of her major field of study (Chinese Language and Literature) and try something new. These kids love a challenge. I love watching kids perform—I always have—it’s part of the great fun of being a teacher. And as soon as I say “kids” I have to stop myself. My students are not kids anymore. They are entering adulthood and taking on the challenges of life. Rainfall is a graduate student at Peking University now—she will probably get a Ph.D and become a professor somewhere. Oh, how swiftly fly the years!
When it was young it would have been hard to imagine the change that has taken place in China and Chinese young people. I remember as a young person reading reports of the Red Guards in my Weekly Reader, bemused by the intensity of their devotion to a leader and system that we considered hostile to everything decent because of reports we had heard and read about the persecution of Christians. In those days, reports of persecution in China were not the sensationalized hyperbole that you often get today. Christians pastors really were spending years in prison for no other offense than preaching the gospel.
Never in those days could I have imagined that I would one day be sitting in China looking in horror at American students going berserk because someone who might challenge their thinking and invite them to examine their mindless dedication to the Godless moral relativism they had been brainwashed to believe was going to be speaking on their campus. The demons of the Cultural Revolution have moved to America.
In fact, I have found Chinese university students to be much more open minded than American university students. Are they programmed? Yes, no doubt. Media is tightly controlled in China (as it is in America in a different but no less diabolical way). But they don’t necessarily yield to that programming quite so quickly. They tend to be less political than American students, because China is not a democracy, so they have never been given the expectation that they should have something to say about who their leaders are.
I have said before that the two most uninformed groups of young people in the world today are Chinese young people and American young people. Chinese young people because they have limited information. American young people because they have too much information. Americans are inundated with trivia that buries the important and elevates the least useful and least important knowledge. But when I made that observation back in 2011, I did not foresee the extent to which media in America would become openly hostile to an objective treatment of available information. It is much worse now, and American young people are much the worse for it.
To put it in simple terms, China is a pre-Christian culture, and America is a post-Christian culture. There are problems with both. But I will say that working with young people in China is much, much preferable to attempting to deal with the rage dominated university culture that seems to characterize much of American higher education.
Labels: Academia, China Youth University
Friday, February 26, 2021
My 2020 - Reflections on Leaving Beijing
Phoebe, one of my former students, sent me this screenshot of her phone on Chinese New Year's Eve (February 11th) so I could see the cows dancing across her screen. This new year is the Year of the Ox. [Click for larger image.]
Chinese New Year is naturally a time of reflection for me, I guess partly because I first came to Beijing just before Chinese New Year in 2004. But this year it seems so even more because, ironically, the monumental events of 2020 actually fit the traditional lunar calendar better than the western calendar. The lunar year began the end of January of 2020. New Year's Eve was January 24th (according to the western calendar), and New Year's Day was January 25th. The lunar year just ended a couple weeks ago. New Year's Eve was February 11th, and the beginning of the new lunar year was February 12th, which, interestingly enough, is Abraham Lincoln's birthday according to the western calendar. So the lunar calendar for last year began with the Corona Virus, and ended with Donald Trump's second impeachment.
This is what I wrote in my journal on January 5th, 2020:
I do believe that this year will be a year of clarity as to my vision. I trust you to use this year to make things more clear to me, Father. I long to do your will. But I need to know what that will is. I do not want to say this to rush you. I want to be clear that I want to submit to your schedule, not squeeze you into mine. But I do believe that 2020 is going to bring clarity. Oh, give me deep and continuing resolve to abandon myself to the vision! Amen and amen.Sometime later, something very strange began to happen. I had a painting of old Beijing that I had purchased from a painter many years ago. It had been hanging above my bed for many years. But suddenly, it began to fall down. It had hung there quietly for years, and now it fell down every time I touched it. I am not usually superstitious, but I couldn't help wondering...I said, "Lord, are you trying to tell me something?"
My journal again:
...The fact that I focus the covenant on China as a whole rather than just Beijing does not mean that Beijing is not important to me. But it does leave open the possibiity that you have intended all along to eventually bring me to Yunnan after a significant detour here. When I began to think about 2020 as the year of clarification of vision, I did not think to include that issue. But that picture kept falling down. So I began to think perhaps I should seek to clarify that issue in this year. This does not mean that I move in 2020. But I mean that somehow in this year I will have a clearer vision of whether Beijing was to be my initial place, or the place that I would generally live while traveling to other places in the summer. I don't know. Something tells me that I may be headed toward some kind of move. But something else tells me that in some way or another I will always be a Beijinger. I know this: If something happens with my current place of residence, I woulld be strongly inclined to leave Beijing. But if not, I am inclined to stay here during the year, and travel in the summer.A short time later (March 7th), my landlady told me the police had ordered that I had to leave. I don't know why--I was not given a reason. I told her that I would move in the summer.
You know, when the police give an order like that, it is impossible to know for sure where it came from. The only thing that is fairly certain in such circumstances is that it did not come from the police themselves. I am quite certain that somebody in the local Party apparatus decided I had to go, and told the police to get me out of there.
Anyway, whatever the reason, somebody gave the order, and that was it. I knew right away what I had to do. I told my landlady that I would move in the summer. I wasn’t sure what to do with my stuff, so I needed some time. Eventually, Sunny, a friend from Haidian church, arranged to store my stuff until I could find a place in Kunming. Believe it or not, she found the only guy I have ever met in this country who has a pickup. They came out and got my stuff, and stored it for me until I could find a place in Kunming.
I had told the police I would move by the end of May. This was the expiration of my current police registration. I really was not angry with the police for making me leave. I am a guest in China. If you ask your guest to leave, he should leave. But what really annoyed me is the way they treated my landlady. They called her and told her that she would have to pay a big fine if I did not leave. The reason I was being so stubborn about not leaving until the last day was because I had a house full of stuff and I didn’t just want to throw everything away. I did leave a lot of stuff—clothes, books, kitchen stuff. Just couldn’t take it all with me. Dishes are troublesome to pack, expensive to ship but very cheap to replace. I took very little of it with me: My yoghurt maker, my cast iron skillet, and some place settings that had been a gift from my university. I left, I suppose, half of my books and both of my bookcases, some clothes, and some other appliances that I might have been able to use, but just could not take with me. Moving is about loss.
The end of May, I went to the Chinese government Entry-Exit office to get an extension on my duration of stay. The problem is that I have a tourist visa now, and I am required to leave China every sixty days. But because of the virus, I had not been out since the beginning of January. I had gotten one extension at the end of February, then the government had given a blanket two month extension to all foreigners. That took me until the end of May. So before the end of May I needed to get another extension. But the Entry-Exit office told me that if I got another extension, they would cancel my visa. I felt very fortunate that I had made the decision to leave Beijing (not just Fragrant Hills), and that I already had everthing packed up and put in storage.
I bought a train ticket to Kunming on the high speed train. It was a sleeper ticket. I usually get a hard sleeper on the slow train because they are pretty cheap. A sleeper ticket on the high speed train is probably the most expensive train ticket in China. It cost me 1200 RMB (a little less than two hundred dollars). But it was worth it. You see, as a foreigner, I did not want to be fighting the issue of social distancing on a crowded train. There were very few people on the train I took. Three different officers came to me during the night, but when they ran my passport and checked my phone meta-data, they could see that I had been in Beijing since January. I did not know this at the time, but last spring, Beijing had a fifty day period with no new cases. So I was not a risk. They let me get off the train. The next day I went to the Entry-Exit office in Kunnming and tney assured me that they would not cancel my 10 year visa. God is good. He times everything just right.
