Answers to Life's Questions

May 31, 2008 at 16:16 o\clock

Character with Age

Author: Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
Source: Streams in the Desert
Scripture Reference:
Job 5:26 

Character with Age

"Like a shock of corn fully ripe" (Job 5:26).

A gentleman, writing about the breaking up of old ships, recently said that it is not the age alone which improves the quality of the fiber in the wood of an old vessel, but the straining and wrenching of the vessel by the sea, the chemical action of the bilge water, and of many kinds of cargoes.

Some planks and veneers made from an oak beam which had been part of a ship eighty years old were exhibited a few years ago at a fashionable furniture store on Broadway, New York, and attracted general notice for the exquisite coloring and beautiful grain.

Equally striking were some beams of mahogany taken from a bark which sailed the seas sixty years ago. The years and the traffic had contracted the pores and deepened the color, until it looked as superb in its chromatic intensity as an antique Chinese vase. It was made into a cabinet, and has today a place of honor in the drawing-room of a wealthy New York family.

So there is a vast difference between the quality of old people who have lived flabby, self-indulgent, useless lives, and the fiber of those who have sailed all seas and carried all cargoes as the servants of God and the helpers of their fellow men.

Not only the wrenching and straining of life, but also something of the sweetness of the cargoes carried get into the very pores and fiber of character. --Louis Albert Banks

When the sun goes below the horizon he is not set; the heavens glow for a full hour after his departure. And when a great and good man sets, the sky of this world is luminous long after he is out of sight. Such a man cannot die out of this world. When he goes he leaves behind him much of himself. Being dead, he speaks. --Beecher

When Victor Hugo was past eighty years of age he gave expression to his religious faith in these sublime sentences: "I feel in myself the future life. I am like a forest which has been more than once cut down. The new shoots are livelier than ever. I am rising toward the sky. The sunshine is on my head. The earth gives me its generous sap, but Heaven lights me with its unknown worlds.

"You say the soul is nothing but the resultant of the bodily powers. Why, then, is my soul more luminous when my bodily powers begin to fail? Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart. I breathe at this hour the fragrance of the lilacs, the violets, and the roses as at twenty years. The nearer I approach the end the plainer I hear around me the immortal symphonies of the worlds which invite me. It is marvelous, yet simple."



This classic devotional is the unabridged edition of Streams in the Desert. This first edition was published in 1925 and the wording is preserved as originally written. Connotations of words may have changed over the years and are not meant to be offensive.

May 22, 2008 at 19:36 o\clock

Part of the Plan

Author: Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Morning:
Part of the Plan
Evening: He Is Fair

Morning: Part of the Plan

"He led them forth by the right way."
--Psalm 107:7

Changeful experience often leads the anxious believer to enquire "Why is it thus with me?" I looked for light, but lo, darkness came; for peace, but behold trouble. I said in my heart, my mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved. Lord, thou dost hide Thy face, and I am troubled. It was but yesterday that I could read my title clear; to-day my evidences are bedimmed, and my hopes are clouded. Yesterday I could climb to Pisgah's top, and view the landscape o'er, and rejoice with confidence in my future inheritance; to-day, my spirit has no hopes, but many fears; no joys, but much distress. Is this part of God's plan with me? Can this be the way in which God would bring me to heaven? Yes, it is even so. The eclipse of your faith, the darkness of your mind, the fainting of your hope, all these things are but parts of God's method of making you ripe for the great inheritance upon which you shall soon enter. These trials are for the testing and strengthening of your faith--they are waves that wash you further upon the rock--they are winds which waft your ship the more swiftly towards the desired haven.

According to David's words, so it might be said of you, "so He bringeth them to their desired haven." By honour and dishonour, by evil report and by good report, by plenty and by poverty, by joy and by distress, by persecution and by peace, by all these things is the life of your souls maintained, and by each of these are you helped on your way. Oh, think not, believer, that your sorrows are out of God's plan; they are necessary parts of it. "We must, through much tribulation, enter the kingdom." Learn, then, even to "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations."

