Thursdays With Oswald—Spill Your Guts

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Oswald Chambers

Spill Your Guts!

     Perhaps to be able to explain suffering is the clearest indication of never having suffered. Sin, suffering, and sanctification are not problems of the mind, but facts of life—mysteries that awaken other mysteries until the heart rests in God, and waiting patiently knows “He does all things well.”

     Oh, the unspeakable joy of knowing that God reigns! That He is our Father, and that the clouds are but “the dust of His feet”! Religious life is based and built up and matured on primal implicit trust, transfigured by Love; the explicit statement of that life can only be made by the spectator, never by the saint.

From Christian Disciplines

C.S. Lewis wrote in one of his most profound books, The Problem Of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Suffering has a way of getting us to what matters most by filtering out the things that were clamoring for our attention before. God speaks in our pain because God stepped into our pain. Jesus was called a Man of sorrows because He experienced every pain you and I will ever experience; in fact, He experienced it with even greater intensity that you and I can ever experience!

Are you in pain? Are you suffering? No one can know what is really in your heart, except the One who knows you better than even your closest friend. Spill your guts, don’t hold back, tell Him all that’s on your mind. He already knows your thoughts, so let loose in His presence, and feel how close your Comforter is to you.

14 Quotes From “Unfinished”

UnfinishedI found Unfinished by Richard Stearns to be both confrontational and motivating. You can read my full book review by clicking here. These are some of the quotes I especially appreciated from this book. Unless otherwise marked, they are quotes from Stearns—

“God created you intentionally to play a very specific role in His unfolding story. God didn’t create any extras meant to stand on the sidelines and watch the story unfold; He created players meant to be on center stage. And you will feel fully complete only when you discover the role you were born to play.”

“You don’t have to go to the Congo or to Uzbekistan to change the world. You don’t have to be brilliant to change the world—or wealthy or a spiritual giant. But you do have to say yes to the invitation. You do have to be available and willing to be used, and you may have to pay the price that comes with following Jesus because changing the world and following Jesus isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come cheap.”

“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feel that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.” —C.S. Lewis

“Yet that is exactly how many Christians view the gospel of Christ. I do a deal with God, buy the fire insurance policy, put it in my drawer, and then I can go back to the party. Sure, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go to church now and then to dip my feet into spiritual waters, and it wouldn’t hurt to pray from time to time, but, basically, with my salvation secured I can now get on with my life. This is what Dallas Willard refers to as the ‘gospel of sin-management.’”

“So we need to dispense with any notion that we can take this Jesus on our own terms, that we can simply add Him to the structure of our lives, fit Him into our plans, worship Him once a week for an hour or so, and offer Him a prayer when we find ourselves needing something. No, Jesus demands the total commitment of our lives in His service. We are called to enlist in His army and lay down every other priority in our lives at His feet. Our ambitions, our careers, our relationships, our possessions, even our families must be laid at His feet to do with as He wishes.”

“Authentic churches truly living together… offer a radically different and beguiling attractive alternative to every other model of human community.”

“God’s deepest desire is not that we would help the poor. God’s deepest desire is that we would love the poor; for if we love them, we will surely help them.”

“Love always requires tangible expression. It needs hands and feet. As followers of Christ we can too easily become overwhelmed by the complexity and depth of our Christian faith, and we can become confused by doctrine and theology. But the beautiful simplicity of our faith is that it distills down to the exact same bottom line for both the brilliant theologian and the five-year-old child: love God and love each other—period. Everything else derives from that.”

“Now, here is a really important thing to understand. If you lay down all of these things in the service of Christ and His kingdom, He won’t necessarily take them away from you. He doesn’t ask us all to quit our jobs, leave our homes, and have an estate sale to liquidate all our earthly possessions. No, He only asks that we turn all of those decisions over to Him. If you have built a business that can generate great wealth, He may leave you right there so that the business can be used to His glory and to accomplish His purposes. If you are an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, He may want you to stay put and become a kingdom builder right where you are stationed by letting your light shine in a place where a shining light may be desperately needed. If you love your community, He may use you to help transform it and reclaim it for His kingdom. He might even use your addiction as a powerful tool of His restorative power to transform human lives. But he does require that the certificates of title be signed over to Him. He becomes the owner, and we become the stewards, not of our possessions but of the Master’s possessions.”

