And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
- 2 John 1:5-6
- “Retire from the world each day in some private spot, if it be only the bedroom (for a while I retreated to the furnace room for want of a better place).
- Stay in the secret place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart and a sense of God’s presence envelops you.
- Deliberately tune out the unpleasant sounds and come out of your closet determined not to hear them.
- Listen for the inward Voice till you learn to recognize it.
- Stop trying to compete with others.
- Give yourself to God, and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think.
- Reduce your interests to a few.
- Don’t try to know what will be of no service to you.
- Avoid the digest type of mind – short bits of unrelated facts, cute stories and bright sayings.
- Learn to pray inwardly every moment. After a while you can do this even while you work.
- Practice candor, childlike honesty, humility.
- Pray for a single eye.
- Read less, but read more of what is important to inner life.
- Call home your roving thoughts.
- Gaze on Christ with the eyes of your soul.
- Practice spiritual concentration.”
- A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men (This was originally a single paragraph, but I changed it to a list of bullet points. No wording was changed at all.)
Rev. A. W. Tozer published the book containing this quote in 1960, shortly before his death. There are a few modifications to Tozer’s excellent list that may be needed for the modern audience:
- In the third bullet, he mentions ‘coming out of the closet.’ He means coming out of the private spot, that he mentioned in the first bullet, into the harsh reality of a fallen world, not what people mean today when that phrase is mentioned.
- In the ninth bullet, he speaks of a ‘digest-type of mind.’ Reader’s Digest magazine is still published. The stories are condensed, shortened from the original author’s work. The ‘bright sayings’ are sprinkled throughout. A modern equivalent to someone who has that type of mind might be most forms of social media today, some are more tuned to the instant sound bite than others. A modern replacement might be to have a full-length novel type of mind as compared to Twitter, for an example.
- In the thirteenth bullet, he suggests reading less. It seems that the world of the television and computer and smart phone has accomplished that half of the bullet without including the other half, to read what is important to the inner life. I would simply change this one by deleting the first three words. In Tozer’s day, entertainment was often done by reading.
All these bullets have one goal, as in the Scripture, we should learn to love one another, and a good prayer and devotional life does that.
The first four bullets are a goal of mine at the beginning of the day and the end of the day. I have sprinkled Bible reading and other devotions throughout the day, but I have not established a clear schedule, and thus there is an ebb and flow to those.
That is my goal, but then that harsh reality of a fallen world slaps me in the face. I often do not heed the Voice that I have grown accustomed to, and I get angry. I recently saw a C. S. Lewis quote from Mere Christianity.
“One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that however angry he gets he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both.”
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Growing up with a powder keg for a father taught me to react angrily. I could also mention his father, Granddaddy, but he was continually reading his Bible, quoting from it, but angry at the same time. He was continually angry, not a powder keg that explodes. Your fire and brimstone type or your street corner “End is near” type. He was like a saying from Spike Jones, “He had an even temper… always mad.” In looking at the Lewis quote, I think I am the one that people laugh at, but I was a commissioned Army officer, trained and highly skilled with most weapons of war, nicknamed ‘Davy Crockett’ on the ranges. Maybe they shouldn’t laugh. No, the anger defuses as quickly as it erupts (sadly overt enough for people to notice at times), and I am trying to pray instead of counting to ten. If I can hear the Voice in my private spot of personal worship, I should recognize the Voice and hear it when the world attacks.
By the way, my private spot of worship, prayer, and Bible study is where I have my computer set up, immediately next to the furnace in the basement. I wonder if Tozer and I are related somehow?
Of all these bullet points, the first four set up the others. If we can be tranquil all the time, listening to the Voice, then we need to learn how to grow. Thus, the rest of the bullets are mentioned.
I have written about not competing in the past, and I feel like revisiting that subject. For now, I might expound too much, so I will leave it for another post in the future. The next bullet regarding giving yourself to God could have been part of the non-competing bullet. Tozer is telling us to focus on God and to not judge ourselves based on how others see us, whether in competition or any other endeavor.
The next two bullets could also be combined. We are far too scattered in everything that we do. If we could focus our attention spans better on one thing, we could master it. Our problem is that our energy is spent doing everything else. That’s how the next bullet of eliminating what is not of service to us comes in. I have known people to learn dead languages, just so that they can say that they know Sanskrit, for example.
Actually, the person who learned Sanskrit went on to learn Hindi, but living with so few who speak Hindi, what’s the point? Who knows, God may use that skill someday. Back twenty years ago, I could count to ten in Hindi, knowledge that has been purged years ago. Late one summer, I returned from a trip to Thailand (five plus weeks of business – no sight-seeing at all, after the first weekend). In the O’Hare airport, in the tunnel between concourses B and C, where the neon lights constantly flash, I became stuck behind an old Indian couple on the people conveyor. They should have stepped to the right and let others pass, me included. They were talking to each other in Hindi and crying. The uniformed person pointed into this tunnel without explanation. They were scared out of their wits. They thought they were given incorrect information. It was obvious to them that this was not the proper direction. Who knows what netherworld they thought they were going to. I leaned over the woman’s shoulder and said the Hindi word for the gate number, luckily less than ten and they were holding the boarding passes in a vice-like grip of their hand in a way that I could see. They looked at me as their savior. (Note: lower case “s”, I don’t even have an “S” on my undershirt.) They jabbered away in Hindi. I smiled and nodded, even though I had no clue what they were saying. I stayed with them until they were at the front of the check-in point for their return flight home. Since the flight was to India, there were people at the counter who could help them. I could have passed them by and enjoyed a nap in the first-class lounge after not sleeping for the past two days – the return trip was at the spur of the moment. I did not know that was my last time of flying first class overseas due to company cost-cutting measures. But luxury aside, my time was better spent, and it had been better spent a year or two earlier learning how to count in Hindi.
With that story in mind, it is hard for us to know what “No service to US” is. We cannot even imagine what is no service to God, for God can use us in ways that we could never imagine today.
I think that the ‘single eye’ could be combined with the ‘roving thoughts.’ We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and our conscious thought on listening for the Voice. And then heeding what the Voice is saying.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.