Streams in The Desert

Come Close to Him

He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray, and as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering … they saw his glory

~ Luke 9:29,32

If I have found grace in thy sight, show me thy glory

~ Exod 33:13

When Jesus took these three disciples up into that high mountain apart, He brought them into close communion with Himself. They saw no man but Jesus only; and it was good to be there. Heaven is not far from those who tarry on the mount with their Lord.

Who has not in moments of meditation and prayer caught a glimpse of opening gates? Who has not in the secret place of holy communion felt the rush of some white surging wave of emotion—a foretaste of the joy of the blessed?

The Master had times and places for quiet converse with His disciples, once on the peak of Hermon, but oftener on the sacred slopes of Olivet. Every Christian should have his Olivet. Most of us, especially in the cities and towns, live at hig h pressure. From early morning until bedtime we are exposed to the whirl. Amid all this maelstrom how little chance for quiet thought, for God’s Word, for prayer and heart fellowship!

Daniel needed to have an Olivet in his chamber amid Babylon’s roar and idolatries. Peter found his on a housetop in Joppa; and Martin Luther found his in the “upper room” at Wittenberg, which is still held sacred.

Dr. Joseph Parker once said: “If we do not get back to visions, peeps into heaven, consciousness of the higher glory and the larger life, we shall lose our religion; our altar will become a bare stone, unblessed by visitant from Heaven.” Here is the world’s need today—men who have seen their Lord.

~ The Lost Art of Meditation

Come close to Him! He may take you today up into the mountain top, for where He took Peter with his blundering, and James and John, those sons of thunder who again and again so utterly misunderstood their Master and His mission, there is no reason why He should not take you. So don’t shut yourself out of it and say, “Ah, these wonderful visions and revelations of the Lord are for choice spirits!” They may be for you!

~ John McNeill

Streams in The Desert

Satan’s Tools

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and, let us run with patience the race that is set before us

~ Heb 12:1

There are weights which are not sins in themselves, but which become distractions and stumbling blocks in our Christian progress. One of the worst of these is despondency. The heavy heart is indeed a weight that will surely drag us down in our holiness and usefulness.

The failure of Israel to enter the land of promise began in murmuring, or, as the text in Numbers literally puts it, “as it were murmured.” Just a faint desire to complain and be discontented. This led on until it blossomed and ripened into rebellion and ruin. Let us give ourselves no liberty ever to doubt God or His love and faithfulness to us in everything and forever.

We can set our will against doubt just as we do against any other sin; and as we stand firm and refuse to doubt, the Holy Spirit will come to our aid and give us the faith of God and crown us with victory.

It is very easy to fall into the habit of doubting, fretting, and wondering if God has forsaken us and if after all our hopes are to end in failure. Let us refuse to be discouraged. Let us refuse to be unhappy. Let us “count it all joy” when we cannot feel one emotion of happiness. Let us rejoice by faith, by resolution, by reckoning, and we shall surely find that God will make the reckoning real.

~ Selected

The devil has two master tricks. One is to get us discouraged; then for a time at least we can be of no service to others, and so are defeated. The other is to make us doubt, thus breaking the faith link by which we are bound to our Father. Lookout! Do not be tricked either way.

~ G.E.M.

Gladness! I like to cultivate the spirit of gladness! It puts the soul so in tune again, and keeps it in tune, so that Satan is shy of touching it—the chords of the soul become too warm, or too full of heavenly electricity, for his infernal fingers, and he goes off somewhere else! Satan is always very shy of meddling with me when my heart is full of gladness and joy in the Holy Ghost.

My plan is to shun the spirit of sadness as I would Satan; but, alas! I am not always successful. Like the devil himself it meets me on the highway of usefulness, looks me so fully in my face, till my poor soul changes color!

Sadness discolors everything; it leaves all objects charmless; it involves future prospects in darkness; it deprives the soul of all its aspirations, enchains all its powers, and produces a mental paralysis!

An old believer remarked, that cheerfulness in religion makes all its services come off with delight; and that we are never carried forward so swiftly in the ways of duty as when borne on the wings of delight; adding, that Melancholy clips such wings; or, to alter the figure, takes off our chariot wheels in duty, and makes them, like those of the Egyptians, drag heavily.

Streams in The Desert

Providence of Loss

It came to pass … that the brook dried up

~ 1 Kgs 17:7

The education of our faith is incomplete if we have not learned that there is a providence of loss, a ministry of failing and of fading things, a gift of emptiness. The material insecurities of life make for its spiritual establishment. The dwindling stream by which Elijah sat and mused is a true picture of the life of each of us. “It came to pass … that the brook dried up”—that is the history of our yesterday, and a prophecy of our morrows.

In some way or other we will have to learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver. The gift may be good for a while, but the Giver is the Eternal Love.

Cherith was a difficult problem to Elijah until he got to Zarephath, and then it was all as clear as daylight. God’s hard words are never His last words. The woe and the waste and the tears of life belong to the interlude and not to the finale.

Had Elijah been led straight to Zarephath he would have missed something that helped to make him a wiser prophet and a better man. He lived by faith at Cherith. And whensoever in your life and mine some spring of earthly and outward resource has dried up, it has been that we might learn that our hope and help are in God who made Heaven and earth. —F. B. Meyer

Perchance thou, too, hast camped by such sweet waters,  
And quenched with joy thy weary, parched soul’s thirst;  
To find, as time goes on, thy streamlet alters  
From what it was at first.  

Hearts that have cheered, or soothed, or blest, or strengthened;  
Loves that have lavished so unstintedly;  
Joys, treasured joys—have passed, as time hath lengthened,  
Into obscurity.  

If thus, ah soul, the brook thy heart hath cherished  
Doth fail thee now—no more thy thirst assuage—  
If its once glad refreshing streams have perished,  
Let HIM thy heart engage.  

He will not fail, nor mock, nor disappoint thee;  
His consolations change not with the years;  
With oil of joy He surely will anoint thee,  
And wipe away thy tears.  
~ J. D. Smith

Streams in The Desert

In Me

In me … peace – John 16:33

There is a vast difference between happiness and blessedness. Paul had imprisonments and pains, sacrifice and suffering up to the very limit; but in the midst of it all, he was blessed. All the beatitudes came into his heart and life in the midst of those very conditions.

Paganini, the great violinist, came out before his audience one day and made the discovery just as they ended their applause that there was something wrong with his violin. He looked at it a second and then saw that it was not his famous and valuable one.

He felt paralyzed for a moment, then turned to his audience and told them there had been some mistake and he did not have his own violin. He stepped back behind the curtain thinking that it was still where he had left it, but discovered that some one had stolen his and left that old second-hand one in its place. He remained back of the curtain a moment, then came out before his audience and said:

“Ladies and Gentlemen: I will show you that the music is not in the instrument, but in the soul.” And he played as he had never played before; and out of that second-hand instrument, the music poured forth until the audience was enraptured with enthusiasm and the applause almost lifted the ceiling of the building, because the man had revealed to them that music was not in the machine but in his own soul.

It is your mission, tested and tried one, to walk out on the stage of this world and reveal to all earth and Heaven that the music is not in conditions, not in the things, not in externals, but the music of life is in your own soul.

If peace be in the heart,  
The wildest winter storm is full of solemn beauty,  
The midnight flash but shows the path of duty,  
Each living creature tells some new and joyous story,  
The very trees and stones all catch a ray of glory,  
If peace be in the heart.  
~ Charles Francis Richardson

Streams In The Desert

Hiding Place

Hide thyself by the brook Cherith

1 Kgs 17:3

God’s servants must be taught the value of the hidden life. The man who is to take a high place before his fellows must take a low place before his God. We must not be surprised if sometimes our Father says: “There, child, thou hast had enough of this hurry, and publicity, and excitement; get thee hence, and hide thyself by the brook—hide thyself in the Cherith of the sick chamber, or in the Cherith of bereavement, or in some solitude from which the crowds have ebbed away.”

Happy is he who can reply, “This Thy will is also mine; I flee unto Thee to hide me. Hide me in the secret of Thy tabernacle, and beneath the covert of Thy wings!”

Every saintly soul that would wield great power with men must win it in some hidden Cherith. The acquisition of spiritual power is impossible, unless we can hide ourselves from men and from ourselves in some deep gorge where we may absorb the power of the eternal God; as vegetation through long ages absorbed these qualities of sunshine, which it now gives back through burning coal.

Bishop Andrews had his Cherith, in which he spent five hours every day in prayer and devotion. John Welsh had it—who thought the day ill spent which did not witness eight or ten hours of closet communion. David Brainerd had it in the woods of North America. Christmas Evans had it in his long and lonely journeys amid the hills of Wales.

Or, passing back to the blessed age from which we date the centuries: Patmos, the seclusion of the Roman prisons, the Arabian desert, the hills and vales of Palestine, are forever memorable as the Cheriths of those who have made our modern world.

Our Lord found His Cherith at Nazareth, and in the wilderness of Judea; amid the olives of Bethany, and the solitude of Gadara. None of us, therefore, can dispense with some Cherith where the sounds of human voices are exchanged for the waters of quietness which are fed from the throne; and where we may taste the sweets and imbibe the power of a life hidden with Christ.

Elijah, by Meyer.

Streams in The Desert

Himself

He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me; because he delighted in me.

