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30 June, 2014

Christ in Suffering

Octavius Winslow, 1863

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20

Christ is ever with you — in suffering. He Himself was a sufferer. Oh, suffering never looked so lovely, martyrdom never wore a crown so resplendent — as when the Son of God bowed His head and drank the cup of woe for us! Himself a sufferer — is there a being in the universe who could take His place at your side in all the scenes of mental, spiritual, and bodily suffering through which your Heavenly Father leads you, comparable to Christ? What are your sufferings — contrasted with His? And what was there in the unparalleled greatness and intensity of His sufferings — to disqualify Him from entering with the warmest love and deepest sympathy into yours?

Suffering for His sake, or suffering His will — He is with you to sustain, to mitigate, to sanctify. It is given to you not only to believe — but also to suffer for Christ. Removed from the active sphere of your Christianity — the sphere and the service which, perhaps, you too fondly idolized — He has placed you in the school of passive endurance — a position the most irksome and trying to you. Look into the burning, fiery furnace of the three children of Israel: "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed — and the fourth looks like the Son of God!" (Daniel 3:25) So is Christ with you in suffering. You shall pass through the furnace — the flames only destroying your bonds and setting you free from some dominant sin, some potent spell, some slavish fear — bringing you more fully into the happy, holy, realization of your adoption, pardon, and acceptance of God. Treading that furnace at your side, controlling its flames, tempering its heat — is the same Son of God who trod it with them, and who says to you, "Surely, I am with you always!"

The blessed Savior is never more with His people than in suffering. He himself has been a sufferer, and He knows how to pity His people when they suffer; and if best for them — He can send them quick relief.

29 June, 2014

Christ in Adversities

Octavius Winslow, 1863

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20

In the temporal calamities and adversities of this life, in the vicissitudes of commerce, in the pressure of poverty — it is equally our privilege to plead in prayer and faith, this appropriate and precious promise of the Savior, and invoke His interposition, support, and aid.

Our Lord, when on earth, never showed Himself indifferent to the temporal necessities of man. We read that He had compassion on the multitude, because they had nothing to eat; and in the exercise of His sympathy, and in the interposition of His power — fed thousands with bread. He is still the same today.

Have your commercial transactions met with a reverse? Are you actually under the pressure of poverty — your wife and your little ones crying for bread? Go in prayer, my brother, and plead in childlike faith this gracious promise of Jesus, "Surely, I am with you always," and you shall not plead in vain.

Ah, yes! He has sent, He has permitted this calamity but to show you how near He is to you, how He will, as of old, tenderly compassionate your need, and then, in the boundlessness of His divine resources, abundantly supply it. See Christ, and Christ alone — in your present distress. Bow uncomplainingly, cheerfully, to His will. Lean confidingly, unwaveringly upon His arm. Trust His goodness, faithfulness, and power. And, oh, if this temporal calamity, this worldly sorrow — but draws your soul to Christ; if now you are aroused to prayer, and are led to turn to God, to seek spiritual blessing, the "bread of life," without which you perish, the "true riches" of grace on earth and of glory in heaven — then through eternity you will praise the Savior for the overwhelming calamity which saved your soul, as by fire.

Turn now, amid crushed hopes, wrecked fortune, the biting and the cries of poverty — to Him whose providence can cause the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil not utterly to fail, and whose grace can so sanctify your affliction and chasten your sorrow — as to make this present adversity the sweetest, holiest, costliest blessing of your life.

Yes! Christ is with you always — all your days! He is with you in the inexperience and temptations of your youth — to counsel and keep you! He is with you in the cares and anxieties of manhood — to sustain and soothe you! He is with you the feebleness, infirmity, and loneliness of old age — to be your staff and comfort. Christ is ever with you in widowhood — to vindicate your nights and cheer your desolation! He is with you in your lonely orphanage — to be to you as a father and a friend! He is with you in all the adversities and vicissitudes of life, its changing scenes and dying friends!

In the total absence of the kind sympathy for which you yearn, the affection for which you pant, the counsel and protection which you need — Christ will in your experience make good to the letter, His precious promise, "Surely, I am with you always!" Oh! to have His presence with you in these circumstances, you can well afford to part with all others.

You are perhaps anticipating a trial, and, like the disciples in the transfiguration — you fear as you enter into the cloud, the portentous shadow of which is darkening and closing around you. But how groundless were their fears! and equally so are yours. Christ was with them in the cloud, and a Father's voice issued from its bosom. Never were they more honored, or more safe. The same Christ, the same almighty, loving Friend — is with you in the cloud which now you so much dread. Oh, trust your trembling soul to Him!

Is it the heart's wrench you fear? Is it mental despondency you dread? Is it bodily suffering from which you shrink? Is it temporal loss you anticipate? "I am with you always!" is the soothing, assuring promise with which Jesus would have you meet it. He will strengthen, sustain, soothe, and comfort you — with His blissful presence at the moment of the trial. Trust Him now! He never yet belied Himself, never broke this precious promise in a solitary instance.

"As your day — so shall your strength be." "As your day!" His presence will dissipate the gloom, quell the fear, hush the murmur, deaden the suffering; and, thus encircled by His arms — He will bear you through it, to the eternal praise and glory of His name!

In all our distresses and adversities — Christ is ever with us. Friend of sinners! Lord of saints! my trembling spirit shrinks; I fear as I enter into this cloud! Be sensibly near me. Let me feel Your hand, hear Your voice, realize Your presence — then shall I fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff will support and comfort me. "Surely, I am with you; I will be with you. Fear not." Enough, my gracious Lord! I will now enter into the cloud; I will gird me for the trial, and, supported by Your grace and soothed by Your love — will glorify You in the fire!

28 June, 2014

Christ's Presence

Puritan Octavius Winslow

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20

But it is the spiritual presence of Christ thus promised and pledged to His people: "Surely, I am with you always." This promise of Jesus, as precious as it is marvelous, is predicated upon His essential Deity. Were He, as some represent, only human and not absolutely divine — what confidence could we have in this promise? What comfort would it impart, what hope would it inspire, what protection would it afford? Where is the created being, be he man or angel, who could in truth speak in language so lofty and sublime as this? "Surely, I am with you always — even to the end of the world!" Would it not be the utterance of the boldest blasphemy in him thus to speak, and would it not be the truest delusion in us thus to believe?

But because our Lord Jesus was God, He spoke with authority, Godlike and divine. "I am with you always!" Oh, sublime thought! there is not a world, a being, a spot in the universe, however remote, insignificant, or obscure — there beams not a star, there flames not a sun, there breathes not a spirit, there exists not an empire — where Christ's government does not rule, Christ's power is not felt, Christ's glory is not displayed. Could the believer take the wings of the dawn, and fly to the most distant planet, or touch the utmost limit of space — there the smile of Christ's love would illumine him, the accents of Christ's voice would cheer him, the atmosphere of Christ's presence would encircle him, the power of Christ's omnipotence would uphold him — he would feel the right hand of Christ gently laid upon his spirit; and in the solemn stillness and fathomless depth of that profound solitude, he would exclaim, "you are near, O Lord!"

We repeat the inquiry for the purpose of pursuing it more fully: Whose presence is thus promised and pledged? It is the presence of Christ! The Christ who is God. "Immanuel, God with us." The Christ who made all worlds, created all beings, governs all empires, controls all events. The Christ who replenishes earth with beauty, heaven with glory, eternity with song. The Christ before whom angels and archangels, principalities and powers bend, and at whose name every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The Christ whose glory is divine, whose beauty is peerless, whose wealth is boundless, whose love is as infinite as His being.

The Christ who took your human nature — that same infirm, suffering nature which now wearily you wear — and in that nature bore and put away forever your sins, uplifted and forever removed your curse, paid all your great debt to Divine justice, sorrowed for you in the garden, suffered and expired in your stead on the cross, rose from the grave, irradiating it with the hope of the "first resurrection," ascended up to heaven, lives and intercedes for you, representing your person and presenting your prayers and praises with ineffable acceptance and delight to His Father and your Father, to His God and your God.

