Keep Up Your Spiritual Health

In Workmen Of God, we have a collection of lectures Oswald Chambers delivered to those “reliable men” and women (see 2 Timothy 2:2) who were either already working in pastoral ministry or preparing to do so. Chambers talks to pastors about their work among those entrenched in their unbelief, those who are skeptical, those who are backslidden, those who are hypocrites, and those who have sick souls. He especially challenges pastors on how to minister to themselves so that they are prepared to minister to any soul in which God brings them in contact.

It’s in that light that I think this passage is so vital for anyone involved in Christian ministry—

“So remember, it is absolutely necessary to be like the cedars of Lebanon. Do you know the characteristic of a Lebanon tree? The cedars of Lebanon have such extraordinary power of life that instead of nourishing the parasites it kills them, the life within is so strong and so robust that instead of feeding the parasites it chokes them off. God grant that we may be so filled with His life, may flourish as the cedars of Lebanon, so that He can trust us down in all the dark, difficult places amongst the souls of our brother men and be able to pour His tremendous health and power through us. … 

“Do you remember, then, that it is necessary for the worker to be healthy, and beware of this mistake, that by working for God amongst men, you develop your own Christian life; you do not unless your Christian life is there first. It is so obvious that it needs to be said over again—you cannot develop your own Christian life unless it is there. The advice given that if you work for God you develop your own life often means that if you work for God you get right yourself; you do not, you have to be right with God first.” 

Pastors and other Christian workers, remember that you cannot give to others what you do not have yourself. You MUST make regular time to abide with Jesus, not for sermon preparation, but for your own robust spiritual health. 

Although written over 100 years ago, this book is still a treasure-trove for anyone in church ministry today!

Poetry Saturday—Out Of Touch With Your Lord

Only a smile, yes, only a smile,
That a woman o’er burdened with grief
Expected from you; ‘twould have given relief
For her heart ache sore the while;
But weary and cheerless she went away,
Because as it happened, that very day
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a word, yes, only a word,
That the Spirit’s small voice whispered, “Speak”;
But the worker passed onward, unblessed and weak,
Whom you were meant to have stirred
To courage, devotion and love anew,
Because when the message came to you,
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a note, yes, only a note,
From a friend in a distant land;
The Spirit said, “Write,” but then you had planned
Some different work, and you thought
It mattered little, you did not know
‘Twould have saved a soul from sin and woe;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a song, yes, only a song,
That the Spirit said, “Sing tonight—
Thy voice is thy Master’s by purchased right“;
But you thought, “Mid this motley throng
I care not to sing of the City of Gold,”
And the heart that your words might have reached grew cold;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a day, yes, only a day!
But, oh, can you guess, my friend,
Where the influence reaches, and where it will end
Of the hours that you frittered away?
The Master’s command is, “Abide in Me,”
And fruitless and vain will your service be,
If “out of touch“ with your Lord. —Jean H. Watson

Fasting Power

We are always engaged in an intense spiritual battle. Sometimes we feel the intensity of the battle, sometimes we don’t. But it’s always happening. 

This is why we need to make prayer an ongoing discipline. If we do, we will be much more likely to turn to prayer when we feel the intense moments, and our faith in those intense moments will be strengthened and ready to respond. 

Every day we are either preparing or repairing. Prayer is either helping us prepare for the challenges we will be facing, or it’s helping us recover from the battle we just fought. Believe me: it’s much better to be preparing than it is to be repairing!

One time the disciples of Jesus got stymied in a spiritual battle. A father brought his demon-possessed son to them, asking that they cast out the demon. But this distraught father then had to report to Jesus, “They couldn’t do it” (see Matthew 17:14-21). 

Why couldn’t they? These men had been taught how to pray by Jesus Himself, and they already had experienced ministry success (Matthew 6:9-13; Mark 6:13). So were they stumped now? 

Jesus told them, “It’s because you have so little faith.” He went on to tell them that these intense spiritual battles require an ongoing lifestyle of prayer. Jesus wasn’t suggesting that they should have said to that father, “Come back in a few days after we have prayed and fasted.” 

But what Jesus was really saying was that all of us need to stay connected to the Source of our spiritual power at every single moment (John 15:5, 7). Sometimes this requires taking our eyes off ourselves and our own appetites. 

In a word: we need to fast. 

The word fasting means “to cover the mouth” or “to close the mouth.” 

  • often fasting is in response to calamity or as a sign of mourning 
  • sometimes it’s alongside an intense prayer 
  • ideally it should be a regular discipline in our lives. In Matthew 6:16-18, notice the phrase “when you fast.” Not “if you fast,” but when. Jesus assumed that we would do this, and since this teaching appears right after Jesus teaches us how to pray, it makes sense that prayer and fasting go well together.  

Fasting is not…

Fasting intensifies our focus on God in the quiet times so that we can keep our eyes on Him in the crashing storms. 

Fasting helps us tune in to the unmistakable Voice of the Holy Spirit in the peaceful moments so that we can still recognize His Voice in the tumult of battle. 

