The Shortest Sentence

The shortest sentence:

Go!
A two letter command…
The potential, immeasurable

Go ahead, go forward
Go in any direction
Go where no one has gone before

Go to the shop or go to work
Go to school or go to church
Go where you’re needed

Go on an adventure
Go on a mission
Go on a trip of a lifetime

Go with what you can carry
Go with the clothes on your back
Go with the Prince of Peace

Go it alone
Go with friends
Go with God

Go with purpose
Go with passion
Go with gusto

Go into a hungry world
Go proclaim Good News
Go make disciples

Get up and
Go!

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR on Unsplash

Struggling to Write

As 2021 comes to a close, I regret not writing more. Last year, I coped with the pandemic by writing prayers. This year, I’ve really struggled to keep myself blogging. In writing about his own mentor, one of my favorite Christian writers wrote a sentence that resonated with me: I can hardly write if someone shares the same room with me. I also need solitude to write and I need a lot of time to compose my thoughts. If my husband walks into the room and starts talking to me, I can’t write. I become too self-conscious.

It helps to know I am not alone in needing to be alone.

C.S. Lewis has been a constant companion, a shadow mentor who sits beside me urging me to improve my writing style, my thinking, my vision, and also my life….

“[He] affirmed my calling as a writer who works out my faith in print.  We live sequestered lives, those of us who make a living by herding words.  I can hardly write if someone shares the same room with me.  And the results of my work are both slippery and vicarious: when I write I am not actively caring for the poor, ministering to the suffering, feeding the hungry, or even conversing about spiritual matters.  Lewis proved to me that this most isolated act can still make a difference.

“As one who was changed—literally, dramatically, permanently—by an Oxford don who often felt more at home with books than people, I trust that God may use my own feeble efforts to connect with readers out there somewhere, most of whom I will never meet.”

Philip Yancey, What Good is God? In Search of a Faith That Matters

Fortunately, I don’t make a living herding words. It’s much easier for me to herd numbers. But like Philip Yancey, I work out my faith by writing. My faith has been strengthened by writing about it. And like my mentor, Philip Yancey, I trust that God can use my feeble efforts to connect with readers I will never meet.

Thank you to everyone who reads Innermost Being!

The Sacrament of Living

I finally finished rereading The Pursuit of God. In the last chapter, A.W. Tozer wrote about the way too many Christians divide their lives between the sacred and the secular. We have life in the Spirit but live in the natural world. The two parts of our lives may seem starkly different and separate. Tozer said that if we try to “walk the tightrope between two kingdoms,” we will not live a unified life. We will not experience internal peace.

All for the glory of God

Religious activities that Christians engage in – praying, worshiping, reading the Bible, singing songs of praise, etc. – are meaningful and satisfying because we know they are pleasing to God. As spiritual beings, we have our eyes on the kingdom of heaven and look forward to eternal life in a place where there is no evil and no suffering. But as human beings, we spend our days doing ordinary human things – working, eating, sleeping, cleaning, etc. The ordinary acts of living can seem tedious and frustrating in comparison to sacred acts of worship.

And yet, as the Apostle Paul wrote, we are to do everything – even the most ordinary acts of living – for the glory of God.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV

When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he told them to set your hearts and your minds on things above. He reminded them that as God’s chosen people, they should be kind, humble, gentle and patient. They should love and forgive others. When we work, we are to work at it as if we are working for the Lord. When we serve others, we are to serve as if we are serving Christ.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24

Sacramental Living

The dictionary says a sacrament is “a religious ceremony or ritual regarded as imparting divine grace, such as baptism, the Eucharist and (in the Roman Catholic and many Orthodox Churches) penance and the anointing of the sick.” Tozer described a sacrament as “an external expression of an inward grace.” If we accept this truth, then we can see the ordinary acts of our lives as sacred. We can consecrate our total selves to God.

Tozer addressed a couple of issues that get in the way of sacramental everyday living. One is “the sacred-secular antithesis as applied to places.” He asks, how can anyone who has read the New Testament still believe that there is something inherently sacred about a place? In the Old Testament, God taught the people of Israel the difference between what is holy and unholy. What they should have learned is that God is holy; things or places are not holy. In the New Testament, the woman at the well told Jesus, you Jews claim that the place we must worship is in Jerusalem. Jesus said, the time has come when true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.

A second issue that may get in the way of sacramental living is the ritualism and religious observances in which many Christians engage. Here Tozer directed criticism specifically at the Roman Catholic Church. Christians started out with two sacraments, baptism and holy communion. The Catholic church eventually came to recognize seven. Tozer believed that in adding sacraments and in observing days and times, Catholics and fundamentalists artificially divide religion from everyday life.

Am I walking a tightrope?

When I first started reading what Tozer had to say about the way Christians mistakenly divide their lives between the sacred and the secular, I immediately felt convicted but not for the reasons he laid out. There was no social media when The Pursuit of God was published (1948). In an effort to not offend or alienate nonreligious friends and family on social media, I tend to hold back on expressions of my faith. In a way, this is dividing the sacred from the secular and I am left feeling divided.

While Tozer wrote about the important truth that even laypeople can do ordinary, everyday things for the glory of God, I struggled to get to the truth I was seeking. I already know that I can honor God when I work and do ordinary things. Something was missing from his discussion. My struggle with the sacred-secular dichotomy is not the struggle he described.

At one point, Tozer wrote about sins of the body – “perversions, misuse and abuse” – but then quickly moved on. He said:

Let us think of a Christian believer in whose life the twin wonders of repentance and the new birth have been wrought. He is now living according to the will of God, as he understands it from the written word.

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

What about those of us whose lives have the twin wonders of repentance and rebirth who still struggle with sins of the heart? It’s easy to be righteous when you’re sitting in church praising God or when you’re reading the Bible or praying. It is everyday, ordinary life that brings out the hard truth that I am still a sinner in need of God’s grace.

The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.  So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:15-20, New Living Translation

I am all too human, a slave to sin. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature, I am a slave to sin. Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Jesus Christ.

While Tozer did not write about the fact that our very humanity separates the sacred from the secular, he acknowledged that old habits die hard. It takes practice to learn new habits. We must offer all our acts to God and pray “a thousand thought-prayers as we go about the job of living.” We must remind ourselves that Christ dwells in us. We cannot be fruitful unless we remain in Jesus and his words remain in us.

Let us believe that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.

A.W. Tozer

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Photo by Loic Leray on Unsplash

The Gaze of the Soul

In the seventh chapter of The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer wrote about a spiritual concept that is mentioned often in the Bible but defined only once: faith. I did my own search for the word faith on BibleGateway.com and brought up 458 results from the New International Version of the Bible. What is faith? As Tozer noted, Hebrews 11 gives a functional definition of faith – explaining what faith is in action, not what it is in essence.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

Tozer next explained a New Testament reference to an Old Testament story. In Numbers 21, we read that God sent venomous snakes after the people of Israel spoke out against Him and many of them were bitten and died. The people came to Moses and said, we have sinned. Moses prayed for the people. God then told Moses to put a bronze snake on a pole. Anyone who was bitten could look at the bronze snake and live.

When Jesus explained how people can be saved, He said that it is by believing. He compared believing in Him to the story in Numbers:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

John 3:14-15

“Looking” at the Old Testament serpent was synonymous with “believing” in the New Testament Christ! The people of Israel looked at an object with their external eyes and were saved; we believe with the heart and are saved. With this connection between looking and believing, Tozer defined what faith is in essence.

Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.

Faith isn’t just a one-time act, it is “a continuous gaze of the heart at the triune God. Sin turns our vision toward inward and makes us think too much of ourselves. Faith causes us to turn our eyes away from the self and towards God. “Faith is a redirecting of our sight…”

Simplicity

As I continued to read chapter seven, I found myself feeling emotional about the timeliness of Tozer’s message about the simplicity of faith. We do not need special equipment or a special place or a special time to look upon a saving God! I cannot go to church on Sunday. It’s been closed by a pandemic. It doesn’t matter whether I am allowed to go to a place of worship on Palm Sunday or Easter. My soul can gaze upon my Savior any hour of any day, whether I am sitting in a pew or taking a walk down a deserted street!

Those of us who believe in the risen Jesus have found the secret of seeing God from anywhere. Something in our hearts sees God.

Heavenly Father, for the past three days, I have begun the day quietly gazing at You and giving You praise even as this nation battles the coronavirus. I lift my eyes up to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth. I praise You for giving me eyes to see You! Lord, may the gaze of my soul be my inward habit, even when this storm passes. Amen.

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Praise You in This Storm (Casting Crowns)

I was sure by now, God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away,
Stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
That it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear your whisper through the rain
I’m with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away

And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth

*****

Photo by Chetan Menaria on Unsplash

Apprehending God

The fourth chapter of The Pursuit of God is titled, Apprehending God. Clearly A.W. Tozer wasn’t using the meaning of apprehend that I am most familiar with – to arrest someone for a crime. To avoid confusion, I thought about using the word perceiving in my own title, but then I realized that the nuances of the word apprehend are perfect for the subject. To apprehend is to perceive or understand – to grasp something either physically or mentally.

apprehend – from French appréhender or Latin apprehendere, from ad- ‘towards’ + prehendere ‘lay hold of’

How many people really grasp who God is? To many people, God is unknowable. He is merely an inference or a deduction based on the evidence of creation. Others see God as an ideal or another name for that which is good. You would think that Christians would know God as well as anyone can but for millions of them, God is no more real than he is to non-believers.

Tozer wrote that the scriptures suggest that God is just as knowable as any person or thing we experience with our five senses. Taste and see that the Lord is good. My sheep listen to my voice. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. The implication is that we have the means in our hearts to perceive God just as we have the ability to experience material things with our five senses.

Jesus gives believers the ability to know God. Our spiritual faculties are awakened when we are born again! The Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:6) and it is in spirit that worshipers commune with God.

God is spirit and his worshipers must worship him in Spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

Tozer asked, why then do some Christians know so little about the “habitual conscious communion with God” that is prevalent in scripture? One reason is unbelief. We are prone to doubt the reality of the hidden spiritual kingdom that is all around us. The visible, physical world continuously assaults our five senses. We tend to draw a line between material things and the invisible, spiritual world. But the spiritual is real and constantly present.

Perhaps another reason we don’t commune with God is spiritual laziness. If you want to perceive God, if you want to comprehend the heart of God, you must love and pursue him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.

Faith enables our spiritual sense to function. Where faith is defective, the result will be inward insensibility and numbness toward spiritual things.

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Tozer wrote that we need to break the bad habit of ignoring the spiritual. “For the great unseen reality is God.” If we truly want to seek God, we must seek to be otherworldly. Deliberately choose the kingdom of God as the focus of your interest, even if people think you’re crazy for doing so. Don’t make the mistake of pushing the kingdom of God into the future. The kingdom of God is here and now, existing parallel to our physical world.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Heavenly Father, thank you for the senses that allow me to experience and enjoy the material world. What a beautiful world it is! But the physical world overwhelms my five senses and when it does, I stop paying attention to my spiritual sense. I stop paying attention to you. Help me break my bad habits. Remind me to be still and know that you are God. Holy Spirit, remind me 50 times a day if you have to, that you are with me. As Francesca sings so beautifully,

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your Glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your Presence Lord

Jesus, I believe. But sometimes I am a doubting Thomas. Thank you for showing me the heart of God! Thank you for showing me that the kingdom of God is here. When I have my moments of doubt, help me overcome my unbelief!

Father, Son and Spirit, even with my limited faculties, I grasp who you are. I lift my hands up to you in praise and apprehend that you are my God.

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Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash