OBSESSED WITH STUFF

Riches will not go on forever. PROVERBS 27:24

In 1900 the average person living in the United States wanted seventy-two different things and considered eighteen of them essential. Today the average person wants five hundred things and considers one hundred of them essential.

Our obsession with stuff carries a hefty price tag. Eighty percent of us battle the pressure of overdue bills. We spend 110 percent of our disposable income trying to manage debt. And who can keep up? We no longer measure ourselves against the Joneses next door but against the star on the screen or the stud on the magazine cover. Hollywood’s diamonds make yours look like a gumball-machine toy. Who can satisfy Madison Avenue? No one can. For that reason Jesus warns, “Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15).

from CURE FOR THE COMMON LIFE

Standing on God’s Word

Ezekiel 13:1-6

The United States Marine Corps is always on the lookout for what they call “a few good men.” The eyes of the Lord are likewise scanning the earth in order to find godly men and women who will step forward and use their influence to exalt righteousness in the land. That is what we see in Ezekiel 22. God says, “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it” (v. 30).

A “gap” in this sense is some place where error or falsehood has crept in, allowing Satanic confusion and inviting the judgment of God. Sometimes these gaps are so serious that they imperil entire nations and carry them to the brink of destruction. Israel was facing such a time following the Exodus, but the Word of God records this remarkable statement: “Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying them” (Ps. 106:23).

In all likelihood, not too many of us will ever be called upon to save a nation. But we can nonetheless build up the walls of protection around our families and churches by drawing wisdom from the whole counsel of God. We can resist the Devil daily and refuse the sensuality and perversions of this present age. God has called His children into His service and will equip them in righteousness. In Moses’ day, one man made all the difference. Why not be the one who makes a difference today?

Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

“Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.” (Luke 6:22)

“Blessed” means “happy,” and it would seem paradoxical to try to find happiness by being persecuted. Most Christians are extremely reluctant to do anything which might make them less popular with their peers, let alone anything which might lead to social ostracism or even physical suffering. Yet Jesus said that this is the way to find true happiness.

He did not say that blessing comes through suffering for foolishness’ sake, or for carelessness’ sake, or for sinfulness’ sake; “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10). The principle is amplified by Peter: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye. . . . But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:14-16).

It hurts, of course, to be “cast out—as evil,” when one is sincerely seeking to do right and to honor God. This was the experience of the blind man to whom Jesus gave sight. The religious authorities responded to his testimony with: “Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out” (John 9:34). Nevertheless, he now could see! Likewise, the religious leaders “raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.” Nevertheless, “the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:50, 52).

The situation exists today in many countries—soon perhaps in America. If so, may the Lord enable us to honor His name in suffering with joy and without compromise, for “Christ also suffered for us” (1 Peter 2:21). HMM

He went up into a mountain apart to pray

“He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when evening was come, he was there alone.” (Matt. 14:23.)

THE man Christ Jesus felt the need of perfect solitude—Himself alone, entirely by Himself? alone with Himself. We know how much intercourse with men draws us away from ourselves and exhausts our powers. The man Christ Jesus knew this, too, and felt the need of being by Himself again, of gathering all His powers, of realizing fully His high destiny, His human weakness, His entire dependence on the Father.

How much more does the child of God need this—himself alone with spiritual realities, himself alone with God the Father. If ever there were one who could dispense with special seasons for solitude and fellowship, it was our Lord. But He could not do His work or maintain His fellowship in full power, without His quiet time.

Would God that every servant of His understood and practiced this blessed art, and that the Church knew how to train its children into some sense of this high and holy privilege, that every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed himself alone with God. Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself, and to know that God has me all alone to Himself! —Andrew Murray.

Lamertine speaks in one of his books of a secluded walk in his garden where his mother always spent a certain hour of the day, upon which nobody ever dreamed for a moment of intruding. It was the holy garden of the Lord to her. Poor souls that have no such Beulah land! Seek thy private chamber, Jesus says. It is in the solitude that we catch the mystic notes that issue from the soul of things.