Is there a comfort food you tend to run to? Is there a coping activity that you typically use to de-stress? Is there someone or something other than God that is your go-to in times of trouble? Perhaps we should start there and fast from those things for a short period of time. 

Fasting in the quiet times will strengthen us for the intense battle times. 

Let’s prepare daily for victory, instead of having to repair after a failure.

Poetry Saturday—Out Of Touch With Your Lord

Only a smile, yes, only a smile,
That a woman o’er burdened with grief
Expected from you; ‘twould have given relief
For her heart ache sore the while;
But weary and cheerless she went away,
Because as it happened, that very day
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a word, yes, only a word,
That the Spirit’s small voice whispered, “Speak”;
But the worker passed onward, unblessed and weak,
Whom you were meant to have stirred
To courage, devotion and love anew,
Because when the message came to you,
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a note, yes, only a note,
From a friend in a distant land;
The Spirit said, “Write,” but then you had planned
Some different work, and you thought
It mattered little, you did not know
‘Twould have saved a soul from sin and woe;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a song, yes, only a song,
That the Spirit said, “Sing tonight—
Thy voice is thy Master’s by purchased right“;
But you thought, “Mid this motley throng
I care not to sing of the City of Gold,”
And the heart that your words might have reached grew cold;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a day, yes, only a day!
But, oh, can you guess, my friend,
Where the influence reaches, and where it will end
Of the hours that you frittered away?
The Master’s command is, “Abide in Me,”
And fruitless and vain will your service be,
If “out of touch“ with your Lord. —Jean H. Watson

What We Can Know

… we know … (1 John 3:16, 19, 24; 4:2, 6, 13; 5:2, 13, 19, 20).

God clearly reveals Himself to us so that it is not a mystery of how to abide with Him. 

The word John uses for “know” in the Greek is ginosko. This is a knowledge through personal, firsthand experience; not knowledge someone told us about secondhand. 

God reveals Himself in Creation, in His law, in the rituals of worship, in our conscience, and in the voice of the prophets. Ultimately—and most unmistakably of all—God reveals Himself in Jesus (John 14:9). 

So here are 8 things we can now know…

  1. We know true love because of the sacrifice of Jesus (3:16; 4:7-10).
  2. We know we have God’s love in us by the way we treat others (3:17-19; 4:11; 4:20-21).
  3. We know our hearts our confident by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit Who assures us that we abide in God and He in us (3:20-24).
  4. We know how to discern deceptive spirits (4:1-6).
  5. We know what it means to be confident on Judgment Day (4:12-19).
  6. We know that loving others fulfills God’s commands (5:1-13).
  7. We know God hears our prayers (5:14-17).
  8. We know that we can be victorious over sin (5:18-21).

WE KNOW!

No doubts, no ambiguity. It’s crystal clear, pure knowledge through Him Who loves us!  

Thursdays With Oswald—Bridging The Unbridgeable Gap

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.

Bridging The Unbridgeable Gap

     When you read a book about life, life looks simple; but when you actually face the facts of life you find they do not come into the simple lines laid down in a book. An idea is like a searchlight, it lights up what it does and no more, while daylight reveals a hundred and one facts the searchlight had not taken into account. … To treat the Sermon on the Mount merely as an ideal is misleading. It is not an ideal, it is a statement of the working out of Jesus Christ’s disposition in actuality in the life of any man. … 

     No man is so labored as the man who has ideals which he cannot carry out. Jesus Christ says to such, “Come unto Me…and I will give you rest,” i.e., “I will ‘stay’ you, put something into you which will make the ideal and the actual one.” Without Jesus Christ there is an unbridgeable gap between the ideal and the actual; the only way out is a personal relationship to Him. The salvation of God not only saves a man from hell, but alters his actual life.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

The words Jesus taught are more real than any other teaching anyplace. In another book, Chambers notes, “Jesus Christ’s view is that the Christian religion has been tried and abandoned, but never been tried and failed.” How true! 

But we cannot try to live out Christ’s words in our own strength. Trying to live this way will result in frustration and abandonment. Instead, Jesus reminds us that we are to be yoked to Him. We are to be as connected to Him as a branch is to its vine. The branch doesn’t beg and plead for the life-giving sap to flow into it, but simply as it abides it cannot help but receive all of the nutrients the vine supplies. 

So too with us as Christians. Don’t try to do Christian things—just abide in Jesus and you cannot help but have a new outlook, a new strength, and new fruit of the Spirit blossoming from your life! 

Common Sense Or Trust

“God expects of us the one thing that glorifies Him—and that is to remain absolutely confident in Him. … 

“Can you trust Jesus Christ where your common sense cannot trust Him? ‘Abide in Me,’ says Jesus, in spiritual matters, in money matters, in every one of the matters that make life what it is.” —Oswald Chambers, in Run Today’s Race

How Confident Are Your Prayers?

David hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s never tried to lead a rebellion against King Saul. In fact, he’s never even talked poorly about Saul. And yet Saul is out to kill David!

