Daily Word of God

A Broken Spirit

Stood at his feet behind him weeping.~ Luke 7:38

Those who are familiar with the story of Paradise and the Peri¹ will remember how the banished Peri sought to gain admittance at the closed gate of Paradise. The angel told the nymph that there was one hope — that the Peri might yet be forgiven who would bring to the eternal gate the gift that was most dear to Heaven.

The Peri wandered everywhere, sweeping all the lands with her swift wings, searching for some rare and precious thing to carry up to the barred gate. Amid scenes of carnage she found a hero dying for liberty; and

Swiftly descending on a ray  
Of morning light, she caught the last,  
Last glorious drop his heart had shed,  
Before its free-born spirit fled.  

With this she flew up to the gate; but, precious as was the boon, the crystal bar moved not. Next in her quest the Peri came upon a dying lover, over whom his betrothed hung; and stealing the farewell sigh of that vanishing soul, again she sought the gate of bliss: but even to this precious boon the bar swung not.

Again she wandered far, and came at last upon a wretched criminal, stained by countless deeds of shame and blood, but now weeping in bitter penitence. The Peri with job caught up the holy tear of contrition as it fell, and swiftly bore it away to heaven; and the door flew open, admitting her to the blessedness within.

This beautiful Oriental legend is not untrue to heavenly fact. The Bible tells us the same thing. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” No offerings we can bring are so precious as contrite tears. No song on earth rings with such music up in heaven as the penitential cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”

“The Paradise and the Peri” is one the stories from a larger and very popular work of fiction by Thomas Moore titled “Lalla Rookh” based on Persian mythology. The story is about a beautiful spirit who travels the world seeking a gift that will allow her to enter Heaven.

Daily Word of God

Lessons from the Flowers

Why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies … Even Solomon … was not arrayed like one of these.~ Matt 6:28,9

Without any toiling or spinning on their own part, God clothes the flowers in loveliness far surpassing any adornment which the most skilful human arts can provide. Flowers bloom but a day and fade. We are better than flowers. If our Father lavishes so much beauty on perishing plants, is there any danger that He will not provide raiment for His own?

Of course it is not implied that like the lilies we need neither toil nor spin. It is all right for lilies just to stand still and grow. That is their mission; that is the way God made them to grow. But He gave us hands, feet, brains, tongue, energy, and will; and if we would be cared for as are the flowers, we must put forth our energies to produce the results of comfort. Yet Jesus tells us to consider the lilies, how they grow. We ought to study the beautiful things in nature and learn lessons from them. Here it is a lesson of contentment we are to learn. Who ever heard a lily complaining about its circumstances? It accepts the conditions in which it finds itself, and makes the best of them. It drinks in heaven‘s sweet light, air, dew, and rain, and unfolds its own loveliness in quietness and peace.

The lily grows from within. So ought we to grow, having within us the divine life, to be developed in our character and spirit. The lily is an emblem of beauty; our spiritual life should unfold likewise in all lovely ways. It is a picture of perfect peace. Who ever saw wrinkles of anxiety in a lily’s face? God wants us to grow into peace. The lily is fragrant; so should our lives be. The lily sometimes grows in the black bog, but it remains unspotted. Thus should we live in this world, keeping ourselves unspotted amid its evil. These are a few of the lessons from the lily.

Daily Word of God

Enduring Temptation

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

~ Matt 6:11

It is impossible to live in this world and escape temptation. In olden times men fled away from active life and from human companionships, hoping thus to evade enticement to evil. But they were not successful; for wherever they went they carried in their own hearts a fountain of corruption, and were thus perpetually exposed to temptation. The only door of escape from all temptation is the door that leads into heaven. We grieve over our friends whom the Lord calls away, the little child in its sweet innocence, the mother in her ripened saintliness, the young man in his pride of strength; but do we ever think that we have far more reason for anxiety, possibly for grief, over those who live and have to battle with sin in this world? Those who have passed inside, in the victorious release of Christian faith, are for ever secure; but those yet in the sore battle are still in peril.

This petition is a prayer that we may never be called needlessly to meet temptation. Sometimes God wants us to be tried, because we can grow strong only through victory. We have a word of Scripture which says: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.” Yet we ought never ourselves to seek anyway of life in which we shall have to be exposed to the peril of conflict with sin. Temptation is too terrible an experience, fraught with too much danger, to be sought by us, or ever encountered save when God leads us in the path on which it lies. We must never rush unbidden or unsent into any spiritual danger. There are no promises for presumption. “It is written,” said the Master, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” When God sends us into danger, we are under His protection; when we go where He does not send us, we go unsheltered.

