Discerning Opposition from Correction


Razor wireIf you’ve been a reader of this blog long enough, you’re familiar with one of the issues I believe we Christians today need to strengthen: discernment. As the world around us decays and the Western churches look increasingly like the world, never before has discernment been so needed—and yet so lacking.

Knowing how to pray is important. When people come to us for prayer, the Holy Spirit is there to pray for us, especially when we don’t know what to pray. However, the influence of the churches we grew up in and our lack of the scriptural knowledge may overpower our faith in praying. We may very well not be praying what we ought.

Discernment carries over into prayer when we discern how to pray correctly for people who are undergoing trials.

Everyone reading this, I’m sure, believes that God is sovereign. On that we rest assured. However, knowing whether the trials of someone’s life are due to opposition from Satan or the loving correction of God is difficult. For our purposes here, let’s understand that correction is the refining of a path that a believer is on, even if it means a 180 degree turn. Opposition is the figurative “hitting the wall,” when nothing at all can get through and everything appears fruitless. At issue is that, from our limited perspective, the two might seem interchangeable.

I think most people believe one of the following ideas about correction in a person’s life:

    1. God corrects by utilizing His own direct agency.
    2. God uses his ultimate sovereignty over Satan to permit the Enemy to serve as a tool of correction.
    3. Time and chance happen to all; this includes “correction.”
    4. We are not being corrected by anything or anyone outside of ourselves.

Most people would also tend to believe that opposition occurs in one of these ways:

    A. God opposes those who are out of His will by utilizing His own direct agency.
    B. God uses His sovereignty over Satan to permit the Enemy to oppose the wayward.
    C. The thief comes to steal and destroy; Satan is the opposer, not God.
    D. Because of the Fall, everything is tainted. What some view as “opposition” is only the practical result of a fallen world.
    E. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Nothing outside of ourselves is opposing us.

Some will argue that people may operate out of more than one of those concepts listed, but should they happen to have multiple views operating, one will usually be primary.

Let’s see how this applies in reality…

A godly man named George, who ran a grocery store for years, believes that God is guiding Him to sell his very profitable grocery in order to start a ministry. Having seen the difficulty that some ministries endure in getting emergency food, water, and medical supplies to stricken areas, he starts a logistics company to streamline this process. George sells off the grocery and puts his life’s savings into his new company, the ministry he feels called to serve through.

At first the new company does very well, but a large secular multinational notes the success of George’s smaller company and moves into its marketspace. George’s company immediately begins to suffer. He prays every day that his ministry will stay afloat. However, his ministry/company is losing money rapidly, only being kept afloat by George’s dwindling personal savings.

One Sunday, George winds up in your church asking you for prayer about his problem. Which of the principles of correction or opposition listed above guides the way that you pray for George? Is he being corrected or opposed? And in what way?

Or consider your next-door neighbor Nancy, whose nineteen-year-old stepdaughter Meredith has been mistreating her own child. Nancy, a strong Christian, has been attempting to intercede on behalf of her grandchild, knowing that the state is close to removing custody of the child from Meredith. Ultimately, the state places the child in a foster home and Nancy is still locked in an increasingly futile fight for custody.

When Nancy is sharing her story with you and asks for prayer, along what lines of reasoning above does your prayer follow?

So how do you view and pray for George’s and Nancy’s situations? Did George hear God’s guidance, or is God correcting George’s waywardness. Or is this simply a case of Satan’s opposition to godly initiatives? And what about Nancy’s fight? How do you see her battle? How would you pray?

Your answers and comments are very much appreciated!

Everyone Wants a Piece of Tozer


A.W. TozerAiden Wilson Tozer is perhaps my favorite Christian author. Every book of his that I have read has stunned me, driven me to tears, left me broken, raised me up again, and filled me with joy. I believe he was a prophet, too; you read his books written in the 1950s and they are still speaking directly to the state of the American Church today.

