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A Word in Season
Him Flowing Through Us
"If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." John 15:7
Some explanations that have been given of this are so mystical or so profound that to many simple-minded children of God, they mean practically nothing at all. But what Jesus meant was really very simple. He had been comparing Himself to a vine, His disciples to the branches in the vine. Some branches continued in the vine; that is, remained in living union with the vine so that the sap, or life, of the vine constantly flowed into these branches. They had no independent life of their own. Their buds, their leaves, their blossoms and fruit were really not theirs, but of the vine. Other branches were completely severed from the vine, or else the flow of the sap, or life, of the vine into them was in some way hindered.
Now for us to abide in Christ is for us to bear the same relationship to Him that the first sort of branch bears to the vine. That is to say, to abide in Christ is to renounce any independent life of our own, to give up trying to think our thoughts, or to form our resolutions, or cultivate our feelings. It is to simply and constantly look to Christ, to think His thoughts in us, to form His purposes in us, to feel His emotions and affections in us. It is to renounce all life independent of Christ, and constantly look to Him for the inflow of His life into us, and the outworking of His life through us.
When we do this, our prayers will obtain that which we seek from God. This must necessarily be so, for our desires will not be our own desires, but Christ's; and our prayers will not in reality be our own prayers, but Christ praying in us. Such prayers will always be in harmony with God's will, and the Father heareth Him always. — R. A. Torrey
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"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." I John 2:15
The way that leads us safely home to God is one of self-denial, not self-indulgence. "Make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof." (Rom. 13:14) Let temporal things be used, but eternal things desired. There is a tendency in our day to detour around the cross, and to be lured to the port of glory on placid seas aboard a luxury liner; to have heaven both here and hereafter. If thou desire inordinately the things that are present, thou shalt lose those which are heavenly and eternal.
"You who are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing," consider well before you indulge your flesh in that new delight to which you are looking forward with such keen anticipation. First, ask Jesus about the luxuries afforded on Mt. Olivet where He spent those nights in agonizing prayer. Then ask about how comfortably He hung upon the cross, with His precious body exposed to the vile gaze of the jeering crowd; or how enjoyable and becoming was the "royal robe" in which He had previously been arrayed. Is the servant greater than his Lord? "Many want the glory without the cross, the shining without the burning; but crucifixion must come before coronation." — Unknown
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The Morning Watch
"And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning:..." Exodus 30:7
For over forty years I have observed the Morning Watch. I begin in reading the Word of God; then I turn to prayer in obedience to Psalms 5:3 which says, "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up."
I have found three enemies to the prayer life. First there are interruptions. I discovered that I had to have a time and place for prayer. My time is in the morning. I would never dream of going to work before first meeting with God. My place for prayer is my study when I am at home. We have time for everything else; we must take time for prayer.
Second there are wandering thoughts. I used to have all kinds of thoughts, plans, and programs come in upon me when I was praying, and I found myself thinking, "How did I get rid of these wandering thoughts?" By praying out loud, by putting my petitions into words. I always pray out loud, and have done so for the last forty years of my life.
Third there is drowsiness. I used to become sleepy when I wanted to pray. That was because I knelt down and closed my eyes, and put my head on my arms. Years ago I formed the habit of walking and praying. I have walked hundreds of miles in my study. By walking up and down the room, I never become drowsy. I am able to keep wide awake. I discovered that when I knelt down and prayed silently, ten minutes seemed a long time; but when I prayed out loud and walked, the time went by quickly.
By following these methods, I have been able to spend hours in prayer, and I have found the morning watch my strength and my stay. The problems are solved before I meet them. God hears and answers. Instead of letting my circumstances get on top of me and sending me to a sanitarium with a nervous breakdown, I am able to keep on top of my circumstances. I know of no greater spiritual blessing than the blessing of the early Morning Watch. — Oswald J. Smith
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"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the heart of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15
"And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:8
Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble. It is never to be fretted, or vexed, or irritated, or sore, or disappointed. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble. — Andrew Murray
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"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." John 14:27
Think not therefore that thou has found true peace, if thou feel no heaviness; nor that all is well, if thou art vexed with no adversary; nor that this is to be perfect, if all things happen according to thy desire. Neither do thou then esteem at all highly of thyself, or account thyself to be specially beloved, if thou be in a state of great devotion and sweetness; for it is not in these things that a true lover of virtue is known, nor in these things consisteth the progress and perfection of a man.
