Overcome by love?

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“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
Revelation 2:7 NKJV

Jesus’ message (Revelation 2:1) to the weary, struggling, patiently enduring Christians in the city of Ephesus, both comforted and confronted them. To know that Jesus knows when we are ‘bearing up’ for His name’s sake is comforting. To hear Him say that we have ‘forgotten (our) first love’ for Him, and must repent and set to work again, is confronting. But only in a close, committed relationship with Jesus will it be possible for us to overcome all the opposition we meet in living for Him. This last of three brief posts on the theme of Overcoming Life also comes from Oswald Chambers…

“To him who overcomes …” Revelation 2:7

Oswald Chambers writes… “Life without war is impossible either in nature or in grace. The basis of physical, mental, moral, and spiritual life is antagonism. This is the open fact of life.

“Health is the balance between physical life and external nature, and it is maintained only by sufficient vitality on the inside against things on the outside. Everything outside my physical life is designed to put me to death. Things which keep me going when I am alive, disintegrate me when I am dead. If I have enough fighting power, I produce the balance of health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a vigorous mental life, I have to fight, and in that way the mental balance called thought is produced.

“Morally it is the same. Everything that does not partake of the nature of virtue is the enemy of virtue in me, and it depends on what moral caliber I have whether I overcome and produce virtue. Immediately I fight, I am moral in that particular. No man is virtuous because he cannot help it; virtue is acquired.

“And spiritually it is the same. Jesus said – In the world you shall have tribulation,’ i.e., everything that is not spiritual makes for my undoing, but – ‘be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33)

“I have to learn to score off the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness; then it becomes a delight to meet opposition. Holiness is the balance between my disposition and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.

No strain, no strength?

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I have said these things to you,
that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 ESV

 

After thanking Jesus for ‘speaking plainly’ at last about his mission (John 16:28) the disciples affirmed their faith in him; so I wonder how they felt when Jesus added, plainly, ‘Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.’ (16:32). Plainly, it would take some time yet (and the gift of the Holy Spirit) for the disciples to grasp the truth that, even in Jesus, peace comes with tribulation. This second of three brief posts on the theme of Overcoming Life also comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers wrote… “God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a commonsense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.

Rise and Shine?

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Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.
Ephesians 5:14 ESV

‘Apart from me you can do nothing,’ Jesus said. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ said Paul. Jesus was reminding sinners, like us, that, apart from Himself, we would be forever unfruitful. Paul was reminding sinners, like himself, but in whom Christ Himself now lived, that anything God willed, they could do, overcoming every obstacle and bearing much fruit. This first of three brief posts on the theme of Overcoming Life comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers writes…  “All initiative is not inspired. A man may say to you – ‘Buck up, take your disinclination by the throat, throw it overboard, and walk out into the thing!’ That is ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes in and says, in effect, ‘Buck up,’ we find that the initiative is inspired. We all have any number of visions and ideals when we are young, but sooner or later we find that we have no power to make them real. We cannot do the things we long to do, and we are apt to settle down to the visions and ideals as dead, and God has to come and say – ‘Arise from the dead.’

When the inspiration of God does come, it comes with such miraculous power that we are able to arise from the dead and do the impossible thing. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life comes after we do the ‘bucking up.’

God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome.

When the inspiration of God comes, and He says, ‘Arise from the dead,’ we have to get up; God does not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand – ‘Stretch forth thy hand,’ and as soon as the man did so, his hand was healed, but he had to take the initiative. If we will do the overcoming, we shall find we are inspired of God because He gives life immediately.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.

What God wants….

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And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.  
Mark 14:3 ESV

 I remember a debate, years ago, about whether, in Christ, we are ‘saved to serve’? Well, yes and no. When we are genuinely saved, we will serve, because ‘faith without works is dead’. Yes, we are saved by faith alone, but no, faith is never alone. As a child, faith taught me, ‘Jesus loves me…’. Only later did I begin to think I needed to (or even could) do something more to earn or to keep his love. The right response to love is love, though love, like faith, is never alone. This final brief post on the theme of our abandonment to God also comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers writes…. “Have I ever been carried away to do something for God not because it was my duty, nor because it was useful, nor because there was anything in it at all beyond the fact that I love Him? Have I ever realised that I can bring to God things which are of value to Him ….? Not Divine, colossal things which could be recorded as marvelous, but ordinary, simple human things which will give evidence to God that I am abandoned to Him? Have I ever produced in the heart of the Lord Jesus what Mary of Bethany produced?

