Following hard after You

I’ve already gotten off to a wrong start. It feels like I’m treating the pursuit of God like just another academic exercise. But this isn’t about my head; it’s about my heart. This is between me and my God.

Dear God, I want to know you. I want to find you. In every season, in every moment, before I bring my need, I will bring my heart and seek you first.

Lord, thank you for seeking me before I sought you. You drew me to you when I was just a little girl learning about Jesus. You’ve been there for me in all the good times and in all my difficulties. You’ve never left me, even when I wandered away from you. You put the desire in me to follow you. I don’t know why you chose me but I am so grateful that you did. Even as I continue to seek you, I take comfort in knowing that I am already in your hands.

Yes, I continue to seek you even though I found you long ago. I know you but I want to know you more. I already have you but I want more of you. I feel your presence and yet I long to be even closer to you. To most of the world, my pursuit of you is a mystery. I can only say that I believe in you. I adore you. I need you. I belong to you. I am Yours and you are mine.

I want to follow hard after you, Lord but I confess that I am too easily distracted by less important things. I am spiritually lazy. I tell myself that if only I had a quiet, secluded place and more time, I would focus more on you. But that is just an excuse, Lord. You’re right here. In every moment, in every place, you are with me. Give me the discipline to make time for you.

Lord, you created my inmost being. You have searched me and you know me, inside and out. You perceive my every thought. Before a word leaves my lips, you know it. I cannot hide anything from you. All the days of my life were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God, you are everything I need all wrapped up in One. You are my reason for being. You give my life purpose. You guide me. You shelter me in the storms of life. You are my rock and my redeemer. There is no greater love than the love you have for me. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me.

Lord, I pray that your Spirit will guide me as I follow hard after you. Search me and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Show me my offensive ways and give me the courage to face the truths about myself that only you can reveal. Amen.

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In the first chapter of The Pursuit of God, “Following Hard after God,” A.W. Tozer wrote about prevenient grace. The grace of God precedes human action. As Tozer put it, “before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.” God must enlighten us and put the urge in us to purse him.

Tozer wrote that all human interactions are a response of personality to personality. God created us in his image so we have the capacity to know him. Some of our social encounters are casual and others are more full and intimate. Genuine religion “is in essence the response of created personalities to the creating personality, God.” Just as it takes more than one encounter to really know a person, it takes more than one encounter to know God. I love this image of God as a multi-faceted personality who knows my emotions and desires so well.

For those of us who wish that God would speak to us audibly, Tozer has encouraging words: “God communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills, and our emotions.” He goes on to say that the “continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the spirit of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.” This is a perfect description of prayer – spirit speaking to Spirit with the mind and the heart. It is raw, honest, and unembarrassed, just like Psalm 139.

Tozer wrote that complacency is the enemy of spiritual growth. Some people, once they have been “saved” or have “accepted Christ,” are not hungry or thirsty for God. They are self-satisfied. They practice religion with no “jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego.” This is a shame because God does not want us to be lukewarm. He is a jealous God.

Tozer wrote that to have found God and to still pursue him is a paradox of love. This pursuit is a desire scorned by the self-satisfied but it is the joy of those whose hearts burn for God. The Spirit gives birth to spirit and when we are reborn, we sense our kinship with God. Our spirit leaps in joyous recognition. I am a child of God!

To have found God and still to 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.

A.W. Tozer

Tozer’s advice for those of us who are determined to find God is to simplify our approach to Him. Strip down all the religious teaching to the essentials of our faith. Come to God as a child, without any pretenses.

Here I am God, your little girl. Fill my longing heart.

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Photo by Richard Dorran on Unsplash

Who do you say I am?

In The Truth Project’s lesson on theology, several “men on the street” were asked the question, who is God? When I heard one of the responses, I laughed because it sounded ridiculously conceited. What hubris! To paraphrase: Who’s God? I am. I am a tattoo artist. I create. I’ve done very well for myself. The tattoo artist is not alone in thinking he is a “little g” god. But who is God with a big G? And if you know the answer, what do you do with it?

Who is God?

Although we cannot fully know God, a long list of attributes have been used to describe his nature – holiness, graciousness, omnipotence, etc. The authors of The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) wrote a lengthy sentence about God’s nature with scriptural sources for each attribute.

There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter II, Of God and of the Holy Trinity

The words “without body, parts or passions” gave me pause. What did the writers of the confession mean when they said God is without passions? My mind interprets “without passions” as emotionless, which isn’t consistent with my view of God. The God I know loves deeply. According to William Tate, as published in Reformed Perspectives Magazine, to affirm that God is without passions means that God is not moved or controlled by something else in the way that humans are controlled by our emotions and passions.

The many names of God in the Bible – Abba, Father, El Shaddai, etc. – reveal a lot about his nature. Dr. Tackett spoke at length about the name El Qanna, Jealous God. Tackett struggled to understand how jealousy is consistent with a God who is without sin. But God is described as a jealous God because he wants to preserve the covenant relationship he has with his people.

God is my Father, Rock, Redeemer and Shepherd. He disciplines me like a father. He is strong and dependable, a firm foundation. He saves me and leads me. But one of my favorite names for God is I Am because it so simply affirms that he always was and always will be. He is immutable.

I AM: (Exodus 3:14) – This name for God, given by Him to Moses, is a form of the Hebrew “to be.” It expresses His self-existence and the unchangeableness of His nature. He is the “eternal present,” because He always was and always will be. Because He is outside time, He is always in the present. He does not change or change His mind. He is immutable.

From Compelling Truth: What are the names of God?

Knowing God

A central premise of The Truth Project’s lesson on Theology is that there is an important connection between knowing God and receiving eternal life. Eternal life is mentioned several times in the New Testament, including the familiar John 3:16, which says that whoever believes in the Son will have eternal life. Dr. Tackett pointed out the prayer in John 17:1-3, in which Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

The key to receiving eternal life is knowing the one true God. You can’t know God unless you have a personal, intimate relationship with him. As Dr. Tackett says, God revealed himself to us in his Word. The Bible is God’s Word but God’s will was made clear when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

Dr. Tackett warned about the people who have attacked God’s Word throughout history. I am not concerned about people who question the veracity of the scriptures. I do, however, feel compelled to repeat the warning that Jesus gave in Matthew 7. Not everyone who calls out to Jesus, Lord, Lord (as if they know him) will enter the kingdom of heaven, only those who show that they understand the Word of God by doing God’s will. Jesus will tell the false disciples, ‘Get away from me. I never knew you.’

Jesus often spoke in thought-provoking parables that were incomprehensible to those with hardened hearts. When asked why, he said:

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
   you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them

Matthew 13: 14-15

Through Jesus, I see the grace of God. I see how much God cares for the least among us. I understand with my heart.

Who do you say I am?

Focus on the Family posed the question, who is God? Jesus asked the question, who do you say I am? Do you see that God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to save us? Do you grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is? Do you see how much the rest of the world needs to know God too?

When asked the question, who is God, the tattoo artist in The Truth Project video facetiously responded that he is. I found a video about Flash on Focus on the Family’s website. As I listened to him talk, I saw the pain behind the conceit. Many people reject God because the world is dark and cruel and the “churchy” people they see are not genuine. One bright memory in Flash’s childhood was a woman from church named Millie. She was the real deal. She was a light in the darkness.

As I reflected on this lesson on Theology, I am convinced that knowing God is not merely an intellectual exercise. It is much more than knowing his many names. It is much more than being able to describe his mysterious attributes. It is about knowing and loving him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s understanding that people like Flash won’t know the love of God unless you show them who He is.