Thursdays With Oswald—Don’t Judge Others

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.

Don’t Judge Others

     This statement of our Lord’s [Matthew 7:2] is not a haphazard guess, it is an eternal law which works from God’s throne right down (see Psalm 18:25-26). … Life serves back in the coin you pay; you are paid back not necessarily are the same person, but the law holds —“for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” …

     In Romans 2, this principle is applied still more definitely—I am guilty myself of what I criticize in another. Every wrong I see in you, God locates in me; every time I judge you, I condemn myself. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” [v. 1]. …

     We have judged our fellow-men as sinners; if God had judged us like that we would be in hell. God judges us through the marvelous Atonement of Jesus Christ.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Jesus warns us against judging people by a different standard that even God Himself uses! Can you imagine that we think we actually know better than God does who should be punished and who should be spared?!

The trouble is, we cannot see inside the other person’s heart so we judge by mere outward appearances. We ended up judging the other person by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions. How utterly unfair! 

We are in a far better place to simply let the Holy Spirit help us deal with the beams in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3-5), and let the Holy Spirit deal with others too. There is no good in my being involved in any judgments at all! 

The Impossible Prayer

We have been looking at some bold pray-ers in the Bible, but today’s example takes it to a whole new level by praying an “impossible” prayer! Here are 4 valuable lessons we can learn from the prayer of Joshua. 

When this story opens, the city of Gibeon is calling on the Israelites to help them. Five Amorite kings have all ganged up on Gibeon because of the treaty they made with Israel, and they intended to crush them into oblivion! 

Joshua—without any debate, consultation, or hesitation—mobilizes his forces. Notice that there are no half-measures or hedging his bets. Joshua marches out with the entire army, including all of his elite warriors to rescue Gibeon. 

Joshua’s troops marched all night to cover the 21-miles to get to Gibeon by daybreak. Modern-day military experts say that an army can cover about 20-25 miles before they are at the point of total exhaustion, so Joshua took his men right up to this point. But this all-night march surprised the five attacking armies, so much so that the Bible says God threw those enemies into a panic and God even fought for them, raining hailstones down on the Amorites that killed more men than the Israelites did in their attack! 

After an all-night march and an all-day battle, the Amorites are on the run. This is when Joshua prays his “impossible” prayer. He asks God to let the earth stop rotating so that the sun and moon in the sky will give the Israelites enough light to complete their victory!!

AND GOD DOES IT!! 

How could Joshua pray such an “impossible” prayer like this? 

  1. He had already seen God do the “impossible” like drying up the Jordan River and knocking down the supposedly impenetrable walls of Jericho.
  2. God already told Joshua, “I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” Joshua didn’t put an asterisk on God’s word—if God said every enemy would be defeated, that’s what Joshua was claiming. 
  3. Joshua was already moving forward in faith. He wasn’t sitting around waiting for God to do something. He was letting his marching be his praying. 
  4. By publicly praying this “impossible” thing, Joshua was ensuring that God would receive all the glory. The Bible says that Joshua prayed “with all Israel listening.” 

The sun stopped in its tracks in mid-sky; just sat there all day. There’s never been a day like that before or since—God took orders from a human voice! Truly, God fought for Israel (v. 14, The Message).

What about you? Does it feel like your problems are ganging up on you like a bunch of bullies? You, too, can pray an “impossible” prayer like Joshua did—

  1. Get God’s Word—what promise will you stand on? Don’t put any asterisks in there! 
  2. Know God’s peace—God told Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them.” 
  3. Watch God confuse your enemies—when the Israelites showed up God “threw them into confusion,” which literally means He discombobulated them so they couldn’t coordinate their counter-attack on Israel. 
  4. Publicly pray an “impossible” prayer while you fight! Tell others what your “impossible” prayer is so that God gets all the glory.

Join me this Sunday as we learn from another bold pray-er from the pages of Scripture. 

Thursdays With Oswald—The Holy Spirit’s Spring-Cleaning

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.

The Holy Spirit’s Spring-Cleaning

     A man’s character cannot be summed up by what he does in spots, but only by what he is in the main trend of his existence. … In Matthew 7 our Lord is dealing with the need to make character. First up: The uncritical temper.

     Criticism is part of the ordinary faculty of the man, he has a sense of humor—a sense of proportion, he sees where things are wrong and pulls the other fellow to bits; but Jesus says, “As a disciple, cultivate the uncritical temper.” In the spiritual domain, criticism is love turned sour. In a wholesome spiritual life there is no room for criticism. …  

     No human being dare criticize another human being, because immediately he does he puts himself in a superior position to the one he criticizes. … That is never the work of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost alone is in the true position of a critic; He is able to show what is wrong without wounding and hurting. … If we let these searchlights go straight down to the root of our spiritual life we will see you why Jesus says, “Don’t judge”; we won’t have time to. Our whole life is to be lived so in the power of God that He can pour through us rivers of living water to others. …  

     Jesus says of criticism, “Apply it to yourself, never to anyone else.” … It is impossible to develop the characteristics of a saint and maintain a critical attitude. The first thing the Holy Spirit does is to give us a spring-cleaning….

