Friday, January 29, 2021

On letting go

So, from personal experience, I can see in a powerful way the value of detaching ourselves from our personal needs and ambitions and placing ourselves in God’s hands so He can guide us. It works.

Some might object that this approach detracts from the self-reliance we should have, and places us at the mercy of uncontrollable forces in our lives. That might be true if there were no God who cares. That would be blind abandonment to irrational forces. Our whole approach to spirituality, however, is based on the premise that there is a God, and that He is a God who cares. Now that I am older I can see the orderly way God works in people’s lives. Our early years, while they may seem rife with turmoil and pain and so many loose ends, when viewed from the distance of later life and our personal development, we can see as being the foundation and the training process for the rewarding work God has planned for our future. I don’t mean the job we may have for our subsistence. I mean the thrust of our personal life with all its encounters and relationships and the various ways we affect people as well as the influence we have on the world around us in our family and in our social as well as our business life.—Never Alone, 35–36

Thursday, January 28, 2021

A genie in a bottle?

People get frustrated with prayer because they are looking for an instant response and when it doesn’t happen, they get discouraged. It is as if God should be like a genie, rub the lamp and get immediate action. God does not work that Way. He is not a God of quick fixes. He is a very patient God who heals gently and thoroughly.— Never Alone, 31

Wednesday, January 27, 2021


Many people are afraid of giving themselves to God, and letting God into their lives, because they think all their fun will come to an end and life will become a bore. There is one thing God is not, though, and that is boring. The creative imagination of God is beyond comprehension, and the real fun in our lives just begins once we find God and He becomes an active partner in our lives. My own life became a whirlwind when I made up my mind that I was not going to forge my own way through life but instead would let God guide me. And it makes good sense. God didn’t create us haphazardly. He made each of us for a purpose and He is determined that we accomplish that purpose. He does, however, need our cooperation, and when we give Him our goodwill and open our hearts to Him (which is really all we have to offer), He sets in motion all the machinery we need to fulfill the task He has planned for us. That is always exciting and rewarding, because the gifts and talents He has given us are perfectly adapted to the work He has designed for us. That is the perfect blueprint for success, happiness, and fulfillment.— Never Alone, 26–27

Thought for the day

Your prophets gave you worthless and empty visions.
They didn’t reveal your sin so as to prevent your captivity.
Instead, they showed you worthless and incorrect prophecies.
Lamentations 2:14 (CEB)

<idle musing>
Let those who have ears to hear, hear!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Tozer for a Tuesday

Much is being said of faith these days that is not the focus of the Scriptures. We must shun all ways contrary to Scripture. Faith is not the key to get you What you want. Faith is not some magical formula that no matter who uses it, saved or unsaved, God has to act upon it. Such is religious lunacy and borders on witchcraft. I firmly believe that true faith rises in the soul of the man or woman who will fall on his face before an open Bible and allow God to be God in his life.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, 209

The core

This is the essence of Christian spirituality, the living presence of Jesus in our souls. He is there, not as a dummy, neither hearing nor speaking, but as an active partner in our lives, guiding and comforting us when we need Him. It is this mystical friendship with Jesus that is the core of Christian spirituality, and makes Christian spirituality a unique custom-designed journey fashioned after the uniqueness of each individual person.— Never Alone, 25

Monday, January 25, 2021

Peace, peace, but there is no peace!

If there was one thing Jesus held out to his followers it was His promise of peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.” He never tired of speaking about the peace that He would give to those who accepted His way of life. This theme threads its way through the whole Gospel message. It is a trademark of His spirituality, and should be a trait that singles out His disciples, in whatever age they live.

Why, then, we might wonder, do Jesus’ followers not stand out for their peacefulness? The answer is simple. His disciples through all time are not familiar with the message as Jesus delivered it. We are brought up to follow unquestioningly the practices of our religion, whatever our denomination. But obedience to customs and dictates of religion does not make a follower of Jesus. Though many talk about accepting the Lord Jesus and about commitment to Him, frequently that acceptance has little to do with Jesus Himself. It is acceptance of the teacher who has delivered the message and the way of life laid out by the teacher that people follow. It is not the message of Jesus that is being followed, but the guidance and interpretation of the teacher. He or she becomes the way of life. This is not an immediate personal relationship with Jesus.— Never Alone, 24

Friday, January 22, 2021

Fear not, little flock!

That is the beginning of spirituality, recognizing the need for God in our lives, and placing ourselves in His hands with complete trust, confident of the tenderness of our Father’s love for us. We may have a difficulty with this, because all of us are only too conscious of our many failings and feel we do not have a right to God’s kindness toward us. But that is precisely what makes God’s love so beautiful. It does not spring from the goodness He sees in us, but from the overflowing goodness of His own love and the compassion He has for us in our weakness and sinfulness. The crowd Jesus addressed on that occasion when He spoke of the birds of the air were just ordinary people, sinners like ourselves, if you want to call them that, although Jesus didn’t call them sinners. Jesus called people God’s children and “little flock.” It is touching the tender way Jesus spoke to the crowd that day assuring them of His Father’s concern, even though He was only too aware of the serious moral defects in their lives. So, when we begin our adventure with God, it is with the assurance that He is open to us and kindly disposed toward us. We do not approach Him as a nuisance. In spite of our past lives and frightful weaknesses, He is glad we are turning to Him. Like the prodigal father of the prodigal son, He greets us with open arms, and is only too ready to share with us His friendship and His boundless mercy. All is forgiven, all is renewed. Though our sins be as scarlet, He will cleanse us and make us white as snow, through a baptism if necessary, or through a reawakening of the baptismal life we have already received, and a healing reconciliation.— Never Alone, 15–16

Thursday, January 21, 2021

You're trying too hard!

The mistake many people make when they start trying to be holy is they multiply religious practices and burden themselves with a host of activities, attending endless religious services, thinking that the more good things they do, the more spiritual they become. Spirituality doesn’t work that way. The spiritual life is something that grows slowly, imperceptibly, way beneath the surface of our lives. Pressuring ourselves to do all kinds of nice things for people and performing a multitude of good works does not make us holy. It can, if we are not careful, make us extremely nervous and pressure us into commitments that can overload our already overburdened lives.

Real spirituality begins by finding God, feebly, perhaps, in the beginning, but then more confidently as we travel along the way. At first, we may be driven to Him out of desperation. But that’s all right. God uses all kinds of circumstances to lead us to Himself. Or we may just feel a need to draw closer to God. Whatever the reason, God is calling us to a deeper intimacy with Himself. Jesus teaches us the attitudes we should have when we establish contact with His Father. We must have a childliketrust. This isn’t a command, but His attempt to teach us how to establish a healthy relationship with His Father whom He knows so well.— Never Alone, 14

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

You can't always see it

Real spirituality and spiritual growth, however, have to be distinguished from religious activities and pious exercises. These exercises merely mimic spirituality. Unfortunately, many people think that they grow close to God by performing religious practices and doing religious things. That is not spirituality. They may even get a reputation for being pious. Jesus lived for thirty years in Nazareth, and you would think the townsfolk He grew up with would have been impressed with His holiness. Oddly enough, they were surprised when He began His public mission and began to preach the Good News. “Where did he get all this from? Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Obviously, His holiness didn’t make a big impression. You might wonder how Jesus could have kept His exquisite spirituality hidden during all those years, so that even His playmates were shocked by His apparent newfound interest in religion. What made it possible for Jesus to keep His spiritual life hidden from the eyes of those who lived so close to Him was that His holiness was genuine. It did not de- pend on showy external practices.— Never Alone, 13

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

It starts young

Parents may teach religion to children. Churches may do the same. But that is not spirituality. That, too, should begin in childhood. Children should be taught about God in a simple, loving way so they can learn to trust Him and begin to know Him as a kind and loving Father who made them, not perfectly but with all they need to grow in His love. They could be taught about Jesus and about His life and how He lived and how He loved people. They could be taught about Jesus as the Good Shepherd who cared for the hurting and the troubled sheep, so they can learn to run to Him when they have problems, and when they fall and make mistakes.— Never Alone, 11–12

Tozer for a Tuesday

Lady Julian of Norwich (ca. 1342–ca. 1416) understood this about as well as anybody I have read. She wrote, “O God, please give me three wounds; the wound of contrition and the wound of compassion and the wound of longing after God.” Then she added this little postscript, which I think is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read: “This I ask without condition, Father; do what I ask and then send me the bill. Anything that it costs will be all right with me.”

We of the evangelical persuasion want God to do all the work and we get an easy ride to glory. Certainly, Christ has paid the full price for our redemption, but our walk with God on a daily basis will cost us much. Are we willing, cheerfully, to pay the cost?.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 207

Monday, January 18, 2021

Breathe the fresh air of the mystics

What’s so troubling about our religion today is that the clergy either don’t recognize the people’s hunger for spirituality or are unfamiliar themselves with Jesus’ way Of life and Christianity’s rich tradition of mysticism and asceticism, all well tested through the centuries. This is Christianity and application of Jesus’ teachings at its best, and we don’t teach it to our people. At the height of the Protestant Reformation, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius Loyola, and others were delineating the path of interior holiness through mystical union with God in such practical detail that even today their approach to holiness is still taught in theology courses and spiritual retreats. Sadly, the masses of the people are not taught this in their churches, so not even knowing that such guidance exists, they look outside Christianity.— Never Alone, 11

