Friday, October 29, 2010

A. W. Tozer

Akron, Ohio. Visited October 2008

A. W. Tozer is one of the most influential Christian writers of the 20th Century. And he occupies a significant place in my life as a follower of Christ.

Aiden Wilson Tozer was born on a small farm in western Pennsylvania in April 1897. His family moved to Akron, Ohio when he was 15. Tozer went to work for the Goodyear Rubber Company as a teenager. It was on his way home from work one day that he heard a street preacher proclaim, ‘If you don’t know how to be saved…. just call on God’. Provoked in his soul, Tozer climbed into the attic of his house, where he did indeed call on God and received the gift of salvation.

While relatively little is known about Tozer’s early Christian experience, he appears to have been gifted with a robust spiritual intellect from the beginning. In 1919, at the age of 22, A. W. Tozer received his first call to the ministry from a small Christian Missionary Alliance church in West Virginia. He spent his entire ministerial career in three churches, most prominently at Southside Alliance Church in Chicago. While possessing a renowned preaching gift, Tozer’s greatest contribution to the cause of Christ is undoubtedly his theological writing. Books such as The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy are Twentieth Century spiritual classics, bringing significant theological reflection with clarity and depth to the average believer. His 44 year ministry ended with his sudden passing by heart attack while pastoring a church in Toronto. Tozer's family decided to lay him to rest in Ellet Cemetery, a small church cemetery in Akron. The epitaph on his tombstone is a simple description of his life and ministry – “A. W. Tozer – A Man of God.”

Visited Tozer with my friend Jason Reyes.  We got there when it was almost dark and stumbled around looking for it almost in vain.  Tozer is the top attraction in Akron in my mind.  The other two are the Blimp hangar and LeBron James' house - in that order

A. W. Tozer will always occupy a place of formative significance in my personal Christian experience. As a new believer in 1981 the first two Christian books I was given were C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and a selection of Tozer’s writings entitled The Best of A. W. Tozer: Fifty-two Favorite Chapters, compiled by Warren Wiersbe. I came to Christ from an intellectually convinced atheism. These two books tag teamed me in my spiritual infancy. Lewis wrestled down my intellectual pride and skepticism against simple belief in the Savior. But it was Tozer who got in my face with glory ultimatums – who was I going to live for and what was I going to do with the few short moments I have on earth. It is to A. W. Tozer that I have returned time and again over the years when my theological closet needed to be reorganized and my namby-pamby Christian vision needs a slap in the back of the head.

I don’t know if it’s possible to have a favorite A. W. Tozer quote – his writing is almost entirely worth quoting. But here are some that remind me of what the ‘Man of God’ did for me in the early days of my journey in Christ.

“No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy. He should spend his efforts in seeking to know and do the will of God, leaving to Christ the matter of how happy he should be.”

“The sovereign God wants to be loved for Himself and honored for Himself, but that is only part of what He wants. The other part is that He wants us to know that when we have Him we have everything -- we have all the rest.”

"We can afford to follow Him to failure. Faith dares to fail. The resurrection and the judgment will demonstrate before all worlds who won and who lost. We can wait."

"Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God"

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