Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Treasured Christmas Memory

Christmas is a time which often brings about memories of family, friends, and Christmases past. Last year, one of our pastors asked us during our midweek service what was our favorite memory of Christmas. It was food for thought. Which one do I pick?

I've been blessed with many. When my wife and I first dated, it was during Christmas time. I came to faith in Christ during Christmas time in 1984. There is one memory which became very special to me as the years have gone by. While it is not the most important (I've already covered two of the most important to me), it is a memory that I can share with you via video.

Forty years ago, the very first manned voyage to the Moon was underway at Christmas time. The crew of Apollo 8 were heading for the Moon, doing what no other humans had every done before them in to the Moon. For a twelve-year old interested in astronomy, I remember feeling lucky to be alive when this historic trip was taking place.

On Christmas Eve, 1968, sitting in my grandfather's living room, surrounded by numerous members of the family, we watched a live telecast from Apollo 8 while it was in orbit around the Moon. The utter profoundness of what was happening was enhanced as the crew of Apollo 8 took turns reading from the first chapter of the book of Genesis. Enjoy this memory with me. Odds are, (statistically), you were not alive in 1968. Yet, you can hear what I heard on that Christmas Eve of 40 years ago.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Second Anniversary

Today is the second anniversary of the School of the Solitary Place blog. By the grace of God, I've been able to post over 70 articles on various topics, usually relating to prayer (there was an exception back in June when I posted about the Detroit Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup earlier that evening).
The picture in the upper left is a personal rendering of an early morning scene, while it is still dark but with the hint of dawn's first light. I can imagine that the Lord Jesus saw something similar when He was praying on that early Sunday morning mentioned in Mark 1:35.
I know that this blog has had a readership throughout 45 states in the United States and hits on servers in over 30 countries. What a privilege. Thanks for reading this blog and for your interest. If you are so inclined, please write and let me know that you've been a reader. The e-mail address is
The following is from that first blog entry of two years ago:

The School of the Solitary Place is the place where we learn prayer. It is where we learn to commune with God. We learn from our school-master of prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.Early in His ministry after conducting a busy night of healing:

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (Mark 1:35 NIV)
The Lord Jesus is our teacher in this school. While we as Christians are called to corporate prayer and worship, the practice of individual prayer lays the foundation for a deeper relationship with God and the ability to pray with others in more than a merely formal manner.
The solitary place is a place of solitude to shut out the voices and demands of our everyday world so that we can pray without interruption to the God who made us. It is not necessarily a barren and howling wilderness. The Lord Jesus refers to such a place as a "closet" or an inner room. It might be a nearby park. For the 18th century American theologian Jonathan Edwards, a solitary place was found in walking alone with God in his father's fields, or as young minister in New York City, he later wrote how he very frequently
used to retire into a solitary place, on the banks of Hudson's River, at some distance from the city, for contemplation on divine things and secret converse with God: and had many sweet hours there.

The 20th century minister A.W. Tozer used a corner of the family basement as a place to meet with God in solitude and prayer. A 15th century monastic instructor named Thomas A Kempis wrote how the monk's cell was a wonderful place to meet with God. He said:

"Your cell will become dear to you if you remain in it, but if you do not, it will become wearisome. If in the beginning of your religious life, you live within your cell and keep to it, it will soon become a special friend and a very great comfort. In silence and quiet the devout soul advances in virtue and learns the hidden truths of Scripture. There she finds a flood of tears with which to bathe and cleanse herself nightly, that she may become the more intimate with her Creator the farther she withdraws from all the tumult of the world. For God and His holy angels will draw near to him who withdraws from friends and acquaintances."

(By the way, it should be understood that the meaning of "cell" has changed over the years. That word today carries the meaning of a place of punishment and confinement. However, centuries ago, the word "cell" was derived from the Latin word "Coelum" which means "Heaven") In 1895, Andrew Murray echoed the words of Thomas A Kempis written almost 500 years earlier. In his classic work on prayer entitled With Christ in the School of Prayer, Murray wrote:

"We have learnt to know and accept Jesus as our only teacher in the school of prayer. He has already taught us at Samaria that worship is no longer confined to times and places; that worship, spiritual true worship, is a thing of the spirit and the life; the whole man must in his whole life be worship in spirit and truth. And yet He wants each one to choose for himself the fixed spot where He can daily meet him. That inner chamber, that solitary place, is Jesus's schoolroom. That spot may be anywhere; that spot may change from day to day if we have to change our abode; but that secret place there must be, with the quiet time in which the pupil places himself in the Master's presence, to be by Him prepared to worship the Father. There alone, but there most surely, Jesus comes to us to teach us to pray."

The purpose of this blog is to encourage you in your personal and private times of prayer in Christ. In this School of the Solitary Place, we learn the aspects of personal prayer to enter, by ourselves, into a one-person schoolroom to be tutored by Christ personally in this wonderful privelege.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Common Points of a True Revival

I have had the privilege of studying several distinct historic revivals of the last 150 years. While I cannot state that each and every revival will always have the following traits, they are present more often than not.

1. PRAYER IS A PREDECESSOR TO REVIVAL - It appears that when genuine revival does happen, it is preceded by a time of prayer which can last for months or several years.

2. REVIVAL HAPPENS IN TURBULENT TIMES - Concerning the 1857 Revival which started in New York City, the United States was being torn apart by the issue of slavery. It was also in the midst of a financial crisis which resulted in a stock market crash in October, 1857. The revival which happened in Korea a century ago happened in the midst of an occupying Japanese rule of the country.

