Worth Another Look: A.W. Tozer on the Holy Spirit

Here are a few beautiful portions from one of Tozer’s best-known works:

“A doctrine has practical value only as far as it is prominent in our thoughts and makes a difference in our lives. By this test the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as held by evangelical Christians today has almost no practical value at all. In most Christian churches the Spirit is quite entirely overlooked. Whether He is present or absent makes no real difference to anyone. Brief reference is made to Him in the Doxology and the Benediction. Further than that He might well as not exist. So completely do we ignore Him that it is only by courtesy that we can be called Trinitarian….

“…The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life and light and love. In His uncreated nature He is a boundless sea of fire, flowing, moving ever, performing as He moves the eternal purposes of God. Toward nature He performs one sort of work, toward the world another and toward the Church still another. And every act of His accords with the will of the Triune God. Never does He act on impulse nor move after a quick or arbitrary decision. Since He is the Spirit of the Father He feels toward His people exactly as the Father feels, so there need be on our part no sense of strangeness in His presence. He will always act like Jesus, toward sinners in compassion, toward saints in warm affection, toward human suffering in tenderest pity and love.

“It is time for us to repent, for our transgressions against the blessed Third Person have been many and much aggravated. We have bitterly mistreated Him in the house of His friends. We have crucified Him in His own temple as they crucified the Eternal Son on the hill above Jerusalem. And the nails we used were not of iron, but of the finer and more precious stuff of which human life is made. Out of our hearts we took the refined metals of will and feeling and thought, and from them we fashioned the nails of suspicion and rebellion and neglect. By unworthy thoughts about Him and unfriendly attitudes toward Him days without end.”

Quotes are taken from The Divine Conquest (or, God’s Pursuit of Man), pp. 64-75

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Coming Clean About Weakness

power-and-weaknessThe following comes from an e-book by Wes Yoder:

One of the most counter-intuitive statements our Lord ever made does not describe very well the day-to-day perspective of almost anyone I know: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” [2 Corinithians 12:9].

Now how about that? We spend our lives telling each other to focus on our strengths, to work in our core skill sets, to dance with the thing that brought us to the party, to perfect our brand, and to protect our image. This is not the beginning of an argument to tell you not to use your strengths, but it is to say [this:]

If you want to see the power of God at work in your life, you’ll have to quit hiding your weaknesses from people and from him — as though you can hide anything long enough to actually get it past God or even the people who know you.

[This teaching] really just means you have to be honest, to deal in truth rather than fiction. This is the requirement of Jesus that scares [the living daylights] out of most Christians.

YOUR TURN: How have you grasped the teaching of God’s power being made perfect in your weakness? What move might a person make today toward living more fully in such promised power?

Hope for the World

one wayOne facet of Christianity that rubs hard on many twenty-first-century minds is summed up tightly in this word: Exclusivity.

In a world of nearly infinite options, it seems unthinkable to some that one should feel “pigeon-holed” when it comes to the salvation.  And so we hang on the walls of our minds scenes of mountains with multiple paths of ascent or heavenly cloud-scapes reached by seven billion-plus uniquely crafted ladders.

babelIn a sense, our hearts long for a return to the Tower of Babel, a design-as-you-wish blueprint that, if you are faithful in your efforts, will surely deliver you to whatever awaits “up there”.  “All roads lead to God” is the common tongue of every labourer on this scaffolding.

But as in Genesis 11, the word “gibberish” is quickly associated with this scenario.

vramachandraIn a twist on this discussion, Vinoth Ramathandra (a man to whom Timothy Keller introduced me) addresses an associated critique of Christianity, one that depicts religion as being dissociated from the “real world”, as being obsessed with the “spiritual” and out-of-touch, even inappropriately unconcerned, with the here-and-now world.

Ramathandra’s response will induce a pause for both hearty believers and hardened skeptics:

“Christian salvation lies not in an escape from this world but in the transformation of this world. You will not find hope for this physical world in any other religious system or philosophy. The biblical vision is unique.  And that is why if someone says, ‘Surely there is salvation in other faiths,’ I always ask them, ‘What salvation are you talking about?’