The Christ who loves you with an affection whose depth no line can sound, whose constancy no change can chill, whose care of, whose sympathy for, whose watchfulness over you — is the warmest, tenderest love that ever pulsated in a human breast. The Christ who acknowledges Himself your Brother, has proved Himself your Friend, and who assures you that as the head is in union with the body, and the vine is one with the branch — is ever with, ever one with, ever close to you in an invisible, yet real and conscious presence; from which neither life with all its changes, nor death with all its solemnities, shall be able to sever you! Such, child of God, is the Being who breathes these gentle, assuring words into your ear, "I am with you always!"

O honored saint of God! You have . . .
the  Divinest in the universe to love you,
the  Mightiest in the universe to shield you,
the  Loveliest in the universe to delight you,
the  Dearest in the universe to soothe, cheer, and gladden you!

O favored disciple of Jesus — you have such a one ever at your side! Tell me, if, of all whom you have ever loved, or all who have loved you — the one who was given to your youth to love you more tenderly than all; yes, the being who loved you yet more deeply, tenderly, an unchangeably still — who loved you as a mother only could — is there one of all those whose presence ever with you, you would prefer to Christ's love?

The question grieves you, you shrink from the comparison, and with uplifted eyes, moistened with tears, yet beaming with affection — you exclaim, from the profoundest depths of your soul, "Whom have I in heaven but You and there is none upon earth that I desire besides You!"

But we must remind you, before we proceed further, that the presence of Christ with His people involve equally the presence of the First and Third Persons of the ever-blessed and glorious Trinity. It is a triple staff we place in your hand, in grasping which, your faith leans upon infinity in its threefold manifestation. We can have nothing to do truly, spiritually, and savingly with one Person of the Godhead — without an equal faith in, and love to, the others. When Christ pledges His presence with you, He unites with it the Fatherhood of God, its boundless sources of love, wisdom, and strength.

Christ came to make known the Father's mind, to reveal the Father's love, to bring home to heaven the Father's family, predestined to the adoption of children. "No man knows the Father — but he to whom the Son will reveal him." "He who has seen Me — has seen the Father." That great God, that eternal Father, who thus spoke to His Church, speaks equally to you: "Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!" "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!"

Oh, seek to realize this precious truth in all your journeying: the presence of Christ — is the assurance that your Heavenly Father is with you. Christ's voice speaking to you in love — is the echo of the Father's voice. Christ's smile of delight beaming upon you — is the brightness of the Father's smile. Christ's precious promises sustaining and soothing you — are the "exceeding great and precious promises" of God, which are "all yes and amen in Christ Jesus unto the glory of God the Father."

It is a truth, equally as revealed and equally as precious, that the presence of Christ with His people involves also the presence of the Holy Spirit Oh, that we had a more spiritual, vivid, grateful apprehension of the Divinity, personality, and gracious work of the Spirit — our Spiritual Quickener, our Divine Comforter, our Indwelling Sanctifier, our Infallible Teacher. "I believe in the Holy Spirit," is one of the vital articles of our Creed. Is it equally the deep, experimental, sanctifying sentiment of our heart? 

Do I firmly, practically believe in the Divine personality of the Holy Spirit, in His official relation to my salvation, in His absolute necessity in regeneration, in His tender, changeless love as my Comforter, in His indispensable necessity as my Teacher, and in His gracious, sanctifying power, as ever abiding with, and dwelling in me? Such is the magnitude and extent of the promise of Christ, "I am with you!" We repeat, it involves the love of the Father who adopted you, the grace of the Son who died for you, the power of the Spirit who quickened you, the Triune-Jehovah!

Before I refer to the circumstances in which you may anticipate a full realization of this precious promise, let me remind you of the offices of Christ it involves, the materials of this triple Staff which Jesus places in your hand.

