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In Green Pastures
April



 

April 1

God Himself His Own Best Gift

Enlarge your desires and your prayers. Do not ask merely for mercies and favors and common gifts. Do not ask God merely to give you bread, and health, and home, and friends, and prosperity; or, rising yet a step higher, do not content yourself with asking for grace to help in temptation, or for strength to fill up your weakness, or for wisdom to guide you in perplexity, or for holiness and purity and power. Ask for God himself, and then open your heart to receive him. If you have God, you have all other gifts and blessings in him. And it is himself—that God is willing to give for the asking, not merely the favors and benefits that his hand dispenses. Ask most largely!

April 2

A Beautiful Life

A life need not be great to be beautiful. There may be as much beauty in a tiny flower—as in a majestic tree; in a little gem—as in a great mountain; in the smallest creature—as in a mammoth one. A life may be very lovely—and yet be insignificant in the world's eyes. A beautiful life is one which fulfills its mission in this world—that which fills its place well, is far lovelier in God's sight, than the largest and most splendidly gifted life—which fails of its divine mission.

April 3

Following Our White Banners

We talk about consecration. What is consecration? It is nothing less than doing the will of Christ, not our own—always, whatever the cost, the sacrifice, or the danger. There is too much mere sentiment in our religion. We say we believe in Christ; if we do, we must follow him wherever he leads, though not knowing where. We say we love Christ, and quickly from his lips comes the testing word—"If you love me—keep my commandments." To be a Christian is to be devoted utterly, resistlessly, irrevocably, to Christ. Joan of Arc said the secret of her victoriousness was that she bade her white standard go forth boldly; then she followed it herself. Good intentions, and vows, and pledges of consecration are well enough as white banners—but when we have sent them forth—we must be sure to follow them ourselves.

April 4

As Your Days

There is in the Bible, no promise of grace, in advance of the need. God does not say he will put strength into our arm for the battle—while we are in quiet peace and the battle is yet far off. When the conflict is at hand—the strength will be given. He does not open the gates for us, nor roll away the stones—until we have come up to them. He did not divide the Jordan's waters while the people were yet in their camps, nor even as they began to march toward the river. The wild stream continued to flow as the multitude moved down the banks, even until the feet of the priests had been dipped in the water. This is the constant law of divine help. It is not given in advance. As we come up to the need, the supply is ready—but not before. Yet many Christians worry because they cannot see the way opened and the needs supplied far in advance of their steps. Shall we not let God provide—and have faith in him?

April 5

True Christian Womanhood

That is not Christ's religion, which is moved to ecstasies of love and compassion for the Zulus and Chinese across the seas—but is selfish, irritable, greedy, impatient, and harsh at home. The true Christian woman is the very soul of self-forgetfulness in her own home-circle. Wherever she goes, she is the same. She carries the sweet, patient spirit of Christ everywhere. Her hands are gentle as an angel's, and are ever scattering blessings. Her words are thrilled with a strange power of sympathy and tenderness, which carry comfort into the sad heart, courage into the fainting heart, and life into the sluggish heart. A selfish woman is a contradiction. Wherever selfishness appears in a woman, it is a blemish which disfigures the divine beauty.

April 6

Turning Visions into Life

God gives us visions of spiritual beauty—that we may turn them into realities in common life. All our heavenward aspirations, we should bring down and work into acts. All our longings and desires—we should make true in experiences. Every day's Bible text taken into the heart—should shine forth in some new touch of spiritual beauty. As the look of the face is caught in the camera and held there, so every time Christ looks in upon our souls, even for an instant, some impression of his features should become fixed there, and remain as part of our own spiritual beauty. So in all our life the words of Christ which we hear, the lessons which we are taught, and the holy influences which touch our souls—should enter into our very being—and reappear in disposition, character, deeds.

April 7

Other People's Faults

No doubt it is easier to discover other people's faults—than our own. Many of us are troubled more about the way our neighbors live, than we are with our own shortcomings. We manifest a greater feeling of responsibility for the acts and neglects of others—than for our own. Now, the truth is, every man must bear his own burden. We shall not be called to answer at God's bar—for the idle words, the sinful acts, and the neglects of duty—of our neighbor. But there is one person for whose every act, word, disposition, and feeling we shall have to give an account—and that is ourself. We had better train ourselves, therefore, to keep close, minute, incessant, and conscientious watch over our own life. We had better give less attention to our neighbor's mistakes, foibles, and failures—and more to our own. Most of us would find little time for looking after other people's faults—if we gave strict attention to our own. Besides, seeing and knowing our own defects—would make us more charitable to those of others.

