Tozer on the Church.

Still reading Tozer on the Spirit – Clearly, you need to get your hands on this book!  I am amazed at how much of what he says applies to the church today. 

I do not even know what to summarize – I think today I will go for some of the What’s Wrong quotes… 

“If we just stopped all our busyness; got quiet, worshipped God, and waited on Him; we would rise above the carnality of present Christians.  This does not make people love you to say this, and it certainly is not chapter two from How to Win Friends and Influence People.  But it is true nevertheless that the body of Christians is carnal.  We are a carnal bunch.  The Lord’s people ought to be sanctified, pure, clean people, but we are a carnal crowd.  We are carnal in our attitudes, carnal in our tastes and carnal in everything.  The conditions are so shockingly irreverent these days.” 

“We should be a spiritual body with social overtones.  Instead of that, most of our churches are social bodies with spiritual overtones.”

“Unless the Dove of God can come down with His wings outspread and make Himself known and felt among us, that which is fundamentalism today (1960’s) will in twenty-five years be liberalism.  You can be as certain of that.  And liberalism will be universalism because this vile world is not a friend of grace to lead us on to God.  We are going the other direction.”

“There has been a great blunder in more modern orthodoxy.  It is the erroneous assumption that spiritual truths can be intellectually perceived, and there have been far reaching conditions resulting from this.  It has shown itself in our preaching, in our praying and in our singing, and in our activity and in our thinking.”

Very prophetic insights….  I guess, perhaps because so much of my own thinking neglects a focus on the Holy Spirit, I did not expect so much of this book to touch on problems in the Church as a whole.  I anticipated a book on who He is, what He does… and much of it is a look at what life is like apart from the Spirit.  The Spirit is what is missing in the Church.  We have quenched Him…..

Tozer on questions.

I am currently reading Tozer’s mystery of the the Holy Spirit.  I am still early on in the book, but thought I would share this thought, as it pertains to where the church seems to be at these days.  Tozer died in 1963, so this was written at least 45 years ago…

When discussing what happened to the apostles at Pentecost, Tozer lists the following as one of the changes evidenced in their lives:

“Fourth, a clear sense of the reality of everything.  You noticed that in the four Gospels, they were asking questions and in the book of Acts, they were answering questions.  That is the difference between a Spirit-filled man and one that is not.  The man of God, the preacher that is not Spirit-filled makes a great deal, and one of his phrases is likely to be “and now let us ask ourselves this question.”  Have you ever heard this from the pulpit?  I have often wondered why the reverend wanted to ask himself a question.  Why didn’t he settle that at home before he came to church?  Always asking questions.  “And, now, what shall we say?”

Brother, God never put a preacher in the pulpit to ask questions; he put a preacher in the pulpit to answer questions.  He put him there with authority to stand up in the name of God to speak and answer questions.  Back in the Gospels, they were always asking questions. “Lord, shall it be?  Lord how shall it be?  Lord, who?  Lord, what?”  But when they got to the book of Acts, they began to answer questions.  And they stood with authority…..”

The Shack. The love of God.

“I hear what you are saying with Job, and Romans 9, and I am just struggling with what do I really believe about all this. I don’t want to see God as a meticulous control freak, who reaks havoic on the lives of his children for some twisted purpose. As a parent, i would never do that to teach a lesson. There are times I would let my children fall in their own problems, to learn life lessons, but would protect them severly from the horribly painful ones. For example, I would not in a million years allow my child to endure sexual abuse, so that he or she can be used to help others in the future. I would fight like crazy to keep it from happening, regardless of what it is used for. I hate to see god as my father, who is going to plan for this to happen to me, so that he can use it later on in life. As a parent I could never do that to my child. also, the protection issue, if someone broke into my home and attempted to hurt my kids, I would fight, tooth and nail to protect them, i wouldn’t stand back and say, well lets see what lesson i can teach from this. So, looking at God as a parent, i don’t understand the view of meticulous control, predestination thing.
I have no idea if any of this makes sence, I am really just trying to figure out where do I stand in this relationship with God, as my Father? or God as my friend?”

I thought I would post my reply to this private email here, as I have much to say, and because I think my friend brought up questions that many Christians have.  And, because I think some of you will have some things to add. 

