Monday, July 21, 2014

The Friend of Those Who Seek Him

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.”
-A.W. Tozer

"I have heard people say that 'only doctrine is important.' Would they leave no room for Christian experience? Consider the preaching and the example of the famed Jonathan Edwards, used so mightily by God in the Great Awakening throughout New England in the 18th century. But you say, 'Jonathan Edwards was a Calvinist!' I know--and that is my point. Edwards was acknowledged by society to have been one of the greatest intellects of his time. Yet he believed in genuine Christian experience so positively that he wrote a well-accepted book, Religious Affections, in defense of Christian emotion. Charged by some that his revivals had too much emotion, Edwards stood forth and proclaimed that when men and women meet God, accepting His terms, they experience an awareness that lifts their hearts to rapture. What higher privilege is granted to mankind on earth than to be admitted into the circle of the friends of God!"
  -A.W. Tozer

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”And he was called the friend of God.
James 2:23

"It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend."
-A.W. Tozer

It was a sunny day. An hour before supper and my husband was home, so I tucked Elisha into my sling and we all four traipsed down our dead end street and into the woods.

A hot and sticky summer day, but the evening-coming brought a bit of coolness into the air and the deeper we went into the lovely, hushing trees, the more bearable the heat became, even with a warm baby pressed to my body.

All my life, our dead-end street has led into these woods, and so I knew that sometimes dead-ends aren't that at all, but may lead into something delightful and deeper--

So Debbie's little feet scurried down the paths and we all hurried to keep up with her and the dust stuck to our sneakers and the prickly branches to our clothes--

And we stopped along the way and watched the ducks swimming at a safe distance in the pond nestled in the trees and we heard the beautiful, unhurried voices of songbirds and saw an adolescent cottontail frisk across the path and looked up into the great expanse of the trees and saw the touch of the Creator over every bit and we took pleasure in His handiwork.

It was a beautiful day.

And as we walked home and Debbie skipped a bit ahead, I knew a freedom in my soul that could only be the Great Father drawing my heart.

So many, many times I have walked through these woods and known doctrinally that the Lord is with me always, but this time, as at other times in the past, I knew a special sense of His presence with me -- the Holy Spirit speaking to me, drawing me near, touching my mind as I enjoyed His creation and yes, whispering His love to me.

Because He is a Person. And sometimes I can become so caught up in "doctrine" that I forget that He is a Person-

Doctrine is important. Because without it, the Person of God only becomes Who or what we imagine or want Him to be.

Doctrine puts flesh on experience and experience puts life and blood into doctrine and the two mesh and meet and become one and we are made alive in Him, in the living, breathing marriage of our faith.

Pure doctrine takes flight in the experience of divine Love.

And many times, especially in the more Reformed "camps" of thinking, we become afraid of "experience."

We shy away from the mystic writers and pride ourselves in "common-sense" Christian living, based upon the practical principles of the Word.

We are so carefully cautious that we become mummified and half-frightened specters of orthodoxy.

Vance Havner said, "Christianity is neither a corpse nor a ghost."

And it is a beautiful paradox that our minds and hearts can be engaged without being mutually exclusive of the other in our relationship with Jesus.

The more we love Him, the more He will reveal His Word to us. The more He reveals His Word to us, the more we love Him.

Christian "experience" when grounded in the Word of God is not something to be afraid of, but rather embraced.

Because doctrine without experience makes us into bloodless, lifeless corpses, and experience without doctrine makes us into unstable, flighty mountain-top-moment seekers.

We are driven by doctrine and softened by the experience of that doctrine being practically worked out.

One doesn't cancel out the other.

For a long time, I have enjoyed reading more supposedly "mystical" Christian writers--Andrew Murray, Oswald Chambers, Lillias Trotter, Thomas A'Kempis, and Ann Voskamp, among others.

Sometimes, these writers are "discouraged" within Reformed or more Conservative circles of Christianity, and though I believe that we need to use prayerful discernment as Christians (and feel hesitant when more emphasis is placed upon experience itself and not girded by sound doctrine), I also believe that it is an equal danger to become so "wary" of any Christian experience that we become spiritual stones -- all lovely and polished but dead on the inside.

I was encouraged when I discovered that A.W. Tozer (known for his incredibly solid doctrinal foundation) was a lover of the mystic writers.

I was delighted to discover this quote in his biography.

"Martyn Lloyd-Jones recalled, 'Dr. Tozer and I shared a conference years ago, and I appreciated his ministry and his fellowship very much. One day he said to me: 'Lloyd-Jones, you and I hold just about the same position on spiritual matters, but we have come to this position by different routes.' 'How do you mean?' I asked. 'Well,' Tozer replied, 'you came by way of the Puritans and I came by way of the mystics.'"

That I can be unshackled to experience God without fear is freeing to me.

Because our beings, our souls were created for a relationship, not a religion -- for a warm, intimate connection with a Heavenly Abba Father and with the Son who bore our sins in love and with the Spirit who enlightens and instructs and teaches us.

They are One -- and one with us -- through the believing, trusting orthodoxy of experiencing God -- deeper and deeper into the vast "forest" of the wonder of Who He is -- a realm of trees and streams and birdsong and loveliness that cannot be fully explored or explained in this life.

Because our relationship with Jesus is not a "dead-end street," but an experience of entering in -- into the great realm of all that He is, all that His precious Word communicates that He is.

And He is precious, a friend of those who seek Him.

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