Solitude Improved: understanding the spiritual discipline of meditation

"Meditation stands between the two ordinances of reading and praying, as the grand improver of the former, and the high quickener of the latter, to furnish the mind with choice materials for prayer, and to fill the heart with holy fervency in it." - Ben Ciavolella looks at Nathanael Ranew (d. 1677)

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On Lent: "I am certainly more than a little concerned with the growing Protestant evangelical infatuation with the orthodox church calendar"

"First. I do not agree that it is never appropriate to question or criticize a person's expression of devotion to God.  Biblically speaking, sometimes critique is necessary because one's devotion may be misplaced or in error" - Ref21

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Devotion to Prayer

Proskartereo in the New Testament: A sermon delivered at Calvary Baptist Church, Derby, Kansas. Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at

Tonight, I want us to study a single word in the NT: proskartereo. It looks and sounds like a perfect candidate for use in a Jeopardy category: “12-letter Greek words that are difficult to pronounce”!

This word caught my attention as I ran across it at various times over the years in my studies of the NT in Greek, and I thought its various occurrences and uses rather interesting.

It is a compound word, composed of the preposition pros, which means, “to, toward, in the direction of” and kartereo, a verb with the root idea of “to be strong, firm.” So it literally means “to be strong toward something or someone.” As used in the NT, the word carries the sense and meaning “to be devoted to, to be dedicated to, to focus on, to be committed to, to persist in” some purpose, object or person.

This word is used ten times in the Greek NT, six of which occur in Acts. I want to briefly note each of these uses.

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Book Review - Why Christ Came

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Why? Every young child’s favorite word is “why?” Why do we have to go to bed now? Why can’t we have licorice for dinner? Why do we have to always brush our teeth?

With the hustle and bustle of another Christmas season upon us. It is the grown up children among us who are asking “Why?” Why make such a fuss with wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, when the kids are just going to break the toy in a couple days and complain about it. Why go through with painful family trips to the in-laws, awkward holiday parties at work and endure the rush at the mall?

Christmas ultimately is much more than gifts and toys, we know. It is about a baby in a manger, and a donkey standing in the stable (or is the donkey really part of the picture?). The routine nature of Christmas choirs and holiday schedules threaten to have us asking “Why?” even as we think about the Christ child. We get it, Christ came. Can’t we make more of a fuss over the cross and the empty tomb?

Meditating on the incarnation

Against this backdrop, authors Joel Beeke and William Boekestein present 31 meditations on the incarnation in a little book titled Why Christ Came. Unlike many Christmas devotionals, this book does not recount the Scriptural account of Christ’s birth. It doesn’t play gotcha about the donkey and other extra-Scriptural additions to the Christmas story. Instead this book focuses on the big question: Why.  Why is it so special Christ came?

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On Daily Devotions

devotionsRepublished with permission from Baptist Bulletin Nov/Dec 2011. All rights reserved.

My wife and I were talking about the spiritual hazards in the current culture when she asked, “How do believers make it these days without daily quiet time?” This is a subject I rarely hear mentioned anymore. Maybe that’s because the matter is too personal.

Years ago a Bible college student confided that as he walked to breakfast on his first day of class, his suite-mate asked, “Well, George, what did the Lord give you in quiet time this morning?”

George’s mind worked fast. After the initial shock at the intrusion, he quickly made up something to tell. The next morning it happened again, and again he made up something to make himself look good. The third morning George got up earlier and prayed for the Lord to give him something he could share. From then on he had an appointment with the Lord and didn’t need any further prompting.

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The Great Race

During the 1960 Olympiad in Rome, an obscure Ethiopian named, Abebe Bikila, captured gold in the men’s marathon. The track-and-field world responded with collective incredulity: “What on earth is an Ethiopian doing in a marathon?” At that time the world’s premiere long-distance runners hailed from the cool climates of Northern Europe—the British Isles, Scandanavia, the Soviet Union. Bikila’s victory was widely dismissed as a fluke.

Bikila’s victory was no fluke. It turned out to be the spark that ignited a revolution. Just eight years later, no less than nine east Africans won medals in long distance races at the Olympics in Mexico City. Three Kenyans captured gold at those games, including a most inspiring victory by Kipchoge Keino.