April 8

The Fatherhood of God

How it would brighten and bless our lives, if we were to carry always in our hearts, the conception of God as our Father! When we can look up into God's face and say out of warm and responding hearts, "Our Father!" all the world and all life take on new aspects for our eyes. Duty is no longer hard and a drudgery—but becomes a joy. Keeping the commandments is hard if we think of God merely as a king; but if we look up to him as our Father, all is changed, and our love for him, and our desire to please him, make obedience a gladness. We can say then, "I delight to do your will, O my God."

April 9

In the Discouraged Days

We all have our discouraged days, when things do not go well. The young people fail in their lessons at school, although they have studied hard and really have done their best. The mothers are tried in their household work. The children are hard to control. It has seemed impossible to keep good temper, to maintain that sweetness and that lovingness which are so essential to a happy day. Try as they will to be gentle, kindly, and patient—their minds are ruffled. They come to the close of the long, unhappy hours—disturbed, defeated, and discouraged. They have done their best—but they feel that they have really failed. They fall upon their knees with only tears for a prayer. But if they will lift up their eyes, they will see on the shore of the troubled sea of their little day's life—the form of one whose presence will give them strength and confidence, and who will help them to victoriousness. Before his sweet smile, the shadows flee away; at his word new strength is given, and after that, work is easy and all goes well again.

April 10

Blessing in Mistakes

Our very mistakes and our sins, if we repent of them, will be used of God to help in the growth and upbuilding of our Christian character. Our very falls, through the grace and tender love of Christ, become means of growth to our souls.

In the hot fires of penitence—we leave the dross and come out as pure gold. But we must remember that it is only Christ who can make our sins yield blessing. If we are Christ's true followers, even our defeats shall become blessings to us, stepping-stones on which we may climb higher. This is one of the marvels of divine grace—that it can make all things—even our sins—work together for good.

April 11

Speak Out the Loving Words

How much better would it be, if we were more generous and lavish of our good words—so that our friends can be cheered and blessed by them! Sometimes we over-learn the lesson of keeping silence—and let hearts starve for lack of kindly words which lie meanwhile on our tongues, ready to be spoken. It is not the lack of love, for which we are to be blamed—but the stinginess which locks up the love—and will not give it out in word and act to bless needy lives. Is any other miserliness so base? We let hearts starve close beside us—when we have the bread to feed them, and then, when they lie in the dust of defeat or death—we come with our love to speak eloquent funeral eulogies. Would it not be far better to give out the kindliness, when it will do good?

April 12

Christian Work

Bring every grace and gift of your life, into Christ's service. Not only use well the gifts you have now at work—but develop what you have, into greater skill and power of service. Strive ever to excel. Grow by working. Don't stand with idle hands a moment, because for each moment you must give account. Do not allow your spiritual powers to rest in dusty niches merely for adornment. Take them all down and put life into them, that they may be useful. Do not play at Christian work. The King's business requires haste!

April 13

Character Alone Abides

We must strive to realize every dream of goodness and Christ-likeness, which our hearts dream. Remember that it is godly character, which is the only test, and the only true fruit, of Christian living. It is not knowledge; for knowledge will fail. It is not money; for money cannot be carried away from earth. It is not fame; for fame's laurels fade at the grave's edge, and its voice gives no cheer in the valley of shadows. It is not culture or education or refinement it is godly character —not what we have or what we know—but what we are—that we can carry with us into the eternal world.

April 14

The Home Friendships

Friendships in the family, require most gentle care and cultivation. We must win each other's love within home-doors, just as we win the love of those outside—by the sweet ministries of love. We must prove ourselves worthy of being loved by those who are nearest; they will not truly love us unless we do, merely because we are of the same household. We must show ourselves unselfish, thoughtful, gentle, helpful. Home friendships must be formed as all friendships are formed—by the patient knitting of soul to soul, and the slow growing of life into life. Then we must retain home-friends, just as we retain other friends—by a thousand little loving expressions in all our fellowship. We cannot depend upon mere relationship to keep us loved and loving. We must live for each other. We must give as well as receive. We must be watchful of our acts and words.

April 15

The Hearts Daily Bread

We all need sympathy, human kindness, cheer, and fellowship—the thousand little things of human love, as we go along the dusty road of life. These small coins of affection are the brighteners of every life which is blessed by a rich friendship. It is this unceasing ministry which your heart hungers for as its daily bread—not great gifts and large favors—but a gentle affectionateness in your friend, which shall bring cheer, satisfaction, inspiration, comfort, uplifting, hope, and strength to your soul, every time you look into his face.

April 16

In His Name

If we have the true spirit of service, we will look upon everyone we meet, even casually, as one to whom we owe some debt of love—one sent to us to receive some blessing, some cheer, some comfort, some strength, some inspiration, some touch of beauty at our hand. We may never do one great or conspicuous thing of which men will talk, or which will be reported in the newspapers—but every word we speak, every smallest act, every influence we send out, even unconsciously, "in His name," merely our shadow falling on human need and pain and sorrow as we pass by—will prove to be a sweet and blessed ministry of love, and will impart strength and help. The name of Christ consecrates every smallest deed or influence, pouring it full of love.

