Revisiting Oswald Chambers By Dr. Rob McKenna
My Utmost for His Highest and Oswald Chambers
In 1996 my parents, David and Janet McKenna, gave me a copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. If you didn’t know this already, this powerful little devotional book is actually a compilation of many of his talks and writings over his lifetime, and was published by his wife Biddy seventeen years after his death. Inside my 1996 copy, my parents wrote, “Because you gave yourself wholly to God, the Holy Spirit empowered you to see “beyond” (the long view) and “above (the big picture) through the mind of Christ.”
My Fluctuating Intimacy with God
Like many of my friends and colleagues who have committed their lives to Christ, my relationship and intimacy with God sometimes feels like a text to a friend that I haven’t talked to in a while. My hope in sharing that with you is that you don’t lose respect for me, or that you dismiss any of my questions as being a predictive outcome of my lack of faith, but that you won’t feel alone or weird if that’s been your experience too. My faith in the Lord is faithful and consistent, and yet my intimacy with the Lord runs in seasons that I hope become less frequent.
Over my lifetime, I have heard every possible sermon on the importance of reading scripture, praying, and every other spiritual discipline. While I would never suggest that there wasn’t truth in every message I ever heard, so often they lacked nuance into who I am, how I learn, and how the Lord speaks specifically to me. I was so over the messages that put me in a place of shame because I had never been able to live up to the prayer and Bible reading standard that was set before me. In fact, it missed me completely.
What I want inside my deepest moments and in the most mundane parts of my day are to be near the Lord, to be seen and known, and to live every moment in His presence. That’s what I want and what I’ve always wanted.
Enter Oswald Chambers
This last year I made a commitment to get back to reading Oswald Chambers each morning. Here is my routine.
1) Read the short piece of scripture he references,
2) read the entire chapter from the Bible where that scripture is located,
3) read what my old friend Chambers has to say about it, and
4) get on my knees in my office and sit in silent prayer.
I read the entire chapter before I read his thoughts because I want to read the context around the passage first, and I get on my knees at the end because it’s the posture I am most drawn to that Oswald seems to bring out in me.
If we truly believe we are created in the image of God, then our understanding of human relationships that ebb and flow is likely to be our best image of what our relationship with the Lord is like. Instead of feeling shame for the short or long seasons where we feel closer or further from the Lord, maybe that’s the nature of the best relationship. And, the Lord is never actually far away. For me, He is becoming more like the friend with whom I can easily pick up a conversation after a time away, as opposed to the friend who makes me feel guilty because I haven’t called. The Lord, like that first friend, already sees me whole and has that kind of perspective on who I am.
What Continues to Shake and Settle in Me
As I have revisited Oswald Chambers day after day, there is something thematic brewing in me that was also a part of his perspective. While my leadership in my organization and our impact matter, it’s not the main point. The main point of our lives starts with our relationship to the Lord and our complete surrender to his purposes for us. It is so hard for me to get that into my thick skull. Everything is subservient to the person of Jesus – the personal Jesus who redeemed everything. Everything else – my church, my family, my business, my health, my house, my outcomes, my anxiety – all are in a secondary position behind the foundation of my relationship to the God who created it all, sacrificed it all, and redeemed it all. Even my capacity to love and to show compassion to others or to bring justice to the world – all only have value in complete surrender and intimacy with Jesus.
The Long View and the Big Picture
My parents note to me was a reference to the November 28th devotional where Chambers writes, “The gift of the essential nature of God is made effectual in us by the Holy Spirit, He imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, which puts “the beyond” within, and immediately “the beyond” has come within, it rises up to “the above,” and we are lifted into the domain where Jesus lives.”
My aspiration is to live in that reality. Above and beyond. Thank you Biddy for publishing your husband’s works for someone like me.
Dr. Rob McKenna, is the CEO and Founder, WiLD Leaders, Inc. Named one of the top 30 I-O Psychologists alive today, Dr. McKenna is passionate about developing leaders and about transforming the way we see the people in our organizations.
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