Friday, July 31, 2009


I've decided to lead my S. S. class into a study of Zechariah.

No, I don't have a death wish, and no, I'm not trying to drive the attendance down.

Granted, it's in the OT
... and one of the prophets
... one of the minor prophets, that is
... and arguably one of the most difficult books of the Bible to understand,
still I was fascinated by it as I read through it this last time.

For one thing, I grasped more of it this time through than I ever have. (That's not unusual, though, because there is such a thing as progressive illumination, I think.)

Plus, there's too much there I don't understand just to breeze on by. So let's dig in.

Who knows? In two weeks I may jump to 1 John.

Sins We Aren't As Likely to Confess

Last night I was reviewing some of my college theology notes. One item that caught my eye was an appendix my prof, Dr. Wes Gerig, added to a discussion of the relationship between the Christian and sin.

The appendix is “a list of sins so often called something else but sins and hence not confessed, i.e., they are not called the same thing as God calls them.”

  • cheating on a test or term paper
  • reporting work done that has not, in fact, been done
  • false reporting on income tax blanks
  • padding expense accounts
  • breaking civil laws, such as the traffic laws
  • unfaithfulness to one’s marriage vows
  • shoplifting or taking things from one’s employer
  • robbery of time from an employer
  • robbery from employees by paying poor wages
  • fits of temper
  • overeating
  • prayerlessness
  • lack of Bible study and meditation
  • neglect of church attendance and support of the church in other ways
  • exaggeration
  • harming the body
  • refusal to forgive a wrongdoer or an enemy
  • lack of tithing and giving to God

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Soul-Stirring, God-Thirsting Prayers

One of the great things about The Pursuit of God, by A. W. Tozer, are the prayers at the end of each chapter.

The book is a rich read, and it is encouragement at the soul level, and it is a wonderful book even without the prayers.

But the prayers are the icing on the cake. (I suppose that metaphor only works if you like icing, unlike my wife, but that's another story--I think you know what I mean.)

I sometimes pull the book off the shelf just to pray 1 or 2 of the prayers.

Here's the prayer at the end of ch. 1.

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away." Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

How many times since reading this prayer have I prayed, "I want to want You more."

(Read the whole book online, or just look at the prayers at the end of each chapter.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

God Hasn't Promised Us a Rose Garden Life

Wasn’t there a song that went, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden?” God didn’t. It can’t be found anywhere in Scripture. “Thus saith the Lord, ’Come to me, and you will never suffer again.’”

Look at some things he did say (some promises we don't like to claim):

ð In John 16:33, Jesus promises trouble: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

ð In Acts 14:22, the Bible promises hardships: [Paul and Barnabas strengthened the disciples and encouraged] them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

ð In 2 Timothy 3:12, the Bible promises persecution: In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

ð In 1 Thessalonians 3:3, the Bible promises trials: You know quite well that we were destined for [trials].

Sara and I read a book about Christianity in China. During the cultural revolution, several pastors and lay Christians were arrested because of their faith.
ð Wang Mingdao: imprisoned 1958-1980 (22 yrs)
ð His wife: 1958-1975 (17 yrs)
ð Allen Yuan: 1958-1979 (21 yrs)
ð Samuel Lamb: 1958-1978 (20 yrs)
ð Moses Xie: 1956-1979 (23 yrs)

And there were others; not only imprisoned, but also tortured. But God used their testimony and their imprisonment to build his church in China to the point where it is one of the fastest growing churches in the world today, and it is still underground.

Don’t get upset with God the moment your life isn’t comfortable. He didn’t say it would be.

Remember Shadrach and his friends (Daniel 3)? They were believers, and they were about to be burned in an enormous furnace because they refused to bow down to an idol that a foreign king had built. They told the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, . . . we will not serve your gods” (Daniel 3:17-18).

Do you see what they said: “But even if he does not”?! These guys understood that God hasn’t promised a rose garden life. Actually, he has—the next life. But not this one.

Abandon this notion that sailing with Christ is always going to be on smooth waters.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Was "Hogan's Heroes" Appropriate?

I always found Hogan's Heroes funny and entertaining. And I have friends who love to check it out from the library and watch it.

