Dec 26, 2008

Retreat to worship in spirit

by Dan Grubbs

Not long ago, I taught about the spiritual disciplines of retreat and solitude to a group of young adults. In my study and research in preparation for the lesson, I believe I had a personal revelation about worshiping God and about Christ’s words in John 4:23-24. Maybe everyone else already understands this, but I wanted to share what the Holy Spirit showed me during my study.

Worshiping in spirit was sort of vague in my thinking (admittedly, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer). When I read this story about the Samaritan woman at the well, frankly, I just assumed that Christ was focusing on the mental dialogue we can have with God. Here’s the passage for those not familiar with it. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshiper shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

I will confess to having a limited understanding of what Christ truly meant from His perspective. To what was Christ referring when He used the word “spirit”? Many will point to the corporate prayer and singing as important elements of worship.Others will remind us of giving and service as worship. I agree fully that these are examples of worshiping our God. But, I’m not convinced that is completely what Christ was talking about in this passage.

Here’s where my thoughts began to been enlarged about worship. I was digging into Christ’s and Paul’s examples of practicing retreat and solitude when I realized that these ‘spiritual’ disciplines are, I believe, largely what Christ was talking about. Paul going into Arabia; Christ slipping away into the wilderness; are examples of retreat and solitude to be alone with God to worship.

Christ was, in part, referring to worship as those times we are in communion with our Creator. It’s like the famous quote about Paul. Before his Damascus experience, Saul ‘said’ his prayers to God. After conversion, Paul ‘prayed’ his prayers. He was in connection as a personality with the personality of God.

When we retreat away from our schedules, our activities, and generally the ‘noise’ of living, and spend time in solitude with God, we are worshiping in spirit. That eternal part of us is ‘together with’ the eternal Spirit. This is exactly what the word communion means — together with. This is what Christ teaches us that the Father seeks from us.

This prompted me to quickly review other spiritual disciplines. I came to the same conclusion for each. When we can put ourselves away, and enter into a spiritual discipline, we are in communion with God and thus, worshiping Him in spirit.

You may ask, “Where’ve you been? That’s a principle the church has understood to be true for thousands of years.” I cannot deny that this truth was pre-existent to my own personal realization of it. Nor can I deny that I should have grasped this sooner. However, when I look around, I don’t see the fruits of a church who is regularly practicing the spiritual disciplines that lead to “worshiping the Father in spirit.”

In fact, what I see is a church who has come to revere time itself and put away the spiritual disciplines and salve our conscience with singing hymns and praises on Sunday and having a running dialog with God amidst the activities of our day. Do not misunderstand me. Corporate worship is vital, and we are not to neglect it.

We are privileged to be able to communicate with our God at any conscious moment. But, these things are not to replace the communion we experience with the personality of God when we (among other times) meditate, sit in silence, close the closet door, or retreat away where we will not be disturbed.

I know I’m taking a narrow picture of what spiritual worship can be. But, I think we need a foundation upon which to build other forms of spiritual worship. I’m quite sure that there are other disciplines that we could arguably focus on. But, as I said, we must begin with a foundation. Imagine the worshiper coming to Sunday service or a Bible study who has spent the week with a daily retreat. How much sweeter will our singing, our offering, our service, and our fellowship be?

We must teach our children, our youth, our young adults, our middle aged, and our elderly that we must practice the discipline of retreat to answer the call of worshiping the Father “inspirit and truth.”

C.S. Lewis put it this way: “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other…God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

Dec 24, 2008

Is "family" the new idol?

by Dan Grubbs

Well, I'm not sure I can say it's a new idea that "family" has become a distraction from our focus on God, but my larger point is that our society has used the family as an excuse for a deteriorating individual relationship with God.

What sparked this line of thinking is the fact that Christmas church services are nearly non-existent in a country where Dec. 25 is a specifically Christian celebration of the birth of the Messiah. Oh, there are Christmas-eve services aplenty still. But, according to an article by Amy Sullivan for Time, services on Christmas day are hard to find. Sullivan speculates, "most Protestant churches are closed on the actual religious holiday. For most Christians, Christmas is a day for family, not faith."

My unbelieving acquaintances would think Sullivan is daft for writing that last sentence. They'd say, "Of course Christmas is a holiday for the family." But, what struck me is Sullivan's central point -- that Christmas is no longer a day for faith. Her article indicates that this is a reflection of our cultural evolution in America where the family has been raised "to a sacrosanct level."

Now, before anyone goes down the road thinking I'm advocating that we abandon our familial responsibilities and lock ourselves away in some utopian cloister, think again. What I'm simply pondering on is how we in America live out our priorities.

If we claim that we are followers of Christ and desire to be obedient to His teachings and commandments, then our lives should be ordered in priorities that begin with our personal relationship with God, then our relationships and responsibilities to our families following. With that, then, I ask the simple question, What would stop us from attending a Christmas day church service? And, I believe the honest answer would be because we have family plans and activities that don't involve our local assemblies.

In my mind, one question leads to another. Therefore, I ask, how does this behavior reflect the choices we make regarding God? One thing I do know is that our God is a jealous God. He desires all of us, not just part of ourselves. It's also been my experience that when some distraction gets in the way of our relationship with Him, He will often remove that distraction. As the logical flow continues, if we esteem anything higher than God, it has then become an idol. Where does that leave us, then? As stark as it may sound, many of us has made an idol of our families insomuch as we esteem them (by our behaviors) higher than we do the Creator and Lover of our souls.

Can families remain at home and celebrate Christmas in a way that is faithful to Christ? Absolutely. To deny that is simply silly. However, I am sceptical that the majority of Christian families are actually celebrating Christmas day in a way that their focus is on their need for a Messiah to come to Earth.

Dec 20, 2008

Bound with unbelievers

by Dan Grubbs

My previous post may seem like it made too far a stretch to connect King Saul with Rick Warren. I understand that sentiment. However, I think there are other biblical teachings that directly apply to this situation in which Rick Warren finds himself.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 is the main text I'll refer to in my disagreement with Warren accepting the invitation to deliver the prayer for the inauguration. Paul is teaching the believers in Corinth not to connect themselves with the false teachers around them, and secondarilly, not to associate themselves with unbelievers. The passage reads:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have
righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or
what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an
unbeliever?

In application to our own lives, the idea of being bound together is often referred to as unequally yoked, as two draft animals yoked together to work for a common purpose. If you yoke two oxen that aren't matched as a collaborative pair, you can't plow the field properly. If believers yoke themselves together with those who are in opposition to God and His word, they will be unequally yoked.

It is clear that President-elect Obama stands in opposition to God on many issues. This fact cannot be denied. What partnership can we, as believers, have with one who so starkly stands in opposition to the God whom we serve?

Continuing in the 2 Corinthian passage, God calls believers out from among such as President-elect Obama, whose public position on many issues count him as one associated with darkness.

