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Tim Challies

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July 31, 2015

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is offering 5 great prize packages this week, and each of the packages contains some of their new books. That means there will be 5 winners this week, and each of them will receive these 3 books:

Praying the BiblePraying the Bible by Donald Whitney. "When you pray, does it ever feel like you’re just saying the same old things about the same old things? Offering us the encouragement and the practical advice we’re all looking for, Donald S. Whitney, best-selling author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, outlines an easy-to-grasp method that has the power to transform our prayer life: praying the words of Scripture. Simple, yet profound, Praying the Bible will prove invaluable as you seek to commune with your heavenly Father in prayer each and every day."

Things Not SeenThings Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God's Promises by Jon Bloom. "God is doing far more than we can see in our pain. We plead for God’s deliverance from our pain and wonder why he keeps letting it go on. We are not alone. A cloud of witnesses surrounds us and they help us understand. In these 35 creative retellings of Bible stories, Jon Bloom explores the hope and joy that Abraham, Moses, Naomi, John the Baptist, and others experienced in the painful process of discovering that God’s promises really are more trustworthy than our perceptions."

Really TeachWhat Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. "In this timely book, award-winning author Kevin DeYoung challenges each of us—the skeptic and the seeker, the certain and the confused—to take a humble look at God’s Word regarding the issue of homosexuality. After examining key biblical passages in both the Old and New Testaments and the Bible’s overarching teaching regarding sexuality, DeYoung responds to popular objections raised by Christians and non-Christians alike, making this an indispensable resource for thinking through one of the most pressing issues of our day."

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

July 31, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and every few weeks I like to provide a round-up of what is new and particularly notable. It has been a little while since my last update and, even though this is a slower time of the year for new releases, I’ve got a few interesting ones to share with you.

Onward Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. This one is available now for Kindle, and tomorrow in print. “As the culture changes all around us, it is no longer possible to pretend that we are a Moral Majority. That may be bad news for America, but it can be good news for the church. What’s needed now, in shifting times, is neither a doubling-down on the status quo nor a pullback into isolation. Instead, we need a church that speaks to social and political issues with a bigger vision in mind: that of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christianity seems increasingly strange, and even subversive, to our culture, we have the opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the gospel, which is what gives it its power in the first place.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Word Filled Womens Ministry Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church edited by Gloria Furman & Kathleen Nielson. “The Bible is clear that women as well as men are created in God’s image and intended to serve him with their lives. But what does this look like for women in the church? Helping church leaders think through what a Bible-centered women’s ministry looks like, this collection of essays by respected Bible teachers and authors such as Gloria Furman, Nancy Guthrie, and Susan Hunt addresses a variety of topics relevant to women. Whether exploring the importance of intergenerational relationships, the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, or women’s roles in the church and the home, this book of wise teaching and practical instruction will become a must-have resource for anyone interested in bolstering the health and vitality of the local church.”(Buy it or learn more at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Urban Legends Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions by David Croteau. “Urban Legends of the New Testament surveys forty of the most commonly misinterpreted passages in the New Testament. These “urban legends” often arise because interpreters neglect a passage’s context, misuse historical background information, or misunderstand the Greek language. For each New Testament text, professor David Croteau describes the popular, incorrect interpretation and then carefully interprets the passage within its literary and historical context. Careful attention is given to sound principles of biblical interpretation to guide readers through the process and reach a more accurate understanding of each text’s meaning. QR codes have been inserted at various points throughout the book. By scanning the code with your mobile device, you can view a video of David Croteau addressing a specific urban legend.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon)

Philippians Philippians (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) by Joseph Hellerman. “The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) closes the gap between the Greek text and the available lexical and grammatical tools, providing all the necessary information for greater understanding of the text. The series makes interpreting any given New Testament book easier, especially for those who are hard pressed for time but want to preach or teach with accuracy and authority. Each volume begins with a brief introduction to the particular New Testament book, a basic outline, and a list of recommended commentaries. The body is devoted to paragraph-by-paragraph exegesis of the Greek text and includes homiletical helps and suggestions for further study. A comprehensive exegetical outline of the New Testament book completes each EGGNT volume.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Gods Crime Scene God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe by J. Warner Wallace. This one also releases tomorrow. “There are four ways to die, and only one of them requires an intruder. Suicides, accidental, and natural deaths can occur without any evidence from outside the room. But murders typically involve suspects external to the crime scene. If there’s evidence of an outside intruder, homicide detectives have to prepare for a chase. Intruders turn death scenes into crime scenes. Join J. Warner Wallace, former atheist, seasoned cold-case detective, and popular national speaker as he tackles his most important case … with you on the jury! With the expertise of a cold-case detective, J. Warner examines eight critical pieces of evidence in the ‘crime scene’ of the universe to determine if they point to a Divine Intruder. If you have ever wondered if something (or someone) outside the natural realm created the universe and everything in it, this is the case for you.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon)

