Tag Archives: oswald chambers

Stop Shooting the Prisoners – cont. (repost)

We need to recalibrate our eyes. For too long we’ve been looking at them through our old eyes. If we truly believe that we are new creations in Christ then that means that we have new eyes…Jesus’ eyes. We need to see people through our new Jesus eyes. When He was attacked He didn’t see attackers; He saw them as being attacked. Hurting people hurt people. When people hurt do you see them the way Jesus sees them, as hurting? Don’t use your physical eyes to look at people, use your spiritual eyes.

People aren’t our enemy, they’re people…just like us. And, more importantly, just like we once were! We would do well to remember our chains. They’re people who struggle with life…with issues…with drama and sometimes they cry. But, they also have fun, they enjoy fun stuff, they laugh. The only difference between us and them is that they don’t know Jesus. They have met Him, but they don’t know Him.

Also, while we look at them with Jesus’ eyes we need to see ourselves through their eyes. We need to look at ourselves from their perspective. A little more understanding is in order. OK, a lot more. Maybe it would be more anatomically accurate to say we need to hear ourselves through their ears.

I recently heard Michael Ramsden of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries tell a story of a missionary who went overseas without bothering to learn the local language. In one of his first encounters with a local shopkeeper (a butcher) the missionary tried to say that he was a Christian from America. But, in his linguistic ineptitude he had just told a member of the Greek Orthodox Church that “Jesus was an American.” The butcher pulled out his cleaver and chased the missionary down the street running for his life. The inept missionary then reveled in the fact that he was being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Please! He wasn’t persecuted for the sake of the Gospel.  He was persecuted for being offensive.

We do the same thing right here in America with our church jargon. We have no clue what cultural relevance our words have and don’t bother trying to find out. Then when we are persecuted for triumphantly proclaiming that “Jesus is one of us” we think ourselves holy. Jesus isn’t one of us, we’re supposed to be one of Him. He isn’t just a big us, we’re created to be “little Hims.”

Too often it’s not just a translation or perception problem. Sometimes we really do think that our new life in Christ makes us better than everybody else. Okay, church people, I’m going to let the cat out of the bag, “we’re idiots.” We get it wrong…a lot. Actually, that’s not the secret. People that don’t go to church already know it. We prove it all the time. The real secret is that “non-church” people already know that we get it wrong sometimes. Our problem is that we’re defensive about it. And to defend ourselves we go on the offensive. And we can really be offensive. We say stupid things. Then when we’re called out on it we pride ourselves in being persecuted. That’s not being persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ name.  It’s being persecuted for being stupid.

Yes, there is a part of the Gospel that can be difficult to hear.  There is a part that pierces the heart and even hurts. But, that isn’t our job in the process. Our part is to love people through their hurt. To have earned the right to be in the lives of the people around us before the hurt comes. Not to invite them to the big church production when it’s convenient for us; but to be ready and available when people need us; when they need Jesus with skin on.

Stop Shooting the Prisoners (repost)

…continued from yesterday.

One reason that we’ve lost the culture war is that we’ve been fighting the wrong enemy.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 6:11 & 12

First, Paul identifies the battle, then he points out the enemy, then he lists the equipment (more on the equipment later).

We’ve been trying to defeat the casualties and the captives.  Too often we have made the very people that most need our love and understanding the very target of our wrath.  Imagine the hope of prisoners in Hitler’s concentration camps gazing expectantly through barbed wire as Allied Soldiers approached; they’re hearts trying desperately to comprehend the incomprehensible possibility of liberation.

Then imagine their horror if the “liberators”, those in whom they had placed their trust, had turn their rifles on the prisoners and mowed them down in a hail of bullets.  Try to grasp the terror they would have felt as the same weapons that were intended to vanquish tyrants and despots were used as weapons of truly mass death.  The only word I have is “repulsive.”

Have we as the church in America behaved any differently?  Have we used the “Armor of God” any differently?

The question for us Christians is, “to whom or what do we bring glory?” Just because something, or someone, is created for a purpose doesn’t always mean that the purpose is fulfilled.  Are we worship that brings glory to God or to something else; ourselves, our prejudices or our dogma?  Are we worship that attracts those around us to God or distracts them to something else?  Or worse, are we attractive worship or repulsive worship?

When we are cut off in traffic, what type of worship are we?  When the cashier at McDonald’s gets our order wrong, what type of worship are we? When we see a homeless person who could use a sandwich and coffee, what kind of worship are we?  When a young girl is struggling with the choice of abortion, what kind of worship are we?  When the teenage boy down the street, who we allow to annoy us with his sub-woofers, continues to make poor life decisions, what type of worship are we?  When the elderly lady across the street, who we think complains too much, could use help with her lawn, what type of worship are we?

In short, are we worship that attracts people to the Savior or repulses them?

