Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tozer's descriptions of the Attributes of God

As I blogged a bit ago about what I was reading, in our church we have been covering The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life, by A.W. Tozer. He's an author that until recently I didn't personally ever read. I thought I might have a copy of his book on one of my bookshelves, but I didn't. I did have J.I. Packer's Knowing God, but I hadn't read that either. I was thinking when I couldn't find Tozer's book that since I don't know the difference I could have just read that and I might have been just as happy. I want to read it yet, but I'm happy for now with the one we're on. Perhaps they're similar. I was sitting and reading Tozer's book last night, and I was thinking, "I bet my pulse is lower, I bet my blood pressure is's almost like lying in a hammock, the comfort that comes from this book." The verse that came to mind was, "Be still and know that I am God." (Ps. 46:10) I haven't read it through, or read the names of the remaining chapters. Maybe it gets less comfortable as it goes along...
The chapters, now that I look at the Table of Contents, are first, "Why We Must Think Rightly About God," "God Incomprehensible," "A Divine Attribute: Something True About God," "The Holy Trinity," "The Self-Existence of God"...the list goes on. Perhaps my blood pressure will rise again while reading "The Justice of God," or "The Sovereignty of God." All the rest would seem so far to be all the more (do I dare say this of God Himself?) endearing, comforting traits. How incredible it is, that we, having had no say in who should be the great God in charge of the universe, the Creator of everything and the Sustainer of our souls, should, just by the way things are, be given such a perfect, holy, gracious, merciful, wise, infinite God.
Why is it that God is the superlative of all that is good? Why did we not end up with the opposite? I suppose if God had been the opposite, we never would have existed in the first place--or if we had, we would have been destroyed. I can't really even begin to fathom it, and I hope it is because God's goodness has so been ingrained into my thinking about Him that it's hard to imagine Him without it. It should have been! It is hard to imagine any being in charge of the universe that would have designed us without love, without kindness and grace. We couldn't have lived. Life if it could exist would have been too overwhelming, too filled with intense suffering and pain to continue for long. Even for those who in this life do deal with suffering and pain, it isn't meted out by God, but by humanity, by Satan, by the sin of this world. We have a God of the universe to whom we can give all those things, who can redeem us out of them, who will make sure justice is served. All we need to do is turn to Him through His Son in faith. He is our Fortress, our Shield, our Defender, our Provider, our Savior. Therefore the calming influence of Tozer's book; I guess it illustrates that if you want peace, ponder the Prince of Peace. You could pretty much rephrase the verse, "Know I am God, and be still." Hallelujah!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

On the Edge of the Fires in California

A week ago I wouldn't have imagined what topics would be coming to mind today. One of the foremost things on my mind in recent days has been the matter of the huge fires in southern California. It's on my mind in large part because Katie is going to school close enough to them that she has gone inside to find ash in her hair; her dorm is permeated with the smell of smoke; and she can see the glow of the fires on the horizon. Whenever I've talked with her she has sounded calm though very aware of the effect it has on hundreds of thousands not very far away. At one point on the phone she was at some viewpoint where she could see the areas that had been burned, and some huge explosion on the horizon that she said must have been an oil refinery. One of her professors and at least six families in the church she's been attending have been evacuated from their homes. That's something that I'd have to experience to fully relate to it. Katie's RA, Jenn, has lost a home to the California fires four years ago exactly, and so this repeat is particularly painful for her.
It's a surreal existence for Katie, living on the edge of lives that have been so marked by it while hers remains somewhat unaffected, still carrying responsibility for classes, homework and all. Her bags are packed in case she needs to leave; she says it would almost be a relief to have to take action one way or another rather than live on the edge of it, going on as before but having the awful reminders of smoke and ash always swirling through her life.
God has provided peace for her, a calm knowledge of His provision. Her sweet friend Haley and she would drive to Haley's grandmother's house an hour away if they had to leave. How great is that, that she already has a backup plan that would be hospitable and even enjoyable--what an incredible luxury of peace and provision!
I talked with my mother yesterday, who doesn't view God in the same way as I do. She called to ask whether Katie was safe at school. After reassuring her that it seemed she was safe, I said at one point that God is good...and she replied, "Yes, but He isn't so good if you're in the middle of a fire." At which point I was able to say that indeed He is. He is! Even in the middle of a searing fire, God is good. I know that if she read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, she just wouldn't believe it. But it comforts me, sort of like Haley's grandmother's presence, but so much better; in spite of it being so much worse from our end, God's hope is in reality a surer and more lasting provision than Grandma's house. Even if the worst from our perspective were to happen (and of course I pray that it doesn't), our loving God would be right there with Katie and Haley in the midst of it--and He would even then, or especially then, be good, and holy, and loving--and even now they are assured, through faith in Christ, that they have the safest, most hospitable and enjoyable future with Him in the extreme, whether now or years away. That knowledge is peace that surpasses understanding.
Isaiah 43:1-3a.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Couple of Books and Learning Together

At present I am now reading AW Tozer's The Pursuit of God (online, since I haven't been able to find a used copy in print so far) and also reading a book that until recently I had never heard of, The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory. It turns out that these two books go hand in hand, each augmenting my appreciation of the other. The pastor is presenting Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy during second service, as well. (This is no coincidence; it was in searching for it online that I discovered The Pursuit of God available there.)
Even though The Seven Laws is written for teachers, whether secular or Christian and is also pertinent for homeschool parents' use, generally for application in teaching children, it illustrates in depth the orderliness required in the learning process at any age. A person can't make the leap in learning to a previously unexplored realm until a realm similar and adjacent has been met. On page 68 of The Seven Laws, Gregory points out that "New elements of knowledge must be brought into relation with other facts and truths already known before they themselves can be fully revealed and take their place in the widening circle of the experience of the learner. Thus the very nature of knowledge compels us to seek the new through the aid of the old." In fact, I understand the concepts that this book presents all the better because I have observed many of them firsthand in the process of homeschooling, and yet I wish I had read the book thirteen years ago, when we started; I think it would have improved my approach.
This need for what I might refer to as a progressive revelation is true enough of all realms of life, and for all ages, but of course can be applied to learning about and knowing God--we can't know Him well instantaneously; we can't immediately learn of Him a leap beyond our previous learning of Him; He is so infinite that our earthly understanding will never encompass even all of what He has revealed to mankind; and we can't of course make the leap to know of Him what He does not reveal anywhere on earth to man, so we can't yet fully know Him at all. Also, I believe there is no learning of Him that He does not initiate.
These books help me appreciate the way our church is promoting Ephesians beginning this fall: We don't have the church divided in learning about different books of the Bible or different aspects of faith all separately, further individualizing our walks. We learn them church-wide at the same time. For the coming season, our sermons will be on Ephesians. We will have Tuesday night Bible studies on Ephesians (which Tim and I work on together during the week as part of his homeschooling). Tim's Sunday School class will study Ephesians. The pastor said that the benefit of all this is that it increases and enables fellowship that actually focuses on God's word--and it is easy to imagine how this might help everyone in the church advance in their learning about God's Word, and therefore in our better knowledge of Him and ability to glorify Him. We can more readily speak to one another in something like "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" as His word describes.
I am struck by the fact that even Tim, age 9, sees the benefit in it. He already feels more closely intertwined with the adults in the church because of it. He repeatedly expresses how he loves this church, and while we were doing our study the other night he just sighed and said how great it is that we're all studying Ephesians together. I agree.