Monday, October 30, 2006

Anemia or Power?

As I continue upon my A.W. Tozer readings, I am finding him to be immensely quotable, with pearls of wisdom and challenge sprinkled liberally throughout his writings.

In The Pursuit of God, Tozer addresses why we in modern Christianity are so devoid of "spiritual receptivity." Spiritual receptivity is crucial because it is the ability for us as saved sinners to "hear" God as He speaks in His Word. It is only when we hear God speaking to us personally in the present tense that we experience the power of a transformed life. Tozer points out that we often view God as having been silent, then speaking as the Word was written, and then going silent again. We say "God spoke" in the past tense. But he contends that God has never been silent and that His Word "speaks" (present tense) today to those who are spiritually receptive enough to hear. And the fruit of hearing that speaking is a changed life that is decidedly counter-cultural, yet undeniably powerful.

But he contends that far too few people who go by the name "Christian" ever develop this spiritual receptivity. Instead they develop, in the manner described in the following quote, the theology and standards they apply to their lives...and the results are powerless and anemic at best.

"We have been too blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor average diet with which others appear satisfied. To put it differently, we have accepted one another's notions, copied one another's lives and made one another's experiences the model for our own. And for a generation, the trend has been downward. ... It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to biblical ways. But it can be done."

In other words, we look around and endeavor to copy others we think of as "spiritual" and "mature" and compare ourselves to still others who are not as spiritual, and then say we are doing well, or "growing." Tozer describes that as distinctly unbiblical, as he should because what he describes is the making of a standard out of our friends' and peers' lives. If our standard for anything in our life is "That's the way 'Joe Smith' (or 'the Smith family') does it," then we are living as Tozer delineates. Note that he says it will require a determined heart and a large amount of courage to turn from this pattern. A person who desires to break out will be going against not only the worldly culture, but the church culture as well. He will be different, and that difference will not be appreciated by those unwilling to consider how their lives are being lived.

What is Tozer's answer? How can this be accomplished?

"Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days. Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there."

Note some specific parts of this quote, with some expounding thoughts in amplification:

"Exercising one's self unto godliness."
Exercise is work. It is a determined effort with a particular goal in mind. In this case, it is hard work toward godliness. (No, this isn't works righteousness; this is for the Christian who is saved by grace through faith, and is in the sanctification process.)


Trust that God intends for you to achieve that godliness and that His Word is sufficient.

Obey the commands, precepts, and patterns you find in God's Word, trusting that God knows better than your peers, and if He desires your holiness and godliness, He alone knows how to achieve it in you.

Humble yourself before God and His Word, acknowledging the weakness of your own strength and knowledge, along with your willingness and desire to learn by listening to God speak.

The action of repentance is "to turn." Turn away from and question your current practices, no matter where they came from (for example, family worship...or lack of you conduct your personal time with the Lord, how you raise and educate your children, how you interact with your neighbors, how you and your spouse organize your home, the impact of sports, vacations, how money is spent, and on and on and on...don't leave a stone unturned, understanding this is a process and isn't something that will occur or change overnight; but it needs to start). Until it is validated in Scripture, each and every practice you bring forth is suspect as being cultural instead of Biblical. Repent before God of how you've always done things, and humbly ask that He speak through His Word in direction for your life and the way you live it.

"Sincere return to God"
The flip-side of the repentance coin is when you turn from your life as you've always known it, you are sincerely, humbly, obediently turning to God alone as your source.

"Go to the Bible itself for spiritual standards"
This is the key to the entire list. The whole point of not being spiritually receptive, and thus lacking in spiritual power is that we don't use the Bible as our standard; we use one another! The exercise, the trust, the obedience, the humility, the repentance, and the return to God all hinge on making the Bible the final and complete standard for life. Anything else will lead right back down the path to spiritual weakness and anemia.

"Delight in what one finds in the Bible" (like what was found in my post on Psalm 1?!)
This isn't to be drudgery. What we find in the Bible is Life!!! It is a salve to the injured soul. These spiritual standards are an easy yoke and a light burden. In short, they cause delight. And as we saw in Psalm 1, a delight in the Law of the Lord produces a solid life characterized by fruit that nourishes all who cross our path.

So what will it be? More of the same anemic, powerless faith? Or a break from the standard of man to the Standard of God, His Word... and the Kingdom power to affect our world and win souls for eternity... all in joy and delight?

Doesn't seem to require a lot of debate in my mind....

Saturday, October 28, 2006

True Spirituality

In today's day and age, many talk about "spirituality" instead of "Christianity" or "religion." It is as if being spiritual is the name of the game. Here is what A.W. Tozer (from That Incredible Christian) said were the marks of someone who is truly spiritual...and it is a far cry from anything that passes for "spirituality" today!

1. First is the desire to be holy rather than happy.

2. A man may be considered spiritual when he wants to see the honor of God advanced through his life.

3. The spiritual man wants to carry his cross.

4. Again, a Christian is spiritual when he sees everything from God's viewpoint.

5. Another desire of the spiritual man is to die right rather than to live wrong.

6. The desire to see others advance at his expense is another mark of the spiritual man.

7. The spiritual man habitually makes eternity-judgments instead of time-judgments.

Muse on these for a while, asking honestly if they describe you. If your answer is similar to mine, then some humble appealing to your Heavenly Father is in order....

The Dangers of Intellectualism

A.W. Tozer says in the book, The Pursuit of God, "God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination and divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, 'O Lord, Thou knowest.' Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."

I am all for theology, for good doctrine, for the solid meat of Biblical truth, for these things keep us on the narrow road that leads to salvation and ultimately to God. But I can understand what Tozer is getting at here.

He's not saying to never study these things. Rather, I think he is warning us against two very real dangers.

First, it is very, very easy to get lost in the intellectual deepness of the Bible and miss out on actually having it work in our lives. We feel spiritual because we are studying Bible, but in reality, we are far from God.

A second danger is that intellectualism can allow us to keep God and His commands for us at a safe distance. We can pick them up, mull them over, discuss and bicker about them...and then put them down again, never allowing them to actually impact our lives and change us.

How do I know this? Am I just that smart? No. I know it because I've done it...and it is a lie, and it is sin.

Tozer is crying out for us to know God, to seek Him while He may be found, to be spiritually receptive to God's stirring in our heart. This is what I want! Yes, I want to stir around in the deep, wonderful doctrines of God and to understand Him more by understanding them more. But I want to be careful that it isn't intellectualism, but instead leads me to actually know God and to be more like His Son. That requires that I not "put the commands back down again," but rather own them and keep them through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I want to be as Tozer says at the end of his quote: A saint.

May all of us understand and fight the dangers of intellectualism, and instead keep the study of the Bible in its rightful a path to knowing God and being like His Son!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Musings on Destiny

I suppose it's probably against some unwritten blog-rule to link to my own post on another blog. But the topic addressed is one that works for the mission of this blog as well.

So click here to link over to my HomeDisciplingDad blog for some musings on "Destiny."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Meek as Jesus!


To our culture, the term implies weakness, wimpiness, shyness...certainly not something to which most people would aspire. But the Bible calls Jesus "meek" and speaks highly of meekness in several places. Does that mean Jesus was a shy, wimpy weakling... and that we should all aspire to the same? Of course not!

The term "meekness" doesn't translate easily from the Greek word "prautes". Another possibility is "gentleness." But that doesn't do it justice either because it implies outward action whereas the actual word focuses primarily upon a heart condition. Vine's Expository Dictionary refers to it as "...that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting." It goes on to say that meekness is "...the fruit of power." Note carefully that this is NOT a sulking resignation, but is rather a firm, heart-felt understanding that what God is doing in our lives is GOOD, regardless of how it may feel at the moment. The result is an intensity of character that comes with the power associated with it. Just think about Jesus. Weak and resigned would never describe Him; instead think of His single-minded focus on His Father's will, think of His cleansing of the Temple, think of His raising of Lazarus. This is power in meekness!

Now combine that with "quietness," as is commended for women in I Peter 3:4. The idea of quietness (or leading a quiet life) is listed elsewhere as a commendable quality for all, but here is the only place the two ideas are placed together. "Quietness" could easily be rendered "tranquil."

In effect, quietness could very well be the result of meekness. A person who is accepting of God's dealings with them as good would find it very easy to be tranquil.

Think of a large body of water where there is nothing to disturb it. It is "tranquil." Also consider a small puddle that is also tranquil. Now toss a fairly good sized rock into the puddle. It will splash about, rock and roll, and be quite disturbed overall. Now toss that same rock into a mile-wide tranquil lake. It will cause a splash, but the lake will quickly soak up the energy from the rock and return to its tranquil state, the majority of it having never felt its effects.

The large lake is a picture of the fruit of meekness and of quietness. The "rocks" that come into our lives are quickly absorbed and our countenance retains the tranquility of godly affections. People with these qualities can witness the love of God in Christ when others around them are falling apart because these people have a strength and power of character to persevere in dignity, calmness, and tranquility through times of difficulty.

While I would commend the qualities of meekness and quietness to all Christians, Peter obviously commended them both as a grouping to women in particular. Does that mean women are to be silent, weak fixtures in the background? Of course not. Based on what we know above, it means that a woman of meek and quiet spirit will exude a strength to absorb the hard things of her world, which allows her to carry on as the massive rock that supports her husband as his helpmeet. The world may attempt to dash her about, but she will remain steady...and that solid foundation is exactly what enables her husband to affect his world (i.e. sitting in the gate...Prov 31). If she breaks, he falls alongside her. Make no mistake... a woman of meek and quiet spirit in her role as helpmeet to a husband with vision is an indispensable part of God's order in the family and His plan for their effectiveness as Kingdom-bearers to the world. With her, her family is strong and powerful; without her, they are weak and ineffective. She is vital in her role.