Someone recently questioned me, however, about whether it was appropriate. A comedy about Hitler's war? A light-hearted entertainment about a war machine that killed 6 million Jews? A sitcom about a war that claimed over 400,000 American lives?

I responded quickly that the show focused on the American prisoner-German prison guard relationship and that the Germans were made to look like buffoons and the Americans smart and in control despite the political appearance.

But since then I've wondered.

Sara and I are reading Chaim Potok's The Chosen. Set in NYC during WWII, it's the story of two Jewish boys, one conservative and one liberal, and their relationship to each other and to their fathers. When the war ends and news about the Jewish decimation begins to come out of Germany, both fathers are devastated and grieve bitterly. I wonder what they would have thought of Hogan's Heroes?

I recently read Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower, in which he recounts some of his experiences (and one experience in particular) in a Nazi concentration camp. It's obvious that time haunts him. (Who wouldn't it haunt?)

A few years ago our senior church group toured the WWII museum in Auburn. I also attended. A large painting of Hitler hangs near the entrance of the exhibit, and one of our senior ladies said disgustedly, "What is THAT hanging up for?" Anger at (hatred for?) a human butcher does not die easily.

Given all this, I wonder whether a WWII POW camp was appropriate material for a sitcom.

What's your opinion?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Withholding Medical Care from the Irreversibly Ill

Aren't the Democrats in Washington the ones screaming whenever seniors' benefits are "threatened"? So why are White House advisers calling for a reduction (and sometimes cessation) of health benefits to older folks?

Also, why are they calling for a slow-down on medical innovation?

And why are they saying that Americans expect too much--like private hospital rooms, conveniently located doctors' offices, and relatively attractive waiting rooms?

This 2-page article, by someone who has read the bills being proposed, is an eye-opening read.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

9 Reasons I Don't Believe the Health & Wealth Preachers' Claim That If You Had Enough Faith You Would Be Healed

According to individuals like Kenneth Hagin, Frederick K. C. Price, and others, God's wants us healthy all the time.

“You have a covenant with Almighty God, and one of your covenant rights is the right to a healthy body.” --Kenneth Copeland
“He promises to heal all--every one, any, any whatsoever, everything--all our diseases! That means not even a headache, sinus problem, not even a toothache--nothing! No sickness should come your way.” --Benny Hinn

But I disagree.

1. Epaphroditus was ill, and the fact that he, this minister of God, was healed was an act of "mercy" and not because health was his divine right (Php 2:27).

2. Paul doesn't rebuke his frequently ill co-worker Timothy for his lack of faith, but offers him some medical advice instead: "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses" (1 Tim 5:23).

3. "I left Trophimus sick in Miletus" (2 Tim 4:20). Paul healed many (Acts 19:11-12; 28:8-9). Why didn't he heal Trophimus?

4. For that matter, why didn't he heal himself of the famed "thorn" (2 Cor 12:7-10)? Oh, because God didn't want to heal him. So are we to conclude Paul was deficient in the faith department? I don't think so.

5. Faith healers get sick and die. Kenneth Hagin is dead, and so is Hobart Freeman, to name a couple.

6. Consider the phenomenal ministry of Joni Eareckson Tada, and it all stems from her diving accident and subsequent paralysis.

7. Steve Brown has suggested a theory that every time an unbeliever gets cancer, God allows a Christian to also get it, just to show the world the difference.

8. David, the man after God's own heart, Abraham, the friend of God, and Moses, the man who spoke with God face-to-face, are all dead. (But truly they are very much alive in the presence of God.)

9. Suffering and illness are some of God's most powerful tools in the maturing of his people. "Religious contentment is the enemy of the spiritual life always. The biographies of the saints teach that the way to spiritual greatness has always been through much suffering and inward pain." (A. W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest 124-25)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Too Busy

"Modern Christian tend to make busyness their religion. We admire and imitate, and so become, Christian workaholics, supposing that the busiest believers are always the best. Those who love the Lord will indeed be busy for him, no doubt about that; but the spirit of our busyness is constantly wrong. We run round doing things for God and leave ourselves no time for prayer. Yet that does not bother us, for we have forgotten the old adage that if you are too busy to pray, you really are too busy. But we do not feel the need to pray, because we have grown self-confident and self-reliant in our work. We take for granted that our skills and resources and the fine quality of our programs will of themselves bring forth fruit; we have forgotten that apart from Christ—Christ trusted, obeyed, looked to, relied on—we can achieve nothing." (J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit 98)

Father, help me steer between the extremes of busyness and laziness. Help me not to merely work and not pray. Help me not to merely pray and not work. But help me to give myself both to prayer and work (1 Th 5:17; 1 Cor 15:58).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Socialist America

"The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened."