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

The dictionary defines criticism as the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality something. Jesus is looking for disciples whose character-in-action brings glory to our heavenly Father. 

One area in which we all need to have the loving, penetrating searching of the Holy Spirit is in the area of our criticism We can criticize—but only ourselves; never others. We can criticize ourselves—but only in the loving eyes of the Holy Spirit who knows best how to give us a proper spring-cleaning. 

13 Quotes On The Gospel Of Luke

J.C. Ryle has given us a wonderful commentary on the Gospels in his Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. Check out my full book review here, and then enjoy a few quotes from Ryle’s insights on the Gospel of Luke.

“Lay firm hold on Bible promises. It is of the deepest importance to our peace to do so. Promises are, in fact, the manna that we should daily eat and the water that we should daily drink as we travel through the wilderness of this world.” 

“Christ’s loving kindness to His people never changes and never fails. It is a deep well of which no one ever found the bottom.” 

“There is not enough of a missionary spirit among Christians. It should not satisfy us to be safe ourselves. We ought also to try to do good to others. All cannot go to the heathen, but every believer should strive to be a missionary to his fellow man.” 

“No man shall ever be a loser in the long run by deeds of self-denying charity and patient love. At times he may seem to get nothing by his conduct. He may appear to reap nothing but ridicule, contempt, and injury. His kindness may sometimes tempt men to impose on him. His patience and forbearance may be abused. But at the last he will always be found a gainer.” 

“Have we the word of Christ’s promises? Then let us rest on it and fear nothing. Let us not doubt that every word that Christ has spoken shall be made good. The word of Christ is a sure foundation. He that leans upon it shall never be confounded.” 

“How much we ought to hate sin! Instead of loving it, cleaving to it, dallying with it, excusing it, playing with it, we ought to hate it with a deadly hatred. Sin is the great murderer, and thief, and pestilence, and nuisance of this world. Let us make no peace with it. Let us wage a ceaseless warfare against it.” 

“We must give up the vain idea of trying to please everybody. The thing is impossible and the attempt is mere waste of time. We must be content to walk in Christ’s steps and let the world say what it likes. Do what we will we shall never satisfy it or silence its ill-natured remarks. It first found fault with John the Baptist and then with his blessed Master. And it will go on caviling and finding fault with that Master’s disciples so long as one of them is left up on earth.” 

“Occasional retirement, self-inquiry, meditation, and secret communion with God are absolutely essential to spiritual health. The man who neglects them is in great danger of a fall. To be always preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and working public works is, unquestionably, a sign of zeal. But it is not always a sign of zeal according to knowledge. It often leads to untoward consequences. We must make time occasionally for sitting down and calmly looking within, and examining how matters stand between our own selves and Christ. The omission of the practice is the true account of many a backsliding which shocks the church and gives occasion to the world to blaspheme.” 

“Let us beware of allowing traditions, old preconceived notions, unsound interpretations, or baseless theories in religion to find a root in our hearts. There is but one test of truth: ‘What says the Scripture?’” 

“The kindness of a Christian towards others should not be in word and in tongue only, but in deed and in truth. His love should be a practical love, a love which entails on him self-sacrifice and self-denial, both in money, and time and trouble. His charity should be seen not merely in his talking but his acting—not merely in his profession but in his practice. He should think it no misspent time to work as hard in doing good to those who need help as others work in trying to get money. … Such brotherly love the world may not understand. The returns of gratitude which such love meets with may be few and small. But to show such brotherly love is to walk in the steps of Christ. … What are we doing to help those who are troubled in mind, body, or estate? There are many such in this world. There are always some near our own door. What are we doing for them? Anything, or nothing at all? May God help us to answer these questions! The world would be a happier world if there was more practical Christianity.” 

“Never let us forget that to be content with sitting in the congregation and hearing sermons, while we bear no fruit in our lives, is conduct which is most offensive to God.” 

“Let us endeavor to live daily in the sight of a holy God. So living, it will matter little how much we are ‘watched’ by an ill-natured and malicious world. Let us exercise ourselves to have a conscience void of offense toward God and man, and to do nothing which can give occasion to the Lord’s enemies to blaspheme.” 

“An idea appears to prevail in some men’s minds that true religion may be separated from common honesty, and that soundness about matters of doctrine may cover over swindling and cheating in matters of practice! Against this wretched idea our Lord’s words were a plain protest. Against this idea let us watch and be on our guard.” 

You can read Ryle’s quote on The Gospel of Matthew here, and on the Gospel of Mark here. 

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (book review)

Taking a journey with a tour guide who knows the terrain and the customs is always so much more rewarding than simply following the directions of some far-removed travel agent. In journeying through the four Gospels of the New Testament, a premier tour guide is close by in Kenneth Bailey and his book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. 

