Some professors of religion are like the catbird!

There are very many things that may choke out love in the home. One of these is the lack of kindness. If you have grown less kind in your feelings, in your actions, and in your words–then love cannot thrive. Kindness is one of the best fertilizers for love.

There are so many people who have two sets of tones in which to speak–and two sets of manners in which they act. They have their company manners–and their family manners. When they have company–then the voice is soft and pleasant, and the manners are agreeable and kindly. They treat their friends with the greatest consideration; but as soon as their friends are gone, the pleasant voice changes into crossness or harshness and fault-finding–and the pleasantness of manner disappears! In how many homes is this true!

The greater consideration, the greater kindness–is due the home folks. Otherwise, love cannot flourish. If you wish to have love for your home folks–then you must show them the consideration that is due them.

Some professors of religion are like the catbird! When it is away from its nest–then it is one of the sweetest of the northern warblers; but when it is close to its nest–then you will hear only a harsh, discordant note. It has no sweetness in its voice while at its nest.

In the same way, some people reserve all their kindness, tenderness, and sweetness–for those outside the family circle. Is it any wonder that love dies in such a home?

“Love must be without hypocrisy.” Romans 12:9

Charles Naylor, How to Fertilize Love, 1920

 

Published in: on March 19, 2017 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Tale of Two Foxes

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

A fable relates that in the depth of a forest, there lived two foxes. One of them said to the other one day, in the politest of fox-language, “Let’s quarrel!”

“Very well,” said the other; “but how shall we go about it?”

They tried all sorts of ways—but in vain, for both would give way. At last, one fox brought two stones.

“There!” said he. “Now you say they are yours—and I’ll say they are mine—and we will quarrel and fight and scratch! Now I’ll begin.

“Those stones are mine!”

“All right!” answered the other fox, “you are welcome to them.”

“But we shall never quarrel at this rate,” replied the first.

“No, indeed, you old simpleton! Don’t you know, that it takes two to make a quarrel?”

So the foxes gave up trying to quarrel, and never played at this silly game again.

The fable has its lesson for other creatures, besides foxes. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,” Paul tells us, “we should live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18).”

A wise man says, “Every man takes care that his neighbors shall not cheat him—but a day comes when he begins to care—that he does not cheat his neighbors. Then all goes well.” So long as a man sees only the quarrelsome temper of his neighbor—he is not far toward holiness. But when he has learned to watch and to try to control his own temper, and to weep over his own infirmities—he is on the way to Christ-likeness, and will soon be conqueror over his own weakness!

Life is too short to spend even one day of it in bickering and strife! Love is too sacred to be forever lacerated and torn by the ugly briers of sharp temper! Surely we ought to learn to be loving and patient with others—since God has to show every day such infinite patience toward us! Is not the very essence of true love—the spirit that is not easily provoked, that bears all things? Can we not, then, train our life to sweeter gentleness? Can we not learn to be touched even a little roughly, without resenting it? Can we not bear little injuries, and apparent injustices, without flying into a rage? Can we not have in us something of the mind of Christ, which will enable us, like him, to endure all wrong and injury and give back no word or look of bitterness? The way over which we and our friend walk together, is too short to be spent in wrangling.

– J. R. Miller,  1840-1912

Kindness That Comes Too Late

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. – John 12:3

I have always been glad that there was one who brought out her alabaster vase, and anointed the Lord beforehand for his burial. Most people would have waited, keeping the vase sealed, until he was dead, and would then have broken it to anoint his body when it lay, torn, wounded and cold, wrapped in the garments of burial. But she did not wait. She opened the jar while he could enjoy its sweet perfume, and when his worn and weary feet could feel the delicious refreshment which it gave.

We have not to read between the lines to find the lesson. After one dies—there is no lack of alabaster boxes to be brought from their hiding-places and unsealed. The kindest words are spoken then. Not a voice of fault-finding is heard in the darkened room where the dead form reposes in silence. A thousand pleasant things are said. A gentle charity covers and hides all his mistakes, and even his follies and sins. His life is talked over, and memory is busy gathering out the beautiful things he has done, the self-denials he has made, and the kindnesses he has wrought for the poor along the years of his life. Everyone that knew him, comes and looks on his pale face and says some generous word about him, recalling some favor received from his hands or some noble deed wrought by him. Near friends go to the florist and order flowers, woven into crosses, harps, pillars or crowns—to be sent with their card and laid upon his coffin.

