Reflections on Pursuit of God

I have been reading A.W.Tozer’s book Pursuit of God. Below is a combination of my reflections and synopsis of some key ideas in the first 4 chapters of the book.

Pursuit of God

Holy persons are people who are famished for God’s presence and are seeking after God as the highest value of their life. Tozer says, “they want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God.” Holy people pray like Moses, “God, show me thy glory.”

Holy people are not led by, “a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart.” Holy people like are ones who seem to have a deep sense of wonder at God, a wonder that will not be easily quenched by reading a chapter in the bible, or a book. Rather, this holy wonder longs and pants for more and more of God’s affirming presence.

Here is the important question… What keeps us away from the deep longing for God?

Tozer suggest that what keeps us from a deeper longing for God is the “evil habit of seeking God-and.” When we seek God but also want to value our career or the approval we get from people or the possessions we have, then we are seeking God-and something else. This habit of God-and will lead to us loosing our ability to wonder at God.

How to get away from the evil habit of seeking God-and?

There are 3 ways…

1.Finding freedom from Tyranny of things.
When our roots find nourishment in the things we possess, we are fed bad nutrition. It is like eating constantly at McDonalds – so much that our body becomes a slave to those cheap titillating calories. If one were to become a slave to McD food, to find freedom, one has to retrain one’s senses to finding pleasure in healthy green food. Tozer says that a big part of the training that God gave Abraham was to put him in the school of renunciation. God has Abraham give up his home country, the comfort of the familiar and even his own son, so that Abraham would realize that God himself is his reward.

Tozer says “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in one. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness.”

The way we find freedom from tyranny of thing is to practice the prayer of renunciation, stripping away the unessential and deepening our roots in that which is essential, Christ the Rock.

2.Deepening a Covenental Relationship.
The temptation of the modern man is to see God as an “inferential character,” a character who is a part of a person’s intellectual life. Tozer makes an interesting distinction between the prophet and the scribe. The scribe is one who reads books and has intellectual knowledge. On the other hand, the prophet is one who has an encounter with a living God (as in Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul). I was watching the movie Forrest Gump which has a scene in which a disabled Vietnam war veteran, Lieutenant Dan, is screaming at God. For L Dan, God is not merely an intellectual idea, God is a person he is angry with. He is lamenting as David does in the Psalms, thus he encounters God, and finds his peace. God for Lieutenant Dan is not just an intellectual idea in his mind, rather God is a person who he talks to, fights with, finds his peace with. The mark of this covenental relationship is obedience. Tozer points to John 14:21-23 as to clue in the importance of obedience to God as a way of communing deeply with Trinity.

3.Wondering after God.
Our hunger for God grows out of our wonder of God. What keeps us from coming to a place of wonder at God? There is a veil over the human heart, dampening the passion for worship of God. Tozer calls this veil the “self-sin.” What are self-sins? Self-righteousness, self-pity, self-admiration, self-sufficiency. It is a world where the self is at the center. The only antidote to this self being on the throne is the cross. One has to crucify the self-sins. Tozer goes on to say, “there comes a moment when its (cross) work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the Presence of the Loving God.” This resurrected self, which has been rid of its selfish agenda wonders after God.

The way to being holy is to value presence of God above all, the way to this place of valuing God is to renounce the habit of seeking after “God-and.” The way to valuing God-alone is to find freedom from the tyranny of things through the prayer of renunciation, developing a covenental relationship with God by encounter and obedience, and, wondering after God by deposing the self from the throne.
Memorable Quotes from Pursuit of God by A.W.Tozer:
We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us.

The world is perishing for lack of knowledge of God, church is famishing for want of his presence.

The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation.

No Freedom without Meaning

If there isn’t a big purpose that is captivating us, we will likely be lost in one of two realms. We would either be lost in a flurry of activity bouncing about from one whim to another or in the realm of inactivity callously slipping into a depression. Both of which makes man less human.

I was reading the book ‘Loves Me, Loves Me Not’ by Laura A. Smit in which she has a quote from Harry G. Frankfurt in his book ‘Reason of Love’ saying,
 

“the necessity with which love binds the will puts and end to the indecisiveness concerning what you care about”. 

Laura A. Smit goes on to comment that,

 

 

“real freedom then is not found in being autonomous selves but in having a worthy direction and purpose that we can embrace completely and whole heartedly without ambivalence”.

Reflecting on this… if there isn’t a big purpose that is captivating us, we will likely be lost in one of two realms. We would either be lost in a flurry of activity bouncing about from one whim to another or in the realm of inactivity callously slipping into a depression. Both of which makes man less human.

Purposeless distracting activity, as in watching cats videos on Youtube cannot captivate us. Indulging too much on it makes us but less human. Purposeless inactivity, as in being lazy to the point of getting depressed, leads to a dreariness that would ultimately make one less human.

On the other hand, some people find their bigger purpose in their family life, everything they do is guided by demands of family life. Some others find their bigger purpose in their careers. Some other find their bigger purpose in some altruistic motives, like solving world hunger or promoting greener energy resources.

In all this, ‘purposeful meaning’ that firmly binds us to a some BIG goal helps us to be truly human. To try to be untethered oneself from any semblance of meaningful purpose of the human enterprise is to make of oneself, ‘an empty bubble floating about in void’ (borrowing a phrase from Sartre).

Often, man, at least the bohemian one who values freedom, dreams of running away from any meaningful responsibility and be in a state of perpetual vacation. The irony is that if any man would truly achieve a state of responsibility-less vacation, he would find that he isn’t so much free as empty.

New Evangelical Idolatory of Celebrity Pastors

There is type of idolatry attributed upon ‘Pastor Marc Driscoll’ by the lay Christians in the Evangelical circles. It is of a very subtle kind that is difficult to see it except in some egregious circumstances. Lo and behold, we just hit on one such circumstance. 

When we think of idolatry of Celebrity Pastors in the Christian circles, we think of Pastors who proclaim prosperity Gospel of the likes of Creflo Dollar. We do not think Marc Driscoll. Marc Driscoll is the complete opposite of the Prosperity Gospel preacher.

Interestingly, there is type of idolatry attributed upon ‘Pastor Marc Driscoll’ by the lay Christians in the Evangelical circles. It is of a very subtle kind that is difficult to see it except in some egregious circumstances. Lo and behold, we just hit on one such circumstance. The Christianity today article deals with this very comprehensively, makes a case for why this is fundamentally a problem of idolatry of Christian Celebrity pastors by lay Christians.

It all started when a radio program host asked Marc Driscoll if he had plagiarized in his book. Digging further it came to be known that Marc Driscoll hadn’t plagiarized himself, but that his ‘ghost writer’ probably did. That raised the question of how much of what Marc Driscoll writes is ‘ghost written’, apparently a lot. Marc Driscoll is not the only celebrity pastor who ghost writes, a friend of my friend ‘ghost wrote’ the book ‘Gospel According to Lost’ which was published by Pastor Chris Seay.

It raises a question of why a ‘Pastor’ a ‘Shepherd of the flock’ has to
‘ghost write’ in the first place, when we are to follow Jesus who did
not write anything at all. Of course, there is value in writing. Paul wrote, but they were his own words. It is today’s politicians who use ‘ghost writers’ to write their speeches, their proposals and their books. Why are Christian pastors taking a line from the book of the one breed of people who few trust, Politicians?

A BIG reason for this is the ‘Evangelical Industrial Complex’ – the big publishing houses that create a demand for books by pastors and then make profit on it. If someone blames the ‘golden goose’ of plagiarism, they have something to lose.The part time assistant producer of the Radio program which questioned Marc Driscoll about plagiarism was forced to resign over this issue.She said the ‘Evangelical Industrial Complex’ is more powerful than anyone realizes. The Radio host Janet Mefferd had to apologize and removed the interview, when a host of Christian writers have said mistake is on Marc Driscoll’s side and he needs to apologize about making a mistake, as honest as it may be instead of criticizing the interviewer.

This idolatry of making super star pastors is not the pastor’s fault. It is the fault of the evangelicals Christians who place such a high expectation on so few Super Star pastors. If we, the evangelical Christians, were to spend more time reading the Bible or spend more time studying the Scriptures using some ‘hard to read books’ written by ‘original thinking’ theologians who are the ‘true teachers’, then we wouldn’t be in this place where we expect ‘Super Star Pastors’ to churn book after book after book instead of performing their real job which is to be Shepherds who tend their flock.

All that is Gold Does Not Glitter!

All that is gold does not glitter; Not all those who wander are lost… These words speak powerfully to the Christian living in the human condition. In life, everybody wanders. We never stay in one place. The question really is, are we wandering towards a destiny or are we truly lost.

Been re-reading Lord of the Rings… I am struck the poem that Bilbo writes about Aragorn. The poem is prophetic about Aragorn becoming the King he is meant to be. What struck me is that the poem looks through into future with hope in spite of the dreariness of the present state.

When the poem is written, the common towns people look at Aragorn as a bumb, a wanderer. He is derisively associated with the ‘rangers’ who wander about. He is weather worn and isn’t good looking either.

Aragon goes about wandering from place to place searching for things that are invisible to the common eye. He knows deep within that he is a King’s son and someday he will claim his throne. But until then, he has to wait and wait patiently going about the business of saving his Father’s kingdom, unbeknownst to the common folk.

It is in this context that Bilbo writes about Aragorn….
 

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king

All that is gold does not glitter; Not all those who wander are lost… These words speak powerfully to the Christian living in the human condition. In life, everybody wanders. We never stay in one place. The question really is, are we wandering towards a destiny or are we truly lost.

When people look at us sometimes it may appear that we, as Christians, are wandering about spending time searching for God’s glories and glorifying Him in life… through church, missions etc. It may appear to others that we are confused people oblivious to the priorities of life. But they do not know that in all of our wandering, we aren’t lost.

Aragorn, my LOTR-nerd-friend Chuck Dotson says, wandered for about 80 years, which interestingly is close to the ‘wandering years’ of Moses before he encountered the Burning Bush! We should take courage from such ‘hopefulness’ and remember that in all of our wandering, we truly are going about the goal of ‘saving’ our Father’s Kingdom. We will never be lost!