Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

A question to consider

June 5, 2010

This morning, as I was drinking my coffee trying to keep my caffeine withdrawal at bay, I read something that really woke me up. Here’s the opening of J.C Ryle’s, “A Call To Prayer”

“Men ought always to pray.” Luke 18:1 “I will that men pray everywhere.” 1 Timothy 2:1

I have a question to offer you. It is contained in three words, DO YOU PRAY?

The question is one that none but you can answer. Whether you attend public worship or not, your minister knows. Whether you have family prayers or not your relations know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.

I beseech you in all affections to attend to the subject I bring before you. Do not say that my question is too close. If your heart is right in the sight of God, there is nothing in it to make you afraid. Do not turn off my question by replying that you say your prayers. It is one thing to say your prayers and another to pray.


Would my kids know Jesus from knowing me?

April 28, 2010

Would they? I don’t know. That’s my aim, however.

If my family were somehow shown the essence of Jesus, as he was incarnated, (I mean as he was in human form, not as the majestic being of infinite glory ascended and seated at the right hand of God the Father) would they be able to say, “Yeah, I’ve seen that before. That’s kinda like my Dad/Husband.” Or if God were to grant my prayer that they might “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”, would they be able to say, “I already know a little bit of that kind of love.”

Lord, have mercy. May it be so.

The following is a post from Anne Voskamp, at “A Holy Experience” (another of my favorite blogs) that looks at this question.

How The Kids & The Neighbor-Next-Door Might Really Become Christians?

I’m brushing my teeth, flecks of white spraying the sunny mirror, confetti celebrating new morning, when she crawls up on the toilet, leans into the mirror to find my reflection and ask me straight up, “How do you become a Christian?”

I’m Crest-foaming.

Which is slightly less than conducive for a theological treatise.

I rinse, wash the pearly whites clean, swish again, decide the best way to answer the curl girl’s question might be exactly the Jesus answered questions.

With another question.

Aren’t the answers that strike the deepest the ones our own unlikely lips discover, pull out of thin air?


“Shalom,” I tap the toothbrush dry on the side of the sink, porcelain knocking at today. I still haven’t found my glasses amidst the teetering stack of books on my bedside stand so I have to peer into her face, her one shake of seven freckles peppering her nose. “You tell me, Shalom… How do you become a Christian?”

I want to think I’ve fulfilled my parental calling, that she knows this one and this is a test more of my own mothering than of her four-year-old mind. But nose to that sun-kissed nose, I’ve got to concede: “Do I even know?”

What is it to become a Christian? Aren’t I still, even now, always, becoming Who I really am? Whose I really am?

What I used to think of as a four-line prayer on the back of a Billy Graham tract I now see as oceanic, cosmic, a decision made with every lugging up of the lungs for breath and it takes a whole life to labor into rebirth.

Lashes dipped gold, she rolls her sapphire eyes and grins sheepish, her head tilted shy. Has she got it? Yes? I smile, tap the end of her button nose, a vending machine tap of the universe for the right answer and maybe the Child can show me the way into the Kingdom?

So how do you become a Christian?” I set my toothbrush in its cup and turn to her and she looks clear into my canyon depths and before she opens her mouth I feel exposed.

“I know…. ” she touches my cheek in morning light mottled.

I get it from you.”


I’m not ready for that.

I reel, pull away, glance me in the mirror and I don’t want to see, turn, fold a towel up just straight, breathe through the burn.

She’s got her theology all wrong. And all right.

She’s getting her Jesus from me.

Is that what we’re all doing here? Passing out the crumbs of our Jesus, the Bread of life we’ve been given, to the beggar starving sunken beside us?

And is that why there are fewer and fewer of genuine disciples?Because we who have Bread are indifferent hoarders, letting the masses die? Or because we’re going around passing out cardboard, pseudo-Life, because the ugly truth is that we’ve never tasted of the Real Christ ourselves?

