What is it for you to be a Christian? –J.R. Miller

What is it for you to be a Christian?

We ought to seek to gather in this world — treasure that we can carry with us through death’s gates, and into the eternal world. We should strive to build into our lives — qualities that shall endure. Men slave and work to get a little money, or to obtain honor, or power, or to win an earthly crown — but when they pass into the great vast forever, they take nothing of all this with them!

Yet there are things — virtues, fruits of character, graces — which men do carry with them out of this world. What a man IS — he carries with him into the eternal world. Money and rank and pleasures and earthly gains — he leaves behind him; but his character, he takes with him into eternity!

This suggests at once, the importance of character and character-building.

Character is not what a man professes to be — but what he really IS, as God sees him.

A man may not be as good as his reputation. A good reputation may hide an evil heart and life. Reputation is not character. Reputation is what a man’s neighbors and friends think of him; character is what the man IS.

Christ’s character is the model, the ideal, for every Christian life. We are to be altogether like Him; therefore all of life’s aiming and striving should be towards Christ’s blessed beauty. His image we find in the Gospels. We can look at it every day. We can study it in its details, as we follow our Lord in His life among men, in all the variations of experience through which He passed.

A little Christian girl was asked the question,What is it for you to be a Christian?

She answered, “It is to do as Jesus would do, and behave as He would behave — if He were a little girl and lived at our house.”

No better answer could have been given. And there is scarcely any experience of life — for which we cannot find something in Christ’s life to instruct us. We can find the traits and qualities of His life, as they shine out in His contact . . .
with temptation,
with enmity,
with wrong,
with pain,
with sorrow.

The next thing, when we have the vision of Christ before us, is to get it implanted into our own life. We cannot merely dream ourselves into godly manhood or womanhood; we must forge for ourselves, with sweat and anguish, the beautiful visions of Christ-likeness which we find on the Gospel pages! It will cost us self-discipline, oftentimes anguish, as we must deny ourselves, and cut off the things we love. SELF must be crucified.

It is not easy to become a godly man, a Christlike man.

–J.R. Miller, (1840-1912)

 

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Becoming a Part of What is Really Real

 

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“Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light.”

Matthew 17:1-2, The Message

These three disciples belonged to the inner circle of our Lord’s friends. There must have been something in them that peculiarly endeared them to Him. We know that Peter was a leader among the apostles, and also a bold confessor; that John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved;” and that James was the first of the band to die as a martyr.

It is very encouraging to look at Peter who was admitted to such high privileges; a man with so many faults, who made so many mistakes, who even at the last shamefully denied Christ, and yet we remember that he was one of our Lord’s closest friends. It gives encouragement to us that, with all our faults, we may yet be very dear to Christ.

It does not seem so strange that John was allowed to enter the inner circle. His disposition was gentle and amiable, very much like the Master’s. Yet it is probable that John owed his sweetness and gentleness of character to his being with Jesus. It could be he was not always a man of love.

rose-little1There is a Persian fable of a piece of clay made fragrant by lying on a rose; the perfume of the rose passed into the clay. So it probably was with John. He crept into his Master’s bosom, and lay close to His heart; and his Master’s spirit of love and gentleness passed into his life and transformed it. Thus we have a lesson, too, from John: constant and loving communion with Christ will change us into His likeness.

The lesson from this choosing of three out of the whole band for peculiar privileges is that while Jesus loves all His friends, there are certain ones whom He takes into closer confidence than the others. There are degrees of nearness to Him, even in this world. Should we not strive to be among those who, by disposition and by service, win their way to the closest places? We must remember that those who serve most are chiefest. –JRM

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner)
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A Ministry of Encouragement

J.R. Miller
(1840 – 1912)

“At some point in the Alps, the guides warn tourists not to talk nor sing, nor even to whisper, lest the reverberation of their words in the air may start an avalanche from its poise on the mountain, and bring it down upon the villages and homes in the valley. There are men and women who are carrying such loads of duty, anxiety, or sorrow—that the slightest addition to the weight would crush them. They are battling bravely against odds.

They are holding out under great pressure, sustained by a trembling hope of getting through, at last, successfully. They are bearing up under a burden of difficulty or trouble, comforted by the expectation that in the end—their darkness will turn to light. But everything is “in the balance”.