For that rude driver, forgive because you were forgiven.  For that cashier, offer an encouraging word for the difficult day they may be having.  For that homeless person, make an extra sandwich when you’re making your own lunch for the day.  For that young girl, offer to help raise that precious, unborn child in the way that she should go so that when she is grown she will not depart from it.  For that teenage boy, remember what it was like for you at that age make yourself available to walk the difficult road of adolescence with him.  For that lady, what’s one more yard on your to-do list, anyway? – from my post “Jumping the Worship Shark – Part Deux

Does our worship of God through Jesus liberate (Acts 16:25-26) or destroy suffering people?

“God continually introduces us to people for whom we have no affinity, and unless we are worshipping God, the most natural thing to do is to treat them heartlessly, to give them a text like the jab of a spear, or leave them with a rapped-out counsel of God and go.” – Oswald Chambers

Essentially, we’ve bought into the lie that sinners, unsaved, pre-saved, un-churched [insert some other pithy church jargon here] persons are enemies of Christians and Christianity…that they’re our enemies.  THEY’RE NOT! They’re people.  People that God loves and so should we.

How many times have we misused scripture and begged God to destroy our enemies?  Then we become indignant that when He doesn’t and we lash out at them even more.  In fact, some of them prosper in spite of our pleas. Others have the audacity to actually be likable.  They might even behave more Christ like than many Christians we know.  “Blast it all! Life just isn’t fair,” he says sarcastically.

Or, maybe…just, maybe God doesn’t smite our “enemies” because they aren’t our enemies! Let me repeat, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” Our enemy is inhuman. Here’s the litmus test for identifying your enemy: do they look even remotely like a person? Yes? That’s not your enemy. Jesus says owe no person anything except love.  Insurgent love.

continued tomorrow

The Problem with “Footprints in the Sand”

“Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!” Romans 5:9-10

I must confess that I have a theological problem with the poem “Footprints in the Sand” which is often attributed to Mary Stevens.  It’s a sweet, comforting poem about someone walking along the shore with God; an idyllic scene of an intimate conversation between God and one of His children.  A child who is honest and transparent enough to question the Divine Creator.  It’s a picture I enjoy.

In the course of the conversation the person reminisces on past events in their life and notices footprints in the sand left from life’s journey.  It appears to the narrator that at life’s toughest points there is only one solitary trail of footprints and during times of tranquility there are two sets of footprints.  The person interrogates God, “You promised me that if I followed You, You would walk with me always…during the most trying periods there have only been one set of footprints…why, when I needed You most, You have not been there for me?”

God replies, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

Here’s where my problem is.  There should only be one trail of footprints, at all.  And they’re not left along a picturesque beachfront.  These foot prints are wandering through an arid, lifeless dessert.

For the first distance there should be a set that appear almost chaotic.  It should appear as though left by a drunk, staggering from side to side without direction, at times even backtracking on themselves.  There may even be scuffs and occasional evidence of places of a fall and tumble; maybe even places where the sojourner sat down and gave up in the journey.

At a point in the line of footprints should be two imprints where the traveler fell; driven to their knees in desperation as they realized the futility of the journey.

Then the footprints start again.  Only this time they are somehow different.  Maybe a little larger; for sure the stride is more secure, much more secure.  These footprints continue on with purpose and direction.  Finally, the trek ends at the idyllic, peaceful scene depicted in the poem.

The first set of footprints I have described are mine.  They are my wanderings and futile attempts to find my way before I became a Christian.  The two indentations are left from me finally giving up and falling to my knees in repentance and praying for Jesus to save me from the desert I had been wandering in.   Then comes Jesus’ footprints, carrying me.  Jesus doesn’t walk beside me in the good times and then suddenly swoop in to carry me in the bad times.  He carries me the whole way.  Without Him, I do nothing (John 15:5).  At its end, life’s journey with Jesus ends on the peaceful shore (yeh, it’s hokey to so obviously steal from a camp meeting chorus, but it works).

We get ourselves, personally and corporately, into trouble when we believe that we’re walking in our own strength, and God is just casually watching on, as we experience prosperity.  I believe that’s exactly what happens to us in affluent cultures.  We get full of ourselves thinking that we’ve been walking in our own strength.  I’m not speaking of Wall Street or Hollywood or secular government here.  I’m addressing the church, particularly in the United States.  Somehow we get it in our minds and hearts that we’re responsible for success and relegating God to sustaining us through the difficulties.  There’s a false theology that says, “God picks up where we leave off.”

