More Stuff I Learned From My Mentors

“I have literally felt Satan attempting to thwart the purpose of God.  I have felt I was in raw contact with hell.” A. W. Tozer

Pastor Tozer said this to his congregation in Chicago during the 1940’s before he began a series of 12 sermons which he felt to be the most important ones he delivered in his entire ministry.  As I introduce you to my mentors (in no particular order) and some of their wisdom this summer, Tozer is one of my oldest and dearest.  I’ve been reading and pondering the spiritual depths of this brother for thirty years and he remains significant to me to this day.  If you’ve never read any books by this prophet pastor, now’s the time to start.

Of his thirty-four publications, “I Talk Back to the Devil,” is my favorite.  Comprised of the 12 above mentioned sermons, it’s loaded with confrontive statements and prophetic warnings concerning the state of the church.  Their timelessness and pertinence for us today are astounding with an overall theme of revival and renewal.  With titles like, “You Can’t Be a Baby All Your Life,” and “Don’t Throw Your Head Away – You’ll Need It,” Tozer’s fearlessness and plain talk in addressing areas where he observed ungodly behavior in the church, is astonishing.   I wonder if he received some snarky letters?

Do you want to be challenged to come up higher in your Christian walk?  This book pokes at fleshy, religious behavior repeatedly.  I’ve been to the woodshed with Pastor Tozer many times and come out contrite, humbled and eager to obey God at any cost.  Here’s a quote from one of the chapters that I found so especially convicting.

“I believe we cannot experience that which we have not believed.  This is the reason why many Christians remain about where they are, day after day, year after year.  Time moves along, and special revival speakers come and go.  As a result, we have little spells in which we hope to do better. But if we are honest, we must admit that most Christians stay mired down right where they are. “

I encourage you to buy this book (available el cheapo, used, on Amazon) and find a quiet place every couple day, to read a chapter.  Let it marinate in your soul and pass your life through it’s filters of correction and wisdom.

My second, featured book today is “Abiding in Christ” by Andrew Murray, published in 1895.

Abide in Christ! This is the Father’s object in sending the trial.  In a storm, the tree puts down deeper roots into the soil; in a hurricane, the inhabitants of the house stay inside and rejoice in its shelter.  Through suffering, the Father leads us to enter more deeply into the love of Christ.” A. Murray

The heart of this piece is teaching the fundamental truths of what God meant when He said He is the vine and we are the branches. Murray wrote it to be a thirty-day devotional.  The trick for our 21st century attention spans is to accept the fact that these are not two-minute readings.  Each day’s writing will require at least 20 minutes to half an hour as they are packed with profound truths, one simply cannot comprehend it in less time.  Think of it this way; sometimes life demands the convenience of fast food but even those living under rocks now know that a steady diet of McDonalds and Dairy Queen is not healthy, long term.  The same is true of devotional readings.

If your daily devotions remain consistently in the two-minute range, don’t expect to experience the deeper truths of the kingdom in real time, powerful ways.  Without the distractions of so many forms of media, reading and conversation used to be the cornerstones of down time for our spiritual ancestors. Half an hour didn’t seem like a huge time commitment to them, like it does to us. If you’re like me, there’s something about summer that makes me want to back down from so many commitments rather than adding more.  That’s fine for the outer spheres of your life but I urge you not to do that to your inner life, your private time with God.

Daily devotionals are not something on my to do list, they are my quality time with God.  He is intimately with us every moment, yet he desires time with us where he is not sharing our minds and energies with anything or anyone else.  Learning the secrets of abiding in Christ brings spiritual maturity.  We can navigate the storms, irritations and conflicts of life with peace, confidence and joy because we are receiving high quality nutrition from the main vine.  Give Brother Murray the opportunity to teach you how to live a more fruitful and fulfilling life.

More and more, Ken and I are discovering that reading quality books is more relaxing and soul refreshing than just vegging out on TV or other media.  Many books are also available in audio form including both mentioned here.  You can tote books to the beach, stick them in your backpack, tuck them in your boat or camper; just take them along and let the words of the wise challenge and change you.

 

 

 

Stuff I Learned From Mentors

My extended family shared a collective gasp as my son-in- law to be announced, “Nah, I don’t like reading. Don’t really like books.”  Gathered for vacation, my extended family of teachers (several English majors), pastors, and book lovers in general, simply stared at him. We set our books in our laps or peered over the top of them, to contemplate the odd duck in our midst. My darling sister-in-law, a high school English teacher, graciously waded in.

“You just don’t like the books you’ve read so far, that’s all.  Let me suggest a few for you.”  She loaned him an enormously fat book, one of her favorites, and suggested he give it a whirl. Once he started reading, he couldn’t put it down and sought out it’s chubbier sequel as soon as he finished part one.   His Christmas lists from that point forth, always include a list of books he’d like to receive each year.

How does that story connect with mentoring?  To help you understand that books open doors of worlds and treasures of knowledge and experiences otherwise unavailable to you. For a Christ-follower, you can be discipled and encouraged in your spiritual walk by outstanding Christian authors whose books you are willing to read.  Over the summer, I want to share some of my favorite author/mentors who God used to teach, correct, inspire, comfort and spur me on.  Without the godly, wise influence of these brothers and sisters, my ability to walk out my faith daily might look very different.  I suspect I’d be a far more spiritually anemic version of myself.

If you don’t prioritize reading, I ask you to reconsider.  God chose to reveal Himself to us several ways, one of them his written word.  Clearly, He places value on that form of passing information.  When giants of the faith take the time to write down their experiences with God and their understanding of His ways, it’s silly not to take advantage.  We are given the privilege of knowing the trials and joys of people we will never meet and in the process, learn more about God and ourselves.  I love podcasts, radio and tv shows featuring great teachers and speakers but there’s something unique about reading words, highlighting passages then keeping the book nearby for future reference.

Most of the books I will share I believe to be must reads for any believer because they are foundational and profound.  Some are simply special and meaningful to me.  All are available on Amazon or Christian Book Distributors websites.  So, here we go.

Experiencing God,” by Henry Blackaby

Oh, how I wish someone put this book in my hands during my early ministry days. If you want to get the most out of it, use the accompanying workbook. The book is based around what Blackaby defines as the “Seven Realities.” They are:

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to join Him in ­His work. (This is where many believers are missing the mark and instead expect God to join them in their work.)
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways.
  5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
  7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him, and He accomplishes His work through you.

So many believers, churches and Christian organizations, waste resources doing good, noble things, instead of the custom-made work God designed for them and is still calling them to do.  I count myself a former member of that group.  My approach to ministry used to be me expecting God to join me in my work, and of course, bless it.  Although my ministry ideas and methods originated in noble intentions, unfortunately they weren’t all God’s work, in His time and in His way.  Frankly, some of them he didn’t want me involved in at all.  I’ve wondered what opportunities I missed because I busied myself doing good works instead of God’s Work. His destiny for you is highly specific and unique.  This book will teach you how to discover what it is going forward.

“Heaven” by Randy Alcorn

If you’ve lost someone dear to you this book is a precious gem.  Pastor Alcorn’s premise is that the church is not receiving enough teaching about heaven, and that we also carry many misconceptions about its realities.  Every point he makes is firmly rooted in Scripture and I found myself saying over and over, “How did I not see this before?”  The book is chubby, filled with meat and lends itself very well to a group study or discussion. A children’s version is also available.

I read it in bits and pieces during the summer after my mother went to be with the Lord.  It comforts me continually to consider the life she is currently living in the present Heaven. Alcorn brings out a richness of detail about our future home which I missed before.  Additionally, he delves deeply into the Word concerning the new Heaven and Earth (different from the present heaven) where believers will rule and reign forever with Christ.

I find myself with a completely different mindset about my temporary, brief passage on the present Earth.  Whatever disappointments, sorrows and unfulfilled dreams may color this life, I am assured all will be sorted out perfectly in the life to come.  This part is only the beginning, and the challenge to live it well, continuously seeking to stay on God’s path for me, is my daily prayer.

 

If neither of these books appeal to you, stay tuned: there are lots more coming.  In the meantime, get on line or to a Christian bookstore and find something that speaks to where you are in this moment.  Let someone who’s been there ahead of you speak into your challenges and mentor you in your faith.