Wherein then, O Lord?
In giving thyself over with all thy heart to the divine will, not seeking thine own things, either great or small, either in time or in eternity. So shalt thou keep one even countenance, in thanksgiving, amidst prosperity and adversity, weighing all things with an equal balance. Be thou so brave, and so longsuffering in hope, that when inward comfort is withdrawn, thou mayest prepare thy heart to suffer even greater things. And do not justify thyself as though thou oughtest not to suffer these afflictions, or any so great, but justify Me in whatsoever I appoint, and praise My Holy Name. Then thou art walking in the true and right way of peace, and thou shalt have undoubted hope to see My face again with great delight. For if thou attain to the full contempt of thyself, know that thou shalt then enjoy abundance of peace, as great as thy state of sojourning is able to possess. — Thomas A. Kempis
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Glory in the Cross
"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Galatians 6:14
"Jesus hath now many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. Many He hath that are desirous of consolation, but few of tribulation. Many He findeth that share His table, but few His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, few are willing to endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His Passion. Many reverence His miracles, few follow the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus as long as no adversities befall them. Many praise and bless Him, so long as they receive any consolations from Him.
"But if Jesus hides Himself, and leaves them but a little while, they fall either into complaining, or into too much dejection of mind. But they who love Jesus for the sake of Jesus, and not for some special comfort of their own, bless Him in all tribulation and anguish of heart, as well as in the highest comfort." — From "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas À Kempis
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The Spirit of Contrition
"I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder:..." Job 16:12
"A good man findeth always sufficient cause for mourning and weeping; for whether he consider himself or think of his neighbor, he knoweth that none liveth here without tribulation. The more narrowly a man considereth himself, so much the more he sorroweth. The matter of just sorrow and inward contrition are our faults and sins, in which we lie so enwrapt that rarely have we power to contemplate the things of Heaven.
"Didst thou oftener think of thy death than of thy living long? There is now question, but thou wouldst be more zealous to amend. If thou also didst consider deeply in thy heart the penalties that are to be in hell, I believe thou wouldst willingly undergo labour and sorrow, and not be afraid of the greatest austerity. But because these things enter not to thy heart, and we still love those things only that delight us, therefore in it we remain cold and very sluggish. It is often our want of spirit which maketh our miserable body so easily complain. Pray therefore unto the Lord with all humility, that He will give thee the spirit of contrition; and say with the prophet: "Feed me, O Lord, with the bread of tears, and give me plenteousness of tears to drink." (Ps. 80:5)
From — The Imitation of Christ
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"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." II Corinthians 4:8-10
There is a prevalent idea that the power of God in a human life should lift us above all trials and conflicts. The fact is the power of God always brings a conflict and a struggle. One would have thought that on his great missionary journey to Rome, Paul would have been carried by some mighty providence above the power of storms and tempests and enemies. But, on the contrary, it was one long, hard fight with persecuting Jews, wild tempests, venomous vipers, and all the powers of earth and hell. At last he was saved, as it seemed, by the narrowest margin, and had to swim ashore at Malta on a piece of wreckage, barely escaping a watery grave.
Was that like a God of infinite power? Yes, just like Him! And so, Paul tells us that when the Lord Jesus Christ became the life of his body, a severe conflict immediately came; indeed, a conflict that never ended, a pressure that was persistent, but out of which he always emerged victorious through the strength of Jesus Christ...