--Norman Thomas, (1884-1968) six-time U.S. Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America. Taken from an interview during the 1948 presidential campaign.

(Source: Micah Clark, Indiana American Family Association)

It's (Almost) All Going to Burn

The prophet Zephaniah foretells the terrible Day of the Lord, and there is no escape.

Neither their silver nor their gold
will be able to save them
on the day of the LORD's wrath.
In the fire of his jealousy
the whole world will be consumed,
for he will make a sudden end
of all who live in the earth. (1:18 NIV)

Silver and gold won't save? Not to worry, according to the apostle Peter:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Pt 1:18-19 NIV)

Praise the Lord that when God's wrath incinerates the earth, we who have been covered by something much more precious than silver or gold won't burn up.

Probably Only Interesting to Me

Having recently read biographies of both D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and A. W. Tozer, I was intrigued by a reference to Lloyd-Jones in Tozer's bio and vice versa.

Both books comment on Lloyd-Jones' opinion of Tozer and not the reverse.

Tozer's biographer comments: "Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones ... the celebrated preacher who held one of the most influential pulpits in the English-speaking world [Westminster Chapel], had been urging Tozer to come and preach at his church in London." (154)

Tozer and Lloyd-Jones met once in 1956 when they both ministered at the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Ontario.

Mrs. Lloyd-Jones wrote in one letter, "We had our first hearing of Dr Tozer last night, and I must say that was quite an experience in itself--interesting and refreshing--like nobody else and with a complete lack of the showmanship which spoils so many of the good men this side [of the Atlantic]." (Lloyd-Jones' bio, Vol 2, 285)

Speaking at the close of the conference, Lloyd-Jones himself said, "I shall ever look back to it as being unique in my experience because I have had the privilege of sharing in the ministry with Dr Tozer. Ever since I read a book by him I have felt that he is one of the very few great prophetic voices in the Church today, and in the modern world, ... His books have whetted my appetite, but having heard him now actually in the flesh I see that even his books do not do him full justice." (285)

Monday, July 20, 2009

White Flight Not Always White Fault

Over the decades A. W. Tozer pastored on the south side of Chicago, the neighborhood was "a changin'." As African-Americans moved into the neighborhood, several of Tozer's congregation moved out, though many of them still commuted.

Eventually, some in the congregation thought it was time for the church to move. Tozer was against it.

But there was not only pressure from the inside. There was also some from the outside.

Many African-Americans in the area made it clear that they were not interested in multi-racial church and that they wanted Tozer's congregation to sell the building to them and move out.

Several people aware of the congregation's situation wrote Tozer and urged him not to move the church because it would indicate a compromise of the gospel, in which there is not male or female, or even black or white.

Tozer responded to one such letter.

... it would be perfectly all right to have half our church members be colored. It would not bother me in the slightest. In fact, I think I should enjoy it.

However, the facts are these: The colored march on the South Side is a determined thing. The colored people do not want to integrate with the whites. They want the whites to get out, and they are saying so in no uncertain terms. The failure to integrate is not the result of reservation on the part of our people but on the part of the colored people themselves. They have had at least one parade declaring their intention to take over Englewood and Brainerd, and have passed around dodgers in the apartment houses around our church demanding that white people get out and let the colored people come in.

This puts quite another face on the whole matter, as you will undoubtedly agree. Please continue to pray. (Lyle Dorsett, A Passion for God 149)

Of course, the blacks were not trusting of the whites at that time, and perhaps with good reason. So there were a variety of reasons that made it difficult for Tozer's church to remain where it was. (And I encourage you to read Dorsett's broader description of the matter, pp. 147-151.)