David tries to get as far away as he can, choosing to live in the desert so that he might get some relief from Saul. Still Saul comes after him with a force of 3000 men! Every time David moves, Saul’s men are hot on his trail. David described his situation like this

My mortal enemies surround me. Their hearts are cold and calloused toward me, and they speak terrible things about me. They track me down and surround me. They are like hungry lions, crouching, waiting to pounce on me!

If you were in David’s sandals, how confident would you be that God could get you out of the situation? Remarkably, David’s confidence was as high as it could be!

David not only was confident that God would hear him, but that He would listen to him. More than that, David knew God would pay attention to him. And then David boldly said, “I call on You, O God, for you WILL answer me.”

How could David pray such a confident prayer? The answer is in this principle…

There is a direct correlation between intimacy and confidence.

David made two very intimate claims about his relationship with God:

  1. You will keep me as the apple of Your eye
  2. You hide me in the shadow of Your wings

The apple of the eye is the pupil. Our eyes are amazingly designed to not only take in information but to protect themselves. If something is getting too close to our eye, the eyelids blink in protection faster than we can consciously tell them to. So David was claiming that God would protect him by reflex!

The shadow of Your wings was a reference to the top of the Ark of the Covenant; a place called the mercy seat. Here is where the priest sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial lamb to atone for the people’s sin and to appeal to God’s mercy. The mercy seat was over-shadowed by two angels’ wings.

David was saying that God kept him in this intimate place—covered by God’s mercy and protection!

Jesus also told us about intimate confidence when He said, “If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

  • Intimacy: remain IN Jesus, and let His words remain IN you
  • Confidence: ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you

Are your prayers this confident? If not, don’t work on raising your confidence, but work on increasing your intimacy. Check your intimacy level with questions like:

  • Am I abiding in Jesus?
  • Are His words abiding in me?
  • Do I have any unconfessed sin?
  • Is my prayer a “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” prayer?

Focus on intimacy, and then watch your confidence soar! 

If you are interested in learning more about the prayers of David, I have also discussed his prayer for help, his prayer of crying out loud, and his prayer of praise.

8 Quotes From “Live Dead Journey”

Live Dead Journey are notes from missionaries on the front lines. You can check out my book review by clicking here. One of the things that stood out to me was the focus of these “tour guides” on their time abiding with Jesus. Here are some quotes that share their heart on this.

“Abiding time is extravagant daily time with Jesus.” –Dick Brogden

“Jesus spent close to 90 percent of His life in a village of twelve families, and even His three years of ministry were characterized by time alone with the Father. Moses spent forty years in Midian and had multiple trips to the mountain with God. Paul spent thirteen years in preparation, some of it in the Arabian Desert, and prayed constantly. Adam, Joseph, David, Elijah, Daniel, Mary, John, and others all gave God extravagant time. When we examine the lives of any heroes of the faith, we can see that they lingered daily with Jesus.” –Dick Brogden

“Jesus has become my safe place. When stability is not present in life here, I can lean on Him. When friends are not constant, Jesus is. He knows what I need and provides everything. Jesus is enough for me.” –Joy Hawthorne

“I’ve learned that not spending time with Jesus today is one step in not spending time with Him tomorrow.” –Miriam Davis

“One thing I have discovered is that I can’t survive throughout the day on just one block of time with Jesus. So at some other point in my day, I spend time basking in His presence. … Abiding is a lifestyle.” –Eva Bridges

“To help draw out the lessons from a passage, I now look for the following. Is there:

  • A command for me to obey?
  • A promise for me to claim?
  • A sin for me to avoid or repent of?
  • An example for me to follow (good) or avoid (bad)?
  • A truth to believe?
  • A prayer to pray?” –Jeff Griffin

“I’ve realized that what I desire I become–Jesus is my desire, and I want to be like Him.” –Cathy Stone

“How extravagant are you toward Jesus with your time? Do you lavish time on Jesus? Do you give Jesus the most energetic and focused times of your day? Or do you tend to give Jesus the crumbs of your schedule?” –Dick Brogden

Live Dead Journey (book review)

Live Dead is a call to missionaries to leave the comfortable and the familiar behind to take the message of Jesus where it hasn’t been taken before. In Live Dead Journey you will see twelve different mission fields in the Arabic world through the eyes of Live Dead personnel who are living and serving in those cities.

In each of twelve stops, you will have a fantastic tour of a key city in the Arabic world. Then you will hear from each of these missionaries how they are empowered to minister in such challenging fields. Each of them credits abiding time with Jesus, but they will share with you how this is personalized to each of them, in fitting with their own personality and temperament.

Live Dead is not to be undertaken lightly, but it’s an all-in commitment. “If we are to finish the task, there will be a cost. It will take blood and boldness, sweat and suffering, tears and tenacity. Some will be imprisoned, some will die, some will spend a lifetime of labor with little credit and little reward. All will have to live dead.” But the eternal rewards are so worth it!

Although this book is featuring the Arabic world, any Christian who desires to make an impact in his or her community will find ample encouragement in the words of these front-lines missionaries. As an added benefit, you will also know how to pray for and support these Live Dead missionaries.

I am a Live Dead Publishing book reviewer.

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