Two weeks ago, I wrote a Messenger article suggesting that we all think about the “New Normal” God has in store for us on the other side of this stay-at-home phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. I said that my plan was to take some practical steps forward in following the Two Great Commandments Jesus talked about: Love God with all of yourself, and Love Others as well as yourself. I then mentioned the actions that I felt the Lord was leading me to take in these two areas. Well, I’ve tried to follow through. I think I’ve had some success in the Love Others part. But today I’d like to tell you about my journey in the Love God part.

You remember that I challenged myself to spend five minutes thinking about nothing but God? Well, ironically, the Lord led me to a renewed encounter with a Christian leader who reportedly spent an average of five hours each day focusing on worshiping the God of the Bible.

I stumbled on the writings of A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) during my college days, when my own spirituality was taking shape.* At that time, Tozer was a well-known preacher and writer in the Evangelical circles that were influencing me. He wrote a monthly column in the Alliance Witness, the journal of the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination. I found them to be mind-expanding and faith-stretching. In time, these articles evolved into devotional books, all emphasizing the need for believers to become more serious about their individual “Pursuit of God” (the title of his best-known book).

Here are some Tozer quotes that show why his insights were so challenging to me:

The basic trouble with the church today is her unworthy concept of God… Our religion is weak because our God is weak… Christianity at any given time is strong or weak depending on her concept of God.

The God of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anybody. He manages to stay pretty much with the constitution. Never breaks our by-laws. He’s a very well-behaved God and very denominational and very much like one of us…we ask Him to help us when we’re in trouble and look to Him to watch over us when we’re asleep. The God of the modern evangelical isn’t a God I could have much respect for. 

An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.**

So, back to my New Normal resolution about spending five minutes a day thinking about God. The first day, I made it through about two minutes before my mind was wandering. I realized I needed some help. I looked around my office and found a Tozer book, The Knowledge of the Holy, that had been on my bookshelf for decades (unread!). The first chapter was just three pages — that ought to fill out my five minutes. At the chapter’s end, Tozer reflected on Paul’s words from the Book of Romans. They were familiar to me; in fact, I’ve taught and preached about them many times.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36)

As I read them through Tozer’s eyes, these words took on new meaning for me. How deep is God? Infinitely deep, in three dimensions: riches, wisdom, knowledge — all mysterious concepts. “Unsearchable,” “inscrutable” — Paul struggles to find words to describe how far beyond our understanding God is. No created mind can hope to match wits with the Creator Mind. Nor can any human, the greatest king or wisest philosopher, bargain with him: “You give me that, and I’ll give you this.” Finally, Paul gives the ultimate reason why we can’t fathom God:

For from him and through him and to him are all things.

He is the Source, he is the Means, he is the Goal.

I guess five hours works better than five minutes.

–Pastor George Van Alstine

* For lots more pithy Tozer quotes, see here.

** I’m not completely a Tozer fan. First, in spite of his edgy challenges to Evangelical churches for their hypocrisy in some areas, he still remained an old-school Fundamentalist in many matters of Christian behavior and interaction with the secular world. Secondly, his five-hours-a-day with God cost his wife and seven children, as he was unable to develop loving, intimate relationships with them. Interesting fact: Tozer dropped out of school after eighth grade; he was self-taught in literature and in theology.