Malatya Martyrs of Malatya: Martyred for the Messiah in Turkey by James Wright. “On April 18, 2007, three men gave their lives for Jesus Christ. Two Turkish Christians and one German began their day simply wanting to spend time with local men they thought genuinely wanted to study the Bible. Instead, five hostile young men met their kindness and hospitality with betrayal and treachery. Very few followers of Christ in the rest of the world heard the story. Lost in the flood of news in our information age, it appeared to be just another senseless murder. But the deaths of Necati Aydin, Ug ur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske, while perhaps ignored or quickly forgotten even among Christians around the world, continue to speak. They proclaim the truth that there are still those among us committed to witnessing to the gospel in difficult locations. They speak loudly of love for Christ and obedience to Him. They testify above the din about their commitment to share Jesus own experience of betrayal and sacrifice that purchased salvation for people from every tongue, tribe and nation.”(Buy it or learn more at Amazon)

Going Public Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership by Bobby Jamieson. “Does everyone who joins a local church need to be baptized? What should churches that practice believer’s baptism do about those who were “baptized” as infants? This is a live question for many churches today, and it raises a host of other crucial questions: What is the meaning and function of baptism? Does baptism have any inherent relationship to the local church? How do baptism and the Lord’s Supper fit together? What exactly is ‘church membership’? To answer the question of whether baptism is required for church membership, Going Public seeks to rebuild ecclesiological foundations, digging deep into the Bible’s teaching on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and church membership. Bobby Jamieson describes how baptism and the Lord’s Supper transform a scattered group of Christians into a gathered local church. It traces the trajectory of a church’s birth, how gospel people form a gospel polity.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon or Westminster Books)

July 31, 2015

New from GLH Publishing is one of my all-time favorite Puritan works: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks. It’s at just $0.99. Also consider Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas Kostenberger ($2.99); The Essential Bible Companion by John Walton ($5.99); Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal by Michael Kelley ($0.99).

Exceptionally Ordinary - We need to be reminded of this often. “The assumption is that God will be really pleased if we do something massive (on a human scale) for him. Really? Do you really think God needs you or I to do anything in order to accomplish what he wills?”

The Children of Strangers - The New Yorker has a long, interesting, and sad article about a couple that adopted twenty children.

10 Quick, Important Developments On The Planned Parenthood Scandal - And still the major news outlets are quiet about it.

Our Wilberforce Moment - The comparison to Wilberforce is a strong one. Josh Howerton says that this is our culture’s Wilberforce moment, and I am inclined to agree.

When Success Outgrows Character - This is a very helpful article from Eric Geiger. “When skills surpass the process of sanctification, the trajectory is downward though everything looks great on the outside.” (I have previously written about this here.)

We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do - “My fear is that we can fall down that slippery slope that an awesome worship experience equals the Holy Spirit.”

New York City Transit - Did you know that much of the technology driving the New York City subway system is nearly 100 years old? Here’s a look at the past, present, and future.

Henry

Peace is such a precious jewel that I would give anything for it but truth. —Matthew Henry

July 30, 2015

Many times over the years I have invited readers of this blog to join me in a reading project, mostly as part of a program I’ve called Reading Classics Together. We’ve read some incredible books together —Holiness by J.C. Ryle, Christianity & Liberalism by Gresham Machen, The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, The Cross of Christ by John Stott, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks, and a whole lot more. Most recently we read through The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel. I think it is time to read another classic.

I would like to return to modern times and read a book that I believe will prove to be an enduring classic—J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. This is a book I have been meaning to read but, for one reason or another, have never gotten to. And that makes it an ideal candidate for Reading Classics Together.

First published in 1973, Knowing God has gone on to sell more than 1 million copies, and helped establish Packer as one of the most important voices of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. In 2006, the editors at Christianity Today selected it as one of the top 50 books that have shaped Evangelicals. The publisher says this: “Written in an engaging and practical tone, this thought-provoking work seeks to transform and enrich the Christian understanding of God. Explaining both who God is and how we can relate to him, Packer divides his book into three sections: The first directs our attention to how and why we know God, the second to the attributes of God and the third to the benefits enjoyed by those who know him intimately. This guide leads readers into a greater understanding of God while providing advice to gaining a closer relationship with him as a result.”

From all accounts, it is a book that demands both reading and re-reading. So why don’t you get yourself a copy, or dig out the copy you have lying around, and let’s read it together. I was given a copy as a wedding gift and now, 17 years later, am finally going to read it.