In the end the church moved, and Tozer resigned, unwilling to go through another building campaign.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Rules of Our Love

Love and rules, do they go together?

Consider marriage. A relationship founded on love, is it not? But it is also governed by rules. Even if the rules are never stated, they are nonetheless present.

When we first married, I remember announcing to my Sara one night that I was going to go out and do something with my brother. That didn't play well, and that's when I discovered an important rule: Now married, my schedule had to take into consideration my wife as well myself.

And there are other rules. Some were spelled out in our wedding vows.

Of course, sometimes there are infractions of these rules, and both apologizing and forgiveness are called for, but in order to remain in one another's love, the rules are held to.

To me this helps to understand better Jesus' words in John 15:9-10:

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love." (NIV)

It sounds like, "I will love you as long as you obey me, but you screw up, and I'm dropping you like a hot potato."

But what is meant is, "I love you, profoundly, deeply. You know how much the Father loves me? That's how much I love you. Remain in my love. Follow the rules of our relationship that we might have a rich and fulfilling communion forever."

Friday, July 17, 2009


Look at this statement of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's:

"Bless you prison, bless you, for being in my life, for there, lying on the rotting prison floor, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity, as we are made to believe, but the maturing of the human soul."

Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned under Stalin for almost a decade.

I as a pastor am always trying through teaching and preaching to get my church family to understand that.

I as a Christian am striving to get myself to understand that. I do, to a degree, but that degree is not far enough.

The maturing of the soul comes only through communion with Christ. Php 3:7-11 became very meaningful to me last week in my prayer time. I rephrased some of the text into parallel desires:

I want to gain Christ (8).
I want to be found in Christ (9).
I want to know Christ (10).

I am dissatisfied with my relation to Christ. There's too much of me and not enough of him. I want him to come. "If anyone is thirsty", he says (Jn 7:37). I am thirsty.

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him" (Lk 11:13). I ask, Lord, for your Holy Spirit. Give to me richly and powerfully.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Going to Jerry Jenkins' Seminar

Had the opportunity to hear Jerry Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series, twice today. The first time was in a seminar about writing, and the second was a general session where he talked some about Left Behind and other matters.

The seminar was interesting. In terms of writing fiction, he likes to play with ideas. He looks for an idea that might serve as a hook, and then he likes to combine that with other ideas.

For example, what if a judge tried a man for a crime that the judge committed? Then combine that with the idea that the judge's daughter was the only one who knew the judge committed the crime, and it was eating her up inside to the point of suicide. Interesting.

Jenkins said that about half of writers develop a detailed outline ahead of time and then write to flesh out their outline. The other half, like himself, have an idea and develop the story as it goes. There are many times when he is surprised at what his characters do and what they say as the story develops.

At the end of the first Left Behind book a major character dies. He was surprised by that. He didn't think that would happen. Interesting.

He reads a lot. A writer, he said, needs to be a reader. His current favorite author is a non-fiction writer by the name of Rick Bragg. He cited in particular All Over but the Shoutin'.
He says in some writers he reads a paragraph twice in order to understand what he's reading. In a few writers, like Bragg, he rereads a paragraph just because it's beautifully written.
I know the feeling. One thing that makes great literature great, in my opinion, is the beauty of the writing. For example, I love Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey series not only for the story, but for how well it's written. And I just recently read the first page of The Baron in the Trees, by Italo Calvino. Wow! Great writing! I can't wait to read the rest of the book.
A couple closing comments by Jenkins. He was asked about J. K. Rowling and about The Shack. Jenkins reads the competition, so he read both. He thinks Rowling is a very good author and writes a good story. Jenkins didn't really want to comment on The Shack, but he did. He said it obviously struck a chord with readers, but he worries about the theology of the book and the lack of theological understanding in the church today.

Do we keep the distinctives, or not?

Historically the Missionary Church has been distinguished by certain key doctrines, including the pre-trib view of the rapture, the Wesleyan view of sanctification (crisis experience subsequent to salvation and sinless perfection), and Arminianism.

The question is, do we keep these distinctives, or not?