27 June, 2014

The Overshadowing of God’s Personal Deliverance - Oswald Chambers

In 2005 when I first lost my job, I had a plan. I had accumulated proof that I was being harassed by my bosses, abused verbally and mentally, especially when they thought I had no witnesses and we were behind closed doors. I had accumulated so much proof that when I lost my job, even though I could sense God had a plan for me, I thought while God works on His plan for my life, I would take these people to court and make them pay for everything I had suffered. I truly felt that I had the right to do so.

Right after I lost my job, I felt the need to be around people and the environment that I was in, I was encouraged to get my lawsuit going. A few days later, God worked something out in my heart to a point I could not ignore His still voice. I had to go somewhere to be alone with Him, a place where the environment was not so conducive to Satan’s influence. The minute I was alone, I could feel the quietness in my heart, and I was in a different frame of mind. That same day, I received a phone call from my brother who is a very successful homebuilder and has his own company. He wanted me to come down to Montreal and join. Of course, the potential for what I could earn through wheeling and dealing, bribing and what have you, were all put in front of me to consider.

That was a weird phone call when you consider that my brother never called me for years and he always treated me as if I was beneath him, based on the stark contrast in our status.  We were not and still not travelling the same circle. I have to say that I was tempted and was considering the offer. Through the phone conversation, the Holy Spirit said, “this opportunity is not godly and it is Satan talking through your brother.” All of the sudden He made me hear another voice behind my brother’s voice on the phone line. I still cringe when I think about it. I could identify the other voice, I still remember vividly all I wanted to do was to get rid of my brother on the phone and I told him I will call him back. I never did.  I give you this background so you can see how Satan can use other people to tempt us and derail God’s work. But, when we have the inclination to follow, we have nothing to fear because He is bigger than Satan and has already defeated him. 

Right after that, God spoke to my heart and discouraged me from suing the bank. I still remember vividly when the Holy Spirit said to me “the time that you will spend suing is a time where you could be with me learning and growing spiritually.” While the Spirit was telling me that, He gave me a vision where I would could see how I was going to be swimming through paper works in court, with no time for Him. Most of all, I would be in a perpetual mind frame where I was going to be consumed with the injustice that was done to me. Strangely, in the vision I could see how my demeanor and all my mind were absorbed by self-pity, totally devoted to the case at hand.

It was a little bit painful for me to say yes to God because this meant that I did not know what the next step was and God was going to have to decide the agenda. Somehow, I knew my saying yes to God meant that I was taking on His agenda for my life, it's that simple.  So, I agreed with God anyway. I will spare you the details as to how happy He was that I chose to follow in this way. However, I want to point out that my attitude was of one, living a disjointed life. A life so compartmentalized that I felt the need to live out my plans for my life in conjunction with God’s plans.  But, in my defense, I did not know better, I was never taught there was something better either. To me, living a compartmentalized Christianity was all natural.  I was surprised today when I read Oswald Chambers devotion for June 27. I could see, God had the same concerns about me then.

Oswald said: “If we are devoted to Jesus Christ, we have nothing to do with what we encounter, whether it is just or unjust.” One of the blessings that God bestowed on me when I chose His plan for my life instead of going on with the lawsuit, was to show me in a vision how the injustice that happened to me all these years had nothing to do with me. In the vision it was as if I was totally removed from all this and the injustice was actually done to Christ in me, but not me. At the same time, it was all part of God’s design to get me to where He wants me so that He could use me as a holy vessel.

What was strange in the vision was the fact that I felt I was just a bystander in all that happened to me as a human being. The focus was removed from me being this human being who deserves to be treated better and deserves to be compensated, to Christ wanting to use this vessel that I am and permitted all these things to happen for His own purpose and glory.  I wish I could find words to convey what I lived out in that vision to make it simpler. But, the reality is that when the bad things in life are happening to us, we have to learn to remove ourselves from the equation. Even though it is a very hard thing to do through the pain, the insults, the hardships, the humiliation, the indignation, the self-pity we are tempted to indulge ourselves in just for a little while, the distress and the heartache of all of it. We have to learn to see God’s plan at work and learn to wait for Him to divulge more while we keep walking steadily before Him.

