The sheep do not choose their own pasture!

800px-Catalonia_pastures_dins_el_parc_nacional_aiguestortes

(Francis Bourdillon, “Bedside Readings” 1864)

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters.Psalm 23:2

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” That is, He supplies the needs of our souls. He . . .
gives us the food of the Word of God,
strengthens us with His grace, and
makes us to find our rest in Him.

“He leads me beside the still waters.” That is, He . . .
refreshes us when we are weary,
revives our hearts by His promises,
cheers us by His presence,
gives us His Holy Spirit, and
enables us to rejoice in His salvation.

Amidst all our trials and troubles–He comforts us and gives us fresh hope.

Some may say, “Why should I have trouble at all? Why does the good Shepherd send me anything besides comfort and pleasure? Why am I poor or sad or sick?”

The sheep do not choose their own pasture–the shepherd chooses for them. In the same way, the disciple does not choose his own lot in life–it is appointed for him. His Shepherd knows best what is good for him. The best is not always what is the most pleasant at the moment–but what is most profitable in the end.

Our Shepherd sometimes leads us through what seem to us dry and stony places–but they lead to the Heavenly pastures! And even along the way, He feeds us and comforts us with all a shepherd’s care. Never is our Shepherd nearer to us, than when we are in need or danger.

“My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish–ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!” John 10:27-28

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When Christians Suffer

Phantombild Paulus von Tarsus
Facial composite of the Apostle Paul by experts of LKA NRW, Germany

(Francis Bourdillon, “Affliction, Light and Short!” 1864)

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment–is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we do not look at the things which are seen–but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary–but the things which are not seen are eternal!” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Few people will call their present affliction light–and few are disposed to call it short. For while it lasts, it seems hard to bear–and a time of suffering generally appears long. Yet the apostle Paul writes thus about his affliction: “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment.”

Paul’s afflictions were not, in themselves, light–few men have gone through more hardships and trials than he did. Nor were they, in themselves, short–for wherever he went he found them; they continued, more or less, to the end of his life.

It was only when he compared his present affliction with the glory that was so soon to follow–that it seemed to him light and short. Then he could say, “Our light affliction, which is but for amoment.”

We must always try to look at our afflictions in this way. If we look at them alone–they will be enough to overwhelm us! But if we think also, and even more, of the eternal rest and happinessand glory which lie ahead of us–then our view of our present afflictions will be greatly changed.

“True,” we shall feel, “true, my sorrows are many; my sickness is sore; my pain is great; long have I lain upon a bed of suffering. Yet before me lies a home of perfect rest, where pain and sickness and sorrow cannot come. My Savior has promised it to me and has gone before to prepare it for me. In a little while, I shall be there!”

With thoughts such as these, the suffering Christian should comfort himself–and thus weighpresent affliction against future glory. For what are all things here below, but short? Joys and sorrows, health and sickness, affliction and prosperity–all the things that pain and that please, “the things which are seen”–all these things are but for a time.

Whereas “the things which are not seen are eternal.” What we hope for, what Christ has purchasedfor us and gone before to prepare for us–that is forever! Our pains and sorrows will soon end–but our pleasures will never end! Our affliction is but for a little while–but our comforts, our Savior’s presence, our Heavenly home, will be ours always!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away–yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day!” 2 Corinthians 4:16

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You may want to read the whole of Bourdillon’s uplifting 2 page article, “Affliction, Light and Short!

We Are So Weak

383200_153395991502415_1785597833_n(Francis Bourdillon, “A Psalm of Blessing!” 1864)

“For He knows how weak we are–He remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone–as though we had never been here! But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:14-17

The shortness and uncertainty of our lives–our weakness, frailty, and sinfulness–God knows them all. Tenderly and graciously does He deal with us! In His great mercy and compassion, He . . .
bears with us;
raises us when we fall;
strengthens us when we are weak; and
helps, guides, sustains and comforts us.

He has . . .
a perfect knowledge of our needs,
an unspeakable compassion for them,
and full power to supply them all.

His mercy is everlasting. It will never wear out–and never come to an end.

As for us, we are frail and short-lived. Let but a few years pass, and . . .
the strongest will have fallen to the sythe of death,
the longest-lived will have all passed away, and
our own course here below will have come to a close.
“Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone–as though we had never been here!”

Not so is the mercy of the Lord, and the things which He has prepared for those who love Him. They are from everlasting to everlasting. His promises will never fail. Jesus is . . .
an all-sufficient Savior,
an unfailing Advocate,
an everlasting portion!

Well may every believer join with the Psalmist in rejoicing and praising God,
Praise the LORD, O my soul–all my inmost being, praise His holy name!
Praise the LORD, O my soul–and do not forget all His benefits!” Psalm 103:1-2

Never Out of Sight

330px-William_Blake_-_John_Bunyan_-_Cristian_Reading_in_His_Book_-_Frick_Collection_New_York(Francis Bourdillon, “Come unto Me!” 1864)

Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” Matthew 11:28

Jesus invites all who labor and are heavy laden, to come unto Him. Not sufferers of one kind only–but all sufferers. Not those alone who feel the weight of this particular burden or that–but all the heavy laden.

The poor and needy,
the weak and sickly,
the toiling father,
the anxious mother,
he who feels the weight of his sins,
he whose conscience testifies against him,
he who finds no comfort in this world, and yet fears that he is not prepared for the next
–all are invited to come to Jesus!

Their cases are widely different, the burdens that press upon them are by no means alike–yet all are invited to one Helper and Comforter, “Come unto Me!” He does not bid one sufferer go for comfort to this source–and another to that. He invites all to Himself–as the one unfailing source of help and comfort! 

“Come unto Me!” We do not deserve to be thus invited. Many are suffering the consequences of their own sins–and all of us are sinners. If we met with only what we deserve–then He might justly say to us, “Go away from Me!” Instead of this, Jesus bids us come to Him. Whatever we may have been–however thoughtless, however ungrateful, however wicked–yet if we are now in need or trouble, that is enough. He bids us come to Him.

We are not to stop and think about our own unworthiness. He says nothing here about that. He only says, “Come unto Me.” That is what He invites us to do–that is what we are to do, and we are to do it at once!

Ever Since You Woke Up…

800px-Warsaw_Royal_Castle_GM_(14)(Francis Bourdillon, “The Odd Five Minutes” 1873)

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account!” Hebrews 4:13

Ever since you rose from your bed this morning–there has been an eye watching you!
Wherever you have been and whatever you have been doing–that eye has seen you. It has gone with you to your work. It has seen you with your companions. It has been on you when you were alone.

It has seen not merely all that you have done, but why you did it. Your thoughts, your feelings, your motives, which even your nearest friend has not fully known–have all been open to that eye of which I speak. For it is an all-seeing eye–the eye of God!

“His eyes are on the ways of men–He sees their every step!” Job 34:21

“He knows the secrets of the heart!” Psalm 44:21

“You have set our iniquities before You–our secret sins in the light of your presence!” Psalm 90:8

Have you thought of Him whose eye has been upon you today?
Have you given so much as one thought to Him, since the day began?

You have need to pray, great need–for you are dependent upon God for everything. You are entirely in His hand!

If you went to your work this morning strong and well–it was only because God made you so and kept you so.

If you have had enough to eat today, if you are clothed comfortably and have a home to live in–it is only because God supplies your needs. You would have nothing–if God did not supply you. You live–only because He gives you life. He could take all your comforts from you–if it pleased Him. He could lay you on a bed of sickness this very day–He could in a moment, strike you dead!

Have you even spoken to Him today? Have you prayed to Him today?

“I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” Luke 12:5

Why Obey the Word of God?

Untitled.pngWhy are those blessed, who hear and obey the Word of God?

(Francis Bourdillon, “Short Sermons for Family Reading” 1881)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28

The Word must be obeyed–as well as heard. We must not hear it carelessly. Nor must we be hearers only, forgetting it as soon as heard. We are to guard it and keep it–to treasure it in our hearts as a precious possession. We are to believe it and to follow it–then the full blessing will be ours.

Why are those blessed, who hear and obey the Word of God?

1. Because the Word of God tells us of the Savior, speaks pardon and peace, and opens to us God’s wondrous way of saving sinners. This can be said of no other book, and no other thing. The works of God in nature tell us much–but they do not tell us this. Many books of man are written on these subjects–but they are but man’s books after all.

2. They are blessed also, because the Word of God is a sure guide. It is a difficult path through the wilderness of this world. Many hindrances and perplexities meet us–and many different rules are offered for our guidance: fashion, custom, prudence, man’s opinion, etc. But the Word of God is the only sure guide. A simple, humble, earnest following of this guide–is the wisest, happiest, safest course! The poorest and most unlearned who through grace take this course–have more security for going right than the greatest and wisest who follow any other path. Therefore they are blessed who hear and keep the word of God–because they have a sure guide through life.

3. The word of God also comforts in trouble, and therefore they are blessed who hear it and keep it. This world has its sorrows as well as its difficulties–sorrows many and great; but the word of God has comfort for all of life’s sorrows. It is full of comfort. It has promises and declarations of God’s love. It contains examples of mourners whom He has comforted–and these in great number and variety. There is no kind of trouble for which some suitable comfort may not be found in the Bible. In time of deep sorrow–a comfort and consolation are found in the Word of God which are sought in vain in other books. It is the best of all books for those in trouble.

