A New Series Begins This Week

This week I will begin a series of posts on Tuesdays and Fridays. I will define and discuss a theological term on Tuesdays, and a philosophical term on Fridays. I hope to make this a regular feature for the near future.
Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, or make suggestions of terms and topics you would like to know or understand better. So, be looking for the posts, “Theological Tuesdays”, and “Philosophical Fridays”.  And leave your comments and questions.

Godly Silence and Solitude

wordpress_silence_bird
Silence has always seemed lonely to me. Paul Simon sang,
hello darkness my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again….
The sounds of silence

If you have ever been left on your own when you really didn’t want to be, or even need to be, you understand these words more than most. Too many in this modern world are too connected all the time, and being disconnected with no technology to hold onto is terrifying.
Silence. No phones, no texts, no social media, no internet. Silence. It is in the silence they discover that they do not and cannot live in silence. And then, there are those who are truly alone. Real silence. No connections with people, and no desire for a connection. People who feel alone because of hurts, failures; just life itself.
It is the sounds, of quiet, madness, failure, discontent, anger, and distrust of anything or anyone. And the sounds are deafening. You and I, as followers of Christ, live in this same world. We experience hurts and failures, and all of the emotions mentioned a moment ago, but we are to look to our Savior in those times and know we are His.
We are much more likely to focus on Him in those times when we realize that instead of fearing the silence, we must instead spend time in silence and solitude.
Solitude is to be seen as a “means of grace”, or way of receiving grace from God. It has been practiced by believers for centuries, but lost in the modern world. We are in desperate need of recovering it, and practicing it in our lives. Solitude is meant to focus our hearts in “Godly silence”.
We are called, as believers, to community. We are meant to fellowship, worship, and live with other believers. And yet, there are times we crave time away from all of this. Our souls need refreshing and rest.
Historically, in the practice of spiritual disciplines, when someone is called to silence, they spend time away from people, and refrain from speaking for a specific time. And in this time, they are meant to meditate on scripture, read, keep a journal, etc.
The practice of solitude on the other hand is meant to be used in a variety of ways, with no real time frame. We hear of people needing solitude, but rarely needing silence. Except in classrooms, libraries, and the homes of frantic and tired moms.
The bigger the city, the faster the pace, the harder it is to find time for, and even to find, silence and solitude. We were created for communion with our Creator. We were created to worship Him, to fellowship with Him, to talk with Him. The Psalmist said it better in Psalm 62:1,

My soul waits in silence for God only

When was the last time you were quiet enough in your soul to hear God’s voice? And when have you had the time recently to “wait in silence” for God only? We are created souls who constantly need our Creator’s guidance in our lives. Isaiah 30:15 is an instructive verse for us

Thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and
rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’

We need to return to Him, and rest in Him. He is our salvation. He strengthens us when we are quiet, and trust in His voice and His leading in our lives. Many times it is in silence and solitude that we find our strength in Him, when in the noise of life, we may miss it.
In his book, The Listening Life[^1], Adam McHugh reminds us,

Even though we do not feel God’s listening presence upon us, God is
listening and silently working through our doubts and struggles. God
may not be directly answering our prayers, but he is silently walking
through our lives, beckoning us closer, working new things into us.

God is “silently walking through our lives”. When we are unable to experience biblical silence and solitude in our own lives, God Himself draws us closer to Himself, calling for us. So many of us are desperate for times of refreshing in our walk with God. We have experienced highs and lows, and many too close together. Our lives are hectic, and we need the refreshment offered in God’s solitude. Spend time in short times or prayer, bible reading, journal writing, individual worship, or meditation of scripture. We need this time to draw close to Him, because we need Him. And He is calling.

[1] The Listening Life, Adam S. McHugh, p.52

Read Old Books

old books

 

The language is too archaic. They talk funny. It doesn’t make sense today. It’s not for me. Just like history being forgotten, people do not read old books as much anymore. And they are missing so much. Old books, well written books, remind us of a time and place when God was honored, and men feared their sin.
Whether the Puritans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, or Spurgeon and Hodge in the nineteenth century, the content of the books was focused on God, and our relationship to Him. We need books that remind us of the tragedy of sin, and, as R. C. Sproul states, the cosmic treason that is sin. We do not look on sin as those who went before us did. We do not weep and lament at our purposeful separation from a God who calls us to himself. The church today is disconnected from the church of a hundred, two hundred, five hundred years ago, and we are suffering because of it. We need to learn biblical repentance that was taught and practiced for hundreds of years. Charles Spurgeon said this in the late nineteenth century,
Repentance may be and is a change of mind; but what a change it is! It is not an unimportant change of mind such as you may have concerning whether you will take your holiday this week or the next, or about some trifling matter of domestic interest; but it is a change of the whole heart, of the love, of the hate, of the judgment, and the view of things taken by the individual whose mind is thus changed.

It is a deep, radical, fundamental, lasting change; and you will find that, whenever you meet with it in Scripture, it is always accompanied with sorrow for past sin. And rest you assured of this fact, that the repentance which has no tears in its eye and no mourning for sin in its heart, is a repentance which needs to be repented of, for there is in it no evidence of conversion, no sign of the existence of the grace of God.[^1]

“A deep, radical, fundamental, lasting change…accompanied with sorrow. Were individual christians and the church to begin practicing and living out this   kind of repentance it would change the face of our lives and witness of the church. John Owen, writing in the seventeenth century, produced multiple volumes of theological works, including a seven volume study of the book of Hebrews. John Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim’s Progress, read widely even today by millions. One could even go as far back to the church fathers of the early second through sixth centuries. Augustine, Origen, Eusebius, and others. Athanasius, in his “Statement of Faith” discussing the relationship of the Father and Son, says this

For it would be inconsistent with His deity for Him to be called a creature. For all things were created by the Father through the Son, but the Son alone was eternally begotten from the Father, whence God the Word is ‘first-born of all creation,’ unchangeable from unchangeable.[^2]

These writers discuss deep theological thoughts and ideas. They are passionate about the things of God, and about sharing the things of God with the people they teach. We lose so much when we forget. To use Sir Isaac Newton’s famous phrase, “we are able to see further because we stand on the shoulders of giants.” We need to stand on the shoulders of these giants in theology, and follow their passion for God and His Word. In this modern era we need to see clearly and far, and we cannot do that if we forget. Please, read old books.

 

 

[1] The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 43, sermon number 2,510, “Apart.”
[2] Athanasius of Alexandria. “Statement of Faith.” St. Athanasius: Select Works and
Letters. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Trans. Archibald T. Robertson. Vol. 4. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892.

Remember Who You Worship Today

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, tthe firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)