Tag Archives: My Utmost for His Highest

Die! Die! Die!


Remember the scene from the Pixar movie, A Bug’s Life, where the little ants are doing a play for the ‘warrior bugs’ and they end with the words, “Die, Die, Die” to everyone’s horror.  Well I heard those words in my head as I wrote this blog.  To my flesh, I say, “Die, Die, Die.”

One of the most painful things about following Jesus is dying to your own desires.  As long as you choose what God wants above what you want, your flesh will cry out.  You will be at war with yourself.  You have to get used to the idea of disappointing your “nature”.  It’s not easy to deliberately put down what you naturally long for in exchange for something that seems unnatural and unappealing at first.  I never get used to this struggle.  Once I seem to conquer one desire, another crops up.  This is not easy.

Oswald Chambers talks about this struggle in his famous devotional My Utmost for His Highest.  “Where our individual desire dies and sanctified surrender lives” is the title of this devotion.

“One of the greatest hinderances in coming to Jesus is the excuse of our own individual temperament.  We make our temperament and our natural desires a barrier in coming to Jesus… There is actually only one thing which you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself… The one true mark of a saint of God is the inner creativity that flows from being totally surrendered to Jesus Christ.  In the life of a saint there is this amazing Well, which is a continual Source of original life.  The Spirit of God is a Well of water springing up perpetually fresh.”

I find my own desires lead me to a dry, empty well inside of me.  It is a well of deep, unfulfilled longings.  When I deny myself, unnatural as that seems, and take up the Cross of Christ, choose things that please Jesus instead of myself, I find my well filling up with fresh water, fresh ideas, fresh perspective, fresh creativity.  I will have to learn and relearn this lesson a million times in my lifetime.  My flesh has more than 9 lives.  It keeps rising from the dead and trying to make demands again.  “Oh who will deliver me from this body of death?” lamented the Apostle Paul.  And I can relate to that.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Galatians 5:16-17

Right between the eyes


This is a part of a devotional I read this week in My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.  It hit me right between the eyes.  Emphasis is mine.

I claim God’s promises for my life and look to their fulfillment, and rightly so, but that shows only the human perspective on them. God’s perspective is that through His promises I will come to recognize His claim of ownership on me. For example, do I realize that my “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” or am I condoning some habit in my body which clearly could not withstand the light of God on it? (1 Corinthians 6:19). God formed His Son in me through sanctification, setting me apart from sin and making me holy in His sight (see Galatians 4:19). But I must begin to transform my natural life into spiritual life by obedience to Him. God instructs us even in the smallest details of life. And when He brings you conviction of sin, do not “confer with flesh and blood,” but cleanse yourself from it at once (Galatians 1:16). Keep yourself cleansed in your daily walk.

I must cleanse myself from all filthiness in my flesh and my spirit until both are in harmony with the nature of God. Is the mind of my spirit in perfect agreement with the life of the Son of God in me, or am I mentally rebellious and defiant? Am I allowing the mind of Christ to be formed in me? (see Philippians 2:5). Christ never spoke of His right to Himself, but always maintained an inner vigilance to submit His spirit continually to His Father. I also have the responsibility to keep my spirit in agreement with His Spirit. And when I do, Jesus gradually lifts me up to the level where He lived-a level of perfect submission to His Father’s will— where I pay no attention to anything else. Am I perfecting this kind of holiness in the fear of God? Is God having His way with me, and are people beginning to see God in my life more and more?Be serious in your commitment to God and gladly leave everything else alone. Literally put God first in your life.
I think I can just let those thoughts stand on their own merit.  I’ve been convicted.  I’m off to work on my rebellious and defiant mind.  This obedience thing is really hard.
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The Poor you will always have with you…


“In missionary work the great danger is that God’s call will be replaced by the needs of the people, to the point that human sympathy for those needs will absolutely overwhelm the meaning of being sent by Jesus. The needs are so enormous, and the conditions so difficult, that every power of the mind falters and fails. We tend to forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary work is not primarily the elevation of the people, their education, nor their needs, but is first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ— ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . .'”
~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

There is no doubt that the physical needs of the poor are very great, and in many places life threatening, but these needs should never supersede the preaching of the Gospel.  There are plenty of NGOs that can dig wells and deliver bags of rice… and I’m not denying that Christians can and should do that as well… but what the NGOs can’t do is to save the soul from eternal death.

