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My Utmost Fo His Highest by Oswald Chambers — June 30 (Updated Edition by James Reimann)

Agree with your adversary quickly… —Matthew 5:25

In this verse, Jesus Christ laid down a very important principle by saying, “Do what you know you must do— now. Do it quickly. If you don’t, an inevitable process will begin to work ‘till you have paid the last penny’ (Matthew 5:26) in pain, agony, and distress.” God’s laws are unchangeable and there is no escape from them. The teachings of Jesus always penetrate right to the heart of our being.

Wanting to make sure that my adversary gives me all my rights is a natural thing. But Jesus says that it is a matter of inescapable and eternal importance to me that I pay my adversary what I owe him. From our Lord’s standpoint it doesn’t matter whether I am cheated or not, but what does matter is that I don’t cheat someone else. Am I insisting on having my own rights, or am I paying what I owe from Jesus Christ’s standpoint?

Do it quickly— bring yourself to judgment now. In moral and spiritual matters, you must act immediately. If you don’t, the inevitable, relentless process will begin to work. God is determined to have His child as pure, clean, and white as driven snow, and as long as there is disobedience in any point of His teaching, He will allow His Spirit to use whatever process it may take to bring us to obedience. The fact that we insist on proving that we are right is almost always a clear indication that we have some point of disobedience. No wonder the Spirit of God so strongly urges us to stay steadfastly in the light! (see John 3:19-21).

“Agree with your adversary quickly….” Have you suddenly reached a certain place in your relationship with someone, only to find that you have anger in your heart? Confess it quickly— make it right before God. Be reconciled to that person— do it now!

Dear God, I’m often surprised where a scripture will take Mr. Chambers. I know these are excerpts from sermons and lessons he taught that his wife put together into these daily devotions ten years after his death, but still, I think would have loved hearing some of his sermons.

It was towards the end of today’s devotion that caught my eye. It was about not putting off repenting before you, but doing it now. Here, I won’t do it justice.

Do it quickly— bring yourself to judgment now. In moral and spiritual matters, you must act immediately. If you don’t, the inevitable, relentless process will begin to work. God is determined to have His child as pure, clean, and white as driven snow, and as long as there is disobedience in any point of His teaching, He will allow His Spirit to use whatever process it may take to bring us to obedience. The fact that we insist on proving that we are right is almost always a clear indication that we have some point of disobedience.

Basically, he’s saying I should save myself some trouble and be used by you as soon as possible. Why wait?

I heard an interview with Rob Lowe tonight. He was talking about getting sober 30 years ago. He said the biggest obstacle to him getting sober was the thought that all of the fun would be gone. “What, I can’t have some champagne to celebrate the New Year? I can’t have a drink with my friends to celebrate the birth of a child?” But he went on to say that he has had more fun after getting sober than he ever did doing alcohol and drugs and, as he put it, that’s saying something considering how much he did in the 80s.

So his point was, if you are waiting because you think you are going to be giving up fun, don’t wait. There is more fun and freedom on the other side. The same is true for my sinful pleasures to which I still stubbornly hold. There is more freedom and joy to be had when the Holy Spirit is able to grow good fruit in me. Satan lies when he says that sin is where the fun is because in sin there is only bondage. You offer freedom from that bondage and that is the only place where I will find love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23)

Father, Help me to search my heart moment by moment so that I can always be willing to let go of what I think will bring me joy and cling to the one true source of joy. And help me to not worry abut my neighbor or adversary owes me, but help me to focus on what I own my adversary. You didn’t call me to look out for my rights, but to simply love you and love others.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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My Utmost For His Highest for June 27, 2020 — by Oswald Chambers

Excerpt from second half:
…Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.” Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to indulge ourselves in the discontent of self-pity, as if to say, “Why should I be treated like this?” If we are devoted to Jesus Christ, we have nothing to do with what we encounter, whether it is just or unjust. In essence, Jesus says, “Continue steadily on with what I have told you to do, and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance.” Even the most devout among us become atheistic in this regard— we do not believe Him. We put our common sense on the throne and then attach God’s name to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts (see Proverbs 3:5-6).

Dear God, the Mr. Chambers’s verse that launched this devotion was from the beginning of Jeremiah, and I found myself not totally agreeing with his first paragraph. I almost stopped reading. Then I got to the sentence that said:

Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.” Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him.

Justice, justice, justice. I’m not judging anyone else for looking for justice (such as Black Lives Matter). Sometimes we simply have to defend ourselves. But for me in my life, I tend to look for justice in the wrong places. With my wife. With my children. At work. But that puts my eyes on me and what I deserve as opposed to worshipping you, considering my life worth nothing to me (Acts 20:24), and then distributing generous amounts of free mercy.

