Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Taming the Tigers

“...but how can it be followed in this day of the newspaper, the telephone, the radio and the television? These modern playthings, like pet tiger cubs, have grown so large and dangerous that they threaten to devour us all.”

So wrote A.W. Tozer in the chapter titled “Let’s Cultivate Simplicity and Solitude” from his book Of God and Men. He bemoans the negative effects of these modern means of entertainment on the ability to rest and reflect in solitude. Tozer wrote in the fifties and early sixties, so we might update his comments by inserting “the internet, cell phone, i-pod, and DVR” for his list of “modern playthings.” However, the point he’s makings rings as true (if not truer) today as it did then.

 We tend to live cluttered lives spiritual, adding to our spiritual repertoire the latest Christian fad that has hit the media. Maybe the fad is concerted prayer, or living purpose driven, or WWJD or living a “radical” life. We add the latest Christian best-seller to our bookshelf and watch the interviews with the author as he or she articulates how transforming the concepts in his or her book have been. And certainly, there have likely been many people impacted by the author’s work, but I wonder if our pursuit of the latest Christian fads can create clutter in our souls that hinders a clear view of Jesus.

 Now without trying to endorse another “Christian fad,” I want us to consider Tozer’s point in the chapter I quoted from. Tozer challenges believers to remove the clutter in their lives and take regular times of solitude and stillness in the presence of God. He even writes, “Read less, but read more of what’s important to the inner life.” You rarely hear an author challenging people to read less, but Tozer makes a valid point. In our age of cyberspace, we can fill our minds with anecdotes, sports scores, weather forecasts, and miscellany that negatively impacts the nurturing of our inner life and gazing upon the glory of the Christ.

I confess that I’m a news junkie. I have so many worthless facts and anecdotes dancing across my neural pathways that my brain could audition for River Dance. Of course, their dancers actually dance together, whereas my plethora of dancing tidbits bounce about aimlessly. Certainly there are news items worthy of our attention, but I doubt it consists of the latest Lindsay Lohan trial or what Michele Obama had for lunch. Jesus certainly stayed abreast of the current events in His culture (evidenced by His parables), but He never allowed frivolous facts to clutter His view of the Father. He regularly practiced times of solitude, reflection, and prayer. In Mark 1:35 we read, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
 The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Mk 1:35

It’s that kind of solitude and reflection that Tozer endorses–the same kind that Jesus modeled. I challenge you to take some time today or this week to just be still and rest in God’s presence. Push aside those thoughts about the project at work or the meeting that night. Don’t dwell on what needs to get cleaned and fixed or what you have to do later that day and week. Clear your mind and soul of the clutter and focus on the LORD. Tozer wrote, “Gaze on Christ with the eyes of your soul.” And above all, don’t bring any of your pet tigers with you in that place.

Don’t set a time limit for this mini-retreat, but allow the Holy Spirit to set the agenda. Worship the LORD in spirit and truth, setting aside the worries of this world. Ask the LORD to search your heart and thoughts to see if there is any offensive way within you (Psalm 139:23-24). Then confess that area and lay it at the feet of the LORD. Ask Him to deal with that area in your life. Don’t approach this time with a laundry list of requests, but rather draw near to listen instead of to speak (Ecc. 5:1-2).

And when you leave that place of solitude, don’t run over immediately and try to cuddle your pet tiger. Keep it in a cage where you’re safe.

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