Our redemption costs all that God has to give, and everything worth having is expensive. Hard places are the very school of faith and character. If we are to rise over mere human strength and prove the power of life Divine in these mortal bodies, it must be through a process of conflict that may well be called the birth travail of a new life...
No, suffering child of God, you cannot fail if only you dare to believe, to stand fast and refuse to be overcome. It is not one or two remarkable experiences of healing or blessing, but a life-long drinking in of strength from Christ, even as the plant continually draws its nourishment from the soil by ten thousand rootlets. It is here that we must learn to maintain the habit of physical union with Christ and vital dependence upon His strength, breath by breath, and step by step. — A. B. Simpson
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Dying to Self-Will
Oh, beloved who have received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, it is you who have to go down into His death. Now I know that, in a sense, we take all that by faith when we consecrate ourselves to Christ; and we count it all real, and God counts it all real. But, beloved, you have to go through it step by step.
I know God treats us as though it was accomplished, as though we were sitting yonder on the throne. But we must go through the narrow passage and the secret places of the stairs. There must be no fooling here. You may count it all done, but step by step it must be written on the fleshly tablets of your hearts, and in the total unselfishness of your life.
Now, what does this mean? It is dying to Self-will. After you consecrate yourself to God, then comes the battle of your life because you have given up your will, and the devil wants you to take it back…Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days and the devil tried to have him have His own will; but He stood the test. He let His will go. "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me."
Then comes Self-indulgence, doing a thing because you like to do it. No man has a right to do a thing for the pleasure it affords, because he enjoys doing it... Doing things because they please yourself, seeking your own interest is wrong. We have no divine warrant to seek for ourselves in anything. Seek God, and God will seek your good.
Again, there is Self-complacency, dwelling on the work that you have done. How quickly this runs into "vain glory!" How many are more interested in what people think and say of them than what they are themselves. How can we get rid of this? We must look at it frankly, and choose that it shall go. The worst of it is that it deceives us so. It says, "How that fits somebody else and not me!"...
God means you! Pass sentence of death upon it, or else it will pass sentence on you. Then when the test comes, and God leads you out to meet the test, be true, BE TRUE. The test will come in that very line after you have taken the victory; and when the battle comes, forget yourself. Say, "Lord keep me!" — A. B. Simpson
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"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,..." James 1:1
"Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ,..." Jude 1
Thus boldly and proudly wrote James and Jude in an age when labour and service were a badge of inferiority and shame...
A fine fellow was placed on a slave block in an Egyptian slave market. His master was selling him. Men were bidding for him. A passing Englishman stopped, looked, listened, and began to bid. The slave saw him and knew that the Englishman was a world traveler. He thought that if the Englishman bought him, he would be taken from Egypt, from friends and loved ones, and that he would never see them any more. So he cursed the Englishman, raving and swearing, and tugging at his chain that he might reach and crush him. But the Englishman, unmoved, at last outbid all others, and the slave was sold to him. He paid the price, received the papers that made the slave his property, and then handed them to the black man.
"Take these papers; you are free," he said, "I bought you that I might give you your freedom." The slave looked at his deliverer and his ravings ceased. Tears flooded his eyes; as, falling at the Englishman's feet and embracing his knees he cried, "O sir, let me be your slave forever. Take me to the ends of the earth. Let me serve you till I die!" Love had won his heart, and now love constrained him, and he felt there could be no joy like serving such a master...
This is also the true freedom and service of the Christian ... To the sinner, the yoke looks intolerable; the burden looks unbearable. But to those who have entered into the secret of the Master, His yoke is the badge of freedom, and His burden gives wings to the soul. This is Holiness. It is wholeness of consecration and devotion. It is singleness of eye. It is perfect love which casts out fear. The love slave does not fear the Master, for he joys in the Master's will. "Not my will, but Thine be done;" "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him," says the slave of love. — Samuel Brengle
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The Filth of the World
"...know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." James 4:4
We are made as the filth of the world. (I Cor. 4:13) To add insult to injury, to heighten the infamy, and to deepen the humiliation, Paul adds: "and... the offscouring of all things." The man who so assesses himself has no ambitions, and so has nothing to be jealous about. He has no reputation, and so has nothing to fight about. He has no possessions, and therefore, nothing to worry about. He has no "rights"; therefore, he cannot suffer any wrong. He is already dead, so no one can kill him.
