Posts Tagged ‘growth’

Tomatoes

October 10, 2008

One of the things I’ve done with the boys this year is grown tomatoes. Just a couple of plants, but I wanted them to see how things grow, to understand the process growth a little better. Personally, I consider this a spiritual discipline, although I’ve not seen it formally listed as such.

I wanted them to learn about planting, how deep do you plant them?, how important is soil preparation? Watering, weeding, feeding, diseases, and bugs, all need to be watched and tended to. How the cages that seem so big and useless at first, but later become the framework that allows the plant to flourish.

Neither of them like tomatoes, unless you first make them into ketchup, but they really like to go check on the plants. They spend most of the time looking at how big the plant is, and how many tomatoes are on them.

I don’t know how much time they think about the roots. My guess is not much. I’m a lot like that.

I’ve been pondering this article from A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous . Tending to the root of anything is, by and large, hidden. It’s aim is for soundness for the long haul. It requires regular maintenance, knowledge of what you’re doing. 

ONE MARKED DIFFERENCE between the faith of our fathers as conceived by the fathers and the same faith as understood and lived by their children is that the fathers were concerned with the root of the matter, while their present-day descendants seem concerned only with the fruit.

This appears in our attitude toward certain great Christian souls whose names are honored among the churches, as, for instance, Augustine and Bernard in earlier times, or Luther and Wesley in times more recent. Today we write the biographies of such as these and celebrate their fruit, but the tendency is to ignore the root out of which the fruit sprang. “The root of the righteous yieldeth fruit,” said the wise man in the Proverbs.

Our fathers looked well to the root of the tree and were willing to wait with patience for the fruit to appear. We demand the fruit immediately even though the root may be weak and knobby or missing altogether. Impatient Christians today explain away the simple beliefs of the saints of other days and smile off their serious-minded approach to God and sacred things. They were victims of their own limited religious outlook, but great and sturdy souls withal who managed to achieve a satisfying spiritual experience and do a lot of good in the world in spite of their handicaps. So we’ll imitate their fruit without accepting their theology or inconveniencing ourselves too greatly by adopting their all-or-nothing attitude toward religion.

So we say (or more likely think without saying), and every voice of wisdom, every datum of religious experience, every law of nature tells us how wrong we are. The bough that breaks off from the tree in a storm may bloom briefly and give to the unthinking passer-by the impression that it is a healthy and fruitful branch, but its tender blossoms will soon perish and the bough itself wither and die. There is no lasting life apart from the root.

Much that passes for Christianity today is the brief bright effort of the severed branch to bring forth its fruit in its season. But the deep laws of life are against it. Preoccupation with appearances and a corresponding neglect of the out-of-sight root of the true spiritual life are prophetic signs which go unheeded.

Immediate “results” are all that matter, quick proofs of present success without a thought of next week or next year. Religious pragmatism is running wild among the orthodox. Truth is whatever works. If it gets results it is good. There is but one test for the religious leader: success. Everything is forgiven him except failure.

A tree can weather almost any storm if its root is sound, but when the fig tree which our Lord cursed “dried up from the roots” it immediately “withered away.” A church that is soundly rooted cannot be destroyed, but nothing can save a church whose root is dried up. No stimulation, no advertising campaigns, no gifts of money and no beautiful edifice can bring back life to the rootless tree.

With a happy disregard for consistency of metaphor the Apostle Paul exhorts us to look to our sources. “Rooted and grounded in love,” he says in what is obviously a confusion of figure; and again he urges his readers to be “rooted and built up in him,” which envisages the Christian both as a tree to be well rooted and as a temple to rise on a solid foundation.

The whole Bible and all the great saints of the past join to tell us the same thing. “Take nothing for granted,” they say to us. “Go back to the grass roots. Open your hearts and search the Scriptures. Bear your cross, follow your Lord and pay no heed to the passing religious vogue. The masses are always wrong. In every generation the number of the righteous is small. Be sure you are among them.” “A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.” ( Article taken from The Root of the Righteous, Chapter 1 )

 

 

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Revival?

May 31, 2008
Update: I just about finished this and realized that I wasn’t writing in the first person. BIG mistake. If you read this, realize that it applies to me first. Then anyone else that wants to join up, feel free. 

“It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all. A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.”- A.W. Tozer

Don’t tell me about Lakeland. Don’t tell me about emotional “worship experiences”. Don’t tell me about spiritual gifts. Don’t tell me about programs, projects, and long term strategies. Don’t tell me about good preaching or sound theology. Don’t tell me about looking at the “fruit” of a church’s (or a preacher’s) ministry if you mean numbers in attendance, or even converts (remembering the parable of the sower). God may be at work in all these.

Then again, he may not be.

The fruit we should be looking for is found in the letter to the Galatians.

We’re called to discern the spirits. Well?

Do you see evidence of this, “… enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,…” in yourself, or the people in your congregation? Remember, this comes next, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Are your people, are you, more loving? Is this your aim, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2)

Are you increasingly more joyful? Does the joy set before you cause you to endure the cross and its shame? Is that joy your strength? Do newcomers to your group notice a deep seated joy that transcends circumstances?

What about peace? Are you a peacemaker? Are you known as an ambassador of reconciliation? Or does your proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom mostly convey strife and division? The Gospel will always have an unpopular, prophetic edge to those who smell death instead of life, but which direction are you headed as a people?

Patience? Are you content? When people interrupt your plans how do you react? Is the desire for your vision of ministry frustrated by the very people you are shepherding? How do you react to those weaker brothers?