God’s School

Amish_schoolhouse(Francis Bourdillon, “Alone with God–Helps to Thought and Prayer, for the Use of the Sick“)

“Teach me what I do not see.” Job 34:32

I am now especially in the school of God. He has taken me aside to teach me. The whole world is a training place, and all of God’s dealings with His redeemed children are to teach and discipline them. But God is giving me more than general teaching now. He has taken me aside from the great school of the world, to speak to me alone–doubtless because I need this special teaching.

It is my earnest desire to learn of God. It is my great wish that this time of severe illness may not be sent to me in vain. Lord, give me a humble and teachable heart. Let no pride or hardness or carelessness of mine–come between me and Your teaching, nor hinder me from receiving the impressions of Your grace.

“Teach me what I do not see.” There is much that I do not see.
There is much in the Word of God that has, I am sure, a deeper and more spiritual meaning than I have yet attained to seeing.
I am not fully acquainted with my own heart.
I have but a faint and shallow knowledge of the riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

I do not fully see His precise purpose in sending me this present illness. I know that it comes to me for good, and that He takes me aside to teach me–but I would know His gracious will more clearly and distinctly, so that I may learn the very lessons which He is teaching me, and receive the very blessing which He designs for me.

“Teach me what I do not see!” Lord, I turn to You as my teacher. I am blind and ignorant–but You know all. All that it would be for my soul’s good to see and know–graciously teach me. Open my heart to understand the Scriptures–may Your Spirit unfold Your Word to me.

Teach me to know myself–let me see myself, not in the light of self-esteem, or in that of the world’s opinion, but as I am in Your sight.

Reveal Christ to me more fully. Let me know more of His unsearchable riches. Cause my heart to be more deeply affected with His dying love, and teach me to clearly see the infinite value of His great atonement.

Whatever special fault You mean to correct by this chastisement–enlighten my conscience to see it.

Whatever in my way of life You would have me to change, as contrary to Your will–oh, show it to me now for Your mercy’s sake.

“Teach me.” I might read books, or I might ask man’s advice. I do not disregard either. But now, O my God, that You have taken me thus aside–now I turn to You as my teacher. Who teaches like You? Oh, teach me now–teach me by Your Spirit–teach me Yourself.

Teach me, as You alone can teach–in my heart. Let me not only understand Your holy will–but experience it and follow it. Let me not only have an insight into Your truth and Your dealings–but let me receive a deep and lasting experience of Your grace, and may my every thought be brought into subjection to You.

Teach me by whatever means You may see good to use. I do not ask so much that this time of trial may be shortened, and that Your chastening hand may be removed–as that I may receive all the blessings of such a time, and profit fully by Your chastening.

Lord, I would not choose–choose for me. Order all for me. Keep all in Your own gracious hand. Deal with me after Your own wisdom and love. Only “Teach me what I do not see”–yes, all that I ought to see and know for my soul’s health. By Your dealings, by Your Word, by Your Spirit–graciously teach me!

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You may want to read the whole of Francis Bourdillon’s helpful book, “Alone with God–Helps to Thought and Prayer, for the Use of the Sick“.

Christ Jesus Sympathises

Francisco_de_Zurbarán_006(Francis Bourdillon)

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are” Hebrews4:15
In all our infirmities and troubles of every kind–in pain and sickness, in poverty and need, in anxiety and grief–Jesus has a sympathetic heart for us. Is not this comforting? Does it not cheer us in a time of suffering, when some kind friend comes in and sits down beside us and shows most plainly that though he is unable to help us, he does sincerely feel for us? How much more cheering it is to know that Jesus in Heaven sympathizes with us in all our troubles here below! Does not this thought, this blessed truth–take the edge off the sharpest suffering, and lift us for the time above our sorrows?

Jesus Christ Himself was afflicted when He was on earth. He is called a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. No sorrows were ever equal to His. We know that He was tired and hungry and sad. He was besides, the poorest of the poor–He had nowhere to lay His head. He led what would be called a very hard life.

Our greatest sufferings are light when compared with His. He had some afflictions which we cannot fully understand, as when He prayed in the garden, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me!” And as when He cried upon the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!”

He can sympathize with the poor–because He was poor Himself.
He can sympathize with the sad–because He was a man of sorrows.
He can sympathize with all who suffer–because His own sufferings were so many and so great.

He was tempted; He was tried; He was afflicted; He went through what we have to go through–and much more. In this very world in which we live now–He lived and suffered; and therefore He can and does sympathize with His suffering people.