There is nothing wrong in all this. Flowers on the coffin are beautiful. When a Christian sleeps, there they are fit symbols of the hope in which he rests. Then they seem to whisper sweet secrets of comfort for sorrowing hearts. They tell, too, of kindly feelings and gentle remembrances outside the darkened homes, while hearts are breaking within. They are the tokens of love and respect for the dead. There can be nothing inappropriate in the placing of a few choice flowers upon a coffin, or on the bosom of the dead.

It is fitting, too, that kind words should be spoken—even when the ear cannot hear them, or the heart be warmed and thrilled by them. There is no richer tribute to a human life, than the sincere witness of sorrowing friends around the coffin and the grave. It is natural that many a tender sleeping memory should be awakened at the touch of death. It is natural that when we have lost our friends, all the sealed vases of affection should be broken open to anoint them for the last time. It is well that even death has power to stop the tongue of detraction, to subdue enmities, jealousies and emulations, to reveal the hitherto unappreciated beauties and excellences of a man’s character, to cover with the veil of charity—his blemishes and faults, and to thaw out the tender thoughts, the laggard gratitude and the long-slumbering kindly feelings in the hearts of his neighbors and friends.

But meantime there is a great host of weary men and women toiling through life toward the grave—who sorely need just now the cheering words and helpful ministries which we can give. The incense is gathering to scatter about their coffins—but why should it not be scattered in their paths today? The kind words are lying in men’s hearts unexpressed, and trembling on their tongues unvoiced, which will be spoken by and by when these weary ones are dead—but why should they not be spoken now, when they are needed so much, and when their accents would be so pleasing and grateful?

Many a good man goes through life plain, plodding, living obscurely—yet living a true, honest, Christian life, making many a self-denial to serve others, doing many a quiet kindness to his neighbors and friends—who scarcely ever hears a word of thanks, or cheer, or generous commendation. He may hear many criticisms and many expressions of disparagement—but no approving words come to his ears. If his friends have pleasant things to say about him, they so manage to speak them—that he will not hear them. Perhaps they are not uttered at all. Those he loves and toils for, may be grateful—but their gratitude lies in their hearts like fruit-buds in the branches in February. The vases filled with kindly appreciation are kept sealed! The flowers are not cut from the stem.

You stand by his coffin, and there are enough kind things said there, to have brightened every hour of his life—if they had been said at the right time, while he was still alive. There are enough flowers piled upon his casket—to have kept his chamber filled with fragrance through all his years—if they had only been wisely scattered in daily clusters. How his heavy heart would have leaped and thanked God—if he could have heard some of the expressions of affection and approval in the midst of life’s painful strifes, and when staggering under its burdens, which are now wasted on ears that hear them not! How much happier his life would have been, and how much more useful, if he had known, amid his disappointments and anxieties—that he had so many generous friends who held him so dear! But, poor man! he had to die that the appreciation might express itself! Then he could not hear the gentle words spoken over his cold form! The flowers sent and strewn on his coffin—had no fragrance for him. The love blossomed out too late.

Many a woman gives out her life for Christ in lowly, self-denying ministries. She turns away from ease and comfort and toils for the poor. With her own fingers, she makes garments for the widow and orphan. When she is dead—there is great mourning. The poor rise up and call her blessed. Those she has clad, gather about her coffin and show the coats and garments she made for them while she was alive. Her pastor preaches her funeral sermon with wondrous tenderness and eloquence. All very well. It is a sweet reward, a beautiful ending, for such a life. But would it not have been better—if part at least of that kindness, had been shown to her while her weary feet were walking on their long love-errands, and her busy fingers were drawing the needle through seam after seam?

