Tragic Reactions

San Bernardino Shooting Victims

Mention tragedy these days and most people’s thoughts go to San Bernardino. Reactions to that awful display of violence range from anger against Muslims to exploitation for various agendas.

Liberals have a hard time restraining their public rejoicing about the use of military-style firearms during that cowardly shooting spree. Managing straight faces, they moralize about the gun situation in our nation, proposing even more restrictions on their availability.

Racists see vindication for their hatred for anyone who seems different. Politicians are exploiting the situation for their own political ends.

Many Christians hope our nation will see Islam in its true colors, and pass controls on what their imams can teach. Little do they realize that infringements on one group’s religious freedom is like the camel and the tent; once his nose is inside, soon the tent is filled with camel.

Due to the love our Savior exemplified and commanded of us, much higher behavioral standards apply to Christians than to any other group in society. He told us not to judge others, lest we be judged for our own transgressions.

Oswald Chambers made a profound statement about judging that I must pass on:

Most of us are much sterner with others than we are in regard to ourselves; we make excuses for things in ourselves whilst we condemn in others things to which we are not naturally inclined.

I am not likely to walk into a meeting of coworkers and open fire on them with an AK-47, just as I did not take out my frustration and anger on my wife. Though I can be spiteful—a sin of which I must consistently repent—overt violence isn’t part of my temperament.

That being the case, I find “righteous” indignation an easy reaction to crimes of terror directed against civilian men, women and children. When a politician advocates deporting members of a particular religion because they may be radicalized, I self-righteously pump my fist in agreement, even though some “Christian” groups are similarly radicalized.

Whether or not such interdiction policies are consistent with the American ideal of freedom is irrelevant to God’s called-out ones, but our desire to implement such policies is terribly relevant. Our goal of furthering God’s kingdom must remain paramount, even in the face of terrorizing religious persecution. Jesus told us to love our enemies for good reason; only by so doing can God convict Christ-haters of their sin, and draw them to Himself.

Oswald Chambers on Christian Rights

The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on a mission for Jesus Christ, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. 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 on our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts (see Proverbs 3:5-6).

Our culture of self-interest has coined the catch-phrase, “Not my problem.” Chambers seems to agree with that sentiment, but in a somewhat different context. The cultural sense is self-centered, while for Christ-followers it is, or should be, God-centered.

Justice and fairness fall at the top of everyone’s personal priority list, as long as we are on their receiving end. Administering justice and fairness, however, typically falls somewhat lower on that list, even for Christ-followers.

Certain elements in God’s church concern themselves almost exclusively with their, “God-given rights,” and they’re prepared to defend them with their lives. They call themselves Patriots, meaning, “defenders of the Constitution,” or, “proud to be an American.” Many Christians equate patriotism with defending the faith, by force of arms if necessary.

Now, I may be nuts, but I can’t recall any New Testament command to take up arms in defense of Christ. In fact, Jesus said just the opposite:Matthew 26: 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” And in Luke’s account, Jesus underscored his message of love by healing the man’s ear.

As Jesus usually spoke from the eternal perspective, I suspect he meant by “perish,” a far greater significance than mere physical death. Whether or not that is strictly true, we would likely profit by taking his words under advisement.

But, what of patriotic pride? As I’ve often said, “I” is at the center of pride, and sin. Personally, I’m immensely thankful for having been born in this country, but as I didn’t have much choice in my birthplace, I don’t have much ground for pride in that fact. Am I proud of America? You bet I am, to the extent that it seeks the high moral ground. Unfortunately, though, there hasn’t been much of that seeking lately.

As Christ-followers, we must maintain different priorities from those of the world. The prayer attributed to St. Francis has become almost cliché, but it accurately summarizes God’s expressed will for Christ-followers:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Sweet Somethings

Psalm 25
14 The friendship[secret counsel] of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

I normally read Oswald Chambers’ Utmost devotional as a relaxing meditation before I crash at night. This morning, however, I felt like reading it even before I crawled out — I’m sure my bedroom’s chilly temperature had nothing to do with that impulse.

The thrust for today’s devotional involved the unique nature of intimate friends’ communication; such friends share their smallest joys and blessings, as well as many of their trials and temptations. When those friends happen to be a man and a woman, that intimate communication can take the form of, “Sweet Nothings,” or still better, “Sweet Somethings,” whispered to one another. In that way, they support one another, like two legs of a tripod, with their Lord providing the third leg. Of course, that only applies to close friends who are Christ-followers. If that isn’t the case, intimate friendship is a tenuous balance, risking collapse at the first ill wind.

Did you notice a similarity in principle to the marital relationship? If you didn’t, read it again in that context, as it applies equally. Too often, lovers and marriage partners base their relationship on infatuation, good-times, and sexual intimacy. That sort of attachment isn’t a true relationship at all, and certainly not a close friendship. Remember Apostle Paul’s warning about being unequally yoked with unbelievers? That’s a principle with broad applications.

Psalm 25:14 describes the believers’ intimate friendship with their Savior. It specifies the “Sweet Somethings” as, “secret counsel,” where he lovingly reveals his covenant with them. While it is his covenant, it’s not a sterile set of rules that we must obey, Or Else. It comes to us as Jesus’ perspective, his unique, divine view of life. Our true love for him makes his perspective ours, so what gives him joy also gives us joy, and what grieves him also grieves us.

Verse 15 of Psalm 25 completes the picture of true love for our Savior; our eyes are ever toward him, providing a personal orientation very much like the loving relationship between a godly man and woman. Every decision we make, regardless how minor, considers his or her wishes. Again, exactly the same principle applies to our relationship with our Savior, and verse 15 above slips in a practical benefit of that intimacy; it plucks our feet out of the trap of temptation, even before it can close over us.

If you claim to love the Lord, make it real by quietly, consistently, listening to his “Sweet Somethings.”

Old Questions

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Am I getting nobler, better, more helpful, more humble, as I get older? Am I exhibiting the life that men take knowledge of as having been with Jesus, or am I getting more self-assertive, more deliberately determined to have my own way? It is a great thing to tell yourself the truth.” The Place of Help, 1005 R

Is that an old-people-joke?

This question isn’t just for Old Folks like me, it’s for everyone, as everyone is getting older (though young-ens don’t like to think in those terms). While constant introspection isn’t good for you, regular self-examination will keep you on the right path—Jesus’ path.

Let’s look at “noble,” as most folks have lost its concept in the fog of antiquity.
no•ble adj. having, showing, or coming from personal qualities that people admire —such as honesty, generosity, courage, etc. (thanks, Mirriam-Webster dot com)

cardinal_virtues_mousepads-r01cf5f9cf27747b08a395a2d7acde8eb_x74vi_8byvr_324Nobility,  while it’s not one of the Four Cardinal Virtues, or even one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues, is indeed virtue. Hold on a second, I feel another definition—albeit partial—coming on:
vir•tue n.
1 a :  conformity to a standard of right :  morality
    b :  a particular moral excellence
2 :  manly strength or courage :  valor
:  a commendable quality or trait :  merit
I needed to define that because virtue is fast becoming an obsolete word.

Chambers’ short-list, above, is virtuous behavior and attitudes.  vir•tu•ous … okay, never mind. Of course, attitudes and beliefs determine behavior. be•lief … alright already, I get the message.

Anyway, today’s popular culture, and most of those influenced by it, spurn anything smacking of morality as Victorian or Puritanical. They’d almost rather suffer mortality than live morally, and that’s because it’s suffered a totally bad rap. We can partially blame the Victorians and Puritans for that, as both categories of folks deviated from the Biblical, moral standard, presuming to judge people themselves instead of allowing God to judge them. According to God’s Word, judging people is as bad as adultery and murder.

If you’re skeptical of all this, you’re asking, “So what?” about now. The answer is, living for yourself may seem the shortest path to happiness, but it’s a path strewn with booby traps, and no one is smart enough to avoid them. Noble behavior such as helpfulness and humility make your life, and the world, a far better and more tolerable place.

Reckless Abandon with Your Gentleman-Suitor

I’ve discovered that Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost For His Highest, liked to use the phrase, “reckless abandon,” in describing the degree to which he urged patterning our lives after the Lord Jesus. So, I looked up those words in the dictionary—a slick-and-easy project in Kindle for PC.

reck•less adj. without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action: reckless driving
a•ban•don n. complete lack of inhibition or restraint: follow Christ with abandon.

I suppose every preacher develops his catch-phrases; such things help establish his professional identity. But to use them “recklessly” confuses their true meaning and reduces their impact. So let’s slice-and-dice this phrase til we find its most profound application to our lives.

What possible benefit might you find in “recklessness?” Every action has consequences, even in-action. (Why don’t they call it un-action, or non-action? Never mind, I think too much about words.) When you’re in sin—that doesn’t necessarily mean

The Kiss

habitual, gross sin, like adultery or larceny—if you’re at all a sane person, you take extreme measures to avoid consequences of the painful variety, although you’re not at all surprised if they find you anyway. You do it because you hope for positive consequences, or tangible reward.

Meet the new Nero.

Consequences of following Christ also fall into those two categories. The painful side, at least in the U.S., includes alienating close friends and family, or loosing social status. As for the blissful—yes, I said blissful—side, they range from loosing your guilt feelings, shame, and regret, to gaining a fantastic new Friend, and the family that comes with him. Oh, and don’t forget eternity with your loving, personal God.

I can’t imagine what it will be like …

“Abandon” certainly has a romantic connotation, as in “throwing caution to the wind” with that lady or gentleman you’ve been dreaming about. While such wind-throwing sports undeniable rewards, they are mild and short-term compared to the rewards you can expect from intimacy with Christ Jesus.