Then along comes one of these gloomy discouragers. He has no perception of the fitness of things. He lacks that delicate, sympathetic feeling which enables men of a finer grain and a nobler quality—to enter into the experience of others and put strength into their hearts. He discovers the trouble through which his friends are passing. But instead of speaking a word of cheer to help them to be victorious, he talks in a pessimistic or disheartening way which makes their difficulties seem greater, their burdens heavier, and their sorrows altogether hopeless!

It is hard to be patient with such people, for they are really enemies of human happiness! They make life immeasurably harder for everyone they meet. They take the brightness out of the sunniest day; the blue out of the clearest sky; and something of the gladness out of the happiest heart. Then they make work harder for every toiler—and pain keener for every sufferer! There ought to be a law making it a crime—for one man to discourage another, and affixing severe penalties to every violation of this law!

How much better it would be—if instead of being discouragers, we would all learn to be encouragers of others! The value of words of cheer is incalculable!

There is an old story of a fireman who was climbing up a ladder amid smoke and flame, trying to reach a high window—to rescue a child from a burning building! The man had almost gained the window—but the heat was so intense, and the smoke so blinding, that he staggered on the ladder and seemed about to turn back. The great crowd below was watching him with breathless interest and, seeing him waver and hesitate, began to “cheer” him! This nerved the fireman anew for his heroic task, and in a moment the brave fellow had entered the house and soon returned, saving the child. It is ‘cheer’ that people need, not discouragement, when they are fighting a hard battle!

Men who give us only their doubts and fears, are misanthropists. True philanthropy brings us hope and heartening. The truest helpers of others—are those who always have words of exhortation and inspiration to speak, who always are encouragers.”

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The Test of a Profound Silence, [Extreme Faith]

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But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Matthew 15:23, NLT

This is exceptional.  Jesus is always engaging people around him.  He teaches and preaches, fully energized by the Holy Spirit.  He is a veritable hurricane of goodness and love.  He heard every request, and healed every disease.  But yet.  On this occasion he is completely silent.

The woman’s piteous crying, and begging was seemingly ignored.  “If Jesus won’t respond to me, I will go to his followers.”  She presses, and cajoles.  She falls on her knees.  Have you ever seen a person truly beg?  It is a very disconcerting experience.  Yet, Jesus does nothing, in spite of being able to do all things.

She is a Canaanite; a pagan widow, and her daughter was demonized.  Curiously, there was a large heathen temple to Eshmun, the Canaanite god of healing, was just three miles down the road.  But her desperate cry was for something real.  Something authentic and real that would heal her daughter’s affliction.  Only Jesus has what she needs.

Jesus is astonishingly silent.  He stands and sees, he hears her cries.  She is sobbing, clutching at the disciples robes, disheveled and distressed.  It was a desperate scene. Very ugly and very sad.

Jesus responds to his disciple’s plea.  Then there is something that seems like a negotiation.  A protracted conversation with a ‘seemingly’ reluctant Messiah.  It is somewhat disturbing as we listen.  Jesus seems to treat her callously.  I have always been mystified by this, troubled by his behavior. I can only conclude that what he did was necessary in some way.

But the Son of God sees through this. 

And then she makes an incredible statement.  Jesus is suddenly amazed at her faith in him.  This faith is what he has been waiting to see. She may have known despair, but that isn’t enough. Jesus leads her from the edge. Until she moved to a position of belief, nothing will change. Faith seems to change everything.  This is key.  It isn’t her words that alters things– it is her heart!  At that moment, Jesus declares a healing for her daughter.  She is now free from the demon’s grip.

So often I have also felt the pressure from the darkness.  I am often embattled and driven into a despair that seems to cripple me.  But Jesus is waiting for me, to come to him through an unflinching faith.  My good works can never, ever be enough.  I’m just like a dog, waiting for food under the table.  I have little, if any, decorum or sophistication.  There is nothing at all, to commend me to him. Nothing at all.

“Our Lord sometimes yet seems to be silent to His people when they cry to Him. To all their earnest supplications He answers not a word. Is His silence a refusal? By no means. Ofttimes, at least, it is meant only to make the suppliants more earnest, and to prepare their hearts to receive richer and greater blessings. So when Christ is silent to our prayers, it is that we may be brought down in deeper humility at His feet, and that our hearts may be made more fit to receive heaven’s gifts and blessings.”

–J.R. Miller

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