Thursdays With Oswald—Christ’s Idea Of Social Reform

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

Christ’s Idea Of Social Reform

     Humility and holiness always go together. Whenever hardness and harshness begin to creep into the personal attitude towards another, we may be certain we are swerving from the light. The preaching must be as stern and true as God’s Word, never water down God’s truth; but when you deal with others never forget that you are a sinner saved by grace, wherever you stand now. If you stand in the fullness of the blessing of God, you stand there by no other right than the sheer sovereign grace of God. … 

     Today the great craze is socialism, and men are saying that Jesus Christ came as a social reformer. Nonsense! We are the social reformers; Jesus Christ came to alter us, and we try to shirk our responsibility by putting our work on Him. Jesus alters us and puts us right; then these principles of His instantly make us social reformers. They begin to work straightway where we live, in our relationship to our fathers and mothers, to our brothers and sisters, our friends, our employers, or employees. “Consider how God has dealt with you,” says Jesus, “and then consider that you do likewise to others” [Matthew 7:12]. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Our lives are meant to be living answers to this prayer. 

We must be so immersed in God’s grace and love that we have a burning passion for everyone else to know this grace and love for themselves. I want to do for others what God has done for me. So as Jesus has changed my heart and my paradigm, I now become a “social reformer” in the places God has placed me—in my family, at my workplace, in my community. 

Jesus isn’t going to change society. The Holy Spirit changes us, and then we can lead God-honoring social reforms right where we are. 

“Consider how God has dealt with you, and then consider that you do likewise to others.”

Christ’s Passionate Journey

In some of our favorite action movies, when the crucial moment for our hero has finally arrived, filmmakers will often switch into slow motion filming. They want you to feel the tension. They want you to see the emotion etched on the face of our hero. They want to make sure you don’t miss a single detail of this pivotal moment in the story. 

The same thing happens in the life of Jesus.

The four Gospels record 3+ years of the life of Jesus on earth. But when Jesus is approaching the Cross—the crucial moment of His ministry—all the Gospel writers go into slow motion. 

For example, Mark doesn’t mention anything about the birth of Jesus and only gives us one verse to tell about satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But he uses nearly 40% of his writing to describe the last week of Christ’s life. The numbers are similar for Matthew and Luke, with John devoting almost one-half of his account to Christ’s Passion Week. 

Clearly, there is something happening here that the Gospel writers want to ensure that we don’t miss a single detail! 

Jesus knew all that was about to happen to Him. When Peter swung his sword at the soldiers that came to arrest Him, Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way” (Matthew 26:53-54). 

Every step that Jesus took toward the Cross was a step of love. Every word He spoke in His final moments before His death was calculated to sink deep into the memories of all who observed this story. 

We are going to go into “slow motion” as well as we look closely at each day of Christ’s final week of ministry. From His dinner in Bethany to His resurrection, we’ll slow down and ponder deeply the love message Jesus is still conveying to us. 

Join me this Sunday as we begin this passionate journey. If you cannot join us in person, we will be broadcasting each message on Facebook Live.

Here are the days we have already explored on this journey:

Stop Letting Fear Limit Your Life

It’s inescapably true: We let fears limit us when we listen to them. 

John Piper wrote, “I call you today to stop defining and limiting your future in terms of your past and start defining it in terms of your God.”

When we have a spirit of fear instead of the confidence that comes from a right relationship with God through Jesus, the smallest of things sends us ducking for cover! “As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall.” (Leviticus 26:36 NASB) 

God says, “Fear not—there is nothing to fear—for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand of rightness and justice.” (Isaiah 41:10 AMPC)

“When God calls you to be free from fear (to overcome this natural emotion and have peace), He does not leave the command hanging in the air. He puts pillars under it. Five of them in Isaiah 41:10. That’s the nature of all biblical commands. They come with divine support.

  1. Fear not . . . God is with you.
  2. Fear not . . . God is your God
  3. Fear not . . . God will strengthen you.
  4. Fear not . . . God will help you.
  5. Fear not . . . God will uphold you.” —John Piper

When we grasp that God is with us, that God is helping us, that God is bigger than the things we wrongly fear, there is nothing we cannot do! 

As Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, and let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For there is nothing to prevent the Lord from saving by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6 AMPC)

O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by Your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for You! (Jeremiah 32:17 NLT)

“Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (Matthew 17:20 MSG)

The Way Of The Warrior (book review)

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for “Martial Arts Theater” on Saturday afternoons! My friends and I would gather at my house with our snacks and watch a movie with outstanding martial arts action, and then run outside to try to practice what we had just watched. In these movies, I was always intrigued by the reluctant hero—the guy who had enough skill to snap your neck with his little finger, but who didn’t want to fight. When the bad guys finally crossed the line, our hero would instantly spring into action to restore peace. These are the memories that came flooding back into my mind as I read Erwin McManus’ latest book The Way Of The Warrior.

The warrior is a peaceful man living in a hostile world. He is prepared to fight, but will only fight when it is the only option to restore peace in his community. The warrior is nobody’s fool, but neither does he flaunt his knowledge before fools. The warrior doesn’t seek honor for himself, but fights to secure a better future for those he loves. 

In short, the warrior is vividly portrayed on the pages of Scripture as the kind of man God delights to bless. McManus interweaves all of these concepts masterfully in his book. As I read, I found my mind flipping between images of my childhood martial arts movies, and heroes in the Bible, and the opportunities I have right now to be a warrior for peace. 

Like the ancient samurai, McManus instructs us in the eight codes of the God-honoring warrior. This type of warrior fights only for peace, seeks to become invisible, finds honor in serving others, gains mastery over his own thoughts, owns defeat, harnesses and channels his strengths, becomes one with all that’s around him, and stands unmoving in his pain. 

As is the case with all of McManus’ books that I have read, I find myself invigorated mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. After reading The Way Of The Warrior, I have a clearer picture of the type of warrior God has called His men to be. 

Guys, this is an excellent book for you to read on your own, but I would highly recommend that you read with other warriors. The concepts in this book will spark some much-needed conversation about how godly men should live in today’s culture.

I am a Waterbrook book reviewer. 

What’s Your Knee-Jerk Response To Trouble?

The patellar reflex is a helpful diagnostic tool for a doctor to check the health of your central nervous system. It’s commonly called the knee-jerk response. But beyond the medical world, it’s also come to mean “an immediate unthinking emotional reaction to certain stimuli.” This has implications for the health of our prayer life too. 

When Jesus talked about praying He never said, “If you pray,” but always “When you pray.” He assumed it would be a vital part of a Christian’s life. He also used a verb tense which would add an “ing” to the verb, so He was really saying, “When you are maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your Father.” 

So when something unexpected happens to us, Jesus wants us to say, “Why, my Father already knows about this!” This is the knee-jerk reaction Jesus wants to see. 

We see this on full display when Peter and John are told by the Jewish religious authorities not to talk about Jesus publicly anymore. When these men reported this threat to the rest of the church, notice their knee-jerk response: “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” 

There are two interesting things I notice in their prayer. The first thing is how they used the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as the template of their prayer. 

  • Our Father in HeavenSovereign Lord.
  • Hallowed be Your nameYou made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
  • Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heavenYour power and will decided beforehand what would happen. 
  • Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors“Consider their threats” was like saying, “Forgive us for inappropriate thoughts and forgive them for speaking ignorantly against Your name.”
  • Give us today our daily breadEnable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness today. 
  • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory foreverStretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders. May Your name be glorified!

The second thing I see in their prayer is that they stood on a biblical promise. They quoted the words of David from Psalm 2—words that had been penned nearly 1000 years earlier—and applied them to their present situation. 

What’s your knee jerk response to troubles? It’s an easy question to ask, and an easy answer to change.

When something comes at you from out of the blue, learn to say, “Why, my Father already knows about this!” Then find a biblical promise you can claim and turn that promise into a prayer modeled on Christ’s prayer. Pray that again and again until God provides the answer. 

Let’s make prayer our first response and not our last resort! 

Poetry Saturday—God, Thou Art Love

If I forget,
Yet God remembers! If these hands of mine
Cease from their clinging, yet the hands divine
Hold me so firmly that I cannot fall;
And if sometimes I am too tired to call
For Him to help me, then He reads the prayer 
Unspoken in my heart, and lifts my care.