3. DENOMINATIONAL GROUPS COOPERATE IN A SPIRIT OF UNITY - In the 1857 revival as well as the Korean Revival of 1907, groups which would typically not interact with each other did for the promotion of Christ, not their own causes.

4. SPIRITUAL "ENVY" OF REVIVAL IN OTHER PLACES - One phenomenal feature of the 1857 Revival was how news about how God poured out the blessing of revival in one nation caused Christians in other places to want revival and pray that God would bless them in the same way in their country.

I pray for revival in my country. Regardless of whoever would have won the U.S. Presidential election yesterday, my nation remains in desperate need of spiritual revival. Politics determines only the outer ordering of things. It does not touch the inner ordering of our hearts and minds. My nation is spiritually sick and desperately needs the hand of God upon it in revival. Otherwise, it will have the hand of God upon it in judgment.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day

491 years ago today, Martin Luther took action to begin an in-church debate on 95 points which Luther thought reflected needed areas of reform in the church. Luther nailed a list of these 95 points to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He did not know at the time that his request to debate points of church reform would lead to the largest reformation movement in church history.

To my Protestant Christian brothers and sisters around the world, I wish you a truly Happy Reformation Day from the School of the Solitary Place.

For a list of the 95 Points (95 Theses), click here

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Courage To Be Protestant

In the summer, I had the chance to read the book The Courage To Be Protestant by Dr. David Wells. It contains a summary of the thought which Dr. Wells first introduced in 1993 with his book No Place For Truth and followed over the next 15 years by God In The Wasteland, Losing Our Virtue and Above All Earthly Pow'rs. David Wells believes that American Evangelicalism is distancing itself from its own theology and now stands ready to move in any direction without the guidance of the Bible and Christian thinkers who have applied the Bible's teachings into theological categories.

In his most current book, Wells sees a separation of current Evangelicalism into three sections. One is Classical Evangelicalism, the second is the Seeker Sensitive/Purpose Driven movement and the last is the Emerging Church. The Perichoresis blog has a great set of summaries of each chapter. See the Link

I highly recommend the book. It has been very instrumental in helping me take stock personally of what it means to defend Classical Protestant Christianity as well as the theology of the church.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Praying With Confidence

If you are a Christian, you may have reflected on the life of Christ AFTER His ascension back to Heaven after His death and resurrection. We know so much of Christ's life from the 1st century due to the Gospel accounts which provide a lot of biographical information about the Lord Jesus.
We also know that Christ will one day return visibly to the Earth:

Acts 1:11 [The angels] also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."

What about the "in-between" time (between about 30 AD and now in the year 2008)? What has Christ been doing?
Christ has been interceding for His people before God. Hebrews 7:25 tells us: "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for the throne of God."

Jesus has been interceding for His people throughout Church History. Pick a year between 30 AD (possibly as late as 33 AD) and today. You can accurately say: "In the year ______, Christ was interceding for His people." If you chose the year 2008, replace the "was" with "is."

One of the most wonderful elements about this intercession is the invitation we receive concerning it. In human relationships, we tend to think that if someone is upset with us, we need a third party to intercede for us. If a child thinks that his father is angry with him, he may ask his mother to put in a "good word" for him to the father to ease the strained relationship. For Christ's people, this is not the case. We are not instructed to approach Christ through a third party (such as Mary the Mother of Jesus or a saint). We are instructed, and comforted by these

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Christ knows our faults and our sins. When we pray, go in confidence directly to the throne of grace. We have been invited to do so.

The promise is for His people who have come to Him in faith. It does not apply to those who have not put their faith & trust in Christ. Such a person must come in faith to Christ to be saved from their sins and offense against God. That is the heart of the Gospel. Change your mind about your sin ("Repent") and believe (trust) that Christ has paid the debt of your sin before God. A new life in Christ awaits you when you believe (trust) in Him.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wordle Image

I have found an interesting visual tool called Wordle. It can be accessed through It will take a text and highlight the most frequently used words by making them the largest words of the display. The view you see here is from the text of an article which I wrote for the Evangelical Review of Theology in the January 2007 edition. The article is entitled "Prayer Revivals and the Third Great Awakening."

Clicking on the image below will link you to a high-resolution version of the "word cloud."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Leonard Ravenhill on Revival

Leonard Ravenhill was a wonderful man of God who lived in the 20th century and spoke about prayer and revival. The link that has been provided here is of an interview of Leonard Ravenhill during a conference on revival held in 1989. While the video is 19 years old, the topics and counsel of which Ravenhill spoke are just as relevant (if not more so) in 2008 as in 1989.

The link is to part 1 of the video on You Tube.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Prayer and the Sovereignty of God

Last week, while doing some other research on the topic of prayer, I found this article. It was written by Pastor John Piper in January of 1976, It happens to be a rather compact article on how to approach the topic of prayer from a Reformed/Calvinist position. It does address the questions of:

1) If God has predestined some to eternal life, why evangelize since they are going to believe anyway?

2) If God has predestined some to eternal life, why pray for the salvation of someone who has not come to the Lord yet?

I present this in keeping with a balance of teaching about prayer. That is why you will find quotes/links from numerous individuals in the Christian mainstream regarding prayer. While you might not be a big fan of Jonathan Edwards, Andrew Murray, A.W. Tozer and others whose work has been cited in this blog, it is my hope that you can gain further insight into prayer and the motivation to deepen your walk of prayer with God in Christ Jesus Our Lord.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Busyness - Part 2

Are we too busy for God? Are YOU too busy to cultivate your relationship with God?