"O let my trembling soul be still,
And wait Thy wise, Thy holy will!
I cannot, Lord, Thy purpose see,
Yet all is well since ruled by Thee."

Evening: He Is Fair

"Behold, Thou art fair, my Beloved."
--Song of Solomon 1:16

From every point our Well-beloved is most fair. Our various experiences are meant by our heavenly Father to furnish fresh standpoints from which we may view the loveliness of Jesus; how amiable are our trials when they carry us aloft where we may gain clearer views of Jesus than ordinary life could afford us! We have seen Him from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, and He has shone upon us as the sun in his strength; but we have seen Him also "from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards," and He has lost none of His loveliness. From the languishing of a sick bed, from the borders of the grave, have we turned our eyes to our soul's spouse, and He has never been otherwise than "all fair." Many of His saints have looked upon Him from the gloom of dungeons, and from the red flames of the stake, yet have they never uttered an ill word of Him, but have died extolling His surpassing charms. Oh, noble and pleasant employment to be for ever gazing at our sweet Lord Jesus!

Is it not unspeakably delightful to view the Saviour in all His offices, and to perceive Him matchless in each?--to shift the kaleidoscope, as it were, and to find fresh combinations of peerless graces? In the manger and in eternity, on the cross and on His throne, in the garden and in His kingdom, among thieves or in the midst of cherubim, He is everywhere "altogether lovely." Examine carefully every little act of His life, and every trait of His character, and He is as lovely in the minute as in the majestic. Judge Him as you will, you cannot censure; weigh Him as you please, and He will not be found wanting. Eternity shall not discover the shadow of a spot in our Beloved, but rather, as ages revolve, His hidden glories shall shine forth with yet more inconceivable splendour, and His unutterable loveliness shall more and more ravish all celestial minds.

May 20, 2008 at 19:14 o\clock

Service to God

Reasonable Service

And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

Consecration to the Lord requires separation from evil, devotion to God, and the endless pursuit of holiness. Although the Lord would have all His children be fully consecrated to His service, He requires of us "reasonable" service (Romans 12:1). Consecration made under the influence of emotion or the excitement of the moment is not to be trusted. The believer must carefully, prayerfully and reasonably count the cost of discipleship before committing his life in service to the Lord.

After the great law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, God sought ratification of the covenant He had made with the Israelites. Once again Moses ascended the holy mountain, this time with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 of the elders of Israel. When they descended again, Moses relayed to the people all the ordinances of God's covenant. As soon as the terms of the covenant were known, "the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do" (Exodus 24:3). Immediately Moses sensed that the people were too readily consecrating themselves to the ordinances of God's covenant and had not counted the cost. Thus Moses maneuvered to make their consecration more reasonable.

First Moses purposely prolonged the process of consecration. He did not permit the people to ratify the covenant at once. Instead, this great man of God wrote down all the words of the Lord and went to bed. He "rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel" (Exodus 24:4). The altar was built in preparation for the sacrifice without which no covenant was considered binding. By making the people wait one day before they could officially ratify the covenant, Moses reduced the emotional influence of the Israelites' hasty acceptance of the covenant.

Secondly, Moses surrounded the ratification of the covenant and the consecration with impressive ceremonies. He sent the young men, perhaps the firstborn of the families--since the Levitical order had not yet been instituted--and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord. This was to be a solemn occasion, one that the Israelites would not soon forget.

Thirdly, great pains were taken to insure that the people understood the terms of the covenant. They could not properly consecrate themselves to God if they did not fully comprehend what their consecration meant. Not only did Moses relay the words of the Lord to the people when he descended from the mountain, but now, a day later, he read from the book of the covenant in the hearing of all the people. Moses wanted to be absolutely convinced that the people were making a rational decision to give their lives in service to the Lord.

