Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In between (2)...

I find myself wondering just how people are utilizing their time, amidst the fear inducing, anxiety producing, hoarding excusing CORONAVIRUS outbreak. Certainly many are still engaged in the normal day to day activities - thank God - like farmers, truck drivers, first responders, medical professionals, grocery store staff, et cetera.  But what about those of us confined to our homes.

Are we binging on Netflix, indulging in our favorite hobbies, increasing our telephone gossip, or otherwise wasting this tremendous opportunity to engage in constructive activities.  I wonder how many closets will go unstraightened, basements or garages  unpurged, rooms unpainted or even uncleaned/unstraightened.  Or even more constructively, how much time will be spent in the pursuit of knowledge?  Or will our internet surfing be more of an indulgence in trivial matters, senseless videos, and fake news?

What about pursuing God?  In this great time of need - need for assurance, comfort, peace, deliverance, and healing - will we pursue, with vigor, our growth in grace, our spiritual development, our prayer lives?  Will the new birth be sought by a generation of folks whose lives will be forever changed by an encounter with the One, Holy and Righteous God?

Before I get started into my pontifications on Tozer's The Pursuit of God I'd like to give some background on Tozer, his writing of the book and why it has found such a home in my library.

Tozer was born to a  poor family in Western Pennsylvania (such that a formal education wouldn't be possible). He was converted at age 17, joined a Methodist church and set up a private prayer room in a dingy corner of his parent's basement. He soon became a lay preacher and fell into disfavor with his church but found a home in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, being assigned to a parish at age 21 without either high school or college education. He went on to educate himself, edit The Alliance Witness, hosted a radio show and was recognized by his own denomination and the whole evangelical church community as a tour de force for revival.



The Pursuit of God is his most popular book and clearly shows his passion for "the fellowship of the burning heart".  (n.b. One of the most succinct presentations of the "how-tos" of developing this passion can be found in his The Size of the Soul, a posthumous publication of some of his editorials from The Alliance Witness). More on this in future postings.

In The Pursuit of God, Tozer describes the necessity and means of developing that passion as well as the all-surpassing peace and joy which it brings. It is born out of his personal experience, particularly evident in Chapter Two (titled "The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing") which reflects his desperate struggle to turn his only daughter over to God. When full surrender was made regarding her life, there was a glorious release for Tozer. And it is this release that finds such resonance in my soul.
  • It IS NOT an "I don't care anymore" kind of hopeless giving up. 
  • It IS an "I trust God to know, to guide, and to direct, FAR better than I ever could, the decisions over which I have no control and ulitimately no responsibility" perspective.
It is what gives me such great peace amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. 



It was the peace that I felt as I turned my youngest son over the Lord as he lie dying (so I thought) in the hospital bed in that country halfway across the world. 

 




It was the glorious joy I experienced when, in rural, upcountry Kenya, on a Sunday night, a man walked out of the forest with a distributor cap for my 20 year old Land Cruiser as my family feared for their well-being on that dark night. 

 

It is the confidence wherein I sleep peacefully, wait confidently, and know WITHOUT A DOUBT my redeemer lives...


Are you of a mind to develop that sort of passion for God, that nothing else will do?  Are you willing to drop, to release, to let go of ANYTHING which hinders, including family, friends, economic  well-being, social standing, and especially your need to control your life, in order to posses the assurance, the confidence, the fearlessness that God has planned for you? Are you desirous of becoming a member of the "fellowship of the burning heart"? If you are then may this next series of postings guide you on your way.  It will not be light. It will not be easy. It will not always be comfortable. But the rewards are eternal. May the Lord ignite such a passion in you that you live without fear, love without reserve, and learn again of His great grace!

Monday, March 30, 2020

In between (1)...

Before I begin with my rambling commentary on some of my "double underlining" in Tozer's The Pursuit of God - I will pause for some inter-book ramblings.

William Culbertson Fifth President of Moody Bible Institute writes the following in the forward to God's Pursuit of Man:

 This book contains strong medicine, bitter to the taste, but potent if taken in contrition and in belief. For a generation content in its own smugness, emotionally exhausted by the claptrap and bunkum of some well-meaning but misled leaders, glibly familiar with all the niceties of careful theological phrases, the medicine may be too bitter. Only the hopeless will benefit.  May the slain of the Lord be many; may the hopeless be multiplied.  Only then can we experience what some of us know by rote.