This was (surprise! 🙂 ) in response to the book, The Shack.  And whether or not the all loving God in the book is an accurate portrayal of Him.  Let me say from the outset – “God is love”.  He is the source of all true love.  The greeks had four different words for love – and the one “agape” refers specifically to the type of love God has for us, and the love we can have towards Him and one another, only when we know Him…  Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah, he says, because “I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”  Sulking Jonah did not want to preach a gospel of repentance – he knew that God would save the Ninevites – and Jonah wanted to watch them burn and die for their sins.  So – I am not denying the steadfast love of our Lord that never ceases.  Not denying His mercies that are new every morning.  Not denying that He loves us with an everlasting love.

I do not however love the god of The Shack.  Who says “Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.”  Or “I did not purpose Missy’s death, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use it for good.”  The god in The Shack says “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little diety insisting on my own way.”  He also says “I’ve never taken control of your choices or forced you to do anything….”

I think what Young is doing is trying to rebut the doctrines I believe.  But, I think the only real way to answer these is to go to the Word.  What does God say about Himself, and about His sovereignty and my responsibility?  I believe the only way to approach this is to go to the Bible, and see what God says about Himself.  We know He is a God of love.  We know He is merciful and full of grace – else He would not have sent Jesus to die for our sins.  Granted, many of the passages I want to quote are hard reads.  They don’t seem to reconcile themselves with the loving God our modern gospel presents.  To which I say – we MUST go to the Bible, by the power of the Spirit, with our eyes and hearts open, and reconcile our own impressions of God with who He says He is.  Sovereign.  Holy.  And motivated to act, for the sake of His name and for His glory.

Young says: “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little diety insisting on my own way.” 

God says: “Behold, I will stir up against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side: the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, governors and commanders all of them…. And they shall come against you from the north with chariots and wagons and a host of peoples.  They shall set themselves against you on every side with buckler, shield and helmet; and I will commit the judgement to them, and they shall judge you according to your judgements.  And I will direct my jealousy against you, that they may deal with you in jury.”  Ezekial 23:22-25  Why?  “you shall know that I am the Lord God.”  (v49)

“You shall know that I am the Lord” appears over 50 times in the book of Ezekial.  It is a common theme – and is mostly connected to His wrath, and His fury and His jealousy – because His people are whoring after idols.  He jealously desires our whole-hearted obedience.  And, when our adulterous hearts chase after idols, sometimes He hands us over to our enemies. 

I do not believe the bad in our own lives happens for much different reasons – that we may know that He is God.  I don’t think I have the answers friend.  As a Father, He by no means takes pleasure in bruising us.  ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him.  I believe that ultimately, it is through the deepest of sufferings that we most clearly see our Savior.  I think the pains of this life are for the exaltation of Him.  To draw us near to Him.  To teach us to rely on Him.  To prove Him faithful and beautiful.  To teach us lessons we do not yet know… May never know in this lifetime.  Sometimes yes, to teach others.   His reasons are always, always loving, you must trust Him for that.

So, if Job received the evil of the deaths of his children from God’s hand, from whose hand do we receive ours? 

Job did not sin when He said “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2v10)  Let us trust – not that God is scrambling to make good of evil – but trust instead a sovereign God who, for reasons deeper than we may ever fathom is making wise and loving decisions that seem to sting in our life on earth.

 

 

The Shack Chat.

So, a few of us have decided to get together and discuss a book called “The Shack” by William Young.  It is a novel, but full of alot of theology.  The bit I know of Jeromy , Jonathan, and Raquel, I know this should be some really interesting dialogue! Feel free to join in our discussions – even if you have not read the book, the content is worth chatting about.

The foolishness of man.

 

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”  Ephesians 1:16,17

I have recently finished Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches.  Enlightening.  Of the 5 authors, I resound with 2.6 of them.  I have sat down to blog regarding this book a few times, but wanted to wait until it was done. 

I think I get it.  In part.  The whole emerging church movement is so complicated.  They do not all agree with one another, except to agree to disagree, and have fun doing that.  Fine.  I love a good debate.  But, is God so very unknowable???  Yes.  And no.  As I have blogged in the past, He is so far beyond our understanding.  But, He has revealed Himself through His Word.

