Month: September 2013

A Warning and a Warning About The Warning

Many, including myself, we have been so deeply moved by the writings of A.W. Tozer.  There is both a depth and warmth to so much of what he pens, much like J.I. Packer and John Stott’s writings.

A new biography has recently been released on Tozer’s life. It’s a hard honest look at both his victories and his apparent contradictions. I have not read the book, only reviews of the book, but just reading the reviews does to me what “hard honest looks” at my heros always does: warns, humbles, corrects.

Here is part of Tim Challie’s review of the review:

Tozer was a man who dedicated himself to reading, study and prayer and who delighted to be in the presence of God. “There is no way to measure the hours he spent in a typical day or week reading books and wrestling with ideas, but it was substantial. In a similar vein, we know that he increasingly devoted many hours each week praying, meditating on Scripture, and seeking deeper intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ. During the 1930s Tozer read voraciously, and he also developed a magnificent obsession to be in Christ’s presence- just to worship Him and to be with Him.” Yet he was a man who was emotionally and spiritually distant from his own wife. “By early 1928 the Tozers had a routine. Aiden found his fulfillment in reading, preparing sermons, preaching, and weaving travel into his demanding and exciting schedule, while Ada learned to cope. She dutifully washed, ironed, cooked, and cared for the little ones, and developed the art of shoving her pain deep down inside. Most of the time she pretended there was no hurt, but when it erupted, she usually blamed herself for not being godly enough to conquer her longing for intimacy from an emotionally aloof husband.”

These strange inconsistencies abound. Tozer saw his wife’s gifts for hospitality and encouraged her in them; yet he disliked having visitors in his own home. He preached about the necessity of Christian fellowship within the family of Christ; yet he refused to allow his family or his wife’s family to visit their home. For every laudable area of his life there seemed to exist an equal and opposite error. This study in opposites leaves for a fascinating picture of a man who was used so greatly by God, even while his life had such obvious sin.

Full review here: (

Another reviewer shared this summary:

Perhaps the most damning statement in the book was from his wife, after she remarried subsequent to his death: “I have never been happier in my life,” Ada Ceclia Tozer Odam observed, “Aiden [Tozer] loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me” (160).

Full review here: (

Oh to learn from the life of others (from their good and their bad).  Now before you completely write of Tozer as a hypocrite, these warnings from John Piper about how we handle all these warnings from Tozer’s life is great:

Sean Lucas seems to say that Tozer’s wife’s greater happiness with her second husband implies Tozer’s “failure to love passionately his wife.” When she remarried after his death she said, “”I have never been happier in my life. . . “Aiden [A. W. Tozer] loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me.” Lucas may be right to infer from this sentence that Tozer loved his wife poorly. But Tozer’s wife’s statement does not prove it.

We would need to be as penetrating in our analysis of her spiritual condition as we are of A. W. Tozer’s. Not feeling loved and not beingloved are not the same. Jesus loved all people well. And many did not like the way he loved them. Was David’s zeal for the Lord imbalanced because his wife Michal despised him for it? Was Job’s devotion to the Lord inordinate because his wife urged him to curse God and die? Would Gomer be a reliable witness to Hosea’s devotion? I know nothing about Tozer’s wife. She may have been far more godly than he. Or maybe not. It would be helpful to know.

Again I admit Lucas may be totally right. Tozer may have blown it at home. Lucas’ lessons from this possibility are wise. But I have seen so much emotional blackmail in my ministry I am jealous to raise a warning against it. Emotional blackmail happens when a person equates his or her emotional pain with another person’s failure to love. They aren’t the same. A person may love well and the beloved still feel hurt, and use the hurt to blackmail the lover into admitting guilt he or she does not have. Emotional blackmail says, “If I feel hurt by you, you are guilty.” There is no defense. The hurt person has become God. His emotion has become judge and jury. Truth does not matter. All that matters is the sovereign suffering of the aggrieved. It is above question. This emotional device is a great evil. I have seen it often in my three decades of ministry and I am eager to defend people who are being wrongly indicted by it.

I am not saying Tozer’s wife did this. I am saying that the assumption that her feeling unloved equals her being unloved creates the atmosphere where emotional blackmail flourishes.

Maybe Tozer loved his wife poorly. But his wife’s superior happiness with another man does not show it. Perhaps Lyle Dorsett’s new biography of Tozer, A Passion for God, penetrates to the bottom of this relationship.

(NOTE: Nothing in this blog post is original. It’s a reproduction of a post from the Gospel Coalition (, only rearranged in an order that helps me best process things)

False Assumptions On Love

Is this a fair analysis of how our culture, even the general Christian culture, thinks about love?

Assumption one is that no boundaries can be placed on love. Rather, love establishes all the boundaries.

Assumption two is that love is disassociated in our minds from institutional structures and institutional acts of judgment. At best, the idea of an institution is a cold, impersonal, and bureaucratic idea. Structures have inflexible scaffolding and hard edges. Love, we all know, is flexible, yielding, and personal. At worst, institutions are all about power, not love. And institutional acts of judgment—even if in the rarest of circumstances they are necessary—always indicate a failure of love or a failure to love.

Assumption three is that love and church don’t go together, particularly a church with sharp boundaries and authoritative pronouncements.

Last assumption the Western mind makes about love: love and authority have nothing to do with one another. Authority restrains. Love frees. Authority exploits. Love empowers. Authority steals life. Love saves life.

Is this why in the last two centuries Christians have pushed for a “de-institutionalized” church?

hmm …

“WOW” Is All I Can Say

Part of my Saturday prep for Sunday sermon always include a visit to Desiring God and the repository of John Piper’s sermons. Going through that I ran across this Q&A time Pastor John did at the Angola Prison in Louisianna. Here’s a bit of info on the Angola Prison:

“This prison is the largest maximum-security prison in America. It is one of the most famous prisons in the whole world. It has only murderers, rapists, armed robbers and habitual felons. The average sentence is 88 years, with 3,200 people in one place serving life sentences. Ninety percent of the inmates will die here. This is a place of hopelessness, so if Angola can change, the rest of the country’s prisons can’t say, “We can’t do this.” – Burl Cain, warden of the prison

John Piper preached a sermon to the inmates and closed with these words:

“For 90% of you the next stop is not home and family, but heaven or hell. O what glorious news we have in that situation. And believe me it is not the prosperity of Gospel. Jesus came and died and rose again not mainly to be useful, but to beprecious. And that he can be in Angola as well as Atlanta. Perhaps even more.”

Then he did a Q&A time with the inmates. WOW!!!  That’s all I can say WOW!!! Take a look and be amazed at

(1) The questions that are asked

(2) The change that happens when the grace of God takes a hold of a person’s life

Here’s the video.

I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