It is almost like Job’s story. None of what happened to Job had anything to do with Job. He was just a by product of something between God and Satan. God used Job to make a point to Satan and proved to Satan that He has people who actually love Him faithfully out there. He also used the situation to glorify Himself. At the same time, God had a plan in mind for Job, He wanted to teach Job more of Him.

When we put God’s purpose and plan for our lives first, there is always something in it for us. By, the way, this is how God wants us to claim His promises in the Bible. Even though God intends to reward us when we see Him in heaven, for living in His purpose and plans, but, He always rewards us as a token of affection for now. Like a deposit for what’s to come. In the case of Job, we see how everything wrapped up neatly for Job in one sentence. All the 41 chapters of the book is culminated neatly with Job 42:6 when Job said to God, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job came out of it all and felt he was the richest man on earth even before God restored his wealth and life. The treasure he found was when he could say, I have heard of you before with my ears (no doubt it was the ears in his heart) but NOW I SEE. His spiritual eyes were opened; he met with God face to face so to speak. His relationship with God went from him being a righteous and faithful servant of Him, to a personal and intimate friend of the God of the universe. 


Christ in Death

Octavius Winslow

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20

Christ is with you — in the hour and article of death. Never did a believer in Jesus die alone! Alone he may be as to all human aid and Christian sympathy. But he cannot be really and actually alone; for, if ever Christ fulfils this exceeding great and precious promise, "I am with you always" — it is when His blood-bought, ransomed saint enters and passes through the shaded valley. He is with you to speak the promises, to mete out the grace, to stifle fear, to repel the tempter, to apply the blood, to strengthen faith, and to waken the echoes of the silent valley with the music of His voice: "I am with you."

Amid the prostration of earthly hopes, when unable to glance one thought on a dark future, when the stricken spirit, like a wounded bird, lies struggling in the dust, with broken wing and wailing cry, longing for pinions to fly away from a weary world, to the rest and quiet of the grave; in that hour of earthly dissolution, He who has the keys of death at His belt, nay, who has tasted death Himself, and better still, who has conquered it — draws near in touching tenderness, saying: "Surely, I am with you! I am with you to cheer you, to comfort you, to support and sustain you! I, who once wept at a grave, am here to weep with you! I will be at your side in all that trying future; I will make my grace sufficient for you, and my promises precious to you, and my love better than all earthly affection. I am the strength of your heart and your portion forever!"

In summary, Oh! seek much, living and dying — of the sensible presence of Christ! Let this be the grandessential character of your religion: a religion, the essence, the sunshine of which is the ever conscious presence of Jesus. Walk daily at His side. Cultivate confidential transactions with Him. Allow no sin to grieve Him, no distrust to wound Him, no coldness, shyness, or distance of fellowship to lessen one throb, to suppress one desire, to congeal one current, or to prevent one act of your love. As his disciple and follower, separate yourself from the world, and bear His cross after Him boldly and uncompromisingly, yet meekly and heroically. Be happy in all His dealings with you; all that He sends or withholds, gives or removes — for He has said, "I will never leave you, nor ever forsake you!" No! He will be with you until He brings you home to glory! Precious presence of Christ on earth! it is the dawn of glory, the pledge of heaven, the foretaste of celestial bliss, the first-fruits of the golden harvest of eternity!

25 June, 2014

Christ as a Savior

Octavius Winslow, 1863

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus — because He will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21

Christ is ever with us — as a Savior. Oh, how the heart thrills, and the eye beams at the mention of the name of Jesus! What we chiefly need is — not wisdom to guide, or power to shield, or sympathy to soothe, or might to strengthen; it is Salvation — the soul saved — a Savior to save us to the uttermost! We need guilt-atoning blood, soul-justifying righteousness, sin-subduing grace! We need a Savior who has done all, suffered all, paid all, and leaves us nothing to do but, believe and be saved. This is Jesus!