A MEDITATION

My soul, practice being alone with Christ! It is written that when they were alone He expounded all things to His disciples. Do not wonder at the saying; it is true to thine experience. If thou wouldst understand thyself send the multiude away. Let them go out one by one till thou art left alone with Jesus…. Has thou ever pictured thyself the one remaining creature in the earth, the one remaining creature in all the starry worlds?

In such a universe thine every thought would be “God and I! God and I!” And yet He is as near to thee as that—as near as if in the boundless spaces there throbbed no heart but His and thine. Practice that solitude, O my soul! Practice the expulsion of the crowd! Practice the stillness of thine own heart! Practice the solemn refrain “God and I! God and I!” Let none interpose between thee and thy wrestling angel! Thou shalt be both condemned and pardoned when thou shalt meet Jesus alone! —George Matheson.

All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full

“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” Ecclesiastes 1:7

Everything sublunary is on the move, time knows nothing of rest. The solid earth is a rolling ball, and the great sun himself a star obediently fulfilling its course around some greater luminary. Tides move the sea, winds l stir the airy ocean, friction wears the rock: change and death rule everywhere. The sea is not a miser’s storehouse for a wealth of waters, for as by one force the waters flow into it, by another they are lifted from it. Men are born but to die: everything is hurry, worry, and vexation of spirit. Friend of the unchanging Jesus, what a joy it is to reflect upon thy changeless heritage; thy sea of bliss which will be for ever full, since God Himself shall pour eternal rivers of pleasure into it. We seek an abiding city beyond the skies, and we shall not be disappointed.

The passage before us may well teach us gratitude. Father Ocean is a great receiver, but he is a generous distributor. What the rivers bring him he returns to the earth in the form of clouds and rain. That man is out of joint with the universe who takes all but makes no return. To give to others is but sowing seed for ourselves. He who is so good a steward as to be willing to use his substance for his Lord, shall be entrusted with more. Friend of Jesus, art thou rendering to Him according to the benefit received? Much has been given thee, what is thy fruit? Hast thou done all? Canst thou not do more? To be selfish is to be wicked. Suppose the ocean gave up none of its watery treasure, it would bring ruin upon our race.

God forbid that any of us should follow the ungenerous and destructive policy of living unto ourselves. Jesus pleased not Himself. All fulness dwells in Him, but of His fulness have all we received. O for Jesus’ spirit, that henceforth we may live not unto ourselves!

Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little

“Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.” Haggai 1:9

Churlish souls stint their contributions to the ministry and missionary operations, and call such saving good economy; little do they dream that they are thus impoverishing themselves. Their excuse is that they must care for their own families, and they forget that to neglect the house of God is the sure way to bring ruin upon their own houses. Our God has a method in providence by which He can succeed our endeavours beyond our expectation, or can defeat our plans to our confusion and dismay; by a turn of His hand He can steer our vessel in a profitable channel, or run it aground in poverty and bankruptcy.

It is the teaching of Scripture that the Lord enriches the liberal and leaves the miserly to find out that withholding tendeth to poverty. In a very wide sphere of observation, I have noticed that the most generous Christians of my acquaintance have been always the most happy, and almost invariably the most prosperous. I have seen the liberal giver rise to wealth of which he never dreamed; and I have as often seen the mean, ungenerous churl descend to poverty by the very parsimony by which he thought to rise. Men trust good stewards with larger and larger sums, and so it frequently is with the Lord; He gives by cartloads to those who give by bushels.

Where wealth is not bestowed the Lord makes the little much by the contentment which the sanctified heart feels in a portion of which the tithe has been dedicated to the Lord. Selfishness looks first at home, but godliness seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, yet in the long run selfishness is loss, and godliness is great gain. It needs faith to act towards our God with an open hand, but surely He deserves it of us; and all that we can do is a very poor acknowledgment of our amazing indebtedness to His goodness.