Who writes or talks like this anymore?  The truth of the matter is that we have, for too long, listened to voices which tickled our ears, which made faith an easy one-time ascent, a baptism of "a little dab'l do ya", which promoted a ChrEaster style membership, a give so God can give you more style of giving. Gone are the days when pastors were held in highest regard for their faithfulness and diligence in providing godly teaching, exhortation, and admonition, and who, themselves were intimately acquainted with true sacrifice. There was a time when Reformed pastors would visit their members and quiz them on their biblical knowledge, their familiarity with the Westminster Catechism, even testing them in their knowledge and measuring their growth in holiness or righteousness. Members were openly disciplined for their aberrant and ungodly behavior.  Words of familiarity in these disciplinary cases included "wrongly provocative", "drunkenness", "debauchery", "indolence", "disobedience"...

We can all recognize that there were times when a bit more grace might have been helpful.  There were undoubtedly sessions, boards, elders, deacons and pastors, as well as members, who misused the processes in place, some even to advance their own control or social standing.

Some of my commentary on this blog will be viewed by some as wrongly provocative in a judgemental fashion.  Some may disagree on the implications or conclusions reached.  But even as Rev. Culbertson says re: Tozer's God's Pursuit of Man - "Don't miss the pith because you are engrossed in the study of the bark" so too I would encourage those of you in Russia, in France, in Turkmenistan or France, and even those in my home country of U.S.A. to guard your hearts and minds as you read this blog.  Let go of the non essentials, with which we might vary in perspective, and hold fast to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the conviction laid on your heart. And do not neglect the pursuit of that Truth. 

Unless and until the church of Jesus Christ takes its medicine, repents of its complacency and ignorance of the scriptural mandates for those who would follow Jesus, we will make no progress in holiness. Again Culbertson proclaims:

For all who will hear, for all who will obey, here is God's answer to our need - Himself."

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." [John 14:21] 
 May the Lord open our eyes to see and our ears to hear His Word, in these days!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Another name for indifference...






A.W.Tozer aligns himself with other prophets and poets who warn us that compromise is the devil's playground and that "tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions."  Certainly we appropriately tolerate a great many things. We compromise daily on those things that really don't matter.  There is ample room for both attributes in successfully negotiating the Christian life which is in the world while not being of the world.

But when compromise or tolerance is lifted up to be the goal or even just a virtue in and of itself we tread on dangerous territory.

Tozer, in chapter 9 of God's Pursuit of Man points out that John, in his first letter, uses two words over and over - the plural "you" (meaning the chosen people of God) and "they" (the unredeemed).  "The apostle does not genuflect to the little god of tolerance (the worship of which has become in America a kind of secondary surface religion); he is bluntly intolerant." (Remember Tozer is writing of "the little god of Tolerance" in 1950 under the title Divine Conquest; compromise of the faith under the guise of "tolerance" was already a foot in the door of orthodox faith.)

Tozer continues with the bombshell and today's focus:

...tolerance may be merely another name for indifference...
It is so much easier to blur the lines of separation and so offend no one..."


 Indifference - a lack of interest or concern; unimportance.  Isn't this a much better understanding of that which is so often proclaimed to be "tolerance."  Perhaps born out of ignorance (a lack of knowledge about the matter), even within the Church itself (not church) we hear the cry for tolerance as if salvation didn't matter, if God's singular purpose in Jesus Christ was unimportant, as if sin was something only Christians dealt with and redemption was unnecessary for those who didn't believe. Or even worse, as if we didn't bear the responsbility for making Him known to every tribe and nation!

