Discovering Tozer

Two good friends recently turned me on to the works of A.W. Tozer, who in 1919, began 44 years of Christian ministry. His works are among the most insightful I’ve read. It’s as if they were written just yesterday.

Among the more than 40 books he authored, at least two are regarded as Christian classics: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. His books impress on the reader the possibility and necessity for a deeper relationship with God.

I wanted to share selected exerpts from the preface of The Pursuit of God, written June 16, 1948. See his insight just as it exists today:

“In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct “interpretations” of truth. They are thirsty for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water…

“There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, or anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy…

“I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton’s terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: ‘The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.’ It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of  Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: ‘Orthodoxy, or right opinion is, at best, a very slender part of religion…

“Thanks to our spendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church  the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us…

“Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth.  The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness ofr the very  God Himself in the core and center of their hearts…

~A.W. Tozer – The Pursuit of God

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Is the Easter Bunny the Anti-Christ?

Last Christmas eve I attended a candlelight service where 50 or so people came together to prepare their hearts for the celebration of Christ‘s birth.

I’ve attended many of these services over the years at many different churches and I like them. I like that we sing the traditional Christmas songs; I like that kids come in their pajamas in anticipation of the wild morning ahead; and I like how it makes me think back to more than 2,000 years ago when the world received the miracle of miracles.

As I walked into the foyer for that particular service, one of the sweetest ladies I know was the first to greet me. I was prepared to give her a hug and wish her a warm Merry Christmas.

But before I could extend a hand and offer a warm greeting, she took the initiative with this:

“Don’t tell me Merry Christmas. Say happy birthday, Jesus.”

And she meant it.

I remember the strong movement a few years ago against the “Xmas” phrase. And for the record, it’s a movement I support. It does, in fact, take the Christ out of Christmas. But Santa Claus isn’t the devil, and neither is the Easter bunny.

For the last few years, I’ve noticed a similar trend. Among many evangelical Christians, Easter has now become “Resurrection Sunday.”

It’s certainly true enough. Among all things, first and foremost, Easter is the time when we recognize the one aspect that makes Christianity unique among all other religions. We serve a living God, not one who is dead in the tomb, or worshiped as a stone carving. Christ is alive, and it’s a belief I hold to be as true as the air I breathe.

So Resurrection Sunday – it’s a good thing.

But what of the extremity of this … because I like Easter.

Ninety percent of the references I heard in my church yesterday were to Resurrection Sunday – not Easter. That’s fine, but when did Easter become such a bad thing that we go out of our way to avoid the word?

I don’t hate the Easter bunny…and I don’t believe Jesus would either.

He’s soft, cuddly and has that really cute cotton tail.

My grandmother loved flowers. She particularly loved the Easter lily. I wonder if it should now become the Resurrection Sunday lily?

I’m not anti-Resurrection Sunday.

But I am pro-Easter.

Hop on Peter Cottontail. Jesus loves you too.

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The Evolving Church: Not a New Concept, but a Vintage One

 

(stevenwwatkins gives credit for the information expressed in this blog to Nate Navarro, pastor of Austin Life Church in Austin, Texas, who visited Jonesboro last night.)

The Church (as conveyed by Paul in Ephesians 2: I’ll let you go there to read it in full, but some key points:

  • Even when we were children of wrath and sons of disobedience God loved us seeing us in perfection through Jesus.
  • Christ made us alive together (the Body of Christ); his body.
  • Our good works did not save us.  We were saved by grace and faith.
  • We (the church, the body) are his workmanship (his masterpiece); perfection.
  • Family is messy. Church is a Family. Church is messy.
  • Though we are saved through no works of our own, the Holy Spirit that lives IN us will manifest itself through good works … and this is what church is about.
  • The missional community has been around since the first century. Maybe we should try it again.

Three forms church has taken on today and PS: God loves these churches too, for they are His workmanship.

  • Country Club Church – the church of comfort were we like to be pampered and never inconvenienced. Don’t ask us to serve for we are busy.
  • Convenience Store Church – the church of convenience were we want things fast, quick and easy. Want a tan? Don’t get out in the sun. Get spraypainted in 2 minutes. Want cleansing? Go to church at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Don’t mess up my schedule. I have kids.
  • FaceBook Church – a convenient community created on our own terms. It’s easier to have 500 FB friends than it is five friends in the real world. Passive relationships where we can project the best. Don’t let others see us when we are weak, or have failed. Mad at somebody? Hey, just DEfriend them!

What does it look like to be a missional community church every day? We must:

  • Grow in our devotion to Jesus.
  • Grow in our devotion to one another.
  • Grow in our devotion to community.

It’s that simple.

Ephesians 2 clearly defines the New Testament Church as a community of people who are in Christ, saved by His grace and walking in good works. We’ve tried to improve the church and the byproduct has been new forms of Christian spirituality, not necessarily the church.

The Gospel is the church. It tells us we are more broken than we can ever admit and more accepted than we can ever imagine. We unnecessarily carry around a low-grade guilt complex.

Will we seek to impress, or will we follow? We can’t impress. It’s not possible.

Good stuff.