~ Ps 18:19

And what is this “large place”? What can it be but God Himself, that infinite Being in whom all other beings and all other streams of life terminate? God is a large place indeed. And it was through humiliation, through abasement, through nothingness that David was brought into it.

~ Madame Guyon

“I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto myself” (Exod. 19:4).

Fearing to launch on “full surrender’s” tide,  
I asked the Lord where would its waters glide  
My little bark, “To troubled seas I dread?”  
“Unto Myself,” He said.  

Weeping beside an open grave I stood,  
In bitterness of soul I cried to God:  
“Where leads this path of sorrow that I tread?”  
“Unto Myself,” He said.  

Striving for souls, I loved the work too well;  
Then disappointments came; I could not tell  
The reason, till He said, “I am thine all;  
Unto Myself I call.”  

Watching my heroes, those I loved the best,  
I saw them fail; they could not stand the test,  
Even by this the Lord, through tears not few,  
Unto Himself me drew.  

Unto Himself! No earthly tongue can tell  
The bliss I find, since in His heart I dwell;  
The things that charmed me once seem all as naught;  
Unto Himself I’m brought.  
~ Selected

Streams in The Desert

Alone ~ Deut 32:12

“The hill was steep, but cheered along the way  
By converse sweet, I mounted on the thought  
That so it might be till the height was reached;  
But suddenly a narrow winding path  
Appeared, and then the Master said, ’My child,  
Here thou wilt safest walk with Me alone.’  

“I trembled, yet my heart’s deep trust replied,  
’So be it, Lord.’ He took my feeble hand  
In His, accepting thus my will to yield Him  
All, and to find all in Him.  
One long, dark moment,  
And no friend I saw, save Jesus only.  

“But oh! so tenderly He led me on  
And up, and spoke to me such words of cheer,  
Such secret whisperings of His wondrous love,  
That soon I told Him all my grief and fear,  
And leaned on His strong arm confidingly.

“And then I found my footsteps quickened,  
And light ineffable, the rugged way  
Illumined, such light as only can be seen  
In close companionship with God.  

“A little while, and we shall meet again  
The loved and lost; but in the rapturous joy  
Of greetings, such as here we cannot know,  
And happy song, and heavenly embraces,  
And tender recollections rushing back  
Of pilgrim life, methinks one memory  
More dear and sacred than the rest, shall rise,

“And we who gather in the golden streets,  
Shall oft be stirred to speak with grateful love  
Of that dark day when Jesus bade us climb  
Some narrow steep, leaning on Him alone.”  
“There is no high hill but beside some deep valley.  
There is no birth without a pang.”  
~ Dan Crawford

Streams in The Desert

My Father’s Giving

Prove me now

~ Mal 3:10

What is God saying here but this: “My child, I still have windows in Heaven. They are yet in service. The bolts slide as easily as of old. The hinges have not grown rusty. I would rather fling them open, and pour forth, than keep them shut, and hold back. I opened them for Moses, and the sea parted. I opened them for Joshua, and Jordan rolled back. I opened them for Gideon, and hosts fled. I will open them for you, if you will only let Me. On this side of the windows, Heaven is the same rich storehouse as of old. The fountains and streams still overflow. The treasure rooms are still bursting with gifts. The lack is not on my side. It is on yours. I am waiting. Prove Me now. Fulfill the conditions, on your part. Bring in the tithes. Give Me a chance.

~ Selected

I can never forget my mother’s very brief paraphrase of Malachi 3:10. The verse begins, “Bring ye the whole tithe in,” and it ends up with “I will pour” the blessing out till you’ll be embarrassed for space. Her paraphrase was this: Give all He asks; take all He promises.”

~ S. D. Gordon

The ability of God is beyond our prayers, beyond our largest prayers! I have been thinking of some of the petitions that have entered into my supplication innumerable times. What have I asked for? I have asked for a cupful, and the ocean remains! I have asked for a sunbeam, and the sun abides! My best asking falls immeasurably short of my Father’s giving: it is beyond that we can ask.

~ J. H. Jowett

“All the rivers of Thy grace I claim,  
Over every promise write my name” (Eph. 1:8-19).

Streams in The Desert

There We Saw the Giants

There we saw the giants ~ Num 13:33

Yes, they saw the giants, but Caleb and Joshua saw God! Those who doubt say, “We be not able to go up.” Those who believe say, “Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able.”

Giants stand for great difficulties; and giants are stalking everywhere. They are in our families, in our churches, in our social life, in our own hearts; and we must overcome them or they will eat us up, as these men of old said of the giants of Canaan.

The men of faith said, “They are bread for us; we will eat them up.” In other words, “We will be stronger by overcoming them than if there had been no giants to overcome.”