Tozer takes the matter even further by quoting the evangelist (note again the play on you and they):
 
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Tozer does not promote violence, persecution, or any other sort of mistreatment of those who are not believers, those who follow a spirit of falsehood.  But he does insist that those of us who recognize the Spirit of Truth remember that we are different. We are not called to compromise on the things that matter. We are not encouraged to tolerate sin or sinful behavior, or even worse errant teaching by false prophets and preachers!
He follows his quote from John with the following (and I feel the more extensive quote is necessary to more fully glean his point:

Such language a this is too plain to confuse anyone who honestly wants to know the truth.  Our problem is not one of understanding, I repeat, but of faith and obedience.  The question is not a theological one.  What does this teach?  It is a moral one.  Am I willing to accept this and abide by its consequences? Can I endure the cold stare?  Have I the courage to stand up to the slashing attack of the "liberal"? Dare I invite the hate of men who will be affronted by my attitude? Have I independence of mind sufficient to challenge the opinion of popular religion and go along with an apostle? Or briefly can I bring myself to take up the cross with its blood and its reproach?
The Christian is called to separation from the world...(see yesterday's posting)
Acceptance by God will, of necessity, mean rejection by the world, even as it did for our Lord and Savior.  And so the quintessential question necessary for all those who would believe is "whose acceptance; whose love; whose priorities will we pursue?"

James, the Lord's brother reminds us:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. [James 4:4]


One simply cannot follow the Lord while carrying the worldly burdens foisted upon us by nonbelievers.  But Jesus offers a way out.


 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
[Matthew 11:28-30]

Need I say more?


Friday, March 27, 2020

A passion for holiness!




"The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy. The holy heart alone can be the habitation of the Holy Ghost!"


The above quote appears in chapter 8 "The Holy Spirit as Fire."  So often people, even those who have occupied Sunday School classes for many years, make the mistake of confusing goodness (a quality of living) with holiness (a position given to us). Even the Merriam Webster online dictionary provides the following primary definition of holy:


To be fair, in definition #3 it says:

"devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity"

Scripture uses the Greek word hagios meaning: something "set apart" and therefore "different" to indicate the meaning of holiness. We are to be different (than others) because we are set apart (for God's use).  Just as Grandma's special Haviland China Teapot is not something you give to your children for playtime, because it is set apart for special occasions, so too the Christian is holy/set apart in that they are not for the use of the world or for worldly matters. Rather they are set apart for the Father's use.  That's what makes us HOLY.  God chooses us and sets us apart for his use.  It is one of the reasons for sanctification - growth in holiness, that day by day we may increase in our usefulness for the Lord.  
 
Only a heart set apart for the Lord's use can be the dwelling place or habitation of the  HOLY Ghost. So how are you doing, as a redeemed child of God, on your growth in holiness?  Advancing? Retarded? 

If you are advancing, of what means of grace are you making use?  Prayer, scripture reading, good works, meditation?

If you are retarded (held back or limited) in your growth, what is holding you back?  What lifestyle choices have you made?  What music you are wasting time listening to? What television shows are impacting your worldview? How is your leisure time spent? What activities do you engaged in which may be less than pleasing to the Lord? What people have you befriended or do you hang out with who are holding you back?

One of the most important questions we can ever ask someone whom we trust is this: "What do I need to do to become more holy, to be more effectively used by God, to gain wisdom and understanding, to grow in grace? " What do I need to do to get to the next level in my walk with the Lord? How can I become more holy???

+ + + + +

"Our God is a consuming fire." [Hebrews 12:29]

If nothing else, I believe that this means that as the Spirit is given room and prioritized in our lives He will begin to consume us. We will be come more like Jesus. Our priorities won't be a reflection of the warm fluff and culturally sensitive platitudes with which we may have been raised. Instead they will be replaced with our Heavenly Father's priorities.  Scripture will become our rule of faith. Service will become our joy.  Seeking God's direction will become a passion.  All that will matter, will be our ability to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23); our passion to obey the whom we love, our focus on doing the good works which He prepared in advance for us to do.

And so Paul, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is able to write in Philippians 3:7-12.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,  for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.


We are his for a reason.  We are set apart for His work. We are to be slaves to righteousness. We are to STRAIN toward that which is ahead. Christian faith is not for the faint of heart, the worldly, sissies, or the lazy.  It is time for the church to get busy tending that all consuming fire by which it lives!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Y2K and Y2Ply

Someone recently joked that if 2000 was to be remembered as Y2K, that 2020 would remembered as Y2Ply.  Of course there have been numerous comments on the insensitivity of the joke and comments about the oversensitivity of the comments on insensitivity...and so it goes.

