I do relish getting into a good book — preferably with coffee and chocolate in tow. Many of the books I have picked up of late have been biographies of some of our spiritual fathers. What has been striking for me is how much their everyday lives — along with those of other Christian men and women from history — are marked by simplicity, a commitment to the spiritual disciplines, and a burning passion to serve Christ and reach the lost. Each had their own personal struggles and weaknesses, but they had a deep and intimate love for Jesus, were unquestionably sold out for him, and God used them in mighty ways.
And so as I reflect on the lives of those who have gone before us I find myself asking a recurring question: Are we losing sight of their example in the Church today? They are hard acts to follow. Hours were spent in prayer, possessions were held lightly, and they tangibly felt and carried God’s breaking heart for this broken world. If we want to see God do more in our home, community, nation and world, perhaps God is first wanting more from us.
Have our lives become so caught up with materialism that we’ve failed to realise how much it detracts from our walk with Christ? Have disciplines like prayer and Bible study become peripheral rather than central to our everyday lives? Is our passion for career, recognition, fun, possessions or whatever, suffocating our passion for Christ and his command to tell others about the gospel?
These are questions that we must continually ask ourselves and each other. Reflecting on the lives of those who have fought the good fight, kept the faith and finished the race is a good way of keeping us accountable and driving us to give more. Below are two biographies I can’t recommend highly enough for the challenge, encouragement and inspiration they provide. A further three suggestions will next week. These books have shaken me out of many a slumber.
I would love to give away my copy of each book, so if you would like to register your interest in any of them, see the bottom of this article. And please do share details of any biographies that you would recommend reading. I’d love to know!
Oswald Chambers – Abandoned to God
Today Oswald Chambers is perhaps best known for the daily devotional My Utmost for His Highest. Abandoned to God is the story of how Chambers himself did just that, giving his all for the glory of God. His ministry roles included principal and lead Bible teacher at Bible Training College, London, and YMCA chaplain to the British Commonwealth soldiers in Egypt. It was whilst serving as chaplain in Egypt that Chambers unexpectedly died, aged 43.
Abandoned to God is an intimate and comprehensive portrayal of Chambers’ dynamic and surrendered walk with Christ. Included are excerpts from his diary and many of his poems. The chapter “Dark Night of the Soul” — which documents an extended and significant period of inner turmoil for Chambers — is especially revealing and will serve as a great comfort for those experiencing anything similar.
Chambers wrote: “My Lord Jesus Christ grows grander and more and more central to my mind and heart and being daily. How much, how intolerably much, we owe to Him, none of us begin to realise it. Such an indignation gets hold of me, such a passion of penitence, when I think of the days I have given over to thoughts and concerns other than Himself.”
Melody Green – No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green
Keith Green had only been a Christian seven years when he — along with two of his children and nine other people —were killed in a plane crash in 1982. He was 28.
I find it difficult to describe Green without getting emotional, such was his unbridled enthusiasm and love for Christ. He defined a Christian as being “someone who’s bananas for Jesus!” A listen to any of Green’s songs — many of which were effectively short (and often blunt!) sermons wrapped in song — quickly reveals just how bananas for Jesus he was. A key feature of Green’s ministry was awakening the Church from its sleepiness and challenging Christians to get more serious and passionate about their walk with Christ.
The fittingly named No Compromise was written by his widow Melody. I couldn’t put it down. Green was a teachable and humble man, willing to own up to his mistakes. He had an endearing sense of humour and was an incredibly gifted musician. But what leaps off the book’s pages more than anything else is just how much he loved Jesus.
In the song “Asleep in the Light”, Green sang: “The world is sleeping in the dark that the Church just can’t fight ’cause it’s asleep in the light. How can you be so dead when you’ve been so well fed? Jesus rose from the grave and you — you can’t even get out of bed.”
If you would like to get yourself a copy of one of Tim’s books, tweet him @TimmyBech, or email through to us at [email protected]. First come, first served!