Daily Word of God

A Forgiving Spirit

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.~ Matt 6:11

The first part of this petition is not so hard to say. Most people are willing to confess, at least in a general way, that they are debtors to God, that they have sinned. But the second part is harder to repeat. When some one has done us an injury, and we are feeling hard over it, it is not so easy to ask God to forgive us as we forgive. Perhaps we do not forgive at all, but keep the bitter feeling in our heart against our brother. What is it, then, that we ask God to do for us when we pray, “Forgive us as we forgive”? God has linked blessing and duty together in this petition. If we will not forgive those who have wronged us, it is evident that we have not the spirit of penitence to which God grants remission of sins. If we would enjoy the sweet peace of God in our own breasts, we must keep our minds free from all bitterness and anger and all feelings of unforgiveness.

Forgive us, Lord, because we have forgiven,
Not as we have forgiven, is our prayer,
Earth is so lower far that highest heaven,
Man is not even as the angels are,
And thou to angels art as sun to star;
Measure thy pity not in our poor scale,
But in thine own which weighs eternities.
We do our little part, we strive, we fail,
Our wine of charity has bitter lees;
Our best unselfishness seeks self to please;
Our purest gold with base alloy is dim;
Our fairest fruit hangs tainted on the tree;
Our sweetest songs heard by the seraphim
Would all discordant and unlovely be,
Save for the charity they learn from thee.
But thou canst pour forgiveness with a word,
O‘er countless worlds an all-embracing ray,
Beyond our hopes, our best deserving, Lord,
Forgive us, then, and we in our poor way
Shall catch thy higher meaning as we pray.

Daily Word of God

Acceptable Worship

If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

~ Matt 5:23-24

There is something to do before we kneel down to pray in our closet, or begin our worship in the sanctuary, or come to the Lord’s table. There ought to be a look inward at our own hearts before the look upward at the face of God. Are we ready to pray? Are the obstructions out of the way? Is our heart ready for worship? The worship that pleases God the best is love in the heart. He has no pleasure in sacrifices and ceremonies and ordinances while the heart is full of bitterness. He cares nothing for our professions of love to Him so long as we hate our brother. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

If therefore, we want our worship to be acceptable to God, we must be sure to come into His presence with hearts cleansed of all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and all malice. Thus every approach to God in prayer requires self-examination; and if we can remember that we have wronged any one, or that there is any estrangement or strife, we should seek reconciliation before we pray. At least we must see that our own spirits are thoroughly cleansed of all bitterness before we come to God’s altar. This rule is fitted to keep our hearts always free from anger. Saint Paul counsels that we should not let the sun go down upon our wrath. No day should be allowed to close over us with anger in our breasts. We may never see another day, and we should not lie down to sleep cherishing bitterness against any other. The evening prayer should cleanse our spirits of all feelings of anger, as we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Daily Word of God

Comforted

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

~ Matt 5:4

We do not usually regard sorrowing people as blessed. Here, however, is a special beatitude for mourners. In particular, Jesus probably meant penitent mourners. In all this world there is nothing so precious before God as tears of contrition; no diamonds or pearls shine with such brilliance in His sight. It was Jesus Himself Who said, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth”. Truly blessed, therefore, are those who in true penitence grieve over their sins; a holy light shines from heaven upon all such mourners. They are comforted with God’s pardon and peace.

But no doubt the beatitude refers also to those children of God who are in sorrow, from whatever cause. Blessing is never nearer to us than when we are in affliction. If we do not get it, it is because we will not receive it. Some day we shall see that we have gotten our best things from heaven, not in the days of our earthly joy and gladness, but in the times of trial and affliction.

Tears are lenses through which our dim eyes see more deeply into heaven and look more fully upon God’s face than in any other way. Sorrows cleanse our hearts of earthliness and fertilize our lives. The days of pain really do far more for us than the days of rejoicing. We grow best when clouds hang over us, because clouds bear rain, and rain refreshes. Then God’s comfort is such a rich experience that it is well worth while to endure trial, just to enjoy the sweet and precious comfort which God gives in it.

But to receive from our sorrows their possibilities of blessing, we must accept the affliction as a messenger from God, and pray for true comfort, not the mere drying of our tears, but grace to profit by our affliction, and to get from it the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Daily Word of God

In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

~  Mark 1:35

Jesus would always find time for prayer, or make time for it. If His days were full of excitement and toil, He would take time out of His nights for communing with God. At least He never allowed Himself to be robbed of His hours of devotion.

There are some Christians who think they are excused from prayer and meditation in secret because they are so busy. Their work presses them so in the morning that they cannot possibly get time to pray. Their cares occupy them so all day that they do not find one quiet moment to go apart with God. In the evening there are so many social or other engagements, meetings, societies, parties, or they are so tired, that prayer is crowded out. The example of Christ speaks its solemn rebuke of all such trifling. We must find time for communion with God, or God will not find time to bless us.