Kip Keino arrived at the games suffering from a gall bladder infection. He ran anyway. Keino led the 10,000 meter race with only two laps to go when he collapsed and was disqualified. Two days later Mr. Keino ran again and won a silver medal in the 5,000 meter race.

With his gall bladder infection raging out of control, doctors sidelined Keino for the 1,500 meter race in which he had hoped to compete. Convalescing in the athlete’s village, Keino decided he would rather die than disappoint his fellow Kenyans. The fire to run burned too hot in his soul to quench. He hailed a cab and set out for the Olympic stadium. A mile from his destination, his taxi was stopped in its tracks by a gnarly traffic jam. In jeopardy of missing the race, Keino jumped out of his cab and jogged past stalled commuters to the stadium. He arrived in time and lined up against then world-record holder, Jim Ryun. Ryun had not lost a 1,500 meter race in over three years. Kip Keino won the race by 20 meters! [Ed.: Watch Keino’s victory here.]

The thunderous response that rocked Mexico’s Olympic stadium did not begin to compare with the fire Keino’s victory ignited in his fledgling and impoverished homeland of Kenya—particularly among Keino’s own Kalenjin tribe. Since that day, long-distance running has been a path to glory among the Kalenjin.

According to researcher, John Manners, 75 per cent of Kenya’s top runners hail from this single tribe. From 1987-1997 Kalenjin runners captured 40 per cent of the top international honors in men’s long distance running—including placing first, second, and twelfth in the Boston Marathon in 1996. “I contend” says Manners, “that this record marks the greatest geographic concentration of achievement in the annals of sport” (

To this day a major long-distance race anywhere on earth will invariably find an east-African—if not a Kenyan—contending for the prize. Following the inspiring lead of Bikila, Keino and others have led the underdeveloped and thinly populated nation of Kenya to world-dominance in long-distance running.

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Savoring Lincoln, Savoring Christ

The Lincoln memorial in Washington D.C. is hallowed ground in my book. I stood at this sacred spot in 2005 and was deeply moved.

Lincoln’s memorial stands at the head of a cross-shaped layout of memorials on the Washington mall. Most guides will adamantly deny any intentional symbolism. My guide was willing not only to concede the obvious, but to reference primary source documents wherein the original designers of the mall detail plans to arrange the memorials in the shape of a cross so as to pay tribute to the profound influence of Jesus Christ upon this nation.

Possessed of this insight, I stood on the steps of the Lincoln memorial looking down the length of “the cross” toward the Washington monument (at the cross’ nexus). Owing my spiritual life and joy to Jesus (whom having never seen I mysteriously love, 1 Peter 1:8), my heart surged with thanksgiving and wonder to contemplate the hand of divine providence upon this nation and upon my own life.

My near ecstasy continued as I read Lincoln’s second inaugural address etched into the wall of the north enclave of the memorial. The third column in particular held my rapt attention. Herein Lincoln explicates the doctrine of divine providence. Only a dwindling minority of Americans could define the meaning of God’s providence today. This was not the case during the Civil War. Nor was it the case for Lincoln who found in the doctrine of divine providence—God’s preserving and governing power over nature and history—essential ballast to endure those tumultuous days with hope.

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Book Review - Becoming God's True Woman

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Becoming God’s True Woman was originally a set of lectures from the March 2000 conference on “Building Strong Families in Your Church,” co-hosted by FamilyLife and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Nancy Leigh DeMoss compiled and edited the book. Its chapters are authored by DeMoss, Barbara Hughes, Susan Hunt, Mary Kassian, Carolyn Mahaney, Dorothy Kelley Patterson, and P. Bunny Wilson. An extensive biography of each woman is included. Each is an experienced author and active in ministry to women.

The book’s primary purpose is to encourage women in the face of feminism in the world—as well as feminist leanings in the church—to “repent, to return to the authority of God’s Word, to embrace God’s priorities and purpose for their lives and homes, and to live out the beauty and the wonder of womanhood as God created it to be” (p. 18). The “true woman” of the title comes from a chapter of Susan Hunt’s:

The dictionary defines true as “consistent with fact or reality; exactly conforming to a rule, standard, or pattern”…

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