Saturday, August 29, 2015

E100 Challenge - Week 4 - Moses and the Exodus

Welcome to Week 4 of the E100 Bible Reading Challenge.

Moses and the Exodus

16 Birth of Moses              Exodus 1:1–2:25
17 The Burning Bush         Exodus 3:1–4:17
18 The Ten Plagues          Exodus 6:28–11:10
19 Passover and Exodus    Exodus 12:1–12:42
20 Crossing the Red Sea   Exodus 13:17–14:31

Saturday, August 22, 2015

E100 Challenge - Week 3 - The Story of Joseph

Welcome to Week 3 of the E100 Challenge. How are you enjoying the challenge?

11 Sold into Slavery                  Genesis 37:1–37:36
12 Prison and Promotion           Genesis 39:1–41:57
13 Ten Brothers go to Egypt     Genesis 42:1–42:38
14 The Brothers Return             Genesis 43:1–44:34
15 Joseph Reveals His Identity Genesis 45:1–46:7

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The E100 Challenge - Week 2 - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Ready for Week 2 of the E100 Challenge?


6 The Call of Abram Genesis 12:1–12:20
7 God’s Covenant with Abram Genesis 15:1–15:21
8 Isaac’s Birth and ‘Sacrifice’ Genesis 21:1–22:19
9 Jacob and Esau Compete Genesis 27:1–28:22
10 Jacob and Esau Reconcile Genesis 32:1–33:2

Saturday, August 8, 2015

E100 - Week 1 - In The Beginning

Welcome to our 20 week Bible Engagement challenge:

Week 1: August 9 - 15, 2015
Readings - "In The Beginning"

1 Creation                                        Genesis 1:1–2:25
2 The Fall                                         Genesis 3:1–3:24
3 The Flood                                     Genesis 6:5–7:24
4 God’s Covenant with Noah           Genesis 8:1–9:17
5 Tower of Babel                             Genesis 11:1–11:9

The Essential 100 Bible Reading Challenge

It is ironic that, at least for American Christians, there is an unprecedented level of access to the text of the Bible in English while measures of biblical literacy indicate a low-level of those who have read the entire Bible.

Access is not the problem. Engagement with the text of the Bible is. To help address this concern and to provide a means of getting a good overview of the themes of Scripture, Scripture Union has developed a plan called the "E-100" (Essential 100).

There are 100 passages of Scripture, 50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New Testament, which provide a foundation for understanding topics such as "In The Beginning", "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" or "The Living Word",  "The Cross of Christ" or "The Apostles' Teaching."

Starting the week of August 9th, I'm challenging my readers to join me in reading through the E-100. We will take five passages each week, as each week's readings center on a specific topic. This challenge will take us to the last week of 2015. I will be posting a listing of each week's readings here (and also linked to the Restoring The Core website).

You can also download the pdf of the list of all 100 readings (courtesy of Scripture Union UK).

I'll be reminding you on Twitter as well. #essential100  #spiritualclay

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Saint Giles Cripplegate

Less than a mile from John Wesley's house and chapel is Saint Giles Cripplegate. This church is one of the few medieval churches which still stand in London. There has been a church on this site for a thousand years. A very simple chapel stood on the site during Saxon times. A larger church building was constructed around 1090 AD. Just over three hundred years later, the essence of the church which stands there today was built.

Since that time, there were three major fires in the church which required extensive re-construction. One in 1545, a second in 1897 and the third in 1940. In researching our trip to London, I saw some photographs of what the church looked like around World War 2. The roof was gone and the church appeared to be shambles. Once again, my wife and I were given a lesson on the impact which historical events can have on a city. The church, as well as the surrounding neighborhood, was devastated by German bombing at the start of the war. A building which is only a few hundred feet from Saint Giles bears a commemorative cornerstone which states that the first bomb dropped on the City of London fell on that site in August of 1940.

Saint Giles was vastly renovated after the war. If you look up at the roof, you see what looks like ancient stones walls which are covered by relatively new looking ceiling beams.

The church, like the Wesley chapel, has numerous memorials in it. We learned that several people are buried in the church, such as John Foxe who wrote Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, as well as John Milton, who wrote the classic “Paradise Lost” and the lesser-known “Paradise Regained.”

Cripplegate was a large gate for the old London City Wall. St Giles was less than a city block away from it. The gate itself goes back to Roman times when the city of London was founded by the Romans in 43 AD. The location of this gate took on significance for a group of English non-conformists during the 1660s.

During this time though, the non-conformists met at 7 o’clock every morning at Cripplegate for what they called Morning Exercises. Think of this as an outdoor church service. I knew that the gate itself has been gone for a few centuries now. However, I was hoping to find a blue historical plaque marking the site. Construction and renovation work was in progress on the site so that even the historical marker wasn’t able to be seen. However, a large section of the old wall is still visible from just outside St. Giles and at the building by the Cripplegate site. Since there were restrictions on where the non-conformist ministers could operate legally, I am reminded of the passage in Hebrews 13:11-13 which tells us that Jesus suffered “outside the gate” and that we are to “go to Him outside the camp.” The non-conformist ministers, likewise, had to go “outside the camp” of the old walled City of London do to the work to which God called them. While large sections of the old wall still exist, it was again a surreal experience to know that we were standing by the same wall that many godly people stood by, morning by morning, to practice their faith as they believed they must, and to hear the Gospel “outside the gate.”

In the next entry, I will briefly discuss what is known today as "Big Ben."

Friday, November 7, 2014

John Wesley's Prayer Room

My wife Julie and I had the opportunity to visit London for six days last month. We saw a lot of sites which are tied to Christian history. I want to take the opportunity to revive the use of the School of the Solitary Place blog to recap some highlights of the trip. 

The site I will discuss in this entry is John Wesley’s Chapel and House. Both are open to the public. The Chapel was built in 1778 to replace Wesley’s original chapel known as the Foundery. Wesley’s house was built one year later. The Chapel is remarkable place to visit. There are numerous memorials to those who in some way contributed to this place of worship. There are also a number of other features which have been added or modified over the years, including a communion rail donated by Lady Margaret Thatcher who served as the UK’s Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 and was married in the chapel in 1951.

My wife and I were impressed as our tour guide indicated that services at Wesley’s chapel were never meant as a replacement for the services of the Church of England. John Wesley was a faithful Anglican priest throughout his life. Services at the Chapel were intended to supplement what was happening at Anglican services.

One facet of history which I find so intriguing is that of having some form of contact with a person, place or event of history. At Wesley’s chapel, we had, right in front of us, the very pulpit from which John Wesley preached while in London during the last twelve years of his life. For myself, what I found even more intriguing was standing in Wesley’s house, just next door to the chapel.

Being able to take in history in this way provides a dimension which reading simply does not give. My wife and I were able to see the cabinet with Wesley’s theological library. We were told that Wesley was in the habit of writing in his books with comments on what he was reading. Not only does having these books give us an insight to Wesley but his comments allow us an added perspective into his thinking as well.

John Wesley was a strong advocate of physical fitness. He had a rather interesting, hand-driven device which would generate a small electrical current. It was thought at the time that small amounts of electricity were beneficial to the body. Thus, Wesley had his own electricity-generating device which still exists and is on display at the house. He also had a spring-driven chair from which you had to push up a little harder to get out of the chair. It’s not quite a home gym from the 21st century but still rather impressive for a late 18th century home.

Perhaps what was the most moving part of the tour at Wesley’s chapel and house was being able to step inside John Wesley’s prayer room. In this room, just off his bedroom, Wesley prayed every morning at 4am. This room has been called the “Powerhouse of Methodism” due to Wesley’s consistent, fervent and disciplined prayer life in that room. Actually being able to stand in this very room was a great reminder to both my wife and me of the importance and power of a life of consistent, fervent and disciplined prayer.

One of the great treasures we found while at the Wesley house was the gentleman who was our tour guide. He was very engaging and gave us a good lesson in the value of those who have living memories of an event. Any city or region is shaped by the times and circumstances which the people of that city or region experienced. For a city as old as London, that is particularly true. Our tour guide made reference to the bombings which London endured in the course of the Second World War. Our guide mentioned one night, when he was ten years old, while living in an area west of London, that on one particular night in 1940, he could look east and see a reddish glow off the horizon. He told us that the glow was not the first light of dawn but the light coming off the fires happening in London due to the incendiary bombing it faced. My wife and I are thankful that a gentleman who is 84 years old was able to relate to us what it was like to be in England at that time. What a wonderful living treasure.

Next time, I will examine our visit to Saint Giles Cripplegate. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

God's Opinion of Our Children's Future

Several years ago, a number of us began to pray for the needs of the next generation, particularly, in either coming to faith in Christ or growing in an already existing faith. 

One of those who are interceding for this next generation in prayer before God is a good friend of ours and fellow believer in Christ. As a prayer list with the names of these members of the next generation is e-mailed every week, Sharon Enright writes a corresponding devotional for that day's prayer.

I want to pass along to you her devotional for today. It's a wonderful reflection from a mother concerned about doing what she can to pass along our most precious faith in Christ to those who will follow us.

I've been encouraging Sharon to start her own blog. With time and circumstances, that hasn't happened yet. Since she has been doing these Wednesday devotionals for quite a while now, might I ask that you contact me to pass along your encouragement to Sharon concerning the devotional. The e-mail address is:

The following is her entry for today:
God's Opinion of Our Children's Future
Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 18:3-6
Genesis 12:2-3

        If the youth on our list are watching the news feeds of the happenings of the past few weeks in our country and around the world, but neglecting a different world view from the "bread of life" in the scriptures, I'm not sure there's much there to give them any confidence for their future. Our national and world leaders fight among themselves and point their fingers in blame. It's obvious they don't know what to do about the mess we're in. Today's reports bemoan the bleak outlook for young people starting out. The trough is going dry. There's not a lot to offer them except the problems they will inherit from an older generation that forgot about them in all it's planning and spending. That's how the world sees it for them. But, that's not how their Maker sees it, if they'll just listen. If we'll just tell them.

        In his book, "The Family Blessing", author Rolf Garborg recalls one of the most poignant scenes from the play, "Fiddler on the Roof". Papa Tevye and Mama Golde express hopes and fears, convictions and questions with which any parent can identify as their family surrounds the table of the Sabbath meal in the bleak days of the Russian persecution of the Jews. When all have gathered, they perform the ancient customs associated with that meal; traditions of hope and faith in our good God. Golde lights the Sabbath candles, prays, and then joins Tevye in singing to their daughters the "Sabbath Prayer" - a simple song of blessing that expresses their deepest desires for their girls.

    May the Lord protect and defend you/ May He always shield you from shame/ May you come to be in Yisroel [Israel} a shining name/ May you be like Ruth and like Esther/ May you be deserving of praise/ Strengthen them, O Lord, and keep them from the strangers ways/ May God bless you and give you long lives/ May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you/ May God make you good mothers and wives/ May He send you husbands who will care for you/ May the Lord protect and defend you/ May the Lord preserve you from pain/ Favor them, O Lord, with happiness and peace/ Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.

      Rolf Garborg exhorts us to speak the hope of scripture into the lives of our youth. God is not impressed or swayed by the newspaper headlines that dash hope and instill dread. God's plan for His people and their children is a future of abundance with Him. His blessings cancel out the rumors of a world that doesn't know Him. These days in particular,  we need to speak those blessings into the ears and hearts of our youth in a time when they hear nothing but fear.

     Christians can adopt the Jewish community's ancient traditions of giving benediction to their children and all the youth they know simply by personalizing the Scriptures onto their hearing. We may say or sing a blessing; express it daily, weekly or on special occasions. We can select a Scripture to use or create our own blessing based on Scripture. It will confirm hope and godliness in our youth by speaking into their lives the grace of their heavenly Father. I began this habit with our son, Lyle, while he was working on his undergrad degree. Every week I emailed a fresh blessing based on Scripture. He papered the wall of his dorm with them...and he still does in graduate school. It is never too late to start proclaiming God's view of our children's future to them. What a different report it is than the one the world is telling them!

Lord God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Christ,
We pray for our youth today, that they would be blessed with the wisdom and faith to fear You;
We pray that they will walk in Your ways. When they eat the fruit of their labor, may they find joy because You will cause all to go well with them; may they seek you and choose well when they choose their husbands and wives and may they know the joy of children; within the homes they establish, may their families be like olive plants around their tables; Thus shall those be blessed who fear the Lord. May You bless them and may they see prosperity all the days of their lives. Indeed, may they see their children's children and may they find peace in You. Amen.
(Based on Psalm 128)

Kneeling at God's throne with you for our youth today,
Sharon for Jon and I both

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome

Recently, I was reflecting on a passage in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 which reads:

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
I was contrasting this with what we all know about sin, namely, that we do this all too freely. I was trying to get a sense of how one can sin clearly by one's own choice and yet be held captive by the devil to do his will.

My starting point in this is knowing that God is not the author of sin (see James 1:13). Yet, when I read the word "captive", I think of someone who is held against their will and being kept involuntarily. How does willingness to sin fit together with being held captive to the devil?

One possible answer would be the presence of a spiritual form of a condition known in psychology as the Stockholm Syndrome. This is said to occur when those who are being held captive begin to become sympathetic to the beliefs and ideals of their captors. One historic example of this can be found from the mid-1970s. A young woman named Patty Hearst was abducted by the Symbionese Liberation Army in early 1974. Two months after her kidnapping, she was actually assisting her captors in a bank robbery. 

Please keep this in mind when praying for those who have not yet come to faith in Christ. We are dealing with very real captivity, but a captivity which the captives are quite sympathetic with. What is needed is a change of mind. Pray that God will show mercy to these captives by changing their thinking. After all, isn't that what repentance is all about?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Lens of Glory - Session 1

This blog entry supplies a link to the first class session for a new podcast which I am creating called the Lens of Glory. The intent behind the class is to show that since the Bible is a Christ-centered, Christ-oriented and Christ-saturated book, the linkage between Jesus and the Glory of God leads us to the conclusion that the Bible can be read through the lens of the glory of God. This posting links to the first class session for this podcast. The class sessions were recorded during Sunday School at Troy Christian Chapel in Troy, Michigan.Click on the link to hear the Session 1 of the podcast. Lens of Glory Class Session 1