Morning Prayer for November 09, 2023

Pastor Heather…

Good morning, everyone!

An oldie but a goodie…

As I was praying about what to speak about, the Lord brought an “oldie but a goodie” to mind. I want to share an excerpt from “The Pursuit of God” by A. W. Tozer. It really ministered to me this morning.

I wanted to start with the opening because it encouraged me. Pastor Lynne calls them the “old timers.” I feel like with the old timers, there was a different hunger that’s hard to come by in these days. Not that we don’t have it. I do believe people do, but I think because maybe life was simpler then, less distracting, there was a hunger that they had to really dive into the things of God.

I’m going to read the preface and then I’m going to read part of the first chapter. So hang in there. It’s a little lengthy but I do think it’s good and it’s going to encourage us and kind of set our sails for where I want to go today in prayer. But in the preface… This is A. W. Tozer speaking. He said this in 1948, but even as I was reading it, I was like, this is so relevant even for today. So he says…

Quote from “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer…

“In this hour of all but universal darkness, one cheering gleam appears within the fold of conservative Christianity. There are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct interpretations of truth. They are athirst for God. And they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep of the fountain of living water.

This is the only real harbinger of revival I’ve been able to detect anywhere on the religious horizon. It may be a cloud the size of a man’s hand for which a few saints here and there have been looking. It can result in a resurrection of life for many souls and a recapture of that radiant wonder which should accompany the faith in Christ. That wonder which has all but fled the church of God in our day.

But this hunger must be recognized by our religious leaders. Current evangelicalism has to lay the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seem satisfied to count the stones and to rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of the lofty Carmel. But God bethink that there are a few who care. There are those who while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the piercing sweetness of the love of Christ, about whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of doctrines of Christ. But too many of them seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy. I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton’s terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his. The hungry sheep look up and are not fed. It is a solemn thing that no small scandal in the kingdom to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table.

The truth of Wesley’s words is established before our eyes. Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is at best a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, the right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this. Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold right opinions, probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church, the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange foreign thing called the program. This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it, no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatsoever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself. And unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth.

The Bible is not an end in itself but a means to bring men to the intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. This book is a modest attempt to aid God’s hungry children so to find Him. Nothing here is new except in the sense that it is discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me.

Others before me have gone much farther in these holy mysteries than I have done. But if my fire is not large, it is yet real. And there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.”

And that was A. W. Tozer, and he said that June 16, 1948.

And I just want to go on. I’m going to read a little piece of the first chapter. And again, I’m reading out of A. W. Tozer, “The Pursuit of God.” And it just ignited me this morning. I just think we are in a day and age where we have to continue to whet our appetite for the things of God. We have to continue to hunger for Him and to thirst for Him. And it’s something that is in us, but it doesn’t come naturally. It’s something that we have to spark. We have to prod it. We have to stir it up. We have to wake it up. Cause in our natural being, we like to do what our flesh likes to do. And you even think of like, um… you know, Paul, when he said, the very thing I want to do is not the thing I do. That’s all the so much more today when we have all these distractions and though I may want to go home and be like, “I’m going to get into a good book tonight. I’m going to really hear what the Lord has to say to my heart.” And then I get home, I eat dinner and I turn on Netflix… I guess I’m the only one.

But what I want to do is turn off the TV, get into a book. And sometimes I do. And sometimes my flesh wins and it’s like, “Oh, it’s just been a long day.” And it’s just so much easier to turn on the TV or go on social media or check out, or even just numb ourselves with pouring information and things into us that might not be bad, but aren’t helpful. They aren’t fruitful. They don’t help us in our walk with the Lord and the purpose that He put us here for.

So again, I’m going to go into the first chapter here. We’re going to read a little bit and then my prayer is as I read this, just let the words wash over your heart. Really hear what he’s saying in these words and then let it prick your heart a little bit. Let it create some hunger in there that when I’m done reading, then I do want to pray just over the hunger, just in our own hearts and in the body of Christ at large. All right?

Chapter one, “Following Hard After God…”

“My soul follows hard after thee, and thy right hand upholdeth me,” Psalm 63:8. We pursue God because and only because He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to this pursuit. “No man can come to Me,” said our Lord, except the Father which hath sent and drawn him.” And it is by this prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming.

The impulse to pursue God originates with God. But the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him. All the time we are pursuing Him, we are already in His hand. “Thy hand upholdeth me.” That’s a beautiful picture. All the time we are pursuing Him, we’re already in His hand. So there is a place of pursuing in our heart, but we’re already in His hand. We’re already there in His presence.

“In this divine upholding and human following, there is no contradiction. All is of God, for as Von Heugel teaches, God is always previous. In practice, however, that is where God’s previous working meets man’s present response. Man must pursue God. On our part, there must be positive reciprocation of this secret drawing of God is to eventuate an identifiable experience of the divine. In the warm language of the personal feeling, this is stated in Psalm 42:1–2.

“As the heart panteth after the water, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” This is a deep calling unto deep, and the longing heart will understand it. The doctrine of justification by faith, a biblical truth, and a blessed relief from the sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such a manner as to actually bar men from the knowledge of God.

The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to endemic ego. Christ may be received without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is saved, but he’s not hungry or thirsty after God. In fact, He is specifically taught to be satisfied and is encouraged to be content with little. The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of his world. We Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word. We have almost forgotten that God is a person, and as such, can be cultivated as any person can. It is inherent in His personality to be able to know other personalities. But full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter. It is only after long and loving mental intercourse that the full possibilities of both can be explored.

All social intercourse between human beings is a response of personality to personality, grading upward from the most casual brush between man and man to the fullest, most intimate communion of which the human soul is capable. Religion, so far, as it is genuine, is in essence the response of created personalities by creating personality. God. The creating personality. God.

This is life eternal. That they may know these that the only true God in Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. God is a person and in the deep of His mighty nature, He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires as any other person may. In making Himself known to us, He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills, and our emotions. The continuous unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.

The intercourse between God and the soul is known to us as a conscious, personal awareness. It is personal. It does not come through the body of believers as such, but it is known to the individual. And to the body through the individuals which compose it, it is conscious. It does not stay below the threshold of consciousness and work there unknown to the soul. But it comes within the field of awareness where the man can know it as he knows any other fact of experience.

You and I are in little, our sins accepted what God is in large. Being made in His image, we have within us the capacity to know Him. In our sins, we lack only the power. The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life and regeneration, our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition. That is the heavenly birth, without which we cannot see the kingdom of God.

It is, however, not an end, but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead. That is where we begin, I say. But where we stop, no man has yet discovered. For there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the triune God neither limit nor end.

Shoreless ocean, who can sound thee? Thine own eternity is round thee, majesty divine. To have found God and still pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love. Scorned indeed by the too easily satisfied religionist but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. St. Bernard stated this holy paradox in a musical quatrain that is instantly understood by every worshiping soul.

We taste thee, O living bread, and long to feast upon thee still. We drink of thee, the fountainhead, and thirst our souls from thee to fill. Come near to the holy men and women of the past, and you will soon feel the heart of their desire after God. They mourned for Him. They prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, season in and out. And when they had found Him in the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking. Moses used the fact that he knew God as an argument for knowing Him better.

Now, therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now the way that I may know thee, that I might find grace in thy sight. And from there he rose to make the daring request, I beseech thee, show me thy glory. God was frankly pleased by this display of ardor, and the next day called Moses into the mount, and there, in solemn procession, made all of His glory pass before him.

David’s life was a torrent of spiritual desire and his psalms ring with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout of the finder. Paul confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after Christ, “that I might know him” was the goal of his heart, and to this he sacrificed everything.

Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the exceedingly knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse that I may win Christ. Hymnody is the sweet with the longing after God, whom while the singer seeks, he knows he has already found. His track I see and I’ll pursue, saying our Father is only a short generation ago. But that song is heard no more in the great congregation. How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to be centered upon the initial act of accepting Christ. And we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God for our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found him, we need no more to seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy and is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus, the whole testimony of worshiping, seeking, singing church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiment heart theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture, which would certainly have sounded strange to an Augustine, a Rutherford, or a Brainerd. In midst of the great chill, there are some, I rejoice to acknowledge, who will not be content with shallow logic. They will admit the force of the argument and then turn away with tears to hunt some lonely place to pray.

O God, show me thy glory. They want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God. I want to deliberately encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to this present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that many of us, He waits so long, so very long in vain.

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in the age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations, and a world of nervous activities which occupy our time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of our hearts.

The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship and that servile imitation of the world, which marks our promotional methods, all testify that we in this day know God only imperfectly. And the peace of God’s scarcely at all.

If we could find God amid all the religious externals, we must first determine to find Him and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now, as always, God discovers Himself to babes and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to the essentials, and they will be found to the blessedly few. We must put away all effort to impress and to come with a guiltless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt, God will quickly respond. When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God and, God / and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. And the “and” lies our great woe. If we omit the “and,” we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which all of our lives have been secretly longing.

We need not fear that in seeking God only we may narrow our lives or restrict the motions of our expanding hearts. The opposite is true. We can well afford to make God our all, to concentrate, to sacrifice the many for the one. The author of the quaint old English classic, “The Cloud of Unknowing,” teaches us to do this. Lift up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love, and mean himself, and none of his goods, and thereto thee loath to think on aught but God Himself, so that not in work thy wit, nor in thy will, but only God Himself. This is the work of the soul, and most pleaseth God.

Again, he recommends that in prayer we practice a further stripping down of everything, even our theology. For it sufficeth enough a naked intent direct unto God without any other cause than Himself. Yet underneath all his thinking lay the broad foundation of the New Testament truth for he explains that by himself he means God that made thee and bought thee and that graciously called thee to thy degree. And he is all for simplicity. If we would have religion, lapped and folded in one word, for that thou shouldest have better hold thereupon, take thee but a little word of one syllable, for it is better than of two, for even the shorter is better, and accordeth with the work of the spirit, and such a word is this word, God, or this word, love.

When the Lord divided Canaan among the tribes of Israel, Levi received no share of land. God said to him simply, I am thy part and thine inheritance. And by those words made him richer than all of his brethren, richer than all of the kings who have ever lived in the world.

And there is a spiritual principle here, a principle still valid for every priest of the Most High God. 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 this happiness. Or must see them go, one after one. He will scarcely feel a sense of loss. For having the source of all things, he has one in capital O God, all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose, he actually has lost nothing. For he now has it all in one and he has it purely legitimately and forever.

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