Friday, January 15, 2021

It's more than a theological system

If Christianity is merely a theological system, it will at most produce a highly educated elite devoid of anything resembling the living Christ in their personal lives. We saw this recently in the presidential campaign [1980s], when one of the candidates, well educated theologically, was spewing forth the most shockingly un-Christ-like invectives and ridicule against homosexuals and homeless people, showing a lack of sensitivity and compassion that betrayed a poverty of spirituality that shocked most decent people.— Never Alone, 7–8

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The good shepherd

He Himself got a reputation for going to the homes of excommunicated people for parties, because as the Good Shepherd He continually reached out to the bruised and hurting sheep. We, on the contrary, tell the bruised and hurting sheep they cannot approach Jesus because they are not worthy.— Never Alone, 7

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Oh no! It's a new kind of dinosaur!

Via Ryan, our son.

Tozer for a Wednesday

It's been a while since I posted any Tozer, so I think it's about time...

Remember that without prayer, you cannot win; and with it, you cannot lose. Granted, of course, that it is true prayer, and not just the saying of words; and granted that your life is in harmony with your prayer. If you fail to pray, you cannot win. For the Lord gave us the example of anticipatory prayer—getting ready for any event by seeking the face of God in watchful prayer at regular times.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, 202

Theology dead? No way!

During my years of theological studies I could filter what I learned in theology through my experiences with Jesus. This made it possible for me to take the cold, finely chiseled theological concepts and transform them into a living expression of the way Jesus thought and envisioned life. Though theology was cold and sterile in its intellectual expression, it was for me a vehicle for understanding the mind of God and for developing a precise sense of God, and a healthy realization that God could not be defined or limited by human concepts.— Never Alone, 6

<idle musing>
Exactly! I love theology, but only because I love the God who is the object and source of theology. I find that theology deepens my love for him.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Alone? (New book)

Many years ago, I read the Joshua books and really enjoyed them. The other day, I was in a thrift store and saw a book by the same author, Joseph Girzone, that I was unfamiliar with. It's a slim little volume, and for fifty cents, what could go wrong? So I bought it and started reading it. I found it delightful and also encouraging. Join me over the next few weeks as I post excerpts from Never Alone, published in 1995.
I used to think I was odd. As I grew older, though, and saw so much of others’ pain, I began to realize that the whole world is filled with pain. I was not unique in feeling alone on a planet way out in the middle of space. Everyone eventually has the same experience in life. Friends come and go, passing in and out of your life. Strangers establish a friendship when they need you, then when their need is resolved, they drift. If you are sincere in your friendship this is hard to understand. People you love remain for a time, then they too leave when they outgrow their need for you. If at the twilight of your life you have one dear friend who has endured the fickleness of existence and remained in your life you are blessed. But, for the most part, you walk alone, very much alone. 4— Never Alone, 4

Monday, January 11, 2021

It's about the whole person!

It therefore becomes clear that we cannot with impunity “spiritualize” Jesus’s message to make it only internal, about people’s inner attitudes or states of being. Rather, Jesus is addressing the entire complex situation of his hearers, which includes both their inner bondage (which is why he called people to repent) and their oppressive external situation. So when Jesus claims that he has come to announce “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), or when he says in the Sermon on the Plain, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20), we need to take seriously that he literally meant to include those who were economically impoverished and politically marginalized in first—century Israel.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 260–61

<idle musing>
Sounds an aweful lot like social gospel, doesn't it? Might be because Jesus didn't just teach a "spriritual" gospel of go to heaven when you die but do what you want now version that is popular in the US. His was a whole-orbed gospel that includes the whole person. Systemic evil and individual evil. Wesley had it right, as does the Salvation Army, to name just a couple. The Gospel Coalition people miss it by keeping it cerebral and individual.

That's the final excerpt from this book. Tomorrow I'll start a new one, well actually an old one that I recently picked up at a thrift store. It's a bit off the normal for me to excerpt, but I think (hope?) you'll enjoy it. I am.
</idle musing>

Friday, January 08, 2021

Escapist theology

This resolute focus on the church’s imminent exit to heaven has the effect of inclining believers in the rapture to treat the future (and thus the present) of the earth as unimportant. This lack of concern for our earthly future in the early part of the twentieth century was clearly tied to an otherworldly heavenly—mindedness, but as the century progressed, it has resulted in the free reign of consumerism and greed among North American evangelicals, since there is little theological ground in a rapture—oriented eschatology for ecological or social responsibility.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 303

Thursday, January 07, 2021

It was inevitable

The violence yesterday in Washington DC was inevitable. You can't go around stoking conspiracy theories for years, and intensify it in the last two months and not expect some other outcome. You sow the wind and you will definitely reap the whirlwind. I'm just thankful that so few died—although one would be one too many.

So now what about the senators and representatives who knowingly fanned the flames of nonexistent voter fraud? I'm going to propose an idea that has absolutely no chance of passing, but should.

Everyone of them who objected to the Electoral College vote should be impeached, convicted, and not allowed to hold a public office again—ever. No, not ever. They have shown that they are more interested in their power and playing to worst side of humanity than they are in governing justly. They are traitors to the constitution, pure and simple. Special elections should be held to replace them.

And, I would even go so far as to say that the 100+ representatives who spinelessly signed on to the buffoonery of election fraud that the president pushed around a week or so ago should also be impeached and convicted. They should not be allowed to hold office higher than the state level.

If you argue that they didn't see that what they were doing would end as it did, then I would say they are unfit for office. If they don't see the consequences of their actions, they shouldn't be passing laws!

And, to curb some of this nonsense, the fairness doctrine needs to be in place once again. That would at least require some sanity on the Fox News and company networks. In an ideal world, I would shutter them, but I fear that such an action would be used incorrectly in the future against any network that the party in charge didn't like. Selfishness isn't limited to the far right! It is equally present in every single person. Only God, through the power of the Holy Spirit can remove it.

It's not us vs. them

I do not seek to pontificate about what particular issues Christians should support or oppose today in the so-called culture wars. In fact, I want to do precisely the opposite. We need to extricate ourselves from these wars, which are predicated on an oppositional dualism of “us versus them” (or “in-group versus out-group”), since this dualism is antithetical to the gospel of the kingdom. The Christian gospel understands the true antithesis between good and evil (between the kingdom of God and the powers of destruction) to run not between groups, but rather through every human heart. Therefore, as an antidote to unthinking involvement in the culture wars, Christians need to have their imaginations grasped by the radically holistic vision of redemption that the Bible teaches, and to engage their world, at individual and communal levels, with daily acts of courage and love on behalf of those in need, even if—especially if—they are different from us.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 280–81

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

It's easy—when you dichotomize things

What we have in many sectors of the church is the insidious temptation to combine an otherworldly two-realm worldview with the “us versus them” sociological dualism in a most pernicious way. The hybrid worldview allows us piously to affirm the ideal of the equality of all people in the sight of God (as a “spiritual” truth), while continuing with our entrenched and self—serving “us versus them” framework in the “real” world of politics and economics, in matters of the social order and the nation—state (and even in the family, in relationships between males and females). In the realm of the “sacred,” we are quite willing to declare the equality of all people and to share the gospel (understood in a minimalist sense, as the way to “heaven”); but in the “secular” realm of realpolitik on earth, we horde our wealth and cling to our (national, class, economic) privilege. Granted, perhaps we might give away some of our wealth as charitable giving or tithing, but this requires no substantial change in our way of life, in our this-worldly (well-nigh idolatrous) commitments to success, Inaterial progress, and national identity.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 274–75

<idle musing>
I would go further and say it isn't "well-nigh idolatrous"—it is idolatrous!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Not a chance!

The difference between advocating on behalf of others (even if it means self-sacrifice) and the self-righteous protection of privilege is particularly evident in recent political movements throughout the world. On biblical grounds, we should be willing to declare that any movement founded on protecting one’s own privilege is fundamentally un-Christian in its motivations and program.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 280 n. 23

<idle musing>
Think that attitude has a chance? Me neither. It requires death to self, absolutely taboo in today's culture—both Christian and non-Christian. Self and self glorification are the absolute gods of our culture; to put someone else first? Nope, ain't gonna happen. I wish it would, and pray that it might. But outside of a mighty move of God? Not a chance. Sadly.

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, January 04, 2021

Nope. That's not the gospel

The impulse behind the Tea Party movement is the very opposite of the motivations of the abolitionists, like William Wilberforce in eighteenth—century England, who tirelessly opposed the West African slave trade on the basis of Christian principles. Indeed, the self—interest of many conservative Christians in America today is in direct contradiction to the impetus that drove the nineteenth—century evangelist Charles Grandison Finney, who, while president of Oberlin College—along with other faculty members—broke the recently enacted fugitive slave law and harbored escaped slaves in defiant acts of civil disobedience, rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 280

<idle musing>
Wow, that's progress, isn't it? We've managed to gut the gospel and do the exact opposite of what Jesus commanded and still claim to be christians. Reminds me of the cigarette commercial in the late 1960s for Virginia Slims, "You've come a long way, baby!" But to where? If smoking a cancer stick is progress, I'm against it! Same here, if gutting the gospel is progress, then I'm opting out!

What does James say? "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27)

Sadly, that kind of religion seems to be as unpopular now as it was back then. Something to think about… Just an
</idle musing>