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

Tim Challies

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September 29, 2014

Why We Neglect Our Bibles - “Many Christians find it difficult to get into a daily habit of Bible reading. So this week John Piper addressed four common causes of Bible neglect in the Christian life, like: ‘I don’t read my Bible because…’”

The 6 Ingredients of Jesus’ Bitter Cup - “When Jesus looked into the cup He saw–from every dimension of His sufferings–all that He would suffer, both at the hands of men, Satan and God Himself. Isaac Ambrose captured so well the meaning of the cup when he set out what he believed to be the 6 ingredients that made it so burdensome a sight to the soul of the sinless Son of God…”

Sermon Introduction Mistakes - Here are ten sermon introduction mistakes.

Six Reasons To Live More Simply - Randy Alcorn gives six reasons to live more simply and give more generously.

The Cure for Shame - This is a powerful bit of writing from Sammy Rhodes.

The Long Fall of B.J. Upton - For the baseball fans.

He who crowned the heavens with stars was Himself crowned with thorns. —Thomas Watson

Watson

September 28, 2014

This week I dug up an interesting quote from Charles Spurgeon. He was thinking about the easy-believism of his day. A vast quantity of people professed faith in Christ, but so few showed compelling evidence of genuine salvation. Spurgeon reflected on this and on those parts of the Bible claiming that Christians will necessarily suffer. And then he said this:

I am glad that there is some trouble in being a Christian, for it has become a very common thing to profess to be one. If I am right, it is going to become a much less common thing for a person to say “I am a Christian.” There will come times when sharp lines will be drawn. Some of us will help draw them if we can. The problem is that people bear the Christian name but act like worldlings and love the amusements and follies of the world. It is time for a division in the house of the Lord in which those for Christ go into one camp and those against Christ go into the other camp. We have been mixed together too long.

And I guess he was wrong, at least to some degree. Because today there are still so many—too many—who call themselves Christians even though they display so little evidence to back their profession. Those sharp lines remain to be drawn.

September 27, 2014

Here are some Kindle deals that may be of interest: Hope Reborn is a new book from Adrian Warnock & Tope Koleoso ($3.99); new from GLH Publishing is All Things for Good by Thomas Watson ($0.99); Shepherd Press has recently released a helpful line of booklets that deal with urgent issues; titles include Help! My Anger Is Out of Control, Help! I’m a Slave to Food, Help! He’s Struggling with Pornography, and many more. The books are $1.99 each and you can find the complete list right here.

Thanks to NavPress for sponsoring the blog this week. Sponsorships are an important part of covering the costs associated with this site. Be sure to check out Growing in Christ.

Here’s an article about The Stalkers, people who venture into the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.

Denny Burk shares a story about a couple being coerced into hosting a gay wedding. Such things are becoming increasingly common.

LifeSiteNews looks at a popular porn star and says, sarcastically, Porn Is Super-Empowering.

John MacArthur has some helpful thoughts on Liberty, Knowledge, and Love.

Brian Croft lists ten characteristics he looks for in an aspiring pastor. It’s a good list.

A friend sent me this old Blessercize video with this comment: When I see things like this I envision Polycarp, burning at the stake, and someone showing this to him on their iPad and telling him - “This is one of the things they’ll do with what you’re dying for.”

Arrogant worship is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. —R.C. Sproul

Sproul

September 26, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by New Growth Press, a name you must know by now. As they always do, they are offering some great prizes. There will be 5 winners this week, and each of the winners will receive a set of the new Prepare Him Room Advent Curriculum from Marty Machowski.

Each curriculum package includes a 12-lesson CD—containing 4 preschool lessons, 4 lower elementary lessons, and 4 upper elementary lessons—along with a hardback family devotional. While the curriculum package is designed for use at church, the included family Advent devotional is designed for use at home. In partnership with Sovereign Grace Music, we are also offering Sovereign Grace’s newest CD, Prepare Him Room, which sets the songs from the curriculum to music and is generally sold separately.

You can learn more about this product right here, or watch this video:

Enter to Win

Again, there are 5 prize packages to win. And all you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

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.

September 26, 2014

One of the fascinating abilities we have in this digital world is quantifying our lives in new ways. Today, more than ever, we can assemble an amazing amount of data about ourselves. I have a fascination with data and measurement, so often find myself turning to such tools to learn about my life in the hope that what I learn will allow me to live better. 

I have had to put some thought into the consequences of a quantified life and whether it can help me be a sanctified Christian. I am convicted that if these tools are used well, they can be very helpful. Today I will give you a glimpse of some of these tools and how I use them. Before I do that, though, let me be clear: I do not use all these tools all the time. In most cases I find that committing to the tools for a defined period of time allows me to get valuable snapshots of my life. I will use some of these tools for a few weeks, and then put them aside for a couple of months. But just those brief snapshots give me data that helps me live a deliberate and self-controlled life.

Habits

Habit ListAs human beings, we are creatures of habits, and every Christian is responsible to develop good habits and patterns. There are many apps that allow you to track your habits, and the one I have found most effective is Habit List. Habit List allows you to input a list of habits you would like to measure. You can input daily tasks (read my Bible), weekly tasks (update the family budget) or even tasks you would like to do three times per week, or only on Wednesday and Friday. At the end of your day you can open the app and check-off those tasks you successfully completed. It is an ideal way to track how often you actually read your Bible and pray, how often you do family devotions, how often you exercise, and so on. Another interesting option is Reporter which asks you defined questions at random times, as well as defined questions at the beginning and end of the day; if you set it up with the right questions, you can learn all kinds of interesting things about yourself (Are you listening to music right now? Are you alone or with people right now? How much energy do you have right now? How would you rate your use of time today?)

Fitness

If there is any area of life Christians tend to neglect, I think it must be the area of fitness; we care for our souls and minds, but too often neglect our bodies. Wearable fitness trackers represent a new and growing category of devices that mean to measure and motivate physical activity. They primarily track data such as the number of steps you take during the course of a day, though they can also track metrics like how much high-intensity movement you had during your day. Many of them also track your sleep habits, provided you wear it through the night. These devices are ideal for tracking your physical exercise and motivating fitness; it may be that your life is even more static than you thought it was. (Examples: Fitbit, Jawbone UP 24) If you prefer not to use a device, there are many apps that allow you to manually input the details of your exercise and activities (Example: RunKeeper). Also, most up-to-date mobile phones offer many of the basic functions such as tracking your steps.

Diet

UP CoffeeI said that if there is any area of life Christians tend to neglect, it is the area of physical fitness, but diet would have to be a close (and closely-related) second. Speaking personally, I have very little interest in tracking every calorie that I consume, but have found it very valuable to track my eating in bursts—two weeks every few months, perhaps. For a short period of time I’ll try to figure out the basic nutritional information for everything I eat, and input into an app. This gives me a snapshot of my eating habits and allows me to consider whether I am eating too much, too little (Ha!), or the wrong kinds of things. My Fitness Pal is a good option here, though if you use any of the devices or apps I listed under Fitness, they may have this functionality as well. UP Coffee is a great option for tracking your caffeine and ensuring you are de-caffeinated by the time you go to bed. If you have committed to drinking more water (and who hasn’t at one time or another) try Waterlogged.

Sleep

Many of the fitness trackers listed above offer sleep tracking—based on your movement at night, they will offer a basic measure of the quality of your sleep, as well as the time you went to sleep, the time you woke up, and the number of times you were awake in the night. As an added benefit, many of them offer a vibrating alarm function that will wake you, but not your spouse. There are other sleep-tracking apps such as Sleep Cycle that require you to leave your mobile phone on your mattress (you slide it under the fitted sheet); they offer surprisingly accurate metrics on your sleep. There are even dedicated devices you can wear at night that serve as sleep-trackers and alarms. As someone who struggles to sleep, I have often turned to this kind of information to try to help determine how I can sleep more and better.

Time

Measuring time well is an important component to using time well. As Christians, we know that the Lord expects us to faithfully steward the time given to us and today there are many excellent apps that can help. Some are entirely manual while others use some degree of automation. The one I use most is Toggl. Every couple of months I will use Toggl for two or three weeks and carefully track my time (sometimes every waking minutes and sometimes only my work-related time). This helps me understand where my time is going and whether I am giving adequate attention to each of my areas of responsibility. Another helpful category is apps that track what you do online and then present a list of the sites you visited and how much time you spent at each; or they present a list of the programs you have used and how much time you used each of them. The truth can hurt. Try RescueTime if you need help here.

Finances

Mint AppIf we are responsible to steward our bodies, minds and time, the same is true of our money. There are hundreds of great apps that can help you track where your money comes from and where it goes. The most popular is Mint, a free and beautifully-put-together service from Intuit. That said, You Need a Budget is still, in my estimation, the best and most complete option, especially if you want to carefully budget your money.

And we are only just getting started—the era of quantification is really only beginning. I am convinced that many of these tools, when used wisely, can benefit us and motivate obedience to God.

Let me say just a word about the dangers of these apps. I think the primary danger is that, unless we guard ourselves, we may eventually use data legalistically. We may eventually begin to think that our standing before God is based on the right measurements; we may take refuge in our habits instead of in our Savior. This is one of the reasons that I tend to use these apps sporadically rather than consistently. I do not want to be conformed to the image of an app, but to the image of Jesus Christ. I value the tools only so far as they are driving me to the cross.

Do you ever use apps or devices like these ones? How do they help or hinder your Christian life?

Measurement image credit: Shutterstock

September 26, 2014

Today’s a great day for Kindle deals: The Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler (my top pick for books on leadership) ($3.99); The Church by Mark Dever ($2.99); The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves ($2.99); Recovering the Real Lost Gospel by Darrell Bock ($2.99); The Love of Wisdom by James Spiegel & Steven Cowan ($2.99); Learn to Read New Testament Greek by David Black ($2.99); Augustine’s Confessions in modern English ($1.99).

Together Again - Here’s a great video from Igniter Media.

History Helps Put Things in Perspective - I quite agree with Kevin DeYoung here: “I’m a proponent of families worshiping together. I’m not a proponent, however, of taking a good principle and making it an absolute rule. Moreover, I’m not in favor of making other Christians feel like the truly biblical (or Truly Reformed) position is to have your kids of all ages with you in church at all times.”

On Piles of Sand and Eating Babies - Read this one and allow yourself to be convicted.

Psalm 139 Project - I love the idea behind the Psalm 139 Project.

Under the Book - Paul tells of a recent interview we did in our church and what we learned from one of our church members.

Why We Keep Playing the Lottery - Here’s an interesting look at why people play the lottery, despite the ridiculous odds. Just ignore the evolutionary silliness.

Beautiful Scotland - This video may make you want to visit Scotland.

There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people. —G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton

September 25, 2014

Knowable WordMaybe you have noticed it, too. In the sector of evangelicalism that I try to pay most attention to, there is evidence of a growing Bible-revival—a fresh surge of interest in personal Bible study and an increasing appreciation of the utterly unique place of Scripture in the Christian life. As evidence, I offer the recent publication (just a few days apart) of two books: from Crossway, Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God at his Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me; and from Cruciform Press, Peter Krol’s Knowable Word: Helping Ordinary People Learn to Study the Bible.

While I could cite other examples, perhaps the most unique will happen later this week when Desiring God will hold its final National Conference, titled Look at the Book: Reading the Bible for Yourself. Among other things, the conference will focus primarily on a new series of online videos by John Piper in which he will walk viewers step-by-step through a technique he has used for decades to interact directly with Scripture. (If you’re going to the conference, stop into the bookstore to get a look at Knowable Word.)

Nobody planned this unusual confluence of events, and I doubt that the teams that came up with these similar book and conference titles had anyone in common. I’m hoping this is an indication that God is on the move to exalt his Word even higher within the Church. That’s a revival I can get behind 100%.

As a co-founder of Cruciform Press, I wanted to maybe help this revival along a little by sharing with you some information about Knowable Word. Perhaps Exhibit A should be what Jerry Bridges wrote about it: “I look forward to using this book to improve my own Bible study.” But there’s also Tedd Tripp’s Foreword, which is worth reproducing in full, for it begins with an inspiring paean to Scripture and ends by offering several good reasons why you should consider taking a look at Krol’s short but powerful book. So I hope you enjoy the Foreword, and the book. But especially the Book of Books.

* * *

The Bible is a treasure. The infinite God has communicated truth to finite creatures, and he has done so in human language, not celestial. In the Bible we have truth in a fixed form, in words that read the same from day to day. God has revealed all the truth we must understand to live in his world; we are not left to our own devices.

The Bible is objective. We need not derive truth through subjective spiritual impressions. God has revealed truth in an objective form. He has revealed Himself with words; words written down by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit and kept from error as they wrote. (2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Bible is a revelation of absolute truth. The only way finite humans can have absolute truth is by revelation. All human knowledge is subject to constant revision. More study, additional information, and new discoveries must be collated and incorporated to continually reshape what is known. Human knowledge always has a tentative quality. Thus, there is a non-permanence to human knowledge. Not so with the Bible. God has infinite knowledge. He knows all things real, all things possible, and all things potential. Since God has infinite knowledge he can, and has, revealed absolute truth. In the Scripture we have a limited revelation of truth (we don’t know everything that could be known), truth that will always be true (it will never prove false or unreliable), and truth that is sufficient (it is all the truth we will ever need). What a treasure!

Since God used words to give us a book of absolute truth, truth we need to know and understand—what could be more important than understanding this book? Sadly, many Christian people see the Bible as a confusing book shrouded in mystery and requiring some secret insight if it is to be understood. No wonder so few really study it. No wonder it is sometimes read as a religious exercise rather than as the life-giving treasure it truly is.

That’s what Knowable Word is all about. The Word of God is knowable. Christians can learn simple steps that will enable them to understand and inwardly digest the Word of God and be transformed by its truth.

In Knowable Word, Krol introduces and develops three methods for unlocking the meaning of any passage of Scripture. 1) Observation – what does it say? 2) Interpretation – what does it mean? 3) Application – how should I change? Throughout the book Krol opens and expands on this straightforward and memorable method for knowing God’s Word. He tells us what to observe, how to find the right interpretation, and suggests ways in which we must make application. In each of these steps the reader is given an easy-to-remember framework for keeping all the pieces in order.

Knowable Word is valuable because it is field-tested. Peter Krol has been teaching this approach to Bible study for years. He teaches these things to university students as a DiscipleMakers staff and to ordinary people in the pew as an elder in Christ’s church. Each audience, though diverse in life-stage, education, and age, is able to track with this teaching. Krol brings clarity and ease of communication to understanding the Bible. This book possesses the rare quality of being simple without being shallow. It is at once accessible and yet profound and challenging.

I had the joy of seeing Peter teach this material in the church I served as pastor for 29 years. The illustrations used in teaching were from the Proverbs, but the same method was employed—observation, interpretation, and application. In reading this book I was struck with how clearly the methods of understanding the text worked even though the passage under consideration was different.

When Krol taught this method of Bible study to our congregation, people came alive as each step unfolded. They found themselves able to make observations, which they would not have made without these categories, from which to frame their observations. I witnessed their excitement as they made observations that made sense of the text under consideration. I saw the smiles that said, “Hey, I can do this.” The reader of Knowable Word will have the same experience.

The same was true with interpreting. Krol provides neat, accessible ways of asking questions that aid in the process of interpretation. These questions lead to interpretive conclusions. Again the class was abuzz with the excitement of more ideas than could be adequately entertained during the limited class time.

The time spent in observation and interpretation led seamlessly to application for our Sunday school class. The class was given simple, memorable ways of thinking about how Scripture maps on to life. It was practical application that impacted our thinking; what we should think, how we should feel, and what we should do.

Woven through Knowable Word, Krol has placed timely “Your Turn” exercises to enable the reader to practice what is being learned. These exercises take the content of the book out of the theoretical and into the practical.

It is hard to over-estimate the value of this tidy volume. It is clear and uncomplicated. No one will be off-put by this book. It will engage the novice and the serious student of Scripture. It works as a solid read for individuals or as an exciting study for a small group, whether old or young.

Since “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) , it is my prayer that this little volume will be richly blessed by God to the edification of his saints.

—Tedd Tripp

* * *

You can buy Knowable Word at Amazon or direct from Cruciform Press.

September 25, 2014

We do not sin with impunity. We cannot sin without consequence. Once the Holy Spirit reveals sin within us, we cannot simply ignore that sin and expect that our spiritual lives will continue to grow and thrive. In his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation, John Owen lists six evil effects of sin—sin that we identify but refuse to destroy.

In chapter four of his book, Owen wants the reader to think about this: A God-honoring life is one in which we constantly wage war against sin. He says it like this: “The life, vigor and comfort of our spiritual life depend much upon our mortification of sin.” I take life to be the existence of spiritual life, vigor to be the extent of it, and comfort to be the Holy Spirit’s assurance of its existence. All of these are imperiled by the existence of sin. He will give six consequences of sin in our lives, but first he has a couple of foundational points to make.

The first foundation point Owen makes is that putting sin to death is necessary for a secure and comfortable Christian life, and yet they are not a guarantee of it. I find this important as a Christian and as a pastor: “A man may be carried on in a constant course of mortification all his days; and yet perhaps never enjoy a good day of peace and consolation. The use of means for the obtaining of peace is ours; the bestowing of it is God’s prerogative.” In other words, God does not owe us anything for putting sin to death; it is our duty and we must do it out of love and loyalty to him. However, under ordinary circumstances, he rewards such action with life, vigor and comfort.

The second foundational point is that we must not confuse mortification of sin with the gospel. “In the ways instituted by God to give us life, vigor, courage, and consolation, mortification is not one of the immediate causes of it. … Adoption and justification … are the immediate causes.” Spiritual life, comfort, and vigor are not ultimately the fruit of mortification, but of justification.

With those matters aside, he now offers a series of six evil effects of refusing to do battle with sin:

  1. Sin deprives us of spiritual strength and comfort. “Every unmortified sin will do two things: it will weaken the soul and deprive it of its vigor. It will darken the soul and deprive it of its comfort and peace.”
  2. Sin weakens the soul and deprives it of its strength. “An unmortified lust will drink up the spirit and all the vigor of the soul, and weaken it for all duties.” When he speaks of duties, he speaks of the ordinary means of grace, and particularly reading Scripture, praying and gaining the spiritual benefit that comes from doing these things.
  3. Sin becomes the delight of the heart. “It diverts the heart from the spiritual frame that is required for vigorous communion with God; it lays hold on the affections, rendering its object beloved and desirable, so expelling the love of the Father.” Unmortified sin becomes our delight, and we come to love it and rejoice in it.
  4. Sin becomes the meditation of our minds. “Thoughts are the great purveyors of the soul to bring in provision to satisfy its affections; and if sin remain unmortified in the heart, they must ever and anon be making provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” When sin goes untouched, it becomes the meditation of our heart, taking the place that should be filled with the Lord.
  5. Sin hinders our spiritual walk. “The ambitious man much be studying, and the worldling must be working or contriving, and the sensual, vain person providing himself for vanity, when they should be engaged in the worship of God.” Sin steals the time, attention and affection that we need to maintain our communion with God.
  6. Sin darkens the soul. “It is a cloud, a thick cloud, that spreads itself over the face of the soul, and intercepts all the beams of God’s love and favor. It takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them.” When we continually choose sin over godliness, sin destroys the comfort that the Holy Spirit seeks to provide. Our souls become darkened to his goodness and to the privileges of our adoption.

The solution to all of this is to put sin to death. Here is how Owen says it: “Mortification prunes all the graces of God and makes room for them in our hearts to grow. The life and vigor of our spiritual lives consists in the vigor and flourishing of the plants of grace in our hearts.” 

As we continue read Overcoming Sin and Temptation, we will soon come to instructions on actually putting sin to death.

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the fifth chapter of the book. We have only just begun so there is still plenty of time for you to get the book and to read along.

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together.