Not this salvation.

No faith holds out a promise of eternal salvation for the world like the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ do.”

Christianity, if personified, is not the arrogant or presumptuous jerk that some portray, despite the fact that you may have met arrogant and presumptuous jerks with Bibles in hand.

Rather, Christian doctrine is unique by its very nature.  You can narrow your gaze on a concept like love or goodness, and then preach on the “common truth” that underlies all religions and philosophies, but you will only be adding to the static.  An observation like Ramathandra’s tunes in tighter to the signal and in turn, heightens the dialog.

HopeFor Christian fundamentalists, it highlights the care of God toward His current creation.  Unlike humanity, God is not always racing ahead to “what’s next”.  He deeply loves “what is” and is working for its redemption. For cynics of Christianity, such doctrine at least forces a reconsideration of the concept of hope.

What well do you draw yours from, not just for yourself but for the world in which you live?

Is there any?

Is it wrapped solely in the evolution and development of humanity? Strictly in scientific discovery? An alternative philosophy? A different religion?

YOUR TURN: What do you make of Ramathandra’s assessment of Christianity’s unique tone of hope for this world?  Christian or not, what are you striving to do/be as an agent of hope in our world?  Your input makes this post better!

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Open to God

In his book, “In Pursuit of the Great White Rabbit,” Edward Hays puts out this significant portion of spiritual guidance:

“If we are to experience God, we must be open to God, to the mystical, to the divine, appearing in our lives. And we must have an openness that is free of any preconditions about HOW that will happen. Looking for God in a godly form is the great historical mistake.”

Christmas Gets Me

A season like Christmas can redirect the spotlight to this mark once again: An “unplanned” baby in a mangey manger in a barely-there town, held by peasant parents who are about to become refugees… Continue reading

Resign Yourself, No Conditions

I have memories of moments in life when I would respond privately to circumstances or conversations with three words pressed through a monster voice: “Quit screwing around!”

It’s been a while since my last such release, but it has dawned on me multiple times recently that God surely has this statement in His repertoire.

And I have heard it from various angles lately.  One of them has been Thomas à Kempis, who wrote this:

“There are some who resign themselves, but they attach conditions to it.  They do not trust in God completely, so they take pains to provide for themselves just in case.  Some offer everything at first, but later, beaten down by temptations, they go back to their old ways and thus make little progress in virtue.  People like these will not gain the true freedom of a pure heart nor the grace of a joyful intimacy with me unless they surrender themselves unconditionally and offer themselves as a sacrifice to me each day.  Without this total self-surrender a joyful union between us cannot exist, either now or ever.”

I don’t want to be short-changed on the experience of God’s freedom or power in my life.  I don’t want to be stunted in my development.  I don’t want to be squeezed out of the joyful union into which Christ invites all of us.

The solution, according to the quote above?

Resign yourself, and resist the temptation to attach conditions.  [This ties in closely with The Power of Abandonment, posted elsewhere.]

 

Enjoying God

Counting one’s blessings is one way to rediscover satisfaction and contentment with “what is”.  Jonathan Edwards would argue that the exercise should also awaken us to a dramatic “story behind the story”:

“To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.  Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives or children or the company of earthly friends are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance.  These are but the scattered beams; but God is the sun.  These are but streams; but God is the fountain.  These are but drops; but God is the ocean.”

So go and enjoy the gifts of grace today.  But along the way, miss not the opportunity to engage with the Giver.  The rest is almost illusion in comparison to the reality of the One beyond all things.

Why Faith is Hard

Henri Nouwen says it this way:

“The movement from illusion to prayer is hard to make since it leads us from false certainties to true uncertainties, from an easy support system to a risky surrender, and from the many ‘safe’ gods to the God whose love has no limits.”

Yeah, that about sums up the struggle of my journey so far!