Then began a period of apartment hunting that lasted five months. I don’t know…no place seemed quite right. But I was not discouraged. It’s frustrating, of course, but I waited with the quiet confidence that comes from knowing that if God has brought me to this place, he will take care of the details. The wait paid off. I found a place that meets my need.
Tonight is lantern festival. Lantern Festival is always two weeks to the day from New Year’s Day. This year, New Year’s Day was Friday, February 12th. Today is Friday the 26th. So two weeks. But New Year’s Eve was the 11th. So from the fireworks New Year’s Eve to the last remaining fireworks on the evening of Lantern Festival is 15 days.
The fireworks on Lantern Festival are not as ferocious as the ones on New Year’s Eve. But impressive, nonetheless. It seems to be a chance to use up all the leftover fireworks from the last two weeks of celebration. Years ago, I had an issue with my eyes where an eye muscle got paralyzed. I went to the doctor and they loaded me up with B12, which cured the problem. But somewhere in that process someone had recommended a Christian sister who was an ophthalmologist. I went to her mainly to get a recommendation for an optometrist, which she gave me. But it happened to be right at Lantern Festival time and she told me how they were so busy right on that day because of the fireworks. You can’t believe the kind of fireworks that average people handle in China during the Chinese New Year period. That may be part of the reason they have been banned in Beijing. The fireworks this year in Kunming reminded me of what I used to be able to see from my apartment in Beijing years ago. Back then (as in Kunming now), you did not need to go to a special location to see fireworks. Just look out the window of any apartment in the city.
So what does the next year hold? I am supposed to be leaving China every sixty days. But it has been more than a year since I was last outside of China. I go to the government office every month to get an extension and every time I tell them that as soon as the border is open, I will go to Vietnam. What then? We shall see.
So we have now entered the Year of the Ox. When I think about the Year of the Ox, I am reminded of the passage in Matthew where Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Do you know what a yoke is? It fits over the neck of the ox and it is what the ox uses to pull the load. The yoke is designed for two oxen. It fits over the neck of two oxen so that they can pull the load together. When they are training a young ox that has never pulled a load before, they put the young ox in the same yoke with an older, experienced ox so that all the young ox has to do is follow along—the old ox is pulling all the weight.
So Jesus is saying to us, “Would you like to be in the yoke with me? I will be the old ox. You can be the young ox. You don’t need to work hard. Just follow my lead. You don’t need to worry about going the wrong way. My yoke will be easy for you and my burden will be light for you, because I will be pulling the weight.”
Are you tired of going your own way? Are you tired of carrying your own load? Give your burdens to God in this Year of the Ox. He will carry them for you. Just walk side by side with him. He will lead you. He will guide you. Your yoke will be easy and your burdens will be light.
Labels: Chinese New Year
Monday, February 01, 2021
Streams in the Desert - February
This Thing is From Me
This thing is from me. - 1 Kings 12:24
"Life's disappointments are veiled love's appointments." —Rev. C. A. Fox
My child, I have a message for you today; let me whisper it in your ear, that it may gild with glory any storm clouds which may arise, and smooth the rough places upon which you may have to tread. It is short, only five words, but let them sink into your inmost soul; use them as a pillow upon which to rest your weary head. This thing is from Me.
Have you ever thought of it, that all that concerns you concerns Me too? For, "he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye" (Zech. 2:8). You are very precious in My sight. (Isa. 43:4) Therefore, it is My special delight to educate you.
I would have you learn when temptations assail you, and the "enemy comes in like a flood," that this thing is from Me, that your weakness needs My might, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.
Are you in difficult circumstances, surrounded by people who do not understand you, who never consult your taste, who put you in the background? This thing is from Me. I am the God of circumstances. Thou camest not to thy place by accident, it is the very place God meant for thee.
Have you not asked to be made humble? See then, I have placed you in the very school where this lesson is taught; your surroundings and companions are only working out My will.
Are you in money difficulties? Is it hard to make both ends meet? This thing is from Me, for I am your purse-bearer and would have you draw from and depend upon Me. My supplies are limitless (Phil.4:19). I would have you prove my promises. Let it not be said of you, "In this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God" (Deut. 1:32).
Are you passing through a night of sorrow? This thing is from Me. I am the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. I have let earthly comforters fail you, that by turning to Me you may obtain everlasting consolation (2 Thess. 2:16, 17). Have you longed to do some great work for Me and instead have been laid aside on a bed of pain and weakness? This thing is from Me. I could not get your attention in your busy days and I want to teach you some of my deepest lessons. "They also serve who only stand and wait." Some of My greatest workers are those shut out from active service, that they may learn to wield the weapon of all—prayer.
This day I place in your hand this pot of holy oil. Make use of it free, my child. Let every circumstance that arises, every word that pains you, every interruption that would make you impatient, every revelation of your weakness be anointed with it. The sting will go as you learn to see Me in all things. —Laura A. Barter Snow
"'This is from Me,' the Saviour said,
As bending low He kissed my brow,
'For One who loves you thus has led.
Just rest in Me, be patient now,
Your Father knows you have need of this,
Tho', why perchance you cannot see.
Grieve not for things you've seemed to miss.
The thing I send is best for thee.'
"Then, looking through my tears, I plead,
'Dear Lord, forgive, I did not know,
'Twill not be hard since Thou dost tread,
Each path before me here below.
And for my good this thing must be,
His grace sufficient for each test.
So still I'll sing, "Whatever be
God's way for me is always best."'"
Lessons in the Shadow
In the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft: in his quiver hath he hid me. - Isa. 49:2
"In the shadow." We must all go there sometimes. The glare of the daylight is too brilliant; our eyes become injured, and unable to discern the delicate shades of color, or appreciate neutral tints--the shadowed chamber of sickness, the shadowed house of mourning, the shadowed life from which the sunlight has gone.
But fear not! It is the shadow of God's hand. He is leading thee. There are lessons that can be learned only there.
The photograph of His face can only be fixed in the dark chamber. But do not suppose that He has cast thee aside. Thou art still in His quiver; He has not flung thee away as a worthless thing.
He is only keeping thee close till the moment comes when He can send thee most swiftly and surely on some errand in which He will be glorified. Oh, shadowed, solitary ones, remember how closely the quiver is bound to the warrior, within easy reach of the hand, and guarded jealously. —Christ in Isaiah, Meyer
In some spheres the shadow condition is the condition of greatest growth. The beautiful Indian corn never grows more rapidly than in the shadow of a warm summer night. The sun curls the leaves in the sultry noon light, but they quickly unfold, if a cloud slips over the sky. There is a service in the shadow that is not in the shine. The world of stellar beauty is never seen at its best till the shadows of night slip over the sky. There are beauties that bloom in the shade that will not bloom in the sun. There is much greenery in lands of fog and clouds and shadow. The florist has "evening glories" now, as well as "morning glories." The "evening glory" will not shine in the noon's splendor, but comes to its best as the shadows of evening deepen.
If all of life were sunshine,
Our faces would be fain
To feel once more upon them
The cooling splash of rain. —Henry Van Dyke
Suddenness of Change
And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. - Mark 1:12
It seemed a strange proof of Divine favor. "Immediately." Immediately after what? After the opened heavens and the dove-like peace and the voice of the Father's blessing, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." It is no abnormal experience. Thou, too, hast passed through it, O my soul. Are not the times of thy deepest depression just the moments that follow thy loftiest flight? Yesterday thou wert soaring far in the firmament, and singing in the radiance of the morn; today thy wings are folded and thy song silent. At noon thou wert basking in the sunshine of a Father's smile; at eve thou art saying in the wilderness, "My way is hid from the Lord."
