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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

October 27, 2014

I rank it as probably the funniest little off-the-cuff comment I’ve made while public speaking. During a Q&A at a conference the moderator mentioned that I had blogged every day for a decade and then asked, “Is there anything else you’ve done so consistently?” I fired back, “The only other thing I’ve done every day for ten years is not exercise.” It was funny at the time, but a couple of days later I began to feel that the punchline revealed something that wasn’t too flattering.

In the weeks that followed I thought about my little comment and realized it revealed a problem—I had drawn too bold a line between mind and matter or soul and matter. I was all about caring for my soul and tending my mind, but all the while was rashly neglecting the body that is inextricably connected to mind and soul. In this way I was living as a pagan, not a Christian. This is gnosticism which says that the immaterial is intrinsically good while the material is instrinsically evil. Or perhaps it is dualism which inserts a chasm between body and soul. But it isn’t Christian.

As Christians we know that body and soul are both good and are both meant to be cared for. We know that God created humanity body, mind and soul and declared it all good and very good. We know that who we are is not so easily divided into neat little parts; it is easier to develop Christian character and easier to have a well-trained mind in a fit body than in a neglected body. We are a cohesive whole.

I knew I needed to do something, but what? I thought of the health club just up the road from us. I had seen their banners outside and mocked the red-faced, sweat-stained people walking out of it. “You know, if they could even just look a little bit like they had fun I might be tempted to try it.”

I recruited Aileen to the cause and said, “We need to get fit.” She loves me enough to play along. Neither of us had ever been to a gym or health club before. We did not know what to expect when we walked through those doors, but we steeled our nerve, took courage from one another, walked in, and asked to speak to someone. Our conversation went something like this:

“What are your fitness goals?”

“I want to not die for now.”

“Hmm. Could I say, ‘general health?’”

“I guess that sounds about right.”

“What do you want your body to look like?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, do you want lines? Do you want definition? Do you want a six-pack?”

“I don’t even know what you mean by all that. You’re the expert—You tell me what I ought to want and what’s realistic for thirty-eight.”

“Alright, we’ll just stick with general health then.”

He took us for a tour of the facility, showing us the studios where they do Zumba (Confession: I still have no idea what that is), the room where they do cycling classes, and the rooms stuffed full of strange-looking machines that look like they are straight out of the middle ages. I told him not to even bother showing us the hot yoga room.

“Have you ever been a member at a health club before?”

[Laughter]. “Let me explain. I am a pastor and I think, for the first time, I understand what an atheist feels like when he walks into church. I know that everyone is looking at me now and thinking, ‘That guy doesn’t belong!’ I don’t know what the expectations are here, I don’t know how anything works, and I feel like a total outsider.”

Despite the ignorance and the awkwardness, he convinced us to give the club a try. Aileen and I stipulated that whatever we were going to do, we intended to do together. He recommended we hire a personal trainer to help us, at least in the early days as we learned how to use the equipment and to build a program that could get us from inactive to some degree of fitness. And then we got to work.

It has been several months now, and both Aileen and I agree it is one of the best decisions we have made. We aren’t exactly ready to set out on a triathlon, but we’re actually fit and growing in fitness. Fat is melting away and stamina is growing. Perhaps best of all, we feel better. We feel better mentally knowing that we are doing the right thing; we feel better spiritually knowing that we are faithfully caring for the bodies God has given us; we feel better physically as our bodies adjust to being used and stretched and strengthened. Perhaps best of all, we know that we addressed a problem far more spiritual than physical.

I can’t say that we love exercise now, or that we look forward to holding two-minute planks and doing an endless success of squats while clutching twenty-pound weights. We don’t love lifting heavy objects, and lunging all over the club, and working tiny little muscles we didn’t know we had. I can’t say that we’ve discovered the runner’s high as we jog our way toward a twenty-five-minute 5K. But I can say we’ve built the habit, love the results, and are even beginning to enjoy the process.

Image credit: Shutterstock

October 27, 2014

Here are some new Kindle deals: George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore ($1.99); A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur ($5.98); Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken ($4.27); A God-Entranced Vision of All Things by John Piper ($1.99); Rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael Haykin ($0.99); For Calvinism by Michael Horton ($2.99); Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas & Tom Wood ($2.99); Recovering Classic Evangelicalism by Greg Thornbury ($0.99); The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style ($2.99).

Forgotten Providence - “We seem to have moved past needing to talk about God’s providence—we’re quite sophisticated these days.” That’s true, I think. Read this article to brush up on providence.

ERLC Conference - You can tune in today and the next couple of days to watch the ERLC National Conference. There’s a great list of speakers on a critical topic.

JW’s and Viral Marketing - I found this a fascinating article. It looks at Jehovah’s Witnesses from a marketing perspective.

Halloween on Mission - David Mathis thinks about Halloween and mission.

The Decline of Contemporary Worship Music - David T Gordon predicts and describes what he believes is the imminent decline of contemporary worship music.

An unforgiving heart is an unforgiven heart. —Tim Keller

Keller

October 26, 2014

Sometimes it is good to have a bit of assistance in praying. Prone to Wander is a wonderful new collection of prayers inspired by The Valley of Vision. One of those prayers is about praying—seeking God’s forgiveness for praying poorly, and seeking God’s help to pray more powerfully and skillfully. Here it is:

Heavenly Father,

Teach us to love prayer. Help us to live our lives before you, in public and in private, at church and at home, each prayer and each moment perfumed with the incense of Christ’s atoning blood. We are invited by your promises to come to you with all our burdens and desires. Draw us by the power of your Spirit, or our hearts and minds will wander carelessly from thought to thought, and our anxieties will rule over us.