“He was despised and rejected by men–a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces–He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows–yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace, was upon Him–and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5

Pruning His Elect

arborist_pruning_statue_of_liberty(Francis Bourdillon)

He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit.” John 15:2A

But the gardener does something to the fruitful branch also: “While every branch that does bear fruit–He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:2B

He is not content with a little fruit from it–he wants more. So he takes his knife and prunes it–and that not once only, but again and again. Not roughly or hastily–but with great skill and care, that it may bear as much fruit as possible.

Does not this show us the meaning of our afflictions? God is the Gardener of souls. What is He doing when . . .
He sends sore trouble on the Christian,
or lays him on a bed of sickness,
or takes away his comforts,
or removes some who were very dear?
What is the meaning of this? God has taken the pruning-knife in hand, and is pruning the branch that it may bring forth more fruit.

People are sometimes surprised at seeing trouble fall on the godly–and not on the wicked. But this parable explains it quite plainly. The godly man is a fruit-bearing branch; he is joined by faith to Christ, the true Vine, and does already bear fruit. But God, the heavenly Gardener, desires more fruit–and therefore prunes him by means of affliction. 

It may be a sharp pruning knife that He makes use of–and He has sharpened it for the very purpose. But it is not too sharp. In His wise and gracious hands–it will do its work well. The Christian will rise from his sick-bed, or come forth from the house of mourning, all the better for God’s dealing with him–more humble, more spiritually-minded, more sober-minded, more zealous and in earnest. Henceforth the world will be less to him–and his Savior more precious to him.

Cannot every Christian, who has been under God’s pruning-knife–bear witness to the gentle firmness with which it has been used? There is no weakness or wavering in God’s dealings–yet no roughness. There is no lack of decision, no half-work–yet no rashness, no mistake.

The gardener’s hand may make a slip–and he may cut too deep, or cut where he did not mean to cut. Not so with the hand of God. When He takes the knife, He uses it . . .
with perfect firmness,
with unerring wisdom, and
with tender and compassionate love.
He will make no slip.
He will not cut too deep.
He will give no needless pain.
He will take away no comfort that would better have been left.

Sometimes the gardener adds an ointment to the place where the cut has been made–lest the branch should “bleed” too much, as they say.

Just so, God is always ready to apply a healing ointment to the wounds which He makes.
Oh, what comfort He sends in trouble!
Oh, what soothing, heavenly thoughts!
Oh, what a sense of His love!
Oh, what answers to prayer!
Oh, what grace and peace–what thankfulness and love!
These are His precious ointments. This is how He binds up the wounds which He has made.

Do not shrink from your Father’s hand–even though the knife is in it! Trust Him, love Him. He will do all wisely, tenderly, faithfully. Let it be your heart’s desire to abide more closely to Christ, and to bring forth more fruit to the glory of God.

Heaven is Our Home

26000000000361342_1920x1080.jpg(Francis Bourdillon, 1864)

“They admitted that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them!” Hebrews 11:13-16

Every true citizen of Heaven not only has his home in Heaven, but his heart is there too. Not only does he look forward to dwelling there hereafter–but even now he seeks to be holy and heavenly in life and character. Thus he is known by all that he does and says–to be one who belongs to Heaven, and that more and more, as he gets nearer to his eternal home.

Those who live the life of faith, and love their Savior, and strive to serve God–are different in their whole conduct from men of the world. It is plain that they are not of this world. Their life shows it. Their citizenship is in Heaven.

There ought to be no mistaking a citizen of Heaven. But, alas! There is too much of worldliness and carelessness even in those who are in the narrow way. Too often it would be hard to know them as travelers towards Zion, seeking the heavenly country.

What! Shall those who are to live forever with God–have so little fellowship with Him now? Shall those whose treasure is in Heaven, where no rust nor moth can corrupt–care so much for the perishing things of this world? Shall those for whom Jesus has gone to prepare a place–fret against the little hardships and discomforts along the way? Thus the Christian should often remind himself of the heavenly home to which he belongs. It would help him to be heavenly in heart and life.

“Our citizenship is in Heaven–and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ!” Philippians 3:19-20

We look for Jesus–we expect Him–we are waiting for Him. He said that He would return, and told us to watch for His coming. He has told us to be ready, so that when He comes, we may receive Him with joy.

This is the position of the Christian on earth–waiting for his Lord and Savior!

We do not know when He will come, and we do not know how He will come. He may come while yet we are living–or we may die before His coming; no one knows.

To be thus looking for the coming of the Lord . . .
must have a great effect on a man’s character and life,
must keep him from living in sin or in carelessness,
must make him watchful, diligent, and in earnest,
must tend greatly to a spiritual mind,
must lead him to draw off his affections from the world–and to fix them upon eternal realities!

Thinking of Him,
looking for Him,
wishing for Him,
doing His will,
engaged in His work–
this is what Jesus would have us to do and be.
Lord, make us so more and more!