I propose that we read 2 chapters a week. The chapters are quite short, so this pace should not be too demanding. We will begin on August 20. That gives you 3 weeks to track down a copy of the book and to read the first 2 chapters. Then, on August 20, visit my website and I will prepare an article on those first 2 chapters. At that point you are free to add comments of your own or direct us to a place where you have written about them. Then we will read 2 chapters per week until the book is finished— a process that will take 11 weeks. And it’s that simple!

Knowing God is very widely available. You can find it used at just about any online retailer, or buy it new at:

  • Amazon (in many formats ranging from discount paperback to deluxe hardcover, from Kindle to audiobook)
  • Westminster Books (paperback, hardcover)

The book is still under copyright so, unlike some of the older works, it is not (legally) available free online.

Let’s Get Started

Again, I will share my first post on August 20. All you need to do is obtain a copy of the book and read chapters 1 and 2 prior to August 20.

Why don’t you leave a comment below if you plan to join the program (or if you’ve got any questions).

July 30, 2015

How Driscoll’s Is Hacking the Strawberry of the Future - I enjoyed this article on the art and science of growing the perfect strawberry. It’s mostly science, I suppose.

So Will His Righteousness - Your sin will eventually find you out, but so will Christ’s righteousness.

The Lost World of Adam and Eve - Steve Ham of Answers in Genesis has written a long and thorough response to John Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve.

The Speechwriter - The New York Times did a review of a book I read recently and really enjoyed: The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim. It’s an inside look at working for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

The Spanish Inquisition - Stephen Nichols offers a brief history of the infamous Spanish Inquisition.

Why Planned Parenthood Can’t Donate Tissue Harvested From Babies - I continue to pray that this situation serves as the tipping point in culture’s view of abortion.

The Tragedy of iTunes - I don’t have as much classical music as I’d like, but I completely agree with this author that Apple’s new music service is utterly appalling. And I say that as a committed Apple fanboy.

Spurgeon

We are too prone to engrave our trials in marble and write our blessings in sand. —C.H. Spurgeon

Why We Fail at Family Devotions
July 29, 2015

I have written about family devotions a number of times (most recently in How We Do Family Devotions), and it always leads to a response. Whenever I write about the subject, I immediately receive emails and messages from people who have tried and failed, or who are still trying and are convinced they are failing. I compiled some of that feedback and came up with a list of reasons we fail at family devotions.

We Make it Too Hard

I think the main reason we fail is that we make it too hard. Family devotions are the simplest thing in the world. We just need to get the family together, and then read the Bible and pray. Anything beyond that is gravy. Sing a song if you like. Engage in discussion if you like. Memorize a catechism if you like. Don’t feel like you need to begin with more than the basics. Don’t feel like you have failed if you do not get beyond the very basics. Read a few verses and pray. Then, the next day, read and pray. And the day after that. And the one after that. Take Sunday off (Hey, you’ve been to church, right?) but then pick it right up again on Monday. And just keep going.

I am convinced a lot of people fail because we feel that Word and prayer are not enough. We read books and blogs by people who do so much more and feel that we do not measure up. We finish, see that only 5 minutes have elapsed, and feel like that can’t possibly be enough. It is easier to not do devotions at all than to do them simply. Don’t fall into that trap. Word and prayer are enough. Word and prayer are awesome. Make the fact that you do them more important than how you do them.

We Measure Too Short

Another reason we fail at family devotions is that we give up too quickly. We measure short instead of long. We do it for a few weeks or a few months and don’t see any significant results. Our kids still look bored. Our spouse still doesn’t really buy into it. We ourselves find any excuse to take a day off. And we begin to wonder if this is really worth it, if this is really making a difference.

But we need to measure long, not short. We need to think more about eighteen or twenty years of exposure to the Bible than eighteen days or eighteen weeks. We need to think about our own lives and how we need to hear things a hundred times, not one or two times, before we respond to that conviction. We need to remember and believe that God works through these simple means, but that he does so at his own pace. We need to believe that God honors the means he provides.

We Do It Out of Guilt, Not Conviction

Here is a third reason we fail: We do family devotions out of guilt, not conviction. We hear a sermon illustration about family devotions or get challenged by a book we read. We decide that it is time to finally do this thing, to finally begin this habit. But we are doing so out of guilt rather than real conviction. Our motives are all wrong.

Guilt can motivate for a while, but not for long. When times get difficult or when the guilt begins to fade, it is only conviction that will keep us going. Make sure that you are doing family devotions out of true conviction. Know in your own mind that this is a valuable habit and that God calls you, as the parent, to lead your family in this way. Go to the Word of God and allow God to challenge you with the importance of reading his Word and praying to him.

