Tag Archives: My Utmost for His Highest

Stillness and Silence

Stillness and silence aren’t natural to most of us… I know they’re not for me, even when I’m sleeping :-p

But they’ve have been catching my attention lately in a way that points to God.

At Under the Cover of Prayer, Judith Lawrence wrote:

Silence is not a familiar place for many of us but as we seek to be with God silence becomes a sought after and familiar venue. (Adventures of the Spiritual Life — click to read the whole post, it’s worth your time)

This little gem from Oswald Chambers really got me thinking:

I must keep my conscious life as a sacred place for the Holy Spirit. Then as I lift different ones to God through prayer, the Holy Spirit intercedes for them.” (Nov. 7 reading, My Utmost for His Highest, updated edition edited by James Reimann)

I don’t always “get” brother Oswald’s thoughts, since they’re often elevated above my own, but this sacred place in the conscious life… that resonates with me. A still place, a holy place, in keeping with the idea that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

I can see this sacred inner place being the basis for Frank Laubach‘s call to “keep in constant touch with God,” echoing Brother Lawrence‘s call to “practice the presence of God.” (You can read some of Frank Laubach’s writing here… just scroll through the page until you reach the excerpt from Letters by a Modern Mystic.) Or you can get hold of a copy of Practicing His Presence, edited by Gene Edwards, which contains the writings of Frank Laubach and Brother Lawrence. It’s a slim book and one I consider a keeper.

I don’t usually include a song on Fridays, but here’s Brian Doerksen‘s Everything. Let it become our prayer. 

The Lord Will Fulfill His Purpose for Me

“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.”
Psalm 138:8, NIV 1984*

Not everyone has a large and visible calling-type of purpose, but we’re each called to the “long obedience in the same direction,” to the faithfulness and openness to God that lets us touch many people’s lives in small ways.

And it’s His purpose, not my plans. Oswald Chambers writes, “We have to maintain our soul open to the fact of God’s creative purpose, and not muddle it with our own intentions.” (My Utmost for His Highest, Sept. 21)

This takes the pressure off. Instead of trying to keep track of everything and move it forward, I need to be looking to see what He’s going to do in any situation. What He might want to do through me.

I’m under authority. I’m neither the strategist nor the victim of circumstances. I’m a vessel the Potter has made, to fill and pour out as He sees best. And I believe on the other side of this life we’ll look back from His perspective and see that He has done all things well.

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me…”

Simple. Straightforward. I think I can hold onto that today.

Father, help me keep perspective and balance. Help me not get too self-absorbed or take too much responsibility for my own usefulness. Help me trust and obey You.

Here’s Robin Mark with “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)”. (Note the line “The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures…”)

* The 2011 NIV says “The LORD will vindicate me…” New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Source of Our Worth

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

[Jesus] replied… “I have given you authority… However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Luke 10:17-20, NIV*

No wonder the disciples are pumped: their mission succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. That’s a good thing. And I don’t think Jesus is rebuking their excitement. I think He’s giving them perspective.

Oswald Chambers interprets Jesus’ words here as “Don’t rejoice in your successful service for Me, but rejoice because of your right relationship with Me.” (My Utmost for His Highest, August 30: “Usefulness or Relationship?)

I’ve been reading about the damage perfectionism does, how much harm comes from basing our worth on how well or poorly we perform, and what a widespread problem it is even among Christians. (The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee)

From that angle, I see this verse as an antidote I can use when I don’t meet my own (or others’) achievement standards.

Step one: seek God’s direction first, not my own or someone else’s arbitrary standard.

Step two: rely on God’s strength.

Step three: celebrate success, acknowledge and learn from failure. Ask God’s opinion.

Step four: know my value isn’t performance-based but redemption-based.

Mighty and righteous Creator God, all our righteousness is only filthy rags compared to Your perfection. We can’t earn Your love or approval. Thank You for Your grace that redeemed us and made us acceptable—adopted—valued. Help us truly believe this, at the deepest level. Help us find our worth in You.

This week’s song is “He Knows My Name,” from Geoff Moore’s Speak to Me album.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Unless the LORD

Unless the LORD builds the house,
the builders labour in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Psalm 127:1-2, NIV*

We need God in it—in each day, in each part of it—at a foundational level. Or there’s no point in what we’re doing.

I know that, but somehow this psalm reminded me in a fresh way. Then Jan Cox’s post, “First,” from A Better Way, showed up in my inbox.

Jan challenged me to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and she quoted the previous day’s entry for My Utmost for His Highest, which I’d only half processed. Oswald Chambers had written:

So often we mar God’s designed influence through us by our self-conscious effort to be consistent and useful. Jesus says that there is only one way to develop spiritually, and that is by concentration on God. [My Utmost for His Highest, May 18]

Concentration on God. Seeking Him first in the day and in each endeavour.

