Posts Tagged With: oswald chambers

“The Influence of Mary’s Meditation…” ((DTFD, March 10))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, March 10th entry)

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“After serious thought…” — Nehemiah 5:7

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Meditation means getting to the middle of a thing; not being like a pebble in a brook letting the water of thought go over us; that is reverie, not meditation. Meditation is an intense spiritual activity; it means bringing every bit of the mind into harness and concentrating its powers; it includes both deliberation and reflection.

Deliberation means being able to weigh well what we think, conscious all the time that we are deliberating and meditating. “After serious thought…” (Nehemiah 5:7) — that is exactly the meaning of meditation, also — “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

A great many delightful people mistake meditation for prayer; meditation often accompanies prayer, but it is not prayer. It is simply the power of the natural heart to get to the middle of things. Prayer is asking, whereby God puts processes to work and creates things which are not in existence until we ask.

Prayer is definite talk to God, around which God puts an atmosphere and we get answers back. Meditation has a reflex action; people without an ounce of the Spirit of God in them can meditate, but that is not prayer. This fundamental distinction is frequently obscured.

Mary pondered these things in her heart, that is, she meditated on them, got right to the center of the revelations about her Son, but as far as we know, she did not utter a word to anyone. But read John’s gospel, and a wonder will occur to you. St. Augustine has called John’s gospel “the Heart of Jesus Christ.”

Recall what Jesus said to His mother about John: “Woman, behold your son!” and to John about Mary, ” ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” It is surely quite legitimate to think that Mary’s meditations found marvelous expression to John under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and found a place in his gospel and epistles.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
It has often been said that praying is like enjoying a Creole dinner then asking what all was in the pot, while meditating is like simply savoring every bite of what’s there without asking about what’s on your plate. God doesn’t slip us spiritual “food” that we’d gag on if we knew what it really was — “I can’t believe you threw some Peruvian wombat in my gumbo, Jesus…that’s so not cool.”

Sure, there are some times that He won’t always disclose that tonight is a “peas and spinach” night (or whatever vegetables you know you need but try to avoid), but only with things that are beneficial, not things that are just for His own amusement — “Hey, Dad, shhh! Jason’s totally about to eat some of that wombat snout! …. don’t make it too obvious We’re watching him now…OH!! He bit it! Ewww, that’s so GROSS!”

We don’t have to worry about Him giving us any disgusting spiritual food, thus armed with the knowledge that He delights in treating us to exotic nutritious foods, we don’t have to concern ourselves with the menu; we can just sit back and enjoy what He’s dishing. If you can’t see who’s in the kitchen cooking your food, you better verify the source before you eat, so make sure the only “restaurant” you pull out your knife and fork at is “His Bible Cafe”. Doing so ensures that you’re not digesting any trash from some “D-rating-from-the-health-department” greasy spoon.

Once you come to His Word, there will be times you come across things that are simply too much for your brain to process adequately, and it’s best to tuck them away in your heart the same way Mary did after hearing from Simeon and Anna. Sometimes we get a piece of the puzzle and we need to wait until we find all the border-pieces first so we can know where to fill in the center tiles.

It’s great to pray about what you’re studying — you should get into the habit of doing so before, during and after you read regardless of how challenging or elementary you feel the section at hand is — and it’s great to meditate on what you’re going through. Prayer will invite the Holy Spirit to brighten your dim vision, while meditation will run what you’re reading “through the grid” of the things you’ve studied before, taking time to compare and contrast and search for connections and unearth parallels.

But Mary, she had no idea just how vivid the impact of the words she had received that day, nor did she even know where to go to try to make heads or tails of it all, so she hid them away in her heart — basically adopting a “we’ll wait for the time and see for ourselves” approach. And when she stood there with John the Beloved on Golgotha that afternoon, looking at her Son hanging there on a tree in fulfillment of Psalm 22, the things she’d hidden away likely came bubbling back up to the surface again for her contemplation.

John, having just spent three and a half years with Jesus, would likely have been the next best thing to discussing the things with Jesus directly. And these insights into things that happened before John met Jesus would do nothing but build up his readers. If it’s really how things unfolded, it certainly would answer some questions as to how John acquired a lot of the insights about Jesus’ early life that he recorded.

Think about it like a recipe. When you first decide on a recipe, you typically start with the main ingredient, but there’s nothing else with it. After you grab the main ingredient, you have to generally prep it in some way, adding a few other important ingredients to build on the base. Toss in a couple finishing touches, a sprinkle of some seasoning and a bit of garnish, and voila, you’ve got a gourmet dish.

The awesome thing about meditation is that you leave the idea on “simmer” long enough for other ingredients to make their way into the mix, and after a while, the whole recipe comes together in such a way that now as you meditate on it, it tastes sooooo good you enjoy every time you think about it. So if it’s been a while since you’ve last meditated on a section of Scripture, I’d suggest doing so today…it’s never too soon to start preparing your next gourmet meal.

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“Why’d You Bother To Plant The Tree?” (DTFD, February 19)

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, February 19th entry)

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“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” 1st Peter 1:6

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If you know someone who has a good spiritual banking account, borrow from that one for all you are worth, because he or she will give you all you want and never look to be paid back.

Here is the reason a saint goes through the things one does go through — God wants to know if He can make one good “bread” to feed other people. The man or woman who has gone through the crucible is going to be a tremendous support to hundreds of others…

If you have a trial of faith, endure it till you get through. If you have been through trials of faith in the past, God is bringing across your path immature souls, and you have no business to despise them but rather to help them through — be to them a source of nourishment.

“[Jesus perceived] that power had gone out of Him,” and you will feel the same thing: there are people who spiritually and morally have to suck the vitals out of you, and if you don’t keep up the supply from the life of Jesus Christ, you will be like an exhausted volcano before long.

You must keep that up and let them nourish themselves from you until they are able to stand on their own feet and take direct life from Him.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
Oh, my. If there was a single word for the moment a tuning fork reverberates the exact pitch of a person’s heart-cry, this would be the moment I’d use such a word.

I remember coming across an online Christian ministry hub several years back (and Mike, if you’re reading this, I still think and pray for you often). It’s social format is somewhat common, create your profile, add your pictures, favorite resources, etc. When it asked for the “About Me” information, it took me about five minutes to try to find the words to portray what I felt my call at that moment was, and the only wording that sounded right centered around this concept: that I would grab a person by the hand and walk and talk with them, while at the same time holding Jesus’ hand, and as we walked along, my role was to draw those two other hands closer and closer until joyously one day Jesus and the friend would be walking hand in hand, and my job of “providing the introductions” would be over in that person’s life.

The last thing that we should have in our minds as ministers of the Gospel of Christ is that we’re at one level and the people we minister to are somehow on another. Just as a person at one time can have grandparents, parents, a spouse, and kids, that’s all ministering to people is as well. No one set or “class” of people is “worth” more than any other group; they just have different roles based on their levels of experience within the framework of the family. Everyone has something to contribute in different situations; just about everyone has something to contribute in every situation! Far be it from us to start thinking that because someone asks a question or needs help with something that somehow that makes us higher up the ladder than them.

Every believer needs three people in their life to really be firing on all cylinders in regards to their spiritual walk: they need a Paul to mentor them, a Barnabas to encourage them, and a Timothy to disciple. When those three people are in place (and there’s nothing to say that one person can’t fulfill more than one of those roles, mind you), a proper perspective regarding people will be maintained, and the Lord will flow through you not only to those three, but will overflow onto just about everyone else you come across in daily life.

Let’s be honest: going through trials really sucks. Given the choice, all but the most devoted sadists would choose the more comfy way to learn. But God’s smart enough — and loving enough! — to let us go through some rough stuff (usually when we’re not listening to the easy stuff, but not always) so we can not only have our own sight corrected, but then also be able to correctly steer others who are having the same “eyesight problems” we had previously. (Some have used the old adage about getting advice on child-rearing from people who’ve never had kids — having gone from zero kids to three kids practically overnight via adoption, it’s mind-boggling how quickly the justifications I would have previously brought up in defense as a child-less person melted away under the reality of actually having three snot-factories running around infecting everything in my house with their “kid-ness”. I love ‘em anyways, but you folks with kids know what I’m talking about.)

Again, this was a heart-checker. As he said, “you have no business to despise them”. After all, if you think about it, the people coming to you for help are the positive fruit of those “negative” trials you had to suffer through previously. And if you despise the fruit, why’d you spend all that pain and energy planting the tree?

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“Whether By Neglect Or Execution, Just Kill It Already…” ((DTFD, January 28))

[NOTE: today’s entry regarding “sensuality” is NOT using the term the way it is commonly used today (which almost always meant in terms of sexual connotation). Thus it is important to remember this so as to not get the wrong idea about what is being said. Make sure your “grown up pants” are securely fastened and be edified; he’ll define his use of the term in the third paragraph. ~Jason]

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, January 28th entry)

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“If you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” — Romans 8:13

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Sensuality is not a sin; it is the way my body works in connection with external circumstances whereby I begin to satisfy myself. Sensuality will work in a person who is delivered from sin by Jesus Christ as well as in a person who is not.