He said those Easter People would receive power when the Holy Spirit came, that we’d be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the table, the ends of the couch, the ends of the street. The ends of the earth. Witnesses who hand out the Real Story. With their whole body.


And I’ve got to ask and I’m the one who has to find my own answers:

What Christ am I witnessing and what Christ do I read of, and where do I see God in my life and Who do I really eat of every Sunday? And is this body of bones wrapped in bluing thin flesh a faithful witness at all to the Truth or do my words twist the Gospel, my hands and my tongue lying outright about Christ, the Messiah?

Doesn’t anyone take the witness stand for the God who laid it all down? Have we not seen? Heard? Touched? Why shrink away? Why lie about it?

I don’t know…. I don’t claim to know.

I just know that the Child’s startling claim that she’s getting her Christianity from me brings me to my knees. It’d better keep me there.

And I know that I’d better be handing out the real Bread — not something that will make her, anyone, soul sick. And maybe the answer is that, whether we realize it or not, every moment is our testimony before a world who has Christ on trial.

When I tenderly gather her up into the lap there on the edge of the tub, I explain what it means, how to break the amniotic waters of new life, or what little I know of the mysteries of being born again, and I feel so small.

She feels along the story for days.

I pray my hands are a better witness than my words.

She prays a sinner prayer on a Tuesday, and we who conceived her bones are bent with her, midwives for the second birthing. I pull her close, kiss her forehead fresh with heaven’s scent and I whisper into curls, “The angels have seen this, Shalom, the angels bear witness. The angels have a party today.”

On her new day one, we make angel cookies, her and I, of the wheat kernels fallen to the ground, gathered and ground fine, angel cookies for the angel party, for the lost sheep found, celebration for the long delivery begun.




And I bear witness to her splitting smile, the Christ Alive and bits of the heavens fallen quiet across the greening earth, the blue periwinkles, the dark violets, the dandelion suns.

Nothing Profound

August 5, 2008

It seems as though I’m without much of anything to say these days. At least nothing profound, clever or interesting.

Being a good Presbyterian, I do not believe it is without cause and reason. Being a good Presbyterian, I believe God is at least allowing, if not outright causing, this lack of words.

Over the last six months or so I’ve notice several different signs, or maybe clues is a better word, that I am just now putting together. I don’t know If you’re interested, but I’m going to put them down on paper digital electronic storage media anyway. Maybe this will make sense to someone else out there. 

  • I can’t read. I am literate. I know how to read, I just can’t sit and do it for any length of time or pages any more. For the last fifteen years or so I’ve been continuously reading something, often several books at a time. I’ve loved it. Almost always devotional/theological, almost always written by folks long dead, my reading has been enlightening, encouraging, spurred me on, shaped the way I think and confirmed that I’m not alone in this pilgrimage. So it’s been a little worrisome, and sad, to be without this discipline. 
  • Debate of ideas has become wearying to me. Certain corners of the God-blogosphere have had something to do with this, often making me want to vomit with their venomous, hateful tone. But even the collegial discussion of deep truth has, for the most part, left me feeling like I’m trying to make a meal out of cotton candy -initially sweet but dissolving into nothing almost immediately.
  • I’m a big advocate of prayer. In my thinking, all other spiritual disciplines are, in the final analysis, ways of praying. My definition of prayer is, “Learning to live all of life with God.” I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen of our great need of prayer. I’ll lament the fact of our prayerlessness and the obvious problems that come from lack of prayer. Yet I don’t pray very much.
  • Certain scriptures keep coming to mind. “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.”, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?”, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”.
  • A line from a Brennan Manning book keeps coming to mind as well. “You’ve had enough insights into the spiritual life, now you need to live them out.” (paraphrase)
  • I meet regularly with a friend, who has been helping folks in various stages of grief and suffering. He asked me the other day if I wanted to go with him to be with these people. My first reaction was to think of an excuse why I couldn’t go.