Being materially and socially bankrupt got the apostle bracketed with the choice few, listed as the filth of the world. This helped him understand that, as filth, he would be trodden under foot by men. Though he could answer the philosophers, Stoics, and Epicureans on Mars Hill, yet he was rated a "fool" for Christ's sake.
The antagonism of the world was fundamental to apostolic Christianity... Bunyan's pilgrims, passing through Vanity Fair, were a spectacle. In dress, speech, interest, and sense of values, they differed from the worldlings. The line of demarcation was distinct, deliberate, and discredited... Paul declares in good, round English: "The world is crucified unto me."
Is this beyond us? Well might we quake within and tremble at the lip to repeat his phrase. Only when we are thus dead to the world and all its toys, its idle pomp and fading joys, can we enter into the spiritual triumphs of our Risen and Reigning Lord. — Leonard Ravenhill
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Affliction is a Blessing
"For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." Hebrews 12:10
By all that is sacred and worthy of desire, the Word would have us know and believe that affliction is a blessing, and yet it does not ignore the fact that the chastisement causes pain. As an old believer said when speaking of one of the promises, "Yes, it is blessedly true; but still it hurts." Therefore, "All chastening for the present seemeth to be grievous: yet afterward..." To the flesh which judges by what is present and by sense, it is distinctly, often terribly grievous.
Faith which lives in the future, and is unseen, rejoices in the assurance not only of deliverance, but of the heavenly blessing it brings. "For the present... yet afterward." These two expressions contain the great contrast between time and eternity of the visible and the invisible, of sorrow and of joy, of sense and of faith..." To live "for the present," to be guided by it, and to sacrifice all for its gratification is the sin and the folly and the death in which we live by nature. "Yet afterward," to throw eternity into the balance and judge everything by that, this is what even the patriarchs did. This is what Christ taught us when it is said of Him, "for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross."
This is what faith can teach us in every trial. With that "yet afterward" ...the light of eternity, and its reward shines on the least as on the greatest of our trials, and makes each one the seed of an everlasting harvest of which we pluck the fruits even here... When the hurricane is sweeping the ocean into mountain high waves, down in the deep waters all is serene and quiet. The disturbance is only on the surface. Even so, the joy of eternity can keep a soul in perfect peace amid abounding afflictions. "For the present" is swallowed up in the "yet afterward" of a living faith. — Andrew Murray
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"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" Philippians 4:13
I shall never forget the morning that I spent in my church reading an old musty book that I had discovered in my library on the subject of: "The Higher Christian Life." As I poured over that little volume, I saw a new light. The Lord Jesus revealed Himself as a living and all-sufficient Presence. I learned, for the first time, that Christ had not saved us from future peril, leaving us to fight the battle of life as best we could; but He who had justified us was waiting to sanctify us, to enter into our spirit, and to substitute His strength, His holiness, His joy, His love, His faith, His power for all our worthlessness, helplessness, and nothing-ness. He made it an actual, living fact: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
It was indeed a new revelation. Throwing myself at the feet of the glorious Master, I claimed the mighty promise: "I will dwell in (you) and walk in (you.)" (See II Cor. 6:16) Across the threshold of my spirit there passed a Being as real as the Christ who came to John on Patmos. From that moment, a new secret has been the charm and glory, and strength of my life and testimony. I have learned the secret of the verse: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." — A. B. Simpson
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A Fixed Heart
"Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah." Psalms 4:4
What can this mean but that moral conduct, good or bad, originates deep within the mind? The thoughts dwell upon an act or course of action with interest and consent. This stirs the affections, which in turn trigger the will to commit the act under consideration. The sin that follows may be so base, so physical, so obviously "of the flesh" that no one would dream it began as an undisciplined thought in the heart.