I dare not fear, since certainly I know
That I am in God’s keeping, shielded so 
From all that else would harm, and in His power;
I tread no path in life to Him unknown;
Lift no burden, bear no pain, alone.
My soul a calm, sure hiding place has found:
The arms my life surround.

God, Thou art love! I build my faith on that.
I know Thee who has kept my path and made
Light for me in the darkness, tempering sorrow
So that it reached me like a solemn joy;
It were too strange that I should doubt Thy love. —Robert Browning

The Difficulty In Answered Prayer

Often it is simply the answers to our prayers that cause many of the difficulties in the Christian life.

We pray for patience, and our Father sends demanding people our way who test us to the limit, ‘because…suffering produces perseverance’ (Romans 5:3). …

We pray to be unselfish, and God gives us opportunities to sacrifice by placing other people’s needs first and by laying down our lives for other believers. …

We pray to the Lord, as His apostles did, saying, ‘Increase our faith!’ (Luke 17:5). Then our money seems to take wings and fly away; our children become critically ill; an employee becomes careless, slow, and wasteful; or some other new trial comes upon us, requiring more faith than we have ever before experienced.

We pray for a Christlike life that exhibits the humility of a lamb. Then we are asked to perform some lowly task, or we are unjustly accused and given no opportunity to explain….

We pray for gentleness and quickly face a storm of temptation to be harsh and irritable. 

We pray for quietness, and suddenly every nerve is tested to its limit with tremendous tension so that we may learn that when He sends His peace, no one can disturb it.

We pray for love for others, and God sends unique suffering by sending people our way who are difficult to love and who say things that get on our nerves and tear at our heart. …

The way to peace and victory is to accept every circumstance and every trial as being straight from the hand of our loving Father.” —Lettie Cowman, in Streams in the Desert (emphasis added)

Thursdays With Oswald—Swine And Testimonies

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

Swine And Testimonies

     Jesus Christ is inculcating the need to examine carefully what we present in the way of God’s truth to others [Matthew 7:6]. … 

     Over and over again men water down the Word of God to suit those who are not spiritual, and consequently the Word of God is trampled under the feet of “swine.” Ask yourself, “Am I in any way flinging God’s truth to unspiritual swine?” “Be careful,” Jesus says, “not to give God‘s holy things to ‘dogs.’” …  

     Our Lord never tells us to confess anything but Himself, ‘Whosoever…shall confess ME before men…’ (Matthew 10:32). Testimonies to the world on the subjective line are always wrong, they are for saints, for those who are spiritual and who understand; but our testimony to the world is our Lord Himself, confess Him, “He saved me, He sanctified me, He put me right with God.” … 

     If we are only true to a doctrine of Christianity instead of to Jesus Christ, we drive our ideas home with sledge-hammer blows, and the people who listen to us say, “Well, that may be true”; but they resent the way it is presented. When we follow Jesus Christ the domineering attitude and the dictatorial attitude go and concentration Jesus comes in. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

The apostle Paul also talked about wanting to make sure that Jesus was seen above all else. More harm than good is done when we talk about our personal experiences with God, which have now become our personal doctrines about God. 

Let God be as unique with others as He is with you. Don’t make other people fall in line with what you believe. Just point them to Jesus. As Chambers says, our testimony should be nothing but “He saved me, He sanctified me, He put me right with God.” Anything else, and we run the risk of casting pearl before swine. 

9 Quotes From “God’s Promises”

God’s Promises by Jack Countryman is a wonderful resource to help you use the Bible to enhance your prayer life and build your faith. Check out my full review of this fantastic book by clicking here.

“Each day we can look forward to God’s Spirit going before, clearing the way, leading the path, and giving us the guidance we need. … But God doesn’t stop at mere survival. He doesn’t just satisfy and strengthen. Though there will be difficulties and times of drought in our lives, God guides us to His living waters. He enables us to flourish ‘like a watered garden,’ where His blessings always bloom.” [Isaiah 58:11] 

“When life darkens our door with its troubles and trials, satan wants nothing more than for us to feel forsaken and alone—but we are not! God stands by our side; He guides, counsels, and comforts. Rest assured, no matter what you face in the coming year, nothing can separate you from the love of your Father (Romans 8:38-39). Therefore walk boldly into each new day, knowing that you follow the footsteps of the One who never leaves you.” [Deuteronomy 31:8] 