Yes, we should be “giving a cup of cold water in my name” and expressing our faith through our actions, but it should never be without the message of God’s forgiveness which brings spiritual hope and eternal life to dead souls.  It is not a one or the other proposal, but indeed one is more necessary than the other.  One is more vitally important, in the Grand Scheme of things.  One has eternal significance, the other temporal.  We should never forget that the message of the Cross IS a spring of living water welling up inside of all who receive Jesus’s words.  Come to Jesus, all who hunger and thirst!  Come and be filled, forever.

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd.  He will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”  Revelation 7:17

The Process IS the Purpose


Taken from Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost for His Highest”.  Emphasis mine.

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success.  We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us.  In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite.  We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not.  The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way.  What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself…  What people call preparation, God calls the goal.
Process is not something that anyone really enjoys, most of the time.  We are very often so focused on the destination, that we forget to stop and smell the roses along the way… or roll in the poison ivy along the way of some routes.  God has a purpose for us along the way.  It involves the death of our own ideas about how things should be done or what the end result will look like.  For me, language school was the first intense dying to myself process that I had ever really experienced.  Before, I could control most of what happened in my life.  But once I was put into a new culture with a new language, I had no handles to steer with.  I had to take my hands off the wheel and let God do the steering.
Stripping of pride, laying down of conveniences, forgetting my own identity, and adjusting my values were just a small part of the process that happened as I learned to conjugate Spanish verbs.  When I nearly had a panic attack at the thought of ordering pizza over the phone, I hit an all-time low.  What is God doing with THIS kind of process?  Crushing, refining, purifying, kneading and reforming are all words that come to mind.
Probably many of you have heard this illustration before… but it’s worth sharing again.  
As a butterfly struggles to push out of its cocoon, it squeezes itself through a tiny opening at the bottom of the confining sack.  It pushes and struggles and takes a long time.  Its body bloated with transforming fluids, it presses through the little hole and this forces the fluids into the wings.  The fluids help the wet, crumpled new wings to spread and dry straight and strong.  
If some compassionate person were to come along and see this great struggle, they might be tempted to free the butterfly from its confinement and thus bypass the work and struggle of emerging from the cocoon.  But if that happens, the wings will never fill and spread.  The fat, bloated body will never fly with purposeful grace.  That act of compassion would be seen as cruelty.  The butterfly MUST go through a process in order to live and thrive.  It can not take short cuts.  Struggle and pain are part of the plan, part of the process.  
It is this way with us.  God has a plan for us and sometimes it involves suffering for a “moment”.  Think of the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.  They learned through that process that they could trust God to take care of them, to fight for them, to lead them, to heal them, to provide for them, and to speak to them.  What if they had taken the short cut and gone straight to the Promised Land.  They would have never had their terrifying and glorious Red Sea experience.  They would have remained butterflies with crippled, crumpled spiritual wings.  They would have never thrived in Trusting the Lord.
What process are you pushing through right now?  Embrace the slow and painful growth.  Focus less on the end result and more on the path you are on.  Process is the purpose.

What will my obedience cost others?


When I was in college I had to read a book called “Silence” by Shusaku Endo (1966).  It is a historical fiction novel about Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who are sent to Japan to investigate the alleged apostasy of one of their superiors.   In Japan, the church is “underground” meaning they are persecuted and can not meet in public.  When the the main character (one of the Jesuit priests) is finally betrayed and arrested, he is threatened with torture unless he commits apostasy by placing his feet on an image of Jesus placed on the floor.  He is hung upside down until he bleeds from his eyes, and yet, he still will not give in.  Then he is told that a little boy will be tortured in his place until he relents.  At the thought of his stubborn refusal hurting an innocent child, the priest relents and puts his feet on the image of Christ.  Though he is released, he is forever disgraced among the Japanese Christians.  He concludes that the apostasy of his superior was not as simple and straight forward as it appeared back in Portugal.

I have thought of this book often, and my opinion of the message behind the plot has changed as I have grown spiritually.  I am now resigned to the thought that my obedience will also cost others.

