Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August Devotional ~Sorrows May be a Resurrection Spot for Your Soul

"In the place where He was crucified was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher."
John 19:3

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

The river of life flows ever swiftly,
Rushing to fill the great ocean beyond.
Never ceasing to slow its power,
Like life, it pours forth, on and on and on.

Why did you have to go, sweet love of mine?
Why did you have to be swept away?
I can no longer see you with my eyes,
I can no longer hear your gentle and kind ways.

Will your life continue to live on in my soul?
Will I remember your gleaming, blue eyes?
Oh, to have had more time; your hand to hold,
As I listen to the stories of your life.

Who can stop the power of the waters?
Who can hold back the overflowing stream?
My arms are empty at the banks of the river,
My heart’s overwhelmed, engulfed by grief.

Your life has been carried into the open sea,
Currents have taken you so far away;
But my love for you I cling to tightly,
Until that day, when nothing will separate.

Fountain of Life, restore and bring a renewing,
Memories of love lost, but never forgotten.
Your loving-kindness, like the sun, is shining,
Lighting up my shadowed heart as a beacon.

My Father’s Ashes Upon the River

Many of you, nay, most of you, know full well what it is to have a sepulcher in the garden of your lives. You know the shadow that it sheds over all the pleasant alleys and the bordered paths. You need not be told how it changes the place for you into something other than it was.
But there is another aspect. Not a spot in all the enclosure brought to Joseph of Arimathea so enduring joy as the very place he had builded for sorrow. And the sepulcher in your garden may do the same for you. It may be a resurrection spot for your soul.
Out of this sorrow which wraps you round, you may rise into a purer and serener day. The rolling a great stone to the door may mark the finishing and hiding away of one portion of your Christian life; and the rolling of that stone away on the third morning may be the commencement of a higher and more consecrated one.
And if this be the case, then the sepulcher spot in your days will be the most blessed of all. Its joy will reach farther, shine clearer, endure longer, than any belonging to the hours when your garden knew no tomb.
Sorrows are too precious to be wasted. That great man of God in a past generation, Alexander MacLaren of Manchester, used to bring out this overlooked truth. He reminded God's people that sorrows will, if we let them, "blow us to His breast, as a strong wind might sweep a man into some refuge from itself. I am sure there are many who can thankfully attest that they were brought nearer to God by some short, sharp sorrow than by long days of prosperity.”
Take care that you do not waste your sorrows; that you do not let the precious gifts of disappointment, pain, loss, loneliness, or similar afflictions that come into your daily life mar you instead of mending you. See that they send you nearer to God, and not that they drive you farther from Him.
There is no failure of life so terrible as to have the pain without the lesson, the sorrow without the softening.

When the human heart is full of cares and crushed almost to the earth by heavy sorrows; when every nerve and fiber groans with agony, there is no sweeter and surer relief than to fly to the sacred presence of Him who never fails to lift the load of sorrow from the suffering one. If the path of duty is lost to the tear-blinded eyes; if the wanderer is bewildered amid the shadows of the way, how oft has all been made plain by the sweet soul-communion with Jesus!
O, ye who are weak and heavy burdened; ye who are sick and wounded in life's great battle; ye who with bleeding feet are journeying up life's rocky steep, seek God's blessed Spirit, and He will bear the burden for you.

~This devotional is dedicated to my beloved father, Alan, who was a gardener, artist, loving father and friend to all who had the honor of his friendship.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

June Devotional ~The Heaviest Cross Loving Parents Can Bear

But Jesus called for the children, saying, "Let the little children come to Me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Luke 18:16

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 18:10

Our dearest and precious, tiny Grace,
Covered by so many heartfelt prayers.
We waited and waited to meet your sweet face,
As our own cheeks were streaked with tears.

Fragile, yet strong, so welcomed into our arms,
Like a tender baby lamb, softly bleating;
Eyes opened wide, your face held a thousand charms,
We loved and adored you for moments too fleeting.

Our tiny treasure, now laid up in Heaven,
Stronger Arms than ours will care for you always.
Now we wait, your face never to be forgotten,
For you arrived and left us, all in one day.