Nay, but, my soul, the very suddenness of the change is a proof that it is not revolutionary.
Hast thou weighed the comfort of that word "immediately"? Why does it come so soon after the blessing? Just to show that it is the sequel to the blessing. God shines on thee to make thee fit for life's desert-places--for its Gethsemanes, for its Calvaries. He lifts thee up that He may give thee strength to go further down; He illuminates thee that He may send thee into the night, that He may make thee a help to the helpless.
Not at all times art thou worthy of the wilderness; thou art only worthy of the wilderness after the splendors of Jordan. Nothing but the Son's vision can fit thee for the Spirit's burden; only the glory of the baptism can support the hunger of the desert. —George Matheson
After benediction comes battle.
The time of testing that marks and mightily enriches a soul's spiritual career is no ordinary one, but a period when all hell seems let loose, a period when we realize our souls are brought into a net, when we know that God is permitting us to be in the devil's hand. But it is a period which always ends in certain triumph for those who have committed the keeping of their souls to Him, a period of marvelous "nevertheless afterward" of abundant usefulness, the sixty-fold that surely follows. —Aphra White
I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth. - Isa. 58:14
Those who fly through the air in airships tell us that one of the first rules they learn is to turn their ship toward the wind, and fly against it. The wind lifts the ship up to higher heights. Where did they learn that? They learned it from the birds. If a bird is flying for pleasure, it goes with the wind. But if the bird meets danger, it turns right around and faces the wind, in order that it may rise higher; and it flies away towards the very sun.
Sufferings are God's winds, His contrary winds, sometimes His strong winds. They are God's hurricanes, but, they take human life and lift it to higher levels and toward God's heavens.
You have seen in the summer time a day when the atmosphere was so oppressive that you could hardly breathe? But a cloud appeared on the western horizon and that cloud grew larger and threw out rich blessing for the world. The storm rose, lightning flashed and thunder pealed. The storm covered the world, and the atmosphere was cleansed; new life was in the air, and the world was changed.
Human life is worked out according to exactly the same principle. When the storm breaks the atmosphere is changed, clarified, filled with new life; and a part of heaven is brought down to earth. —Selected
Obstacles ought to set us singing. The wind finds voice, not when rushing across the open sea, but when hindered by the outstretched arms of the pine trees, or broken by the fine strings of an Aeolian harp. Then it has songs of power and beauty. Set your freed soul sweeping across the obstacles of life, through grim forests of pain, against even the tiny hindrances and frets that love uses, and it, too, will find its singing voice. —Selected
"Be like a bird that, halting in its flight,
Rests on a bough too slight.
And feeling it give way beneath him sings,
Knowing he hath wings."
Ye shall not go out with haste. - Isa. 52:12
I do not believe that we have begun to understand the marvelous power there is in stillness. We are in such a hurry—we must be doing—so that we are in danger of not giving God a chance to work. You may depend upon it, God never says to us, "Stand still," or "Sit still," or "Be still," unless He is going to do something.
This is our trouble in regard to our Christian life; we want to do something to be Christians when we need to let Him work in us. Do you know how still you have to be when your likeness is being taken?
Now God has one eternal purpose concerning us, and that is that we should be like His Son; and in order that this may be so, we must be passive. We hear so much about activity, may be we need to know what it is to be quiet. —Crumbs
Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
Nor deem these days—these waiting days—as ill!
The One who loves thee best, who plans thy way,
Hath not forgotten thy great need today!
And, if He waits, 'tis sure He waits to prove
To thee, His tender child, His heart's deep love.
Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
Thou longest much to know thy dear Lord's will!
While anxious thoughts would almost steal their way
Corrodingly within, because of His delay
Persuade thyself in simple faith to rest
That He, who knows and loves, will do the best.
Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
Nor move one step, not even one, until
His way hath opened. Then, ah then, how sweet!
How glad thy heart, and then how swift thy feet
Thy inner being then, ah then, how strong!
And waiting days not counted then too long.
Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
What higher service could'st thou for Him fill?
'Tis hard! ah yes! But choicest things must cost!
For lack of losing all how much is lost!
'Tis hard, 'tis true! But then—He giveth grace
To count the hardest spot the sweetest place. —J. D. Smith
Rejoice in the Flood
He turned the sea into dry land; they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him. - Ps. 66:6
It is a striking assertion, "through the floods" (the place where we might have expected nothing but trembling and terror, anguish and dismay) "there," says the Psalmist, "did we rejoice in him!"
How many there are who can endorse this as their experience: that "there," in their very seasons of distress and sadness, they have been enabled, as they never did before, to triumph and rejoice.
How near their God in covenant is brought! How brightly shine His promises! In the day of our prosperity we cannot see the brilliancy of these. Like the sun at noon, hiding out the stars from sight, they are indiscernible; but when night overtakes, the deep, dark night of sorrow, out come these clustering stars—blessed constellations of Bible hope and promise of consolation.
Like Jacob at Jabbok, it is when our earthly sun goes down that the Divine Angel comes forth, and we wrestle with Him and prevail.
It was at night, "in the evening," Aaron lit the sanctuary lamps. It is in the night of trouble the brightest lamps of the believer are often kindled.
It was in his loneliness and exile John had the glorious vision of his Redeemer. There is many a Patmos still in the world, whose brightest remembrances are those of God's presence and upholding grace and love in solitude and sadness.
How many pilgrims, still passing through these Red Seas and Jordans of earthly affliction, will be enabled in the retrospect of eternity to say—full of the memories of God's great goodness—"We went through the flood on foot, there—there, in these dark experiences, with the surging waves on every side, deep calling to deep, Jordan, as when Israel crossed it, in 'the time of the overflowing' (flood), yet, 'there did we rejoice in Him!'" —Dr. Macduff
"And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the door of trouble for a door of hope: and she shall sing THERE" (Hosea 2:15).
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? - Ps. 43:5
Is there ever any ground to be cast down? There are two reasons, but only two. If we are as yet unconverted, we have ground to be cast down; or if we have been converted and live in sin, then we are rightly cast down.
But except for these two things there is no ground to be cast down, for all else may be brought before God in prayer with supplication and thanksgiving. And regarding all our necessities, all our difficulties, all our trials, we may exercise faith in the power of God, and in the love of God.
"Hope thou in God." Oh, remember this: There is never a time when we may not hope in God. Whatever our necessities, however great our difficulties, and though to all appearance help is impossible, yet our business is to hope in God, and it will be found that it is not in vain. In the Lord's own time help will come.
Oh, the hundreds, yea, the thousands of times that I have found it thus within the past seventy years and four months!
When it seemed impossible that help could come, help did come; for God has His own resources. He is not confined. In ten thousand different ways, and at ten thousand different times God may help us.
Our business is to spread our cases before the Lord, in childlike simplicity to pour out all our heart before God, saying,
"I do not deserve that Thou shouldst hear me and answer my requests, but for the sake of my precious Lord Jesus; for His sake answer my prayer, and give me grace quietly to wait till it please Thee to answer my prayer. For I believe Thou wilt do it in Thine own time and way."
"For I shall yet praise him." More prayer, more exercise of faith, more patient waiting, and the result will be blessing, abundant blessing. Thus I have found it many hundreds of times, and therefore I continually say to myself, "Hope thou in God." —George Mueller
Hope vs. Fear
Lo, I am with you all the appointed days.- Matt. 28:20, Variorum Version
Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear. Rather look at them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He has kept you hitherto; do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand, He will bear you in His arms.
Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations. —Frances do Sales
"The Lord is my shepherd."
Not was, not may be, nor will be. "The Lord is my shepherd," is on Sunday, is on Monday, and is through every day of the week; is in February, is in December, and every month of the year; is at home, and is in China; is in peace, and, is in war; in abundance, and in penury. —J. Hudson Taylor
HE will silently plan for thee,
Object thou of omniscient care;
God Himself undertakes to be
Thy Pilot through each subtle snare.
He WILL silently plan for thee,
So certainly, He cannot fail!
Rest on the faithfulness of God,
In Him thou surely shalt prevail.
He will SILENTLY plan for thee
Some wonderful surprise of love.
Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard,
But it is kept for thee above.
He will silently PLAN for thee,
His purposes shall all unfold;
The tangled skein shall shine at last,
A masterpiece of skill untold.
He will silently plan FOR THEE,
Happy child of a Father's care,
As though no other claimed His love,
But thou alone to Him wert dear. —E. Mary Grimes
Whatever our faith says God is, He will be.
Trust Amid the Silence
He answered her not a word. - Matt. 15:23
He will be silent in his love. - Zeph. 3:17
It may be a child of God is reading these words who has had some great crushing sorrow, some bitter disappointment, some heart-breaking blow from a totally unexpected quarter. You are longing for your Master's voice bidding you "Be of good cheer," but only silence and a sense of mystery and misery meet you —"He answered her not a word."
God's tender heart must often ache listening to all the sad, complaining cries which arise from our weak, impatient hearts, because we do not see that for our own sakes He answers not at all or otherwise than seems best to our tear-blinded, short-sighted eyes.
The silences of Jesus are as eloquent as His speech and may be a sign, not of His disapproval, but of His approval and of a deep purpose of blessing for you.
"Why art thou cast down, O...soul?" Thou shalt yet praise Him, yes, even for His silence. Listen to an old and beautiful story of how one Christian dreamed that she saw three others at prayer. As they knelt the Master drew near to them.
As He approached the first of the three, He bent over her in tenderness and grace, with smiles full of radiant love and spoke to her in accents of purest, sweetest music.
Leaving her, He came to the next, but only placed His hand upon her bowed bead, and gave her one look of loving approval.
The third woman He passed almost abruptly without stopping for a word or glance. The woman in her dream said to herself, "How greatly He must love the first one, to the second He gave His approval, but none of the special demonstrations of love He gave the first; and the third must have grieved Him deeply, for He gave her no word at all and not even a passing look.
"I wonder what she has done, and why He made so much difference between them?" As she tried to account for the action of her Lord, He Himself stood by her and said: "O woman! how wrongly hast thou interpreted Me. The first kneeling woman needs all the weight of My tenderness and care to keep her feet in My narrow way. She needs My love, thought and help every moment of the day. Without it she would fail and fall.
"The second has stronger faith and deeper love, and I can trust her to trust Me however things may go and whatever people do.
"The third, whom I seemed not to notice, and even to neglect, has faith and love of the finest quality, and her I am training by quick and drastic processes for the highest and holiest service.
"She knows Me so intimately, and trusts Me so utterly, that she is independent of words or looks or any outward intimation of My approval. She is not dismayed nor discouraged by any circumstances through which I arrange that she shall pass; she trusts Me when sense and reason and every finer instinct of the natural heart would rebel;—because she knows that I am working in her for eternity, and that what I do, though she knows not the explanation now, she will understand hereafter.
"I am silent in My love because I love beyond the power of words to express, or of human hearts to understand, and also for your sakes that you may learn to love and trust Me in Spirit-taught, spontaneous response to My love, without the spur of anything outward to call it forth."
He "will do marvels" if you will learn the mystery of His silence, and praise Him, for every time He withdraws His gifts that you may better know and love the Giver. —Selected
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves. - Rom. 12:19
There are seasons when to be still demands immeasurably higher strength than to act. Composure is often the highest result of power. To the vilest and most deadly charges Jesus responded with deep, unbroken silence, such as excited the wonder of the judge and the spectators. To the grossest insults, the most violent ill-treatment and mockery that might well bring indignation into the feeblest heart, He responded with voiceless complacent calmness. Those who are unjustly accused, and causelessly ill-treated know what tremendous strength is necessary to keep silence to God.
"Men may misjudge thy aim,
Think they have cause to blame,
Say, thou art wrong;
Keep on thy quiet way,
Christ is the Judge, not they,
Fear not, be strong."
St. Paul said, "None of these things move me."
He did not say, none of these things hurt me. It is one thing to be hurt, and quite another to be moved. St. Paul had a very tender heart. We do not read of any apostle who cried as St. Paul did. It takes a strong man to cry. Jesus wept, and He was the manliest Man that ever lived. So it does not say, none of these things hurt me. But the apostle had determined not to move from what he believed was right. He did not count as we are apt to count; he did not care for ease; he did not care for this mortal life. He cared for only one thing, and that was to be loyal to Christ, to have His smile. To St. Paul, more than to any other man, His work was wages, His smile was Heaven. —Margaret Bottome
As soon as the soles of the feet of the priests...shall rest in the waters...the waters shall be cut off. - Joshua 3:13
The people were not to wait in their camps until the way was opened, they were to walk by faith. They were to break camp, pack up their goods, form in line to march, and move down to the very banks before the river would be opened.
If they had come down to the edge of the river and then had stopped for the stream to divide before they stepped into it, they would have waited in vain. They must take one step into the water before the river would be cut off.
We must learn to take God at His Word, and go straight on in duty, although we see no way in which we can go forward. The reason we are so often balked by difficulties is that we expect to see them removed before we try to pass through them.
If we would move straight on in faith, the path would be opened for us. We stand still, waiting for the obstacle to be removed, when we ought to go forward as if there were no obstacles. —Evening Thoughts
What a lesson Columbus gave to the world of perseverance in the face of tremendous difficulties!
Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores,
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good Mate said: "Now we must pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Admiral, speak, what shall I say?"
"Why, say, 'Sail on! sail on! and on!'"
"My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak!"
The stout Mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
"What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?"
"Why, you shall say at break of day,
'Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!'"
They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the Mate:
"This mad sea shows its teeth tonight.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Admiral, say but one good word;
What shall we do when hope is gone?"
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
"Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!"
Then, pale and worn, he kept his deck
And peered through darkness. Ah! that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck—
A light! A light! A light! A light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time's burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: "On! sail on!" —Joaquin Miller
The Father’s Hand
Your heavenly Father knoweth. - Matthew 6:32
A visitor at a school for the deaf and dumb was writing questions on the blackboard for the children. By and by he wrote this sentence: "Why has God made me to hear and speak, and made you deaf and dumb?"
The awful sentence fell upon the little ones like a fierce blow in the face. They sat palsied before that dreadful "Why?" And then a little girl arose.
Her lip was trembling. Her eyes were swimming with tears. Straight to the board she walked, and, picking up the crayon, wrote with firm hand these precious words: "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight!" What a reply! It reaches up and lays hold of an eternal truth upon which the maturest believer as well as the youngest child of God may alike securely rest—the truth that God is your Father.
Do you mean that? Do you really and fully believe that? When you do, then your dove of faith will no longer wander in weary unrest, but will settle down forever in its eternal resting place of peace. "Your Father!"
