The Shadow Of An Agony (book review)

the-shadow-of-an-agonyWhat happens when all of your perfect plans, all of your neat and tidy ideas, come crashing down around you because of a tragedy? This is the topic Oswald Chambers took on in his book The Shadow Of An Agony when The Great War (or what we now call World War I) was ravaging the nations.

Many people have had their worldviews rocked because a tragedy hit them out of nowhere. What then? Do you throw out all you have believed was true? Oswald Chambers explorers this topic in depth in this book, and comes to the conclusion that these shaking events should send us back to the foundation of the Bible.

For example, Chambers says, “In the past the error of the Christian faith was that it paid no attention to a man’s actual life; it simply used human beings and made them catspaws for a religious line of things. The present error is that humanity utilizes Christianity; if Jesus Christ does not coincide with our line of things, we toss Him overboard; Humanity is on the throne. In the New Testament the point of view is God and Man in union.”

Throughout this book you will see that Jesus Christ stepped into our agony to make a way for us to go through it as more than conquerors.

In commenting on The Shadow Of An Agony, Samuel M. Zwemer said, “Oswald Chambers points out that because Jesus Christ is so like unto His brethren we can face this turmoil and stress, and stand with Him in the shadow of a great agony, undiscouraged and unafraid.”

And Pastor Walter H. Armstrong noted, “This book deals with root or rock principles. It comes, not from the surface, but ‘out of the depths.’ It is the work of a great brain and a great heart. It does not shirk the problems of life, but it looks them straight in the face. Over against the tragedy of sin and suffering it brings us to the tragedy of the Cross of Christ.”

If you are walking through a difficult time in your life, the insights Oswald Chambers shares in this book may be just the lifeline you’re looking for. This is also an excellent book to read to prepare yourself for any tragedies which may be lurking around the corner. Don’t get caught unaware, but use these faith-building thoughts to prepare you to stand firm through the trials of life.

Living Nativity (2016)

I am so happy that our church gets the opportunity to present the First Advent story to the Cedar Springs community each year!

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Little Is Not Insignificant

gods-promise-to-youPastor Phillips Brooks visited Israel in the mid-1800s. While there he visited a small church just outside of Bethlehem. Listening to the worshipful songs being sung in that quiet countryside, he was inspired to pen the words to O Little Town Of Bethlehem.

Because of that quiet setting, notice how Rev. Brooks notices things we often miss—

  • little town on Bethlehem
  • in thy dark streets
  • while mortals sleep
  • no ear may hear His coming

But little does not mean insignificant. And just because we can’t see or hear something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or it isn’t important.

Sometimes we’ve looked and listened and waited and searched for so long that we have given up and we begin to drift off to sleep. We continue to live in our own “little town” surrounded by silence. And we are in danger of missing a miracle right in our midst!

We know today that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But did you know that this little town was still so obscure in Christ’s day that many people in Israel were unaware of what went on there? (See John 7:41-43). Even after King Herod had gruesomely killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem, scarcely anyone outside of that town knew about it or cared about it.

But God cared. And He knew exactly what He was doing.

But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son (Galatians 4:4)—the exact right moment—to be born in Bethlehem—the exact right place (Micah 5:2). Notice even Micah says of Bethlehem though you are small among the clans of Judah, giving birth to the title of Rev. Brooks’ poem.

How small was it? Look at the description of the territory for the tribe of Judah (in Joshua 15), and you can easily glossed over the names of all of the towns. But look more closely and you will see something you didn’t read in that list of towns. Take a close look at all 38 cities: it’s still missing.

There are a couple of very notable figures that dominate the Old and New Testaments, and they have something in common—King David and Jesus both come from the tribe of Judah. And both of them were born in Bethlehem. But in the list of towns in Judah’s territory, there is absolutely no mention of Bethlehem.

This town either didn’t exist, or it was so “insignificant” that Joshua didn’t even think to mention it. It would be almost another 500 years before David would be born in Bethlehem, and then another 900 years after that before Jesus would be born in this little town of Bethlehem.

God had in mind for the greatest earthly king in Israel’s history and the King of all kings to come from such humble origins… from a village that didn’t even make the list. Bethlehem was ready for these kings at just the right moment!

Jesus said heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will never pass away. What promise in His Word do you need to cling to? 

Just as those awaiting the Messiah clung to Micah’s promise until it came to pass, you must find God’s promise for you in His Word, cling to it, and don’t let go until it comes to pass in your little town.

Poetry Saturday—Christmas Once Is Christmas Still

christmas-stockings-and-treeThe silent stars are full of speech
    For who hath ears to hear;
The winds are whispering each to each,
    The moon is calling to the beach,
And stars their sacred lessons teach
    Of Faith, and Love, and Fear.

But once the sky its silence broke,
    And song o’erflowed the earth,
The midnight air with glory shook,
    And Angels mortal language spoke,
When God our human nature took,
    In Christ the Savior’s birth.

And Christmas once is Christmas still;
    The gates through which He came,
And forest wild and murmuring rill,
    And fruitful field and breezy hill,
And all that else the wide world fill
    Are vocal with His name.

Shall we not listen while they sing
    This latest Christmas morn,
And music hear in everything,
    And faithful lives in tribute bring
To the great song which greets the King
    Who comes when Christ is born? —Phillips Brooks

Thursdays With Oswald—Life-Altering Regeneration

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.