My reader, salvation is the finished work of Christ, and the free gift of God; and nothing less and nothing more is required of you than that, with a penitent and believing heart — you trust in the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus. God has laid all your sins, all your curse, and all your condemnation — upon Christ! And all that He asks of you in return is, a believing, loving, obedient reception of His Son. Oh, then, grieve not; dishonor not the Savior by doubting His willingness or ability to save you!

Christ is the all-sufficient and only Savior and Redeemer for all those who will truly put their trust in Him. He saves to the uttermost all who come to God by Him.

24 June, 2014

Christ in Sickness

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20

Octavius Winslow, 1863

Christ is ever with you — in sickness. There are some trials which in an especial manner bring Christ near to us. There is a secret in all sorrow — there is a deep secret in sickness. To whom can the sufferer confide it? The disease, perhaps, perplexes the judgment or baffles the skill of the physician. 

The nervous irritability, the mental sensitiveness, the extreme weakness, the acute agony which renders the sound of the gentlest footfall too powerful for the frame — may be but little understood by the most considerate, tender watchers at your side. They, perhaps — but little know what heroic fortitude, what patient endurance of spirit — lie concealed beneath all this uncomplaining suffering, what an incessant conflict is waging, and by what a superhuman struggle — the mastery is obtained of the mind over the body, and of God's grace over both.

How difficult it is to suppress irritation, and how hard to express gratitude, when even the smile of love and the tear of compassion can awaken no responsive feeling — where all is pain, uneasiness, and despondency!

But Christ is ever with you in your sickness! You may not always be sensible of it. Your physical infirmities may absorb all thought and consciousness, but that of suffering and languor, depriving you of the sensible enjoyment of the Lords presence. Notwithstanding, He is at your side, watching you with sleepless love, supporting with His own grace — the spiritual depression of your soul; and mitigating with His own power — the anguish of your bodily sufferings.

Think of the human and tender considerateness of Christ! He knows your frame, and remembers that you are dust, and does not exact and expect from you, more than you are capable of experiencing. Blessed sickness — that leads the mind more fully into the conscious presence of Christ — that pillows the restless head upon His changeless love — that realizes the encircling of His omnipotent arm beneath the sinking frame — that attunes the discordant will into sweeter and more perfect harmony with His — that gently molds the soul to His own meek and patient spirit! Oh, holy lessons, precious truths, costly blessings — learned and experienced on a bed of sickness and of suffering! And were this the only blessing — the clinging, soothing, sustaining presence of Christ with the sick one He loves, it were enough.

23 June, 2014

Christ in Service

Octavius Winslow, 1863

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20

Christ is ever with you — in service. The religion of Jesus is an active, self-denying religion. The Divine Master has left the scene of His own toil — but He has given to every disciple, his work. Each has his mission — something to do for souls, something to accomplish for the Savior, some glory to bring to God. Realizing in some degree what a debtor to the Lord he is; what he owes to the love that chose him, to the blood that ransomed him, to the grace that called him, to the Savior that gave Himself a sacrifice — the believer exclaims from the depth of his grateful heart, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" And now, to labor for Christ is his highest desire and ambition; be the service home or foreign, pleasant or self-denying, distinguished or obscure, to rule an empire or to sweep a crossing.

In this service for Christ — Christ is ever with you. Unseen and unheard, He is close at your side — guiding your judgment, strengthening your faith, nerving your heart, sustaining and cheering your spirit, honoring, blessing, and rewarding your labor. Oh, think not that Christ can leave you for a moment, while you are active and toiling for Him. He knows all your difficulties, marks your discouragements, is cognisant of your infirmities, sees your faintings and deficiencies, and how burdensome, delicate, and humbling the task. Do you think, while engaged in a service of love for His name, the sweat upon your brow, the pressure of your mind, anxiety and exhaustion absorbing life itself, foes threatening, friends chiding, your own heart often misgiving — that Christ will leave you? Oh, never! "Lo I am with you always" — all days — are the words with which He seeks to strengthen and cheer you on in your work of faith and labor of love which you show for His dear name.

