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. 

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!” 

People Are Watching 👀

 “…they watched Him closely… (Luke 14:1). 

The skeptics were always watching Jesus. As with our Master, so with us.

They wanted to find an inconsistency with which they could discount all that Jesus stood for. Thankfully, they found none! May the same be said of you and me.

May our lives and speech (or silence) never cause skeptics to discount the Gospel or—even worse—blaspheme God, nor may our lives cause a weak Christian to doubt or stumble.

This requires from us—

  • Self-awareness … I have to know my tendencies and avoid those things that cause offense.
  • Boldness … to speak the truth in love.
  • Knowledge of the Scripture … and its correct application.
  • God-confidence … so that we’re not intimidated by man’s disapproval.
  • Humility … to not seek things for our own benefit.
  • Charity … as we demonstrate our faith in loving action.
  • Focus … on eternity and on the greater treasure in Heaven.

Holy Spirit, empower us to live like our Master every day. “Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp Thine image in its place.” May people see and hear Jesus in us. No matter how closely they watch us, may they see no inconsistencies.

9 More Quotes From “Jesus Always”

Sarah Young does a masterful job of weaving Scriptures together and presenting them to us as though Jesus Himself were speaking to us in first person. You can check out my full book review of Jesus Always by clicking here. 

“The problem arises when you gaze too long into the future, trying to visualize and take control of those not-yet events. A future-focus can easily deteriorate into a problem-focus. Weeds of worry and fear spring up quickly in this sort of ‘soil.’ When you realize this has happened, turn away from your worries and back to the One Who is lovingly present with you. Rejoice that I will still be with you when you arrive at each coming stage of your journey.”

“When My followers are joyful, unbelievers are more likely to be drawn to Me. Joy shines in stark contrast to your ever-darkening world, and some people will ask you about it. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for your hope.”

“Treasure Me above all else. … To treasure something is to hold or keep it, esteeming it as precious. I am training you to hold securely onto Me, your Savior-God and constant Companion. … When you prize Me above all else, other things lose their grip on you.”

“Thank Me for all the challenges in your life. They are gifts from Me—opportunities to grow stronger and more dependent on Me. Most people think that the stronger they get, the less dependent they will be. But in My kingdom, strength and dependence go hand in hand.”

“For Christians, aloneness is an illusion—a dangerous one that can lead to depression or self-pity. The devil and his underlings work hard to cloud your awareness of My presence. It’s crucial for you to recognize and resist their attacks. Fight back with My powerful Word, which is living and active. Read it; ponder it; memorize it; speak it.”

“My followers often fail to see the many blessings I shower on them. They’re so busy looking for other things that they miss what is before them—or is on the way. They forget I am sovereign God and the timing of events is My prerogative.”

“Do not be frightened by world events or news reports. These reports are biased—presented as if I do not exist. News clips show tiny bits of world events from which the most important factor has been carefully removed: My presence in the world.”

“It’s important for you to grow not only more trusting but more thankful. A grateful attitude is essential for living near Me. Ingratitude is offensive to Me, and drags you down both spiritually and emotionally.”

“Stillness is a rare commodity in this world. Many people judge themselves and their day by how much they have accomplished. Resting in My presence is usually not one of those accomplishments. Yet how much blessing can be found in this holy rest!”

You can check out other questions I’ve shared from Jesus Always by clicking here and here.

Blessings And Woes

… blessed are you … woe to you … (Luke 6:20-27). 

Blessings and woes: the positives and negatives of the Christian life. Jesus listed these back-to-back to remind us that we need to keep both of them in mind, sort of like two rails that keep us on track. 

It’s interesting to note how many of these blessings and woes are opposites of each other. It comes down to this—

there are blessings for seeking the Kingdom of God, AND there are woes for seeking our own immediate pleasure.

Notice the contrasts Jesus lists:

  • You are blessed when you seek heavenly rewards; you experience woe when your focus is earthly treasure (vv. 20, 24). 
  • You are blessed when you are driven by a hunger for God; you experience woe when your god becomes your selfish appetites (vv. 21, 25). 
  • You are blessed when you acknowledge your sin, weep over it, and repent from it; you experience woe when sin is laughed at (vv. 21, 25). 
  • You are blessed when you are hated by the world for loving God; you experience woe when you are loved by the world for loving sinful pleasures (vv. 22, 26). 

