Worldviews, Worship, and Wineskins

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Archive for the category “Friday Night Mystics”

Friday Night Mystics: David Brainerd


1718 – 1747

For his few, troubled years, David Brainerd’s life left an indellible mark on his generation.  In the intervening years, his reputation and life’s work have been somewhat underrated, perhaps overshadowed by his friend and associate, Jonathan Edwards.  Brainerd’s main contribution was in his pioneer missionary work to Native Americans, but he is most remembered today for his personal prayer journal.  This firebrand burned so brightly and hotly for the Lord that he worked himself to an early grave, spending his last weeks in the home of Edwards.  He finally succumbed to Tuberculosis and consumption on October 9, 1747.

David Brainerd’s diary was reproduced for posterity, to his relucant acceptance, only after much pleading on the part of Edwards.  Below are two exerpts:

“I thought the Spirit of God had quite left me; but still was not distressed: yet disconsolate, as if there was nothing in heaven or earth could make me happy.  Having been thus endeavouring to pray — though, as I thought, very stupid and senseless — for near half an hour, then, as I was walking in a dark thick grove, unspeakale glory seemed to open to the view and apprehension of my soul.  I do not mean any external brightness, for I saw no such thing; … but it was a new inward apprehension or view that I had of God, such as I never had before, nor any thing which had the least resemblence of it.  I stood still, wondered, and admired! …  My soul rejoiced with joy unspeakable, to see such a God, such a glorious Divine Being; and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied that he should be God over all for ever and ever.  My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God, that I was even swallowed up in him; at least to that degree, that I had no thought (as I remember) at first about my own salvation, and scarce reflected there was such a creature as myself.”

“I knew not what to say to my God, but only lean on his bosom, as it were, and breathe out my desires after a perfect conformity to him in all things.  Thirsting desires, and insatiable longings, possessed my soul after perfect holiness.  God was so precious to my soul, that the world with all its enjoyments was infinitely vile.  I had no more value for the favour of men, than for pebbles.  The LORD was my ALL; and that he overruled all, greatly delighted me.”


Friday Night Mystics: King David’s Sacred Romance

Here is a working definition of a Christian Mystic: someone whose soul is wedded to the pursuit of intangible joy in the presence of God.

David, King of ancient Israel is the week’s feature. Many of the psalms give us very personal insights into the rollercoaster-ride that was David’s prayer life. Many read like a love letter, and it’s no wonder!

God describes His relationship with His people using a number of metaphors: Father to son. King to subjects. Master to slave. Even Mother to infant! (Isaiah 49.15) The picture found in many eschatalogical passages (scripture concerning the end times) is that of a groom to his bride. God wants your affections.

David understood this affection without having the New Testament to guide him. Have a look at Psalm 63:

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be give over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.

But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.”

Friday Night Mystics: A. W. Tozer


Last week’s “Friday-Night Mystic” was Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection: a simple man who was madly in love with God.  Is simplicity an ideal of mysticism?  Would the one who wants to draw near to God jettison his intellect?  A. W. Tozer (among others) shows us this is not the case.  Passion for God is not the opposite of excellent scholarship and thinking.  In his writing and speaking, Pastor Tozer shows a consistent and thoughtful interatction with the world’s philosophies, arguments and pitfalls, as well as the church’s.  For example:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

“The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.  Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

“For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart concieves God to be like.  We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”  (from “Knowledge of the Holy”)

Tozer was the Pastor of Southside Alliance Church in Chicago from 1928 to 1959, but is probably best known for his devotional classic, “Pursuit of God”.  In that work, the church is called out for her apathy and God is exalted as worthy of passionate pursuit.  His indictment on the state of the church rings as true today as it did fifty years ago:

“Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies of the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the Church.  Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb.  To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and it its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’  This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.”  (Tozer’s preface.)

This modern mystic spent much of his energy lamenting the impotence and apathy of the church of his day.  But don’t be fooled.  He wasn’t just another angry critic (after all, Jesus’ bride is an easy target.)  Tozer’s chiding was the result of a sincere burning passion for the living Christ and a desire to see Him receive the worship He deserves:

“The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leapus up in joyous recognition.  That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the kingdom of God.  It is, however, not an end, but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead.  That is where we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end.

Shoreless Ocean, who can sound thee?

Thine own eternity is round Thee,

Majesty divine!

“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.”

Friday Night Mystics: Brother Lawrence


There are a handful of authors who have really influenced me by their passion for and devotion to Jesus. I want to share some of their insights with you, in single-sized portions. I plan to upload a short segment each Friday night, so keep checking in!

Tonight will feature Brother Lawrence, who was a French monk in the 1600’s. I encourage you to find his book entitled “The Practice of the Presence of God”.

This passage comes from a collection of notes taken by someone who interviewed Brother Lawrence due to his reputation as someone with a deep love for God. In the introductory paragraph, the writer states, concerning Brother Lawrence, “he told me”. Each subsequent paragraph begins with the word “That”.

“That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD, which had never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for GOD, that he could not tell whether it had increased during his more than forty years he had lived since.”

“That the greatest pains or pleasures of this world, were not to be compared with what he had experienced of both kinds in a spiritual state: so that he was careful for nothing and feared nothing, desiring only one thing of GOD, viz., that he might not offend Him.”

“That all consists in one hearty renunciation of everything which we are sensible does not lead to GOD; that we might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him, with freedom and simplicity.”

This is Conviction.

Suddenly, for a moment, the heart and mind are in perfect unison.  The mechanism for “knowing” that God gave us is temporarily so highly tuned that there is no mistaking the truth.  In that moment, time stands still and everything that is real and pure and worthy stands in high contrast against the counterfeits that Satan has forever employed in his quest to snare man.  Food.  Sex.  Money.  Power.  Knowledge.  Notoriety.  All Frauds.  All good, in their proper place, yet their combined worth, when compared to the weight of glory in knowing the Holy one is less than tissue.  Their power over the heart is consumed in a flash, ignited by the tiniest spark of truth from the Holy One, who forever speaks truth.  And IS truth.

When this moment finds you, grasp it with all that you are.  Do not smother the spark of truth, but stoke it, for it will not last forever.  This moment is a mercy, a brief chance to see the world through the eyes of God, without the foul influences of our weak and deceived hearts or of Satan.  Soon, the moment will end and the minutae of everyday life will fight for our affections.  The thing is to bank the tiny flame with all of the kindling you may find, while the moment lasts.  Act on it.  Be decisive.  Be aggressive.  Commit to a lifestyle that reflects this new, Godly reality which esteems the unseen things more highly than the seen.  Anything less amounts to rebellion against the highest authority in the universe.  “Today, if you hear his voice: Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did.  For 40 years I was disgusted with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know My ways.’  So I swore in My anger, ‘They will not enter My rest.'”

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