Finally, Moses took the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words." It was the blood that sealed the covenant. It was the symbol of the covenant. The blood of the sacrifice was placed upon the people to etch in their minds that they were chosen of God and now consecrated to Him.

Choosing a life of consecration to the Lord should be a sensible, reasonable, thoughtful act. The decision to give yourself to God and His service is a solemn act based in reason, not in emotion. It is indeed praiseworthy for a believer to consecrate his life to the Lord, but he must never do so lightly or thoughtlessly. Before committing your life in service to God today, count the cost, for "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

MORNING HYMN
All for Jesus, all for Jesus!
All my being's ransomed pow'rs:
All my tho'ts and words and doings,
All my days and all my hours.

May 13, 2008 at 18:28 o\clock

Choosing Partners

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Genesis 31:17-55 

Partnership

And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.

The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another" (Genesis 31:49). How frequently these words are used as a benediction, especially at the close of a church service. They seem to express the prayer of two parties for mutual protection by the Lord until such time as they are safely and happily reunited. However, the context in which these words were uttered compels just the opposite conclusion.

Jacob was a scoundrel. He took advantage of his twin brother Esau by persuading him to sell the birthright for a mess of pottage. Later Jacob lied to his father and tricked Isaac into bestowing on him the irrevocable family blessing. Even Jacob's name means "supplanter, one who removes or replaces by scheming or treachery." Yet he met his match in his father-in-law, Laban. When Jacob reached Haran, he spied the beautiful Rachel and agreed to serve Laban seven years for her hand in marriage. At the end of those seven long years Laban tricked Jacob by switching his daughter Leah for Rachel. This meant another seven years of labor for the girl Jacob loved. In all, the patriarch served fourteen years for Laban's daughters and six years for a herd of cattle.

At the end of this time God reminded Jacob of the vow he made to return to the Promised Land. Jacob asked Laban to release him and permit his return to Bethel. This, however, would have ruined Laban financially. Scoundrel that he was, Jacob was still heir to the promise of God, and Laban knew that the secret of his own increasing wealth was God's blessing on Jacob. Therefore Laban proposed that Jacob forget about leaving and become his partner. This meant that Jacob's only recourse was to depart secretly from Haran while Laban was away shearing his sheep.

Aware that she would receive no inheritance from her father, Rachel removed the family gods as she prepared to leave Laban's house. Archaeological excavations at Nuzi in northern Mesopotamia indicate that when the household gods (seraphim) were in the possession of a son-in-law, he was legally designated as the principal heir. For this reason Rachel stole her father's gods without the consent or knowledge of Jacob.

When Laban learned of his son-in-law's hasty departure, he pursued Jacob and his family. Seven days later, at Mount Gilead, Laban overtook them and immediately confronted Jacob about the stolen gods. Having no knowledge of them, Jacob permitted a search to be made. The gods, cleverly hidden by Rachel, were not found, and this only served to increase the distrust between father and son-in-law. It was obvious that the suspicion between the two could not continue indefinitely. Therefore a covenant was devised which would not permit either party to further impede the other. Sworn to at Mizpah, the terms of the covenant were simple. A pile of stones was erected as a heap of witness between Laban and Jacob that from that day forward neither one would pass beyond that heap in order to do the other harm. Since the only witness to this event was God, the two men said, "The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another." Suspicion and distrust are clearly present in this malediction. "Early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them," returning to Haran (Genesis 31:55). He is never heard from again in the narrative of Scripture.

Jacob, the man of God, had made a covenant with Laban, the man of the world. The Bible does not prohibit God's children from making necessary pacts with the world. Frequently such business covenants or contracts are made. However, the Bible does warn against making unequal partnerships or yokes with the world (2 Corinthians 6:14). For 20 years Jacob carefully eluded making such a yoke with Laban, even though he was his father-in-law. The man of God knew that a lifetime with the world, enticing and profitable as it may have seemed, was no substitute for the blessings of the Promised Land. Christians today still need to learn that lesson.

MORNING HYMN
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world's delight;
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.