There are some people, also, who claim that they can pray and commune with God just as well in one place as in another. They do their praying while they walk about and while they work. They see no use in going apart to pray. Surely if any one could pray well in a crowd or while engaged in work, Jesus could. No doubt He did hold communion with His Father even in His busiest hours, but this did not meet all the needs and longings of His soul. He left the crowd, left even His own disciples, and retired into places where no eye but God’s could see Him. where no human footfall or voice could interrupt the quiet of His soul, and where He would be absolutely alone. Surely if He required such conditions in praying, we do too. We need to find a place for prayer, in which nothing can intrude to break the continuity of thought or devotion. “Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray.”

Daily Word of God

The Spirit like a Dove

He saw … the Spirit like a dove desending upon him.

~ Mark 1:10

Even Christ with all His divine power needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to set Him apart for His life-work, and to make Him ready for it. How much more do we, His disciples, need the same anointing before we are truly set apart for work and qualified for it.

There is rich suggestion also in the form in which the Spirit descended. A great many tender thoughts cluster around the dove. It was the dove that the very poor were permitted to bring to the altar as an offering, as a substitute for a more costly animal. The appearance of the dove was one of the harbingers or prophecies of coming spring. The dove was always remembered by the Jews in connection with the abatement of the waters of the deluge, when it returned to the ark bearing the olive-leaf; and it has become among all Christian nations, as well as the olive-branch, an emblem of peace. The dove was also referred to by Christ as a symbol of gentleness and harmlessness. All these associations made the dove a most fitting emblematic form for the Holy Ghost to assume when descending upon Jesus. For Jesus came to be a sacrifice for all, even the poorest. He came as the spring comes, bringing life to a dead world. He came bringing a message of peace from heaven to every one who will open to Him. And He is like the dove in gentleness and harmlessness.

It is this same holy dove that must descend upon us if the kingdom of heaven is truly to begin in our hearts. Until the Holy Spirit has been given to us and received by us there is no life in our souls and no power in us for work. But this divine anointing is promised to all who truly consecrate themselves to Christ and believe on Him. No vision of cloven heavens and descending dove appears to human eyes, but above every scene of holy devotement to Christ this blessed reality hangs.

Daily Word of God

I indeed baptize you with water  … He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

~ Luke 3:16

Baptism with water is right. It is one of God’s appointments, and He would require nothing that is useless. Some people think that there is no necessity for being baptized; but they make themselves wiser than Christ in saying this of that which He commanded to be done. Baptism has a meaning, and must never be despised. It teaches by picture, showing us, first, that we are unclean and need washing, and then depicting the deep work of grace by which the heart is cleansed.

We should not lightly esteem a rite which has such solemn divine sanction. But while baptism with water is proper and should not be omitted, it cannot wash away sin nor save our souls. We must not think that because we have been baptized we are necessarily Christians. There must be a change within us. We must be converted, “born again.” And no amount of washing with water will produce this change. Christ must baptize us with the Holy Ghost.

There is danger that many are satisfied with the baptismal water, and do not look for the regenerating grace. It is the peril of all forms of service that people trust in them and do not realize their need of Christ. A few drops of water on the brow make no impression on the life, and it is only when the baptism symbolized by water is received by faith that real blessing comes upon the one who is baptized.

When Jesus was being baptized He prayed, and the heavens were opened and abode upon Him. Like blessing descends from heaven upon every one receiving the symbol who also by prayer seeks the heavenly baptism. The same is true of the Lord’s Supper and other divine ordinances. When the ordinance is received in faith and with prayer, God gives the grace of which the emblem is but the image.

Daily Word of God

The Coming of the Lord

Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

~ Mark 3:3

The Lord is always coming to us, or is always ready to come to us, if the way is open for him. Yet no doubt we are continually losing heavenly visitations because the road is blocked up. If we would receive the visitations we must keep the way always open. Sins clung to, unconfessed, unrepented of, unforsaken, block up the path, and Christ cannot come to us until we get them out of the way,. Then there is another sense in which we need to prepare the way of the Lord. He may come any moment in death to call us away from all our busy work. Is there no preparation needed now in our hearts for this coming of the Lord? Are we ready for him any moment? Are our lamps trimmed and burning? Are our loins girded, and have we our shoes on our feet and our staves in our hands? If he came this hour how would he find us? Peter gives us good counsel when, speaking of Christ’s coming again, he says, “Be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” Would he find us thus if he came to day? Are we in peace with God, in peace with ourselves, in peace with all the world? Would he find us without spot? Have we kept our hands clean and our hearts pure, and ourselves unspotted from the world? Would he find us living blameless lives, so sincere, so true, so without blemish that the world can find no cause of reproach in us, and that he himself will approve us?

It will be well for us to think of these things, and if the way for his coming is not prepared, to hasten to have it ready, for he may come any moment. The Jews were taught to prepare a way for the coming of the Lord by repenting of their sins and turning their hearts to God. That is just what every one must do who desires Christ to come to him with blessing, every sin must be swept out.