It’s time for me to move from the theoretical to the actual in my faith.

So I probably won’t have much profound, or clever, or even interesting to say for a while. What I’m going to try to do is report my attempts to actually live it out. The good, the bad, and the ugly. 

    A Letter Worth Reading

    July 19, 2008

    I’m going to post this today instead of a follow-up to the “King and His Kingdom” because, 1) I just found it today, and 2) it’s really good.

    Here’s a letter written by Evelyn Underhill that I think is as timely today as it was when it was written.

    (HT- Brother Maynard)

    A letter from Evelyn Underhill to Archbishop Lang of Canterbury  

    (Found among her papers. c.1930)  

    MAY it please your Grace:  

    I desire very humbly to suggest with bishops assembled at Lambeth that the greatest and most necessary work they could do at the present time for the spiritual renewal of the Anglican Church would be to call the clergy as a whole, solemnly and insistently to a greater interiority and cultivation of the personal life of prayer. This was the original aim of the founders of the Jerusalem Chamber Fellowship, of whom I am one. We were convinced that the real failures, difficulties and weaknesses of the Church are spiritual and can only be remedied by spiritual effort and sacrifice, and that her deepest need is a renewal, first in the clergy and through them in the laity; of the great Christian tradition of the inner life. The Church wants not more consecrated philanthropists, but a disciplined priesthood of theocentric souls who shall be tools and channels of the Spirit of God: and this she cannot have until Communion with God is recognized as the first duty of the priest. But under modern conditions this is so difficult that unless our fathers in God solemnly require it of us, the necessary efforts and readjustments will not be made. With the development of that which is now called “The Way of Renewal” more and more emphasis has been placed on the nurture and improvement of the intellect, less and less, on that of the soul. I do not underrate the importance of the intellectual side of religion. But all who do personal religious work know that the real hunger among the laity is not for halting attempts to reconcile theology and physical science, but for the deep things of the Spirit.  

    We look to the Church to give us an experience of God, mystery, holiness and prayer which, though it may not solve the antinomies of the natural world, shall lift us to contact with the supernatural world and minister eternal life. We look to the clergy to help and direct our spiritual growth. We are seldom satisfied because with a few noble exceptions they are so lacking in spiritual realism, so ignorant of the laws and experiences of the life of prayer. Their Christianity as a whole is humanitarian rather than theocentric. So their dealings with souls are often vague and amateurish. Those needing spiritual help may find much kindliness, but seldom that firm touch of firsthand knowledge of interior ways which comes only from a disciplined personal life of prayer. In public worship they often fail to evoke the spirit of adoration because they do not possess it themselves. Hence the dreary character of many church services and the result in the increasing alienation of the laity from institutional forms.  

    God is the interesting thing about religion, and people are hungry for God. But only a priest whose life is soaked in prayer, sacrifice, and love can, by his own spirit of adoring worship, help us to apprehend Him. We ask the bishops . . . to declare to the Church and especially its ministers, that the future of organized Christianity hinges not on the triumph of this or that type of churchman’s theology or doctrine, but on the interior spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience of the ordained. However difficult and apparently unrewarding, care for the interior spirit is the first duty of every priest. Divine renewal can only come through those whose roots are in the world of prayer.  

    THE TWO things that the laity want from the priesthood are spiritual realism and genuine love of souls. It is by these that all Christian successes have been won in the past and it is to these that men always respond. We instantly recognize those services and sermons that are the outward expression of the priest’s interior adherence to God and the selfless love of souls. These always give us a religious experience. On the other hand, every perfunctory service, every cold and slovenly celebration (for these are more frequent than the bishops realize because when they are present, everything is at its best), is a lost opportunity which discredits corporate worship and again reflects back to the poor and shallow quality of the Priest’s inner life… It is perhaps worthwhile to recall the humbling fact that recent notable secessions to the Roman Catholic communion have been caused by declaration by a felt need of the supernatural which the Church of England failed to satisfy, while the astonishing success of the Oxford Group Movement among young people of the educated class witnesses to the widespread desire for an experience of God unmet by the ordinary ministrations of the Church. History shows that these quasi-mystical movements among the laity do not flourish where the invisible side of institutional religion is vigorously maintained.  

