A.W. Tozer on Reading and Writing

“Read some of the great Puritan authors and some of the mystics. Read and memorize good poetry. Observe how these writers express themselves. Become word conscious. Pay attention to words and the effect they have. Get a good dictionary and use it often. Whenever I come across a word I’m not familiar with, I look it up immediately and study it. With a large vocabulary, you are able to be precise in what you are saying. Nothing takes the place of using the right word. [Gustave] Flaubert (1821 – 1880) used to say there are no synonyms. Find the right word and use it.”

– A.W. Tozer, from “The Life of A.W. Tozer” chapter by James L. Snyder in The Pursuit of God

The Missing Component in Most Discipleship Strategies

Forget all the discipleship books you’ve read. Forget all the conferences you’ve attended and blueprints you’ve adopted.

None of them matter. Not really.

What matters is how Jesus made disciples. So how did he do it? What was his strategy?

At first glance, it might appear that Jesus didn’t have a strategy. His strategy “is so unassuming and silent that it is unnoticed by the hurried churchman,” writes Robert Coleman in his classic The Master Plan of Evangelism.

Yes, Jesus had a strategy for making disciples. And “when his plan is reflected on, the basic philosophy is so different from that of the modern church that its implications are nothing less than revolutionary,” says Coleman.

So what was Jesus’ plan for making disciples?

Read the rest of my article at Gospel-Centered Discipleship

Living in Light of the Gospel

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

With these words, the Apostle Paul challenges his young protégé, Timothy, not to grow weary or weak as he endures for the sake of the gospel and the church in Ephesus. The church at this time was experiencing heavy persecution from the Ephesian culture around it, which had little interest in the gospel. But the church was also facing pressure from inside in the form of false teachers. The church, and Timothy, was pressed on all sides.

Put yourself in Timothy’s shoes. Your mentor, who happens to be the Apostle Paul, is in prison and about to be executed for the sake of the gospel. You’re about thirty years old, which was when you would begin ministry in those days. You’re being asked to guard the true gospel, to reason against false teachers, and to teach the people of the church in patience and wisdom, even when they don’t want to hear from you.

A couple of weeks of that and most of us would want to quit; just walk away and let someone else deal with it.

Paul knew Timothy would face this temptation, so he told him to draw strength from the only lasting source—the grace of Jesus.

Read the read of my devotional at JustinHuffman.org

How Books Are Helping Incarcerated Dads Start a New Chapter with Their Kids

Books with well-written stories have the power to unlock a child’s God-given imagination and create deep bonds between the child and their parent—even if that parent is behind bars.

In Prison Fellowship’s Storybook Dads program at the Carol S. Vance Unit in Richmond, Texas, incarcerated men have the opportunity to connect with their children by recording and sending audio of them reading aloud to their children. The program started in 2008 as part of the Prison Fellowship Academy. Prisoners operate the program with the oversight of staff and volunteers.

Here’s how Storybook Dads works. Men enter a recording studio inside the prison at a scheduled time, choose from one of the many donated children’s books, then sit down in front of a microphone and read with enthusiasm. The dads are coached when necessary and encouraged often. Volunteer prisoners man the sound equipment and later enhance the recordings with sound effects.

Read the rest of my article at Prison Fellowship’s blog

Let The Holy Spirit Change Your Personality

Believers seem to get that the Spirit wants to renew our hearts and minds. But I’m afraid we aren’t allowing the Spirit to do his work on our personalities.

We say we want to be changed from the inside out, but we cling so tightly to our personalities that we squeeze out the Spirit, keeping him to the periphery of our inner beings.

A Christian’s personality is meant to be changed by the Holy Spirit. Once a person is filled with the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit begins his work of renewing their personality. With the Spirit’s help, they are meant to become kind, gentle, faithful, peaceable, joyful, and so on (see Gal. 5:22-23).

Personality is a prized possession in our individualized society. We take tests to understand who we are. We read books to learn what makes us tick. And we’re told that God crafted each of us into unique creations.

That’s all well and true. But we don’t often separate out the good and bad parts of our personalities. If we’re not careful, we’ll conflate “introvert” with “impatient,” or “extrovert” with “abrasive,” and end up affirming both.

This is a mistake. While some parts of our personality describe who we are (introvert, extrovert, etc.), other parts of our personality describe how we are (impatient, abrasive, encouraging, helpful, etc.).

God wants to affirm who you are, but he wants to change how you are.

We must understand that God formed each of us with specific personalities, but my personality—just like our fallen world—is not as it ought to be. I am not patient, kind, peaceful, and encouraging like Jesus. I can say that’s “just how I am,” but to do so misses the point of the Spirit’s sanctifying work. And it undersells his power.

The Holy Spirit wants to make me like Jesus—unhurried, loving, tender—but he won’t do so without my participation. This is simply how he works.

I’m afraid too many of us have resigned ourselves to thinking that how we are is how we’ll always be. But I beg you to reconsider.

There are specific aspects of your personality (and mine) that are not the way they ought to be. There are parts of your personality that need to die, just as surely as there are parts that need to grow into full maturity.

But we will never walk in the fullness of Christ if we are not convinced that the Holy Spirit can and will change our personalities if we allow him to do so.