There was a dusty copy of this book sitting in my parents bathroom for years, and I never picked it up.
Years later, having fallen into a group of men who meet on Friday mornings, calling themselves the New Canaan Society, I heard reference to Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" again. So, I picked up a copy.
Oswald writes in a very direct, matter-of-fact way, always expounding on a verse of Scripture. His thoughts are deep, often weaving together key concepts in the Christian faith. He has one devotional for each day of the year.
I don't recommend too many devotionals, mainly because I don't assume what works for me will work for others, but I do recommend Oswald. And the only reason I can give is that there are times when I simply open the book and what he has written speaks to me very clearly and in a way that is extraordinary. Let me give you two examples:
A mentor to me wrote me one day for an idea--he was set to give a talk at the New Canaan Society group and he wasn't sure how he wanted to approach it yet. So he texted me if I had any ideas. The day prior, I had taken one of the guys from Cityteam's addiction recovery program with me to a business meeting, and wanting to include him, I asked his opinion to which he blurted out Luke 17:21: "nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst."
I remember thinking at the time that his response wasn't especially applicable to the meeting. But, as I pondered the verse more, I was amazed at the meaning of it, how while we are often searching to see where God is or how he's moving, all the while he is right in our midst!
And so, when my mentor wrote me for an idea about what to speak about, I texted back to him, "Luke 17:21." He replied something along the lines of that being a great verse and he might incorporate it.
The following day, it was Friday, October 19th, 2012, and I ushered into the New Canaan Society meeting that morning. There was my mentor all set to talk. But before he did, another man got up to open in prayer. As he did, he opened his Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" book and read the entry for that day, which highlighted what else but Luke 17:21. My mentor and I exchanged surprised looks, who could have imagined that this verse would come up again? That verse continued to come up in my life for a few weeks, so much so that it became alive to me and engrained in my heart. And what Oswald wrote about it spoke to me and my tendency to value practical activity in service of God more than a relationship with him.
On another day, June 1st, 2014 to be precise, I was running around coordinating the production of a large and busy hackathon at a technology incubator in Silicon Valley. Another man on the production team was suffering from an illness and I could tell he was worn out and stressed about many of the details. He sought my opinion throughout the day on how everything was going to get done, and I could sense his worry. Seeking a dose of Scripture and a few words to explain it, I pulled up Oswald's site and read the entry for that day. An excerpt of it reads:
It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake panic for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe in Him.
These words spoke to me greatly, and I followed up my reading of them with a couple minutes of prayer thanking God for his Word. Then I found the man who was worried and I pulled him aside to remind him that God was in control, that we were doing this for his Kingdom. We prayed together right there on the spot, and he thanked me for what I had done. He later come back to me and asked me to get before the entire hackathon to pray over the group ahead of the final day of presentations and the awards ceremony, which can be stressful. I gladly did this, and I used Oswald's writing for that day as a basis for my prayer. Once again, his words on this day have stuck with me, and have balanced my understanding of faith and work.