So, throw caution to the wind, and recklessly pursue your Gentleman-Suitor. He’ll love and care for you forever.

Reckless Abandonment

I’ve just been reading from The Quotable Oswald Chambers, which lists many excerpts from his teaching and preaching topically. As I’m still in the A’s, his thoughts on “reckless abandonment” tripped my tangent-thought-launcher.

Popular culture isn’t a new phenomenon, as every period of every generation creates their own unique sets of customs and fads. We call the nineteenth and late eighteenth-century the “Romantic” age, when proper ladies always wore gloves and corsets, and never sought careers outside the home. That’s the defining period for today’s romantic novels. Whereas today’s attitude implies defiance of authority and self-determination, back then, ladies knew they’d best be submissive and useful. Men of that bygone era knew that gentlemen always engage in scholarly pursuits, and never drank alcohol before 3pm or mixed their boozing and smoking with ladies. All the vices were well represented, but not as blatant as they are now.

Conformists today practice “reckless abandonment” in, well, reckless and dangerous ways, such as extreme sports, salacious speech and “free” sex, which always costs more than they expect. Interesting, that non-conformists of those bygone times were the artsy, morally loose Bohemian types, while today’s non-conformists are the more conservative, traditional individuals.

Chambers thought of “reckless abandonment” as neither of the above extremes. Here’s one of his thoughts on the subject:

I am convinced that what is needed in spiritual matters is reckless abandonment to the Lord Jesus Christ, reckless and uncalculating abandonment, with no reserve anywhere about it; not sad, you cannot be sad if you are abandoned absolutely.

(The Quotable Oswald Chambers. Discovery House Publishers.)

Is “reckless abandonment,” standing on a street corner soapbox, screaming through a megaphone that everyone is a dirty, rotten, hellbound sinner. While that accusation may be true, reckless love takes a different, more redemptive approach. It holds our tongue when we want to read the riot act. It prays for those who dispitefully use us, and forgives those who hurt us. As Apostle James said, it visits prisoners, and supports widows and orphans, not as an obligation, but as Christ.

Does that characterize today’s Western church? Shamefully, we’re more concerned with not appearing too radical, than impacting our culture for Christ. If we who call our selves “Christians” were to practice that sort of “reckless and uncalculating abandonment,” the entertainment industry could no longer get away with ridiculing us, and the news media could no longer publish stories slanted against us, because everyone would know they are lying. People would have to take Christ seriously because we who claim his name would show who he truly is by the quality of our lives.

A Bulls-Eye From Oswald Chambers

What follows is an excerpt from Chambers’, My Utmost for His Highest, in the entry titled, “Our Misgivings About Jesus.”

My misgivings arise from the fact that I search within to find how He will do what He says. My doubts spring from the depths of my own inferiority. If I detect these misgivings in myself, I should bring then into the light and confess them openly—“Lord, I have had misgivings about You. I have not believed in Your abilities, but only my own. And I have not believed in Your almighty power apart from my finite understanding of it.”
O Lord, with what abundant relief I turn to You! I need You in unfathomable ways, and with what amazed relief and joy I find all I need in You.

Chambers managed to capture one of my major life and spiritual issues; I allow my self-image-based misgivings to inhibit God’s free hand in my life. As a trivial example of fear’s power, I’ve discovered that when I prepare to don my trousers, if I don’t think about balancing on one leg while shoving the other into the trousers, I don’t totter even a bit. But when I think about it first, I wobble like a seedling in a tornado.

Fear’s power is fleshly, even demonic, and works against God’s purposes for me. God’s Word says, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18 ESV)

I love God, but not to the degree that I want. And I know that his response to my expressed need considers my ultimate best interests, even when there seems to be no response. My prayer is that he will continue growing me in his Spirit to where he can use me up in his service, as that’s my only purpose for existing. This wall of fear is wearing down, but I want it to collapse like the walls of Jericho, with his grace washing away the debris til there’s no trace left.

Make it so, Lord Jesus.

Why Are You Working?

When reading one of Oswald Chambers’ devotions, titled, “Am I Looking to God,” I thought of a new way of expressing a truth that, up til now, seemed intuitive, but hard to express. That thought is, “Work, not for salvation, but for the Savior’s glory.” Of course, that isn’t unique to me, but it is one of the great Scriptural themes. Working for salvation is a fool’s errand; the New Testament makes that much crystal clear. When our priority is ultimate salvation, our daily grind and inevitable problems can easily discourage us, even to the point of loosing faith. But when God’s glory is our highest goal, we see everything we encounter as part of his plan, and something for which to thank him.

That’s a crucial idea because so much of today’s Evangelical Christian religion stresses salvation as our reward for faith in Jesus. But that’s a huge mistake, and only half of the gospel. The other half is living for him, to glorify him as we become more like him. And that’s work!