April 17

I Say What I Think

There is a class of people who boast of their honesty and frankness, because they "just say what they think," flinging out the words right and left as they come, no matter where they strike—or whom they wound. Call it not honesty, this boasted frankness; call it rather miserable impudence, reckless cruelty. We have no right to say what we think—unless we think lovingly and sweetly. We certainly have no right to unlade our jealousies, envies, bad humours, and miserable spites upon our neighbor's heart. If we must be ugly-tempered, we should at least keep the ugliness locked up in our own breast, and not let it out to mar other people's happiness. Or, if we must speak out our wretched feelings, let us go into our own room and lock the door and close the windows—that no ears but our own shall hear the hateful words.

April 18

The Peacemaker's Beatitude

It is very easy, if you are talking to one who has a little distrust of another, or a little bitterness against another, to say a word which will increase the distrust or add to the bitterness. We like to approve and justify the one with whom we are speaking, and in doing so we are apt to confirm him in his bitterness or sense of wrong. Let us be on our guard, that we do not unintentionally widen little rifts into great breaches. Let us seek ever to be peacemakers. There is no other beatitude whose blessing is more radiant than that of the peacemakers —"they shall be called sons of God."

April 19

The Blessing of Struggle

The daily temptations which make every true life such a painful conflict from beginning to end, bring us constant opportunities for growth of character. Not to struggle—is not to grow strong. The soldier's art can be learned, and the soldier's honors can be won—only on the field of battle. If you would grow into the beauty of the Master, you must accept the conflicts and fight the battles. You can have life easy if you will—by declining every struggle—but you will then get little out of life which is truly noble and worthy. The best things all lie beyond some battle-plain: you must fight your way across the field to get them. Heaven is only for those who overcome. None get the crown without the conflict. "Sure I must fight, if I would reign."

April 20

The Ministry of "Shut-Ins"

A faith which neither fails nor murmurs in hours of suffering, is like a heavenly lamp burning in the home. It makes the chamber of pain a little sanctuary, a holy of holies, which none can enter but with quiet reverence. Do you think such suffering, so sustained, so radiant, performs no ministry of blessing for those who witness it? We must not think that when God lays us aside from active service, shuts us in and calls us to suffer—that he is stopping our usefulness for the time. Besides the enriching of our own lives for new ministries when we come again from the shadows, our suffering may become meanwhile a school for other lives, our faith and peace unspoken sermons on the power of God's love and grace.

April 21

Conscience in Little Things

Scrupulous people are often laughed at for their scruples. "Why be so particular?" Mirthful and giddy ones ask, "Why be so conscientious about mere trifles? Why be so exacting and punctilious in the doing of small duties?" The answer is, that in the matter of right and wrong nothing is little; certainly nothing is insignificant. Duty is duty, whether it be the smallest or the greatest matter. He is on the highway to nobleness of character who has learned to be scrupulous concerning the smallest things. He who is careful in little things rises every day a step higher. He who is faithful in little things is then entrusted with larger responsibilities. It is the units in life that are most important. Look after the little units and the greater aggregates will be right. Make the minutes beautiful and the hours and days will be radiant.

April 22

Goodness in the Shadows

Shall we trust our Father, only when he is giving us pleasant things, and shall we not trust him also when he brings the shadow over our hearts? Do you think God is good—only when he makes all things such as please you? Is he not just as good when he gives you pain or losses? It is the will of God, that our home-sorrow shall make our home-life sweeter, purer, kindlier, Christlier. If we believe in God and take the pain from his hand with the same confidence as the pleasure, then the shadows will be as rich blessings to us as the lights—and the sorrows will be steps upward on which our feet may climb toward God.

April 23

Christian History

Christian history is one of the best evidences of the deity of Christ. No mere man could touch the world's life, as Jesus Christ has touched it. It is nothing less than the energy of God working in men's hearts, that has produced the marvelous results which we see wherever the gospel has gone. Men's bodies may not now be instantaneously healed by a divine touch—but men's moral lives are transformed by the same divine touch as in the old miracles of gospel days. Nations are lifted up into purity, justice, truth, freedom, and righteousness. Are not these great moral and spiritual miracles—as wonderful attestations of the divine mission of Christ—as the physical miracles that marked the days of the incarnation?

