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From the Egypt Diaries of Oswald Chambers

I have been taking notes on the Scottish devotional writer Oswald Chambers, who is best known for his book My Utmost for His Highest and who died in 1917 at the age of 43 in Egypt while serving as a YMCA chaplain to Australian troops during World War I. Chambers’ Egypt diaries, which I recently stumbled across in Loma Linda University’s library, are filled with such wonderful and provocative insights I thought I would share a few of them here:
On Discipleship of the Mind
“My strong advice to you is to soak, soak, soak in philosophy and psychology, until you know more of these subjects than ever you need consciously to think. It is ignorance of these subjects on the part of ministers and workers that has brought our evangelical theology to such a sorry plight…When people refer to a man as ‘a man of one book,’ meaning the Bible, he is generally found to be a man of multitudinous books, which simply isolates the one Book to its proper grandeur. The man who reads only the Bible does not, as a rule, know it or human life.” – letter of pastoral advice to Major John Skidmore
On “Churchianity” and Doctrine
“Surely all rational things such as civilization, organization, and Churchianity are but temporal scaffolding of the Real, which is ever hid with Christ in God. The real life is as a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying, and when it dies it brings forth much fruit. The tendency and aim of organized Christianity and civilization is to make the corn of wheat stand alone, and truly in religious matters whenever organization becomes conscious of itself, the essential pristine spiritual life is gone. Whenever the reminiscent is made the appeal of any organization, spontaneous originality goes and it is a battle against time to maintain a monument….Even doctrine, grand and valuable as it is, immediately it becomes the conscious standard of belief, it becomes also a tyrannic despotism in which spiritual life cannot progress. The law of the spiritual life is based in a personal vital relationship to Jesus Christ, and its growth is one of implicit ‘spontaneous moral originality.’” – October 1915
On Taking the Human Stuff as It Actually Is
“It is such an inspiration to take human stuff as it actually is, and to drop the categorizing to which more or less we are all so liable, dealing with human beings as types. I do not believe in the type hunt. Every human being is his own type, therefore take him as a fact, not as an illustration of a prejudice.” – undated
“I find the truth of this more and more…The irritable, testy man is really often a decent fellow, hurt on the inside by some perplexity of belief, and what he needs is not so much debating as a new point of view.” – June 23, 1917
“They [the soldiers] are too near, in fact we are all too near, the flesh and the devil and God, to be anything else than genuinely what we really are. The sense of the Fatherhood of God through our Lord Jesus Christ is a very wonderful realization these days…The uniqueness of asking God’s blessing on a boxing bout! It is just these sordid actualities that make the right arena for Our Lord’s Reality. I am devoted to the plain rough stuff as it is, and it is glorious to know that the reality of God’s presence is but increased by things as they actually are.” – November 10, 1915
On Evangelism
“How unproselytizing God is! I feel the ‘soul winning’ campaign is often at heart the apotheosis of commercialism, the desire to see so much result from so much expenditure. The ordinary evangelical spirit is less and less congenial to my own soul; the vastness of the ministry of intercession is, and the willingness to testify to the hope that is in you, and to stir up people to think, and to take the apparently haphazard opportunities of talking personally to people about what you have discovered of God. I am rejoicing at the prospect of talking to this miscellaneous boat crowd about our Lord Jesus Christ.” – undated
“Of the many haphazard incidents that occur, one today is very characteristic. Two Tommies lounged up to the Items Hut counter and began chatting in their fine way and landed almost at once on to religion. One said that he could not stand religious people, and I said, ‘Niether can I,” explaining that, to me, spiritual reality was everything.” – June, 1917

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