Sunday, May 18, 2008

“Never too late to keep asking”

Sometimes, after praying about something for a long time, and seeing no evident change in the situation, one is tempted to give up. “What’s the use of praying? Nothing ever changes.” That’s why I found this post by John Piper at the Desiring God blog so encouraging. Perhaps you may find it encouraging, also.

“Victory through Defeat”

“The experiences of men who walked with God in olden times agree to teach that the Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him. The degree of blessing enjoyed by any man will correspond exactly with the completeness of God’s victory over him.”

“Only the conquered can know true blessedness. This is sound philosophy, based upon life, and necessary by the constitution of things. We need not accept this truth blindly; the reasons are discoverable, among them being these: We are created beings, and as such are derived, not self-existent. Not to us has it been given to have life in ourselves. For life we are wholly and continually dependent upon God, the Source and Fountain of life. Only by full dependence upon Him are the hidden potentialities of our natures realized. Apart from this we are but half-men, malformed and unbeautiful members of a noble race once made to wear the image of its Creator.”

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), from The Divine Conquest [now titled, God’s Pursuit of Man] chapter IV, “Victory through Defeat”, pp.53, 54 & 55.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Encouragement to pursue God

My reading has been severely curtailed since beginning a new job last summer. One thing I’m looking forward to, with the coming of Summer Break next month, is getting back on track with my reading. Right now, I’m still plugging away at Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield. Generally, I read that when I go to the barbershop or when I’m waiting for my sons while they have their weekly piano lessons. I’m halfway through the second volume of the Whitefield biography, and hope to finish by August.

However, for the past couple of weeks, as I’ve had opportunity, I’ve also been reading Lyle Dorsett’s A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer. When I first heard that a new biography of A.W. Tozer was coming out, I knew I wanted to get it and read it. I’m almost finished with it. Dorsett’s biography of Tozer has sort of reawakened my interest in him. I’m reminded that, years before I ever read anything by John Piper or heard of The Banner of Truth Trust, my heart was captivated and stirred by the writings of Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963), Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor, “twentieth century prophet” and evangelical “mystic”.

The writings of men like Tozer greatly influenced me when I first entered the ordained ministry. What captivated me most about Tozer the man was the apparent depth and intimacy of his relationship with God. Reading about Tozer these past couple of weeks, I am again struck by the depth and intensity of this man’s life of prayer and devotion. I think present-day evangelicals are far more enamored with anything that comes out of Willow Creek or Saddleback than they are the writings of A.W. Tozer—and that’s to our shame. I think Tozer knew something that we would do well to learn and grasp: the depth of our relationship with God and effectiveness for God is in direct proportion to the depth of our praying.

The Scriptures reveal a vital connection between the word of God, the Spirit of God and prayer:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 14:15-17, 21, 23-24; 15:4-5, 7-10).

A.W. Tozer wasn’t perfect—far from it. One thing I appreciate about Dorsett’s biography is that he does show us some of the glaring faults in Tozer’s life, particularly in relation to his wife and children. I’m sure those imperfections will turn off some people, but they encourage me, because I know my own faults so well. Imperfect though he was, it seems apparent that A.W. Tozer knew what it meant to abide in Christ. And the fruitfulness of his life is proven by the fact that, 45 years after his death (he died on May 12, 1963), believers are still reading what he wrote and listening to recordings of his sermons, and drawing great spiritual benefit from it.

The life example of men like A.W. Tozer challenge me to “go deep” with God. Tozer’s writings challenge serious souls to seek after God. If you get the chance, read some of what Tozer wrote or listen to some of his sermons. I recommend these books as a good place to start: The Pursuit of God (1948), God’s Pursuit of Man (1950)—a sequel to The Pursuit of God (I still prefer the original title: The Divine Conquest), and The Knowledge of the Holy (1961).

Most of all, pray. If nothing else, reading about A.W. Tozer’s life reminds me that I don’t pray enough. I don’t get away from people, shut out the noise and distractions and simply pray often enough, as I ought. When it comes to prayer, I believe we need both quality and quantity. May the words of Jesus encourage us to aggressively and passionately pursue God:

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mother’s Day, Family and God’s Grace

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here. Frankly, I’ve been too busy. Things are starting to ease up a bit, so I hope to be writing more soon. For now, please allow me to ramble a bit.

The photo posted here was shot by my son this past Sunday—Mother’s Day. It’s a picture of my wife, Catherine, and myself.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all’” (Proverbs 31:28-29).

I don’t mind telling you: I’m a blessed man. Everything I have, including my very life, was given to me. God has graciously given me a wonderful wife, and this summer, the Lord willing, Catherine and I will celebrate 18 years of marriage. God has also graciously blessed us with two boys for whose souls we pray every day. I can’t tell you how it does my soul good to see my oldest, who is 15, in his bedroom at night with his open Bible, with no prompting from me or his mother, reading the word of God. I’m a blessed man, indeed.

Now, don’t misunderstand me: I know I don’t deserve a thing from God—nothing, that is, but His just wrath and condemnation. My family is a testimony to God’s grace, not my goodness. Apart from Christ, I know I’m nothing but a hell-deserving sinner. That’s why, when I look about me and see the beautiful family that God has given, the house that he has given us for shelter, and recognize that our home is one in which the name of the Lord is spoken of with reverence and in which the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is heard—my heart is filled with praise and thanksgiving, and my eyes overflow with tears of gratitude.

My life didn’t have to turn out this way; God has been good to me, and I thank Him.

When I’m tempted to pride (which is every day), it is the remembrance of my sins, and the awareness of my own wretchedness apart from Christ, that helps to keep me in my place. I’m an inherently flawed man who desperately needs Jesus.

And you need Him, too!

“Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Apart from the grace of God, we’re doomed to eternal condemnation and misery. Do you realize that you need Jesus? Are you trusting and relying upon His blood and righteousness alone? In Christ, there is no condemnation, there is life abundant, and there is “grace upon grace” (John 1:16).