April 24

Cost of Being a Blessing

We must live deeply ourselves—if we would be able to bless others. We must resist sin, even unto blood, if we would teach others how to be victorious in temptation. We must bear trials and endure sorrows with patience, with submission, and with faith, so as to be victorious, if we would become comforters and helpers of others in theirs. You must learn—before you can teach—and the learning costs. At no small price can we become true helpers of others in this world. That which has cost us nothing in the getting—will not be any great blessing to any other person in the giving. It is only when we lose our life, sacrificing it to God—that we become deeply and truly useful.

April 25

Making Others Happy

The world needs nothing more than it needs happiness-makers. There is a great deal of sadness everywhere. The Bible is a book meant to make people happy. Joy-bells ring all through it. The mission of the gospel is to make happiness. The angel's announcement of good tidings of great joy is going forth yet on every breeze. The story of the love of Christ is changing darkness to light, despair to hope, tears to laughter, sorrow to rejoicing, in all lands. It is the mission of every Christian to be a happiness-maker. Each one of us has power, too, to add something at least to the world's gladness. We can do this in a thousand ways—by being joyful Christians ourselves, making our lives a sweet song; by telling others the joyful things of the Word of God; by doing kindnesses to all we meet; by comforting sorrow, lifting burdens away, cheering sadness and weariness, and scattering blessings wherever we go.

April 26

Our Heart—Christ's Kingdom

Religion is not an art, nor a science—it is a life. It is not the mere learning and following of a set of rules. It is the growth of Christ-likeness in the heart, spreading thence into the whole of the being. It is the setting up of the kingdom of heaven within us. This kingdom in one's heart, is the rule and authority of Christ, owned and recognized there at the fount and spring of the life. It is the rule of love—"the love of Christ constrains me." Paul goes still further, however, and speaks of it as a new incarnation. "Christ lives in me," he says. A Christian life is therefore really the personal reign of Christ in the heart of everyone who accepts him. The conquest is slow—that is, the heavenly King finds his kingdom under alien sway, and to get full possession and to reign supreme and alone, he must subdue the whole of the old nature. It is this work of conquest and subjugation which goes on in this world, and it is not complete until the believer passes into heaven. All earthly Christian life is therefore a learning to be a Christian. We should bend all the energies of our being toward the bringing of heart, mind, and will into complete subjection to our King.

April 27

Uplifting Powers

Has Christ's friendship been to you—as close, personal, tender, constant—as the human friendships that have been dearest? The close friends of Christ have found no other influence so strong as his precious friendship in forming and transforming their lives. Continually before them in all its purity and spotlessness, in all its strength and heroism, in all its gentleness and beauty, that fair life has shone, a pattern in the mount let down from heaven, for mortals to fashion their lives upon, brought down close to them and winning them by its loveliness. No one who has had Christ for friend in any true, real sense—has failed to be blessed by him in the way of growth into nobler, richer life.

April 28

Immortal Work

Nothing done in this world is immortal, for this world is perishable. The noblest monument of earthly builder will crumble; but he who works on the unseen, the spiritual, leaves impressions that shall endure forever. The touch of beauty which you put upon a life yesterday by the earnest words you spoke, by the new impulse you started in the heart of your friend, by the vision of heavenly purity you gave in your own life to one who was with you, will be bright when suns and stars shall have burned out to blackness. What we do on immortal lives—is immortal. He is wise, therefore, who chooses to do his life's work on materials which shall never perish. Thousands of years hence—he will find the things he has done, enduring still in immortal beauty.

April 29

Worldly Motive in Christian Life

There is a great deal of worldly policy and prudence in the Christian church. There are those who shrink from duties through timidity or fear of the consequences. There are those who are restrained from taking the right side of important questions, or boldly declaring their beliefs, through motives of practical expediency. Too many professing Christians lack courage to speak to others about their spiritual interests, fearing rebuff. The money question, it must be confessed, weighs sometimes in the balance in the shaping of the course of Christian men, the decision turning on the answer to the question, "What will be the effect of this or that course, on my business or on my social standing?" We all know well that such worldly policy ought to have no place among the motives that sway the minds of Christian people. The only desire should be to know what is right, what is duty, what is the will of God. To be swayed by any other influence, is to be unfaithful to our Lord.

April 30

Need of Reserve

Many a great battle turns at last on the reserve. The struggle is perfectly balanced, and victory is uncertain. Then one side or the other brings up its reserve, and instantly the question is settled. Life's battles and crises, are determined in like manner, ofttimes, by the reserve or the absence of reserve. No life is a dead level of experience from cradle to grave. The days are not all bright. The course is not all smooth. The experiences are not all easy. We must all be assailed by temptations and by spiritual foes, when victory can be gained only if we have reserves of resistance to call into action. We must all stand before tasks and duties which will altogether baffle our ability if we have no more strength to draw on, than we have been using in the common duties of the common days. Blessed are those who have learned to draw on the infinite resources of divine strength; with the fullness of God as reserve they can never fail.

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"I am the light of the world" John 8:12