I do not care what your experience may be as a Christian, you may be trapped by sensuality at any time. Paul says, “Mortify the deeds of the body”; mortify means to destroy by neglect. One of the first big moral lessons a person has to learn is that one cannot destroy sin by neglect; sin has to be handled by the redemption of Jesus Christ. It cannot be handled by me. Heredity is a bigger problem than I can cope with; but if I will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit on the basis of Christ’s redemption, He enables me to work out that redemption in my experience.

With regard to sensuality, that is my business; I have to mortify it, and if I don’t, it will never be mortified. If I take any part of my natural life and use it to satisfy myself, that is sensuality. A Christian has to learn that one’s body is not one’s own. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…and you are not your own?” Watch that you learn to mortify.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
It might be safe to say that just about every man, when that opening phrase “Sensuality is not sin” was read, likely had some sort of convicting thought. Our culture has groomed the word “sensuality” from a neutral, factual one to a dark, lurid, almost taboo one. It has become the word to use synonymously for “sexuality” when you’re in company that would find that word offensive. But sensuality is more than just sexual; it can reach into and become a part of every physical interaction we have with the world.

We would use the terminology “living according to the flesh” nowadays, and what we would mean by that is simply that we’re being driven by our carnal, physical drives rather than taking control of them and putting them back in their place as our servants rather than our masters.

As I was learning the basics of this thing called “Biblical Christianity”, several teachers I admire and respect defined mortify as “to put to death, execute”. I think that might be a bit more along the lines of what Paul was getting at when he said “mortify the deeds of the flesh”, at least with the way we use the terms today. “To put to death or execute” carries with it an air of proactivity, taking the fight to it rather than letting it bring the fight to you (as “to destroy by neglect” seems to convey).

I don’t think the flesh is going to completely disappear through simple neglect, at least not long-term. During times of fasting and prayer, the purpose of the fasting is to restore prominence to the spirit while depriving the flesh so as to weaken it; fast for more than a few days and your stomach will, for the most part, stop griping. But continue to fast for an extended period of time and it will rear its head once again, and with a vengeance.

Factor into the equation our propensity for “once again messing up” — sneaking a candy bar in the middle of the second day of your fast, for example — and there it is, right back in the forefront of prominence: the flesh.

No, I think the other definition is better, especially in this context, because quite simply, the battle with the flesh is a very active one, not one where you can simply leave it alone and hope it will be satisfied with you not encroaching upon its turf. The flesh might let you think that’s sufficient, but it sneaks up on you like a house cat on a cricket and pounces on you when you’re least expecting it, steering you here and there in your decision-making and generally causing all sorts of havoc.

Interestingly enough, today’s word from A.W. Tozer says this:

“The important thing about a man is not where he goes when he is compelled to go, but where he goes when he is free to go where he will…”   (A.W. Tozer, in the “Tozer on Christian Leadership” devotional, January 28th entry titled “Choices”)

People around us in life will be able to tell whether we have our flesh under control or whether we’re under the control of our flesh, even if they’re unbelievers or otherwise unfamiliar with the “flesh” concept. How? Because our choices are on display for everyone to see. If we look for any excuse to miss church, people will notice. If we look for reasons to avoid praying with people, people will notice. If we walk by the hungry with a bag of Double-Doubles in our hand, people will notice. If we pass the shivering along the roadside and pull our jackets around us a little tighter, people will notice. Sure, eventually the Holy Spirit is going to be convicting you in Dolby surround sound, and at that time you might make some change here or there, but how many opportunities will you lose out on because of that passive approach?

Think about that. If you choose to sit back and just ‘let the flesh die’, in a way it’s like spraying a spider in your house with whatever aerosol you have handy, then not going to check to see if it did the job. Tonight I was washing some dishes when my wife came home, and as I was doing so I noticed a spider hanging out in the little crevice created by the curved bottom of the soap bottle and the sink shelf. As I tried to move the bottle to get a better view of what type of spider it was, it was bumped into the side of the sink where dishes were soaking in semi-soapy water. It quickly latched onto the backside of a cup, and I lost sight of it. Needless to say, every few seconds for the remainder of the time I was doing dishes, I was keeping an eye on that corner of the sink to see if it would re-emerge. (Last I saw of it, it looked like it had taken spider scuba lessons, because it was actively swimming downwards in the water.) When my wife came in, I told her of what happened, so she stuck her hand in the sink, pulled the stopper and let the water drain. “Don’t do that!”, I told her. “If it’s dead, that’s fine, but don’t give it the chance to dry out and come back to life to exact his revenge on me while I’m finishing up!”

That’s how the flesh can be. It might look like it’s harmless, all soggy and pitifully flailing in the corner, but that’s just its way of convincing us to leave it alone. Just like you would (or should) respect the potential of a Black Widow or Brown Recluse spider to threaten even your life, the flesh should be viewed with no less respect. It’s a killer, and the only thing you can do to keep it from getting you is to actively put it to death every single day.

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“Oops, Your Label Is Showing…” ((DTFD, January 27))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, January 27th entry)

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“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” — Matthew 7:21

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Human nature is fond of labels, but a label may be the counterfeit of confession. It is so easy to be branded with labels, much easier in certain stages to wear a ribbon or a badge than to confess.

Jesus never used the word testify; He used a much more searching word — confess. “Whoever confesses Me before men…” The test of goodness is confession by doing the will of God. “If you do not confess Me before men,” says Jesus, “neither will your heavenly Father confess you.”

Immediately we confess, we must have a badge; if we do not put one on, other people will. Our Lord is warning that it is possible to wear the label without having the goods, possible for a man or woman to wear the badge of being His disciple when he or she is not. Labels are all right, but if we mistake the label for the goods we get confused.

If the disciple is to discern between the person with the label and the person with the goods, he or she must have the spirit of discernment, that is, the Holy Spirit. We start out with the honest belief that the label and the goods must go together; they should, but Jesus warns that sometimes they get severed, and we find cases where God honors His Word although those who preach it are not living right lives.

Judge the preacher, He says, by his or her fruit.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
You know, it’s amazing to me that Chambers wrote when he did, several decades before “commercialism” — that is, the driving force of brand names — really took off. There are two parts to this point, and both are just as timely (if not more so) today than they were when he penned them.

Perhaps because of my life being spent more or less in proximity to the Los Angeles metropolitan area, I see a culture so infused with the idea of “branding” that everything is almost instantaneously boiled down to a label for people. You’re a “Coke person” or a “Pepsi person”; a Dodge, Ford or Chevy guy; a conservative or a liberal, Republican or Democrat; a Methodist or a Baptist or a “Calvary Chapelite”. No matter what the topic of consideration is, there’s a label for what category you fall into.

And honestly, that’s unfortunate.

Artists would cringe if you reduced the Mona Lisa to the description “some smiling chick”, or the Sistine Chapel to the description “fancy paint in an old building”. It’s telling that riding the waves concurrent with this epidemic labeling is the feeling amongst just about everyone that they’re “more complex” than the labels they’ve been given would lead you to believe. We hate being oversimplified, yet we typically participate quite frequently in oversimplifying others so we can plug them into our mental spreadsheets for easy classification.

Why do we do this?

Because it’s much easier to label something and file it away for later consideration (which happens more and more rarely as time goes on) than it is to face something now, considering, pondering, meditating upon the nuances and subtleties that people bring into a discussion. By and large, we make more enemies through this practice than we make friends, which in turn will gradually feed our idea that “we’re so misunderstood”, because after all, “if people really understood me, more people would like me, right?”

In Christian circles, this practice is very much alive and well — not typically in a malicious way, but more perhaps because when people come to faith in Christ, it’s usually out of a recognition of their brokenness and the sense of offense they have brought to their Creator. And as new people in any group tend to do, they seek to be accepted among some faction of the group at large so they can become comfortable in their new social surroundings.

Nothing wrong with that.

However, when we set ourselves up for the kind of “oversimplification” that we always say we don’t like others to impose upon us, it gives the enemy a foothold. Scripture is crystal clear about the fact that God despises divisions amongst His Body, and that the enemy often puts a lot of energy into trying to get the brethren to fracture and divide.

It’s a very casual thing amongst many modern Christians, and we even assign lots of religious-sounding titles to our factions: over on the left, those are the “worshipers” sipping their lattes and looking like they just came out of an Aeropostale catalog; in the front, we have the “glory-be’s” — you know, the ones who are very outgoing or athletic and never pass up an opportunity to declare a little too loudly “glory be to God!” for them finding a parking space or discovering that the new phone they want to buy is now $25 off with the e-coupon they were emailed on their old phone; back in the back are the “exes” — you know, the ex-alcoholics, the ex-druggies, the ex-prostitutes, etc.; and over on the right, we have the “show thyself approveds”, the studious crowd who never walks out of the house without a Bible, concordance, and three commentaries on whatever book they’re currently reading through.