Should we pray for Mr. Obama? Absolutely! Not only as the leader of our nation, but more importantly, for his relationship with God to be healed. Yet, Mr. Warren will not be praying for Mr. Obama's salvation on Jan. 20, but instead, will be by his presence, endorsing the agenda of the chief executive.

Dec 19, 2008

Is that bleating of sheep and lowing of oxen I hear?

By Dan Grubbs

If I wasn’t a fan of Rick Warren before, I certainly am not a fan now that he will deliver the invocation at President-elect Obama’s inauguration next month. I’ve read that Mr. Warren views this as an opportunity for national healing. However, I see this as something else.
I don’t think God was too happy about King Saul withholding the sword from Agag, the Amalekite king, and brought back spoils of war when Saul was directly commanded by God to destroy all.

Of course there’s not a direct comparison of Mr. Obama with Agag, but there is something of a parallel. Mr. Obama's support of the slaughter of millions of American citizens, among other things, should cause Mr. Warren to refuse, just as Saul should have put the enemies of God to the sword.

Any man should always consider their actions from God’s perspective, considering how they fit into His plans as we understand them through the Bible. I’m not convinced that Mr. Warren’s motives to accept the invitation to deliver the invocation are healthy. As Ruben Navarrette, Jr., wrote for CNN, Mr. Warren’s appearance is supposed to be about “American’s learning to agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable.” This feels a lot like wanting to negotiate with Agag, an enemy of God; or, at best Mr. Warren is attempting to make a pleasing act of sacrifice. However, let’s review how God’s prophet Samuel replies to Saul, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”

Personally, I could not make a public endorsement of Mr. Obama in this way because abortion is disobedience to God. And, there’s no apologetic to rationalize this appearance in any other way than a public endorsement.

Yes, Mr. Warren has been vocal about abortion, marriage and moral issues in this society. But, there is no eternal healing that can happen by delivering this invocation. And, it’s eternal healing that a pastor is supposed to be about.


Dec 17, 2008

Mentoring, it's a God thing

by Dan Grubbs

It’s interesting that today’s church, as hard as it works at small-group ministry, often misses Paul’s clear teaching in Titus about the older women teaching the younger and the older men guiding the younger men.

Small group ministry is absolutely vital. It’s there were the church experiences a profound blessing as the body of Christ. It’s a lot of what Act 2:41-47 is all about. But, why do local congregations have the tendency to make small groups homogeneous by age or life stage?

There is merit to meeting in fellowship with others going through similar things in life. But, this leaves out the more significant needs of mentorship, which is very effective when it occurs in the context of a small group. Today’s church needs to be careful about how it builds small group ministries and any limits it may impose.

Simplistically, discipleship is that growth and work we exercise in our spiritual lives to be more Christ like and glorify Him. We can’t rest on the fact that we are saved. Christ commands us to learn, grow and do, after that blessed work of salvation in our lives. But, that learning and growing and doing is severely limited if we rely solely on corporate assembly. We see this clearly in 1 Thessalonians.

Mentoring works

The secular world understands the results of mentorship. One of the most successful social programs I know is the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. It has helped thousands of young people grow into productive adults when the odds were against them. Are the odds against young people growing up sound in the faith today?

Business has even latched on to mentorship in its management training efforts. Businesses around the world understand mentorship and use it for succession planning. Companies will continue in their successful strategic plans largely through some form of mentorship. What legacy will today’s church leave to its younger members to take up?

I know there are many local churches with awesome mentorship programs. I’ve seen the lives of young people profoundly impacted by a caring and loving Christian mentor. But, without the willingness of mature Christians to mentor a younger believer, every program will fail. For, it’s in a mentoring relationship that the Truth can be passed on by teaching and by example.

Mentoring is a biblical model

A walk through the gospels will reveal Christ’s own example of how mentoring is the key to discipleship. Being who He was and understanding their future purpose, Christ took on 12 men for this purpose.

In this amazing mentoring relationship, Christ is the model for all who answer this call. He loved them, first. He guided them. He impacted their personal lives in everyday ways. He challenged them. He corrected and rebuked them. He imparted His knowledge of God’s will to them. This is our challenge to be the kind of mentor to young believers as Christ was to the Apostles.

Mentorship is also displayed in detail in almost all of Paul’s epistles. We need to emulate what Paul did and how he loved the people with whom he ministered.

Maybe at no other time in history is the need for mentorship greater than it is today. This is largely because of our mobile families and our normal mentors no longer live in our nuclear or extended families.

What should you do about it? Check out the biblical passages below to aid our understanding about mentoring:

Job 12:12 “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

Psalm 71:17-18 “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

Deuteronomy 1:37-38 “You also shall not enter. Joshua son of Nun, your assistant, shall enter
there; encourage him, for he is the one who will secure Israel’s possession of it.”

2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit
these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Titus 2:1-7 “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, wit, purity in doctrine, dignified.”

Dec 15, 2008

Is the church making disciples as Jesus did?

by Dan Grubbs

John Warr, an 18th-century apprentice shoemaker, was determined to be a faithful witness for Christ. Another apprentice was hired, and John repeatedly talked to him about spiritual things. That new worker, however, didn’t want to be bothered. Then one day he was caught exchanging a counterfeit shilling for a good one. In his guilty humiliation he asked John for help and prayer. Through the faithful witness of John Warr, that man put his faith in Christ and developed into a committed disciple.

The young apprentice was William Carey, who later became a remarkably fruitful missionary to India. Carey’s life and ministry had a tremendous influence on the cause of worldwide gospel outreach in modern times.

Jesus said in John 15:8, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” This could be discouraging to Christians who can’t preach, sing, teach, or go to the mission field. They might see themselves as stuck in a situation that makes fruitful service impossible.

If that’s how you feel, then take courage from the example of John Warr. His impact on a co-worker brought glory to God and untold blessing to multitudes of people around the world.

In a world where bigger is usually assorted with better, it seems that Jesus might be considered a failure by today’s standards. After all, the Lord spent most of His time with only twelve disciples, one of whom betrayed Him. However, Jesus knew that by concentrating on twelve disciples He would leave this world, but leave behind a legacy. Here are eight elements of Christ’s disciple-making strategy:

  1. Jesus concentrated on teaching, training and developing twelve disciples into church leaders. By putting quality ahead of quantity, the Lord set a pattern for how godly leaders are to develop. There can be no short cuts to developing leaders for the church. Mark writes, “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3:14) The Lord selects those He wants. No person can presume to be a leader of God’s people by their own volition.
  2. Jesus concentrated on twelve because He wanted future leaders to give their entire attention to building well-rounded godly character. It is a myth that godliness can be manufactured through large theological factory like settings. Even Paul commended Timothy for learning lessons on godliness when he wrote, “You know all about my teaching, conduct, purpose, patience, love persecutions, sufferings and perseverance.” (2 Tim. 3:10) Real training happens in the context of a total life experience.
  3. Jesus employed His thoughts, emotions and efforts to assure that the apostles would replicate His life and thinking into the body of believers. In Acts 2:42-47 it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and the apostles did many wonders and miraculous signs. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The apostles knew no other way but concentrated ministry that sprang from a total commitment to the Lord in all dimensions of life.
  4. Jesus focused His objectives on twelve apostles who would teach through their examples. Many people were amazed at the transformation in the lives of twelve ordinary men. Luke wrote, “When people saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) We become a lot like the people we spend most of our time and mental energies on.
  5. Jesus condensed many of His most complicated teaching to simple statements that could be transmitted through the those with little or no education. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31,32) By concentrating much of His teaching in a few statements, the disciples could easily retain, reinforce and reproduce what they had learned.
  6. Jesus used local settings to keep His teaching contextualized. The Lord never went beyond 75 miles from the place of His birth. By using local people, with local illustrations and local situations, the Lord was able to provide a rich context that was easily reproducible.
  7. Jesus aimed at particular people who were most apt to respond to His message and have a life changing experience. While the world is looking for better methods, Jesus looked for better people. Pray and ask the Lord for wisdom in selecting a few disciples to train for godliness.
  8. Jesus distilled the grains of truth from volumes of knowledge so everyone could read and study His life and teachings. In God’s providential wisdom, the life and ministry of Christ is recorded in the Bible. Yet, the Bible says, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:6) We should follow Christ’s example in keeping our teaching straightforward, principled and consistent with our Master’s example.

Dec 13, 2008

Author stresses urgent need for fearless witnessing

by Allie Martin

A Georgia-based evangelist is trying to motivate and equip believers to reach friends and strangers for Jesus. In his book One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven (Genesis Publications, 2004), Mark Cahill says when it comes to witnessing, Christians can overcome fear and have confidence.

Cahill says every follower of Jesus Christ is called to be a witness, and each believer needs to redeem the time and make the most of every chance to share the gospel with the lost.

As the minister is fond of pointing out to fellow Christians, “We can worship God in heaven, we can praise God in heaven, and we can sing songs to God in heaven, but one thing we cannot do is share our faith with a nonbeliever in heaven — because they're not going to be there.”

Passionate about communicating a sense of the urgency of witnessing and helping people come to a saving knowledge of Christ, Cahill suggests that, for unbelievers, time is swiftly running out. Therefore, he says, “if we're going to reach them, we have to reach them here, and we've got to reach them now.”

The author of One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven says Christians have opportunities to share their faith in Christ on a daily basis and must not be afraid to talk about the realities of hell to unbelievers. However, he suspects that many believers who forego these opportunities do so because they are afraid of rejection.

But Cahill says he learned in his own spiritual walk that God's Word addresses his fears about being rejected by unbelievers as he shares the gospel. “When you read the scriptures,” he notes, “it says that they're actually not even rejecting me—they’re rejecting Jesus Christ [Matt. 10:22a]. And if you really think about it, it ought to hurt me a whole lot more that they're rejecting Jesus and not that they're rejecting me.”

However, it can be easy to forget this, Cahill says, “because of our prideful ways as people” and to think, as he has, “Oh, they rejected Mark Cahill.” But today the Great Commission-minded minister says, “Forget Mark Cahill. They're rejecting the Son of Almighty God.”

And that, the evangelist says, is what should bother believers far more than any personal rejection. “That should bother us to pray for these people,” he says. “That should bother us to share our faith to make sure they don't go anywhere near hell.”

Cahill resides in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and often leads witnessing efforts at music concerts, art festivals, sporting events, and homosexual gatherings in the metro Atlanta area. He also travels around the U.S., addressing more than 25,000 people annually at churches, retreats, conferences, and camps, in an effort to equip and challenge more of the saved to go out and reach the lost.

This article appears with permission of AgapePress.com © 2004

Dec 8, 2008

In the world, of the world, what's in a preposition?

by Dan Grubbs

I believe many of us in Christ’s church have forgotten the concept of in the world but not of it. Have we withdrawn to the comfort of our fellowship body, or have we stepped out in faith in the big bad world?

In the passage of 2 Timothy 3:1-17, Paul paints a bleak picture of the conditions “in the last days.” Not wanting to get into eschetological weed here, but it’s no stretch to see some of the conditions Paul is talking about in this passage in today’s society. It’s enough to make a believer want to retreat and protect ourselves from the world around us.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” The first question we need to ask ourselves is if we think there is good cause to protect ourselves and families from the kind of activities and behavior that Paul lists in the first four verses? But, maybe a better question is if
withdrawal from this kind of society is what Christ meant for our lives.
It’s a fact that Christians have pulled themselves and their families out of the world to the security of their local churches, small groups, private schools, or home-school cooperatives. Frankly, it’s comfortable in these places and certainly less painful.

However, I believe it’s exactly these conditions Christ had in mind when He was addressing the people in His sermon on the mount. When we read Matthew 5:13, we can see what Christ wants us to be when facing the world. Here He uses an effective metaphor to make His point. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”

What does Christ mean by being salt? Of course He means we’re to be effectual for Him in the world. So, how do we balance being salt and keeping from being victimized? This is actually a faulty question because it isn’t if we’re gong to be persecuted, the question is when. But the scriptures teach us that we’re to step out into the world anyway. Yet, there is benefit from being persecuted by the world and we should never shield ourselves and our loved ones from these blessings.

Yet, our motivation to be obedient to God’s will and Christ’s teaching is not for our own benefit, but to save the lives of those who are perishing all around us.

In light of Paul’s warning to Timothy about difficult times ahead, we may think that we’re silly if we subject our families to these conditions. But, Paul also gives encouragement and counsel for dealing with life in these circumstances. What does Paul say will happen to such people who persecute believers? Paul references in verses 8-9 a passage talking about those who opposed God. Exodus 7:10-12 “So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the Lord had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”

Why did Paul referenced this story of Jannes and Jambres at this time? How does this relate to what Paul is writing to Timothy?

Just as if Paul anticipates any rebuttal from Timothy, he gives him verse 14 to tell Timothy how to deal with the difficult times. “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

So with the learning and understanding of the gospel, Timothy — and we today — are supposed to be salt in this world regardless of the conditions.

I believe that we need to remember an important verse when we consider the rest of this letter to Timothy. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” (sound judgment).

So, if we’re to face the dark world and not withdraw from the world, how shall we go into the world? How shall we equip ourselves? What are we to do once there? I can point to verses 16-17 for the answer. “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

Armed with the gospel and God’s word, we step out in faith. But, where are these good works supposed to take place? In and among other Christians? In some cases, yes. However, if we limit our ministry there, we become tasteless salt to Christ. He charged us to “go” and be salt and light in the world. I am sure we all agree that we are not to withdraw out from the world, but be in the world. That’s what Christ meant by being salt. If we withdraw, then we are worth nothing to Christ and cannot be used by Him, and we might as well be discarded and trampled underfoot.

I am certainly not advocating against gathering together in corporate worship and fellowship or against home schooling. What I want to point out is that many of us have retreated to these places to escape the world when it’s precisely the world into which we are to go.

I’ll end with seven tough questions we all need to contemplate in our own lives:
  1. Are we as effective for Christ as we can be?
  2. Have we equipped ourselves and our loved ones to be effective?
  3. Are we cunning craftsmen for God in the world?
  4. Do we have the courage to face difficult times?
  5. Have we withdrawn from the world in some ways?
  6. Have we withdrawn our loved ones from the world?
  7. Do we truly believe that our serpents will swallow the world’s serpents?

Dec 5, 2008

Today's ecumenism is not Christian unity

by Dan Grubbs

Should we be burdened by the fact that many of the masses who consider themselves Christian are committed to ecumenism? I believe ecumenism as is being practiced today is a danger to believers. Ecumenism proponents are fully convinced that bringing together denominations, sects and creeds, even of divergent doctrine, to be a living out of Christ’s prayer for unity. I'm convinced they are misunderstanding Christ's high priestly prayer.

With no intention to offend, I will use the church of Rome as an example of why ecumenism as is currently being practiced, is not what Christ was praying about to the Father when He prayed for unity. Those who reach out to the members of the church of Rome should realize what ecumenism means to them.

The truly justified who may reach out to a Catholic in ecumenical effort should know what the follower of the church of Rome understands his Vatican to proclaim about ecumenism. Summarily stated, the Roman church wishes to bring “separated brethren” back to the “only” Catholic church.

There may be some Catholics who will deny this is the case and only want to work together with people of other faiths to further their social agenda. However, regardless of how any individual Catholic believes, his church has made ecumenism “back” to the church of Rome of utmost priority.

The Roman church has issued what it refers to as “Unitatis Redintegratio” or a Decree on Ecumenism. In it, the Catholic church reinforces the Second Vatican Council’s position that the “restoration” among all Christians is "one of principal concern.” This sounds simple enough upon face value. However, when we read the fullness of the decree, we see just what position the Catholic church takes on people who are not officially members of the church of Rome.

Quoting from Chapter 1 of the decree, the following excerpt, in my opinion, makes very clear what the Catholic church’s desire is: to “restore” Christians “back” into the Catholic church, and only then, will there be one “Body of Christ.”

Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as
Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ
wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and
with Him quickened to newness of life -- that unity which the Holy Scriptures and
the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's
Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can
benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted
all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which
Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to
which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of
God.
According to this official Vatican decree, there can be no unity unless you are a member of the Catholic church. The decree states that people "are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished" unless they restored to the church of Rome.

So before anyone joins together with someone else in an effort of ecumenism, I encourage them to fully understand what that other person understand to be the motivation. In the case of the church of Rome, the motivation is to point out your error and bring you back into the church he believes is the exclusive means of salvation!

Dec 3, 2008

False doctrine leads to deception

by Donna J. Kazenski

Most Christians today have no problem discerning that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Masons, etc. are teaching false doctrine and leading many astray. However, there are many who are not able to discern truth from error. As a result, they have placed themselves in the hands of the enemy and are being led down a path of deception and destruction.

Paul warned that false teachers would attempt to infiltrate the church from both the outside and from within. Peter wrote, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction,” 2 Peter 2:1 (KJV). The word translated as “privily” not only describes the method by which false doctrine is smuggled into the church, but also describes its deceptive purpose.

The original Greek word pareisago, is a three-fold word that begins with the preposition para. Para means “alongside” and describes the smuggling operation. False teaching runs alongside true doctrine. This creates a deception difficult to detect because it is close to sound doctrine.

Those who work with money must be trained to know the difference between a counterfeit and a genuine dollar bill. Spiritually speaking, we can apply these same truths when it comes to exposing false teachings that are propagated in the body of Christ today. We must allow the Lord to minister to us and train us according to His holy word and by the power of His Spirit. We must be careful that we do not allow another Jesus or another gospel to lead us into error.

The next part of pareisago is the Greek word eis which means “into”. Usually men or women from within the ranks of Christianity will run these false teachings alongside (para) true doctrine for the purpose of getting their deception into (eis) the church. The final part of this word is the Greek word ago. This word means “to lead”. The end result of false doctrine is for individuals to be led astray.

The Greek word pareisago reveals that false doctrine runs right alongside true doctrine, to get it into the body of Christ and to lead individuals astray.

The sad fact of the matter is that many times the deception is brought into the body of Christ by respected leaders and laymen. Therefore, we must learn to eat the meat and spit out the bones or we will find ourselves choking on what we should never have consumed.

Hebrews 13:9 tells us not to be not carried away with divers and strange doctrines. The church must not be quick to embrace every teaching that comes from the pulpit. We must learn to sift the teachings given to us through the filter of the scriptures. The word of God will expose which is error and which is truth. We must pay attention to what God’s word is saying. If what we are hearing is not lining up with the word of God, we would save ourselves from deception and heartache if we would just learn how to spit out the bones.

In Matthew 22:29, Jesus told the Sadducees that they didn’t know the scriptures very well. I believe this is one of the major problems of the body of Christ today. We do not know the scriptures or the power of God. We have settled for less than God’s manifest presence in our midst. We have neglected spending time at the Master’s feet in prayer and adoration of who He really is. We have accepted the teachings of man instead of the word of God. We have negated the power of God because we do not know Him in the way that we should know Him. We have embraced everything that has been dished out to us, but we have not yet learned how to embrace the Cross and the Christ who died upon it.

The early church tapped into this power as they gathered together in one accord and began to seek the Lord of glory. They didn’t seek after new techniques or the latest Christian fad; they sought after the power of the Holy Spirit and they received the power needed to evangelize the whole known world. They possessed what many of us do not possess today.

They spent time with Jesus and as a result of their relationship with Him; they experienced His power to seek and save that which was lost. They manifested His power to those who needed His supernatural touch.

If we want to see the power of God manifested in our midst, we must focus our eyes upon Jesus and allow ourselves to be saturated with His word so that we will be able to discern between that which is truth and that which is error. May the Lord turn us from that which is counterfeit to that which is genuine.

Nov 29, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 10 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God - Chapter 10: "The sacrament of living"

Editor's note: If you’ve been following along, you know that the editor has taken each chapter of the book The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and published here a short study in the form of articles. Chapter 10 is the final installment of this series. We hope you have found the series helpful to you in your walk with Christ.

Basing his last chapter on the doctrine found in 1 Cor. 10:31, Tozer ends his book on a triumphal note. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” His main point for us to understand is that we cannot have internal peace if we divide our lives into the sacred and the secular.

This false division of life causes inner turmoil and tends “to break up so that we live a divided instead of unified life.”

Merging two worlds

We live in two worlds simultaneously, the fleshly or natural and the spiritual. When we keep them separate, we “are uneasy most of the time ... with a feeling of deep frustration.” This is not the light yoke that Christ promises the repentant believer. But, we subject ourselves to this by trying “to walk a tight rope between two kingdoms and [we] find no peace in either.”

Tozer’s claim is that this dualistic life is not only unhealthy physically and spiritually, it is “wholly unnecessary.” He teaches that a divided life between the sacred and the secular is not founded in the New Testament. Christ Himself is the example, saying He does all things to please the Father.

This example was echoed by Paul who teaches us that we are to do all things to the glory of God. This isn’t just platitudes, this is the genuine way of the Christian walk. Tozer explains it this way, “It opens before us the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God.”

All things can glorify God

It begs the question, can eating and drinking and the banal things of life be an act of reference? Tozer, as well as the Apostle Paul, teaches that this is the case. “It may be said that every act of life is or can be as truly sacred as prayer or baptism or the Lord’s Supper.

Many may still disagree with this notion. However our author wrote that if we are saved and give ourselves wholly to God, all acts are holy. “By one act of consecration of our total selves to God we can make every subsequent act express that consecration.”

As Christians, we must not make a mental or actual division between the sacred and the secular or we will live divided lives. Once we get past this dilemma, the reality of living in a unified manner for Christ, it will “condition the complexion of our thoughts.”

Our morning meditations must include this training. We must recall to our mind frequently that our daily acts can be acts of worship and can give glory to God. “The knowledge that we are all God’s, that He has received all and rejected nothing, will unify our inner lives and make everything sacred to us.”

Disciplined sacramental living

Tozer explains that the old way of thinking will want to creep back into our lives because Satan doesn’t want the whole of our lives to be about God. He writes, “It will take intelligent thought and a great deal of reverent prayer to escape completely from the sacred-secular psychology.”

Offer every thing we do to God. He will accept them. Remind God in our time of private communion that our intention is to make all our activities for His glory. Or in Tozer’s wonderful style, “Let us practice the fine art of making every work a priestly ministration.”

A contributing factor to our erroneous belief that we keep things separate is the fact that many Christians believe in sacred places or things.

“It is little short of astonishing that we can read the New Testament and still believe in the inherent sacredness of places as distinguished from other places.” Tozer laments that this false doctrine has been allowed to be perpetuated for centuries.

An omnipresent spirit of worship

When Christ was crucified, many things took place. Not the least of which was the total access of the true believer to God. No longer was God limited to the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. The veil before the Holy of Holies was torn in two. Remember Christ’s own words, “Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” Worshipping God is a spiritual matter, not a matter of place or time or things.

Many denominations have let the sacredness of things creep back into the liberty we enjoy through Christ’s work. And it was from this “bondage reformers and puritans and mystics have labored to free us.”

Tozer also cautions us to understand that the concept of sacramental living doesn’t mean that all things are equal or of equal importance in this world or the next. “One act of a good man’s life may differ widely from another in importance.” He uses the example of Paul’s work as a tentmaker as an example. “Paul’s sewing of tents was not equal to his writing of an epistle to the Romans, but both were accepted of God.”

Why we act is most important

Driving home his point with his best shot, Tozer continues to explain, “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it,” (emphasis added). Lay people should never consider what they do as inferior to that of the act of a preached sermon. It is the motive of the act that is the key to it being a sacred act done for God’s glory or not.

A spiritual condition is required. Tozer tells us that we must, “Sanctify the Lord God in [our] heart.” Upon doing so, except for our sins, nothing we will ever do will be secular. One who lives this way is pleasing to God. “All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For such a man, living itself will be sacramental and the whole world a sanctuary.”

The Pursuit of God along with The Knowledge of the Holy are two of Tozer’s most popular and impactful writings. I strongly encourage everyone to read and re-read these important, yet short, books.

Nov 28, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 9 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God - Chapter 9: "Meekness and Rest"

A popular British comedy shown here in America is titled, “Keeping Up Appearances.” Each episode centers around a middle-aged woman who is desperate to ensure everyone in her sphere of influence considers her to be posh and high society.

The fact is, however, she and her whole family are just everyday people. The humor ensues when she goes to great lengths to protect the complex fa├žade she has created for the outside world to admire. She is breathless at every turn and drags her compliant husband through one fiasco after another. This woman is so busy creating a false life that she fails to notice she’s not living at all.

Funny thing is that we’re all like this in some way or another. We have much to hide from the world that we’re afraid to reveal. And it takes a lot of work to hide our faults. In fact, we are never done with the business of considering how we are viewed by others around us. It’s part of our sin pathology. Our core sin, pride, keeps our pathological engines running, sometimes racing, to ensure we do not lapse into revealing our true selves to the world.

Christ addressed this very thing which is the topic of Tozer’s ninth chapter, “Meekness and Rest.”

Tozer helps us understand that the Beatitudes are the “exact opposite of the virtues” that characterize the way humans live their lives. This, to our unrelenting detriment.

The portrait of human society

The opposite of the Beatitudes is what we see today and is the primary reason we experience many trials and tribulations in our lives. “Pride, arrogance, resentfulness, evil imaginings, malice, greed: these are the sources of more human pain than all the diseases that ever afflicted mortal flesh.”

Tozer shows us that it is in this condition that Christ came and spoke godly words when He uttered “blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”

In this chapter, the author points out that the word meek is too often misunderstood. He shows us that Christ explained it later when He invited men to take up His yoke and bear a light burden.

Christ’s burden is different from man’s burden. Man’s burden is borne by every human — “it is altogether an interior one.” Our burden is self-love and pride which is at the heart of our sin. We are oppressed by this burden for, “the heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest.”

But, Christ’s burden is different. It is light! And when we are released from the burden of man, we find we are at rest. “The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort.”

This is real rest for which many seek. A rest that only following and believing Christ can bring. A rest that comes from seeing oneself from God’s perspective. Tozer encourages us, “come on, humble yourself, and cease to care what men think.”

Meek does not equal weak

Don’t equate a meek godly man with someone who is weak in faculties. “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself.”

So what about this inherit the earth promise? That’s a good question and should be answered by what we value compared to what God values. The meek Christian understands that the world will not understand godly values and he has stopped worrying about it. The meek Christian is at rest in knowing that the things God values are eternal and he will one day inherit the earth. “He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own. Then the righteous shall shine forth in the Kingdom of their Father.”

When we put ego and pride aside and take up Christ’s burden, we find we “will have attained a place of soul rest.” We have God as our public defender and are at peace.

Like Lucifer, pride is our sin

Our desire to shine and stand apart from others for our own ego is not any different than that of the great angel Lucifer. Did not he want to shine brighter for others to see? Did not he want to be something he really was not? For his sin of pride, Lucifer lost his position with God and will spend eternity in turmoil. What did Lucifer gain for his pride?

What do we gain in our pride? We gain a tumultuous life filled with constantly defending ourselves against the world. We gain heartache and pain. We gain cruelty and corruption. We gain quarrelling and mistreatment. We gain the consequences of our sin, which are the opposite of the Beatitudes Christ so eloquently articulated on the Mount of Olives.

Our pride is a heavy burden. It is breaking us under its pressure, according to Tozer. He writes, “There is no release from our burden apart from the meekness of Christ.”

Rest at the foot of the throne

In a prayer at the end of this chapter, Tozer asks God to help him take God’s “easy yoke of self-forgetfulness.” This is the condition when Christ is on the throne and the other elements of our life are aligned with Jesus. When we place ourselves on the throne of our life, we bear a burden that is impossible in order to keep ourselves on that throne.

Christ calls us, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.” Are we experiencing a life of rest or a life of tumult? Are we defeated by trials or do we allow God to defend us?

Or better put by our author:

The rest He offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when
we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend. It will take some
courage at first, but the needed grace will come as we learn that we are
sharing the new and easy yoke with the strong Son of God Himself. He calls
it “my yoke” and He walks at one end while we walk at the other.”

Nov 27, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 8 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God - Chapter 8: "Restoring the Creator-creature relationship"

This chapter takes a simple look at our relationship with God because our relationship is a simple one. If we feel it’s complicated, then it is we who have clouded it and mixed it up. It’s this mix up that Tozer addresses in Chapter 8 — the dealing with a properly ordered relationship between man and God.

The author indicates that justification is the “restoration of a right relation between man and his Creator, a bringing back to normal of the Creator-creature relation.” This is, of course, a reference to being born again and all that means regarding our sin, Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

God is the reference point

But, to better understand the relationship, Tozer backs us up to defining a fixed point, which is the I AM, from which we have established our relationship as a human. God is the center, so to speak, but our “difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him.”

In a succinct paragraph, Tozer sums it up:
As the self-existent One, He gave being to all things, and all things exist
out of Him and for Him. Every soul belongs to God and exists by His
pleasure. God being Who and What He is, and we being who and what we are,
the only thinkable relation between us is one of full lordship on His part and
complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honor that it is in our power to
give Him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving Him anything less.
As humans, in our search for the true post-justification relationship with God, we will gladly accept the challenges and failures of “bringing our total personality into conformity to His.” Yet, Tozer doesn’t let us rest with the intellectual reality of this, he pushes us to understand that being rightly aligned with God means a “voluntary exalting of God to His proper station over us and a willing surrender of our whole being to the place of worshipful submission which the Creator-creature circumstance makes proper.”

According to Tozer, this will change us as children of God. We will see things differently and the way we think will be transformed. The transformation, Tozer writes, “will begin to surprise us by its upsurgings and its outgoings.”

We gain in our submission

When we acknowledge God’s actual position, we become willing worshippers without shame or worry. Our sense of purpose becomes evident to us. “Let no one imagine that he will lose anything of human dignity by this voluntary sell-out of his all to God. In exalting God over all, he finds his own highest honor upheld.”

Among many other biblical accounts of God’s people, Tozer points to Christ as our ultimate example. He indicates that Christ did not seek His own honor, but the honor of God, the Father who sent Him. This is worth considering as Christ is fully God Himself. Tozer references Christ who explains that self-honor is nothing, but only honor from the Father is desirable and eternal.

The self can get in the way

Does Tozer believe this is an easy position to take, this total sell out to God? No. He explains that a “God-above-all” position is challenging — especially when self will gets in the way. “The mind may approve it while not having the consent of the will to put it into effect.” As written in earlier chapters, man must tear the self out and replace the vacancy with God and ascribe to Him all that He is deserving to receive.

What is the result? Simply this, if a man will glorify and consider God above all things in life, including the self, then God will unveil Himself more to the believer and place all His resources at their use. For God knows that “His honor is safe in such consecrated hands.”

Nov 25, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 7 of 10

by Dan Grubbs


The Pursuit of God - Chapter 7: "The Gaze of the Soul"

Tozer takes the complex concept of faith and expands on our understanding by writing that “faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”

High-sounding words, certainly. But, the metaphor is referring to that inward eye that “looks at” or contemplates the natural and supernatural.

This chapter is more practical advice about true faith than an exercise to define it. Therefore, Tozer encourages us to gaze with our inward eye at God. He uses a short illustration to help us understand this idea of faith and “looking”. He writes of the snakes biting the Hebrews in the wilderness and they were to only “look” with their eyes and be healed. This is an indication of the heart of the one doing the looking.

Christ is always our best example and Tozer points us to Christ for this, too. He wrote, “Indeed Jesus taught that He wrought His works by always keeping His inward eyes upon His Father. His power lay in His continuous look at God (John 5:19-21).”

More than a one-time act

According to the author, faith is summarized in Hebrews. It tells us that we are to be, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” According to Tozer, we gain understanding that “faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.”

He teaches in this chapter that faith and believing and looking are synonymous and the scriptures do bear him out. This makes believing that inward attention focused on God and His Son.

Can we do this continually? It would be to our benefit and Christ’s joy if we did. But, we fail at times. Tozer explains that “God takes [intended belief] for our choice and makes what allowances He must for the thousand distractions which beset us in this evil world.”

Where is consideration of ourselves? This is a dangerous consideration as it distracts us from God and may demonstrate that our faith wasn’t genuine. According to Tozer, the very idea of faith in God is the “least selfregarding of the virtues.”

This inward looking to our Creator is what will assure us of a successful walk with Him. If we find we don’t experience the joy and peace we are promised in life, there is only the self to examine. Tozer put it this way:
The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him.

Does faith save us?

This is an intriguing question to which many Christians would answer yes. Tozer answers it this way, “Faith is not in itself a meritorious act; the merit is in the One toward Whom it is directed.”

Again, faith is a focusing of our gaze on Christ and the installation of blinders to our own desires. More eloquently that most can put it, Tozer tells us that when lifting our inward eyes to gaze upon God, He will respond in a joy-giving way. “When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.”

Gazing at God is simple

Contemplating God and believing who He is will not require a theologian’s knowledge. It is a simple thing. And this simplicity, according to the author, is easy enough for the least of all of mankind.

This believing (a.k.a. looking) requires nothing more than a willing heart. No religion or special items or special time or special place is required. This is God ensuring that “the one life-and-death essential can never be subject to the caprice of accident.”

Our teacher lets us know that he understands that we must attend to the things of daily living. Most humans cannot spend their waking moments in continual contemplation of God and His word. Tozer indicates that solid Christians do focus their attention to earthly affairs, but also have “within them a secret communion always going on.” Our attention can be drawn to focus on a responsibility, but following that, our attention must fly “at once to God again.”

Perfecting the gaze

This “looking” is very much like a spiritual discipline. Some view it as a combination of spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, meditation, Bible study, stillness.

Enhancing these practices to perfect and sharpen our gaze on God are living and serving in a body of believers. But, our personal relationship, our one-on-one walk with God, will be most impacted by our inward gaze of Him.

What does that really mean? Leave it to Tozer to give the answer to that question. He writes, “When the habit of inwardly gazing Godward becomes fixed within us we shall be ushered onto a new level of spiritual life.”

Himself pointing to a favorite Christian writer, Tozer was a student of Nicholas of Cusa. He quotes Nicholas in this chapter to further illustrate his point. As complex as the words may be, they are worth the effort to understanding the gaze of our soul toward the Author and Perfector of our faith. Nicholas of Cusa wrote of when God’s gaze meets ours:

There is the source of all delights that can be desired; not only can nought
better be thought out by men and angels, but nought better can exist in any mode
of being! For it is the absolute maximum of every rational desire, than which a
greater cannot be.



Nov 21, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 6 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God - Chapter Six: The Speaking Voice

In this sublime chapter, Tozer arrests our attention on the reason why we often find it difficult to find God when we pursue him. We don’t realize that God will manifest Himself by speaking His will. If we’re to pursue God, we had better listen to what He says.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The depth and breadth of John 1:1, its cosmic complexity, is at the heart of what Tozer is teaching in this chapter. It is God’s word in the universe, His creating voice, that we seek. The author writes, “God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God’s word in the universe.” The voice of God is not limited to ink and paper but is inseparable from God — “... and the Word was God.”

The objective then, for those who honestly pursue God, is to listen as they seek. At no time does Tozer discount the scriptures. On the contrary, God uses the Bible to reveal Himself as the “inevitable outcome” of His voice. Yet, our author writes that God did not send us a book by messenger to be read by unaided minds. “He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years.”

God spoke and creation was. This voice has been speaking since and God wants us to find the same voice of creation that is speaking to each one of us today. Just think of having communion with the same voice that spoke the universe into existence. It is what He wants for us. “The order and life of the world depends upon that voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.” This is a quote more than 40-years old. Wasn’t life simpler then? Aren’t we more busy today than when Tozer was writing. I’m guessing that God sees us as just as neglectful at spending time with Him today as in the years of wilderness wandering.

Listening is not popular. We have fallen into a cult of busyness and even let ‘church work’ get in the way of listening to the creating voice. God directs us in the scriptures to be still as if to “tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.”
Being still and quiet requires solitude, preferably with our Bibles open. According to Tozer, it’s then we draw near to God in stillness and often hear Him speak to our hearts.

Never forget that God is spirit and seeks those who connect with Him in spirit. That spirit can walk in Presence with us as in the garden and illuminate the Bible for us. With dedication to being still, God’s voice will become an “intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend.” It is Tozer’s belief that a fresh existence, “a new world will arise ... when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.”

Tozer admits that some, even those in pulpits, believe that God was once in a speaking period and that time has passed. This is not the truth. The fact is that God is “not silent, has never been silent” because it is in His nature to speak. In fact, the second Person of the Trinity is called the Word.

A very picturesque quote from the author paints a picture of God’s word in the universe. “The universal Voice of God was by the ancient Hebrews often called Wisdom, and was said to be everywhere sounding and searching throughout the earth, seeking some response from the sons of men.”

Are we waiting for some word from God? According to Tozer, if you’re not hearing God, you’re not listening. He goes on to explain that the “Voice is a friendly voice. No one need fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it.”

Tozer goes so far as to discuss his belief that we often hear the Voice and not recognize it as God’s. Sometimes we have a sudden feeling of wonder or awe or realize our universal smallness. Or we experience a “fleeting visitation of light like an illumination from some other sun, giving us in a quick flash an assurance that we are from another world. We were forced to suspend our acquired doubts while, for a moment, the clouds were rolled back and we saw and heard for ourselves ... the Presence of God in the world and His persistent effort to communicate with mankind.”

Finally, of the words of the Bible, Tozer encourages us to approach them with the same reverence that we do the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient God. He concludes, “If [we] would follow on to know the Lord, come at once to the open Bible expecting it to speak to [us]. Do not come with the notion that it is a thing which [we] may push around at [our] convenience. It is more than a thing, it is a voice, a word, the very Word of the living God.”

Nov 20, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 5 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God: Chapter 5 - The Universal Presence

Tozer, in this fifth chapter, does not let the sleepy Christian rest on a simplistic understanding of the omnipresence of God or, to use his words, the divine immanence. His observation is that Christians really don’t think deeply about this or they would see much more than the simple idea that God is everywhere. Instead, Tozer points out that if God’s immanence or omnipresence were deeply rooted in our thinking, we would live a different life.

He spends needed space explaining, often in very poetic terms, that God simply is “here” and there can be no place that He is not. If this weren’t true, according to Tozer, God couldn’t be the Cause of all that is and worthy of the lives we give Him.

But, there seems to be an intellectual hurdle that most Christians don’t clear when it comes to this all-important fact about God. Tozer writes, “These are truths believed by every instructed Christian. It remains for us to think on them and pray over them until they begin to glow within us.” It’s clear that the author felt we are not glowing with this knowledge.

“If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where He is not, cannot even conceive of a place where He is not, why then has not that Presence become the one universally celebrated fact of the world?”

So, we’re prompted to ask why do we not “universally” glow with this knowledge. The answer can be found in the words of Jacob who cried out in wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.” Tozer writes that Jacob, and all mankind, have never been without the ever-present immanence of the Creator. But, somehow, through our unwillingness, our hardheartedness or imperception, we miss God in our presence. According to the writer, “Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew.”

Key to unlock our closed hearts

In the chapter, Tozer explains that there is a difference between the reality of the Presence and the manifestation of the Presence. In other words, God is always there. But, when we take note of Him, He is manifest to us. If we want to continually have the manifestation of our God, keep ourselves fully aware of God’s presence, then we must “surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son.” Tozer writes that if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this way, God will “manifest Himself to us” and that is the difference between a luke-warm life and a life on fire for God filled with the joy of glorifying Him.

If we are truly in pursuit of God, we will meet Him because God seeks to reveal Himself to us. It’s not that God isn’t present and we need to find Him. We first must deeply contemplate that God is ever-present and wants to make Himself manifest to us in our daily endeavors. Tozer puts it more eloquently:

Our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. The revelation of God to any man is not God coming from a distance…to pay a brief and momentous visit to the man's soul. The approach of God to the soul or of the soul to God is not to be thought of in spatial terms at all. There is no idea of physical distance involved in the concept. It is not a matter of miles but of experience.
Differences of experience

If God is ever-present, for all Christians, why is it that some people seem to have a closer experience than others? God’s desire is to manifest Himself to all without prejudice or favoritism. So what’s the difference? “All He has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies not with God but with us.”

The difference, according to Tozer, is our “spiritual receptivity”. Some cultivate and feed and foster their spiritual awareness so they experience God, or better said, God makes Himself manifest to them. King David put it aptly, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”

Tozer calls it receptivity. Simply, it’s the sensitivity to always know and feel that God is with us, in our presence. Our pursuit of God is dependent on this receptivity, which he writes can vary in intensity based upon our own true desire to see God’s face — not a desire of the mind, but one that is lived out in action. This receptivity can “be increased by exercise or destroyed by neglect.”

Result of a lack of receptivity

Failure to seek and perceive God’s presence, according to the author, causes a breakdown in our churches. A deliberate and disciplined link with God requires a commitment of our lives, not just our time. It is often slow. Too slow for many Christians who, according to Tozer, are impatient to work for something they desire. He writes, “We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy.”

As lamentable as this sounds, there is hope if we return to the ways of the Bible. Tozer points to times in the past when great movements led people back to the Bible. But, it’s not the momentous events Tozer speaks of in his book, The Pursuit of God. It’s about the individual seeking the face of God. What this chapter and the book is trying to help us understand is simply this:

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.
In summary, the unprecedented fact of God’s universal presence is unquestionable. And He is there and willing to reveal Himself to us. We are created to be receptive to Him if we will only genuinely seek Him. This is what Tozer refers to as the pursuit of God. The perception and realization of God will only increase with our practice of the pursuit.

Nov 19, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 4 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God: Chapter Four - Apprehending God

It’s clear from this chapter why some who read Tozer’s works call him a mystic — in the true and Christian sense of the word. For he has delved into and helped us understand the mystical elements of our relationship with God. It is apparent that he has experienced a close and profound connection with God and explains how that is available for every human in this fourth chapter.

As he has already demonstrated in the first three chapters, Tozer helps us understand a close personal relationship with the Creator of the universe is possible, and in fact, the Creator desires this. But, man fails to detect God and sense Him in a profound and spiritual way. Many acknowledge God’s existence, but “He remains personally unknown to the individual.” While man mostly admits God is somewhere, many do not believe in Him as knowable as we come to know our friends and loved ones or even our possessions.

Tozer does not leave this with the secular. He points out that many who claim Christ as Savior “go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle.”

The scriptural doctrine, however, points out that God is waiting to be known by man in a real and a personal experience. Tozer writes about God, “Always a living Person is present, speaking, pleading, loving, working and manifesting Himself whenever and wherever His people have the receptivity necessary to receive the manifestations.”

Tozer teaches that the words of the Bible assume a “self-evident fact that men can know God” with the same veracity and tangibility as any person or object that our senses detect.

How do we apprehend God?

The first thing to understand, according to Tozer, is that we are just as equipped to sense God as we are to sense the physical world. He writes, “We apprehend the physical world by exercising the faculties given us for the purpose, and we possess spiritual faculties by means of which we can know God and the spiritual world if we will obey the Spirit’s urge and begin to use them.”

We’re born with these faculties, but sin clouds them and tarnishes them over to make us spiritually deaf, mute and blind. These faculties can be resuscitated by regeneration and by repentance. According to the author, this is one of the most precious gifts to come to us through Christ’s death and resurrection.

Tozer’s lament and hope for the church

In the author’s mind, he finds it difficult to understand why a believer would not want to stay in close contact with God in the spiritual realm through scriptures and in quiet communion. He acknowledges that it is the case, however. He explains that faith is what enables our spiritual senses. Therefore, Tozer writes, when faith is weak “the result will be inward insensibility and numbness” toward our spiritual walk with God.

The key, then, is for believers to humble themselves before God, acknowledge who He is and cease our self-reliant tendencies. Upon this repentance lay on a deep study of the word of God and our ability to commune with God in the spiritual realm will come alive again.

How do I know the realm is there?

Consider this. Tozer eloquently makes his point of chapter four this way. “A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting our response to His Presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality.”

What is real?

This is a question that has been pondered for centuries by uncommon minds. However, the true believer understands the answer to this question and is assured of the answer more so than some of the most famous philosophers in history. To use Tozer’s words, “God is real. All other reality is contingent upon His.” This chapter teaches us that God has objective existence independent of any thought we may have of Him. Our teacher writes, “The worshipping heart does not create its Object. It finds Him here when it wakes from its moral slumber in the morning of its regeneration.”

The author teaches in this chapter that we can reckon on the spiritual realm with as much assurance as we do the physical. “Spiritual things are there (or rather we should say here) inviting our attention.” But it is sin, Tozer indicates, that has made detecting spiritual things so difficult for us. To repeat Tozer’s metaphor, “Sin has so clouded the lenses of our hearts that we cannot see that other reality, the City of God, shining around us.”

No distinction between spiritual and real

Tozer helps us understand that another part of our difficulties is that we often separate what we know as real from what is spiritual. He writes that there is no such distinction The spiritual realm is reality. It should be considered with as much confidence as the chair, the wind, a spouse or the color red.

What the author does distinguish between is the real and the imaginary. God is real, but unseen. There are unseen created beings in spiritual reality. The Holy Spirit communes with us in an unseen reality. Imagination builds images and assigns reality to them out of the mind. Faith, however, “simply reckons upon that which is already there.”

The corrective course of action is to shift our focus to the unseen reality. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “...for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Since God is the ultimate reality and all other realities are a result of God, then the spiritual realm is the object of “our holiest longing."

The spiritual realm is now

Tozer points out that Christians often think of the spiritual realm as something in their future. He writes, “It is not future, but present. It parallels our familiar physical world.” He quotes a text from Hebrews that Tozer points out is clearly in the present tense.

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”

This passage is making positive contrasts between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Tozer uses it to point to the fact that the reality of Zion is around us and can “be grasped by the soul.” He adds, that our souls have eyes and ears, regardless of how out of use they may have become, that can see and hear this spiritual realm where God is the ultimate reality.

Life application

The author in this chapter has awakened the sleeping believer who trusts in the blood of Christ to redeem sins. Awakened to renew their focus upon God. The result of which will be an awareness of the things of the spirit. He paraphrases a text in the Gospel of John by writing, “Obedience to the word of Christ will bring an inward revelation of the Godhead.”

The scriptures promise that those who seek Him will find God in His unseen reality. Tozer’s lesson says if we focus anew upon God, we will gain a more acute perception of God. “A new God-consciousness will seize upon us and we shall begin to taste and hear and inwardly feel the God who is our life and our all.”

If believers only delve deeply into the scriptures, spend daily intimate time with the Lord, our ability to detect His presence, and understand His will for our lives, will be enhanced to a degree that is beyond description.

It sounds metaphysical. And it is. Our prejudice to deny things we cannot directly experience is a hindrance to our relationship with God. But those who repent of their sins, and seek God in the spiritual realm will find “More and more, as our faculties grow sharper and more sure, God will become to us the great All, and His Presence the glory and wonder of our lives.”