The rich fool "thought within himself," and as a result, took a course that cost him his soul. It is something of a happy paradox that, while the thoughts deeply affect the will, and go far to determine its choices, the will, on the other hand, has the power to control the thoughts. A will firmly engaged with God can swing the intellectual powers around to think on holy things. Were it not so, Paul's words to the Phillipians would be psychologically untenable when he said: "Brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, any virtue, any praise, think on these things."
Since we are here commanded to think on certain things, it follows that we can command our thoughts; and if we can pick the objects upon which to meditate, we can, in the end, sway our whole inner life in the direction of righteousness. It is much more important that we think godly thoughts and will to do God's will than that we feel "spiritual." Religious feelings very so greatly from person to person, or even in the same person, that it is never safe to trust them. Let us, by a determined act of faith, set our affections on things above (Col. 3:1,2) and God will see the rest. The safest, and after awhile, the happiest man is the one who can say, "My heart if fixed, trusting in the Lord." (Ps. 112:7) — A. W. Tozer
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Kept by His Power
"...kept by the power of God..." I Peter 1:5
What is kept? You are kept. How much of you? The whole being. Does God keep part of you and not another? No. Some people have an idea that this is a sort of vague, general keeping, and that God will keep them in such a way that when they die, they will get to heaven. But they do not apply the word "kept" to everything in their being and nature; and yet this is what God wants.
There are some people who think God will keep them in spiritual things, but not in temporal things. This latter, they say, lies outside of His line…God not only cares for the spiritual, but for the temporal also. The greater part of the life of many people must be spent, sometimes eight or nine or ten hours a day, amid the temptations and distractions of business. But God will care for you there. The keeping of God includes all.
Will our God, in His tender-hearted love towards us, not keep us every moment when He has promised to do so? Oh, if we once got hold of the thought that our whole religious life is to be God's doing! "It is God that worketh in us to will and to do of His good pleasure." When once we get faith to expect that from God, God will do all for us.
The keeping is to be continuous. Every morning God will meet you as you wake. It is not a question of "if I forget to wake in the morning with the thought of Him, what will come of it?" If you trust your waking to God, God will meet you in the morning as you wake with His divine sunshine and love; and He will give you the consciousness that through the day, you have got God to take charge of you continuously with His almighty power. And God will meet you the next day and every day. Never mind if, in the practice of fellowship, there comes failure at times. If you maintain your position and say: "Lord, I am going to expect Thee to do Thy utmost, and I am going to trust Thee day by day to keep me absolutely," your faith will grow stronger and stronger; and you will know the keeping power of God in unbrokenness. — Andrew Murray
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"If any man would come after Me, let him deny Himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." Matthew 16:24
We have been content with renouncing our sins, but keeping ourselves. Let him "deny himself", not deny pleasant things to self, nor even deny the sins of self, but deny himself and all that is bound up in himself. Let him "deny himself" as the central source or cause of action, himself as the central object of all things which come to him from without! Himself, any other word would have narrowed the Lord's meaning of the Cross, for it covers the whole of the deliverance of Calvary as afterwards revealed by the risen Lord to the Apostle Paul.
The crucial message of Calvary to man is salvation from "himself!" If he will take for himself the Cross, accepting the spirit of the Cross as manifested in the Christ who died for him, and deny, or renounce himself as crucified on the Cross with his Lord, he will, in so doing, be delivered from the bondage of his sins, from the terror of the law, and from the spirit of the world, as well as from the power of the devil.
Oh blessed gospel of Calvary! How simple, how deep, how effective, how wise! For "himself" is the center and core of all the trouble, rebellion, selfishness, pride, and all sin! Let a man look at himself as nailed to the Cross; let him, day by day, refuse to know himself, but rather calmly, quietly take the path of the Cross, and he will follow the Lamb. He will follow Him, not only to Calvary, but right to the center of heaven to share His Throne. — Jesse Penn-Lewis
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