I can still believe that a day comes for all of us, however far off it may be, when we shall understand; when these tragedies, that now blacken and darken the very air of heaven for us, will sink into their places in a scheme so august, so magnificent, so joyful, that we shall laugh for wonder and delight. —Arthur Christopher Bacon
No chance hath brought this ill to me;
'Tis God's own hand, so let it be,
He seeth what I cannot see.
There is a need-be for each pain,
And He one day will make it plain
That earthly loss is heavenly gain.
Like as a piece of tapestry
Viewed from the back appears to be
Naught but threads tangled hopelessly;
But in the front a picture f air
Rewards the worker for his care,
Proving his skill and patience rare.
Thou art the Workman, I the frame.
Lord, for the glory of Thy Name,
Perfect Thine image on the same. —Selected
Specialize in the Impossible
The hill country shall be thine.- Joshua 17:18, RV
There is always room higher up. When the valleys are full of Canaanites, whose iron chariots withstand your progress, get up into the hills, occupy the upper spaces. If you can no longer work for God, pray for those who can. If you cannot move earth by your speech, you may move Heaven. If the development of life on the lower slopes is impossible, through limitations of service, the necessity of maintaining others, and such-like restrictions, let it break out toward the unseen, the eternal, the Divine.
Faith can fell forests. Even if the tribes had realized what treasures lay above them, they would hardly have dared to suppose it possible to rid the hills of their dense forest-growth. But as God indicated their task, He reminded them that they had power enough. The visions of things that seem impossible are presented to us, like these forest-covered steeps, not to mock us, but to incite us to spiritual exploits which would be impossible unless God had stored within us the great strength of His own indwelling.
Difficulty is sent to reveal to us what God can do in answer to the faith that prays and works. Are you straitened in the valleys? Get away to the hills, live there; get honey out of the rock, and wealth out of the terraced slopes now hidden by forest. —Daily Devotional Commentary
Got any rivers they say are uncrossable,
Got any mountains they say 'can't tunnel through'?
We specialize in the wholly impossible,
Doing the things they say you can't do. —Song of the Panama builders
And again I say, Rejoice. - Philippians 4:4
It is a good thing to rejoice in the Lord. Perhaps you have tried this, and the first time seemed to fail. Never mind, keep right on and when you cannot feel any joy, when there is no spring, and no seeming comfort and encouragement, still rejoice, and count it all joy. Even when you fall into divers temptations, reckon it joy and delight and God will make your reckoning good. Do you suppose your Father will let you carry the banner of His victory and His gladness on to the front of the battle, and then coolly stand back and see you captured or beaten back by the enemy? NEVER! The Holy Spirit will sustain you in your bold advance, and fill your heart with gladness and praise, and you will find your heart all exhilarated and refreshed by the fullness within. Lord teach me to rejoice in Thee, and to "rejoice evermore." —Selected
"The weakest saint may Satan rout,
Who meets him with a praiseful shout."
"Be filled with the Spirit...singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:18-19).
Here the Apostle urges the use of singing as one of the inspiring helps in the spiritual life. He counsels his readers not to seek their stimulus through the body, but through the spirit; not by the quickening of the flesh, but by the exaltation of the soul.
"Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings."
Let us sing even when we do not feel like it, for thus we may give wings to leaden feet and turn weariness into strength. —J. H. Jowett
"At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them" (Acts 16:25).
Oh, Paul, thou wondrous example to the flock, who could thus glory, bearing in the body as thou didst "the marks of the Lord Jesus"! Marks from stoning almost to the death, from thrice beating with rods, from those hundred and ninety-five stripes laid on thee by the Jews, and from stripes received in that Philippian jail, which had they not drawn blood would not have called for washing! Surely the grace which enabled thee to sing praises under such suffering is all-sufficient grace. —J. Roach
"Oh, let us rejoice in the Lord, evermore,
When darts of the tempter are flying,
For Satan still dreads, as he oft did of yore,
Our singing much more than our sighing."
Fret Not Over Evil-doers
Fret not thyself. - Psalm 37:1
Do not get into a perilous heat about things. If ever heat were justified, it was surely justified in the circumstances outlined in the Psalm. Evil-doers were moving about clothed in purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day. "Workers of iniquity" were climbing into the supreme places of power, and were tyrannizing their less fortunate brethren. Sinful men and women were stalking through the land in the pride of life and basking in the light and comfort of great prosperity, and good men were becoming heated and fretful.
"Fret not thyself." Do not get unduly heated! Keep cool! Even in a good cause, fretfulness is not a wise help-meet. Fretting only heats the bearings; it does not generate the steam. It is no help to a train for the axles to get hot; their heat is only a hindrance. When the axles get heated, it is because of unnecessary friction; dry surfaces are grinding together, which ought to be kept in smooth co-operation by a delicate cushion of oil.
And is it not a suggestive fact that this word "fret" is closely akin to the word "friction," and is an indication of absence of the anointing oil of the grace of God?
In fretfulness, a little bit of grit gets into the bearings--some slight disappointment, some ingratitude, some discourtesy--and the smooth working of the life is checked. Friction begets heat; and with the heat, most dangerous conditions are created.
Do not let thy bearings get hot. Let the oil of the Lord keep thee cool, lest by reason of an unholy heat thou be reckoned among the evil-doers. —The Silver Lining
Dear restless heart, be still; don't fret and worry so;
God has a thousand ways His love and help to show;
Just trust, and trust, and trust, until His will you know.
Dear restless heart, be still, for peace is God's own smile,
His love can every wrong and sorrow reconcile;
Just love, and love, and love, and calmly wait awhile.
Dear restless heart, be brave; don't moan and sorrow so,
He hath a meaning kind in chilly winds that blow;
Just hope, and hope, and hope, until you braver grow.
Dear restless heart, repose upon His breast this hour,
His grace is strength and life, His love is bloom and flower;
Just rest, and rest, and rest, within His tender power.
Dear restless heart, be still! Don't struggle to be free;
God's life is in your life, from Him you may not flee;
Just pray, and pray, and pray, till you have faith to see. —Edith Willis Linn
Weeping May Last For a Night
Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more. - Nahum 1:12
There is a limit to affliction. God sends it, and removes it. Do you sigh and say, "When will the end be?" Let us quietly wait and patiently endure the will of the Lord till He cometh. Our Father takes away the rod when His design in using it is fully served.
If the affliction is sent for testing us, that our graces may glorify God, it will end when the Lord has made us bear witness to His praise.
We would not wish the affliction to depart until God has gotten out of us all the honor which we can possibly yield Him.
There may be today "a great calm." Who knows how soon those raging billows will give place to a sea of glass, and the sea birds sit on the gentle waves?
After long tribulation, the flail is hung up, and the wheat rests in the garner. We may, before many hours are past, be just as happy as now we are sorrowful.
It is not hard for the Lord to turn night into day. He that sends the clouds can as easily clear the skies. Let us be of good cheer. It is better farther on. Let us sing Hallelujah by anticipation. —C. H. Spurgeon.
The great Husbandman is not always threshing. Trial is only for a season. The showers soon pass. Weeping may tarry only for the few hours of the short summer night; it must be gone at daybreak. Our light affliction is but for a moment. Trial is for a purpose, "If needs be."
The very fact of trial proves that there is something in us very precious to our Lord; else He would not spend so much pains and time on us. Christ would not test us if He did not see the precious ore of faith mingled in the rocky matrix of our nature; and it is to bring this out into purity and beauty that He forces us through the fiery ordeal.