“I am only one, but I am one;
I cannot do everything,
But I can do something.
What I can do I ought to do,
And what I ought to do
By God’s grace I will do.” —Edward Everett Hale

“Think of it this way: If we all worked for Boeing, our general calling would be to engage in the building of airplanes. But our specific calling might be to assemble the landing gear, wire and install the instruments, assemble the wings, or design the roomy and comfortable coach seats. And which of those specific tasks we were called to would be determined by the boss’s best judgment, taking into consideration our unique skills and abilities. … The same is true in building the kingdom of God. We all have the same general assignment but our specific roles within it will be unique to us as individuals and will take into account our gifts and talents but also our experience, our assets, our physical location, and our connections and associations.”

“The chief purpose of the church is to bring glory to God by accomplishing the Great Commission pronounced by Jesus. Everything else—worship, preaching, teaching, discipling, congregational care, the sacraments, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, and so on—while valuable for us and pleasing to God in and of themselves, are ultimately means to the end of faithfully completing the assignment given to the church by Jesus just before He left.”

“Jesus envisioned these communities of believers would transform the world in which we live, much as springtime melts the cold and snow of winter and releases the exuberance of new life bursting forth. We would be drawn to the cold places, the broken places, the ragged edges of our world. We would be drawn to the open sores upon our societies: poverty, disease, hunger, injustice, and exploitation, becoming a healing balm to those who feel marginalized, excluded, and discarded. … Our generosity would astound, our determination amaze, and our love be irresistible.”

“The most important thing to remember is this: to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.” —W.E.B. DuBois

God Answers Prayer

God Answers Prayer“It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. … It was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:5, 8). This is what Joseph said to his brothers that beat him up, threw him in a pit, sold him to some slave traders, and then went back and told a big, fat lie to their father Jacob about Joseph being killed by a wild animal.

When the brothers threw Joseph in that pit and were bartering with the slave traders, the Bible says that Joseph pleaded for his life. I have a hunch that Joseph pleaded with God too. But God didn’t answer that prayer.

When Joseph was falsely accused of molesting an official’s wife and thrown into prison, Joseph probably prayed for God to get him out of prison now! But God didn’t answer that prayer. 

I’m sure Joseph’s father Jacob was praying that somehow Joseph would be returned to him. That maybe he wasn’t really dead after all. How long did Jacob pray that prayer? A year? Five years? Twenty years? But God didn’t answer that prayer.

When the devastating famine hit Canaan, I’ll bet Joseph’s brothers prayed that God would bless their crops and livestock and save them from the famine. But God didn’t answer that prayer. 

Aha!! But God DID answer all of those prayers. 

Not in the timing they wanted, but in His perfect timing “to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).

Are you praying hard for something? How long have you been praying? Keep at it…


Unfinished (book review)

UnfinishedRichard Stearns—as he did in The Hole In Our Gospel—delivers another stirring wake-up call to the Church in Unfinished: Believing is only the beginning.

As the title implies Unfinished is about what is still left for Christians to do. It’s not enough, Richard Stearns says, to just believe that Jesus is our Savior and Lord, we have to do something with that belief. And until we do, the work that Jesus gave us to do is unfinished.

The words in this book are both confronting and motivating. As I was, I believe you will be too, challenged to realize that God has made me and placed me where I am on purpose. He has a plan for my life, and I must honestly answer the question, “Am I fulfilling that plan, or is the work still unfinished?” Far from feeling condemned for anything yet unfinished, you will feel a renewed zeal to complete the work.

The first part of Unfinished is directed to individual Christians, and the second part to the corporate body of Christians known as the Church. The accompanying study guide and discussion questions at the back of the book will help you clarify your thoughts into action steps.

Unfinished is a great read!

Note: Because I had previously read and reviewed The Hole In Our Gospel (you can read my review by clicking here), I was given a free copy of Unfinished to read and review as well. My review of this book conforms with the standards I have for all of my book reviews.

Show Us The Way

Show Us The WayI have often said that one of the most arrogant, short-sighted prayers we can ever pray is this: “Lord, please bless what I’m about to do.”

Why is this arrogance? Because I’m presuming to know what’s best. I am saying, “God, this is what I have decided is the best thing to do, and I want You to bless it.” In reality, God has already decided what He is going to do, and He will bless me if I do that.