I think C.S. Lewis captured these thoughts well when he wrote in Mere Christianity, “Give yourself up and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. … Look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” 

Blessings for seeking Jesus and His kingdom; woes for seeking only your own kingdom. 

So how do we live blessed? Here’s what Jesus taught us (vv. 27-49)—

Love your enemies
Always do good, even (especially!) to your haters
Bless those who curse you 
Don’t fight for your rights
Be an impartial, liberal giver
Treat others the way you want to be treated 
Love and give to others without expecting a return
Be merciful
Don’t be judgmental
Give, give, and give some more
Look in the mirror at yourself first before looking out the window at others
Serve others
Check what sort of fruit your life is bearing
Build everything in your life on God’s Word

Avoid the woes AND enjoy the blessings of God! 

Thursdays With Oswald—Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits

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.

Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits 

     Practice means continually doing that which no one sees or knows but ourselves. Habit is the result of practice, by continually doing a thing it becomes second nature. The difference between men is not a difference of personal power, but that some men are disciplined and others are not. The difference is not the degree of mental power but the degree of mental discipline. If we have taught ourselves how to think, we will have mental power plus the discipline of having it under control. Beware of impulse. Impulsiveness is the characteristic of a child, but it ought not to be the characteristic of a man, it means he has not disciplined himself. Undeterred impulse is undisciplined power.

     Every habit is purely mechanical, and whenever we form a habit it makes a material difference in the brain. The material of the brain alters very slowly, but it does alter, and by repeatedly doing a thing a groove is formed in the material of the brain so that it becomes easier to do it again, until at last we become unconscious of doing it. When we are regenerated we can reform by the power and presence of God every habit that is not in accordance with His life. … We have to learn to form habits according to the dictates of the Spirit of God. The power and the practice must go together. … If we keep practicing, what we practice becomes our second nature, and in a crisis we will find that not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also. The practicing is ours not God’s and the crisis reveals whether or not we have been practicing. [See Matthew 5:31-37.]

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

All of us have blind spots. These are typically habits that we have left in place, unchallenged and unchanged. That “groove” in our brain is operating on auto-pilot, but those blind-spot habits aren’t serving us well. 

The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is to help us notice these habits in which we are unconsciously incompetent. But once the Spirit of God points these out, then we must practice, and practice, and practice until the new healthy habit has overwritten the old groove of the unhealthy habit. 

Then we will find, as Chambers points out, that in a time of crisis “not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also.” 

Times of difficulty will reveal habits—both the unhealthy and the healthy. The question then becomes: what are you going to do about the unhealthy habits? 

Expository Thoughts On The Gospels (book review)

J.C. Ryle was an Evangelical Anglican bishop who lived in England in the latter half of the 19th century. When Ryle’s words—written over 100 years ago—still resound with truth today, I would call that “a classic”! That is exactly what we find in his Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. 

The Gospels obviously focus on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Ryle takes how Jesus lived and taught and pulls out of them practical applications for Christians in his day, which still have perfect application for Christians today. I think what keeps his words so relevant is how closely he sticks with the biblical texts, seldom straying into his own opinion, but simply saying to us, “Did you see that?” 

His thoughts are presented to us section-by-section, not verse-by-verse as many biblical commentators do. This method has two distinct advantages for us: (1) It’s easier to get a “big picture” view of what Jesus was doing and teaching, and (2) It’s more manageable to use this book as a complement to a personal or group Bible study. 

In fact, Ryle himself suggested that the design of his commentary was with family devotions in mind. Purposely, he doesn’t delve into deep doctrine so that the youngest or most novice of Christians can gain much insight. But don’t confuse that statement with this being “light reading.” On the contrary, even the most tenured Christian will find ample thoughts to challenge his mind. 

I highly recommend this series of commentaries to those who want a deeper Bible study time.  

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