In my last blog entry, I asked this of us. How do the schedule we keep and the priorities we hold affect areas of our relationship with God such as prayer? I believe that God has placed us where and when we are to be able to find Him and live a life of relationship with Him (see Acts 12:26-27 for a biblical basis for this belief). If this is so, our circumstances will never be such that a life of prayer becomes an impossibility. In other words, there is the time and occasion to pray.

But why do our priorities become so skewed? One answer is that we are willing to accept or be satisfied with little in the spiritual realm but not satisfied in the physical realm. A great exploration of this is found in an article by Dr. Micheal Zigarelli. In the article "Too Busy for God" (link here), Dr Zigarelli uses the small Old Testament prophecy of the book of Haggai to make a profound case regarding our busyness.

In prophecies which can actually be dated right down to the exact calendar date, God spoke to the remnant of Israel who were living back in the land after the exile in Babylon. They had started to build a new temple in Jerusalem. Yet, the project was stopped for political reasons. The delay last 16 years. God used Haggai to get the people to resume the building of the temple.

Over those 16 years, the people were satisfied to have an incomplete house of God in their midst while they busied themselves with their own paneled houses. The people's priorities became inverted. The desire for the building of their own houses took assumed priority over doing the building of the temple. The question was not asked: "when can we resume buidling?"

Dr Z accurately parallels that case with our own. There is both a corporate and individual sense in which we, as believers, are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3.16 [Group]; 1 Corinthians 6.19 [Individual]). Have we allowed the building of God's house within us to be put on hold while we pursue our own priorities first?

Please read Dr. Z's article. I think you will find it gets to the point quite well: Are we too busy for God?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Busyness - Part 1

Recently, I have been reflecting on the busyness of our lives and how it affects our life of prayer. In the course of research and reflection on this topic, I have come across a survey which demonstrates the impact of busyness on the life of the Christian. The survey, conducted by Dr. Michael Zigarelli, is international in its scope. The results actually surprised me. I was expecting that Christians in the United States would rank the highest in the indices of how much busyness affects our prayer lives. Actually, Christians in six nations other than the United States indicated a higher level of life busyness than American Christians. You can find the article here.

I do not want to be naive about history and assume that people in other eras have not faced their own levels of a high degree of busyness. Here in the United States, I have run across numerous anecdotes about pioneers who spent almost every waking "spare" moment in chopping wood for fuel (In a quick aside, the advice of building consultant Bernie Weisgerber can prove instructive. He was one of the consultants in the Public Broadcasting System reality program "Frontier House”. The show took three families and placed them into a historical recreation which simulated life in a Montana mountain valley in the year 1883. Mr. Weisgerber's counsel to the families which participated was to: “Spend every spare minute gathering winter firewood". This is not unlike the task that many of our ancestors have faced).

Yet, there is a discernible trend in our present-day world culture in which people believe that their lives are busier than they have ever been. The increased use of technology, especially in the workplace, has had the unexpected effect of either making our lives busier or giving us the impression that our lives are busier than they ever have been. One objective measure of this is the increased number of average hours per week worked by Americans which has increased about 10 hours per week over the last several decades.

How does living a life of busyness affect of lives of prayer? Are we too busy for God? Have we as Christians bought into our culture's obession of not just getting more and more but doing more and more? In part 2 of this article, I will examine a parallel which Dr. Zigarelli drew between our busyness and that of the returned Israelite exiles who lived in the time of the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. I think you will find the connection very relevant to our lives today.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup

Yes, I know that this really has nothing to do with this blog's usual topics. However, being a longtime Detroit Red Wings fan, I must share my joy along with all of us in Hockeytown and tell the world that the Detroit Red Wings won their 11th Stanley Cup on Wednesday night.

It has been a remarkable Stanley Cup finals series. Anyone watching Monday's game knows that (the Pittsburgh Penguins tied the game with 34 seconds left on Monday night to force overtime. They won during the third Overtime period and forced a Game 6 in Pittsburgh).

I have been a Red Wings fan long enough to truthfully admit that I am old enough to have seen the great Gordie Howe play (saw him score a goal in the first live Red Wings game I attended at the old Olympia Stadium back in 1969). There were many lean years between then and the Red Wings current run of Stanley Cup wins starting in 1997. I learned patience being a Wings fan during those years.

Congratulations, Detroit Red Wings, the 2008 Stanley Cup Champions, from the School of the Solitary Place.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Holiness - Week 10

This last Sunday was Week 10 of our study of J.C. Ryle's book Holiness. We had a great discussion on the two chapters of "Visible Churches Warned" and "Do You Love Me?"

Here are two quotes from Ryle:

Let us so live that all may see that to us the things of God are the first things, and the glory of God the first aim in our lives, to follow Christ our grand object in time present, to be with Christ our grand desire in time to come.Let us live in this way, and we shall be happy. Let us live in this way, and we shall do good to the world. Let us live in this way, and we shall leave good evidence behind us when we are buried. Let us live in this way, and the Spirit’s word to the churches will not have been spoken to us in vain.

A true Christian loves Christ for all He has done for him. He has suffered in his stead, and died for him on the cross. He has redeemed him from the guilt, the power and the consequences of sin by His blood. He has called him by His Spirit to self–knowledge, repentance, faith, hope and holiness. He has forgiven all his many sins and blotted them out. He has freed him from the captivity of the world, the flesh and the devil. He has taken him from the brink of hell, placed him in the narrow way, and set his face towards heaven. He has given him light instead of darkness, peace of conscience instead of uneasiness, hope instead of uncertainty, life instead of death. Can you wonder that the true Christian loves Christ?

