Thursdays With Oswald—What To Do With Spiritual Barriers

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.

What To Do With Spiritual Barriers

     The inevitable barriers are there in every one of our lives. … The thing to do is to recognize that the barriers are inscrutable, that they are not by chance but entirely by God’s permission, and they should be faced and not ignored. … 

     The peril of the inevitable barriers is that if I have not faced the facts sufficiently, I am apt to blame God for them. There is one fact more that I do not know, and that fact lies entirely with God, not with me. It is no use to spend my time saying, I wish I was not like this, I am just like it. The practical point in Christianity is—Can Jesus Christ and His religion be of any use to me as I am, not as I am not? Can He deal with me where I am, in the condition I am in?

From Shade Of His Hand

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, Who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was giving me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, and hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

“The Bible point of view seems to cover most of the facts” (Oswald Chambers).

Thank God For The Hammers And Axes

romans-8-28“If you should get up some morning and hear men on your house tearing off the tiles and taking down the roof with hammers and axes, you might think a gang of vicious enemies had come to destroy your home. But as soon as you understand that these workmen have been sent by your father to mend your house, you gladly endure the noise and trouble. Indeed, you thank your father for his care and expense. The very hope of the advantage that will come from the repairs makes you willing to dwell awhile in the inconvenient rubble of the old house.

“The promise [in Romans 8:28] assures the believer that the Heavenly Father intends no harm, only good, as He rebuilds the ruined frame of your soul into a glorious temple. And afflictions have a hand in the work. This insight frees you to pray, ‘Lord, cut and shape me however You will, that at last I may be framed according to the pattern which Your love has drawn for me!’” —William Gurnall (emphasis added)

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

john-14-1That first Christmas was supposedly a silent night and a holy night. Maybe there was some singing angels involved, but at least their message was about “peace on earth.”

Sometimes that idea of “peace” at Christmas time can make us feel like hypocrites. Sometimes it seems as if there is more turmoil than peace, and more ill-will than goodwill.

Even Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem called I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day starts out in celebration, but then shifts to the dark words, “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”

If you have had a hard time finding peace this Christmas, this short message will bring you hope and encouragement, so that you can truly say, “Merry Christmas!”

The First Noël

romans-3-22When I worked in the business field, I was invited to be a teacher for a program called GROW (Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women), where I taught a class on marketing. Then later on, I served as a reviewer as the students turned in their marketing plans.

One of the main points I tried to drive home to my students is a basic Marketing 101 principle which says—you can’t be all things to all people. You have to pick a niche market and then try to dominate that market. There are two general ideas here: (1) Make your product or service pricey and therefore exclusive to a select group, or (2) Make your product or service affordable and accessible for the mass market.

The Incarnation of Jesus totally violates this Marketing 101 principle. (Which goes to show you that God knows more than all the world’s so-called “experts”!)

First, there was a marketing message to shepherds (see Luke 2:8-11). This would have been the “mass market” as shepherds represented the every-day, working-class man. The first two verses of The First Noël carol addresses these “certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay.”

But then there is this appearance of a very exclusive group of Magi (see Matthew 2:1-2, 11). These men were highly educated and had gained great influence and affluence. Verse 3 of The First Noël references these “wise men…from country far” who could present such lavish gifts to Jesus.

God did exactly what I told my GROW students they shouldn’t do if they wanted to be successful!

The Incarnation of Jesus is one of those rarest of rare things that actually can be all things to all people! Why? Because ALL people need what the Incarnation of Jesus brings. That’s why the final verse of The First Noël calls for ALL of us to join in singing our praise to God because of the salvation Jesus had purchased for ALL mankind.

Here’s the reason—

  • ALL we like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6)…
  •    …and the penalty for that straying from God is death for ALL sinners (Romans 6:23).
  • But Jesus came to ransom ALL from that penalty (Mark 10:45)…
  •    …so that ALL who believe in Him will be saved (Romans 3:22)!

“The coming of Jesus was a search-and-save mission. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.’ So Advent is a season for thinking about the mission of God to seek and to save lost people from the wrath to come. … ‘As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you’ (John 20:21). It’s the story of how the vertical Advent of God in the mission of Jesus bends out and becomes the horizontal Advent of Jesus in the mission of the church. In us.” —John Piper

You have been rescued, now go be a rescuer. Take this Noël message to ALL … young/old, rich/poor, Black/white, educated/illiterate, healthy/sick, friend/enemy…. the message in the First Noël and every Noël is for everyone! 

Rick Warren On What Mercy Means

rick-warren“Mercy means…

…being patient with people’s quirks (James 3:17)

…helping anyone around you who is hurting (Proverbs 3:27)

…giving people a second chance (Ephesians 4:31-32)

…doing good to those who hurt you (Luke 6:35-36)

…being kind to those who offend you (Jude 22-23)

…building bridges of love to the unpopular (premeditated mercy) (Matthew 9:13)

…valuing relationships over rules (Romans 13:10)” —Rick Warren

Locked Up On Purpose

charles-henry-parkhurst‘Before this faith came, we were held prisoners…locked up until faith should be revealed’ (Galatians 3:23). God still causes us to be ‘locked up until faith’ is learned. Our own nature, circumstances, trials, and disappointments all serve to keep us submissive and ‘locked up’ until we see that the only way out is His way of faith. … Are you in some terrible trouble? Have you experienced some distressing disappointment, sorrow, or inexpressible loss? Are you in a difficult situation? Cheer up! You have been ‘locked up’ to faith. Accept your troubles in the proper way and commit them to God. Praise Him ‘that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him’ (Romans 8:28) and that He ‘acts on behalf of those who wait for Him’ (Isaiah 64:4).” —Charles Henry Parkhurst

Horatius Bonar On Spiritual Warfare

Horatius Bonar“The devil’s object in the present day is to persuade us that he does not exist, that we have to fight no such battle, that we need no sword nor shield, that we can do without anything beyond our own human power and skill.” [Ephesians 6:12]

“We must fight. There is no choice here. Whether we will or not, we must fight; for we are thrown upon a battlefield, and if we fight not, we perish. Woe be to the man who thinks there is no need of fighting now; that there is no danger and no enemy. Fight the good fight of faith.”

“satan persuades us that we can combat evil by the appliances of modern intellect and science and civilization. Let us beware. To try to suit religion to the spirit of the age, is to play into satan’s hands. Only divine weapons will avail in a battle with the powers of darkness.”

“Is the Christianity of our day of the lofty kind of which apostolic men have left us so bright an example? Is it not feeble, indolent, self-indulgent, second-rate? Is there in it anything of the presentation of ‘living sacrifices’ to God, which is our acceptable and reasonable service? Are we not seeking our own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s? Are we not feasting when the world is starving? Are we not at ease in Zion? Are we not sitting still and in luxurious comfort, when many noble and self-sacrificing ones amongst us are rushing into the toil or the war, and, for want of being supported by their fellow Christians, are sinking under the burden and heat of the day?” [Philippians 4:19]

“It is inner warfare. The 7th of the Romans is the description of this, the battle between faith and unbelief, between the spirit and the flesh. This war is private, solitary, with no eye upon the warrior; fought in the closet, on the knees, with the Bible as his weapon. …

“It is outer warfare. The enemies are legion; the world, with all its enmities, snares, pomps, pleasures; satan, with his principalities and powers; both of these in combination hating, persecuting, attacking. This is ‘the great fight of afflictions’ (Hebrews 10:32). Thus it is so far public, before men; ‘we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.’ …

“It is daily warfare. It is not one great battle, but a multitude of battles, constant warring: there is no intermission and no discharge in this war. The enemy wearies not, ceases not; nor must we. We wake to warfare each morning, and go out to warfare each day. Everywhere we find the enemy posted, sometimes openly, sometimes in ambush. The conflict is life-long, and it is daily. …

“It is warfare not fought with human arms. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. We do not war after the flesh. It is in divine strength; with the sword of the Spirit; clothed in the whole armor of God. …

“It is warfare in which we are sharers with Christ. He first fought the good fight, as the Captain of our salvation, the Lord strong and mighty; the Lord mighty in battle. The inner warfare indeed was not His, but all the rest was. He fought, when here, the same battles as we; and it is into His warfare that we are called to enter.”

All quotes from Horatius Bonar’s book Light And Truth.

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