Recognizing that “an eye in the body is obviously not a foot” is not at all an issue; different people with different callings and at different stages of their spiritual walks and in different social or professional circles are obviously going to be different. But the fact that we’re too often so eager to not be “the new guy”, and are willing to jump into a label just so we can be known as somebody (even if it’s not who we really are OR who God intends for us to be), that’s the problem.

My closest brothers in the fellowship I currently serve at are (in no particular order) Chargers fans, Broncos fans, Raiders fans, 49ers fans, Falcons fans, Angels fans, Dodgers fans, Lakers fans, Clippers fans, Ducks fans, Kings fans, Penguins fans, Sharks fans, and on and it goes. There are natural rivalries that we (possibly because we’re men, but I don’t think exclusively because of gender) find ourselves in throughout the course of the years, almost always amicably. Yet we don’t allow those petty differences to become fractional.

If we were to look at “more spiritual” differences, as in who’s more of a “worship kind of person”, or who’s more of a “meditative student of Scripture”, it would honestly be just as petty to divide over those differences as it would be to say “I, as a fan of the greatest football team on earth, the Green Bay Packers, cannot in good conscience serve with the likes of you, a demon-spawn fan of those hacks the San Francisco 49ers”.

Church, wake up! God puts eyes and noses and ears and veins and arteries and bones and muscles and mitochondria all together in this skin-bag we call a body so that we — as eternal spirit-beings — can interact within the confines of a specially designed “earth suit” with the world we live in. And He does the same exact thing with this grander-scale version that He calls His Body, putting together feet that smell with noses that run and mouths with halitosis and waxy ears so that each and every one of us can be sharpened, be edified, be “grown up” and molded into more complete and effective bondservants of the Lord Jesus Christ than we can possibly imagine being if we were apart from such “crummy” and different service-mates!

As is said, “the label and the goods must go together”. God’s sovereignty will carry the message above even the faults and hypocrisies of the messenger (a la Philippians 1:18), but that doesn’t excuse the messenger from his need to make Confession to God, then go out and make public his Confession of God. And if that person is a teacher, all the more frequent the need to revisit that practice of Confession.

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“The Relationship’s More Important Than the Circumstances…” ((DTFD, January 13))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, January 13th entry)

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“Unless you are converted and become as little children…” — Matthew 18:3

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I have continually to convert the natural life into submission to the Spirit of God in me and not say “I will never do anything natural again”; that is fanatical.

When by the providence of God my body is brought into new conditions, I have to see that my natural life is converted to the dictates of the Spirit of God in me. Because it has been done once is not proof that it will be done again.

“Unless you are converted and become as little children…” is true for all the days of the saintly life; we have continually to turn to God. The attitude of continuous conversion is the only right attitude toward the natural life, and it is the one thing we object to. Either we say the natural is wrong and try to kill it, or else we say that the natural is all there is, and that everything natural and impulsive is right.

Neither attitude is right.

The hindrance in spiritual life is that we will not be continuously converted; there are “wadges” of obstinacy where our pride spits at the throne of God and says — “I shall not; I am going to be boss.”

We cannot remain boss by the sheer power of will; sooner or later our wills must yield allegiance to some force greater than their own, either God or the devil.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
In the brief time I spent as a single man after coming to the Lord, there were many things that the Lord taught me. Even in the midst of incredible difficulties and relational challenges, there were things the Lord was constantly revealing to me from His Word and from His Creation around me.

When the “single time” ended and “married time” commenced, there were many more things that the Lord taught me, and some things that I’d extrapolated during “single time” didn’t really bear out in “married time”; not that they were wrong, per se, but more that they were superficial, suitable for the shallow moments but not able to sustain the depth of root necessary for the life that comes with married life in the southern California hustle and bustle. Again though, even in the midst of incredible difficulties and relational challenges (both of which were easier to bear with a spouse), there were things that the Lord was constantly revealing to me from His Word and His Creation around me, made all the more beautiful by having an equal to share such things with.

When the “married time” gave way to “married with kids time”, the number of things that the Lord has taught me has simply exploded, and some things I’d extrapolated during “married before kids time” didn’t really bear out in “married with kids time”; not that they were wrong, per se, but more that they too were superficial, suitable for the relatively calm and carefree moments but not able to weather the storms that would be unleashed during the prospect of trying to not just keep the kids alive and healthy, but also raise them to be kids who had a conscious realization that they were wonderfully created by a God who loves them deeply. Beautiful, precious, heart-warming little sinners that they are, kids have a tendency to quickly apply pressure and heat to the parts of your life you’d previously thought were secured and impenetrable, showing you exactly who you really are. Yet again, in the midst of incredible difficulties and relational challenges, there have been things that the Lord has constantly revealed to me from His Word and His Creation around me, made all the more beautiful by having an equal to share such things with as well as some wonderful bambinos to pass such things along to.

“Wow”, you’re thinking, “that’s the longest intro you’ve ever unleashed on us here.” Begging your forgiveness, there is a reason for the long-windedness. In each stage of life I’ve experienced thus far, there have been such wonderful revelations that there is no way I could have possibly turned away from God. And every time it seemed as though enough of the universe made sense for me to start wrapping my mind around it, God would bring me to the next stage in my walk, and I’d once again remember afresh exactly how much I simply didn’t have a clue about.

“What on earth does that have to do with this devo?”

You see, God has been faithful in the things He has said He’d be faithful in, and as a result my heart has resonated with that and continued in the desire to follow Him and become more like Him. Miserable failure that I recognize myself as notwithstanding, I can see the Master Carpenter’s hand at work over the years — first chopping down the tree to haul it somewhere else, then running the tree through the saw to get it into its rough shape, then hitting the rough product with the sandpaper — really coarse at first, then finer and finer as layers are ground off — then when it appears the final product is in view, out comes another log to be cut and shaped and sanded to make the final product that much more fantastic.

But before coming to faith, there were many times when I’d fall back on “pre-programmed responses” when certain things would happen in my life, as I was far more willing to attribute things to just about anything other than God. When you’ve already made up your mind that “God doesn’t exist”, then anything He does to interrupt your daily life or bring good things your way, you’ve already decided it can’t be from that particular source and thus are forced to seek an explanation elsewhere.

(This is one major reason why the whole “Just try Jesus for a while” thing never works — the heart isn’t converted to begin with, and thus He doesn’t know you (Matthew 7:21-23) and you’re basically analyzing the life you already had, setting yourself up for failure.)

No, you can’t “just try Jesus” as if He were a new brand of soda or new designer shoes. You’ve gotta place your life in His hands, give Him your all and let Him do with it as He sees fit. No, it’s not a “once and for all” kind of thing — though we all wish it would be! It would be fantastic to just cast your ballot for Jesus once, and then be locked into that choice forever, never having to worry about falling away or doing wrong. But God is gentleman enough to allow you to come and go as you please. Sure, He’ll give you sage advice (since by choosing Him, you’ve basically said “I want You to lead me”) regarding your decisions, but you’re free to heed the advice or do your own thing, accepting the consequences of your choices either way.

But that’s what makes this “attitude of continuous conversion” so fantastic, so effective. If you’re seeking Him, then regardless of the earthly consequences you reap as a result, it will work together for your good (Romans 8:28) because you love Him and are called according to His purposes.

My youngest is a perfect example: cute enough to get bikers to say “Awwww!”, but stinking sinner enough to require stern correction from time to time. But when such a thing happens, when she gets busted for something bad enough to require discipline, her face becomes downcast but she still makes eye contact with me the whole time, and through her tears she’ll leave wherever she is and come straight to my side, usually with arms outstretched for an embrace. Even in what could be considered the most strained part of our relationship — the times when I have to discipline her — she still doesn’t run away, she runs towards me. The relationship is more important than the circumstances.

At the heart of it, that’s all God is looking for from us as well — when the hard times (or the good times) come, do you walk away from Him? Or do you run towards Him? The answer to that question has supreme importance, and as such He gives us opportunity after opportunity to realize how we’re answering it and, if necessary, begin to answer it differently from how we have been.

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“Heartbreak, Anger, and Perfect Justice…” ((DTFD, December 18))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, December 18th entry)

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“What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” — Mark 8:37

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The modern Christian laughs at the idea of a final judgement. That shows how far we can stray away if we imbibe the idea that the modern mind is infallible and not our Lord.

To His mind at least the finality of moral decision is reached in this life. There is no aspect of our Lord’s mind that the modern mind detests so fundamentally as this one…

The parables in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew are three aspects of the divine estimate of life. The parable of the ten virgins reveals that it is fatal from our Lord’s standpoint to live this life without preparation for the life to come. That is not the exegesis, it is the obvious underlying principle.