It is easy to note the perception of suffering prevalent in our society today - such that some are prone, in an almost desperate fashion to keep others informed as to just how close they themselves have come to suffering.  In some cases, the observant person will note that in a discussion on someone else's suffering, a speaker will immediately turn that discussion to how they were personally impacted, even if they weren't previously apart of the conversation. Kirstie Alley refers to these people as "chimers" - those who chime in...

Tozer, in chapter 4 on "Victory through defeat" states:

Men crave life, but when they are told that life comes by the cross they cannot understand how it can be...So they reject the only hope of life known to the sons of men. The truth is that God has never planned that His children should live forever stretched upon a cross.  Christ Himself endured His cross for only six hours. When the cross had done its work life entered and took over.

"When the cross had done its work..." Crosses, suffering, can be redemptive. In some near death experiences people arise with a new appreciation for life in general and their focus changes.  In some deaths, friends and family members start over relieved, some even delivered into a new manner of life that can only be described as having been set free. Some people are able to process suffering.   Others simply aren't.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, most often affects nerve endings.  It can result in a lack of feeling.  Folks with this disease may not know when they've cut themselves, or when their hand is burning on a stove top.  Becoming desensitized to things such as the redemptive side of suffering, learning from our mistakes, or other such significant life experiences can lead to culture destroying attitudes, paralyzing fears, even a loss of faith for those with a shallow faith.

AND SO TODAY'S QUOTE FROM TOZER: 

Real faith must always mean more than passive acceptance. It dare mean nothing less than surrender of our Adam-life to a merciful end upon the cross.

At its core, coming to faith is a realization that God is just in His sentencing of our bodies to their deaths for the sin life we have so coveted. It is a recognition that we too, have been crucified with Christ and have risen to new life.  And the "divine conquest of our lives" begins.  When we are willing to place all of our worldly cares, all of our worldly belongings, all of our worldly desires and interests on that cross and let them die with Christ, we are freed. Freed from the bondage to sin; freed from the fear of illness, death, devastation, oppression, persecution, and everything else. God invades our natures and by His Spirit restores our hearts, our spirits, our minds, our attitudes, every aspect of our lives.

Surrendering our all to God, in essence is saying, "do whatever is necessary to remove me from all that stands between us." It is a major leap forward in grace, when we respond to His offer.  When one has truly taken this step, all fear is gone.  No. Seriously.  We need no longer fear the COVID-19 virus. We will no longer fear dying or death. We should no longer fear running out of money in our old age. We ought no longer fear our children's future. We WILL BE filled with the knowledge that God is in control, that He is, even now working out His plan for us, even when that includes our suffering for a time, even on a cross for six hours, or in intensive care for a month, suffering with cancer for 3 years, losing social standing or friendships, income or independence.

Suffering can and should be redemptive, perhaps in allowing us to witness to God's goodness amidst our suffering, perhaps bearing witness to God's provision of a future and a hope, perhaps simply suffering quietly and with dignity BECAUSE we know we have a future and a hope.

In 1 John4:18, the Word of God describes the impact of God's love on us, that is, the kind of attitude we have when we discover that even the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune we experience can be reframed and received an act of love.

But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

It's high time that those who claim the name of Christ grow up, put their big boy or big girl panties on and put fear to rest.  It's time for us to show the world we don't care about the suffering itself.  We do care about the one's who suffer and the response we have to it.  We do care about what it can teach us. We realize that "in this world we will have suffering" but we can rest and be at peace amidst that suffering in ALL cases. The Lord Himself, as he looked toward his upcoming betrayal, abandonment, unjust imprisonment, beating and crucifixion told his disciples:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In Christ we participate in His having overcome this world and all that is in it. And that knowledge should generate a positive attitude in everything we experience. And yes that mean we can and we should:

Give thanks IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES for this is God's will for you in Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 


Yes even when the Corona Virus strikes, when cancer is diagnosed, when our children go astray, when the stock market crashes, when death is imminent or suffering endures.  We who are in Christ do not put our hope in these fleshy matters, or worldly concerns.  Our hope is in the One who is always faithful, the One who has gone to prepare a place for us...And that, my friend, is why we can be so thankful, all the time!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Prevenient Grace?



I have no great theological point to make in these postings, no passion for changing any readers' minds, no urgency to save the world from itself. These are just random musings, prompted within me, I believe, by the Holy Spirit, but I write as much for my own need to process as I do for any other reason.

A.W. Tozer's writings often strike at the very heart of my soul.  He makes statements, some shocking statements, that cause some to consider him to be impertinent or arrogant and others to consider him a false prophet.  I really don't have a stake in that discussion.  I find his writings powerful, challenging, and insightful, even if they are sometimes rough around the edges, to some.  I think most people who read him inquisitively and with a spiritual hunger for righteousness, will have an experience similar to mine. But I digress from the purpose of this specific post, except to say that today's two statements, drawn again from God's Pursuit of Man, may present us with a significant challenge to some of our most treasured our assumptions.

1. A savior from what?
 
In chapter 2 "In Word or in Power" Tozer engages in something of a straw man argument with those who find simple creedalism, membership in a congregation, or an emotional experience to be sufficient to open the gates of heaven to them. Tozer goes so far as to suggest that in churches today it is "being a sinner" itself that qualifies one for heavenly citizenship and that being a good person is "one sure bar to God's favor."

I've heard this idea floating around in circles with phraseology such as "we're all sinners,"  "we all sin every day, in fact it's the one thing we have in common," or even the blasphemous, "we can't not sin." Tozer suggests that some people who classify themselves as Christian and even those who teach accordingly say

A Christian...is not morally better than a sinner, the only difference is that he has taken Jesus, 
and so he has a Savior.

And then he drops the bombshell question: "A savior from what?" "Can a man become a believer in Christ and be no better than he was before? Does the gospel offer no more than a skillful advocate to get the guilty sinners off free at the day of judgement?" he continues.

Scripture is clear in it clarion call to the sinner to STOP. SINNING.
  • Put off the old and put on the new, 
  • go your way and sin no more, 
  • we were created in Christ Jesus to do the good works he prepared in advance for us to do, 
  • they rest from their labors and their works do follow them... 
Now some traditions have misinterpreted theses types of statements to teach a works righteousness, a means of earning heaven.  There are those who still say, they live their lives as best they can and just hope that the good outweighs the bad at the judgement.
But truth be told, even a cursory study of scripture clearly teaches that we "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior" and this implies a growth in righteousness.  We are commanded to keep the teachings of Christ, to be holy as he is holy, perfect as he is perfect.  And we are promised the Spirit of Christ to enable us to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.  Righteousness is possible for those who truly believe. It is not our own righteousness but that made available to us through Christ's atoning work on the cross.  It gives us a do over, a second chance...An opportunity to do the good works Christ prepared in advance for us to do...

2.  A sinner cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Tozer continues this line of reasoning by stating clearly that "A sinner cannot enter the kingdom of God." and he puts forth:

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries,  and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past,that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [Gal 5:19-21]

and

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, 
those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the 
fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. [Rev. 21:8]  

to help illustrate the point.  The teaching is that those who are openly, purposefully, willingly practicing and pursuing sinful lives will not enter the kingdom of God. "Salvation must include a judicial change of status..." which includes "...an actual change in the life of the individual."  Our priorities, interests, pursuits, relationships, and desires change with such an encounter as was discussed yesterday.  This is the evidence of the new birth.

As harsh as it may seem, the question bears asking: Are you a better, more godly person today than when you received the gift of salvation?  An "I like to think so" answer is totally insufficient.  Can you point very clearly to steps you have taken, works you have done, fruit you have born, which bear witness to the Spirit's work of sanctification in your life? Tozer adds:

For sin's human captives God never intends anything less than full deliverance.  
The Christian message rightly understood means this: 
The God who by the word of the gospel proclaims men free, 
by the power of the gospel actually makes them free.  
To accept less than this is to know the gospel in word only, without its power. 

to which I would add and conclude with Paul's famous warning:

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, 
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, 
without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, 
conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—  
having a form of godliness but denying its power. [2Tim 3:2-5]

So, honestly, we have our work cut out for us, but in this day and age when so many seem to be so concerned about others' unrighteousness, might we dare to transform the world by worrying first and foremost, and focusing first and foremost on our own transformation to become the righteous, holy, perfect ones God is calling us to be. Not that we will have ever fully achieved it but that we will press on toward the goal...