Then I read on and saw this:

Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to indulge ourselves in the discontent of self-pity, as if to say, “Why should I be treated like this?”

How many times have I said, “Why should I be treated like this?” Countless. Countless. And what good did it do me? All it did was feed my self pity, and that’s exactly where Satan wants me–eyes on me and not on you.

I suppose in terms of Black Lives Matter and racism, disrespect of law enforcement, crime, and shattered lives, it is up to Christians to not fight for justice for ourselves personally, but to fight for the justice for others. And I’ve seen a lot of people doing that. I’ve seen a lot of those who are white and don’t experience racial discrimination march, protest, and stand up for those who face terrible types of discrimination. That is a great way of giving justice and being able to keep our eyes on you at the same time.

Father, show me how to be part of giving justice to those around me. Give me the courage I need to step out and fight for justice for others. I’ll admit that I’d rather sit in my home, enjoy my advantages as a white male, and survive another day. But your Holy Spirit can’t grow my heart if I do that. If I do that then I won’t be about giving justice to others. I’ll just be about putting my eyes on me and taking them off of you. I know that is the last thing I should do.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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What I would say…

Dear God, I have some relatives graduating and one getting engaged this year. When I was thinking about graduation presents for them, I thought of two things.

For the graduates, I thought of a daily devotion book called My Utmost for His Highest. You know I know this one well. In fact, it was my source for scripture when I first started doing these prayer journals to you 20 years ago. But my history with that book actually goes back closer to 40 years. My dad used it as a daily devotion when I was young, and he gave me a copy of it when I graduated from high school. The inscription reads:

8/27/88

John,

This book has really been meaningful to me as it constantly challenges me to turn loose of the distractions of life and to move into a deeper personal relationship with Jesus. I pray that you will likewise find it helpful in your personal walk with the Lord as you enter an exciting new phase in your life as a Baylor student.

Love,

Dad

I used it regularly my freshman year of college. The weakness in it for me is that its words were written pre World War I by a Brit, and the British language he used in the early 20th century was different than the language we use now. Thankfully, about 30 years ago, James Reimann re-edited it to update the language and it’s even clearer now.

The theology is this book is so solid, but I often found that just reading the daily verse, reading Mr. Chambers’s reflection on it, and then saying a prayer to you didn’t stick with me throughout the day. It wasn’t until I started to journal through the passages starting in April 2000 that your scripture and what you were saying to me through it began to seep into my soul.

So I found this version of the James Reimann edited edition that includes a column for at least writing down some personal reflections. IMG_3111

I ordered one for my niece and my nephew. I pray over these two books, that you will use them along with all of the other tools in your toolbox to draw their hearts into yours and lead them to lives submitted to you.

The second book I ordered was the one that changed the course of my marriage and who I eventually became as a husband to my wife. This one is for the niece who got engaged. It’s called Sacred Marriage and it was written by Gary Thomas. IMG_3112

The subtitle of the book is “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” That question alone gets your attention. Through reading this book and attending a workshop in person with my wife, you revealed to me how much I was depending upon my wife’s and children’s acceptance for my sense of worth instead of simply leaning into you. Ironically (or perhaps, providentially), I encountered this book right about the same time I started doing these prayer journals to you. I know we’ve talked about this a lot before, but I was a needy husband, and my neediness was oppressive to my wife. She could never fill up my “God hole” that I’d allowed to grow without you. I had made her an idol. I became codependent. It was all bad. But Gary helped me to see how you use my wife, my children, and everyone around me to shape me through the giving of myself, not the taking. That simple paradigm shift changed everything, and it helped me to become more disciplined in my pursuit of you as the source of my joy and peace.

So I have these young relatives who are starting new chapters in their lives. They have tremendous opportunities to radically affect the trajectory of their lives through the choices they make now. Who will they be in 10, 20, or 30 years? Well, as an uncle that they know just a little, I hope that what they know of me will give me the credibility to share these two critical tools you used on me and have them receive them as part of the tools you are using on them.

Father, I want to pray over my niece and my nephew right now. I pray for my niece, that she will experience the full measure of who you are. Help her to embrace you completely. Help her fiancé to completely embrace you as well. And as they work out their respective faiths with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), unite their hearts together completely. Give them mutual respect and help them to turn loose of their expectations of the other. Fill them with so much of your presence that they don’t need to look to the other for their worth. And for my nephew, he has had a rough and confusing few years, but now he’s about to start college. There is a lot of healing to do there. Guide him in into your heart. Hold him close. Raise up people around him whom you will use to strengthen and encourage him. Heal his broken relationships and bring glory to your name through his life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Emails to God – Spirit-filled (Matthew 26:38)

“Stay here and watch with me.”