All of us bring our own paradigms with us wherever we go. There is a certain way we see the world, and everything gets processed through those lenses. My natural bias, when I pick up the New Testament is to read it through my lenses of a 21st-century American. But Jesus lived in a specific time and place in world history. He lived as a Jewish man in Israel during the time the Roman Empire held sway over world affairs. 

If I try to read about a 1st-century Eastern world through 21st-century Western eyes, I will be missing so much of the richness. Kenneth Bailey lived and taught and was immersed in the middle eastern culture for decades. So with his western understandings and middle-eastern insights, he treats us to vistas of Scripture that I hadn’t seen before. 

Bailey is a first-rate scholar, but by no means is this book an academic study. On the contrary, Bailey’s scholarship will make the accounts of the life of Jesus come to life before your eyes! You will be noticing nuances and insights that you probably missed in all your previous readings. 

If you want to experience the Gospels in a new, exciting way, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you take Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes along with you for the journey! 

Come And See What Our God Has Done

Check out the opening verses of Psalm 66—

Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
Sing about the glory of His name!
Tell the world how glorious He is.
Say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!
    Your enemies cringe before Your mighty power.
    Everything on earth will worship You;
    they will sing Your praises,
    shouting Your name in glorious songs.” Interlude 
Come and see what our God has done,
    what awesome miracles He performs for people! (66:1-5 NLT)

I’d like to explore with you this phrase—come and see what our God has done. 

In so many of the Psalms we get at least a little context. We might be told the type of song it is or the kinds of musical instruments to be sung. We might know who wrote the psalm or at least why he wrote it. We might even hear what was happening in the psalmist’s world at the time he wrote the song or maybe at what event he wanted the song to be sung. All of these things would give us context clues into when/where to use the song—when I’m afraid? when I’m under attack? when I’m happy? when I’m depressed? 

For this psalm all the context we know is—For the choir director: A song. A psalm. 

But let me ask you: does it really matter? If you’re up or down, flush with cash or barely hanging on, winning the fight or feeling like you’re being beaten down—in any circumstance, can you still say come and see what our God has done? 

I think the answer is yes. I think this is the reason why no context is given us, because this psalm is appropriate regardless of the circumstances.

Just as the apostle Paul wrote, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

As Christians, we’ve been called to step alongside people in their messy, broken lives. Yes, we are to weep with those who weep, but we’re not to keep them there but to take them to the One who can heal their messy, broken lives. 

The reasons to say, “Come and see what our God has done” are all around us. 

Earth’s crammed with heaven, 
And every common bush afire with God; 
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, 
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries, 
And daub their natural faces unaware. —Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Don’t just pluck blackberries; realize that those berries are the produce of a loving Creator. Don’t miss the opportunities to give God glory. Good times are wonderful opportunities to start. But those are just the starting points. Find the reasons even in hard times—I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Anywhere … everywhere … no matter the context … HE IS STILL GOD. He is still worthy to be praised. There is still ample reason for us to say, “Come and see what our God has done!” 

Thursdays With Oswald—The Leap Of Faith

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.

The Leap Of Faith

     Suppose Jesus tells you to do something that is an enormous challenge to your common sense, what are you going to do—hang back? If once your nerves are in the habit of doing anything physically, you will do it every time, until you break the habit deliberately; and the same is true spiritually. Over and over again you will get up to what Jesus wants and turn back every time when it comes to the point, like a man balking a hurdle, until you break the habit and abandon resolutely. Jesus Christ demands of the man who trusts in Him the same reckless sporting spirit that the natural man in exhibits in his life. If a man is going to do anything worthwhile, there are times when he has to risk everything on a leap, and in the spiritual world Jesus Christ demands that we risk everything we hold by our common sense and the leap into what He says. Immediately we do, we find that what He says fits on as solidly as our common sense.

     Following Jesus Christ is a risk absolutely; we must yield right over to Him, and that is where our infidelity comes in, we will not trust what we cannot see, we will not believe what we cannot trace, then it is all up with our discipleship. The great word of Jesus to His disciples is Abandon. When God has brought us into the relationship of disciples, we have to venture on His Word; trust entirely to Him and watch that when He brings us to the venture, we take it. …  

     It is not only wrong to worry, it is real infidelity because it means we do not believe God can look after the little practical details of our lives, it is never anything else that worries us. Notice what Jesus said would choke the Word He puts in—the devil? No, the cares of this world. That is how infidelity begins. It is ‘the little foxes that spoil the vines,’ the little worries always. The great cure for infidelity is obedience to the Spirit of God. Refuse to be swamped by the cares of this world, cut out nonessentials and continually revise your relationship to God and see that you are concentrated absolutely on Him. … 

     At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements are those of a fool; but bring them to the bar of faith and the Word of God, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Wow, I don’t think I can add anything else to that! Except to repeat Chamber’s words: “If a man is going to do anything worthwhile, there are times when he has to risk everything on a leap.” 

Do you trust God enough to take a faith leap beyond your common sense? 

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