The irony is, that in the name of humilty, the EC claims the mystery of God.  The ironic arrogance of saying “Lord, You just quite simply did not give us enough to work with.  We know You will not share Your glory with mere Words, and so we look to the Holy Spirit to guide us.”   “We are learning to embrace the fact that we are all heretics and idolaters…. So we’ll enter into the dialectic of Christian dogmatics, but with a grain of salf…. we have decided to forgo contributing another espousal of another theory of atonement… You are invited into a mystery…. You are invited to lay down your theories and enter in….”  Listening to the Beliefs of EC, pg 164.  It is subtle, and I understand if you do not agree with me on the connection.  But I think there is a smug humility in saying we can not add to the theories dialogue, because we are all heretics at heart.  God is bigger than our hearts.  God has revealed Himself to us.

I love how Piper revealed my heart’s desire for some new word…

I  sat staring at nothing. My mind was full of the global glory of God. “I keep watch over the nations He had said this to me.”  It was not just that he had said it. Yes, that is glorious. But he had said this to me. The very words of God were in my head. They were there in my head just as much as the words that I am writing at this moment are in my head. They were heard as clearly as if at this moment I recalled that my wife said, “Come down for supper whenever you are ready.” I know those are the words of my wife. And I know these are the words of God.
Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites—this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me.

What effect did this have on me? It filled me with a fresh sense of God’s reality. It assured me more deeply that he acts in history and in our time. It strengthened my faith that he is for me and cares about me and will use his global power to watch over me. Why else would he come and tell me these things?

It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind—and your mind. We hear his very words. God himself has multiplied his wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us; none can compare with him! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told (Psalm 40:5).

And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota read Psalm 66:5-7. That is where I heard them. O how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible…. The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God. Let us cry with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your word” (Psalm 119:36). “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Grant that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know our hope and our inheritance and the love of Christ that passes knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:18; 3:19). O God, don’t let us be so deaf to your word and so unaffected with its ineffable, evidential excellency that we celebrate lesser things as more thrilling…..

I know I have borrowed much of this blog from Piper – but as I see the church looking for an understanding of what the Spirit is saying, sometimes (often?) apart from what He has revealed in the Word, I feel heartbreak. (“Dan holds to an authority in the Bible that I believe is better placed in the Holy Spirit” Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches – Pagitt PG.113)  I found myself repenting – as I read Piper’s blog, and realised that I too have neglected the Bible for some “fresh word” – when God’s Word is living and active in me, if I should just take the time to pray for His guidance through what He has already given us….

Heaven or Hell?

At the close of a most amazing book – Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, John Piper is being interviewed.  His response to the question “How do you prepare for suffering and death?” is sticking with me – and I thought I would share.

Piper is my modern day author of choice.  If you have ever seen him, he exudes a love for God.  His passion spills out whenever he talks, and there is no doubt he lives what he believes.  I cherish him and his ministry, and desire to live a God honoring life such as the one he evidences.  All this to say that his answer to the above question surprised and challenged me. 

“And as I am lying there with my head on my pillow, I take my wrist and catch my pulse.  I can just see the alarm clock with its big, yellow numbers.  And it doesn’t have a second hand, so I have to count for a whole minute.  And as soon as the six goes to seven – like 10:36 going to 10:37 – I start counting: one, two, three, four.  I count just to see what my sleeping pulse rate is.  And when I’m done before I go to sleep I remind myself: Anyone of those beats [finger snap] stop, and it’s finished.  There’s no reason this heart should keep beating, absolutely none, except God.  If He wanted to, He could say to any one of those beats, “last beat,” and I’m done.  Will I wake up in heaven or hell?  I ask myself that.”