Be patient, O sufferer! The result will more than compensate for all our trials, when we see how they wrought out the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. To have one word of God's commendation; to be honored before the holy angels; to be glorified in Christ, so as to be better able to flash His glory on Himself--ah! that will more than repay for all. —Tried by Fire
As the weights of the clock, or the ballast in the vessel, are necessary for their right ordering, so is trouble in the soul-life. The sweetest scents are only obtained by tremendous pressure; the fairest flowers grow amid Alpine snow-solitudes; the fairest gems have suffered longest from the lapidary's wheel; the noblest statues have borne most blows of the chisel. All, however, are under law. Nothing happens that has not been appointed with consummate care and foresight. —Daily Devotional Commentary
Believing Before Seeing
The land which I do give them, even the children of Israel. - Joshua 1:2
God here speaks in the immediate present. It is not something He is going to do, but something He does do, this moment. So faith ever speaks. So God ever gives. So He is meeting you today, in the present moment. This is the test of faith. So long as you are waiting for a thing, hoping for it, looking for it, you are not believing. It may be hope, it may be earnest desire, but it is not faith; for "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The command in regard to believing prayer is the present tense. "When ye pray, believe that ye receive the things that ye desire, and ye shall have them." Have we come to that moment? Have we met God in His everlasting NOW? —Joshua, by Simpson
True faith counts on God, and believes before it sees. Naturally, we want some evidence that our petition is granted before we believe; but when we walk by faith we need no other evidence than God's Word. He has spoken, and according to our faith it shall be done unto us. We shall see because we have believed, and this faith sustains us in the most trying places, when everything around us seems to contradict God's Word.
The Psalmist says, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living" (Ps. 27:13). He did not see as yet the Lord's answer to his prayers, but he believed to see; and this kept him from fainting.
If we have the faith that believes to see, it will keep us from growing discouraged. We shall "laugh at impossibilities," we shall watch with delight to see how God is going to open up a path through the Red Sea when there is no human way out of our difficulty. It is just in such places of severe testing that our faith grows and strengthens.
Have you been waiting upon God, dear troubled one, during long nights and weary days, and have feared that you were forgotten? Nay, lift up your head, and begin to praise Him even now for the deliverance which is on its way to you. —Life of Praise
Faith Becomes Sight
Have faith that whatever you ask for in prayer is already granted you, and you will find that it will be. - Mark 11:24
When my little son was about ten years of age, his grandmother promised him a stamp album for Christmas. Christmas came, but no stamp album, and no word from grandmother. The matter, however, was not mentioned; but when his playmates came to see his Christmas presents, I was astonished, after he had named over this and that as gifts received, to hear him add,
"And a stamp album from grandmother."
I had heard it several times, when I called him to me, and said, "But, Georgie, you did not get an album from your grandmother. Why do you say so?"
There was a wondering look on his face, as if he thought it strange that I should ask such a question, and he replied, "Well, mamma, grandma said, so it is the same as." I could not say a word to check his faith.
A month went by, and nothing was heard from the album. Finally, one day, I said, to test his faith, and really wondering in my heart why the album had not been sent,
"Well, Georgie, I think grandma has forgotten her promise."
"Oh, no, mamma," he quickly and firmly said, "she hasn't."
I watched the dear, trusting face, which, for a while, looked very sober, as if debating the possibilities I had suggested. Finally a bright light passed over it, and he said,
"Mamma, do you think it would do any good if I should write to her thanking her for the album?"
"I do not know," I said, "but you might try it."
A rich spiritual truth began to dawn upon me. In a few minutes a letter was prepared and committed to the mail, and he went off whistling his confidence in his grandma. In just a short time a letter came, saying:
"My dear Georgie: I have not forgotten my promise to you, of an album. I tried to get such a book as you desired, but could not get the sort you wanted; so I sent on to New York. It did not get here till after Christmas, and it was still not right, so I sent for another, and as it has not come as yet, I send you three dollars to get one in Chicago. Your loving grandma."
"As he read the letter, his face was the face of a victor. "Now, mamma, didn't I tell you?" came from the depths of a heart that never doubted, that, "against hope, believed in hope" that the stamp album would come. While he was trusting, grandma was working, and in due season faith became sight.
It is so human to want sight when we step out on the promises of God, but our Savior said to Thomas, and to the long roll of doubters who have ever since followed him: "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed." —Mrs. Rounds
Pruned to Yield Fruit
And every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. - John 15:2
A child of God was dazed by the variety of afflictions which seemed to make her their target. Walking past a vineyard in the rich autumnal glow she noticed the untrimmed appearance and the luxuriant wealth of leaves on the vines, that the ground was given over to a tangle of weeds and grass, and that the whole place looked utterly uncared for; and as she pondered, the Heavenly Gardener whispered so precious a message that she would fain pass it on:
"My dear child, are you wondering at the sequence of trials in your life? Behold that vineyard and learn of it. The gardener ceases to prune, to trim, to harrow, or to pluck the ripe fruit only when he expects nothing more from the vine during that season. It is left to itself, because the season of fruit is past and further effort for the present would yield no profit. Comparative uselessness is the condition of freedom from suffering. Do you then wish me to cease pruning your life? Shall I leave you alone?" And the comforted heart cried, "No!" —Homera Homer-Dixon
It is the branch that bears the fruit,
That feels the knife,
To prune it for a larger growth,
A fuller life.
Though every budding twig be lopped,
And every grace
Of swaying tendril, springing leaf,
Be lost a space.
O thou whose life of joy seems reft,
Of beauty shorn;
Whose aspirations lie in dust,
All bruised and torn,
Rejoice, tho' each desire, each dream,
Each hope of thine
Shall fall and fade; it is the hand
Of Love Divine
That holds the knife, that cuts and breaks
With tenderest touch,
That thou, whose life has borne some fruit
May'st now bear much. —Annie Johnson Flint
Victorious Living is Possible
Nothing shall be impossible unto you.- Matthew 17:20
It is possible, for those who really are willing to reckon on the power of the Lord for keeping and victory, to lead a life in which His promises are taken as they stand and are found to be true.
It is possible to cast all our care upon Him daily and to enjoy deep peace in doing it.
It is possible to have the thoughts and imaginations of our hearts purified, in the deepest meaning of the word.
It is possible to see the will of God in everything, and to receive it, not with sighing, but with singing.
It is possible by taking complete refuge in Divine power to become strong through and through; and, where previously our greatest weakness lay, to find that things which formerly upset all our resolves to be patient, or pure, or humble, furnish today an opportunity—through Him who loved us, and works in us an agreement with His will and a blessed sense of His presence and His power—to make sin powerless over us.
These things are DIVINE POSSIBILITIES, and because they are His work, the true experience of them will always cause us to bow lower at His feet and to learn to thirst and long for more.
We cannot possibly be satisfied with anything less—each day, each hour, each moment, in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit—than to WALK WITH GOD. —H. C. G. Moule
We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank, and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor? Whose fault is it that Christian people generally have such scanty portions of the free riches of God? —McLaren.
Wait With Patience
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him... - Psalm 37:7
Have you prayed and prayed and waited and waited, and still there is no manifestation?
Are you tired of seeing nothing move? Are you just at the point of giving it all up? Perhaps you have not waited in the right way? This would take you out of the right place the place where He can meet you.
"With patience wait" (Rom. 8:25). Patience takes away worry. He said He would come, and His promise is equal to His presence. Patience takes away your weeping. Why feel sad and despondent? He knows your need better than you do, and His purpose in waiting is to bring more glory out of it all. Patience takes away self-works. The work He desires is that you "believe" (John 6:29), and when you believe, you may then know that all is well. Patience takes away all want. Your desire for the thing you wish is perhaps stronger than your desire for the will of God to be fulfilled in its arrival.