A comment at the end of the “First” post led me to the Pursuing Heart blog, where Cherry  had posted “The Source of Beauty.” She also referred to that same Oswald Chambers quote, and she said:

How often do we put our focus in the wrong place? …Forgetting that all that is needed is to let our roots go down deep, and our hearts to reach up to Him… I am called back to this simplicity over and over again.


All our running around, self-directed and self-powered because we’ve forgotten to let God be God, in first place in our lives. We’ve complicated it. And added stress.

In vain.

Father God, our Creator and Sustainer, forgive us for the times we run ahead of You. Quiet our spirits to seek You first. Remind us we’re never too busy not to pray. Root us deep in Your love. Show us where You’re working, and how we can best work with You.

Here’s a new-to-me but classic hymn, sung by the Antrim Mennonite Choir: “Day by Day.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Expecting God’s Mercy

Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
Psalm 119:132, NIV*

Do you hear the absolute trust and confidence in God’s character and in His commitment to care?

As You always do.”

We may not have a clue of what God will do, or how or when, but we can know that He will always keep His word. For those of us who love Him, part of our responsibility is to actively trust Him, and to keep alert to recognize His mercy when it comes.

Or, as Oswald Chambers expressed it in My Utmost for His Highest, we need to live in “Gracious Uncertainty”:

Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in—but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 29. [Click the link to read his entire message—it will bless you.]

It isn’t easy for people who like to see, touch, and forecast our world. People who are used to instant fixes. But that’s how God works, and it trains our spirits to trust Him.

Sovereign and loving God, thank You for Your Word that teaches who You are and what You’ve said. Help us in our unbelief, increase our faith, and open our spiritual eyes and ears to notice Your touch on our lives and circumstances. Help us to give You praise, and to live in this “gracious uncertainty” that is certain of You—for our own benefits and for a demonstration of Your goodness to the people around us.

Here’s a new-to-me version of Ira Stanphill’s classic hymn, “I Don’t Know About Tomorrow,” sung by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Desiring God

How lovely is your dwelling place,
LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Psalm 84:1-2, NIV*

This psalm opens with a progression: it’s not just the Temple courts the writer craves, it’s the Presence in that sacred space.

A few of the late April readings in Oswald Chambers’ classic My Utmost for His Highest touch on the danger of desiring the experience of God or the blessings from God instead of desiring God Himself.

A holy hush in the sanctuary, a strong spiritual experience, God’s tangible touch on our lives—these are wonderful gifts we need to receive with praise. But they’re evidence of His glory, they’re not the ultimate desire of our spirits.

If you make a god out of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life… until you have learned not to be obsessed with those exceptional moments He has given you. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 25 

Holy and loving God, because of Jesus Christ our Saviour we can come into Your presence, and Your Holy Spirit dwells in us and makes us His Temple. Give us a thirst for closer relationship with You, a hunger for more than Your blessings—a hunger for You alone.

Matt Redman’s song, “Better is One Day,” echoes this psalm. Not sure who’s singing here.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Our Changing Language

Most Sunday mornings find me in church. Sometimes as we sing hymns and choruses or as people pray or speak, I look around for newcomers. If I see any, I wonder: do they understand the words they’re hearing, or does it sound like a secret code… or insider jargon?

There’s the Shakespearean or King James English of the classic hymns. And old or new music can rely on references that the well-churched understand but that could mystify a stranger.

“Christian-ese” is based on the assumption that all hearers have the same knowledge base to supply meaning to the references given. With fewer and fewer people growing up in church, that’s not the case anymore.

And while we want the long-time members of our congregations to be comfortable and able to worship in ways meaningful to them, it can’t be at the cost of excluding the uninitiated visitor.

Sometimes after a particular song I feel like the leader should explain its obscure references: especially lines about the blood,  the Lamb, or marching to Zion. Beautiful, poetic imagery. But it’s figurative, symbolic. And if you don’t know the symbols, you may not have time or inclination to figure it out. You sure won’t ask the stranger in the next seat, who’s nodding and smiling in agreement.

Dorene Meyer wrote an interesting post at the Canadian Writers Who Are Christian blog, called “A Clear Message”. (Follow the link to read the whole post) In part she says:

I was sitting in church today, singing songs that were written 200 or even 400+ years ago, mouthing words like, “hark, thine, oxen, ass, whither, leadeth” and wondering how much our choice of songs has hindered the spread of the Gospel in our century….Why do we as followers of Jesus, hold so tightly to words and phrases and songs that create misunderstanding, confusion and lack of comprehension of the simple Gospel truth that Jesus taught?

Dorene’s suggestion is to make better use of the contemporary-language worship music available. I agree.

But I look at the lyrics of classic hymns from John Newton, John Wesley, and others not named John, and I’d like to add this hope too: can’t we find skilled song-smiths to update the language without marring the meaning? Some of these hymns pack a serious theological punch. Getting the message into our heads and hearts through song is as valid now as in the 1600’s.

Before anyone starts throwing things, let me point out that we’ve embraced carefully, prayerfully-done translations of the Bible into the English language of our times, with greater frequency as language continues to change. The New International Version, not a particularly ancient text, has just released a fresh update under a 2010 copyright date. If you compare verses at Biblegateway.com with your home NIV, you’ll find subtle differences.

And the Book of Common Prayer has been replaced in many Anglican churches with the Book of Alternative Service… including an updated rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. (While there may be other issues with these changes, my point is that there’s a felt need to make the language understandable to the average pray-er in the church.)

Then there are updated versions of classic Christian books like Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest and many of George MacDonald’s novels. Our language is evolving so rapidly that even the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis feel old-fashioned and a bit awkward. Ten years ago when I read them aloud to my kids, I translated as I went.

I don’t want to let these treasures slip from our contemporary experience, but neither do I enjoy falling back into archaic language. And I’m old enough to understand it! What will the younger generations—and those to come—miss because it’s encrusted in thees and thous and wherefores? (Did you know, “wherefore” means “why” or “therefore”, and not “where”?)

It’s fine for us to say listeners and readers should recognize the value of the message and embrace it anyway. It may be difficult to understand, but it’s not impossible. A little work never hurt anyone.

But it looks… sounds… feels… old-fashioned. Out of date. Irrelevant. And especially in an age where everything is instant, the value has to be clearly visible on the surface. Old English, even early/mid-20th Century English, may not be a foreign language but it’s at least an obscure dialect.

Do we want people looking at the liberating message of Jesus, be it in song, in article or in fiction, as some out-dated tradition? Don’t we want to show it’s as fresh and relevant today as ever? Then we need to speak the language of the time.

Six inspirational links plus a fitness bonus

Stop by Devotional Christian for daily devotionals from Our Daily Bread, Max Lucado, My Utmost for His Highest, Charles Spurgeon, The High Calling and more.

I’ve been enjoying Duane Scott’s Scribing the Journey, especially his post on “Dreaming With a Troubled Heart“.

Flickers of a Faithful Firefly shares beautiful photos and inspirational thoughts. I especially appreciated her post, “Cultivating Stillness“.

I’ve mentioned Free2Soar before. This blog has become one of my favourites, with its short, poetic insights into faith and relationships.

Ever feel overwhelmed with your tasks and responsibilities? I do. Check out Susan Stewart’s post, “Psalm 23 – according to me“, at Whatever He Says.

Kimberley Payne offers a free monthly electronic Fitness & Faith Matters newsletter..

Deskbound? Here’s a 10-minute video on Staying Fit While Sitting All Day.

New Places I’ve Found on the Web

Here are some of the new or new-to-me places I’ve found on the Internet:

My Utmost for His Highest provides daily devotionals by Oswald Chambers

Under the Cover of Prayer shares insights, revelations and stories that will show the power of prayer.

Kyria is an online, subscription-based magazine for Christian women. You can check out a free sample here: Kyria: December 2009: Rest.

Listening to My Hair Grow is a new blog from Rose McCormick Brandon with posts on various topics that arise from “a search to regain quietness in my life”.

Live Green, Live Better is a garden-related blog by Kim Burgsma, offering “tips, tricks and true confessions from a landscape designer”.

Heartfelt Devotionals offers a variety of “Thoughts for Common Sense Living” from Brenda Wood.

Return Home and Tell is a new blog from Kimberley Payne, acting on Jesus’ words in Luke 8:39, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”

Free2soar offers flight-themed poetry and Scripture.

Talk on the Way is a website “dedicated to helping our generation know more than just facts about Jesus–to know Him personally” with articles and conversations to deepen personal spiritual growth and relationships.

Maureen’s Musings is the art-and-words blog of Nova Scotia folk artist and writer Maureen Newman. Maureen’s Rural Moments site will let you see all of her paintings.

Dreaming Big shares “reflections about identity, freedom and dreaming with God” from Christian speaker Heather Boersma.

And a hearty thank-you to Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience, whose blog is not new to me but whose Write! Canada workshop on blogging challenged Christian writers to remember Jesus’ upside-down definition of success and to serve with our words.