But one thing I’ve never understood is how so many Christians who would profoundly disagree with Tozer in many regards still hold him up as the gold standard of 20th and 21st century Evangelicalism.

Tozer was a proponent of Christian mysticism. It’s baffling that so many Christian leaders who will pummel anyone who espouses Christian mysticism today give Tozer a complete pass as if he never once quoted Meister Eckhart, St. John of the Cross, or The Cloud of Unknowing.

Tozer was completely anticessationist; just this last week I included a Tozer quote saying as much. Tozer saw that the Church of AD 70 and the church of AD 2005 are to be the same Church in power, giftings, and so on. Yet cessationists quote Tozer as if there were no issue with his opposition to their position.

Tozer was not a proponent of Calvinism; I can’t remember him even mentioning that word in anything he’s written, yet Calvinists seem to love him, nonetheless. Just in the last few days both Steve Camp and Al Mohler held Tozer up as the example of doctrinally righteous Christianity. Curious.

Tozer damned “easy believism” and Christianity as “entertainment”—yet the bookstores of seeker-sensitive megachurches stock his books and their pastors even quote him.

Frankly, it startles me that Tozer is almost universally acclaimed by Evangelicals, yet most of them reject the foundational ideas he espoused in his preaching and teaching. Given that so many other preachers and teachers are routinely castigated in the blogosphere for even straying slightly from what is approved, why does Tozer, a man who preached a Christianity so unlike what so many others approve of today, get let off the heretic hook?

If you’ve never read Tozer, I say, Stock up! Start with The Knowledge of the Holy. There’s more truth in one of his books than any hundred teachings out there on the Web. Having said that, you can find Tozer’s teachings and sayings all over the Web—just Google “AW Tozer”. I would encourage you to do so.

31 Days of Prayer for One Thing


Back on the first of this month, I said I’d be praying for the Body of Christ in one area: unity. Today ends my last day of praying for this daily. I’m sure it will continue to be a concern I raise periodically, but I’m moving on and letting this lie fallow for a bit.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve written numerous times on the issue of disunity within the Body of Christ. Sadly, I think we are becoming more disconnected rather than less. TeamworkAnd before anyone claims that I’m just another of those mamby-pamby ecumenists, I just want to say that I’m a firm believer in solid doctrine and disciplining those who pursue “another gospel.”

That said, much of the Christian discourse I’ve seen lately on the Web isn’t Christian and it isn’t discourse. It’s more of an attempt by some of us to be right all the time, even if we have to savage others to do it. What I don’t see much of is an attempt to restore the wayward. Branding someone with a noxious tag is easy; restoring them to a place of wholeness and firmness in Christ is vastly harder.

It’s the nature of the Internet to be impersonal. I can think of no better place for someone to be an anonymous voice crying in the wilderness. But faceless prophesying isn’t the model that the Bible upholds for us; people faced their accusers and were restored to them in person. That’s a gutsier model than the one we uphold out in the frigid fringes of the Internet, a place where—as the old New Yorker cartoon goes—no one knows you’re a dog.

I started this month with a thirty-year old song (based on Psalm 133) by Rick Ridings that I used to sing as a much younger man. Here are the words again:

Father, make us one,
Father, make us one,
That the world may know
Thou hast sent the Son,
Father, make us one.

Behold how pleasant and how good it is
For brethren to dwell in unity,
For there the Lord commands the blessing,
Life forevermore.

Life forevermore. The world is dying to have what we Christians so easily take for granted, yet how poorly we model the unity that makes it possible for the world to believe. Instead of the open hand of God, we’ve become hidden snipers. I’m not saying we should abandon good doctrine, but neither should we so patently ignore the log in our own eye. All too often, the speck in our brother’s eye is made out to be an oak, while our own sequoia goes left unattended.

I think we can still point out error and retain unity. But the condition for this is to correct with a greater acknowledgment of our own failings and with a greater heart toward restoring the wayward. If we bludgeon them to death first, our path to restoring them is made that much more difficult.

Father, make us one.