Listen to what God says—

“This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is His name: ‘Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’” (Jeremiah 33:2-3)

I love that promise: Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know

This is as true for me personally as it is corporately for the church I get to pastor. So this Sunday I am taking time to talk to the congregation of Calvary Assembly of God about what I believe God is calling us to do. If you are in the area, I’d love to have you join us.

Whether you can attend on Sunday or not, this is a great reminder for all of us. Let’s not tell God our puny plans and ask Him to bless them, but let’s ask Him to show us great and unsearchable things that He is blessing so that we can get to work doing those things. You will be blessed by doing what God is doing.

Organization In The Church

A.W. Tozer“The man who would oppose organization in the church must needs be ignorant of the facts of life. Art is organized beauty; music is organized sound; philosophy is organized thought; science is organized knowledge; government is merely society organized. And what is the true church of Christ but organized mystery? … Many church groups have perished from too much organization, even as others from too little. Wise church leaders will watch out for both extremes. A man may die as a result of having too low blood pressure as certainly as from having too high, and it matters little which takes him off. He is equally dead either way. The important thing in church organization is to discover the scriptural balance between two extremes and avoid both.” —A.W. Tozer (emphasis added)

Pastor, what do you think of Tozer’s thoughts of organization in the church? How do you balance against the extremes?

Thursdays With Oswald—God’s Word In Hard Places

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Oswald Chambers

God’s Word In Hard Places     

To search for a word of God to suit one’s case is never Divine guidance, but guidance by human caprice and inclination. The Holy Spirit Who brings to our remembrance what Jesus has said and leads us into all truth, does so to glorify Jesus Christ. Divine guidance by the Word always makes us realize our responsibility to God…. 

     How often have our misunderstandings of God’s Word proved to us the need for the penetrating words of our Lord, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now.” In our prayings, in our desirings, in our patience, does our knowledge of God enable us to say and really mean, “Speak, Lord; for Your servant is listening”? Would we really hear God’s Word, or are we not rather in this immediate tribulation waiting for God to persuade us that our own way is right after all?

From Christian Disciplines

There is a difference between saying, “God get me out of this” and “God, what do You want to get out of this?”

There is a difference between praying, “God, please bless what I’m doing” and “God, please show me what You’re blessing so that I may do it.”

We need to be very careful that we don’t read into Scripture something that will justify what we’re feeling or doing or experiencing. Instead, we need to let the Holy Spirit speak God’s Word to us clearly and without any hidden agenda.

I know your situation may be tough, but don’t try to find a shortcut out of it. Let God accomplish what He wants to accomplish; let His Word be your guide; let the Holy Spirit make that Word come alive to you.

13 Quotes From “Dear Abba”

Dear AbbaDear Abba is an intimate book of prayer and personal reflection; it’s thought-provoking and emotionally-moving. You can read my full book review by clicking here. Below are some of the quotes and prayers I found especially meaningful.

“Dear Abba, I’ve come to the place where I’m letting You love me more each day, but I still struggle with letting You like me.” 

“It would be comical if it wasn’t so sad: all of our desires to make ourselves worthy of this world but unfit for the world to come.”

“Peace and joy go a-begging when the heart of a Christian pants for one sign after another of God’s merciful love. Nothing is taken for granted, and nothing is received with gratitude.”

“I feel like the psalmist tonight—downcast. I was upcast, bright, enjoying the warmth of the day and then suddenly my joy was pickpocketed. It was a small thing, a minor misunderstanding that I could have let roll off like water, but I held on to it and nursed it awhile, and like sin always does, it grew. Now I find my mind completely disturbed, anxious, angry, and my imagination is conjuring up all sorts of somebody-done-me-wrong songs. Why do I not trust You? After so many demonstrations of Your infinitely tender hand, why do I not trust You?”

“Sin does not magnify the suffering of man’s plight; instead, it mitigates it. When I sin, I seek an escape from my humanity. I used to say to myself, ‘Well, you’re only human!’ But sin does not make me human; it compromises my humanity. The philandering husband with his mistress on business trips, the chemically addicted, the thieves who build ivory towers out of stolen money, the sensation-seekers and power brokers who seek substitutes. They do not drink the poverty of the human situation down to the last drop. They dare not stare it full in the face.” 