 There is more, and it is all fantastic – but it is that last line that gripped me.  “Where will I wake – in heaven or hell?”  Piper, Piper questions this?  Every night?  Am I so naive then, to assume my salvation?  Is this why we are commanded to work out our salvation in fear and trembling?  We are so flippant, are we not?  We know the truth, we often neglect to love the truth, or our God – we spend so little time with Him…. we show no more love to those who love us than those who do not have the Bible do, and we almost never love our enemy…

But, do we stop and consider then, how can we, how can I, be so sure that “if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”?  The easy-believism gospel has left in its wake many apathetic people, who profess to know God, but whom I fear God does not know…  Will He say “depart from Me!”  Will He say it to me?  If Piper, who lives and breathes in God’s glory and the delight of it, asks himself where he will wake if he were to pass in the night, then should I not also wonder?  And fear?  There is no more weighty concern on this earth than to make sure one is right about eternity.  And being right is not so easy as a sinner’s prayer ticket.  No!  It is a deep, overwhelming love of a Savior who first loved me…..  And, I find myself suddenly nervous, and nauseous, and praying – “oh God!  More love for Thee!  May You be my all-sufficient treasure!”  With Piper I say “Jesus, as much as it lies within me, You are my God…. I trust Your blood wholly for my salvation.  And I now commit myself to you this night.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

hypocrisy.

Are you burying people – insiders and outsiders – under the weight of a self-righteous life?  UnChristian, pg 60 

UnChristian.  My newest read.  I bought this out of curiousity – I have heard some about the Barna Group, and this book piqued my interest.  It’s good.  Not in the you want-to-throw-it-at-the-wall good, but the Wow, I never thought of things that way before good.  I am appreciating Kinnaman’s heart, approach, and thus far, solutions. 

But, the first 60 pages ties in with something I have been thinking on a lot lately – the hypocrisy that we as Christians seem to suffer.  Kinnaman defines it a little different than I have in the past, and so I am finding myself re-working alot of thoughts about myself.

I am in an indepth study, which focuses on Matthew 7:5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  The analogy given in our study was this – when you have a woman who is grumbling about her husband all the time, and only seeing the bad in him; before you are ready to help her, you need to stop, and make sure this is something you have dealt with in your own life.  I am wondering though, does the speck and the log have to come from the same tree?  I do not struggle with alcoholism, does that make me qualified to judge my friend who is?  Even though I may be struggling with something else (such as addiction, anger, stealing)?  I think we, as Christians, come across as so harsh, and unaccepting, because of how qualified we think we are to judge people in areas of struggle we can not possibly identify with.  All logs are not created equal.  Maybe the oak speck should not be judged by the maple log.  Maybe the pine tree is jammed up in your eye, and is blinding your understanding of the apple seed…. And maybe, just maybe “He who is without sin should cast the first stone.” 

I am more than a little nervous here… the whole “all you need is love” gospel freaks me out…. I see it as a doctrine-less, mindless fluff gospel that the hippies did a better job of forty years ago.  I worry that I will love people to hell with a gospel that says “you are fine just the way you  are”.  I fear a lack of morals, and a compromise in my attitude that does not gel with my core beliefs…. and yet – I look at Jesus, who stands at the well, and says “go and sin no more”.  Who protects the woman about to be stoned.  Who weeps over Jerusalem.  Who ate with sinners.  Who seeks to be alone upon the news of John’s death  – but heals the masses with compassion instead.  The shepherd who chases the lost sheep.  He loved.  He loves.  I am finding myself more and more eager to be defined similarily – but wonder what that looks like?

Kinnaman points out that “Our culture considers having a good image to be one of the highest goals in life.”  pg 43  Among those listed as born-again Christians, the priority of being good, and doing the right thing, ranked higher than any other – including learning about Jesus and the Bible.  4 out of 5 of those who attend church in a typical month describe Christianity as “trying hard to do God’s commands.”  But, as Kinnaman says, “Our passion for Jesus should result in God-honoring, moral life-styles, not the other way around.”  pg 51

Yet we are going about it backwards.  We are trying to appear as though we have it all together, because that is what is most important in our society and churches these days.  Our version of being good has changed substantially over the years, but the concept is the same – and those outside the faith look in,  and think us hypocritical based on our own standards….  Mixed up standards as they are.

I am not sure where this book ultimately goes.  I hope it leads towards a call to repentence!  A true love for God, in all of His God-ness, a self-abased understanding of us in our frailty, and a transparency that says “by grace through faith” are where we need to go as a church. 

 

 

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