All In One Day

Amid all the whirl and dizziness of life's tragedy, in which creation seems to be but one great cloud, I find myself suddenly brought to a sweet baby's grave. A gray old church, a gurgling stream, a far-spreading thorn tree on a green hillock, and a grave on the sunny southerly side. That is it. Thither I hasten night and day, and in patting the soft grass I feel as if conveying some sense of love to the little sleeper far down. Do not reason with me about it; let the wild heart, in its sweet delirium of love, have all its own way.
Baby was but two years old when, like a dewdrop, he went up to the warm sun, yet he left my heart as I have seen ground left out of which a storm had torn a great tree. We talk about the influence of great thinkers, great speakers, and great writers; but what about the little infant's power? Oh, child of my heart, no poet has been so poetical, no soldier so victorious, no benefactor so kind, as thy tiny, unconscious self. I feel thy soft kiss on my withered lips just now, and would give all I have for one look of thy dreamy eyes. But I cannot have it.
Yet God is love. Not dark doubt, not staggering argument, not subtle sophism, but child-death, especially where there is but one, makes me wonder and makes me cry in pain. Baby! baby! I could begin the world again without a loaf or a friend if I had but thee; such a beginning, with all its hardships, would be welcome misery. I do not wonder that the grass is green and soft that covers that little grave, and that the summer birds sing their tenderest notes as they sit on the branches of that old hawthorn tree.
My God! Father of mine, in the blue heavens, is not this the heaviest cross that can crush the weakness of man? Yet that green grave, not three feet long, is to me a great estate, making me rich, with wealth untold. I can pray there. There I meet the infant angels; there I see all the mothers whose spirits are above; and there my heart says strange things in strange words -- Baby, I am coming, coming soon! Do you know me? Do you see me? Do you look from sunny places down to this cold land of weariness? Oh, baby, sweet, sweet baby, I will try for your sake to be a better man; I will be kind to other little babies, and tell them your name, and sometimes let them play with your toys; but, oh, baby, baby, my old heart sobs and breaks.

Baby’s Grave

"Only a baby's grave--
A foot or two at the most
Of tear-dewed sod;
But a loving God
Knows what the little grave cost.
Only a baby's life, -
Brief as a perfumed kiss,
So fleet it goes;
But our Father knows
We are nearer to Him for this."

Let us praise God for the brief loan.

~This devotional is dedicated to Eric & Angela, who got to hold their baby girl, Grace, for just two short hours on earth.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Devotional ~How a Tree Becomes a Giant, Rooted in Love

So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
Isaiah 61:3b

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”
Colossians 2:6-7

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

William Cowper ~1774

It requires storms to produce this rooting business. No tree becomes great unless it is transplanted out on a meadow where the winds and storms can get at it. It remains small if sheltered in the forest.
         Out on the meadow it stands to shelter the herds and the flocks. The earth about the tree hardens. The rains do little good for the water runs off.
         But the terrific storm strikes. It twists, turns, wrenches and at times all but tears it out of its place. If the tree could speak it might bitterly complain. Should Nature listen and cease the storm process?
         On and on the storm almost bends it double. It is wrath now. What can such seeming cruelty mean? Is that love? But wait.
         All about the tree the soil is all loosened. Great cracks are opened up away down into the ground. Deep wounds they might appear to the inexperienced. The rain now comes in with its gentle ministry. The “WOUNDS” fill up. The moisture reaches away down deep even to the utmost root. The sun again shines. New and vigorous life burst forth. The roots go deeper, ever deeper. The branches shoot forth. Now and again one hears something snap and crack like a pistol. It is the expansion of the bark of the tree. It is getting too big for its clothes. It is growing into a giant. It is rooting.

"The brightest souls which glory ever knew,
Were rocked in storms and nursed when tempests blew."

Dean Dutton

         This devotional is dedicated to our dear friend, Hank, who is battling a storm called cancer right now.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Devotional ~Our Changeless King who Reigns Forever

"You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
John 18:37

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever."
Revelation 11:15

Oh, let me know
The power of Thy resurrection;
Oh let me show
Thy risen life in calm and clear reflection;
Oh let me soar
Where Thou, my Savior Christ, art gone before;
In mind and heart
Let me dwell always, only, where Thou art.