And let us remember that that which seems to be the new favorite verse of so many "Do not judge let you be judged..." ends with 

first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly 
to remove the speck from your brother's eye. [Matthew 7:5] 
By God's grace tomorrow I'll touch on suffering with Tozer's "Real faith must always mean more than passive acceptance.  It dare mean nothing less than surrender of our doomed Adam-life to a merciful end upon the cross...." The cross, the worst death known to mankind (at that time) as full of mercy...now there's something to ponder.
 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

God first loved us!


I will start with Tozer's God's Pursuit of Man, primarily because any thought about, any knowledge of, even any desire to discover God can only be in response to the work of the Spirit.  God reaches out, God discloses, God calls and we respond.  Creation itself testifies to this:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. [Romans 1:20]

In Paul's great address to the people of Athens in the Areopagus it is revealed it this way:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’  [Acts 17:24-28-NIV]

And so as we begin with the thought of God's seeking us out, I want to cherry pick some little treasures in this first book.

1.  "Nothing can take the place of the touch of God in the soul and the sense of Someone there. Real faith, indeed, brings such realization, for real faith is never the operation of reason upon texts." 


The sense that there is more, that there must be more, that there can be more to our existence than just this mortal life - that we are more than just a higher species life form - is itself testimony to God's having touched our lives in some way.  We respond to that touch by seeking.. Now we can easily get lost in that seeking, by following the wrong paths, by seeking something that makes sense, or by attempting to use human reason to shape this understanding.  But human reason is incapable of making sense of something that is so much greater than we can ever possibly imagine.  God. A God who is above all of existence, beyond and yet throughout the universe, so powerful as to speak existence into being and yet so loving and mindful of each and everyone of us that he stoops to die on a cross for us.  That is just beyond our human ability to comprehend.  God, Three-in-One, three unique persons, yet co-equal, never divided, wholly one nature.  It ought to boggle the mind.  And to be touched by this tremendous God ought to leave us speechless.
    2.  "Whatever else it embraces, true Christian experience must always include a genuine encounter with God". 
    So many pew sitters today, want to rely on something they have done, a commitment they have made at confirmation, an aisle they have walked on a Sunday night or at a revival, or perhaps to claim their heritage, their parents and grandparents position in the congregation as their basis for Kingdom membership. But scripture is clear "unless one is born again..." an encounter with God is life changing, foundation shaking, unforgettable.  The words of the angelic messengers in scripture are powerful: "DO NOT BE AFRAID." This encounter with God is fearful and life changing. How can it not be?

    I recall, personally, praying for years, if you are real Lord, reveal yourself to me. I could not have prayed that prayer if God had not first sparked in me a desire to seek Him.  If Rev.Andy  Route hadn't preached the Word so diligently, if Dr. McConnell hadn't held out who The Word was to me as a child and youth, I wouldn't even have known the theory of God's existence.

    Romans 10:14 puts it this way:


    How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

    So the job of preaching, writing, speaking, and perhaps even this blog post may become God's reaching out to someone to begin their pursuit of Him who is already pursuing them...

    I think a good summary of the thoughts here are contained in the brief scriptural wording: We love because he first loved us. [John 4:19] Our very thoughts about God can only be in response to the reality that He has first reached out to us. Even the fact that can love each other is a testimony to the fact that we were first loved by God.
    See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
    1 John 3:1


    I think I'll pick up on Tozer's  "A Savior from what?" and "A sinner cannot enter the Kingdom of God" next, so stay tuned, these rambling ruminations may get rocky...

    Faith is a Journey


    I have recently completed the first step in what I'll refer to as "a re-exploration of calling." In my retirement I have been afforded an amazing gift of time: more time to dig more deeply into my own spirituality and eternal calling than I have generally had in the busyness of 32 years of ministry and mission.

    Re-Exploration of Calling:

    1. The first part of this spiritual examination was the re-reading of a trilogy of books by A.W. Tozer, one of my favorite authors. If you are unacquainted with Tozer, here is a piece from the website "What Christians want to know."