Christ must ever be with us in all the duties of life. We must have His presence as a power in our hearts. "I am with you always," has cheered thousands of hearts in the midst of arduous labors in His service.

22 June, 2014

Christ Our Guide

Octavius Winslow, 1863

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20

Christ is with us, as our guide. How deep our need of Him as such, and how endeared does it make Him! So blind are we, so dark is our future, so perplexing is our present path — that the very next step might be a false one — taking us into a wrong direction, entailing untold anxieties and sorrows, or hurling us from a precipice into total ruin! Yes, we need just such a guide as Christ!

What Alpine traveler would attempt the ascent of a steep glacier, or cross the dangerous pass — unattended by an experienced guide — one who knew the route, whose skillful eye could detect the treacherous crevice, and whose strong arm could fence the narrow, winding way?

Our path to eternity demands just such a guide as the prophet foretold Christ would be. "I have given Him," says God, "for a Leader and Commander to the people." His own gracious words corroborate this statement when speaking of Himself as the Shepherd of His flock, who "Goes before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice."

Oh, what a privilege — in every path of doubt, in every circumstance of danger, where human judgment is either warped or beclouded, and your own mind hesitates and falters — to have such a wonderful Counselor, such a divine Guide as Christ at your side! As such — He is ever with you!

He will guide you . . .
with His eye of providence,
and with His hand of power,
and with His heart of love!

He knows the way that you take — for He has ordained it.

He knows every crook in your lot — for He has appointed it.

He will . . .
roll away the stone of difficulty,
level mountains,
fill up valleys,
make the crooked path straight,
and the rough place smooth; this will He do unto you, and not forsake you.

Oh, be honest and upright with Him! Go to Him first, consult Him first, acknowledge Him in all your ways — before you consult any human guide. May Christ, in all the minute details of your life, have the pre-eminence. Learn to lay your own desires and thoughts at His feet.

"He guides the humble in what is right — and teaches them His way!" Psalm 25:9. Not our way — but "His way." We must first surrender our way and will — before He will teach us His. He guides the "humble" — the childlike, trustful, unquestioning disciple, who humbly locks his hand in Christ's and says, "Lord, lead me and guide me, not in my own way — but in Yours!"

Oh, take a firm grasp of this unfailing Guide, and you shall travel safely and surely, through all your unknown future. Be honest and sincere only to know and to walk in the Lord's way, the way in which He would have you to go; and then will He fulfill His most gracious promise, "Surely, I am with you always" — in the midst of the utmost peril and dangers!

21 June, 2014

Christ Our Shield!

Octavius Winslow, 1863

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20
Christ is ever with His people — as a shield and deliverer. Our estimation of this truth, will be proportioned to our intelligent apprehension of the number and potency of our enemies — and the costliness and preciousness of the treasure thus divinely protected.

With what unslumbering vigilance,
with what divine power,
with what changeless love
does the Lord Jesus shield the work of grace in the soul of His people!
Who keeps that spark alive — in the midst of the ocean?
Who guards this vineyard night and day — lest any hurt it?
Who preserves . . .
faith from faltering,
love from chilling,
hope from dying?

Who . . .
strengthens the 'work of grace' when it is feeble,
raises it when it droops,
restores it when it relapses,
keeps it in the cold of winter and the drought of summer;
and, when the frosts and winds of autumn would nip and scatter its foliage — clothes it with the freshness and bloom of spring?

Oh, it is Jesus, encircling with His all-protecting shield — the work of grace which His death has accomplished, and which His Spirit wrought!

"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge! He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!" Psalm 18:2

Trembling believer! The work of grace in your heart shall never die! The kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in your soul — is indestructible! "They shall never perish!" is the declaration of the Shepherd who bought you with His blood! You are watched over by Christ — and kept by the power of God. And although the tide of spiritual affection may ebb, and the shadows of twilight fall thickly upon your soul, and you are ready to regard your conversion a mistake, your religion a delusion, and your hope a fallacy — thus casting away your confidence; yet there is One who knows His own work, recognizes His own image, reads His Spirit's writing in the soul, and must Himself cease to be — before He allows those living embers of love He has enkindled upon the altar of your renewed heart, to die. The rain may descend, the winds may blow, the flood may surge — "But the inextinguishable flame burns on, and shall forever burn!"