Now the fact is, unless we have the overcoming faith we shall be eaten up, consumed by the giants in our path. Let us have the spirit of faith that these men of faith had, and see God, and He will take care of the difficulties.

~ Selected

It is when we are in the way of duty that we find giants. It was when Israel was going forward that the giants appeared. When they turned back into the wilderness they found none.

There is a prevalent idea that the power of God in a human life should lift us above all trials and conflicts. The fact is, the power of God always brings a conflict and a struggle. One would have thought that on his great missionary journey to Rome, Paul would have been carried by some mighty providence above the power of storms and tempests and enemies. But, on the contrary, it was one long, hard fight with persecuting Jews, with wild tempests, with venomous vipers and all the powers of earth and hell, and at last he was saved, as it seemed, by the narrowest margin, and had to swim ashore at Malta on a piece of wreckage and barely escape a watery grave.

Was that like a God of infinite power? Yes, just like Him. And so Paul tells us that when he took the Lord Jesus Christ as the life of his body, a severe conflict immediately came; indeed, a conflict that never ended, a pressure that was persistent, but out of which he always emerged victorious through the strength of Jesus Christ.

The language in which he describes this is most graphic. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our body.”

What a ceaseless, strenuous struggle! It is impossible to express in English the forcible language of the original. There are five pictures in succession. In the first, the idea is crowding enemies pressing in from every side, and yet not crushing him because the police of heaven cleared the way just wide enough for him to get through. The literal translation would be, “We are crowded on every side, but not crushed.”

The second picture is that of one whose way seems utterly closed and yet he has pressed through; there is light enough to show him the next step. The Revised Version translates it, “Perplexed but not unto despair.” Rotherham still more literally renders it, “Without a way, but not without a by-way.”

The third figure is that of an enemy in hot pursuit while the divine Defender still stands by, and he is not left alone. Again we adopt the fine rendering of Rotherham, “Pursued but not abandoned.”

The fourth figure is still more vivid and dramatic. The enemy has overtaken him, has struck him, has knocked him down. But it is not a fatal blow; he is able to rise again. It might be translated, “Overthrown but not overcome.”

Once more the figure advances, and now it seems to be even death itself, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” But he does not die, for “the life also of Jesus” now comes to his aid and he lives in the life of another until his life work is done.

The reason so many fail in this experience of divine healing is because they expect to have it all without a struggle, and when the conflict comes and the battle wages long, they become discouraged and surrender. God has nothing worth having that is easy. There are no cheap goods in the heavenly market. Our redemption cost all that God had to give, and everything worth having is expensive. Hard places are the very school of faith and character, and if we are to rise over mere human strength and prove the power of life divine in these mortal bodies, it must be through a process of conflict that may well be called the birth travail of a new life. It is the old figure of the bush that burned, but was not consumed, or of the Vision in the house of the Interpreter of the flame that would not expire, notwithstanding the fact that the demon ceaselessly poured water on it, because in the background stood an angel ever pouring oil and keeping the flame aglow.

No, dear suffering child of God, you cannot fail if only you dare to believe, to stand fast and refuse to be overcome.

~ Tract

Streams in The Desert

Limp Hands and Feeble Knees

Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

~  Heb 12:12-13

This is God’s word of encouragement to us to lift up the hands of faith, and confirm the knees of prayer. Often our faith grows tired, languid, and relaxed, and our prayers lose their force and effectiveness.

The figure used here is a very striking one. The idea seems to be that we become discouraged and so timid that a little obstacle depresses and frightens us, and we are tempted to walk around it, and not face it: to take the easier way.

Perhaps it is some physical trouble that God is ready to heal, but the exertion is hard, or it is easier to secure some human help, or walk around in some other way.

There are many ways of walking around emergencies instead of going straight through them. How often we come up against something that appalls us, and we want to evade the issue with the excuse:

“I am not quite ready for that now.” Some sacrifice is to be made, some obedience demanded, some Jericho to be taken, some soul that we have not the courage to claim and carry through, some prayer that is hanging fire, or perhaps some physical trouble that is half healed and we are walking around it.

God says, “Lift up the hands that hang down.” March straight through the flood, and lo, the waters will divide, the Red Sea will open, the Jordan will part, and the Lord will lead you through to victory.

Don’t let your feet “be turned out of the way,” but let your body “be healed,” your faith strengthened. Go right ahead and leave no Jericho behind you unconquered and no place where Satan can say that he was too much for you. This is a profitable lesson and an intensely practical one. How often have we been in that place. Perhaps you are there today. 

~ A. B. Simpson

Pay as little attention to discouragement as possible. Plough ahead as a steamer does, rough or smooth—rain or shine. To carry your cargo and make your port is the point. 

~ Maltbie D. Babcock