Links to next Sunday's readings:

Sermon Audio is not available for these chapters

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Holiness - Week 9

Today was the ninth class on J.C. Ryle's book "Holiness." We reviewed Chapters 12 & 13 ("The Ruler of the Waves" ;"The Church Which Christ Builds")

I did a little historical explanation of what "novel reading" was considered to be back in Ryle's era. I used the works of Horatius Bonar and Robert Dabney (both 19th century theologians) as giving us a little background into what so considered to be so evil about "novel reading" at the time.

There were novels of the time which were simply immoral in their content. Yet, there were other factors such as the presentation of abberant behavior as acceptable or even heroic. There was also the sense that there was no real "re-creative" (as in, to be re created, and built back up spiritually and physically) purpose to these novels. They merely were written to evoke an emotional response to a completely fictional account while, in a sense, numbing the reader's emotions toward real-life situation. We made the point that the principles which went into the thinking of Ryle, Bonar and Dabney should be applied to the media of the 21st century which didn't even exist in the 19th century (i.e. movies, television, radio, recordings via wax cylinder and later vinyl, Compact Disks, mp3s, IPods, etc). We also pointed out that their reaction may have been, in retrospect, too broad and sweeping. Novelists such as George MacDonald would not have their wonderful works read under a very broad approach to novel reading.

There was a good bit of discussion about both chapters. I leave you with a quote from Ryle about seeing grace in fellow believers.

Above all, I want all Christians to understand what they must expect in other believers. You must not hastily conclude that a man has no grace merely because you see in him some corruption. There are spots on the face of the sun, and yet the sun shines brightly and enlightens the whole world. There is quartz and dross mixed up with many a lump of gold that comes from Australia, and yet who thinks the gold on that account worth nothing at all? There are flaws in some of the finest diamonds in the world, and yet they do not prevent their being rated at a priceless value. Away with this morbid squeamishness, which makes many ready to excommunicate a man if he only has a few faults! Let us be quick to see grace, and more slow to see imperfections! Let us know that, if we cannot allow there is grace where there is corruption, we shall find no grace in the world. We are yet in the body. The devil is not dead. We are not yet like the angels. Heaven has not yet begun. The leprosy is not out of the walls of the house, however much we may scrape them, and never will be until the house is taken down. Our bodies are indeed the temple of the Holy Spirit, but not a perfect temple, until they are raised or changed. Grace is indeed a treasure, but a treasure in earthen vessels. It is possible for a man to forsake all for Christ’s sake, and yet to be overtaken occasionally with doubts and fears.

I beseech every reader of this message to remember this. It is a lesson worth attention. The apostles believed in Christ, loved Christ and gave up all to follow Christ. And yet you see in this storm the apostles were afraid. Learn to be charitable in your judgment of them. Learn to be moderate in your expectations from your own heart. Contend to the death for the truth, that no man is a true Christian who is not converted and is not a holy man. But allow that a man may be converted, have a new heart and be a holy man, and yet be liable to infirmity, doubts and fears.

Links to articles on Novel Reading
Horatius Bonar - On Book Reading
Robert Dabney - On Dangerous Reading

Links to next Sunday's readings:

Sermon Audio
Start at 15:17 of Part 18; Finish at the very end of Part 19

The painting in the graphic is Christ In the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt

Friday, April 18, 2008

Holiness - Week 7

Today was our seventh class on J.C. Ryle's book Holiness. We reviewed the chapters on Lot and on Lot's wife. It should be noted that we find a level of commendation (not condemnation) of Lot in 2 Peter 2:6-8. Yet, the Genesis account paints the picture of Lot as one who judged his condition by mere externals. Rather than being seen as contradictory, I believe that these passages, taken as a whole, show God's mercy on His people, even when individuals are not living lives up to their calling in Christ.

What many of us found providential on Sunday is that our Pastor, Dan Lewis, preached his Sunday sermon about Lot. We did no coordination of Sunday School and sermon messages. I suspect that God is trying to drive home a point (points) about Lot to our congregation and this "coincidental" overlap of topics was meant to re-inforce the points. If you want to hear the sermon, click here and bring up the sermon for April 13, 2008.

A quote from Ryle regarding Lot:

These are they who get into their heads false ideas of charity, as they call it. They are morbidly afraid of being illiberal and narrow–minded and are always flying into the opposite extreme. They would sincerely please everybody, and suit everybody, and be agreeable to everybody. But they forget they ought first to be sure that they please God.

These are they who dread sacrifices and shrink from self–denial. They never appear able to apply our Lord’s command to "take up the cross" and "cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye" (Matt. 5:29, 30). They cannot deny that our Lord used these expressions, but they never find a place for them in their religion. They spend their lives in trying to make the gate more wide and the cross more light. But they never succeed.

These are they who are always trying to keep in with the world. They are ingenious in discovering reasons for not separating decidedly and in framing plausible excuses for attending questionable amusements and keeping up questionable friendships. One day you are told of their attending a Bible reading; the next day perhaps you hear of their going to a ball. One day they fast, or go to the Lord’s table and receive the sacrament; another day they go to the racecourse in the morning and the opera at night. One day they are almost in hysterics under the sermon of some sensational preacher; another day they are weeping over some novel. They are constantly laboring to persuade themselves that to mix a little with worldly people on their own ground does good. Yet in their case it is very clear they do no good, and only get harm.