There are assaults from which alone Christ can shield us!
Innumerable and invisible,
sleepless and restless,
working with an almost almighty power,
everywhere with an almost omnipresent existence,
ever plotting our ruin
are the spiritual enemies of our soul, and the sworn foes of our faith!
The world and its fascinations,
Satan and his devices,
the flesh and its tendencies,
error and its disguises
are all confederate against the child of God, opposing his every advance in holiness!
But Christ is our ever-present shield, near at the moment of assault, and skillful to deflect and disarm it! "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield!" are words addressed to all who have like precious faith with him.

Listen to Paul when defending Christianity before Nero: "At my first answer no man stood with me — but all men forsook me. . . . Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me." Severed from the protection and sympathy of man — he was all the more conscious of the presence and love of God. This is the manner of the Lord with us. The stage shall be swept of the human — to give place to the Divine. When the last human prop bends, and the last spark of creature-hope expires — hail it as the harbinger of Christ's nearness, that the more signal may appear His loving deliverance, and the more complete and undivided His glory.

Oh yes! the Lord encompasses you! Encircled by danger — you are also encircled by Christ! When you embark in His cause on foreign service, enter the carriage of a railway, launch upon the treacherous sea, bend your steps of mercy to the bedside of the sick, travel the lone and dreary road — be your experience what it may, let your mind be kept in perfect peace, trusting in this truth: the ever-present protection of Jesus

The unhealthy climate shall be harmless, the sickening malaria shall be innocuous, the perilous transit shall be safe — curtained within the pavilion of your Savior's love. Swelling above the tempest, louder than the voice of many waters, or whispered in the still solitude — shall be heard the words of Jesus, ""So do not fear — for I am with you! Do not be dismayed — for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!" Isaiah 41:10. Lord, it is enough! My heart trusts in You, and I am helped!

Christ is with His people as the Head and Depository of all their spiritual supplies. The resources of the believer, although not from himself, and often, like Hagar's well, veiled from the eye — are yet, like that well-spring of water, flowing at the very side of the needy saint.

Destitution may reign far and wide, and the plaintive cry ascend from many a famished lip, "Who will show us any good?" Yet the Christian's soul, fed with the hidden manna and quenched from the river, the streams of which make glad the city of God — is kept alive in famine and in draught, and is like "a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not."

And what explains this mystery? The nearness at his side of a full Christ, overflowing with a redundancy of grace, love, and sympathy — suiting every circumstance, answering every call, supplying every demand.

New exigencies may occur in his daily history,
new demands made upon his mental and physical powers, 
of a new form may transpire,
new infirmities may strike, 
hitherto untasted, 
before unknown
all marking a new epoch in his history, a new phase of Christian experience — and all clamorous for the grace that is to sustain, the sympathy that is to soothe, the wisdom that is to guide. And shall they ask in vain? Never! Christ is with us — furnished, given, and pledged to supply amply and fully — all the necessities of His people.

"And of His fullness — we have all we received grace upon grace!" John 1:16. That is, grace following grace; grace answering every call for grace; more grace, grace out-measuring all past supply, all present need, "exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think." O blessed truth!

In the world's insolvency — the believer has a safe bank!

In the world's famine — he has a full granary!

In the world's drought — he has springs of water!

In the world's heat — he has his pleasant and grateful shade!

And all this is concentrated in Christ; for Christ is all. O favored saint! to have a full, overflowing, excess supply, so near; exiled from all other resources, other supports failing, other springs drying, other shadows vanishing as in a night — and he, perchance, sitting him down to die in hopeless grief, lo! words fall upon his ear softer, sweeter than angels' chimes, "I am with you always; with you in this lonely place and at this trying moment — to unseal your eye to the boundless fullness, that it pleased the Father would dwell in Me for you, the Father's child."

"Hold me up — and I shall be safe!"