    I know that recovering the ordered interior life of prayer and meditation will be very difficult for clergy immersed increasingly in routine work. It will mean for many a complete rearrangement of values and a reduction of social activities. They will not do it unless they are made to feel its crucial importance. This will not be achieved through “schools of prayer” which stimulate the mind rather than the spirit. But the solemn voice of the united episcopate, recalling the Church to that personal, realistic contact with the which has been since Pentecost the one source of her power, will give authoritative support to those who already feel the need of a deeper spirituality and will remind the others that the renewal of a spiritual society must depend on giving absolute priority to the spiritual life.  

    I venture to put before the conference the following practical recommendations: (1) Education of Ordinands— That the bishops shall emphasize the need and importance of a far more thorough, varied, interesting and expert devotional training in our theological colleges which, with a few striking exceptions, seem to me to give insufficient attention to this vital part of their work. (2) The Clergy— That they should call upon every ordained clergyman, as an essential part of his pastoral duty and not merely for his own sake: (a) To adopt a rule of life which shall include a fixed daily period of prayer and reading of a type that feeds, pacifies and expands his soul, and deepens his communion with God; b) To make an annual retreat; (c) To use every endeavour to make his church into a real home of prayer and teach his people, both by exhortation and example so to use it.  


    (Courtesy of the Austin Fellowship) 

    An Apprentice

    July 2, 2008

    Here’s a great quote from Dallas Willard in Renovation of the Heart. (I found it at Darryl Dash’s blog. Go check it out, he’s got some good stuff.) It gets at something that has bothered me for quite a while about the whole mindset of western Christianity. And that is that “salvation” is the end game.

    It’s not. Disciples are.

    “It is, I gently suggest, a serious error to make “outreach” a primary goal of the local congregation, and especially so when those who are already “with us” have not become clear-headed and devoted apprentices of Jesus, and are not, for the most part, solidly progressing along the path. Outreach is one essential task of Christ’s people, and among them there will always be those especially gifted for evangelism. But the most successful work of outreach would be the work of inreach that turns people, wherever they are, into lights in the darkened world.

    A simple goal for the leaders of a particular group would be to bring all those in attendance to understand clearly what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to be solidly committed to discipleship in their whole life. That is, when they are asked who they are, the first words out of their mouth would be, “I am an apprentice of Jesus Christ.” This goal would have to be approached very gently and lovingly and patiently with existing groups, where the people involved have not understood this to be part of their membership commitment.” 


    I love that descriptor, “I am an apprentice of Jesus Christ.” No membership dues, pew reservations, or emergency roadside service/member benefits when you join the church. 

    You sign up as an “apprentice” to become a “master”, or at least enough like your Master to apprentice others in The Way.

    Henri Nouwen wrote an article titled “Moving From Solitude to Community to Ministry”. The simple summary is that we should follow Jesus’ example when He chose his disciples. He went away to pray all night, then chose his 12 and, then sent them out in ministry. Solitude to community to ministry in that order.

    Our typical order is reversed. We come up with an idea for a good ministry, talk it up until we find enough volunteers to make it work, and the go at it hard until we burn out and have to take some time away, alone.

    Without the foundation of an interior spiritual maturity, ministry and community are too heavy and burdensome for us to bear for long.