Yet. Those three letters stop me in my rutted tracks of besetting sins. For You were tempted as I am, yet You did not sin. The humbling point is that on a scale from 1 to 10, I usually give in when the heat reaches 3 or 4, yet You experienced the 10—the full-in-the-face of temptation—and did not give in. You are the friend of sinners, yet You are also the Great High Priest who invites us to come with confidence to Your throne and receive both our daily bread and extra rations for emergencies.”

“To practice poverty of spirit calls us not to take offense or be supersensitive to criticism.

“When the gift of a humble heart is granted, we are more accepting of ourselves and less critical of others. … For the humble person there is a constant awareness of his or her own weakness, insufficiency, and desperate need for God.”

“My friends in Christ, the simple truth is that the Christian Church in America is divided by doctrine, history, and day-to-day living. We have come a long sad journey from the first century, when pagans exclaimed with awe and wonder, ‘See how these Christians love one another!’” 

“Christ’s breakthrough into new life on Easter morning unfettered Him from the space-time limitations of existence in the flesh and empowered Him to touch not only Nepal, but New Orleans, not only Matthew and Magdalene, but me. The Lion of Judah in His present risenness pursues, tracks, and stalks us here and now.”

“I realized today that there is a third character who goes up to the temple to pray: the pharisaic tax collector—a ragamuffin who knows she’s a ragamuffin and wants to make sure everyone else knows she’s a ragamuffin. So she ends up using her sinner status not to cry out for mercy to You, but rather to seek out the attention of others as one who is real and authentic, when in reality she is nothing more than hubris in thrift-shop fashions. I realized this today because I looked in the mirror. God, be merciful to me.” 

“The tendency to continually berate ourselves for real or imaginary failures, to belittle ourselves and underestimate our worth, to dwell exclusively on our dishonesty, self-centeredness, and lack of personal discipline, is the influence of our negative self-esteem. Reinforced by the critical feedback of our peers and the reproofs and humiliations of our community, we seem radically incapable of accepting, forgiving, or loving ourselves.”

“If nobody remembers my name or the works of my hands, if everything that I’ve worked so hard to build over the years crumbles into insignificance, if I lose my health and my wits and even, heaven forbid, my memory, You are still my refuge and strength.” 

Blessing Our Children

IMG_4195So Isaac called for Jacob and he blessed him… (Genesis 28:11).

Isaac blessed Jacob once when he was deceived by Rebekah and Jacob, but here he blesses him again knowing full well that it is Jacob that he is blessing. He starts his blessing with these words: “May God Almighty bless you.”

Later God Himself appears to Jacob to affirm this blessing that Isaac has asked for. Notice how God says He will be the One pouring out the blessing: I am the Lord … I will give you this land … I will be with you … I will bring you back … I will not leave you” (vv. 13-15).

The blessing by Jacob’s Heavenly Father was initiated by the blessing of his earthly father. 

It is important for fathers to bless their children, as this puts them in a place to receive God’s blessing. In the Greek, the word bless means “good words.” So Dad,

  • Say good words to your children
  • Say good words about your children to others
  • Say good words about your children to their Heavenly Father

Don’t ever let your children wonder what God’s blessings are like. Let them know from your blessings what sort of blessings God wants to pour out on them.

Dear Abba (book review)

Dear AbbaAbba is a term of endearment that a child would give to his father, and it’s Brennan Manning’s preferred way of addressing his Heavenly Father. As you might imagine, then, Dear Abba is an intimate prayer journey.

This is a 31-day prayer journey, utilizing passages of Scripture, a passage from one of Manning’s books, and a prayer that Manning wrote as he contemplated that Scripture. There are two readings each day—one for the morning and one for the evening. Each day’s section will only take you a couple of minutes to read, but the thoughts shared will stick with you all day long.

One of the things I especially appreciate about Brennan Manning’s writing is the realness of his words. He doesn’t write in a churchy style, but in real, raw emotion. Then to read his prayers addressed to “Dear Abba” adds an even deeper level of intimacy with God.

Whether you are a fan of Brennan Manning’s work or not, this 30-day journey will take you to a place of greater awareness of God’s abiding presence.

By the way: if you would like to read a review of The Ragamuffin Gospel, another book by Brennan Manning, please click here.

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