    + + + + +

    Who was A.W. Tozer?

    A.W. Tozer was a man who was obsessed with the glory and the holiness of God and making it known to others. If that’s all you remember about him, I’m sure he’d be thrilled by that because he was completely immersed into the God of glory and just how tremendously awesome He is. For the record, Aiden Wilson Tozer was born on April 21st, 1897 and passed into the presence of the Holy One on May 12th, 1963.

    In between that time he was a pastor, an author, magazine editor, and a mentor to many. He touched so many lives that it’d be impossible to cover those in one article. His beginnings could not have been any less assuming, growing up in a small farming community in La Jose, Pennsylvania where he lived at the poverty level as a youth, yet he would later receive two honorary doctoral degrees. Such was the impact this man left; yet he would have hated the accolades and the attention! Think about this; he educated himself and taught himself what would have been covered in high school and later, in college. He was a pastor for 44 years, yet never attended seminary once, proving that God doesn’t anoint diploma’s, he anoints men and places them where it pleases Him.
    + + + + +

    The three books I re-read, were:
    • The Knowledge of the Holy
    • The Pursuit of God
    • God's Pursuit of Man
    In my opinion, these, along with his "The Size of the Soul," are the best of Tozer. I'll be reviewing some of my gleanings from these books over the net few weeks and then conclude with the publication of a Book Study I developed for missionary volunteers to use with "The Size of the Soul."
    These are soul-piercing pieces of literature, for me, and I hope that they will bring you renewed hope, a renewed commitment to pursue Christ at any cost, and a conviction of the way in which you should go, from this time forward!

    2. The second part of the "exploration of calling" was working, with my wife Carol, through a process we have used before during significant transitions - "LifeMapping" by John Trent.


    I have used this book both personally and with congregations who were of a mind to go deeper in understanding their missional calling. A part of Amazon's review describes the work appropriately as:
    This fresh way of looking at your life involves taking a revealing review of the events and patterns in your past in order to develop a “storyboard” of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re heading.
    You learn to overcome the roadblocks that have detoured you from deeper relationships, sidetracked your professional career, stunted your spiritual growth, and destroyed your self-confidence. LifeMapping will enable you to re-write the story of your life by showing you where you want to go–and helping you get there!
    3. The final part of this exploration was the trip we took to Thailand. To be sure it was, first and foremost, an opportunity to visit our family who are living there. But secondly, it gave us a much needed chance to reconnect with mission colleagues, to pray in-country, to explore and to attempt to get a sense of whether or not there might be something there in which we could meaningfully engage in retirement, in short a chance to discern a calling to Thailand. The longing for international engagement still resonates deeply within my soul.

    4. In conclusion there was a pronounced sense of peace that, for the time being, our place is here in NC, to care for family who are here, and to enjoy a season of rest awaiting and discerning the next call. As I have had the chance to catch up with other colleagues, who have likewise recently retired, there is a unanimous sense of much needed rest - rest from the secrets and confidences that often burden pastors, rest from the busyness of administration, teaching, preaching, motivating giving, reporting, shepherding, otherwise looking after the sheep, and yes even dressing the wounds from the sheep that bite.

    I hope and pray that as I unpack some of this over the next few months, that you too might feel the call to go deeper, to take the time necessary to engage in such an exploration. God is good, ALL THE TIME. Our problem is that we are too engaged in the day to day fears and anxieties incumbent upon those who seek to manage their lives rather than allowing the Spirit of God to move as it will. The Biblical mandate to "Be still and know that I am God" is not to rest so much as it is to cease and desist from pursuing our own self-preceived life management and to instead be attentive to the Lord (see here for more on this.). This takes time and effort. It is not for the lazy or the faint of heart. Once taste of the Lord and His perfect will and nothing else will do.We all know what we want to do, what we want to be when we grow up, what we enjoy, but can we truly say that we are doing exactly what the Lord God has asked us to do? It's a costly but eternally rewarding question.

    May the Lord bless this writing to His glory and to your life for Him!

    -The Pop Salad Commentary

    MIA

             November 23-27, 2020 for Thanksgiving!