Patience takes away all weakening. Instead of having the delaying time, a time of letting go, know that God is getting a larger supply ready and must get you ready too. Patience takes away all wobbling. "Make me stand upon my standing" (Daniel 8:18, margin). God's foundations are steady; and when His patience is within, we are steady while we wait. Patience gives worship. A praiseful patience sometimes "long-suffering with joyfulness" (Col. 1:11) is the best part of it all. "Let (all these phases of) patience have her perfect work" (James 1:4), while you wait, and you will find great enrichment. —C. H. P.
Hold steady when the fires burn,
When inner lessons come to learn,
And from this path there seems no turn
"Let patience have her perfect work." —L. S. P.
If thou canst believe, all things are possible. to him that believeth. - Mark 9:23
Seldom have we heard a better definition of faith than was given once in one of our meetings, by a dear old colored woman, as she answered the question of a young man how to take the Lord for needed help.
In her characteristic way, pointing her finger toward him, she said with great emphasis: "You've just got to believe that He's done it and it's done." The great danger with most of us is that, after we ask Him to do it, we do not believe that it is done, but we keep on helping Him, and getting others to help Him; and waiting to see how He is going to do it.
Faith adds its "Amen" to God's "Yea," and then takes its hands off, and leaves God to finish His work. Its language is, "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him; and he worketh." —Days of Heaven upon Earth
"I simply take Him at His word,
I praise Him that my prayer is heard,
And claim my answer from the Lord;
I take, He undertakes."
An active faith can give thanks for a promise, though it be not as yet performed; knowing that God's bonds are as good as ready money. —Matthew Henry
Passive faith accepts the word as true
But never moves.
Active faith begins the work to do,
And thereby proves.
Passive faith says, "I believe it! every word of God is true.
Well I know He hath not spoken what He cannot, will not, do.
He hath bidden me, 'Go forward!' but a closed-up way I see,
When the waters are divided, soon in Canaan's land I'll be.
Lo! I hear His voice commanding, 'Rise and walk: take up thy bed';
And, 'Stretch forth thy withered member!' which for so long has been dead.
When I am a little stronger, then, I know I'll surely stand:
When there comes a thrill of heating, I will use with ease My other hand.
Yes, I know that 'God is able' and full willing all to do:
I believe that every promise, sometime, will to me come true."
Active faith says, "I believe it! and the promise now I take,
Knowing well, as I receive it, God, each promise, real will make.
So I step into the waters, finding there an open way;
Onward press, the land possessing; nothing can my progress stay.
Yea, I rise at His commanding, walk straightway, and joyfully:
This, my hand, so sadly shrivelled, as I reach, restored shall be.
What beyond His faithful promise, would I wish or do I need?
Looking not for 'signs or wonders,' I'll no contradiction heed.
Well I know that 'God is able,' and full willing all to do:
I believe that every promise, at this moment can come true."
Passive faith but praises in the light,
When sun doth shine.
Active faith will praise in darkest night—
Which faith is thine? —Selected
The Blessing of the Lion
And there came a lion. - 1 Samuel 17:34
It is a source of inspiration and strength to come in touch with the youthful David, trusting God. Through faith in God he conquered a lion and a bear, and afterwards overthrew the mighty Goliath. When that lion came to despoil that flock, it came as a wondrous opportunity to David. If he had failed or faltered he would have missed God's opportunity for him and probably would never have come to be God's chosen king of Israel. "And there came a lion."
One would not think that a lion was a special blessing from God; one would think that only an occasion of alarm. The lion was God's opportunity in disguise. Every difficulty that presents itself to us, if we receive it in the right way, is God's opportunity. Every temptation that comes is God's opportunity.
When the "lion" comes, recognize it as God's opportunity no matter how rough the exterior. The very tabernacle of God was covered with badgers' skins and goats' hair; one would not think there would be any glory there. The Shekinah of God was manifest under that kind of covering. May God open our eyes to see Him, whether in temptations, trials, dangers, or misfortunes. —C. H. P.
John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. - John 10:41
You may be very discontented with yourself. You are no genius, have no brilliant gifts, and are inconspicuous for any special faculty. Mediocrity is the law of your existence. Your days are remarkable for nothing but sameness and insipidity. Yet you may live a great life.
John did no miracle, but Jesus said that among those born of women there had not appeared a greater than he.
John's main business was to bear witness to the Light, and this may be yours and mine. John was content to be only a voice, if men would think of Christ.
Be willing to be only a voice, heard but not seen; a mirror whose surface is lost to view, because it reflects the dazzling glory of the sun; a breeze that springs up just before daylight, and says, "The dawn! the dawn!" and then dies away.
Do the commonest and smallest things as beneath His eye. If you must live with uncongenial people, set to their conquest by love. If you have made a great mistake in your life, do not let it becloud all of it; but, locking the secret in your breast, compel it to yield strength and sweetness.
We are doing more good than we know, sowing seeds, starting streamlets, giving men true thoughts of Christ, to which they will refer one day as the first things that started them thinking of Him; and, of my part, I shall be satisfied if no great mausoleum is raised over my grave, but that simple souls shall gather there when I am gone, and say,
"He was a good man; he wrought no miracles, but he spake words about Christ, which led me to know Him for myself." —George Matheson
"THY HIDDEN ONES" (Psa. 83:3)
"Thick green leaves from the soft brown earth,
Happy springtime hath called them forth;
First faint promise of summer bloom
Breathes from the fragrant, sweet perfume,
Under the leaves.
"Lift them! what marvelous beauty lies
Hidden beneath, from our thoughtless eyes!
Mayflowers, rosy or purest white,
Lift their cups to the sudden light,
Under the leaves.
"Are there no lives whose holy deeds—
Seen by no eye save His who reads
Motive and action—in silence grow
Into rare beauty, and bud and blow
Under the leaves?
"Fair white flowers of faith and trust,
Springing from spirits bruised and crushed;
Blossoms of love, rose-tinted and bright,
Touched and painted with Heaven's own light
Under the leaves.
"Full fresh clusters of duty borne,
Fairest of all in that shadow grown;
Wondrous the fragrance that sweet and rare
Comes from the flower-cups hidden there
Under the leaves.
"Though unseen by our vision dim,
Bud and blossom are known to Him;
Wait we content for His heavenly ray—
Wait till our Master Himself one day
Lifteth the leaves."
"God calls many of His most valued workers from the unknown multitude" (Luke 14:23).
Enter Into Your Inheritance
Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you. - Joshua 1:3
Beside the literal ground, unoccupied for Christ, there is the unclaimed, untrodden territory of Divine promises. What did God say to Joshua? "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you," and then He draws the outlines of the Land of Promise—all theirs on one condition: that they shall march through the length and breadth of it, and measure it off with their own feet.
They never did that to more than one-third of the property, and consequently they never had more than one-third; they had just what they measured off, and no more.
In 2 Peter, we read of the "land of promise" that is opened up to us, and it is God's will that we should, as it were, measure off that territory by the feet of obedient faith and believing obedience, thus claiming and appropriating it for our own.
How many of us have ever taken possession of the promises of God in the name of Christ?
Here is a magnificent territory for faith to lay hold on and march through the length and breadth of, and faith has never done it yet.
Let us enter into all our inheritance. Let us lift up our eyes to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, and hear Him say, "All the land that thou seest will I give to thee." —A. T. Pierson
Wherever Judah should set his foot that should be his; wherever Benjamin should set his foot, that should be his. Each should get his inheritance by setting his foot upon it. Now, think you not, when either had set his foot upon a given territory, he did not instantly and instinctively feel, "This is mine"?
An old colored man, who had a marvelous experience in grace, was asked: "Daniel, why is it that you have so much peace and joy in religion?" "O Massa!" he replied, "I just fall flat on the exceeding great and precious promises, and I have all that is in them. Glory! Glory!" He who falls flat on the promises feels that all the riches embraced in them are his. —Faith Papers
The Marquis of Salisbury was criticized for his Colonial policies and replied: "Gentlemen, get larger maps."
More Than Sufficient
My grace is sufficient for thee. - 2 Corinthians 12:9
The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day's work. I felt very wearied, and sore depressed, when swiftly, and suddenly as a lightning flash, that text came to me, "My grace is sufficient for thee." I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way, "MY grace is sufficient for thee"; and I said, "I should think it is, Lord," and burst out laughing. I never fully understood what the holy laughter of Abraham was until then. It seemed to make unbelief so absurd. It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking the river dry, and Father Thames said, "Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee." Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine; and Joseph might say, "Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee." Again, I imagined a man away up yonder, in a lofty mountain, saying to himself, "I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere," but the earth might say, "Breathe away, O man, and fill the lungs ever, my atmosphere is sufficient for thee." Oh, brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to Heaven, but great faith will bring Heaven to your souls. —C. H. Spurgeon
His grace is great enough to meet the great things
The crashing waves that overwhelm the soul,
The roaring winds that leave us stunned and breathless,
The sudden storm beyond our life's control.
His grace is great enough to meet the small things
The little pin-prick troubles that annoy,
The insect worries, buzzing and persistent,
The squeaking wheels that grate upon our joy. —Annie Johnson Flint
There is always a large balance to our credit in the bank of Heaven waiting for our exercise of faith in drawing it. Draw heavily upon His resources.
Alone With God
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.- Genesis 32:24
Left alone! What different sensations those words conjure up to each of us. To some they spell loneliness and desolation, to others rest and quiet. To be left alone without God, would be too awful for words, but to be left alone with Him is a foretaste of Heaven! If His followers spent more time alone with Him, we should have spiritual giants again.
The Master set us an example. Note how often He went to be alone with God; and He had a mighty purpose behind the command, "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray."
The greatest miracles of Elijah and Elisha took place when they were alone with God. It was alone with God that Jacob became a prince; and just there that we, too, may become princes--"men (aye, and women too!) wondered at" (Zech. 3:8). Joshua was alone when the Lord came to him. (Josh. 1:1) Gideon and Jephthah were by themselves when commissioned to save Israel. (Judges 6:11 and 11:29) Moses was by himself at the wilderness bush. (Exodus 3:1-5) Cornelius was praying by himself when the angel came to him. (Acts 10:2) No one was with Peter on the house top, when he was instructed to go to the Gentiles. (Acts 10:9) John the Baptist was alone in the wilderness (Luke 1:90), and John the Beloved alone in Patmos, when nearest God. (Rev. 1:9)
Covet to get alone with God. If we neglect it, we not only rob ourselves, but others too, of blessing, since when we are blessed we are able to pass on blessing to others. It may mean less outside work; it must mean more depth and power, and the consequence, too, will be "they saw no man save Jesus only."
To be alone with God in prayer cannot be over-emphasized.
"If chosen men had never been alone,
In deepest silence open-doored to God,
No greatness ever had been dreamed or done."
Praise in the Midst of Trouble
Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually. - Hebrews 13:15
A city missionary, stumbling through the dirt of a dark entry, heard a voice say, "Who's there, Honey?" Striking a match, he caught a vision of earthly want and suffering, of saintly trust and peace, "cut in ebony"—calm, appealing eyes set amid the wrinkles of a pinched, black face that lay on a tattered bed. It was a bitter night in February, and she had no fire, no fuel, no light. She had had no supper, no dinner, no breakfast. She seemed to have nothing at all but rheumatism and faith in God. One could not well be more completely exiled from all pleasantness of circumstances, yet the favorite song of this old creature ran:
"Nobody knows de trouble I see,
Nobody knows but Jesus;
Nobody knows de trouble I see—
Sing Glory Hallelu!
"Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down,
Sometimes I'm level on the groun',
Sometimes the glory shines aroun'
Sing Glory Hallelu!"
And so it went on: "Nobody knows de work I does, Nobody knows de griefs I has," the constant refrain being the "Glory Hallelu!" until the last verse rose:
"Nobody knows de joys I has,
Nobody knows but Jesus!"
"Troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." It takes great Bible words to tell the cheer of that old negro auntie.
Remember Luther on his sick-bed. Between his groans he managed to preach on this wise: "These pains and trouble here are like the type which the printers set; as they look now, we have to read them backwards, and they seem to have no sense or meaning in them; but up yonder, when the Lord God prints us off in the life to come, we shall find they make brave reading." Only we do not need to wait till then. Remember Paul walking the hurricane deck amid a boiling sea, bidding the frightened crew "Be of good cheer," Luther, the old negro auntie--all of them human sun-flowers. —Wm. G. Garnett
Into the Deep
Launch out into the deep. - Luke 5:4
How deep He does not say. The depth into which we launch will depend upon how perfectly we have given up the shore, and the greatness of our need, and the apprehension of our possibilities. The fish were to be found in the deep, not in the shallow water.
So with us; our needs are to be met in the deep things of God. We are to launch out into the deep of God's Word, which the Spirit can open up to us in such crystal fathomless meaning that the same words we have accepted in times past will have an ocean meaning in them, which renders their first meaning to us very shallow.
Into the deep of the Atonement, until Christ's precious blood is so illuminated by the Spirit that it becomes an omnipotent balm, and food and medicine for the soul and body.
Into the deep of the Father's will, until we apprehend it in its infinite minuteness and goodness, and its far-sweeping provision and care for us.
Into the deep of the Holy Spirit, until He becomes a bright, dazzling, sweet, fathomless summer sea, in which we bathe and bask and breathe, and lose ourselves and our sorrows in the calmness and peace of His everlasting presence.
Into the deep of the Holy Spirit, until He becomes a bright, marvelous answer to prayer, the most careful and tender guidance, the most thoughtful anticipation of our needs, the most accurate and supernatural shaping of our events.
Into the deep of God's purposes and coming kingdom, until the Lord's coming and His millennial reign are opened up to us; and beyond these the bright entrancing ages on ages unfold themselves, until the mental eye is dazed with light, and the heart flutters with inexpressible anticipations of its joy with Jesus and the glory to be revealed.
Into all these things, Jesus bids us launch. He made us and He made the deep, and to its fathomless depths He has fitted our longings and capabilities. —Soul Food
"Its streams the whole creation reach,
So plenteous is the store;
Enough for all, enough for each;
The deep waters of the Holy Spirit are always accessible, because they are always proceeding. Will you not this day claim afresh to be immersed and drenched in these waters of life? The waters in Ezekiel's vision first of all oozed from under the doors of the temple. Then the man with the measuring line measured and found the waters to the ankles. Still further measurement, and they were waters to the knees. Once again they were measured and the waters were to the loins. Then they became waters to swim in--a river that could not be passed over. (Read Ezekiel 47). How far have we advanced into this river of life? The Holy Spirit would have a complete self effacement. Not merely ankle-deep, knee-deep, loin-deep, but self-deep. We ourselves hidden out of sight and bathed in this life-giving stream. Let go the shore-lines and launch out into the deep. Never forget, the Man with the measuring line is with us today. —J.G.M.