This Sunday's Readings
Chapter 9 - Lot - A Beacon
Chapter 10 - A Woman To Be Remembered

Next Sunday's Reading

Chapter 11 - Christ's Greatest Trophy

Sermon Audio for next Sunday
Please remember that these can be listened to online or downloaded as free mp3s. (courtesy of Still Waters Revival Books in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 15

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 16

Start at 5:40 of Part 15
End at 4:50 of Part 16

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The One Minute Prayer - UPDATED

This is an update to my post of February 13, 2008 concerning the One Minute Prayer. There may actually be some traceable historical evidence for being able to link this practice (i.e. praying for the safety of the country for one minute at 9 pm) to individuals working for Winston Churchill during the Second World War. (In my original post, I stated that this might be an urban legend). While the traceable evidence still does not point directly back to a Churchill advisor and his staff, the Remembrance Ceremony provides strong traceable evidence for the practice in England and other countries around the world in the first half of the 20th century.

Please read my updated post at One Minute Prayer and also the website that seems to give some historical credence to the development of the practice. Link here

Again my thanks to an anonymous reader of the blog who supplied the link to the Remembrance Ceremony website.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Holiness - Week 6

This last Sunday was Week 6 of our Sunday School class on the book "Holiness" by J.C. Ryle. This book, written in 1879 by a bishop of the Church 0f England continues to amaze us with writing that sounds prophetic for our own time.

Our chapters today were on the topics of assurance and Moses. Moses is seen by Ryle as a remarkable example of biblical faith put into action. How much could Moses have had as part of the Egyptian had he not identified with the people who gave him birth? It's a great chapter.

Most of our class discussion was on the chapter relating to assurance. It was stressed that Christ is our source of salvation, from beginning to end. Ryle observed a wonderful paradox concerning assurance: True, biblical assurance of our salvation increases our sense of living a holy life and does not decrease it. Ryle writes:

Assurance is to be desired because it tends to make the holiest Christians. This, too, sounds incredible and strange, and yet it is true. It is one of the paradoxes of the gospel, contrary at first sight to reason and common sense, and yet it is a fact. Cardinal Bellarmine was seldom more wide of the truth than when he said, "Assurance tends to carelessness and sloth." He who is freely forgiven by Christ will always do much for Christ’s glory, and he who enjoys the fullest assurance of this forgiveness will ordinarily keep up the closest walk with God. It is a faithful saying and worthy to be remembered by all believers: "He who has hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:3). A hope that does not purify is a mockery, a delusion, and a snare.

None are so likely to maintain a watchful guard over their own hearts and lives as those who know the comfort of living in close communion with God. They feel their privilege and will fear losing it. They will dread falling from the high estate, and marring their own comforts, by bringing clouds between themselves and Christ. He who goes on a journey with little money about him takes little thought of danger and cares little how late he travels. He, on the contrary, that carries gold and jewels will be a cautious traveler. He will look well to his roads, his lodgings and his company and run no risks. It is an old saying, however unscientific it may be, that the fixed stars are those which tremble most. The man that most fully enjoys the light of God’s reconciled countenance will be a man tremblingly afraid of losing its blessed consolations and jealous

Next Sunday's Readings

Chapter 9 - Lot - A Beacon

Chapter 10 - A Woman To Be Remembered

Sermon Audio for next Sunday

Please remember that these can be listened to online or downloaded as free mp3s. (courtesy of Still Waters Revival Books in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 12

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 13

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 14

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 15

Start at 39:24 of Part 12

End at 5:40 of Part 15

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Holiness - Week 5

Today was week 5 of our class on J.C. Ryle's book Holiness. Due to a send-off being held for our outgoing youth pastor, our class time and discussion was cut down to half an hour.

Our topic today is that of growth in grace. Growth should be expected in spiritual matters just as it is in the physical world with plants, animals and people. One area of today's discussion centered on what happens when we abuse or misdirect the private means of grace and make it into a kind of new law. One person mentioned a series of articles by Greg Johnson which were re-published in this blog. It has to do with our Quiet Time becoming a law unto itself. The links to those blog entries are just below. Paul's admonition to the Galatians was mentioned: "Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:2-3 NIV)

A quote from the chapter follows:

One thing essential to growth in grace is diligence in the use of private means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man must use by himself alone, and no one can use for him. I include under this head private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self–examination. The man who does not take pains about these three things must never expect to grow. Here are the roots of true Christianity. Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through! Here is the whole reason why many professing Christians never seem to get on. They are careless and slovenly about their private prayers. They read their Bibles but little and with very little heartiness of spirit. They give themselves no time for self–inquiry and quiet thought about the state of their souls.

It is useless to conceal from ourselves that the age we live in is full of peculiar dangers. It is an age of great activity and of much hurry, bustle and excitement in religion. Many are "running to and fro," no doubt, and "knowledge is increased" (Dan. 12:4). Thousands are ready enough for public meetings, sermon hearing, or anything else in which there is "sensation." Few appear to remember the absolute necessity of making time to "commune with our own hearts, and be still" (Ps. 4:4). But without this, there is seldom any deep spiritual prosperity. Let us remember this point! Private religion must receive our first attention, if we wish our souls to grow.
This Sunday's Readings
Chapter 6 - Growth
Next Sunday's Readings

Next Sunday's Readings on Audio
Start at 9:00 of Part 9
End at 39:24 of Part 12

Please remember that these can be listened to online or downloaded as free mp3s. (courtesy of Still Waters Revival Books in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 9

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Holiness - Week 4

Today was the fourth installment of the class on J.C. Ryle's book Holiness. We discussed Chapters 4 & 5 (The Fight; The Cost);

One point, among excellent points made by class members had to do with the cost of following Christ. One person, who actually submitted her comment in absentia, mentioned that we could never know the cost of following Christ before we do so (unlike a business transaction where the cost is somewhat well known). It was brought up that the cost will be different for all of us. Some are called to die for their faith in Christ. Others aren't. Yet, there is some cost we face for what we believe. We know that Christ will accompany us and give us the strength, in prayer, to fight the battle and count the cost.

My concern is that what passes for evangelism in many American churches today is to downplay or neglect mentioning that there is a cost to count in following Christ. I likened to it chemotherapy. In this approach, the gospel is so watered down or preached piecemeal that the impact is hoped to call us to gradually and painless kill our old sinful nature. I pointed out that the gospel should be regarded as chemotherapy in which all doses are given at one time. In a physical context, that would kill the patient as well as the cancer. However, the Gospel is a call for us to put to death our old self, not give it a gradual cure.

We also talked about the fight. One point which I made has to do with a quote from Ryle (found below in italics). It is about a "deeds not creeds" approach to the faith which Ryle recognized in Britain in 1879. My point was about someone who walked into a Red Cross blood drive, watching many people on the tables who were donating blood. Please understand. Doing such a thing is noble. But what is the motive for giving? Merely getting the juice and cookies at the end? Getting out of an hour of work? Giving because there is the need? Reducing blood volume to make it easier and faster to drunk that night? (That actually was the stated objective of two other donors during the very first time I gave blood during my college days many years ago). If we judged by deed first, all are doing noble things. If we judge by the "creed" going into it, we see a variety of motives. Some good; Others bad.

About this, Ryle wrote:
A general faith in the truth of God’s written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. He is what he is, does what he does, thinks as he thinks, acts as he acts, hopes as he hopes, behaves as he behaves, for one simple reason—he believes certain propositions revealed and laid down in Holy Scripture. "He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).

A religion without doctrine or dogma is a thing which many are fond of talking of in the present day. It sounds very fine at first. It looks very pretty at a distance. But the moment we sit down to examine and consider it, we shall find it a simple impossibility. We might as well talk of a body without bones and sinews. No man will ever be anything or do anything in religion unless he believes something. Even those who profess to hold the miserable and uncomfortable views of the deists are obliged to confess that they believe something. With all their bitter sneers against dogmatic theology and Christian credulity, as they call it, they themselves have a kind of faith

This Sunday's Readings

Next Sunday's Readings

Next Sunday's Readings on Audio
Start at 41:15 of Part 7
End at 9:00 of Part 9
Please remember that these can be listened to online or downloaded as free mp3s. (courtesy of Still Waters Revival Books in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Where is Jesus?

Several years ago, there was a famous game called "Where's Waldo?". On this day, each of us needs to ask "Where's Jesus?" If he died and stayed dead, Christians believe their faith in vain. A failed teacher of mere morals would have been a failure in history.

If He is not in a Jerusalem grave this day, where is He? If He is in heaven, as the Bible indicates, the implications are staggering. A human who is also God, who lived, died and lives again in resurrected glory for 20 centuries, right up until today, demands our attention. Once He has that, He rightly demands worship and control of our lives.

Where do you think Jesus is, right now? If His tomb in Jerusalem is truly empty, you must realize what that means to your life, both here and for eternity.

Happy Easter from the School of the Solitary Place!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Holiness - Week 3

Today was the third session in this quarter's Sunday School class on J.C. Ryle's book "Holiness." Today we discussed Chapters 2 & 3 (Sanctification, Holiness). One point that was made was asking if Ryle is trying to place a legalistic burden on Christian believers. While the person asking the question did see where Ryle was going with his arguments, the point is a good one. Justification is by grace alone through faith in Christ. Sanctification has its' origin in Christ also. However, unlike justification, sanctification is a joint effort between God and the believer. We do need to struggle and to use "means" (such as prayer) to grow in sanctification. It was mentioned that the writer of the Hebrews implies that many of his first listeners to his letter had actually stalled their progress in sanctification. (See Hebrews 5:11-14)

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:11-14 NIV)

I want to include a reference which Ryle makes to the 17th century English Puritan John Owen:
That great divine, John Owen, the Dean of Christ Church, used to say, more than two hundred years ago, that there were people whose whole religion seemed to consist in going about complaining of their own corruptions and telling everyone that they could do nothing of themselves. I am afraid that after two centuries the same thing might be said with truth of some of Christ’s professing people in this day. I know there are texts in Scripture which warrant such complaints. I do not object to them when they come from men who walk in the steps of the apostle Paul and fight a good fight, as he did, against sin, the devil and the world. But I never like such complaints when I see ground for suspecting, as I often do, that they are only a cloak to cover spiritual laziness and an excuse for spiritual sloth. If we say with Paul, "O wretched man that I am," let us also be able to say with him, "I press toward the mark." Let us not quote his example in one thing, while we do not follow him in another (Rom. 7:24; Phil. 3:14).

This week's readings can be found at

Links for today's readings
Chapter 2 - Sanctification
Chapter 3 - Holiness

Links for next Sunday's readings
Chapter 4 - The Fight
Chapter 5 - The Cost

As promised to my class, I have the links for Sermon Audio to bring in next Sunday's readings on downloadable mp3 (courtesy of Still Waters Revival Books in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

You can listen directly from the links or do a FREE download of the mp3s.

