Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 16

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.

Jeremiah 16

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 16.]     

     “All things are lawful… but all things are not expedient,” says Paul, i.e., all things are lawful to me as a natural man, but not expedient to me as a spiritual man because I am under a superior command. … 

     How many of us have begun to realize our privilege of not doing things? The liberty to waive our rights is the great privilege of Christian sanctity. One of the meanest things is to say, “I don’t do certain things because it will damage me.” Paul’s argument is—“I don’t do certain things because it will damage someone else” (see 1 Corinthians 8:9-13). … 

     In the days before you knew God you did any number of things which God overlooked, but try and do them now, and if you persist you will realize what is written in Psalm 106:15—“And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” 

From Notes On Jeremiah

A Christian should be able to say a guilt-free, excuse-free “No” to anything that would be inexpedient for themselves OR for others around them. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Isaiah 42

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.

Isaiah 42

[These are notes on Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Isaiah 42.] 

     If you want to know what a servant of God is to be like, read what Isaiah says in this chapter and the following ones about the great Servant, Jesus Christ. The characteristics of the great Servant must be the characteristics of every servant; it is the identification of the servant of God with the immortal characteristics of God Himself.

     In service for God we have to be abandoned to Him, let Him put us where He will, whether He blesses us or crushes us with burdens, we have nothing to do with what it costs. … May God make us understand that if we are in His service He will do exactly what He likes with us. We are not saved and sanctified for ourselves, but for God to crush us with burdens if He chooses. … A servant of Jesus Christ is one who is willing to go to martyrdom for the reality of the Gospel of God. …  

     The servant is absorbed in Jesus as He was in God. The mark of false service is the self-conscious pride of striving after of God’s favor. … 

     The whole conception of the work of a servant of God is to lift up the despairing and the hopeless. Immediately you start work on God’s line He will bring the weak and infirm round you, the surest sign that God is at work is that that is the class who come—the very class we don’t want, with the pain and the distress and limitation. We want the strong and robust, and God gathers round us the feeble-minded, the afflicted and weak. Pain in God’s service always leads to glory. We want success, God wants glory. 

From Notes On Isaiah 

God calls His followers to be servus servorum Dei: a servant of the servants of God. We don’t seek glory for ourselves, but we seek glory solely for God. We live our lives just as Jesus demonstrated: “Not My will, but Yours be done.” 

Are you living as a true servant of God? 

3 Manger Lessons

Only Luke uses the Greek word for manger in all of the New Testament, with three of those instances being closely linked with the story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-16).

Luke is a prolific writer, but also a very specific writer. Luke uses more unique Greek words in his two books of the Bible than any other New Testament author. Because Luke is so precise, we need to pause to ask: what message was Luke trying to highlight in the fact that Jesus was born in a manger.

Here are three manger lessons…

  1. The manger shows us God’s PLAN.

The birthplace of Jesus was predicted 700 years before He was born (Micah 5:2). God moved the heart of the most powerful man in the world (Caesar Augustus) to issue a decree that would bring a nearly unknown Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and cause them to cross paths with a bunch of unnamed shepherds.

  1. The manger shows us God’s PRIORITY.

Jesus was not born to a handsome family (Isaiah 53:2), nor was He born to an influential family (Philippians 2:7). If He had been born to the high and mighty class, He would not only be unmoved by the desperate conditions of the least and the lost, but He would also be inaccessible to them.

Think about this—Who would you be more likely to have access to: a King or a peasant? Jesus came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:25-28).

  1. The manger shows us God’s PLEASURE.

God is pleased to deliver His good news to the disempowered, the downcast, the over-burdened, the desperate (Luke 2:14; Matthew 11:25-26). And what is this good news? The good news is that Jesus came to make it possible for us to be linked with Him forever! (see Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus was born in a manger to show us that (1) God’s plans always prevail; (2) His priority is to rescue those who are unable to rescue themselves; and (3) He has immense pleasure to yoking us to Him forever and ever! 

May this good news of Christ in manger bring you joy this Christmas season!

We also looked at some other powerful Advent stories in our Carols Of Christmas series. You can read about the lessons from O Come Emmanuel and Silent Night! Holy Night!

11 Quotes From “If”

As I said in my book review of Amy Carmichael’s book If, this is definitely not a book for everyone. Amy herself said, “It is clear, I think, that such a booklet as this is not meant for everyone, but only for those who are called to be undershepherds.” So the quotes I’m sharing today are just a few of her “If…” statements that especially resonated with me in my role as an under-shepherd pastor.

“If I enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, ‘Just what I expected,’ if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If I put my own happiness before the well-being of the work entrusted to me; if, though I have this ministry and have received much mercy, I faint, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self-pity and self-sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If I do not give a friend ‘the benefit of the doubt,’ but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If I say, ‘Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,’ as though the God who twice a day washes all the sands on the shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“Let us listen to simple words; our Lord speaks simply: ‘Trust Me, My child,’ He says. ‘Trust Me with a humbler heart and a fuller abandoned to My will than ever thou didst before. Trust Me to pour My love through thee, as minute succeeds minute. And if thou shouldst be conscious of anything hindering that flow, do not hurt My love by going away from Me in discouragement, for nothing can hurt so much as that. Draw all the closer to Me.’”

The Servant As His Lord (book review)

One of the most straight-talking, tell-it-like-it-is Christian speaker and author is Oswald Chambers. No one could ever accuse him of sugar-coating the Christian walk! In The Servant As His Lord, Chambers takes an unflinching look at the difficulty a Christian will have in living as his Lord, Jesus Christ, did.

As is the case with nearly all of Oswald Chambers’ books, The Servant As His Lord is a compilation of three sources: lectures, sermons, and essays for some small pamphlets. Biddy Chambers, his wife, often recorded Oswald’s sermons via shorthand and then put them into a book form at a later date.

The material in this book was all recorded during the height of The Great War (or what we now refer to as World War I). Many Christians were quite shaken in their faith during this time, questioning why God’s followers should have to go through such horrific things. Oswald Chambers, as he always did, never dodged the question nor made excuses, but simply stated: Jesus suffered pain, ridicule, and injustice while on earth, and His followers will too. The servant will be as his Lord.

Even though this book addresses some heavy topics, it’s not at all a “downer” for the reader. Quite the contrary! This book is actually very encouraging for the Christian going through any kind of difficulty or trial, knowing that Jesus not only went through the same thing, but that He is walking with us through our own trials.

This is definitely one of Chambers’ meatier books, but it is well worth the mature Christian’s time to study these wise and encouraging words.

Thursdays With Oswald—6 Questions About Your Relationship With Jesus

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.

6 Questions About Your Relationship With Jesus

“How much more shall the blood of Christ, Who through the enteral Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14)

     Our right to ourselves in every shape and form was destroyed once and for ever by the death of Jesus, and we have to be educated into the realization of what this means in all its fullness. We have to come to a relationship to the Cross in thought as well as in life. … 

     We are here with no right to ourselves, for spiritual blessing for ourselves; we are here for one purpose only—to be made servants of God as Jesus was. …

   “How much more” does the death of Jesus mean to us today than it ever has before? Are we beginning to be lost in wonder, love and praise at the marvelous loosening from sin, and are we so assimilating the nature of Jesus that we bear a strong family likeness to Him?

     The most devout among us are too flippant about this great subject of the death of Jesus Christ. When we stand before the Cross, is our every common pious mood stripped off? … 

     How does all the profound thought underlying the death of Jesus touch us? The writer to the Hebrews instantly connect it with conscience—“How much more shall the blood of Christ,…cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Has conscience the place in our salvation and sanctification that it ought to have? … 

     Are you thankful to God for your salvation and sanctification, thankful He has purged your conscience from dead works? Then go a step further; let Jesus Christ take you straight through into identification with His death until there is nothing left but the light at the foot of the Cross, and the whole sphere of the life is hid with Christ in God. 

From The Philosophy Of Sin

I challenge you: take some time to thoughtfully answer these questions.

5 Ways To Live As A Free Servant

Peculiar not popularWe Americans love our freedom! But “freedom” is often misused and even abused—

  • We have sexual freedom … but not the “freedom” to say no.
  • We have freedom of expression … unless it’s “offensive” to me.
  • We have freedom of speech … unless I think it’s “hate speech.”

Freedom usually means: I am free to do what I want when I want to do it, but you are free to only do what I agree to. In other words, “freedom” has become subjective and selfish. For Christians, citizens of Heaven who are passing through Earth, the Bible calls us to use our freedom in a different way.

[1] Make sure your freedom is based in reverence for God (1 Peter 1:17). God is the One who will judge our actions. The Amplified Bible adds, “conduct yourselves in reverent fear of Him and with profound respect for God.”

[2] Live good lives, shown by your good deeds (1 Peter 2:12). The word good here means beautiful, useful, beneficial. In other words, the emphasis is more on action than on talk. George MacDonald wrote, “The time for speaking seldom arrives, the time for being never departs.”

[3] Do good to silence foolish talk (1 Peter 2:15). Notice the contrast between doing (the citizens of Heaven) and merely talking (the citizens of Earth). Good doing always trumps good talking.

[4] Live as free servants (1 Peter 2:16). That sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? A free servant?! But this is the same word used to describe Jesus in Philippians 2:7. It’s also how Jesus lived. In fact, the only time Jesus said, “I have set you an example” is when He was being the lowest of servants.

[5] Never forget the Cross (1 Peter 2:21-24; 4:1-6). Because of what Jesus did on the Cross for us, we die to sins and live for righteousness. Because of the Cross, we are to live differently from Earthlings.

When we live in this peculiar way, it gets noticed:

Simple question: If you are a Christian, are you living the way Peter instructs you to live?

We will be continuing our Aliens and Strangers series next Sunday, and I would love to have you join me. If you cannot be with us in person, tune-in to our Periscope broadcast (search for @craigtowens).

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