“There are times when it seems as if God watches to see if we will give Him the abandoned tokens of how genuinely we do love Him. Abandon to God is of more value than personal holiness. Personal holiness focuses the eye on our own whiteness; we are greatly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, fearful lest we offend Him. Perfect love casts out all that when once we are abandoned to God.

“We have to get rid of this notion – ‘Am I of any use?’ – and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

A Self (less) Giver?

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Christmas seems long past. Some gifts go on giving; gifts and givers remembered happily together.
O. Henry’s story, The Gift of the Magi, (a young husband sells his cherished pocket watch to buy his wife a comb for her beautiful hair – the young wife sells her hair to buy a chain for his watch) impressed me, even as a child, as an illustration of giving, and of love. This second brief post on the theme of our abandonment to God also comes from Oswald Chambers…

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV

“Salvation is not merely deliverance from sin, nor the experience of personal holiness; the salvation of God is deliverance out of self entirely into union with Himself. My experimental knowledge of salvation will be along the line of deliverance from sin and of personal holiness; but salvation means that the Spirit of God has brought me into touch with God’s personality, and I am thrilled with something infinitely greater than myself; I am caught up into the abandonment of God….

“Abandonment never produces the consciousness of its own effort, because the whole life is taken up with the One to Whom we abandon. Beware of talking about abandonment if you nothing about it, and you will never know anything about it until you have realised what John 3:16 means; that God gave Himself absolutely.

“In our abandonment we give ourselves over to God just as God gave Himself for us, without any calculation. The consequence of abandonment never enters into our outlook because our life is taken up with Him.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

From Him, Through Him, To Him?

living sacrifice

Paul, at the end of Romans 11, asks, ‘Who has given a gift to (the Lord) that he might be repaid?’ then adds, ‘For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.’ Then Paul appeals (Romans 12:1) that we give ourselves to God as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, an offering of spiritual worship. We give ourselves up to God, by His Grace, for His Glory. This first of three brief posts on the theme of abandonment to God comes from Oswald Chambers…

Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.
Mark 10:28 ESV

 “Our Lord replies, (to Peter) in effect, that abandonment is for Himself, and not for what the disciples themselves will get from it. Beware of an abandonment which has the commercial spirit in it – ‘I am going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin, because I want to be made holy.’…

Abandonment is not for anything at all.

We have got so commercialized that we only go to God for something from Him, and not for Himself. It is like saying – ‘No, Lord, I don’t want Thee, I want myself; but I want myself clean and filled with the Holy Ghost; I want to be put in Thy showroom and be able to say – ‘This is what God has done for me.’

If we only give up something to God because we want more back, there is nothing of the Holy Spirit in our abandonment; it is miserable commercial self-interest. That we gain heaven, that we are delivered from sin, that we are made useful to God – these things never enter as considerations into real abandonment, which is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself….”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

Perfect Pitch?

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“From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.” Genesis 12:8 ESV

Moved by music but without the talent to make music? Welcome to my world, where the idea of perfect pitch is as alien as algebra. In worship, too, perfection eludes me. It is difficult to hit the right pitch for a worshipping life as well. This third brief post on the theme of worship also comes from Oswald Chambers….

Oswald Chambers wrote… “Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship.

“If you hoard a thing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded. God will never let you hold a spiritual thing for yourself; it has to be given back to Him that He may make it a blessing to others.

“Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two. The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with Him. Rush is wrong every time; there is always plenty of time to worship God.

“Quiet days with God may be a snare. We have to pitch our tents where we shall always have quiet times with God, however noisy our times with the world may be.

“There are not three stages in spiritual life – worship, waiting and work. Some of us go in jumps like spiritual frogs, we jump from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work.

“God’s idea is that the three should go together. They were always together in the life of Our Lord. He was unhasting and unresting. It is a discipline. We cannot get into it all at once.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest