Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

October 22, 2016

It’s the weekend! This one kind of snuck up on me and yet somehow it’s one of those ridiculously packed-full ones. Mostly I’m looking forward to being at New City Baptist Church tomorrow to lead Sunday school and preach there. Other than that, it’s a weekend for family and friends. But before I get to it, here is some recommended reading:

Why Christians Love Books

Looking first at the incredible output of John Piper’s pen, Tony Reinke says, “Piper’s output may be abnormal, but the bookish nature of Christianity is not. We can trace our evangelical bibliophilia all the way back to the beginning of the Christian church…”


“It is exactly 50 years since tragedy swooped down on Aberfan killing 116 children and 28 adults.” BBC tells the sad story of a tragedy in Wales.

A Pastor Leaving the Ministry

Scott Hollingshead tells of a painful situation and, based on it, offers 3 warnings from a pastor who is leaving the ministry.

Raising Teens in a Hyper-Sexualized World

This little booklet from Eliza Huie may interest you. It’s a free download at Amazon..

Deathstyle: The New Lifestyle

Stephen laments society’s new deathstyle which has taken the place of a lifestyle.

This Day in 1922. 94 years ago today James William Charles Pennington, an escaped slave turned Presbyterian pastor and abolitionist, died. He was the first black man to attend Yale. *

Oscar Wilde’s Half Sisters

Here’s the unusual story of the deaths of Oscar Wilde’s half sisters. “We may never have the small details right, but by bringing the story to light, people seem to think, we honor the sisters in their death. Perhaps this is why years later an epitaph was erected at the graveyard of St. Molua’s church in Drumsnat in their honor.”

The Pains Of Humanity Have Been Draining Me

Lecrae explains why he and other African Americans are not “simply whining about the past.” “We are trying to expose how the past has affected the present and threatens the future.”

How My Parents Taught Me to Love the Church

Ricky Alcantar says, “Whether you realize it or not, you’re teaching your kids a theology of the church with your time.” 

Flashback: The Art and Science of the Humblebrag

Have you managed to get thousands of people to follow you on Twitter or friend you on Facebook? Do you need to keep reminding them why you are worthy of their attention? Let me offer you some ways you can grow in the art and science of the humblebrag.

Here’s How Christian Book Summaries Help You Learn More…In Less Time

Thanks to this week’s sponsor, Books at a Glance, for sponsoring the blog this week.

That demon of pride was born with us, and it will not die one hour before us.C.H. Spurgeon

Set An Example
October 21, 2016

Today I want to scare you a little. At the very least I want to intimidate you. Actually, I want the Bible to scare and intimidate you, to set a challenge so difficult that you’ll know you can’t possibly meet it on your own. This is a challenge for any Christian, but I’m directing it particularly at younger Christians, at people in their teens or twenties.

I’ve been working on a series of articles that takes a look at some words Paul wrote to Timothy—the older mentor writing a letter to his younger protégé: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). We’ve already seen that Paul wants Timothy to make his life a work of art that other people will be able to see and imitate. Even as a young man, Timothy is to be exemplary, to be worthy of imitation. Last week we saw what it means for Timothy to set an example in his speech and today we want to see what it means for him to set an example in his conduct.

Set An Example In Your Conduct

I’m sure you know that as a Christian you are meant to live as an example in the way you behave. Older siblings are warned to be a good example to their younger brothers and sisters. Christian young people are told of the importance of living as Christians before a watching world of unbelievers. When you’re at school and work, when you’re interacting with neighbors and customers, even when you’re at a family reunion, you are to behave in distinctly Christian ways. You won’t do what unbelievers do, you won’t watch what unbelievers watch, you won’t laugh the things unbelievers laugh at. You are to live as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), standing out from the world around you. You know that. You’ve been told.

But did you know that you are also to stand as an example of Christian character and maturity before other Christians, even when those Christians are older, wiser, and godlier than you? That is a scary thought, an intimidating challenge. Yet this was exactly Paul’s challenge to Timothy. Timothy was a young man, young enough that older Christians might look down on him, convinced that they couldn’t possibly learn anything from such a young man. And still Paul told him that it was his responsibility to set them an example in his conduct.