Kindness?… anyone?… anyone?… kindness?” (read in your best Ben Stein voice) How do you measure yourself and your folks when you read this from Henry Drummond?

“‘The greatest thing,’ says someone, ‘a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children.’ I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are? How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered.” (The Greatest Thing In The World)

What about goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

(*crickets*?)

What about the first things that history tells us happened in almost all, if not all, real revivals. Prayer, and Godly sorrow leading to repentance?

Ruthlessly look at your own heart, see if you are at least moving the right direction, then I’m pretty sure you’ll know what real revival would look like.

No Shortcuts

May 7, 2008

 I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. There just aren’t any shortcuts in the spiritual  life.

I know, I’ve tried to find them. I want quick growth and maturity. 

——-

I was thinking about Bradford Pears and Silver Maples this morning and how easily they split in winds that don’t bother other trees. These are the two main landscape trees we plant around here when we want a house to look “established” and “settled”. In other words, like it wasn’t built yesterday. Mature looking trees add a feeling of stability to a neighborhood. 

They grow quick, give lots of shade, and, in the case of Bradford Pears, are showy in the spring and fall. 

They are also shallow rooted, brittle and, again in the case of the Bradford Pear, structurally weak. 

Contrast that with most slow growing hardwoods and, long term, it’s no contest. 

——-

I would like to be established, settled, stable and mature. I would also like to look that way quickly. 

I’m pretty sure I can’t have both.

So I’m going to submit to the slow growth methods of prayer, scripture and real community, counting on the Spirit to make me deep rooted in Christ, and producing fruit in season. 

“A 20th Century Prophet”

April 16, 2008

For those who don’t know, I’m an A. W. Tozer fan. Apart from scripture no book has had a bigger influence on my formation than
The Pursuit of God.

If you haven’t read it, stop whatever you’re doing (after reading this post) and go get it. If you need more than my recommendation here’s the preface. If you’ve read it before, read it again and feel that heartache, that longing again.

The Pursuit of God

A. W. Tozer

 

 

Preface

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 athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water. This is the only real harbinger of revival which I have been able to detect anywhere on the religious horizon. It may be the cloud the size of a man’s hand for which a few saints here and there have been looking. It can result in a resurrection of life for many souls and a recapture of that radiant wonder which should accompany faith in Christ, that wonder which has all but fled the Church of God in our day. But this hunger must be recognized by our religious leaders.

Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. [See 1 Kings 18 for the allusions.-ccp] But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the `piercing sweetness’ of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.

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 oft he faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor 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. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions,yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.’

Thanks to our splendid 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 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 of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

This book is a modest attempt to aid God’s hungry children so to find Him. Nothing here is new except in the sense that it is a discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me. Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.

A. W. Tozer Chicago, Ill. June 16, 1948.

Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Disciplines (part 3)

March 12, 2008

seedling2.jpg    I just finished lunch with my friend Randy.

One of the discussions we have regularly when we get together is pretty common wherever folks are trying to live out the Gospel of the Kingdom. This discussion has several names (Grace vs. Law, Grace vs. Works, Active Spirituality vs Passive Spirituality, Quietism vs Legalism, etc…), but the same basic tension. It all comes down to, “How much of my spiritual life am I responsible for, and how much is God’s responsibility?”

It’s good for me to wrestle with this. Randy spurs me to move back toward a more balanced life. I can be pretty lazy sometimes, and tend toward a more passive approach to the spiritual life. Randy says it’s good for him too, coming from the other direction. So we’re gonna keep getting together.

Both sides have scripture and smart folks they use to back themselves up. Here’s a few quotes.

“There are very few people who realise what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.” -St Ignatius

“Currently we are not only saved by grace; we are paralyzed by it. We find it hard to see that grace is not opposed to effort, but is opposed to earning. Earning and effort are not the same thing. Earning is an attitude, and grace is definitely opposed to that. But it is not opposed to effort.” -Dallas Willard

“The general human failing is to want what is right and important, but at the same time not to commit to the kind of life that will produce the action we know to be right and the condition we want to enjoy. It is the feature of human character that explains why the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” -Dallas Willard

“‘Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for him.’ In Hebrew, ‘Be silent to God, and let him mould thee.’ Keep still, and He will mould thee to the right shape.” – Martin Luther

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one may boast.” Eph. 2:8,9

“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Phil 2:13

As with almost everything, you need a little context. No one who has studied Luther, at all, would label him a quietist, no one who has read, or heard Dallas Willard would call him a legalist. And anyone who would call the Apostle Paul a quietist…well, isn’t familiar with his travel itinerary. 

In the last post I talked a little about gardening as a metaphor for spiritual formation. 

As anyone who has tried to grow a garden knows, it’s a lot of work; planning, soil preparation, planting seeds, watering, weeding, fertilizing, pruning, harvesting. It takes daily care, and a lot of time, all to be done by the gardener.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things the gardener has no control of; late freezes, drought, bad seed, animals. Even if none of those things are a problem he still can’t make a seed grow. Jesus said this, “This is what the Kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Mk 4:26, 27

Here is the picture I need to remember about my spiritual formation. I have lots of work to do to tend my garden. Good and necessary work. But I don’t make anything grow. I don’t even know how it really happens. All I can do is provide conditions that aid healthy growth.

Growth happens becuase the Spirit lives inside me. I don’t really understand how growth, or transformation happens, but I do see some results, though most of the time it happens so gradually I can only see it looking backward over time.

So, I’ll practice the disciplines, knowing that I have a part and a responsibility in my own growth. But also that life in the Spirit is a gift from God, and any growth is because of that gift.