Writing from our 20th biennial General Conference, it would seem that we as a denomination are moving away from requiring the pre-trib view and the sinless perfection view.

On the other hand, we just affirmed a change in our article of faith on sanctification, but it still maintained the crisis view.

And we are currently maintaining our affirmation of Arminianism, and of our distinctives cited above, this is the one we are most strongly affirming, because it is currently in our core affirmations (for pastors to eventually sign annually). (See previous post.)

I understand wanting to preserve our distinctives and our heritage, but I do not think it is a worthy goal. These are secondary doctrines in my book (as opposed to the primary, non-negotiable doctrines, like the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith, and the 2nd Advent).

Let's rally around the primary doctrines and get on with ministry. Let's discuss the secondary doctrines and sharpen one another, but let's not exclude brothers in Christ because they hold a different interpretation of Scripture that is still within the realm of orthodoxy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What do Missionary Church pastors have to believe?

The Missionary Church is working on coming up with a minimum set of core beliefs that all Missionary Church pastors need to reaffirm on an annual basis. That is to say, they need to sign on to a set of doctrinal statements, affirming that they believe them.

The challenge has been coming up with those core beliefs. This has been a work in process for 4 years. This year a set of statements came before General Conference, and much discussion ensued.

What are the core beliefs, the minimums we require pastors to affirm? Essentially, I would look for the primary doctrines, those doctrines that are non-negotiable. I would not want secondary doctrines in this, doctrines over which good Christians can disagree and still be good Christians.

So here are some of the interesting points of the document that came to us this week.

With regards to eschatology (doctrine of last things, or end times), not only do pastors not have to sign on to a particular tribulation view (pre, post, or mid), but they do not even have to sign on to a premillenial view. Very surprising, though not unwelcome in my view.

With regards to anthropology (doctrine of man), included in the core values is an affirmation of the sanctity of life as well as a commitment to heterosexual marriage only. Some have a problem with statements touching abortion and homosexuality in our core values, but I don't. I think we need to address hot button issues that could put pressure on pastors to conform or compromise.

Then there's the Arminian-Calvinist issue, and the current document forces pastors to affirm the Arminian view of salvation. After working with a Calvinist for several years, attending a seminary where there was mix of Arminian and Calvinist profs, and attending a few years another church where the pastor was Arminian and many of the elders were Calvinists, I don't see this issue as a primary issue, but a secondary doctrine. I would like to see it struck. As someone said, why can't we just say that Missionary Church pastors believe that people are saved by grace through faith?

The document has been referred back to the Constitution Committee and the district conferences for more discussion.

The reality is we have a lot of Calvinist pastors in the Missionary Church even though the denomination is historically Arminian. So how will current pastors sign on to such a document every year? In good conscience, they cannot. I know one who plans simply to line out the one statement with which he does not agree and sign the document, if it actually comes to that.

Then it will be up to the Missionary Church to enforce however they see fit. And if they decide to remove a Calvinist pastor, will the church affected go along with the denomination, or will they decide to leave the denomination in order to keep their pastor? The answer could go either way in this age of diminished denominational authority.

For now we have two more years of deliberation.

PS We heard a sermon today at Conference by an Arminian pastor who cited in his sermon both John Piper and Tim Keller, Calvinists.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Quasi Connection with Tozer

It brought a smile to my face to read a couple familiar names in Dorsett's biography of Tozer.

Tozer did Spiritual Emphasis Week services at my alma mater, Fort Wayne Bible College, in 1948 and 1954. (And no, I wasn't there at the time to hear him speak.)

Also, "Ira Gerig served with Tozer for a year and a half from 1942 until mid-1943 and he, too, was encouraged and given constructive guidance. He pointed out [in a letter dated 2/20/99] that the Christian and Missionary Alliance saw Tozer's giftedness in teaching and encouraging young pastors. Therefore, they occasionally scheduled daylong sessions for the Chicago pastor to simply pass on some of his wisdom to the new generation of ministers" (134).

Ira Gerig served at the Bible College for several years in the music department. He was my piano teacher for a few years while I was at the college, and he also played the organ for our wedding.