The parable of the talents is our Lord’s statement with regard to the danger of leaving undone the work of a lifetime.

And the description of the last judgement is the picture of genuine astonishment on the part of both the losers and the gainers of what they had never thought about.

To be accustomed to our Lord’s teaching is not to ask, “What must I do to be good?”, but “What must I do to be saved?” How long does it take us to know what the true meaning of our lives are?

One half second.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
Here it is, four days since the horrendous attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and my heart grows heavier each day that passes. Here I sit, some 2,900 miles from the events, not having any personal connection (that I am aware of, at least) to anyone involved there, yet I’m heartbroken.

A part of me is crushed. I have three beautiful daughters, ages 8, 7 and 4, and the thought of something like that happening at their elementary school is chilling. Into my mind come thoughts of being a parent so geographically close to your children, yet being so helpless, so unable to do anything of substance to help…such a circumstance would cripple me, in my honest opinion, especially if something tragic befell one of my kids.

And then a part of me gets angry. And I know I’m not the only one.

Why is that?

Simply put, it’s because within each one of us, God has placed what most people refer to as a conscience, that thing inside that upsets our whole disposition when something just isn’t right. And central to that conscience is a sense of justice, that wrongs will be made right and evil doers will shoulder the weight of their offenses.

But how can something like that ever be made right?

It can’t. And that’s what stokes that anger, the idea that justice somehow cannot be served, simply because that which was “taken” is more precious and valuable than anything the offender could recompense. And to it that he chose to take his own life rather than face his consequences, and many people will find themselves in the coming months feeling cheated out of the process of justice because of it.

That’s exactly why I think this particular discussion is so fitting for these current events: it’s not all about the here and now, even though that’s how so many of us honestly view our day-to-day lives when it comes to the concept of justice. Person A does such and such to Person B, Person B presses charges, Person A receives his discipline, and the case is closed. Justice is served, and the world can once again resume it’s regularly scheduled activities.

That’s not how it is in God’s judicial system, however. There is no statute of limitations to worry about, no legal song and dance maneuvering to get a defendant off on a technicality, and certainly no way to escape one’s punishment by taking the “easy way out” and ending one’s life.

Everyone walks through His courtroom one day. Everyone, without a single exception.

In the few days since the event unfolded, I have heard “a lot of precious nothing” regarding the young man whose hands brought about all the bloodshed, lots of detail about a lot of stuff that doesn’t sound like it will explain anything about why he did what he did. As such, it would be not only unfair but willfully ignorant of me to sit here and pass judgement on him one way or another. Obviously, his deeds were evil, that is without question; however, the “mental illness” banter is in full swing, though I’ve yet to hear definitively about exactly what “mental illness” caused him to do what he did. Hopefully time will bring us more answers, though the underlying root will undoubtedly be the same.

I’m sure there are parents there who are going to long for the young man to stand trial, to be judged by a jury of his peers, be found guilty on all counts and be sentenced in like manner to those he himself sentenced. Their consciences cry out for justice, and rightfully so.

But God’s courthouse is inescapable, and it is certain that the young man who cut short the lives of those 20 children and 6 adults is no exception to that rule. But we also must remember that none of us are privy to what went on within his mind during that last split second of life — was his heart hardened like Pharaoh’s, or did he, at that last second, cry out to God? We will never know, and as such we should refrain from trying to offer our own ideas regarding his eternal fate. God’s justice is perfect, and no one escapes it.

I know the anger I would feel if it were one of my kids I got that phone call about. But I also know I have faithful men around me who would remind me of God’s perfect justice, as well as His mercy and grace to all those — my own sinful self included — who cry out to Him with a repentant heart.

And while it is certainly easier for us to look out through the peepholes of our own eyes and see those who have sinned against us — and indeed, people have in fact done so — I should never forget that God forgave me, stinking rotten sinner me, even though I am just as guilty as those who physically drove the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet.

My heart is heavy, having had the “big girl conversation” with my two older daughters last night. They heard things from other kids at school that we needed to correct, and despite our most careful handling of the subject, it’s still scary, for adults as well as for kids. They were hesitant to release from their bedtime hugs and go to sleep. As I write this, they’ve both been up and out of their room at least once for “potty breaks”, accompanied once again by long, never-want-to-let-go hugs.

As we look to the future, desiring a tomorrow in which these types of things no longer happen, and our hearts long for justice for the tragedies that have already occurred, let us also find rest in the knowledge that no one escapes God’s justice. Then, when our hearts have healed enough to handle it, let us also consider ourselves, whether we will walk into His courtroom pleading our own cases or have Jesus standing beside us as our Advocate before the Father.

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“Keep Your Shoes On, The Terrain Is Dangerous…” ((DTFD, December 10))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, December 10th entry)

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“Whoever hears these saying of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man.” — Matthew 7:24

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We speak of building castles in the air; that is where a castle should be — whoever heard of a castle underground! The problem is how to get the foundation under your castle in the air so that it can stand upon the earth.

The way to put foundations under our castles is by paying attention to the words of Jesus Christ. We may read and listen and not make much of it at the time, but by and by we come into circumstances when the Holy Spirit will bring back to us what Jesus said — are we going to obey?

Jesus says that the way to put foundations under spiritual castles is by hearing and doing “these sayings of Mine.” Pay attention to His words, and give time to doing it.

Our spiritual castles must be conspicuous, and the test of a building is not its fair beauty but its foundations. There are beautiful spiritual fabrics raised in the shape of books and of lives, full of the finest diction and activities, but when the test comes, down they go. They have not been built upon the sayings of Jesus Christ, but built altogether in the air with no foundations under them.

“Build up your character bit by bit by attention to My words,” says Jesus, then when the supreme crisis comes, you will stand like a rock. The crisis does not come always, but when it does come, it is all up in about two seconds; there is no possibility of pretense, you are unearthed immediately. If one has built oneself up in private by listening to the words of Jesus and obeying them, when the crisis comes it is not one’s strength of will that keeps him or her, but the tremendous power of God.

Go on building yourself up in the Word of God when no one is watching you, and when the crisis comes you will find you will stand like a rock.

All you build will end in disaster unless it is built on the sayings of Jesus Christ; but if you are doing what Jesus told you to do, nourishing your soul on His Word, you need not fear the crisis whatever it is.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:

James put it this way:

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”(James 1:23-25)

There are lots of people who’ve been present in church buildings over the millenia, listening to sermons and preaching of varying degrees of ferocity. Some have been unbelievers, some have been devout in their faith. Some grew up in the church and left, some never stepped foot in a church building until that day. Some were curious, some antagonistic, some hesitant, and some only showed up because a friend bribed them with a free lunch after.

The words spoken from the pulpits isn’t always Biblical instruction; some — strike that, many — over the centuries have preached soothing, feel-good topical discussions geared more towards pleasing the ears of the attenders and boosting church attendance than actual discipleship. But in the cases of actual Biblical doctrine going out and being taught well, what happens at the other end of the sound waves?

When we, sitting in the pews, benches or chairs, hear the messages, hear the words of Jesus being taught, do we accept them and say to ourselves, “wow, that’s good stuff,” only to walk away and do nothing with it? Or do we let it sting us, let the words pierce us, so that they can be used by the Spirit to stir up in us a greater resemblance to Him?

I’m a dad; before I was a dad, I was just a guy. I love doing things with my hands, building and working and creating and forming. As such, places like Home Depot are very, very dangerous territories. Why? Because there are lots of wonderful tools everywhere the eye can see, scores of useful doodads and gizmos that can do this or be helpful with that. And if a man (or woman) is not careful, it’s easy to spend a small fortune buying things you think you need — or at least, things you might need someday (but you have to buy it now, because it’s on sale, of course).

The danger isn’t in buying the tools; the danger is in filling  your garage with tools that just sit and collect dust. And that’s exactly what happens in the minds and hearts of far too many Christians today — they “buy the tools” in Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services, but then those tools just sit unused in their daily lives.

As noted, you’re not going to use every tool every day, simply because we typically will experience different things each day. New trials, new challenges, new people, new interactions, new circumstances. There will be some tools we use frequently, and some we use rarely, so some might need to be fastened to our “tool belts” while others can be left in the “tool box” for more occasional use, but hopefully, at some point every so often, all our tools will come into usage.

It never ceases to amaze me how many believers fill their lives with spiritual junk, then wonder why, in times of spiritual hurricanes (or even in times of just a soft breeze blowing), their world seemingly falls apart. It’s always difficult to counsel someone who’s going through the wringer on the outside, only to find out their wounds are largely self-inflicted through simply not doing the things they’ve been taught (in some cases, taught repeatedly over the course of many years).

Too common an example: “What do you mean, you didn’t know what to do when the guy (or gal) at work started flirting with you? Haven’t you heard like a bajillion times that the remedy is to flee youthful lusts, confess your situation to a believing sister (or brother) for support and Biblical advice, and stand apart from that behavior? So why then are you now saying you want to leave your husband (or wife) for this guy (or gal) that you ‘just happen’ to now have feelings for after reciprocating those flirtations?”

If you see a dog leave a land mine in your yard, you don’t take your shoes off when you start up the lawn mower. Common sense, people…we need to put His words into practice.

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“Without Revelation, Despair…” ((DTFD, November 8))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, November 8th entry)

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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” — Job 1:21

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Facing facts as they are produces despair, not frenzy, but real downright despair, and God never blames someone for despair.

Anyone who thinks must be pessimistic; thinking can never produce optimism. The wisest man who ever lived said that “he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” [Ecclesiastes 1:18] The basis of things is not reasonable but wild and tragic, and to face things as they are brings one to the ordeal of despair.

Ibsen presents this ordeal; there is no defiance in the presentation, he knows that there is no such thing as forgiveness in nature, and that every sin has a Nemesis following it. His summing up of life is that of quiet despair because he knows nothing of the revelation given by God by Jesus Christ.

“Blessed are those who mourn.” Our Lord always speaks from that basis, never from the basis of the “gospel of temperament.” When we get to despair we know that all our thinking will never get us out; we will only get out by the sheer creative effort of God, [and] consequently we are in the right attitude to receive from God that which we cannot gain for ourselves.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
Perhaps it is merely a consequence, a tragic side effect of the Fall and its impact on the world we live in, but it does seem like the more we figure out about this world, how people are, how things work, the more depressed we can tend to get.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that ignorance really is bliss, but it can certainly seem that way sometimes. I guess it makes sense though — the more sinful people inhabit the planet, the harder it is to try to escape from it. And the more surrounded we get with sin, the more negative things will become in our view.

I don’t think Chambers is advocating that we all be walking around as Depressed Daves and Negative Nellies; I wouldn’t advocate for that either. He’s simply describing a practical reality of this world as we walk through it; dog messes seem to stick to your shoes much more intently than blessings do. The more we focus on and deliberate about the dog messes, the more “pessimistic” we can become, and as he pointed out, without “the revelation given of God by Jesus Christ”, there’s nothing a sober-minded person can conclude other than to resign one’s self to quiet despair.

The world isn’t getting better. The more people strive to create Utopia, the more the world devolves into chaos and sin. Man cannot create what God has not designed the world to be.

There is a remedy, an antidote to the poisonous S.I.N. virus that has so infected the world we live in. It was delivered en masse just outside the gates of Jerusalem some 1,980 years ago, with more than enough “doses” to administer to every man, woman and child on the planet.

And God has entrusted that remedy to you. He has entrusted it to me.

We can give it immediately, sparing the “infected” from as much unnecessary suffering as possible. Or we can continue to sit on our hands, leaving the antidote on the shelf, while people continue to be ravaged by the progression of the disease, waiting until the last “do or die” moment to grudgingly give it to them as quickly and painlessly (for us) as possible. If we were doctors, our medical licenses would be revoked for such a practice…do we sincerely believe that God will be gentler towards our “malpractice” in administering His “S.I.N. vaccine” to people than a medical board would be towards a doctor allowing unnecessary temporary pain to his patients?

The world is dying. Give them the antidote.

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“Do Your Duty, Abandon Passivity”…((DTFD, November 7))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, November 7th entry)

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“Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.” — Ecclesiastes 2:24

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One great essential lesson in Christianity is that God’s order comes to us in the haphazard. We are men and women, we have appetites, we have to live on this earth, and things do happen by chance; what is the use of saying they do not?

“One of the most immutable things on earth is mutability.” Your life and mine is a bundle of chance. It is absurd to say it is foreordained for you to have so many buttons on your tunic, and if that is not foreordained, then nothing is. If things were foreordained, there would be no sense of responsibility at all. A false spirituality makes us look to God to perform a miracle instead of us doing our duty.

We have to see that we do our duty in faith in God. Jesus Christ undertakes to do everything a person cannot do, but not what a person can do. Things do happen by chance, and if we know God, we recognize that His order comes to us in that way. We live in this haphazard order of things, and we have to maintain the abiding order of God in it.

The doctrine of the sacrament teaches the conveying of God’s presence to us through the common elements of bread and wine. We are not to seek success or prosperity. If we can get hold of our relationship to God in eating and drinking, we are on the right basis of things.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
I really don’t think that Oswald Chambers is here, in this devotion, declaring that there is no thing that is truly “foreordained”, since he has talked specifically about things being so in other devotions. With that bit of contextual clarity mentioned, I get the impression that he was merely using language his audience would understand in the context of the day to convey our contemporary message of “Get off your blessed assurance and DO something!”

This is the reason why I personally think that Calvinism, when taken as so many self-proclaimed Calvinists today do, is a destructive and neutering tool in the enemy’s hands. When a person really gets into the mental “mode” of “everything is foreordained”, the practical fruit that comes out of that mindset is typically complacency, fatalism, and a lack of drive to actually go out and accomplish anything for the Kingdom. In other words, it effectively compartmentalizes a person’s faith, placing Biblical issues in its container, while the rest of regular life fits in its container.

When a person genuinely encounters the risen Christ, they are always propelled forward in action of some sort. One of my favorite such encounter is found in John 9, with special emphasis on verses 13-34 — the part where, after Jesus has healed the blind man and he has gone about thrilled and overjoyed at what God had done for him, the Pharisees take him aside and grill him about the mechanics of how and by whom he was healed. His classic statement, given by the Spirit for such a perfect time as that one”

24 So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”
25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.
26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”
27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” [Epic.]
28 Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”
30 The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!31Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.32Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.
34 They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.
(John 9:24-34, NKJV)
God does some amazing thing in a person’s life — be it healing one’s physical blindness or spiritual blindness — and that person goes out jubilant, with potential and Spirit-given ability to overcome obstacles that previously would have stopped that person in his tracks. At that time the people were a bit fearful of the Pharisees, the religious rulers, because if you crossed them, they could cast you out of the synagogue, which to them was catastrophic — they didn’t have “a church on every corner”, each town had a synagogue, and if you were cast out of it, you could no longer attend with your family (assuming they were still allowed in) or those in town you knew. Then once word spread to the various rabbis, you’d likely find yourself “blacklisted” until you made right whatever it was you supposedly did wrong.
For the blind man, there was nothing he could do to “repent” of what had happened — this Man had given sight to his eyes that had been blind since birth, and it was miraculous! How could he call it anything else? But when the religious rulers, the ones who held his ability to attend synagogue in their hands, pressed him for answers and got ones they didn’t like, he was fueled not only to bear witness but to prod them (for a change) with a bit of application-based theology as well! “Why do you want to know — do you want to become His disciples, too?” A man in his sin would not challenge that way (as evidenced by the reaction of the man’s parents to the rulers — passivity and fear); a man touched by God never even thinks about it being a challenge in the first place, merely something that needs to be said!
No wonder why Jesus tells the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2 that it needed to return to its first love and do the first works over again. We fall into the trap of letting that “newborn energy” fuel us only towards self-fueled works — noble as they may be — then when our energy tuckers out and we look to scapegoat God, we find our minds entertaining the thoughts of “Que sera, sera…whatever will be, will be”…”it must have just been God’s will for it to work out this way.”
Once again, I find the timing perfect. Here in America, as millions of believers are waking up to find themselves with a bit of an “election hangover”, I hear a lot of the same words: “God must have willed this to happen.” That invokes causality, the idea that God caused it, which is quite a bit different from foreknowledge (knowing ahead of time), and personally, I reject causality in this case. (We could get into a lengthy and unproductive debate at this point regarding the nuances of how God will “work it all together for good”, but that is, in fact, different from causing it to turn out that way in the first place. Making a life-raft out of plane wreckage is quite a bit different from crashing the plane to make a life-raft. God cast no votes yesterday; the American people — some living, some dead — did.)
The election turned out the way it did because people — about 190 million of them — chose to not vote while only about 120 million of them did vote. And with a margin of victory of about 3 million votes (as of the time of this writing), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out just how much of an impact the 190 million could have had over the 3 million. “Do your duty!”, Chambers says, “and stop blaming God or expecting a miracle from Him when it is YOU who isn’t doing what you’re supposed to be doing!”

Humbling? It should be. It was for me, too.
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“Freedom To Follow…” ((DTFD, November 6))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, November 6th entry)

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“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” — 2nd Corinthians 8:9

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Our Lord Jesus Christ became poor for our sakes not as an example, but to give us the unerring secret of His religion.

Professional Christianity is a religion of possessions that are devoted to God; the religion of Jesus Christ is a religion of personal relationship to God, and has nothing to do whatever to do with possessions. The disciple is not rich in possessions, but in personal identity.

Voluntary poverty was the marked condition of Jesus (Luke 9:58), and the poverty of God’s children in all ages is a significant thing. Today we are ashamed and afraid to be poor. The reason we hear so little about the inner spiritual side of external poverty is that few of us are in the place of Jesus, or of Paul.

The scare of poverty will knock the spiritual backbone out of us unless we have the relationship that holds. The attitude of our Lord’s life was that He was disconnected with everything to do with things that chain people down to this world, consequently He could go wherever His Father wanted Him to go.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
Even the word “poverty” conjures up so many negative thoughts in our minds, so many negative connotations that we have no desire whatsoever to have any association with the word, much less find ourselves “somehow in it”. When Chambers was writing, the word used in the context above simply meant ‘lack of worldly possessions’; today, even those here in America “below the poverty line” have cell phones, nice clothes, food in their bellies and a warm bed.

But behind the connotations we currently hold is a feeling: the inability to provide abundantly for one’s self. It’s the real reason why we loathe even the idea of poverty touching our lives. We’re Americans — we’re independent, self-determined citizens of the greatest nation on earth! The idea of having to depend on the graciousness of others, having to “hope and pray” that someone comes through for us so we can have the basics of life that, for whatever reason, we’ve been unable to provide for ourselves is just too much for us to bear.

That’s why we hate the idea of poverty.

Honestly though, it’s near impossible for us to conceptualize what poverty looked like in Jesus’ day. As personally challenging as it can be for one’s ego to have people bring donation boxes to our neighborhoods or apartment buildings and give “us poor folk” clothing or food or whatever, we still know in the recesses of our minds that “if we really get desperate enough, there are people who will help us”. Ego is the first casualty of poverty; if the ego doesn’t die, the person will.

That wasn’t always the case in Jesus’ day. Not because people were uncaring or spiteful, but simply because there weren’t people around all the time.

Solitude is one of those things now in modern society that is yearned for, and finding one’s self alone on a beach, in the mountains, or some other part of “God’s Creation” is something we love the idea of. But that’s only because, in our typical daily lives, we experience so little of it. For most of America, there are ALWAYS people around: kids tearing up the house, neighbors mowing lawns, people driving on the roads, schoolkids in the crosswalks, taxi and bus drivers shuttling their fares, people shopping and dining and talking and congregating. Even if you’re not interacting with them, they’re still there, and being the “helpful” nation we typically are, we feel safe knowing that if we needed help, even strangers would help us.

In first century Israel, the people were in general very hospitable. But if you were a traveler, you’d often find yourself in places without anyone else around — an unpleasant situation to find yourself in generally, but what about it you have no worldly provisions? Downright dangerous. Wherever you look in the Gospels, you see Jesus traveling.

This is the context of Jesus saying “The Son of Man doesn’t even have a place to lay His head.”

Jesus was, personally, by no means an incapable Man. He was a carpenter by trade, a skill which would typically provide a good living for a proficient one. It’s likely that no one saw “carpenter Jesus” and thought, “That slacker should just go out and get a job rather than mooching of people he visits.” People today might look at Him traveling around for three years living off what He came across and what hospitable people gave Him and think He was a mooch, but likely only because of our modern context.

People could tell He was living that way by choice, not because He was incapable. And that’s a foreign concept to us today, except for the “modern hippies” (who have their own list of negative connotations and stereotypes, but that’s a different chat). When we think of poverty today, we think of “can’t”, not “won’t”. Thus we typically equate poverty with inability in our thinking.

Chambers opening statement: “Our Lord Jesus Christ became poor for our sakes not as an example, but to give us the unerring secret of His religion.” He didn’t live that way so that we would, in turn, forsake all and walk the dusty roads underfed and destitute. He set aside His Father’s Royalty for a purpose to be accomplished on earth, and in order to fulfill that purpose, He could not be encumbered by worldly possessions.

They’re called “trappings” for a reason — living for them ensnares you, ties you down, and that makes it far more difficult for you to serve the Lord freely and at a moment’s notice.

Think about it: if we were all broke, using rocks as pillows (as Jacob did when he was fleeing from Esau), how would we then extend hospitality and provision to others? In order to give, you must have something to give. The “unerring secret of His religion” is to have what you have in such a way that you’re not enslaved by it, so that you can serve the Lord with gladness whenever and however He calls you.

Or in a word, “Freedom.

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“Reestablishing Vital Communication…” ((DTFD, June 12))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, June 12th entry)

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“That they may be one just as We are one.” — John 17:22

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The conception which Jesus Christ had of a society was that men and women might be one with Him as He was one with the Father.

The full-orbed meaning of the term personality in its fundamental aspect is a being created by God who has lived on this earth and formed his or her character. The majority of us are not personalities as yet; we are beginning to be, and our value to God in His kingdom depends on the development and growth of our personalities.

There is a difference between being saved and sanctified by the sheer sovereign grace of God and choosing to be the choice ones, not for heaven, but down here. The average view of Christianity, that we only need to have faith and we are saved, is a stumbling block.

How many of us care anything about being witnesses to Jesus Christ? How many of us are willing to spend every ounce of energy we have, every bit of mental, moral, and spiritual life for Jesus Christ? That is the meaning of a worker in God’s sense. God has left us on earth, what for? To be saved and sanctified? No, to be at it for Him…

My life as a worker is the way I say “Thank You” to God for His unspeakable salvation.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
“Being saved” isn’t something to be viewed like life insurance, vaccinations or Thompson’s Water Seal — it’s not something that a person “takes care of”, then walks away thinking “Glad I got that squared away.” Salvation is NOT a Ronco Rotisserie oven — “set it and forget it”.

It’s a relationship as intimate — more so, truth be told — than that between a husband and wife. Husbands, it’s coming up on Father’s Day, but do you think that even on “your day”, you could get away with completely ignoring your wife from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep and not have any “consequences”? Not likely.

Yet this is how many people approach their Christian lives: “get right with God” then go back to doing your own thing, just maybe without as many cuss words and perhaps a beer or two less when you go out for “happy hour”.

Taking this course of thought regarding “getting right with God” is delusional. It’s not something you “walk from”, but something you “walk in”. Revisiting the marriage parallel, it’s possible to go a long stretch of the day without being in communication with each other (sorry, newlyweds, if this shocks you). It’s even possible — such as in the case of working opposing shifts — where a day could go by without any personal contact whatsoever except for the few hours when your sleep schedules might overlap.

But when such is the case, a longing builds inside; the longer the absence, the stronger the longing. At some point, you’ll feel like you’ll burst from your skin if you don’t talk or see your spouse at once. Why do we expect any less from our relationship with God?

Any time you’ve been “out of communication” with Him, if your love is there, you’ll desire to take the time to talk to Him. As wonderful a practice as “grace” is, it should NOT be the only time during the day when you talk to Him — you should have time, on your own, when you engage in dialogue with Him. Not monologue, where you talk and talk and then “hang up” before you hear a reply, but dialogue, where both parties have opportunity to talk. If anything, you should “budget” to spend more time listening than talking.

Why does it even matter?

Well, the more you communicate with Him, the more like Him you’ll find yourself becoming. His desires will become your desires; His loves will become your loves. Then you’ll go about whatever business you have that day and be able to see more clearly the opportunities to minister and serve as He has placed. “That you might walk in the good deeds that He has ordained beforehand for you to walk in.”

If you don’t have any recent information regarding what your spouse wants you to do, what’s the natural inclination? For most people, it’s “hey, if s/he didn’t say s/he wants anything, that must mean I’m off the hook and am free to do as I please.” It’s no different in spiritual matters; most who have been out of communication with their Bridegroom walk through daily life with the assumption “I’m free to do as I please since God hasn’t interrupted me to tell me He wants me to do something different.”

Brothers and sisters, if you’re in that place today, it’d be the best thing you could do to re-establish that line of vital communication before you do anything else. Who knows what blessings you’re walking past simply because you never took the time to find out about them?

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“Do You Trust Me?” ((DTFD, June 11))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, June 11th entry)

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“Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” — John 8:58 (see also Matthew 18:3-5)

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Spiritually we never grow old; through the passing of the years we grow so many years young.

The characteristic of the spiritual life is its unaging youth, exactly the opposite of the natural life. “I am the First and the Last.” The Ancient of Days represents the eternal childhood. God Almighty became the weakest thing in His own creation, a baby.

When He comes into us in new birth we can easily kill His life in us, or else we can see to it that His life is nourished according to the dictates of the Spirit of God so that we grow “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

The mature saint is just like a little child, absolutely simple and joyful and happy. Go on living the life that God would have you to live and you will grow younger instead of older. There is a marvelous rejuvenescence when you let God have His way. If you are feeling very old, then get born again and go to it.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
It’s funny how we assess ourselves. We like to think of ourselves as “maturing” the more we think and worry and postulate and plan about the various things going on in our world and in our lives. A job offer isn’t just a job offer, it becomes a “career decision assessment process”; a request from a friend to come along on some spontaneous adventure becomes an effort-laden quest through the cell phone calendar, the home calendar, the wife’s calendar, the kids’ calendars, the office calendar and the church calendar.