A husband piled most elaborate floral offerings about his wife’s coffin, built a magnificent monument over her grave, and spoke in glowing eulogy of her noble sacrifices. But it was whispered that he had not been the kindest of husbands to her while she lived. A daughter showed great sorrow at her mother’s funeral, and could not say enough in commendation of her—but it was known that she had thrust many a thorn into her pillow, while she was living.

Is it not a better thing to seek to make the living happy—than to leave them to walk along dreary paths without sympathy, unhelped, neglected, perhaps wronged—and then flood their coffins with sunshine? Many a man goes down under the pressure of life’s hardship, and the weight of its burdens, never hearing the voice of human sympathy. What does it matter to him, when the agony is over and he lies dead—that friends come in throngs to lament his death and to utter his praises? May it not be that a fragment of the sympathy and appreciation wasted and unavailing now that he is dead—would have kept his heart bravely beating for many another year?

Do not, then, keep the alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up until your friends are dead! Fill their lives with sweetness. Speak approving, cheering words while their ears can hear them. The things you mean to say when they are gone—say before they go! The flowers you mean to send for their coffins—send to brighten and sweeten their homes before they leave them.

If a sermon helps you, it will do the preacher good to tell him of it. If the editor writes an article that you like, he can write a still better one next week if you send him a note of thanks. If a book you read is helpful, do you not owe it to the author to write him a word of acknowledgment? If you know a weary or neglected one or one overworked, would it not be such work as God’s angels love to do—to seek to put a little brightness and cheer into his life, to manifest true sympathy with him, and to put into his trembling hand—the cup filled with the wine of human love?

I have always said—and I am sure I am speaking for thousands of weary, plodding toilers—that if my friends have vases laid away, filled with the perfumes of sympathy and affection, which they intend to break over my dead body—I would be glad if they would bring them out in some of my weary hours and open them, that I may be refreshed and cheered by them while I need them. I would rather have a coffin without a flower, and a funeral without a spoken eulogy—than a life without the sweetness of human tenderness and cheer! If we would fulfill our mission, we must anoint our friends beforehand for their burial. Post-mortem kindnesses do not cheer the burdened spirit. Tears falling on the icy brow—make poor and tardy atonement for coldness and neglect and cruel selfishness in long, struggling years. Appreciation when the heart is stilled in death—has no inspiration for the spirit. Justice comes too late—when it is only pronounced in the funeral eulogy. Flowers piled on the coffin—cast no fragrance backward over the weary days.

J. R. Miller, 1880

Published in: on August 7, 2016 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Love keeps no record of wrongs

 

“Love does not take into account a wrong suffered…” 1 Cor. 13:5

Logizomai (take into account) is a bookkeeping term that means to calculate or reckon, as when figuring an entry in a ledger. The purpose of the entry is to make a permanent record that can be consulted whenever needed. In business that practice is necessary, but in personal matters it is not only unnecessary but harmful. Keeping track of things done against us is a sure way to unhappiness–our own and that of those on whom we keep records.

The same Greek word is used often in the New Testament to represent the pardoning act of God for those who trust in Jesus Christ. “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (Rom. 4:8). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). Once sin is placed under the blood of Christ there is no more record of it. It is blotted out, “wiped away” (Acts 3:19). In God’s heavenly record the only entry after the names of His redeemed is “righteous,” because we are counted righteous in Christ. Christ’s righteousness is placed to our credit. No other record exists.

That is the sort of record love keeps of wrongs done against it. No wrong is ever recorded for later reference. Love forgives. Someone once suggested that love does not forgive and forget, but rather remembers and still forgives. Resentment is careful to keep books, which it reads and rereads, hoping for a chance to get even. Love keeps no books, because it has no place for resentment or grudges. Chrysostom observed that a wrong done against love is like a spark that falls into the sea and is quenched. Love quenches wrongs rather than records them. It does not cultivate memories out of evils. If God so completely and permanently erases the record of our many sins against Him, how much more should we forgive and forget the much lesser wrongs done against us (d. Matt. 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32)?

– John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on 1st Corinthians

We are in debt to everybody!

“Little children, we must not love in word or speech–but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3:18

“Do not owe anyone anything–except to love one another.” Romans 13:8

We are in debt to everybody! Love is a debt which never can be altogether settled. You may pay it all off today–but tomorrow you will find it as heavy as ever. It is a debt which everybody owes to everybody. Nor can it be paid off with any mere sentimental love. It cost Paul a great deal, to settle his obligations and pay his debts to others.

There is a sort of philanthropic sentiment which some people have, which does not cost them very much. But to pay his debts of love, Paul gave up all he had, and then gave himself up to service, suffering, and sacrifice to the very uttermost. True love always costs! Love’s essential quality, is unselfish helpfulness, the carrying of the life with all its rich gifts and powers in such a way–that it may be a blessing to every other life which it touches.

As Christians, we owe love to everyone–and love always serves. Serving is an essential quality of love. The true standard of greatness–is service. It is not what our life is in gifts, in culture, in strength–but what we do with our life, which is the real test of character. Our Lord taught this truth when he said, “Whoever wants to become great among you–must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first–must be slave of all.” Mark 10:43-44. He who serves the most fully and the most unselfishly, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Love seeks to give, to minister, to be of use, to do good to others. The true Christian desires to serve others, to minister to their comfort, to be a help and a blessing to them. It is thus, that we should relate ourselves to every person who comes within our influence. Love will lead us to ask concerning everyone who passes before us, “What can I do to help this brother of mine, to add to his happiness, to relieve his trouble, to put him in the way of holiness, to comfort his sorrow?” If this were the habitual attitude of our love, paradise would soon be restored. It would put an end to all our miserable pride, to all our petty tyrannies and despotisms.

Love works most effectively–when it works unconsciously, almost instinctively, inspired from within. That is the best service, which flows out of the heart and life–as light from the sun, as fragrance from a flower. There is no other way of paying our debt of love to others, which is so Christlike as this. We are to be to others–what Jesus would be, if He were in our place!

– J. R. Miller, The Building of Character, 1894

Published in: on June 26, 2016 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Be not in debt to anyone

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.
– Romans 13:8

“Owe no man anything.” Be not in debt to any one:

1. because it is a part of our duty as good citizens; and

2. because it is a part of that law which teaches us to love our neighbor, and to do no injury to him, (Ro 13:10). The interpretation of this command is to be taken with this limitation, that we are not to be indebted to him so as to injure him, or to work ill to him.

This rule, together with the other rules of Christianity, would propose a remedy for all the evils of bad debts in the following manner:

1. It would teach men to be industrious, and this would commonly prevent the necessity of contracting debts.

2. It would make them frugal, economical, and humble in their views and manner of life.

3. It would teach them to bring up their families in habits of industry. The Bible often enjoins that. See also “Ro 12:11”, comp. (Phil. 4:8; Prov. 24:30-34; 1Thess. 4:11; 2Thess. 3:10; Eph. 4:28)

4. Religion would produce sober, chastened views of the end of life, of the great design of living; and would take off the affections from the splendor, gaiety, and extravagances which lead often to the contraction of debts, (1Thess. 5:6,8; 1Pet. 1:13, 4:7; Tit. 2:12; 1Pet. 3:3,5; 1Tim. 2:9).

5. Religion would put a period to the vices and unlawful desires which now prompt men to contract debts.

6. It would make them honest in paying them. It would make them conscientious, prompt, friends of truth, and disposed to keep their promises.

– Albert Barnes, 1798 – 1870, Barnes Notes

Published in: on May 22, 2016 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christian Love

The spirit of Christian love, if allowed to work deeply and thoroughly in all hearts and lives—will prevent variance and alienation among Christians. It will lead us to forget ourselves and think of others, not pushing our own interests unduly, nor demanding the first place—but in honor preferring one another. It will make us willing to serve, to minister, even to stoop down to unloose a brother’s shoes. It will make us thoughtful, too—in all our acts, in our manners, in our words. It will make us gentle, kindly, patient, teaching us to be all that Christ would be—if he were in our place.

– J. R. Miller, In Green Pastures

Published in: on May 4, 2016 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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