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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Stuffy No More

During the First World War, a young Bible college teacher named Oswald Chambers became chaplain for the British army in Cairo, Egypt.


At first, not everyone appreciated his presence.


"I can't stand religious people," said one soldier, getting into his face.  "Neither can I,” replied Chambers.


Within a year he had won over the vast majority of those under his care – not by imitating the religious stuffiness that was fashionable 100 years ago in England, but by teaching the Good News and encouraging the troops with an authentic and contagious joy.


There’s something about the prospect of “becoming religious” that sends people running for cover.


Most of us have known at least one person who, having claimed to be in a closer relationship with God, quickly became a lot less fun, considerably more hung up on social taboos, and generally not the kind of person one would think to invite to a barbecue.


Oswald Chambers won the affection of the men around him because his passion for God made life richer and happier, not more dismal.


In the fall of 1917, he felt a tenderness in his stomach.  His appendix was inflamed.  He held off going to the hospital, not wanting to take a bed from a soldier who might need emergency medical care.  By the time he had abdominal surgery, his condition had worsened.  A few weeks later he died at the age of 43, leaving behind his wife Biddy and their little daughter Kathleen.


Only when he was gone did the world begin to grasp the full impact of his teachings.


Biddy spent years editing his beloved sermons and Bible presentations.  Ultimately they were turned into 50 books.  The most famous is the daily devotional My Utmost For His Highest, which presents 365 selections of Chambers’ talks and has never gone out of print.


More than three decades after his death, a group of seminary students timidly knocked on the door of the London house where Biddy was living with Kathleen.  She immediately invited them to stay for supper.


The students were in awe.  They were in the home of the wife and the daughter of the Oswald Chambers.  They spoke reverently about deep theological issues.


Biddy would have none of it.  Religious formality had never been allowed to take root in their home.


Biographer David McCasland writes in Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God, “To the astonishment of her very serious guests, she looked at her 35-year-old daughter Kathleen and said, ‘Why don’t you see if you can spit a cherry seed clear to the top of the over-mantle.’”


Kathleen knew what her mother was up to.  “She whooshed a tiny projectile toward the target.  Ping.  It was close, but fell short of the top.”


Then Biddy sighed and asked her daughter, “I don’t suppose any of these young men could do better?”


With that, scores of cherry pits began to fly.  A would-be bishop spat a seed almost to the ceiling.  Everyone exploded into laughter. 


Biddy smiled with satisfaction.  “Oswald would enjoy this,” she thought. 


Is it possible to fall passionately in love with God and other people and not become a religious stuffed shirt?


Of course it is.  


On the road to heaven, make sure you stop to experience the never-ending simple joys of the journey.





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