Life-Altering Regeneration 

     Personality merges, and you only get your real identity when you are merged with another person. A man has his individuality transfigured when he falls in love. When love or the Spirit of God strikes a man or woman, they are transformed, they no longer insist on their separate individuality. Christianity is personal, therefore it is un-individual. … Our Lord never spoke in terms of individuality…but in terms of personality, “that they all may be one.” … 

     We are much more than we are conscious of being. Our Lord said the Holy Spirit would bring back into our conscious mind the things He had said. We never forget anything although often we cannot recall it; we hear it and it goes into the unconscious mind. Things go on in our unconscious minds that we know nothing about, and at any second they may burst up into our conscious life and perturb us. The Spirit of God enters into a man below the threshold of his consciousness. When He will emerge into a man’s conscious mind no one can say; when He does, there is an earthquake, and the man has to readjust his life in every particular. The Spirit of God entering into the spirit of a man brings a totally new relationship to things. … 

     If all Jesus can do is to tell me that I must be holy, be what I never can be, present me with an ideal I cannot come anywhere near, His teaching plants despair; He is nothing more than a tantalizer and I wish He had never come. But if He is a Regenerator, One who first of all can put into me His own heredity, then I see what He is driving at in the Sermon on the Mount—that the disposition He puts in is like His own. … 

     The Spirit of Christ comes into me by regeneration, then I have to begin to form the mind of Christ, begin to look at things from a different standpoint.

From The Shadow Of An Agony

Our Heavenly Father will never force His love on us. Jesus Christ will never make us receive Him. The Holy Spirit will never change us against our will.

But our Heavenly Father will direct our lives to bring us to our wits’ end. Jesus Christ will constantly woo us with His love. And the Holy Spirit will continually bring to our conscious mind all that Jesus says to us.

The choice is mine—Will I continue to live my life my way, or will I yield to the life-altering regeneration that the the Father, Son and Spirit lovingly offer to me?

8 Quotes From “More Than A Carpenter”

more-than-a-carpenterMore Than A Carpenter by Josh & Sean McDowell is a wonderful resource to prepare you to share the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Check out my book review by clicking here, and then enjoy these quotes that I especially found interesting.

“Why don’t the names of Buddha, Mohammed, or Confucius offend people the way the name of Jesus does? I think the reason is that these other religious leaders didn’t claim to be God.” —Josh McDowell

“It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal which through all the changes of eighteen centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love; has shown itself capable of acting on an all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions; has been not only the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice. … The simple record of these three short years of active fife has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the expectations of moralists.” —William Lecky, one of Great Britain’s most noted historians and a fierce opponent of organized Christianity

“This testimony [that Jesus was God], if not true, must be downright blasphemy or madness. … Self-deception in a matter so momentous, and with an intellect in all respects so clear and so sound, is equally out of the question. How could He be an enthusiast or a mad man who never lost the even balance of His mind, who sailed serenely over all the troubles and persecutions, as the sun above the clouds, who always returned the wisest answer to tempting questions, who calmly and deliberately predicted His death on the Cross, His resurrection on the third day, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the founding of His church, the distraction of Jerusalem—predictions which have been literally fulfilled? A character so original, so complete, so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and set so high above all human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction. The poet, as has been well said, would in this case be greater than the hero. It would take more than a Jesus to invent a Jesus.” —Philip Schaff

“There exists no document from the ancient world witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies, and offering so superb an array of historical data on which an intelligent decision may be made. An honest [person] cannot dismiss a source of this kind. Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based on an irrational bias.” —Clark H. Pinnock

“The Gospels tell us Jesus’ family, including James, were embarrassed by what He was claiming to be. They didn’t believe in Him; they confronted Him. In ancient Judaism it was highly embarrassing for a rabbi’s family not to accept him. Therefore, the Gospel writers would have no motive for fabricating this skepticism if it weren’t true. Later the historian Josephus tells us that James, the brother of Jesus, who was the leader of the Jerusalem church, was stoned to death because of his belief in his brother. Why did James’ life change? Paul tells us: the resurrected Jesus appeared to him. There’s no other explanation.” —J. P. Moreland

“The resurrection takes the question ‘Is Christianity valid?’ out of the realm of philosophy and makes it a question of history.”

“I believe in the resurrection, partly because a series of facts are unaccountable without it.” —Michael Ramsey, former Archbishop of Canterbury

“The Old Testament contains sixty major messianic prophecies and approximately 270 ramifications that were fulfilled in one Person, Jesus Christ. … We find the chances of just forty-eight of these prophecies being fulfilled in one person to be only 1 in 10157. … All of the prophecies about the Messiah were made at least four hundred years before He was to appear. … This description of the manner of [Christ’s] death was written eight hundred years before the Romans used crucifixion as a method of execution.” —Josh McDowell

I am always sharing quotes from More Than A Carpenter and other interesting authors regularly on both Twitter and Tumblr. Please make sure you are following me there as well to see these quotes as soon as they are posted.

The Carols Of Christmas

Carols Of ChristmasI heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

 

How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas, until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent.

There are some amazing messages in many of our old familiar Christmas carols, because many of those messages are saturated with the old familiar story of Redemption that the Bible tells over and over again.

Please join me this Sunday as we take a new look at the old familiar messages in our Christmas carols. These messages will bring a new appreciation of God’s love that was sung at Christ’s Advent, and reawaken the sweetness of meaning for this Christmas Day.

To get a taste of what we will be covering, check out the messages I have already shared on…

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