“Troubles are never pleasant at the time, but they quickly turn into tools when entrusted to God. Our Lord will take our times of troubles and trials—even the hard feelings we experience in them—then use them to teach us to fully rely on Him and His provision.” [Psalm 138:7] 

“Our God is a loving God, but He isn’t Santa Claus or a genie in a bottle. Our God loves to give good gifts, but in His economy the best gifts are not tangible or material. Yes, our God feels compassion when we hurt, but He still allows hardships into our lives that will refine our character and strengthen our faith. Against the backdrop of these truths, we can better understand the often-misread statement that God will give us the desires of our hearts. The real promise of this verse is that, as we pray, read His Word, and grow closer to the Lord, He will change our hearts so that what we desire for ourselves is what He desires for us.” [Psalm 37:4] 

“Mercy. We don’t deserve it. We haven’t done—can’t possibly do—anything to earn it. And yet we are promised that this unbelievably lavish gift is ours when we choose to follow Jesus. Why? Why would such a perfect and powerful God gives such a gift to ones so undeserving? He tells us in Titus 3:4: because of ‘the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man.’ And He not only gave us mercy, He also ‘poured out on us abundantly’ His own Spirit, to live and work within us, making us more and more like the Savior who died to save us.” [Titus 3:4-6] 

“Our God is not some fickle, capricious, changeable sort of God. He does not search out ways to be angry or displeased with His people. In fact, He so wants to be pleased with us that He gave us the example of His Son to follow.” [Ephesians 5:2] 

“When our burdens and sorrows seem too heavy for us to bear, God offers to carry them for us, inviting us to cast them upon Him (Psalm 55:22). And when the sorrow is so great that we feel we cannot put one foot in front of the other, God gives us this promise: ‘I will carry you; I will sustain you’ (Isaiah 46:4).” 

“Perhaps nothing is as devastating as being betrayed by someone you love and trust. Know that Jesus—betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter—fully understands. He will enable you to recover. The key, as hard as it is, is to pray for that person and ask God to bless him or her. When you pray to God—and you may have to do this again and again—you release the anger and disappointment that come with being betrayed. It is difficult to despise someone you lift up in prayer. And though retaliating is a natural response, it’s not a godly one. Praying is always the best option. Allow the Lord to receive your hurt and to replace it with His peace.” [Psalm 3:4, 6] 

“When we place our faith in Christ, the stormy seas of our lives—churned up by our own sins—are stilled. And while the storms may still rage around us in this sin-plagued world, they do not rage within us. That does not mean our troubles and tribulations are over, but it does mean we can rest in knowing God will see us through them.” [Romans 5:1] 

Be The 1-In-10

“…ten men who were lepers…” (Luke 17:12). 

Lepers were outcasts in society. Unable to participate in normal daily activities, unable to go to the temple to worship God, even unable to be with their family. These ten lepers encountered Jesus and did two positive things. But 9-of-10 lepers also did two sad things. 

(+) They knew to call on Jesus for help—“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 

(+) They took Jesus at His word. Their healing happened as they obeyed Christ’s words—“‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” 

(-) Only one cleansed leper came back to praise God for his healing. 

(-) Only one was pronounced “well” by Jesus. All ten lepers were “cleansed,” which simply meant they were ceremonially clean and could once again participate in daily life and temple worship. But only one was made completely “well.” The Greek word is sozo, which means saved from eternal destruction. The same word is used to describe what Jesus came to do for us: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save [sozo] His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). 

“What a rare thing is thankfulness.… ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?’ The lesson before us is humbling, heart-searching, and deeply instructive. The best of us are far too like the nine lepers. We are more ready to pray than to praise, and more disposed to ask God for what we have not, than to thank Him for what we have. … If we would be anxious for nothing, we must make our requests known to God not only with prayer and supplication, but with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).” —J.C. Ryle (emphasis mine) 

Probably all of us experience daily blessings from our good God, yet many of us never acknowledge Him as the Source of those blessings. We just accept the blessing and then keep on walking. 

Let’s be the 1-in-10! 

Let’s be quick to recognize God’s blessings. Let’s always remember that He does more than give us strength for today, but He saves [sozo] us entirely from eternal destruction. Let’s be the ones who always return—day after day after day—to give glory to God! 

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