On one of the missionary group/chat pages that I am a member of someone recently opened up a long thread based on the lament of leaving behind aging parents in order to go to the mission field.  This honest missionary was deeply conflicted and pained by the grief his decisions caused his parents.  He was taking the grandchildren far, far away.  When he should have been home helping with his ailing parents, he was leaving, abandoning his post.  His obedience was costing others.

I enjoy reading the devotional “My Utmost For His Highest” by Oswald Chambers.  In January, the daily reading talks about this very theme.  Chambers writes:

If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the pain begins.  If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything— it is a delight.  But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal.  If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans are upset.  They will ridicule us as if to say, “You call this Christianity?”  We could prevent the suffering, but not if we are obedient to God.  We must let the cost be paid.

When our obedience begins to cost others, our human pride entrenches itself and we say, “I will never accept anything from anyone.”  But we must, or disobey God. We have no right to think that the type of relationships we have with others should be any different from those the Lord Himself had (see Luke 8:1-3).

A lack of progress in our spiritual life results when we try to bear all the costs ourselves.  And actually, we cannot.  Because we are so involved in the universal purposes of God, others are immediately affected by our obedience to Him.  Will we remain faithful in our obedience to God and be willing to suffer the humiliation of refusing to be independent?  Or will we do just the opposite and say, “I will not cause other people to suffer”?  We can disobey God if we choose, and it will bring immediate relief to the situation, but it will grieve our Lord. If, however, we obey God, He will care for those who have suffered the consequences of our obedience.  We must simply obey and leave all the consequences with Him.

Beware of the inclination to dictate to God what consequences you would allow as a condition of your obedience to Him.  (Emphasis is mine).

Jesus himself said only if your love for God exceeds your love for your parents and siblings and children… only if your love for God makes your love for your family look like hate, will you be worthy to follow Him.  It’s not that we DO hate our family.  No, we love them, but in comparison to our love for God, family love takes a distant second place.  Let the chips fall where they may.  God will reward and repay.  God will comfort and console.

In the same way that they seized a man named Simon and forced him to carry the cross for Jesus in Luke 23:26, sometimes our commitment to pick up our cross and follow Jesus will cost  the innocent bystanders in our lives.  Our decision to be missionaries is not made only with ourselves to consider, but neither does our concern for our loved ones water down our passion to serve Christ.  Our obedience will cost others.

The Echo


“If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, ‘Come,’ then He will continue to say, ‘Come,’ through you.  You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s ‘Come.’  That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.”

 ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for High Highest
Our lives reverberate, flexing and rippling with the impact of something greater than our own being.  And since no man is an island, our ripples expand across the face of time and touch other ripples, effect other lives.  We are the echo of God calling to the world:  “Come to me all who are thirsty.  Come to me if you are hungry for more.  Come to me if you are exhausted by your burdens.  I am as satisfying as food and drink.  I am strong enough to carry your load for you.  Come.”  And we echo the call.
We reflect.  Like the moon which cannot shine with her own radiance, we reflect the radiance of God.  We are just a ball of dirt in the middle of emptiness and nothingness.  But when God’s light is reflected from our life, we light the darkness with an incomparable beauty.  The moon echos the light of the sun.  Without the sun, she is dark and cold.  Her brilliance is borrowed, her glory is not her own.  I echo the light of God.
What are you reflecting?  What is the echo of your life saying?  Are you multiplying light or deepening the darkness?

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers


My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

A long time ago I read a phrase in a book that has stuck with me:  “The weight of wings”.  The idea was that birds never complain about the weight of the things that give them the gift of flight.  They don’t think about it- they just fly naturally.  I think that’s how God wants us to live our Christian life- naturally.

When we spend too much time and energy focusing on HOW we are of service to others, our Christian duty becomes a burden, a weight.  But if we keep our focus not on ourselves and our usefulness but on Jesus, then our service becomes natural and effortless.  We will unconsciously be useful to God and to others.  It will be as natural and normal as a bird in flight.

I am challenged today to keep my focus on Jesus and to just BE whatever he’s made me to be.  BEING is more powerful than all the DOING in the world.  Focus on Jesus, not on myself.