    About 18 years, or so, ago I decided I needed to get serious about the things of God. I began to study and pray, and ask those around me how they were really doing spiritually. The surprise was that they’d actually tell me. Everything. Mostly it wasn’t good. After about a year of doing this, I had to quit asking. It wasn’t that I didn’t care anymore, it was that I didn’t know what to do with it all. I had no answers, I had nothing to offer them. I was ministering to them with no foundation. Sure I knew the scriptures pretty well, I’d grown up in the church, knew the stories, the principles, the creed, the sunday school answers. But I didn’t have the maturity of experience, and the wisdom born from applying the knowledge in my head to my life daily. I had to take some time to grow, myself, before I was able to offer anything to other folks. Then, and only then, could I bear the burden of a brother’s sin and brokenness, with something more to offer than an empty platitude.


    I’m gonna say something else that will likely upset someone’s apple cart.

    Your local church’s main job isn’t ministry.

    At least it’s not your minister’s/staff’s job. His job is to equip you to do ministry. The problem is you and I have put him in an impossible position. We have hired him to “do ministry”, to do our job.

    And we’ve made him so busy doing our job, he doesn’t have time to do his. 

    His job, as I understand it from scripture, is to make sure that you and I are ready to do the good works that God has planned for each of us to do. Not to do them for us. 

    Ministry mainly, or should mainly take place outside the walls of the church. By us, in our own “personal mission fields” to borrow a phrase from T.M. Moore.

    So allow your minister to do his job. Then go do yours too.

    A Good Life

    June 9, 2008

    I’m re-reading a little book that has a curious draw for me.  

    I’m not a very disciplined person. Never have been. Long term good habits are pretty hard to come by for me.

    Why then would a book about a strict monastic rule of life be so attractive that Id want to re-read, and even try to implement some form of it in my day to day living?

    I’m sure psychological explanations abound (And psychological examination is probably warranted in my case), but the best reasons I can come up with are balance, and Robert Benson.

    I’ll start with Robert Benson. I really like him. I like the way he writes, clear, simple, honest prose (not an easy thing, by the way) that obviously comes from long hours of experience with a subject. You know how some people come across as very knowledgeable in a particular subject, but you can tell it’s still theoretical and not lived? I never get that feeling with Robert. Everything seems to have been lived for a long time before he puts it on paper.

    But I don’t just like him as an author, I really like him. I spent a weekend with him on retreat and got to know him a little bit. He’s very unassuming, honest about his past and present, quick to laugh, and I wish he lived in my town so I could hang out with him.

    Now the balance part.

    When I think about a “rule of life” the feeling that immediately comes over me is one of wearing wool pants and neck ties that are a little too tight. Constricting legalism that “builds character”. Ugh. No fun, all serious, all the time. Gruel for breakfast lunch and dinner.

    Benedict, on the other hand begins his rule this way,

    Seeking his workers in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out and lifts his voice again: Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?

    Oh yeah, I yearn for life and good days. You’ve got my attention now. How do I get there from here?

    We intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service…

    The wool pants are itching again.

    In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.

    Ok. I ‘m still a little wary, but I’m old enough to know that a little strictness is needed to amend faults, after all I’ve got two boys. And if we really are safeguarding love, I can deal with a tie from time to time.

    I’m hooked. 

    The book has seven chapters-

    1. Longing
    2. Prayer
    3. Rest
    4. Community
    5. Work
    6. Living
    7. Authors notes- technically not a chapter, but functionally it is.

    I’m not going summarize them though. The book’s short enough, and a good enough read that I’ll leave that to you. But I will give you my overall thoughts. 

    Benedict was unusually balanced in his approach to the spiritual life. The idea being that all of life is spiritual and can be categorized under four headings- prayer, rest, community and work. Each of these areas needs to be nurtured, and balanced, recognizing their essential part in a life well lived, with prayer being the framework around which each day’s rest, work and community takes shape. *Disclaimer*-This is my very simplistic summary of the rule, but it will do for my purposes here. 

    Robert’s writing on the rule makes it both inviting and accessible to folks like me- tired, busy, overcommitted, suburban, mini-van drivers looking for some way to live out life following Jesus. At the same time it’s not a pie in the sky promise that it’ll all be quick and easy either. He’s clear that this way of life is a radical departure from the good life as advertised on TV. It’s gonna take some real work and commitment. Decisions have to be made, schedules reworked, patterns of living changed. But the end result is (hopefully) what the subtitle holds out, “Everyday Joy”. And that’s too good to pass up.  

    My suggestion to you? Buy it, read it, let it grow in you. Let the poet-author, and an old monk teach you about the possibility of living a good life.  

    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. 

    What if….

    May 2, 2008

    Is there a more dangerous game in all the world to play than the “What if…” game?

    What if…

    … I won the lottery?

    … I had that house?

    … I got that job?

    … I could do that?

    … I didn’t have to do that?

    Or a little deeper and darker.

    What if…

    … I hadn’t done that?

    … I had done this instead?

    It plays both ways, it could be a good thing, it could be a bad thing. It can make you dream big. It can make you dissatisfied with what is. It can make you fearful of what could be.

    Visions of “what if” sometimes lead to great advancement. Business, nation, and individual have all moved forward by playing the “what if” game. All innovation, all creativity, all invention at base come from someone saying, “What if…?”

    There are also visions that make us wake up in cold sweat. What if I lost my job, there were an accident, my marriage falls apart, a bad test result comes back?

    Scripture both tells us to take up something like a version of the game, and tries to help us not take it too far.

    Luke 14:25-32

    Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

    Counting the cost is quite a bit like asking the what if question. “What if…

    … I start and can’t finish?”

    … I don’t want to die daily?”

    … it’s too hard?”

    Jesus does it again with the rich young ruler. But he doesn’t let him even play the game, he spells it out for him. He makes him count the cost.

    Mark 10:17-22

    As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”

    “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

    Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

    Playing the game in this sense isn’t playing at all, but a sober, assessment of what is likely to be required, or in this case what is actually being asked of us.

    What I tend to do, however, is change it from a sober assessment to asking “what if” about things that might possibly be required, or asked of me.

    I see Abraham asked to sacrifice his son, “What if I…?”. I see Mary’s reputation ruined, “What if that…?”. I see Paul’s multiple stonings, afflictions and persecutions, “What if I were…?.

    In short, I see in scripture the lives of the saints upended and changed forever, and try to imagine myself in their situations. “I don’t have that much faith.” “That scares me to death.” I begin to brood about what God might take from me, and how I would react. It’s all fiction, but it makes me fear tomorrow. “What if…?”

    God knows I”m prone to this, so here comes the help I need to try and put this stuff in perspective. 

    “Don’t fear, little flock, the kingdom is yours.” “Don’t worry about how you’re going to live, your Father knows what you need.” “Don’t worry about tomorrow (“what if”), today (“what is”) is enough.” “Don’t be anxious about anything, but pray, and give thanks, asking your Father, and he’ll supply your need.” “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “You didn’t receive a spirit of fear, but of adoption, and power, and love, and self-control.”

    Lord, have mercy.

    “Working the Angles”

    April 29, 2008

    A good friend of mine recently started reading Eugene Peterson’s, Working the Angles. He couldn’t recommend highly enough. So much so that he thought it ought to be required reading for all elders/deacons/overseers (whatever your Church’s  leadership is called)

    I found my copy this morning and re-read the introduction. 

    I agree with my friend’s recommendation.

    Here’s a couple of quotes to stoke the fire a little:

    “The pastors [elders, etc…] of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeepers concerns- how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package goods so that the customers will lay out more money.”

    Then this;

    “Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts are praying, reading scripture, and spiritual direction…. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to…. None of these acts is public, which means that no one knows for sure whether or not we are doing any of them.”

    And this;

    “It doesn’t take many years in this business to realize that we can conduct a fairly respectable pastoral ministry without giving much more than ceremonial attention to God.”

    Strong stuff, I need to hear it.

    “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




    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.