“Conduct” is a very general word. It’s a broad word that refers to all of life. In all he does, in all his behavior, Timothy is to set an example. In every realm of life he is to be exemplary. There is no area of life that isn’t covered by “set the believers an example in conduct.” This was true for Timothy and it is true of you. You aren’t exempted from serving as an example of Christian conduct simply because you are young. You are to be an example “at home, at church, at the grocery store, on the freeway, on the playground, at the barber shop” (according to Philip Ryken). Kent Hughes says, “In the day-in, day-out humdrum of existence—at the gas station, in the grocery line, at the soccer game, washing the car—[you] must be an example to all who believe.” All the time, in every way, in all of life, God challenges you to be an example of godliness to other Christians.

Are you that example of godliness? Do other believers look to you as someone who models what it means to conduct yourself as a Christian? I will leave it to you to consider the entirety of your life because I want to focus on just one—the way you behave when you’re with your local church. When you gather with other Christians, do they see you modeling Christian conduct? Do other Christians, and even older Christians, see you as a model of godliness? This is your God-given task!

From the perspective of an older Christian, one who is just weeks away from hitting 40, I can attest that few things are more encouraging to me than being around young people who exemplify Christian character. I love to be challenged by seeing young people lead godly lives. So I want to challenge you to make a point of setting the believers an example in your conduct right there in your church family. Here are a few ways young Christians can do this:

  • Be there. Attend every service. Make church attendance a high priority that will only be interrupted in the most unusual circumstances. If a sport is going to keep you from church week after week, you need to think long and hard about whether that’s a fair trade. Don’t let every cough and sniffle keep you home on a Sunday morning. Get your homework done by Saturday so you can commit Sunday to the Lord. You can only be an example to other people if you are around other people!
  • Be all-in. Once you get to church, be all-in. One of the best ways to do this is to be friendly, to meet people and engage them in conversation. Your temptation will be to gravitate to people who are very similar to you. So challenge yourself to meet people who are different from you—much older or younger, a different ethnicity, people with disabilities. Look for people who are otherwise overlooked and get to know them.
  • Be a servant. Look for ways to serve in the church, and especially in those ministries that are low-visibility. Lots of people feel specially called and equipped to sing or play an instrument at the front of the room, but most of us are far better equipped to take out the trash or set up the chairs. Volunteer for the lowest jobs, the ones no one else wants to do. And then do those jobs with joy and without demanding gratitude.
  • Be visible. As you worship, set the believers an example in your joyful singing. As you listen to sermons, set the believers an example in your attentive listening. As you put what you’ve learned into practice, set the believers an example in your humility and diligence. As you fellowship, set the believers an example in your willingness to go outside your comfort zone.

This is only a start, just a few suggestions. In these ways and many more you can set an example to the believers in your conduct. This is God’s high and holy calling for you, the young Christian. Will you heed that call?

Questions to Consider

  1. Does it intimidate you to know that you’re called by God to serve as an example in your conduct, even (and especially!) before other Christians?
  2. In what ways do you think you are serving as a good example in your conduct. Pray and thank God for them. In what ways do you think you are setting a poor example in your conduct? Pray and ask God to forgive you and to give you the grace to change.
  3. What are some of the ways you serve in your local church? What are some of the ways you think you ought to serve in your local church?
  4. Do you find it difficult or unnatural to fellowship with people who are different from you? What will you do about it?

October 21, 2016

I’ve got just one new Kindle deal today: Jim Cromarty’s biography of Hudson Taylor, It Is Not Death to Die. You may want to run back through this week’s other deals as there were some good ones.

Scientists Admit Limit to Human Life Span

WORLD: “Scientists are just beginning to believe what the Bible tells us in Genesis 6:3. ‘Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’’ With that, God declared there would be no more Methuselahs, and new research published in the journal Nature is bearing that out.”

When There is Unexplained Distance in a Friendship

This is true: “Christians, especially in friendship, avoiding the hard conversations is far more wounding than having them!”

5 Things the Seeker Movement Got Right

Jared Wilson gives credit where it’s due. “Actually, these are more like five ‘right ideas’ or five ‘right tracks’ the ‘seeker sensitive’ church growth movement started down before it veered hard into a fuller blown consumerism and became the attractional church.” 

Millennial International

This is a pretty clever video. “Millennial International is a sponsor based program designed to help Millennials live the lives they portray on Instagram.”

A Loving God and the Existence of Hell

Randy Alcorn: “I personally have studied the doctrine of Hell in the hopes of being able to come either to a position of universalism, or at very least the doctrine of annihilation. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do so and stay true to the Scripture I see.”

Are You Listening?

Are you listening to God as he speaks through his Word? I enjoyed this reflection… 

Marks of a Healthy Church. Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks have partnered with Ligonier to create a teaching series surveying the marks of a healthy church. You can watch the first message for free here.

Do You Get Nervous Before You Preach?

A surprising number of preachers—even veterans—get nervous before they preach.

10 Leadership Questions

Here are 10 solid leadership questions (though they may be a bit oversold as the greatest leadership questions ever asked!).

Squadron of Hope

There is some stunning underwater footage in this video from Indonesia.

Flashback: Lessons Learned at Strange Fire

These were final reflections on the Strange Fire conference.

God delights to exalt the humble and to humble the exalted.D.A. Carson

Gospel Weariness
October 20, 2016

Gospel weariness. It’s a little phrase I picked up from a friend when he preached at our church not too long ago. His text was James 1, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” As he began to preach he told of some of the difficulties his church had encountered in recent days. Most recently and most painfully, dear friends who had only one opportunity to have a child had experienced stillbirth at eight and a half months, just two weeks from delivery. What tragedy. What sorrow.

He and his friends are Christians so they know that suffering is not empty, it is not purposeless, it is not meaningless. But that doesn’t make it any less painful.

Why? Why do we experience such suffering? Why does God allow it? Just from these early verses in James we see something unexpected—trials do us good. Trials do us good by developing spiritual maturity, by developing the most precious character traits. “Trials don’t come about because of what you’ve done but because of who God wants you to be.” Trials generate humility, leveling the field as small and great alike experience pain, miscarriage, death. Trials develop compassion and dependence, teaching us to sympathize with others and be dependent upon God. Trials give us courage in forcing us to handle what we were sure we could never deal with. The couple that lost their child displayed all of this when they said, “We have nowhere to go. All we have is God and his character to lean on.” At the funeral they declared, “Though the fog will not lift and the pain will not go, we hold on.” That’s faith.

Trials do us good in at least one more way: Trials develop a gospel weariness, a weariness with this world. Reflecting on all he had seen and experienced my friend said, “I hate this world right now. All it has done is break my heart.” It had broken his heart and the hearts of the people he loves. “None of us want to stay here. We want to rise in the resurrection and be done with the pain. All this world does is fool you and fail you. It over-promises and under-delivers.”

All of this pain, all of this suffering, all of these trials had made him, had made them, weary. They were tired of suffering, tired of groaning under the weight of this world. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Rising up within them was an increased desire for a time, for a place, when all trials will be over.

This is a gospel weariness, a weariness I’ve heard described by others, a weariness I’ve begun to feel within. Gospel weariness elevates our perspective from our feet to the horizon, from the trials of this world to the hope of the world to come. It stirs within us a holy longing to be done with this life and to enter into the life to come. It fixates on God’s promises, promises of deliverance, of restitution, of eternal peace. It is a weariness that rests on the promises of the gospel, that finds its hope in the God of the gospel. It does not wallow in despair but gazes with confidence to the future. It is a weariness that cries with the saints of all the ages, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

October 20, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include: The Seven Saying of the Savior on the Cross by A.W. Pink, The Dating Manifesto by Lisa Anderson, Romans by Charles Hodge, and And He Dwelt Among Us by A.W. Tozer.

Sinclair Ferguson has a new book out that looks excellent. Westminster Books has it discounted as their deal of the week.

You Get What You Pay For

“It seems to me that we live in an era of American culture that is awash in the cheap and unsatisfying.” This is true of entertainment, to be sure. But true of more as well.

When Pragmatism Overtakes Scripture

Stephen Kneale interacts with the article I wrote yesterday about the missing elements of modern worship and focuses on pragmatism.

The Pictures Never Go Away

This is heartbreaking: “If I could only make one argument to the seventeen-year-old me, and it’s the point I want to make to every young woman who comes here looking for advice in regards to sexting, it is this: Those pictures never go away. Ever.”

Loneliness Follows Sudden Wealth

This story from the BBC should not be surprising: “While most people wouldn’t give up longing for financial wealth, those who’ve experienced living the dream say it can be isolating and that their lives often look rosier from the outside.”

Laboring For Maturity

“Spiritual maturity, you see, does not just happen.  My children will physically grow whether I tell them to or not.  I don’t have to set time aside for their physical growth each day, and it’s certainly not a labor for me.  But to grow spiritually takes work, takes labor, takes striving everyday to be closer to God.”

This Day in 1949. 66 years ago today was the last of the Inkling’s Thursday meetings. This group of Christians associated with Oxford included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. *

Don’t Waste Your Ambition

Here’s a guest article I was asked to write with teens in mind.

Seabirds’ Death-Defying Dives

How is it that seabirds don’t break their necks in their high-speed dives? This article explains though, unfortunately, it relies on evolution to explain it all. (I wonder how many generations of seabirds died evolving to their current state…) 

The Culture of Death in Colorado

“Well that was fast. Not even a minute into the evaluation and the doctor suggested we go ahead and let my dad go. The injuries that landed him in the ER on Sunday night did not appear to be life-threatening. He’s 75…” 

Flashback: Why You May Be Tempted To Neglect Your Church

God has made Christians to thrive and survive only in community. Lone Christians are dead Christians.

Pride is a form of cosmic plagiarism-claiming to be the author of something that is actually a gift. —Tim Keller

The Missing Elements of Modern Worship
October 19, 2016

I once paid a visit to one of the most mega of America’s megachurches. It’s a church whose pastor is well-known, a church known for its innovation, a church held up as a model for modern evangelicalism. I went in with as open a mind as I could muster. I left perplexed. I was perplexed not by what was said or done in the service as much as what was left unsaid and undone.

Since that visit I’ve had the opportunity to attend many more churches and, as often as not, they have been similar, missing a lot of the elements that used to be hallmarks of Christian worship. Here are some of the missing elements of modern worship.


That church I visited all those years ago was the first I had ever attended that was almost completely devoid of prayer. The only prayer in the entire service was a prayer of response following the sermon. “With every head bowed and every eye closed, pray these words with me…” There were no prayers of confession, of intercession, of thanksgiving. There was no pastoral prayer to bring the cares of the congregation before the Lord. This is a pattern I have seen again and again in modern worship services, with prayer becoming rare and minimal instead of common and prominent. Conspicuous by their absence are any prayers longer than 30 seconds or a minute in length.

Scripture Reading

Another element that has gone missing in modern worship is the scripture reading. There was a time when most services included a couple of lengthy readings, often one from the Old Testament and one from the New. But then it was trimmed to one and then the reading disappeared altogether in favor of mentioning individual verses as they came up in the sermon. But what of Paul’s command to Timothy that he devote himself to the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13)? In too many churches this element has gone missing. In too many churches the Word of God is almost an afterthought.

Already we do well to pause and ask the question: If a worship service includes no prayer and no Bible reading, can we even recognize it as Christian worship?

Confession of Sin and Assurance of Pardon

Traditionally, Protestant worship services included a confession of sin and an assurance of pardon. Sometimes the congregation would confess their sins by reading a text or a liturgy or by silent prayer. Other times the pastor would confess the sins of the congregation on their behalf. It was a solemn moment. But then there would be the assurance of pardon, where the pastor would bring God’s own assurance that those who confess their sins are forgiven. Solemnity was replaced by joy. This pattern of confession and assurance naturally led to thankful worship and a desire to grow in holiness by hearing from God through his Word as it was read and preached. These elements came early and set up the rest of the service. Yet it is rare to encounter them today.

Expositional Preaching

When Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy he instructed him to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Christians have long understood that the best way to preach the word faithfully is to preach the word expositionally—to preach in such a way that the point of the sermon matches the point of the text. That is, the pastor needs to understand not just the wording of the passage, but the author’s intent in writing it. This leads to the most faithful interpretation and application. While there has been a great revival of expositional preaching in recent years, this element is still missing in so much of modern worship, replaced by topical sermons that wander from book to book, text to text, translation to translation. I am convinced that a congregation grows best when they are fed on a steady diet of expositional sermons.

Congregational Singing

An element sadly lacking from so many churches today is singing that is truly congregational. Ironically, modern worship services focus on music more than ever before, but little of it is congregational. Congregational singing is more than a crowd singing along to a band. It is singing dominated by the voices of the people—all of the people. The purpose of the band is to serve and facilitate, not perform and dominate. You know you are experiencing congregational worship when the voices of the people rise higher than the instruments and the lead worshippers. Churches have turned away from hymnody, songs that at their best had deep truth set to simple but beautiful melodies. Instead, they have adopted modern worship which, at its worst, is shallow, repetitive, and set to difficult melodies. Not every song—not even every good and biblical song—is suitable for congregational worship. Wall-shaking, roof-lifting, band-driven worship is no substitute for the beauty of the human voice singing praise to God.


It’s not that every one of these elements has to be prominent every week (and it’s not like these are the only elements that have gone missing). There is a time and place for topical sermons. A confession of sin and assurance of pardon may not be necessary every week. There can be a time for special music that is not well-suited to congregational singing. Well and good. But there was a time when each of these elements was prominent in Christian worship. Where have they gone? Or, perhaps more importantly, why have they gone?

I am convinced that most of these elements have gone missing for pragmatic reasons—they do not accomplish something the church leaders wish to accomplish in their services. Instead of searching God’s Word to determine what elements should or must be present in a worship service, leaders are judging elements by whether or not they work (according to their own standard of what works). Yet each of these elements represents a significant loss because each in its own way expresses obedience to God and brings encouragement to his people.

October 19, 2016

I didn’t track down any noteworthy Kindle deals today (though if you haven’t done so yet, check out the amazing deals from the past couple of days). However, CBD is having The Mega Fall Sale. You’ll need to sort through the options there to see if anything catches your eye.

Ben Zobrist: Major League Believer

Here’s TGC on Ben Zobrist. “But for Zobrist, the utility player hired fresh off his World Series victory last year with the Kansas City Royals, it isn’t all about the win. It isn’t even all about the game.”

“Just Ask Jesus into Your Heart”

Michael Kruger continues his series on Christianese by looking at the popular phrase “Just ask Jesus into your heart.” “In the end, this phrase, like most the phrases is in this series, has the potential to be really helpful or really problematic, depending on how one understands it and uses it.”

10 Times More Galaxies

Turns out previous estimates were kind of low. “For decades, astronomers had put the number at 100 billion to 200 billion. But new research using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories shows that number is about 10 times too low. That means there are at least 1 trillion galaxies out there ― and possibly as many as 2 trillion.”

When Sin Keeps You From Prayer

Sin has a way of keeping us from the very thing that will deliver us from it!

Why Study Church History?

“If church history does not get your blood pumping, you had better check your spiritual pulse.” Yes! 

Should We See Everything a Cop Sees?

This longform piece at the New York Times looks at police body cameras and shows how they are a complicated solution. After all, 99% of what they capture is not the police but innocent people in normal situations.

This Day in 1959. 57 years ago today Al Mohler was born. Happy birthday, Dr. Mohler! 

10 Tips for Leading Kids to Christ

This is good stuff from Jason Allen. “My greatest stewardship in life is not training a generation of students at Midwestern Seminary. It is training my five young children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I feel the weight—and glory—of this stewardship daily…”

Should Christians Feel Guilty All the Time?

Obviously not, but it’s still worth reading Kevin DeYoung’s answer to the question.

The Troubled Future Legacy of Christian Music

As a long-time listener to CCM, I tend to agree with this article.

Flashback: 5 Bad Substitutes for Discipline

Here are five poor substitutes for disciplining our children—five poor substitutes that fail to address the heart.

Three things there are which men never ought to trifle with: a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin.J.C. Ryle 

Lay Aside Every Suitcase
October 18, 2016

On August 3, 2016, Emirates airlines flight 521 crashed at Dubai International Airport. The pilots had just set down the plane when they received a warning that they had landed too late—they would run out of runway before the plane could come to a safe stop. They initiated the go-around procedure which would allow them to lift off, circle the airport, and try again. The plane rose off the runway and began to climb, but then suddenly sank back down and crashed into the ground. It skidded for 800 meters before coming to rest. The crew took immediate action and, remarkably, all 300 people safely evacuated the plane before it was consumed by flames.

Had you been an onlooker watching the evacuation, you would have noticed a troubling phenomenon. Many of the people pouring out of that plane and sliding down the emergency chutes were clutching bags and suitcases. A video taken aboard the plane shows the immediate aftermath of the crash and in the chaos passengers are seen opening the overhead luggage compartments and hauling down their luggage. Seconds later, as they exit the plane, flight attendants are yelling, “Leave your bags behind!” Yet photographs show dazed passengers wandering the tarmac with their bags in tow.

Flight 521 is not the only time this phenomenon has been observed. Photographs of the evacuation of a Cathay Pacific plane show passengers sliding down the chute with bags over their arms and shoulders. When Asiana flight 214 crashed in San Francisco, a number of passengers were photographed walking away from the burning wreckage clutching their suitcases. A police officer who arrived at the scene had to stop others from climbing back into the plane to retrieve their belongings. British Airways 2276 in Las Vegas and U.S. Airways 1702 continue to prove the pattern.

It hardly needs to be said that grabbing your suitcase during an evacuation is a bad idea. It may even be a deadly idea. To take your suitcase is bad for you and everyone around you. It blocks the aisle as you reach overhead to retrieve it, it slows you down as you make your way to and through the exit, it becomes a dangerous object hurtling down the evacuation slide. In a situation in which every second counts, a suitcase is a dangerous impediment that can kill you and the people around you. And still people can’t bear to be without them. A study by the National Transportation Safety Board found that almost half of passengers attempt to retrieve their bags during an emergency evacuation and that they do so primarily to secure their cash and credit cards. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?

As I see those photographs and watch those videos, I can’t help but be reminded of a Bible verse: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The author of this letter compares the Christian life to a race and warns us that if we are going to run that race well, if we are to run it with endurance and make it to the end, we will need to get rid of every possible hindrance. We must get rid of everything that will slow us down, drag us down, keep us down. Kent Hughes says, “A hindrance is something, otherwise good, that weighs you down spiritually. It could be a friendship, an association, an event, a place, a habit, a pleasure, an entertainment, an honor. But if this otherwise good thing drags you down, you must strip it away.”

A suitcase is a perfectly good thing that may just kill you in an emergency evacuation. It is a perfectly good thing, but it isn’t good enough to risk your life for. And our lives are full of good things that may just slow us down, that may just hinder us from matters that are far more important—matters of eternal consequence. If you’re on a plane that is broken and burning, the best thing you can do is lay aside every weight and every hindrance so you can focus on just getting to safety. This is what’s best for you and what’s best for the people around you. And in a world that is broken and burning, it is even more important to lay aside every possible hindrance, to do it for the good of your own soul and the good of those around you.