For next week's readings, start at 29 minutes 40 seconds into Part 5 and end at 41 minutes 15 seconds of Part 7.

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 5
Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 6
Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 7


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Holiness - Week 2

Today was the second week of our church Sunday School class on J.C. Ryle's book "Holiness." We read through the Introduction and Chapter 1 for today. For next Sunday, we will be reading Chapter 2 on Sanctification and Chapter3 on Holiness.

One quote which we covered in class had to do with sin. The doctrine of sin seems to be avoided in so much Christian preaching and teaching today. Ryle sensed the same thing in his own time and place (1879 England). His observations would apply to good Christian teaching in any era. He wrote:

Now, I know nothing so likely to counteract this modern plague as constant clear statements about the nature, reality, vileness, power and guilt of sin. We must charge home into the consciences of these men of broad views and demand a plain answer to some plain questions. We must ask them to lay their hands on their hearts and tell us whether their favorite opinions comfort them in the day of sickness, in the hour of death, by the bedside of dying parents, by the grave of a beloved wife or child. We must ask them whether a vague earnestness, without definite doctrine, gives them peace at seasons like these. We must challenge them to tell us whether they do not sometimes feel a gnawing "something" within, which all the free inquiry and philosophy and science in the world cannot satisfy. And then we must tell them that this gnawing "something" is the sense of sin, guilt and corruption, which they are leaving out in their calculations. And, above all, we must tell them that nothing will ever make them feel rest but submission to the old doctrines of man’s ruin and Christ’s redemption and simple childlike faith in Jesus.

Links for today's readings

Links for next Sunday's readings

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Operation World

A great resource to learn about the nations of the Earth and their particular needs in prayer can be found at the website for Operation World (Operation World Website link here) Through it, you can learn about the nations of the world with information which is kept current. It is also a reminder that God's concern and work is not limited only to our own nation and people group but is truly a global effort. Operation World has a specific link which will take you to the information for that day's specific focus. Find the link here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Revival on University Campuses

A trend which I have been noticing within the last few years has been that of revival on university campuses across the United States. Becky Tirabassi, who has been a speaker to college youth concerning revival during the last few years has published some of her observations in articles in Christianity Today. See here and here for two articles regarding this wonderful trend. See also the sidebar link here in this blog (right hand side of this page) to Campus Transformation.

My family had the chance to observe this first hand in the early summer of 2006. We were staying on the campus of Colorado State University for a competition in which my sons were participating. Every day we were there, we noted an open Bible study or worship event happening in our dorm building everyday we were there.

The 24-7 prayer movement which started in England in 1999 is working to bring continuous prayer to campuses in the United States. They too have noticed the trend in the U.S. See link
In a culture in which the news seems flooded with stories about celebrities and their often inane, immoral and illegal behavior, there is a very under-reported trend of campus revival. Please pray for God's Holy Spirit to move upon the hearts and minds of the youth in attendance at these schools to honor Christ in their thinking and studies.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A One Minute Prayer - UPDATED

Today, I received an e-mail from a member of the prayer circle of which I am a member at our local church. It was about a one-minute prayer which many in the United States are trying to organize for the safety of our troops, our citizens and a return to Godliness in America.
The e-mail was a call to set aside one minute at the same time each day. The e-mail mentioned 9pm Eastern time. I think this is a great idea and would like to suggest this to my readers in the United States. For those readers not in the United States, you may want to find out if there is any movement within your country to pray on behalf of your nation's people, leadership, etc.
I do need to offer a small bit of advice about the story which often accompanies the e-mail. It makes the following claim:
"Did you know that during WWII there was an advisor to Churchill who organized a group of people who dropped what they were doing every day at a prescribed hour for one minute to collectively pray for the safety of England, its people and peace?"
Having read a number of "urban legends" in regard to Christianity in America ("Joshua's Long Day" is a perfect example of an attempt to put forth a Christian point but to do so with an accompanying story with is actually not true), I thought that the reference to an unnamed "advisor to Churchill" followed the track of many urban legends. In such urban legends, there is an attempt to give authoritative emphasis to the account. However, there is typically the untrackable reference to an authority figure. I tried to find out who this advisor to Churchill was via an Internet search. In virtually every case, the advisor to Churchill portion is quoted, almost word-for-word, in every source I could find. There is NO information as to who this person was or the group of praying people. Perhaps, they did exist. Yet, I cannot confirm this. UPDATE of April 10 2008 - There may actually be some names which can be historically linked to this practice. See the rest of the April 10th update below.
Therefore, this will be a strange call to prayer on my part. I do believe that the one-minute prayer is very much worth doing for the sake of our nation. However, do keep in mind that its' original promoters MIGHT have been a little zealous to find/created a justification for this. So, I suggest that you consider practicing the one-minute at 9pm Eastern (8pm Central; 7pm Mountain and 6pm Pacific Time). However, please do this regardless of an advisor to Winston Churchill. The justification we need is already clearly stated in the Word of God: "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2 NIV
Update - April 10 2008
One of the readers of the blog left a comment which contains a link to some information about the development of a Remembrance ceremony which involved remembering fallen soldiers at the 9pm chiming of Big Ben in London (as an aside, Big Ben turns 150 years old today).
Please read the page at the following link: Remembrance Ceremony

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

True Spirituality - Reverse Migrants

Back in December, I started writing on observations I had made while reading Francis Schaeffer's book True Spirituality. I'd intended to write a number of blog entries on that book. However, time and circumstances have prevented me from doing so for the last few months. I now have the opportunity to write more, so I will take that opportunity now. I will include here the notes I made during a spiritual retreat back in September. Those notes follow:

I've read through the chapter on Christ's resurrection in True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer strongly stressed the space-time element of Christ's resurrection AND ascension. He refutes well those who would place Christ's suffering, death, burial and resurrection to the realm of legend or an "other" category.