Dear God, Oswald Chambers’ commentary on this passage links it with Acts 2:4, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the faithful. His premise is that we cannot watch WITH YOU before we are Spirit-filled because we need to Spirit to better understand who you are. Until that happens, he says, the best we can really comprehend is the idea of you watching WITH US.

There is a step in there between making a decision to follow you and the moment that the Holy Spirit comes into us. Ideally it should happen at the same time, but I think that, sometimes, our hearts are not quite yet ready for it. Frankly, it’s a bit of a hazy mystery to me, but I can certainly see how it happened in my life.

I think part of the issue is that, at least in my life, I needed some additional maturity before I was ready to embrace the Holy Spirit. I was nine years old when I first asked you into my heart and became “saved”, but my soul was not yet ready to be Spirit-filled. I think you put a mark on me at that point, and I think that my soul was saved, but I was still too confused to really understand what watching WITH YOU meant. It wasn’t until I was seventeen that my life really transformed. I was finally ready to begin to accept your Lordship in my life. I was ready to accept the idea of you reaching me instead of me being able to reach you. I was ready to accept the idea of submission in a new way. At that point, in July 1987, I felt the Holy Spirit enter in.

Father, as I watch my children grow, neither of whom are yet even seventeen, I know that each of them made decisions to submit themselves to you and accept Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins at earlier ages. But now Satan is doing his best to make sure that the seeds planted then do not find fertile soil. He wants them to be eaten by the birds, choked by the thorns, or baked by the sun. So I pray that you will protect the soil of their hearts, and cultivate the parts that are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Help my wife and me to love them richly, even beyond what they see with our physical eyes. And, of course, protect our hearts as well. Spirit, move within us so that our hearts might be pure, united, and completely yours.

 

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Emails to God – Works vs. Relationship (Luke 10:20)

Luke 10:20 – Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
“Jesus Christ is saying here, ‘Don’t rejoice in your successful service for Me, but rejoice because of your right relationship with Me.’” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Dear God, but the “works” feel so good, and they look so good. It feels good to look back on a day and know that I have done good things. I like having people being able to see the good things I do. I like feeling their adulation. I like feeling like I am pleasing you. But that’s not what it’s all about. In fact, It is the addiction to that feeling of having done good that has caused me some of my biggest problems. How does it cause problems. Because I start to pursue the adulation instead of pursuing you and the peace that comes from being in right relationship with you.

I have had different jobs in my pre- and post-college career. Some have been for Christian organizations and a couple have been with secular ones. It is interesting, but I think I found it easier to have a right relationship with you when I worked in a secular environment. It was easier when my vocation and my desire to do well at work didn’t get mixed up with how others see me living out my spiritual life. Not that I didn’t try to work to your glory in the secular environment, but I was able to point to the difference in how I did my job as an example of my love for you. Here, in my current job, I am expected to do good works and be an example for you.

Father, while I want to integrate my faith into every part of my life, including my work, I need your help to separate my work from my identity in you. I need you to help me be at peace in you instead of pursuing public glory for the things I do for you. Help me to find those lines and to embrace you as my provider, my king, and my God.

 

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Emails to God – Teach Me to Pray (My Utmost for His Highest, August 28 – By Oswald Chambers)

“Prayer is not a normal part of the life of the natural man. We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer.”

Dear God, there is a fine line between my life and your life. Mr. Chambers makes an interesting distinction here in this regard. He is positing that the life of John Willome will be just fine without prayer. My own selfishness will flourish. My ability to indulge my own whims will be unchecked. In fact, the only checks on my life at all will be in how my life ends up relating to those around me—my wife, children, coworkers, etc. What will suffer is your life in me.

I think I am learning more and more that our lives, yours and mine, are mutually exclusive. I cannot embrace my selfishness and embrace you at the same time, so when I embrace you in times of prayer like this (and I mean truly submit myself to you and embrace you—not just praying without thought or emotion) then I have to let go of myself, at least for that time period. So the more I pray the more I let go of myself. The more I let go of myself then the more your life will replace mine. The more your life replaces mine the more Christ-like I become. The more Christ-like I become the more I will be at peace and you will receive glory.

Father, help me to be a more continual prayer. Help me to pray in the middle of conversations. Help me to pray while I drive, while I work, while I think in the middle of the day. Help me to pray as I husband my wife. Help me to pray as I parent my children. Help me to pray as I work in my office, or directly with patients, staff, volunteers, and donors. Help me to continuously turn loose of my own life so that yours might flourish within me.

 

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Emails to God – Exercise and Prayer (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Dear God, it is so difficult to understand why I cannot be more attuned to your Spirit when things are going well. Why do I too often need to suffer first before I cry out to you? I was driving to work this morning and feeling pretty good. My marriage seems to be moving in the right direction. Kids are doing okay. Work is moving ahead and seems to be going in the right direction. So I was driving along and listening to some of my favorite secular singers on my Pandora app through my phone. About halfway to work, however, I thought, why am I listening to this? Why aren’t I filling myself with Christian music and thoughts right now? So I switched Pandora over the “Rich Mullins Radio” and listened to Christian music for the last five minutes of my drive (I’m blessed to only live less than 10 minutes from work).

Now, I’m sitting here disciplining myself to spend a little bit of time in prayer. It would be the easiest thing in the world to skip today. A little like skipping my exercise last night. I know I need it. I know I need you. I know it will be good for me. I know time with you is good for me. I know it will make me healthier. I know time with you will heal my soul. I know I’ll feel better when it’s over. I know I’ll feel better after I’ve touched you. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the discipline of regular exercise and the discipline of regular, thoughtful prayer. If I go out and exercise once a week then I won’t feel much difference, but a month of exercising will bring about a change in me. It’s the same thing with prayer. One prayer a week won’t really have much impact on my life, but a month of praying regularly will.

Father, thank you for bringing me here today. I am sorry that I often need to be poor in spirit before I end up on my knees before you. I am sorry that I still try to take control of my surroundings and the events in my life so often. But here, in this moment, I bring my life to you, I lay it at your feet, and I ask that you will please do with it and me as you will. Love through me. Parent through me. Husband through me. Lead through me. And serve through me.

 

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Emails to God – Knowing Doctrine vs. Knowing Jesus (My Utmost for His Highest – August 16)

Dear God, I don’t normally read Oswald Chambers’ commentary about a verse. I just use the verses he uses and then pray to you about what you are saying to me. But today, I was compelled to read the first paragraph in his commentary and I ran across these two sentences:

It is possible to know all about doctrine and still not know Jesus. A person’s soul is in grave danger when the knowledge of doctrine surpasses Jesus, avoiding intimate touch with Him.

Wow. That is quite an indictment of so many of us. It begs the question, do I know more about doctrine than I do about Jesus?

As I think about it, I think Satan has used doctrine over the last several millennia to drive us away from each other and from Jesus. I think about the denominations and how each of us have our own doctrine. Then, individuals allow doctrine to come between them and their own denomination. For example, I know many Catholics who believe in birth control while the church’s official position is that it is a sin. Satan has used the issue to divide and even embitter some Catholics against the church. But what would happen if everyone involved took the attitude of knowing more about Jesus than they do doctrine. Better said, what if they knew Jesus, Himself, more than they knew doctrine.

Father, of course, I am in this same boat. I get my theology, and I hold onto different parts of it as if they are so important. But are they? Are they really? Where does my priority on implementing my theology stop and my desire to simply become one with your heart begin? Help me to answer that question and to find my way as I try to parent, husband, and lead in the different areas of my life. Be glorified in everything I do so that you might draw others to yourself and they might get to know the real you and not the “you” they learned through possible false or misleading doctrines.

 

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Emails to God – Praying In Jesus’ Name (John 16:25-28)

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

Dear God, I assume this day is still here. I assume that I have direct access to you through my prayers. But the key is to ask in Jesus name. But what does it mean to ask something in Jesus’ name? Does it mean to actually declare Jesus’ name as I pray, or is it more subtle than that? If I say my own selfish prayer, but I throw in Jesus’ name at the end, is that the same thing as blaspheming Jesus’ name? Can I pray my own selfish prayer, add Jesus’ name to the end, and not offend you?

Being raised Baptist, one of the things I learned to do as a child was add on the phrase, “in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen,” to the end of all of my prayers. In fact, I am careful to always put that little phrase at the end of each of these prayers in my journal (although the people on the blog don’t see it because I normally leave the end of my prayers out of the blog). But do I mean it, or is it just something I say on the end because I think I am supposed to? Am I truly taking each prayer and considering what Jesus would think of it and then submitting it through His name, or am I just throwing some words up toward heaven and putting a Jesus bow on them?

Father, help me to take the times I am speaking to you as the beautiful, powerful moments that they are. This is an opportunity for me to get a glimpse of your glory and your presence. It is a chance for me to lay my life before you and humbly ask for your provision in whatever ways you see as appropriate. Thank you for the fact that Jesus’ death and resurrection delivered to me the power of prayer.

 

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