Oh let me give
Out of the gifts Thou freely givest;
Oh let me live
With life abundantly because Thou livest;
Oh make me shine
In darkest places, for Thy light is mine;
Oh let me be
A faithful witness for Thy truth and Thee.

An Easter Prayer~1879

       In all the chances and changes of this mortal life, it is our one comfort to believe firmly and actively in the changeless kingdom, and in the changeless King. This alone will give us calm, patience, faith, and hope, though the heavens and the earth be shaken around us. For so only shall we see that the kingdom, of which we are citizens, is a kingdom of light, and not of darkness; of truth, and not of falsehood; of freedom, and not of slavery; of bounty and mercy, and not of wrath and fear; that we live and move and have our being, not in a “Deus quidam deceptor,” who grudges His children wisdom, but in a Father of Light, from whom comes every good and perfect gift; who willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.  In His kingdom we are; and in the King whom He has set over it we can have most perfect trust.  For us that King stooped from heaven to earth; for us He was born, for us He toiled, for us He suffered, for us He died, for us He arose again, for us He sits forever at God’s right hand.  And can we not trust Him:  Let Him do what He will.  Let Him lead us whither He will.  Wheresoever He leads must be the way of truth and life.  Whatsoever He does, must be in harmony with that infinite love which He displayed for us upon the Cross. Whatsoever He does must be in harmony with that eternal purpose by which He reveals to men God their Father.  Therefore, though the heaven and the earth be shaken around us, we will trust in Him; for we know that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Out of the Deep—National Sermons

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Are you a good shepherd or a hireling?

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and is not concerned about the sheep.”
John 10:11-12

         As we read this tender allegory, the Good Shepherd passes before our eyes, a gracious, well-loved reassuring figure. All about Him there is an atmosphere that induces confidence. A sense of security pervades the story. The bond between Him and His flock is high and perfect. He knows their names. They know His voice; they recognize its tones; they cannot be deceived. And whether they are biding in the fold or being put forth to pasture, it is enough for them to know that He is near.
         The pastoral figure speaks to us not only of personal satisfaction, but of personal responsibility. We all have partly in our keeping some of the fair and precious things in other souls. We are called to be humble, lowly servants of the Good Shepherd. And surely Jesus Himself meant that we should find in this great allegory that which should teach us not only where to place our faith, but also how to do our work. Surely He meant us to find that ideal of sympathy and personal devotion, of vigilance, courage, and sacrifice, in the power of which alone we can hope to serve our needy brethren.
         The picture of the hireling shepherd is introduced just when the allegory has reached its highest point of thought and uttered its noblest message: ‘The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.’ That is the last heroism of faithfulness, the final seal of sacrifice; the unutterable, convincing tragedy of love. Suddenly our gaze is turned to another scene. We are still among the sheepfolds. Still a shepherd is keeping watch. And lo! a gaunt and hungry wolf leaps into the flock before their shepherd’s eyes. And in a moment he drops his heavy staff, wraps his long outer garment about his waist, and flees for his life. And the wolf has its cruel will of the deserted sheep. Surely Jesus sets this shameful picture of the coward shepherd fleeing like the wind and the snarl of the wolf in his ears just where He did set it—against a fair background of courage, love, and sacrifice—to warn us against unfaithfulness in life’s high task, and to teach us what manner of men we must be if we are to do that task as it should be done.
         ‘The hireling flees because he is a hireling.’ The hireling might have said that it was hardly fair to judge him by one weak moment. He had looked after the flock fairly well; he had counted them morning and evening, led them to pasturage, and kept them from straying. Was this all to be forgotten in one flight from duty? The wolf came so suddenly. He had no time to think. In justice to this shamed man, in justice to the pure and dreadful truth, how much is there in this plea? Very little when you come to look into things. It is in the surprises of life that we reap the reward of character. Half the value of character building would be swept away if it were not a fact that a man is gloriously or shamefully himself in the moment when he must act without deliberation. We talk about a man rising to an occasion, but in the last deep truth of things that is a shallow and misleading phrase. No man ever rose to an occasion. If he meets the great occasion and deals with it as it should be dealt with, it is because he is living all the while on the level of that occasion.
         But let us turn from the question of the vital place that character holds in all service to the question of what kind of a character is essential to the best service. Love is at once the germ and the spirit of it. The hireling is contrasted with the Good Shepherd in that the bond between the hireling and his work was a bond of selfishness and not a bond of love. The hireling works simply for wages. He is the picture for all time of the utter incompetence of selfishness to perform the great task of life….the hireling—the man with the inadequate motive—fails his trust and his Master, and flees for his life, not knowing that in that flight every step is taking him farther away from the few things worth saving—the price of his conscience, the cleanness of his soul, the power to look in the face of the Great Shepherd.
         We have, each of us, a place in the service of the Good Shepherd—in the folds where there are so many hungry mouths to feed, so many weak souls to protect, and out in the wilderness of sorrow and sin where so many foolish and weary ones are straying. Most of us have in our partial keeping the peace and happiness and spiritual safety of a little circle we meet at hearth and board. Each of us has a place and trust in the great pastorate of life. How shall we fill it: How not fail in it? How shall we glorify its drudgeries and meet its great occasions? Whence the courage and good cheer, the patience, tenderness, and hopefulness for all these things?
         The answer to these questions is not far to seek. It is here. ‘I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.’ The symbol of our service may be the Shepherd’s crook, but the secret of our service is the Savior’s Cross. It is only by the grace of an ever-deepening communion with the eternal love of God made manifest in Christ that the hireling spirit in its most subtle forms and deep disguises can be tracked down in the inmost recesses of our nature and driven forth from the smallest detail of our service…no man may be sure that he will not some day prove himself a hireling spirit unless for him the cup of life has become the cup of a sacrament, even, to use the great words of Ignatius, ‘the blood of Christ which is immortal love.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Day Devotional ~Simeon, "Many a great man has striven after an immortality..."

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God saying,
​“Now Lord, You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
​​According to Your word;
 ​​For my eyes have seen Your salvation…”
Luke 2:25-30

For years, I have waited expectantly,
Longing to see Your salvation with my eyes.
Treasuring the promise You’ve given me,
This great hope of seeing the Christ.

Oh, how the years swiftly pass;
My steps may falter, yet my heart burns bright.
I see my end drawing near,
Searching the midnight sky for Your light.

Then I see Him, the tiny Babe wrapped in warmth;
I stretch forth my hands to this blessed Child,
And draw Him close to my beating heart
All glory to You, Lord—my eyes now behold my desire!

Gazing in His eyes, peaceful like doves,
A divine and holy love settles upon Him,
And now that I’ve embraced Your great salvation,
Take me in peace; the bright Morning Star has dawned.
Simeon’s Prayer

         Simeon was a very usual name in Judea, and there is no doubt that our Simeon was just an obscure old man of the common people, entirely unknown out of his own little circle, who for years had been a devout but unofficial student of those prophetic Scriptures which had kindled in his heart, and kept burning for many years, the fire of faith and expectation; who, hoping against hope, had at last been rewarded by a revelation from God ‘that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.’ Many a great man has striven after an immortality of memory among men, only to die and be forgotten even in the place where he lived and wrought what he fondly hoped would be immortal deeds; yet this obscure old man, who was a lover of God and a believer in His Son Jesus Christ, has attained an immortality which shall endure while the world stands, and in the world of glory shall live and shine among the greatest of the servants of God. True immortality comes only to those who associate themselves with the Lord’s Christ. Not all who believe and receive Jesus shall be known in this word, and have their names preserved in the records of time; but none is too obscure to have his name written in the Lamb’s book of life; none too obscure to live and shine forever among the great unnumbered and numberless host of God’s redeemed ones.
         Simeon was just and devout. His character was summed up in these two words. They were enough, for they tell the whole story of his walk before God and man. A just man and devout is certain to be a good man, in the broad sense of the word; a kind, merciful, generous, and benevolent man.
         Simeon was just.—The just man of the Scriptures is a man who is right with both God and man. The just, or the justified, man is he who been set, or made, right with God; the rightened man. A sinful man can be justified with God only by faith in Him. Every truly justified or just man is also a regenerated man; and thus righteousness is not only a matter of standing with God, but also a matter of state as well. It is a walk of faith, truly, but of character as well. Not with God only was Simeon just; he was also just with men; that is, he was righteous in all his relations and all his dealings with men. Righteousness of character and actions, or practical holiness, is the final test of Christian character.
         He was devout.—Simeon was devout as well as just. Now devoutness is that which describes our attitude towards God, without respect to law. It is the characteristic of personal relation. The devout man is the pious man, who loves and adores God for Himself. Loving His holiness, His goodness, His mercy and His truth, He seeks to imitate them in his own life. He walks with God in holy admiration and adoration all the days of his life. He beholds and admires His glory in all His work and especially in all the manifestations of His grace towards men. He is a man of humility, prayer, and praise. He loves God’s law, lays up His precepts and commandments in his heart, and seeks to illustrate them in his life, simply for the purpose of glorifying God’s holy name among men.
         Lastly, it is said that he had faith in God’s promises. He not only believed in God, but he believed and expected the things which God promised and foretold. ‘Having seen them afar off,’ he was persuaded of them and embraced them.’ He ‘waited for the ??consolation of Israel.’ Being familiar with the Scriptures, he had discovered that God had promised to visit and redeem His people by the coming of the Messiah. In that Messiah he saw concentrated all the good things which God had prepared for His people, and he looked forward to His coming with all his heart and soul.
         Simeon had been long a lover of the light…. He had lived for many a year with his windows open towards the east. But now the morning broke for him; what more had he to ask of God or man?
And we see, too, a soul completed in a vision not only of salvation for himself, but of a glory and a radiance for all the world.
         If we could only trust God like Simeon, our whole powers would immediately become enlarged, and our whole being be fulfilled.

         The charm about Simeon was that, though he lived many years, he had not begun to grown old…. He never doubted his dreams; he was sure that they would all come true. He sang through the whole of the storm. He was certain that his old eyes would yet gaze upon the face of the Messiah. His was an unconquerable soul.


The Silver Shadow

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Devotional ~"All the mighty angels called Him Lord."

    So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the Inn. And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger….And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.    
    Luke 2:6-7, 16, 20                                                                                                                                

     Sleep! Holy Babe! upon Thy mother’s breast;
    Great Lord of earth and sea and sky,
    How sweet it is to see Thee lie
    In such a place of rest.
    Sleep! Holy Babe! Thine angels watch around,
    All bending low with folded wings,
    Before th’incarnate King of kings,
    In reverent awe profound.
    Sleep! Holy Babe! while I with Mary gaze
    In joy upon that face awhile,
    Upon the loving infant smile
    Which there divinely plays.
    Sleep! Holy Babe! ah! take Thy brief repose;
    Too quickly will Thy slumbers break,
    And Thou to lengthened pains awake
    That death alone shall close.
    ~ Sleep! Holy Babe
     How wonderful this was!  We must remember who it was that was thus born.  The birth of another child in this world was nothing strange, for thousands of children are born every day.  But this was the Lord of glory.  This was not the beginning of His life.  He had lived from all eternity in heaven.  His hands made the universe.  All glory was His.  All the crowns of power flashed upon His brow.  All the mighty angels called Him Lord.  We must remember this if we would understand how great was His condescension….   
      Christ’s glory was folded away under robes of human flesh.  He never ceased to be the Son of God; and yet He assumed all the conditions of humanity.  He veiled His power, and became a helpless infant, unable to walk, to speak…lying feeble and dependent in His mother’s bosom…He laid aside His majesty. What condescension!  And it was all for our sake, that He might lift us up to glory.  It was as a Saviour that He came into this world.  He became Son of man that He might make us sons of God.   He came down to earth and lived among men, entering into their experiences of humiliation, that He might lift them up to glory to share His exaltation.               
J.R. MILLER~Come Ye Apart
        How gentle the coming!  Who would have had sufficient daring of imagination to conceive that God Almighty would have appeared among men as a little child?  We should have conceived something sensational, phenomenal, catastrophic, appalling!  The most awful of the natural elements would have formed His retinue, and men would be chilled and frozen with fear.  But He came as a little child.  The great God “emptied Himself”; He let in the light as our eyes were able to bear it.
J.H. JOWETT~My Daily Meditation