I especially found useful his discussion on the passages in Romans and Galatians in which Paul writes of our own death, burial and rising with Christ. Schaeffer understands these passages as stating that our present-moment Christian life must be lived as if we have already died physically, gone to Heaven and come back for our resurrected body. We must live by faith as dead to this world and live to the power and presence of God.

This brought to mind a number of thoughts. We should be living the life of the future world NOW! We should live as "reverse migrants." In today's world, there are people who migrate from one country to another, and, in many lives, live the life of their first country while living in their new country (i.e. style of dress, language, food, etc). They live the life of their past culture in the present day.

Christians are called to be "reverse migrants." Most definitely not in the sense of reverting to a pre-Christian set of beliefs and ethic but in the following: Christians are called to live the life of their future culture in the present day. We should live a life which anticipates the truth and reality of the age to come.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Experiencing God

My mother died last Friday. It has been a time in which thoughts of God, the afterlife and what we are called to do on Earth to glorify Him have filled my mind. One thought that has been on my mind has been what I've noticed as a stronger emphasis in Christian media (and other media) about the importance of experiencing God.

I do agree that it is important to have a devotional life in which experiencing the reality of God plays a crucial role. It can be seen in church history that there are cycles in which Christians approach God as a set of principles rather than as the ultimate infinite being who created us for relationship to Him. Yet, as one of my theology professors once pointed out, the attempt to correct an error in one direction can often lead to an excess in the opposite direction. It occurred to me that this may apply about the topic of experiencing God.

In our western culture, there has been a move toward having an experience versus increasing the amount of information you take in via the form of a written text. One example is that of museums. A generation ago, many museums had displays with text that accompanied each display. While that has not gone away today, there is a stronger emphasis in these museums of providing a hands-on experience within their displays.

With this in mind, it occurred to me that as I've heard and read more about the desire by Christians to experience God, there could be something missing. Since we are becoming more experience oriented. I fear that this may possibly lead to a relationship with God which takes in far less for us than He intends. Let me explain.

First, let me state clearly that I see NO problem with any believer desiring to experience God in a deeper way. Providing that such a desire is worked out in ways that go along with a good understanding of who God is as laid out in the Bible, I think that is a great thing. However, my concern centers on what would happen if someone's relationship to God is limited ONLY to their experience.

The life of the mind is crucial also to Christian growth in God. Biblical meditation is one of these means. We are commanded to meditate on the Scriptures (14 times in the Psalms we are instructed to ponder God's Word and God's wonderful works). In these thoughts, we are led to an understanding of the depths of God's glory,holiness, love, mercy, wrath against sin, etc. that we might never encounter, or be able to encounter, in our own personal experience of Him. I cannot know, by experience, God's tender care for those who give birth. Yet, I can praise him for His mercy upon child-bearing mothers even if I can never experience this myself.

I am a Christian. Yet, I am also a male, an American, and one whose life has been lived in parts of the 20th and 21st centuries. If I were to limit my relatioship to God to my own experience, I would miss out on so much. I have much to learn about God from other Christians. I can learn from other male and female Christians. I can learn from other American Christians, as well as from those who are not. I can learn from other Christians who have lived in the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as those who lived before my time. Thankfully, many of their journals and writings exist to this day.

God's command to us in this regard was echoed by the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testamant: "You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37 NASB quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 ). Note that all three components are needed: heart, soul and mind. As you grow in your relationship to God and experience Him more deeply, grow also in your knowledge of aspects of God which you might never encounter in your own personal experience. Loving Him with your mind will allow you to know and appreciate God's wonders beyond your own personal experiences.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Recap of the 24 Hour Prayer Vigil

Here are some pictures taken during our 24 Hour Prayer Vigil held from December 31st to January 1st. The first picture was taken at a prayer station having to do with our contributions to the body of Christ. Individuals could add a piece of stained glass to help show how the individual contributes to the whole.

The second picture is that of a barbed-wire cross which reminded us of the cruelty of what the Lord Jesus faced to pay for our sins. On this cross, we would place a piece of dirty cloth and would take a piece of clean cloth in its place, to remind us of the great exchange which Christ made in which He paid for our sin and we are given His perfect righteousness in its place.

Around midnight, it started to snow. And did it snow. It was a powerful reminder of God's peace in our surroundings. It did make for some interesting stories among us as we exchanged stories of the challenges of getting to church during a middle of the night snowstorm. We were so blessed to see some of our fellow intercessors braving the snow at 4am to 6am to get to church.

This is a long view of the labyrinth we used in our fellowship during the Prayer Vigil. There were seven stops (prayer stations) which were powerful and vivid reminders of God's love.

We know that some folks who wanted to come to the Prayer Vigil simply could not get there due to the snow. Yet, we sensed that God did indeed want us to do what we were doing. There was a sense of quiet and peace both outside (with the falling snow) and inside with the labyrinth and in the sanctuary. In the church sanctuary, there was silent prayer for repentance and reflection, both on the end of one year and start of a new one.

Happy New Year 2008 from the School of the Solitary Place .