No, it’s been God the whole time.  We are mistaken when we think that our own efforts have led to our success or that provision is necessarily God’s endorsement of those efforts.  “I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves.” (Ecclesiastes 10:7)  The last several verses of Hebrews 11 are replete with those that God counted as faithful, yet they lacked what we in western culture would call provision; many were destitute even to death and martyrdom.  It was their faith in God, through Jesus, that sustained them in reckless belief that the Redemption is complete.  Oswald Chambers says to, “pray on the realization that you are only perfect in Christ Jesus, not on this plea – ‘O Lord, I have done my best, please hear me.”  We are to do our best, not so that He will hear us in our circumstances, but because He has already heard us regardless of our circumstances.

The provision and sustenance of God is not dependent on our doing our best and leaving the rest of to Him.  Our best is the absolute worst that He could do.  When we learn to pray with desperation during the feast and worship with abandon during the fast, then we will have begun to realize our reliance on the Savior.  That will be AWEthentic worship.

Please, Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth shook and the rocks split.” Matt. 27:51

Click link to view: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain – video clip

In one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history an antagonist, who has to this point of the movie remained unseen, is revealed for who he really is.  Throughout “The Wizard of Oz” the wizard remains an elusive, distant, aloof figure of imaginary proportions.  With trickery, slight of hand and pyro-technic misdirection he has kept both the citizens of the Emerald City and hapless travelers at a distance.  The Great Oz’ ambiguous tests and unreasonable demands are designed to keep others in awe and reverence of himself.  When the most innocent of characters, Toto the dog, uncovers his charade he declares, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

Too often we have a similar perception of God.  We superimpose our own tendencies on His intentions.  Jesus says, “You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.” (Matt. 14:14)  If He doesn’t do it in the way that we see fit we assume His modus operandi would be the same as ours: negotiation (“if you were more holy, I would…”), manipulation (“I will when you start obeying…”), duplicitousness (I need to keep you guessing…) or many other ulterior motives all born of fallen humanity.

But God is completely “other” from us.  His ways aren’t just different from ours, they’re completely other.  When our failings are made public, we’re the ones to demand, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”  Ever since Adam and Eve sinned we’ve been the ones trying to hide and he is the one wanting to reveal Himself.  We’re the ones that are duplicitous and manipulative and we assume that God’s motive must be what our motives would be.

Again, He is completely “other.”  While we draw the curtain tighter around our “secrets” He tears the veil from top to bottom saying, “please pay attention to the Man behind the curtain.”  He pleads, “draw near.”

Earlier in Matthew 14 Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Our way of thinking tends to make this an exclusive (negative) statement only; which in one regard it is (there is only one way to God, Jesus).  On the other hand, Jesus doesn’t say, “stay way from God unless you go through Me.”  He says, “come.”  Paraphrased, God wants us to know Him and we can know Him by knowing Jesus.

It’s on the cross that the curtain is torn and all have invitation to the presence of God.  Not just access, He desires us in His presence.  While we try to hide our pain caused by our sin, Jesus wants us to know what He willingly endured so that His love for us is revealed. A love that separates our sin from our pain as far as the east is from the west.

I’ll let Oswald Chambers continue the thought:  “The veil is drawn aside to reveal all it cost Him to make it possible for us to become sons of God…The Cross of Christ is a triumph for the Son of Man.  It was not only a sign that Our Lord had triumphed, but that He triumphed to save the human race.  Every human being can get through into the presence of God now because of what the Son of Man went through.”

Please, please pay attention to the Man behind the curtain.  He wants us with Him.

That’s why worship.

Stop Shooting the Prisoners!

One reason we’ve lost the culture war is that we’ve been fighting the wrong enemy.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 6:11 & 12

First, Paul identifies the battle, then he points out the enemy, then he lists the equipment (more on the equipment later).

We’ve been trying to defeat the casualties and the captives.  Too often we have made the very people that most need our love and understanding the very target of our wrath.  Imagine the hope of prisoners in Hitler’s concentration camps gazing expectantly through barbed wire as Allied Soldiers approached; they’re hearts trying desperately to comprehend the incomprehensible possibility of liberation.

Then imagine their horror if the “liberators”, those in whom they had placed their trust, had turn their rifles on the prisoners and mowed them down in a hail of bullets.  Try to grasp the terror they would have felt as the same weapons that were intended to vanquish tyrants and despots were used as weapons of truly mass death.  The only word I have is “repulsive.”

Have we as the church in America behaved any differently?  Have we used the “Armor of God” any differently?

The question for us Christians is, “to whom or what do we bring glory?” Just because something, or someone, is created for a purpose doesn’t always mean that the purpose is fulfilled.  Are we worship that brings glory to God or to something else; ourselves, our prejudices or our dogma?  Are we worship that attracts those around us to God or distracts them to something else?  Or worse, are we attractive worship or repulsive worship?

When we are cut off in traffic, what type of worship are we?  When the cashier at McDonald’s gets our order wrong, what type of worship are we? When we see a homeless person who could use a sandwich and coffee, what kind of worship are we?  When a young girl is struggling with the choice of abortion, what kind of worship are we?  When the teenage boy down the street, who we allow to annoy us with his sub-woofers, continues to make poor life decisions, what type of worship are we?  When the elderly lady across the street, who we think complains too much, could use help with her lawn, what type of worship are we?

In short, are we worship that attracts people to the Savior or repulses them?

For that rude driver, forgive because you were forgiven.  For that cashier, offer an encouraging word for the difficult day they may be having.  For that homeless person, make an extra sandwich when you’re making your own lunch for the day.  For that young girl, offer to help raise that precious, unborn child in the way that she should go so that when she is grown she will not depart from it.  For that teenage boy, remember what it was like for you at that age make yourself available to walk the difficult road of adolescence with him.  For that lady, what’s one more yard on your to-do list, anyway? – from my post “Jumping the Worship Shark – Part Deux

Does our worship of God through Jesus liberate (Acts 16:25-26) or destroy suffering people?

“God continually introduces us to people for whom we have no affinity, and unless we are worshipping God, the most natural thing to do is to treat them heartlessly, to give them a text like the jab of a spear, or leave them with a rapped-out counsel of God and go.” – Oswald Chambers

Essentially, we’ve bought into the lie that sinners, unsaved, pre-saved, un-churched [insert some other pithy church jargon here] persons are enemies of Christians and Christianity…that they’re our enemies.  THEY’RE NOT! They’re people.  People that God loves and so should we.

How many times have we misused scripture and begged God to destroy our enemies?  Then we become indignant that when He doesn’t and we lash out at them even more.  In fact, some of them prosper in spite of our pleas. Others have the audacity to actually be likable.  They might even behave more Christ like than many Christians we know.  “Blast it all! Life just isn’t fair,” he says sarcastically.

Or, maybe…just, maybe God doesn’t smite our “enemies” because they aren’t our enemies! Let me repeat, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” Our enemy is inhuman. Here’s the litmus test for identifying your enemy: do they look even remotely like a person? Yes? That’s not your enemy. Jesus says owe no person anything except love.

We need to recalibrate our eyes. For too long we’ve been looking at them through our old eyes. If we truly believe that we are new creations in Christ then that means that we have new eyes…Jesus’ eyes. We need to see people through our new Jesus eyes. When He was attacked He didn’t see attackers; He saw them as being attacked. Hurting people hurt people. When people hurt do you see them the way Jesus sees them, as hurting? Don’t use your physical eyes to look at people, use your spiritual eyes.

People aren’t our enemy, they’re people…just like us. And, more importantly, just like we once were! We would do well to remember our chains. They’re people who struggle with life…with issues…with drama and sometimes they cry. But, they also have fun, they enjoy fun stuff, they laugh. The only difference between us and them is that they don’t know Jesus. They have met Him, but they don’t know Him.

Also, while we look at them with Jesus’ eyes we need to see ourselves through their eyes. We need to look at ourselves from their perspective. A little more understanding is in order. OK, a lot more. Maybe it would be more anatomically accurate to say we need to hear ourselves through their ears.

I recently heard Michael Ramsden of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries tell a story of a missionary who went overseas without bothering to learn the local language. In one of his first encounters with a local shopkeeper (a butcher) the missionary tried to say that he was a Christian from America. But, in his linguistic ineptitude he had just told a member of the Greek Orthodox Church that “Jesus was an American.” The butcher pulled out his cleaver and chased the missionary down the street running for his life. The inept missionary then reveled in the fact that he was being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Please! He wasn’t persecuted for the sake of the Gospel.  He was persecuted for being offensive.

We do the same thing right here in America with our church jargon. We have no clue what cultural relevance our words have and don’t bother trying to find out. Then when we are persecuted for triumphantly proclaiming that “Jesus is one of us” we think ourselves holy. Jesus isn’t one of us, we’re supposed to be one of Him. He isn’t just a big us, we’re created to be “little Hims.”

Too often it’s not just a translation or perception problem. Sometimes we really do think that our new life in Christ makes us better than everybody else. Okay, church people, I’m going to let the cat out of the bag, “we’re idiots.” We get it wrong…a lot. Actually, that’s not the secret. People that don’t go to church already know it. We prove it all the time. The real secret is that “non-church” people already know that we get it wrong sometimes. Our problem is that we’re defensive about it. And to defend ourselves we go on the offensive. And we can really be offensive. We say stupid things. Then when we’re called out on it we pride ourselves in being persecuted. That’s not being persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ name.  It’s being persecuted for being stupid.

Yes, there is a part of the Gospel that can be difficult to hear.  There is a part that pierces the heart and even hurts. But, that isn’t our job in the process. Our part is to love people through their hurt. To have earned the right to be in the lives of the people around us before the hurt comes. Not to invite them to the big church production when it’s convenient for us; but to be ready and available when people need us; when they need Jesus with skin on.

Next: It’s not a civil war