Our Spouse Won’t Do It

This may be the most difficult scenario: We do not do family devotions because our spouse will not participate. Sometimes dad wants to do family devotions but mom will not agree. Far more commonly, though, mom is desperate to see dad lead family devotions but he is just not interested. I can’t even tell you all the times I have seen or heard of this very scenario.

Each one of these situations needs to be approached differently and carefully. Husband, speak to your wife and appeal to her to participate. If she will not, then consider going ahead and doing devotions with your children. Wife, appeal to your husband to take the lead in devotions and full-out support him, affirming his every move. If he will not take the lead, perhaps consider leading devotions on your own. In either case, remember that the local church is your ally here, both through other members who may be able to offer counsel and through pastors or elders.

We Get Proud

Finally, we also fail because we get proud. Here’s what I mean: We try family devotions. It goes well for a week. Then we forget all about it. A couple of months later we try again, feeling a little sheepish this time. We explain to the family “It’s my fault, but I really want us to commit to this and to make it work.” This time we do it for a couple of weeks, but then stop again. The third time around we feel even more embarrassed about telling our family that yes, we are doing this again and that yes, it’s dad’s fault again. Pride rears its ugly head and it seems easier to just succumb to the failure than to rise to the challenge. We get proud and allow pride to withhold a blessing from our family.

Look, family devotions is a sweet and simple habit, a sweet and simple discipline. It is called family devotions not only because it is a gathering of the family, but because it is meant to be by and for your family. Make sure you allow your family devotions to reflect the uniqueness of your family. Make them your own, and do them for the good of your family and the glory of God. Mostly, just do them.

Image credit: Shutterstock

July 29, 2015

The Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series, edited by David Platt, Danny Akin, and Tony Merida, is on sale today in the Kindle versions: Exodus, Song of Songs, Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians ($0.99 each); Ezra & Nehemiah, Matthew, MarkEphesians1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, James1, 2, & 3 John ($2.99 each). These are solidly evangelical, entry-level, reader-friendly commentaries.

The Calvary Option - Carl Trueman has some level-headed reflections on all of the cultural turbulence around us. “The tomb is still empty.   And my ministry will continue to be made up of the same elements as that of my of spiritual forefathers: Word, sacraments, prayer.”

What Are Natural Flavors? - It’s a good question to ask since they are in so many of our foods.

One Simple Way to Encourage Your Pastor - This is a great word from Kevin DeYoung. 

The Gospel-Centered Parent - This week’s deals from Westminster Books revolve around Christian parenting.

Reflections on Gay Marriage - Randy Alcorn recommends this short series of videos reflecting on gay marriage and homosexuality.

The Point of Hospitality - This is an important reminder that we too often forget when it comes to hospitality.

Iron Mountain - Here is a rare look inside Iron Mountain, an incredible place that houses some of America’s greatest treasures.

MacArthur

You can’t confuse childlike faith with childish thinking. —John MacArthur

What Gives God Pleasure
July 28, 2015

You can tell a lot about a person by learning what brings him pleasure. Pleasure is good. God has wired us to pursue pleasure. The question is: Will we seek the truest and highest pleasures, or will we settle for lesser ones? Will we, in the oft-quoted words of C.S. Lewis, accept the holiday by the sea or will we continue to fuss about in the slums with our little mud pies?

What makes you happy? What pleasures do you pursue? That might be one of the most important things about you. Where your pleasures are, there your heart will be. And let’s ask a related question: What makes God happy? What pleasures does God pursue? That might be one of the most important things about God.

Paul has an interesting answer for us in 1 Timothy 2:4: God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God’s desire unveils his pleasure: God loves to save the lost. This brings him great joy.

God’s desire to save the lost is not idle or casual. It is not a desire he merely feels. Rather, this desire has led him to action—the action of providing “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). God’s desire to save people from their sin has led him to take the costliest action imaginable in the sending and sacrificing of his own Son.

Do you share God’s desire? Do you long to share God’s pleasure? If it is so good to God, shouldn’t it be so good to you?

What fascinates me about this text is how God calls us to action. He does not immediately tell us to go out and share the gospel. Not yet. The clear call to action is prayer: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…” He goes on to say, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior…” The good here is the good of prayer. God deems it good that we plead with him for the souls of the lost. He deems it good that we pray before we go, that we pray as we go, that we pray after we go. God’s desire and God’s provision meet at the point of prayer.

If you share God’s desire for the pleasure of seeing the lost come to a saving knowledge of Christ, you will pray. You must pray. You must pray that God will extend his grace by extending the gift of faith.

Image credit: Shutterstock