Are we there yet? Probably most are not... both because they do not understand what it truly means to be meek and quiet, and because these have not been qualities prayed for and sought after.

So I pray... for me and my family, and for the church at large... through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we all seek and gain the power found in a meek and quiet spirit.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Musings on Psalm 1

The ESV rendition of Psalm 1 can be found here and will open in a separate page for reference.

This is not meant to be an be-all and end-all commentary on Psalm 1, but rather my musings as I contemplated it during and after my quiet time today....

Blessed is the man...

Obviously being "blessed" is a good thing to which we should want to aspire. It implies favor with God, joy, contentment, and happiness. So how is one to be "blessed?" The author of Psalm 1 points to three negatives and then a positive. The negatives are:

Don't walk in the way of the wicked.
Don't stand in the path of sinners.
Don't sit in the seat of scoffers.

These are all ways we would humanly try to acquire "blessing," and yet they will not work. There may be temporary, earthly riches, but there will not be blessing by God. Note they all entail a willful, decisive activity...walking, standing, sitting, and they involve using that activity to pursue the ways of the wicked, the sinner, and the scoffer.

In looking for other usages of the word translated, "wicked," I came across a strong description in Psalm 10:2-10. The wicked have pride at their core, pursuing the afflicted, boasting of his heart's desire, haughty in countenance. There is greed and a desire for material gain. He curses and spurns (same as a scoffer) the Lord, intentionally not seeking Him and thinking, "There is no God." And it goes on...but this is sufficient.

The word translated "sinner" brought up many of the same verses, although it is not the same word as wicked. Literally is could be rendered "sinner," "sinful," or "offender." This person may know of God and His ways and intentionally violates them.

The word "scoffer" brings with it the connotation of scorn. This is scorn for God and His ways.

So in effect, we are to practice an avoidance ethic of sorts (in spite of what I have said in other sections of this blog). We are to avoid the way of the wicked, the path of the sinner, and the seat of the scoffer.

But alone, this isn't enough. There is a positive requirement as well. To be blessed, a man is to delight in the Law of the Lord and to meditate on it day and night. Note carefully the requirement to "delight." This isn't a command to dutifully go through the motions of doing the commands of God, which would be similar to physical activities alluded to in the three negatives. Instead, think about "delight." There are internal components of joy, of child-like excitement, of wonder,... These are feelings and emotions that arise from our inner being, not something that can be conjured up. They must be brought about by the Holy Spirit. He is the only One who can bring you those feelings, so if you don't have them, pray for Him to give them to you. And once one delights in the Law of the Lord, would it be necessary to encourage meditating on it day and night? It almost seems redundant to say that! Of course you would meditate on it day and night.

So what are the results of avoiding the way of the wicked, the path of the sinner, and the seat of the scoffer, all the while delighting in the Law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night?

You become solidly grounded in the ways of the Lord, in His wisdom. And if you delight in the Law of the Lord (Scripture), you cannot possibly keep it to an intellectual enterprise. You will implement the commands of the Lord in your life. As such, your life becomes more and more conformed to the likeness of Christ, and less and less conformed to the likeness and desires of the world (do you really want to be like the wicked???).

And as you become conformed to the likeness of Christ, you become like the tree planted by the water...always yielding fruit, firmly planted with deep roots that enable it not to yield, regardless of the pressures around it. And there is blessing, both for you and for those around you. If you are yielding fruit, who is going to eat it? Those who encounter you! Your fruit nourishes others, showing them the beauty and glory of Christ. And what better witness could there be?

So note the progression:

Avoid the wrong ways of the world.
Delight in the Law of the Lord (the Scripture)
Meditate on it, and conform your life to it.
Your changed life is strong in the storm, and provides nourishment and blessing to others.
You glorify Christ!

May God grant us delight!!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Will of God- Part II

This morning we had a guest preacher, Dr. David Wells of Gordon-Conwell. He put some theological terms on what I was trying to describe in my previous post on the will of God.

He called them by two names: "Particular Will" and "Moral Will."

He said particular will is very difficult or impossible to discern. That is what I meant by watching out for people who claim special revelation from God. If I were to say God told me to take my family, marry some more wives, and move to Waco to resurrect David Koresh's compound...well...let's just say anyone in their right mind would be correct to run the other way. In effect, I would be trying to ascertain God's particular will...and not doing a very good job at it!

On the other hand, he mentioned that His moral will IS possible to understand, for it is found in Biblical revelation. When God commands, or gives precepts, or establishes patterns, then we can say with great confidence that organizing our lives in response to them would be living in God's will.