While I was at the piano the whole time for each lesson, we weren't always talking about the piano. Part of the time I spent listening to his wisdom and opinions about different ministry-related things. And I believe I did hear once that he served with Tozer for a time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Listen to Good Preaching Online

Let me suggest two place to go online to hear good solid preaching.

A. W. Tozer: The first sermon I listened to (just yesterday) was "What Is It to Accept Jesus." Go to this link, look up that title, and click on "download."

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I'd recommend a couple of sermons, but apparently they don't keep a long archive. They only have maybe a dozen sermons up at a time.

I don't think either Lloyd-Jones or Tozer had a voice for radio, so you'll have to get past a thick Welsh accent on the one hand, and a backwaters Appalachian twang on the other. But the content is what grips me.

Tozer's Passions: God, Prayer, & Preaching

A. W. Tozer above all else sought to know God, to really know him, to experience him. (He was doing Blackaby before Blackaby. More accurately, he was doing Philippians 3:7ff.) Hence book titles like The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy.

To really know God, Tozer rightly believed that much time needed to be given to prayer. In his biography of Tozer, Lyle Dorsett writes:

"Tozer spent incalculable hours in prayer. Most of his prolonged prayer time--with his Bible and hymnals as his only companions--took place in his church office ... He would ... sit for a while on his ancient office couch. After a time his spirit would drift into another realm. In time, he would abandon the couch, get on his knees, and eventually lie facedown on the floor, singing praises to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

"No one presumed to interrupt these times of intimacy between A. W. Tozer and the Lover of his soul. But occasionally one of the men closest to him would climb the steps to his office and chance to see him on the couch or floor--totally oblivious to the world....

Tozer never denied that he spent many hours in prayer out of his increasingly demanding schedule. On the contrary, he maintained that anyone who wanted to know Christ better and love Him more must devote time to closet prayer." (121-122)

Tozer prayed to know Christ, but there were some secondary motives as well. He also prayed in order to guard against the pride that comes with fame, to stay rooted in humility before the majesty of Christ, and to guard against doing ministry in his own strength.

"As the years passed Tozer increased his daily time in Bible reading and prayer--at once meditating on the Scriptures, praising the One who inspired them, seeking God's help in writing words with the power to transform souls, and applying truths to everyday life." (146)

His preaching and his writing were anointed by the Holy Spirit, and they grew out of his prayer life.

Dorsett Cites Tozer's associate pastor in Chicago, Ray McAfee: "His preaching was affected by his praying. Indeed, preaching was a declaration of what he had learned in prayer" (132).

A young seminarian once wrote Tozer to ask him how he did sermon preparation. "Typically, Tozer pointed to the Lord and wrote: 'I get on my knees and manage to get three sermons a week together'" (136).

Tozer once offered further insight into his sermon prep: "I never go to the Bible for a sermon, I go to the Bible to see God. Then I get words for sermons" (135).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Carrier's Theory of Yeller Buses

One of my favorite high school teachers died Friday. Mr. [Byron] Carrier taught science at Elmhurst High School. I had him for chemistry and advanced chemistry. Not my favorite subjects, but due to his polished teaching, I did okay.

He had a jovial personality. He was well-chosen to dress as Santa Claus for school Christmas assemblies.

Two specific memories: When illustrating what a scientific theory was (a theory being stronger than a hypothesis because it had the strength of multiple tests behind it ... I think), he told us of "Carrier's Theory of Yeller Buses." The theory stated that anytime you were in his classroom and looked out the windows, you would see yellow buses. That was true, because his window looked out upon one of FWCS's bus garages.

The other memory is Mr. Carrier's favorite pun. It had to do with barium on the periodic table, atomic weight 56. When Elmhust was due to play basketball or football on a given night, often Mr. Carrier would say, "Class, what are we going to do to [South Side] tonight? 56!" And we would respond appropriately: "Barium!"

If you like, read the obituary.

A Pursuit of God (but Not Family)

One of A. W. Tozer's deficiencies was his neglect of his wife and children.

In Lyle Dorsett's biography of Tozer, as he charts Tozer's life, he returns periodically to this theme of Tozer's family. There was virtually no intimacy between A. W. and his wife Ada, and it wasn't because Ada didn't want there to be. A. W. threw much of his energy into knowing God and the ministry that grew from that. A. W. was content to relate to his wife at the shallowest of levels, and Ada was hurt by that. A. W. was often inconsiderate of his wife's needs, often spurning raises and giving away money while his wife struggled with the little money that was left to keep hearth and home together.

Dorsett doesn't blanch in relating this flaw in Tozer, but at the same time he does offer some balancing perspective, though it does not in anyway excuse Tozer. Tozer's own father showed no affection whatsoever. Tozer spoke warmly of his mother but rarely mentioned his father. And in all fairness, it is believed by all who knew Tozer, including his seven children, that he never intentionally hurt Ada; he was just ignorant of the pain he caused.

Ada for her part was hurt to the core and felt wronged for years. It seems she may have struggled some with bitterness, I'm not sure. But to her credit, only a few knew about the pain she bore because of Tozer's insensitivity, and of those few, most surmised it; they didn't learn it directly from her. She didn't grumble or complain. She kept it to herself. (And she was proud of her husband and his ministry.)

It would be incorrect to say, I think, that the Tozers grew apart; rather, they never grew together.

And with regards to his kids, none of the kids ever remembered their father giving to them affection; none ever remembered any kind of initmacy with their dad, with the possible exception of the youngest and the only girl, Rebecca. To be sure their dad did some things with them. He took them on nature walks and taught them how to shoot, for example, but a great deal was missing.

One of the things that bothered the kids, too, was that he never wanted to visit relatives, his own or Ada's. Such visits were done without him. Further, whenever they asked about his growing up, he was almost as silent as a clam. Fortunately, their mother would tell them.

One of the ironies is that Tozer invested in other people, particularly young men with promise or various men on staff with him, but the investment in his children was virtually nil.

Interestingly, "all seven of Tozer's children became solid Christians and not one of them carried bitterness in their heart toward their father."

A year after Tozer died, Ada married Leonard Odam, and the happiest period of her life (age 65-75) ensued. "I have never been happier in my life. Aiden loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me."


  • I am occasionally anxious about how well I'm doing as a father and husband. Comparing myself to Tozer gives me some encouragement.

  • The most important decision a person has to make is to follow Christ. The fact that all 7 of Tozer's kids followed Jesus is good. It probably happened despite Tozer, but maybe not.

  • A. W.'s relationship with Ada will be/is healed in Paradise/Heaven.

  • If they had been in the same generation, I wonder what Tozer would have thought of James Dobson and Focus on the Family.

  • While his relative neglect of his wife and children seems in my mind a huge flaw, it does not mean that he didn't get anything right. His anointing and his character were profound, and I will still read him with great profit.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Woodpeckers and Tylenol

There are many sound of summer I enjoy, including birds in the morning, cicadas in the evening (when they're not overbearingly loud), and the occasional woodpecker.

As I was walking to the church this morning, I heard one right above me. It took me a few moments to spot him because he wasn't as brightly outfitted as Woody Woodpecker, nor was he big.

His hammering was rapid, and I marveled that woodpeckers don't need Tylenol or something stronger, and I marveled at our God who made them.

Curious still while sitting before my computer, I looked up woodpeckers on the Internet.

Woodpeckers can hammer away up to 20 blows per second. Wow! You can listen to a slow one here, but the one in my neighborhood is much faster.

Woodpeckers drill for food, bugs and whatnot, and they have long sticky tongues with which to extract the bugs from the holes they drill, some tongues being up to 4" long.

Their heads are designed (the websites I consulted claim evolution) to allow the woodpeckers to drill away without any sort of concussion or even a headache. The contact between brain and skull is much greater than in human beings; that is, the brain is packed much tighter. I've moved enough books to know that if I want my books to survive the move, I pack them tightly in a box, not loosely. The fluid on the brain is a great deal less than ours, too, reducing shock waves. The birds also make sure they are hitting the wood straight on; wrenching the neck or turning it would increase the chance of brain damage.

(On the other hand, the fact that they bang their heads repeatedly against trees in order to eat bugs may suggest brain damage.)

What a wonderfully creative God we have!