There’s nothing wrong with having a life that is more complex as it goes along; things only get screwy when we begin to mistake our extra worrying and postulating for maturity.

Jesus instructed His disciples that the kingdom of Heaven is filled with “child-like” believers; not “childish”, but “child-like”. He has no desire for disciples who color on the walls with crayon or sit in the back of the room eating paste. He does however desire that we approach our lives, our relationships, and our walks with Him with a child-like simplicity that — sadly — we too often lack.

Being a dad is helping me to see more and more each day through the eyes of my kids. In my own journey through life, there were lessons that were easy to figure out (i.e. “don’t touch that, it’s hot!”) and lessons that took a lot of struggle and suffering to work through. The ones that were so difficult, once I finally ended up and the “aha!” moment of figuring them out, I naturally wanted to embed them deep “in the grid” of my mind so that they’d be easy to remember and act upon. After all, no sense going through all the effort and frustration of discovering the cure for AIDS or cancer only to have written the notes with a stick in the sand at low tide.

It takes effort for me to remember that a lot of these things I’ve learned, my kids haven’t yet. Hopefully, the conviction I express as I attempt to relate these lessons to my kids will impress them in such a way that they accept them as true for themselves as well, though I know that will be short-lived as the dreaded teenage years are but a half-decade away for my eldest. (I’d never thought about the math of it before…oye, I think I’m going to go get a cup of chamomile now. Be right back.)

Often these days we hear about people approaching or just arriving at retirement age who are in the swing of the “simplifying” routine — downsizing the house; getting rid of the fancy cars in favor of the cheaper, more reliable ones; adopting some sort of new healthy and easy nutrition regimen; removing as many unnecessary stressors as one can; etc. That’s not quite the type of “simple” that Scripture’s referring to.

When Scripture refers to “simple” here, we need to keep in mind the viewpoint Jesus was referring to: child-like. And the most awesome thing that children display (unless they’ve been deeply wounded, betrayed, or abandoned by someone in their immediate family) is trust. Once a child gets through the awkward developmental stage of learning the language and understanding the concepts the language is conveying, it takes quite a bit for the child to no longer trust the parent. As long as the parent is putting forth even a basic effort to meet their child’s needs, the kids will let a lot of stuff slide before their trust starts being affected.

My babies, bless their hearts, had to endure more from their birth parents before the age of 5 than my wife and I have ever had to endure from our parents. As a result both of that and of some suspect methodologies of their long-term foster parents, they’re still warming to the concept of trusting those in the place of parental authority. It’s been almost two years of them being with us now, and still you can sense hesitation sometimes and in certain situations. Thankfully, when the stuff hits the fan in a situation, they’ve accepted us as mom and dad and come to us without hesitation, but when everything is smooth sailing, you can tell it’s still there in their minds.

God wants us to trust Him.

He’s always taken care of us, always continued to give us sunrises and sunsets, air in our lungs, food in our bellies, clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads. There are times when I look my babies in the eyes and ask them “Do you trust me?”, and they know that when I ask that something unpleasant (like a shot at the doctor’s office or me asking one of them to let one of her sisters borrow a favorite toy) is probably coming, but in the end they’ll be better off than they were beforehand.

God recalls for us His track record: He was there for Adam, He was there for Joshua, He was there for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He was there for David, He was there for the disciples, and He’s been there for us. We were the ones who signed up to follow Him, saying that we want to be workers in His vineyard; He only asks that we be willing to put up with a few scrapes and blisters along the way as we work.

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“The Flesh Gets Goofy, But The Spirit Brings Understanding” ((DTFD, June 10))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, June 10th entry)

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“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” — Matthew 11:15

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We hear only what we listen for.

Have we listened to what Jesus has to say? Have we paid any attention to finding out what He did say? Most of us do not know what He said. If we have only a smattering of religion, we talk a lot about the devil, but what hinders us spiritually is not the devil nearly so much as inattention.

We may hear the sayings of Jesus Christ, but our wills are left untouched; we never do them. The understanding of the Bible only comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit making the universe of the Bible real to us.

Much is written about our Lord speaking so simply that anyone could understand, and we forget that while it remains true that the common people heard Him gladly, no one, not even His own disciples, understood Him until after the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the reason being that a pure heart is the essential requirement for being “of the truth.”

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
A few years back, my wife and I went to a Harvest Crusade at Angel Stadium here in southern California. Afterwards, as we were walking out, we encountered this man who had a small crowd gathered around him. I’ve gotten used to these people, Pharisees of one branch or another either protesting against one of the speakers (Billy Graham, Greg Laurie, etc.) or espousing their own recipe for pure faith (“King James only”, Calvinists/Hyper-Calvinists, “Jesus Kills, Repent!”ers, etc.).

This guy was a bit different, and I could tell from the start. He was talking to someone else, and as I walked up and was listening trying to get a bead on what his deal was, he looked at me and said “You don’t have any faith, that’s why you’re wearing glasses.” Taken a bit off guard, I explained to him why I was wearing the glasses, that I had a work accident that resulted in a concussion and the neurologist suggested I try glasses to try to help my eyes counteract a suspected misalignment he felt could be contributing to a lingering headache issue.

“Doesn’t matter why. If you had faith, you’d take off your glasses and believe God will heal you.”

Feeling sufficiently engaged to begin a real chat with him now, I asked him what he was out there that night to tell people.

“The Sermon on the Mount is the key to a pure spiritual walk!” he declared. “Memorize it, meditate upon it, and live it. Those three chapters are all you need to read of the entire Bible; if you live those, you’ve got it all taken care of.”

I asked him to quote a very common portion of Matthew 6, right smack dab in the heart of what he’d just told us all to memorize. He stumbled over words, quoted wrong sections, and generally became flustered a bit.

Upon further questioning, he said he believed that the Sermon on the Mount was the only inspired part of Scripture, and that everything else was either corrupt or unworthy of being included with such divine teaching. I asked if he thought other sections of Scripture that repeated what was said in the Sermon on the Mount would also qualify as inspired; he backtracked a bit and said sure, but only those and the Sermon on the Mount itself. I asked what about the sections of Scripture that expound on or portrayed the same concepts either before or after Jesus taught them; he backtracked again and included those as well.

Suffice it to say that after about three hours of intensive, logically ordered questions and discussing through various subjects, the guy had come back to resembling something Scriptural again. It wasn’t that he was following something that was bad — on the contrary, his belief that the Sermon on the Mount was the pinnacle of practical instruction for the believer is very well founded. But his idea of taking that and separating it from its context and from the rest of Scripture put him in a dangerous and divisive place.

Truth be told, Jesus gave us a much more succinct explanation of how to live than even the Sermon on the Mount:

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, ” ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Ideally, this should be all that the Lord needs to say to us. However, we are very sinful, us humans, and driven all too often by selfish motivations. And as a result, God has given us chapters and epistles of instruction regarding what good (and bad) examples of walking those truths actually looks like. (Jesus did give an even more succinct statement of how to live in Matthew 7:12 that pertains here; click the verse to read it.)

It’s not that the statement was insufficient; we’re just not capable of discerning what it looks like in every situation, hence the explanation.

Before we left the guy that evening (or early morning), I felt a peace that the Holy Spirit brings when I’ve completed such an assignment; the guy was demonstrating by his mannerisms and word choices that he had recognized his error and was in the process of repenting of the division he had been actively bringing against Jesus’ Body. We prayed for forgiveness for the divisive and un-Scriptural acts, for a cleansing of the minds of those he had confused with those teachings, and that the Holy Spirit would baptize him and give him the power to go out and be a witness of Jesus, plain and simple.

Through my mind flashed the thought-picture of the man who had dwelt in the cemetery because he had been possessed with demons, and how when Jesus departed from him that day, he had been back in his right mind and was testifying of the great things God had done for him. The same change seemed present in this man — not that I think he was possessed by any means. That’s just the type of change that took place, somewhat Paul-esque: first, railing against the church and speaking violently against its teachings, then becoming perhaps its most vocal and active member. I pray that is what happened in this man’s life.

As dangerous as any doctrinal confusion or divisive spirit is an undue satisfaction with wherever you’re at spiritually. It’s healthy to consider your life and think “I’m not yet where I should be, but thank God I’m no longer where I was”; don’t allow yourself to think “Hey, I’m doing well, time to hit the ol’ cruise control and just roll for a minute.” Don’t come across something that’s great in God’s Word and get so wrapped up in it that it becomes a rabbit trail you chase to the exclusion of everything else.

Those running the race don’t let up the closer they get to the finish line, they press towards it more intensely.

Go get it.

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“Heart, Soul, Mind, And Strength…” ((DTFD, June 9))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, June 9th entry)

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“The first of all the commandments is…’you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ ” — Mark 12:29-30

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My relationship to God embraces every faculty. I am to love Him with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, all my strength — every detail is instinct with devotion to Him; if it is not I am disjointed somewhere.

Think what you do for someone you love! The most amazingly minute details are perfectly transfigured because your whole nature is embraced, not one faculty only. You don’t love a person with your heart and leave the rest of your nature out. You love with your whole being , from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot.

That is the attitude of the New Testament all through. In 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul has been speaking about the stupendous mystery of the resurrection, and suddenly, like a swinging lamp in a mine, he rushes it right down and says, “Now concerning the collection…”.

The New Testament is continually doing it — “Jesus knowing … that the Father had given all things into His hands…began to wash the disciples’ feet.” It takes God Incarnate to wash feet properly. It takes God Incarnate to do anything properly.

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Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
I cannot help but think Jesus’ words in the Parable of the Sower:

“Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:3-9)

Going on in Matthew 13, we read Jesus’ own explanation of the parable, and as such we mainly think about that in terms of conditions of people’s hearts, which is what the soil represents. But in thinking about loving God with my entire being and not just one part or another, the Parable of the Sower popped into my head.

It’s not a perfect correlation because in order to be so the parable would ideally need at least two more parts, but parallels can still be drawn:

  • Jesus said that the seed that fell by the wayside represents those who hear the Word and don’t understand it, which opens the door for the wicked one to come and snatch what was sown in his heart. Parallel: a person who doesn’t love God will all his mind opens himself up to having that which was sown in his heart snatched away, which will leave him not just disengaged intellectually from God but cold emotionally towards God. Walking away from God is likely to soon follow.
  • Jesus said that the seed that fell on stony ground represents the person who lacks depth yet receives the Word with joy until tribulation or persecution arises, when the person no longer endures. Parallel: a person seeking to love God “in heart only” (because they haven’t desired to grow their relationship any deeper than that) is an emotional believer, often seeking to jump from spiritual mountaintop to mountaintop, chasing the next “spiritual high”. Mind, soul and strength are ignored, and as such the person remains spiritually shallow and withers in the heat.
  • Jesus said that the seed that fell among thorns represents the one who receives the Word but the riches and cares of this world choke out the desire for the Word. Parallel: accepting the spirituality of the Word without engaging your “strength” is seeking to love “in soul only”; those who do things this way generally are characterized by flowing from one religious system into another without reservation, because they don’t make decisions about “which one’s right” but simply flow with whatever wind of doctrine tickles their fancy today. Sometimes when you’ve got “itching ears”, it means you’ve been rolling your head around in some poison ivy; “spiritualists” seek to love with the soul yet refrain from committing anything else to it, and thus have no strength to choose Biblical principle over the cares of this world.
  • Jesus said the good soil represents the one who hears it and understands it, and bears fruit. Parallel: the person who engages all four parts of their being in their love for and relationship with God. The understand what they hear (the mind), they receive what they hear (the soul), it ignites a fire in them (the heart) that presses them forward into the action (the strength) of producing fruit.

When we have our conversations with brothers or sisters we trust, we generally go pretty easy on each other:

“You know, I don’t think I’ve really been loving God with my whole heart lately…ever since _____ happened, I feel like my heart’s been pretty divided.”
“Hey, that’s ok, happens to all of us. God understands, you’ll be ok.”

I’m not at all saying we should drop the hammer on each other, because that’s not expedient either. But at least we should be loving enough to point out the danger of continuing on that path. If a person is opening up to you that they feel something lacking in their walk, the Spirit’s already prompting them that something’s wrong; sometimes (or if you’re thick-headed like me, perhaps lots of times) people just don’t put two and two together until someone they love and trust puts it together for them — or sometimes people use this as a confirmation of a thought they’d already had.

The three “soils” that lacked some components of love all ended up not making it very far in their walks…is that what we desire for our brothers and sisters in Christ? Heaven forbid!

May we seek to march a straight path towards heaven, and if any fall on the journey, may we love God with all our strength that we would also be able to pick up the fallen and carry them (a la Galatians 6) until they can once again find their footing.

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“You Can’t Fake Time, You Have To Make Time…” ((DTFD, June 8))

(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, June 8th entry)

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“You, when you pray…” — Matthew 6:6

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“But it is so difficult to get time.”

Of course it is, we have to make time, and that means effort, and effort makes us conscious of the need to reorganize our general ways. It will facilitate matters to remember, even if it humbles us, that we take time to eat our breakfast and our dinner, and so on.

Most of the difficulty in forming a special habit is that we will not discipline ourselves…

You say you cannot get up early in the morning; well, a very good thing to do is to get up in order to prove that you cannot! This does not contradict at all the notion that we must not put earnestness in the place of God; it means that we have to understand that our bodily mechanism is made by God, and that when we are regenerated He does not give us other bodies, we have the same bodies, and therefore the way we use our wits in order to learn a secular thing is the way to learn any spiritual thing.

“You, when you pray…” Begin now.

Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]

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Brief commentary:
This is one topic that pierces me every time I hear or read about it; not necessarily in regards to prayer — ironically, prayer is one of the things I find myself doing most! — but generally in regards to any worthwhile and effective spiritual activity, be it reaching out to contact brothers or sisters who are having a rough go in life, getting back in the habit of reading the Bible frequently in leisure moments instead of merely as a “daily duty”, or sitting down each day to read, write and post these devotions.

[This also dovetails well with yesterday’s devotion, titled Can’t, Or Won’t? Man Up Already!”, regarding standing up to fear and being open to God’s leading.]

It’s all about priorities. We all understand the concept that there are some things that are really important and other things that are passing and, in the grand scheme, worthless and unimportant. To effectively assess and organize priorities, however, takes more than just a quick view of what the items on the list are. You have to look at what those items lead to as well.

For instance, if my daughter comes into my office, where I’m in the middle of preparing a Bible study, and says, “Daddy, Daddy! Look! I learned how to snap my fingers!”, that in and of itself is not an earth-shattering, life or death discovery. However it would be foolish for me to dismiss her with an attitude like “Here I am in the midst of the preparation of the gospel of peace, and you dare interrupt me with such inane and unimportant childishness?! Begone, peasant!!”

Why? Because even in the midst of such “grand scheme” trivial events as learning to snap one’s fingers, my daughters are going to draw a sense of value (both in general and specifically from males in their future, which totally freaks me out) from how I treat those discoveries. To them, at their young ages, even those minor discoveries are still discoveries, and their excitement is genuine. For me to squash that in favor of the “after all, more important” is to tell them that they’re not important at all.

In that light, recognizing that assessing priorities is something that actually takes effort and time — not a 3-minute quick shot before moving on to “more important activities of the day” — should lead a person to weigh things carefully. I know I don’t want my priorities to be wrong; I don’t want to short anyone anything, but rather be as close as I can to dispensing my time, talents and treasure the way God desires. That takes effort on my part.

Anytime we undertake such an endeavor though, we can also be sure that the enemy (both directly and in the form of well-intentioned friends) will be waiting to pound on us no matter what we choose. If we choose to place this time and treasure into family, he’ll be there with condemnation regarding not desiring to do enough for God; if we choose to place those talents and treasure into ministry, he’ll be there again with accusations telling you you don’t even love your family enough to spend that with them.

What’s the formula? If there is a specific one, I don’t know what it is; at this point I’m under the impression that since God has different callings on different people, the formula of how much to this, how much  to that for each believer is going to be different. Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t match up to someone else’s idea of the “perfect balance”. It might be perfect for them, but it may or may not be so for you; that’s where leaning upon the Lord for guidance and discernment is valuable.

If God has entrusted you as a steward over a family (i.e. a spouse and kids), you’re responsible for everything relating to them. Don’t take that lightly, a lesson I admit freely I’m still learning. Be careful what you trade away in relation to them; time is a very finite resource, and when soberly assessed, more valuable than anything else you can acquire. Your bills still need to be paid. Your home church still needs what you bring to the fellowship when they gather together. Your friends and family still love to see you and share meals together. But if you can’t take care of the most precious things He’s put under your charge because you’ve chosen to spend your time and energy elsewhere, nothing else will be able to fix that.

Make time to pray alone. Make time to pray with your kids. Make time to pray with your spouse. Make time to read your Bible alone. Make time to read your Bible together. Make time for fellowship. Make time for snuggle time. Make time for tea parties and Lego construction projects and forts made of bed sheets and plastic army men battles. Make time for giving foot rubs and back massages and candlelight bubble baths and surprise picnic lunches. Make time for all of that and dozens of other things. They all start with “make time” precisely because other things will try — and succeed — to “take time” away from all those things.

“Most of the difficulty in forming a special habit is that we will not discipline ourselves…”. Disciplining yourself simply means make the decision and follow through on it. Follow through. Trustworthy. Integrity. Honesty. It all works together.

Begin now.

Categories: "Daily Thoughts For Disciples", Thoughts and Daily Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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