Further reading? Try Wikipedia and Trendy Science.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Probably the Only Thing on the Internet about Michael Jackson

A friend of mine emailed me and asked me why I hadn't blogged about Michael Jackson yet and was I joining the other 999,999,999 people watching the funeral?

Well ...

I was stunned and sorry to hear of Jackson's death. I liked his music when I was growing up. "Thriller" was my favorite, and I often caught myself singing "Bad." "Man in the Mirror" was overplayed for my taste, though. I still enjoy his music: On one of my Christmas CDs The Jackson 5 sing "Up on the Housetop," and Michael's voice stands out and is a treat to listen to.

The guy was a genius in his field. He seemed to be able to stay out ahead of the curve musically.

But outside of his field, he was mixed up, and the signs were obvious--from black to white, from man to almost woman, the numerous plastic surgeries, the child/sex thing, Jehovah's Witness, short-lived marriage to Presley, the surrogate mother thing, Neverland Ranch, etc.

I feel sorry for him because, assuming the news I read is true, he was abused and exploited growing up. He appeared to be searching for meaning, happiness, truth.

I feel sorry for him, but at the same time I am not unaware that God gives to us all light, and if we walk in the light we have, he will give us more, eventually confronting us with the love and demands of Christ. If Michael Jackson goes to a Christless eternity, he does not go as a victim; he goes as one who could've known Christ, but his choices led him away from that.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A. W. Tozer Tidbits

Lyle Dorsett's bio of A. W. Tozer fleshes out the man behind some of my favorite books, including The Pursuit of God, Knowledge of the Holy, The Divine Conquest (retitled The Pursuit of Man), and That Incredible Christian.

Here are some tidbits about the Christian and Missionary Alliance's most famous preacher:

Born 4/21/1897 and grew up in the hills of Pennsylvania

Family moved to Akron, OH, where Tozer went to work as young man for Goodrich for a while and later for Goodyear

Saved at the age of 17 (first one in his family)

Married a godly woman, but was inattentive to his wife the duration of their long marriage

Had 6 sons and 1 daughter, and all of them never felt any intimacy from their father

Loved to shoot rifles and was a good shot at that

His passion was knowing Christ; his second passion was books, and he read widely

Pastored in OH, WV, Indianapolis, Chicago for a while, and also Toronto

Loved to study and preach, but he disdained pastoral visitation and he would not greet his parishioners at the end of a service

Had no regard for money; often requested his boards that they not give him a raise; often returned half of his pay as a contribution to the church; and all this despite the fact that his wife for much of her life had a difficult time keeping the family of 9 fed and clothed

Took one family vacation at the insistence of his daughter and was sour the whole time that the family never vacationed with him again.

Did not visit his relatives and was somewhat put out when they came to visit him

In many ways he had zeal for his own house but he undermined his own.

His wife commented after his death and her subsequent marriage: "I have never been happier in my life. Aiden [A. W.] loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Turning 40

I meant to blog a little about turning 40 on my birthday in June, but I didn't.

It's not because I forgot (a sign of old age). It's because I didn't really have the time (a typical symptom of 40, I think).

It's amazing to me what God has done for me over the first 40 years of my life. I have lived a blessed life thus far, and I do not, absolutely do not, deserve it.

An anecdote. I shared this at my other blog, but I'll share it here, too, for those of you who can only stomach one blog from me. While at CDYC, a kid in the dorm wanted to play me ping-pong, so I played him. He was not from our church. The next day, he said to Phil, our 27-year-old youth director, "I want a rematch with your dad." Phil laughed and said, "He's not my dad." The kid then said, in absolute seriousness, "With your grandpa, then." Hmmm. Apparently I look older than 40.

I remember when my dad turned 40. We celebrated his birthday in Durango, Colorado, Aug 12, 1984, on a long camping trip with several families from Avalon Missionary Church. I was 15 at the time.
I don't know what God has in store for me and my family in the future. He's been faithful even when I've been faithless. I want very much to be consumed, absolutely consumed, with passion for him.
"May Thy rich grace impart
strength to my fainting heart;
my zeal inspire.
As Thou hast died for me,
so may my love for Thee,
pure, warm, and changeless be,
a living fire."