We praise you that great sin draws out great grace, for we are great sinners. We seldom want to pray, and when we do our petitions are laced with self-importance and mixed with sinful motives. We confess our ignorance, for we do not know how to pray, and we confess our willful rebellion for prayers uttered from cold and selfish lips. But we celebrate Jesus and plead his righteousness to cover our iniquities, and rejoice that his obedience weighs more heavily on your scales than all our sin and satisfies your justice in full. Where our guilt is most terrible, your mercy is most free and deep, and we thank you for this incredible grace.

Holy Spirit, by your power, may the throne of grace become the pleasure ground of our souls. There may we know the delight of our Savior’s love, the relief of repentance and reconciliation, the privilege of our sonship. Ignite our hearts with joy before you, quicken our deadness with thanksgiving, and strengthen us to cling to you, love you, and obey you. Fill us with the imagination of faith, which considers all things possible and believes that you are a God who loves to give far beyond all that we could ask or imagine. May we grow to be persistent in prayer, until Christ is the pulse of our hearts, the spokesman of our lips and the center of all our hopes and longings. In his great name we pray, amen.

October 25, 2014

It was quite a week for Kindle deals, and especially if you’re into resources and commentaries. I don’t have anything new for you today, but if you’re into Kindle deals, you may want to look back at this week’s A La Carte archives.

Nick Batzig is Working on Learning to Rest. I need help there as well!

Ray Ortlund shows how The Ways of God Are To Be Admired.

I’m grateful to Thom Rainer for sponsoring the blog this week with his article 7 Reasons Some Churches Experience Revitalization (While Others Don’t).

Here are some of the best shots from The National Geographic 2014 Photo Contest.

Here is a sweet and comforting letter To Parents Who Have Lost a Child.

If you are in or near Toronto, I’d love to see you at the annual dinner for the Pregnancy Care Centre, an amazing ministry you ought to know about. (If finances are an issue, send me an email and I’ll see if I can hook you up…)

Here’s a description of the World’s Strangest Road-Trip through North Korea.

The preacher can only bring the Word to the ear; the Spirit must bring it from the ear to the heart. —Steven Lawson

Lawson

October 24, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends at CBD Reformed. As they always do, they are offering some great prizes. There will be 5 winners this week, and each winner will receive the following 3 books:

  • Hope RebornHope Reborn: How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus by Tope Koleoso & Adrian Warnock - Retail price $7.99
  • Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, CD-ROM Edition - Retail Price $80.00
  • ESV Gift Bible – Retail Price $14.99

In addition, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (October 24 - 27) on the following three products:

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.

October 24, 2014

He wanted to follow Jesus. He wanted to be close to Jesus. He wanted to live a life of radical obedience. But Jesus told him to stay, not to go. Do not follow me.

The man had been oppressed by demons, driven out of his mind and driven out of polite society. He had lived in the tombs, living with the dead, crying out, cutting himself, bleeding, naked, insane.

Then Jesus had come, and with a word released him. He was free.

“As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him…” (Mark 5:18-19a).

The man’s desire was pure. Please, Lord, let me go with you. Let me learn from you. Let me stay near you.

But Jesus had a better plan. Stay. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you (19b).” You may not come. You must stay.

Why? Because there could be no better missionary to his own town and to his own people. They knew what he had been and who he had been, and they, of all people could see the transformation. That undeniable transformation declared the power of God.

This man had encountered Jesus in a life-changing way. So Jesus told him to stay. Stay where you are, find your friends and neighbors, and tell them what the Lord has done for you.

Christian, God has appointed you to be his missionary right where you are. There is no one better suited to the task. “Go home to your friends, your family, your neighbors, your colleagues, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

October 24, 2014

Here are a few new Kindle deals: Is It My Fault? by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb ($3.99); Rediscovering Holiness by J.I. Packer ($1.99); Going Public by David & Kelli Pritchard ($1.99)—a must-read for families who have chosen to public school.

Standing Ovation - You heard the news from Canada’s Parliament, I’m sure. Take 5 minutes and watch the hero of the story as he proceeds into Parliament, just like every other day.

Resisting Gossip Together - Westminster Books has Resisting Gossip resources on sale. Just imagine if every church was free of gossip…

Theology Stifling Compassion - So true: “The training in systematic theology and hermeneutics we have is valuable, in terms of ministering the Scriptures to people who seek answers. Yet, there are times, if we are not careful, when our ‘sound doctrine’ may sound like a clanging cymbal, and push hurting believers away.”

Your Teen Is Looking at Porn - Here’s another disturbing article about the sheer volume of porn teens are exposed to today.

Do You Know Him? - Blaire Linne’s spoken word performances were some of the highlights of the True Woman conference.

Smiling Into the Shadows of Life - “I want to go home, she announced.  She turned to those seated near her and gestured with age-spotted hands to the crowds of people rushing past.  Do you know where all these people are going?

For Jesus, Scripture is powerful, decisive, and authoritative because it is nothing less than the voice of God. —Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung

October 23, 2014

It is an experience every Christian knows. You become aware of a sin and come to fear and hate it. You focus all kinds of attention on that sin and on putting it to death. You ask friends to pray for you, and you cry out to God for deliverence. Well and good, right? Well, not necessarily. John Owen has something to say to you: You will not be delivered from this sin until you pursue a much deeper and wider obedience.

Here is how Owen describes it in chapter eight of his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation:

A man finds any lust to bring him into the condition formerly described; it is powerful, strong, tumultuating, leads captive, vexes, disquiets, takes away peace; he is not able to bear it; wherefore he sets himself against it, prays against it, groans under it, sighs to be delivered, but in the meantime, perhaps, in other duties—in constant communion with God—in reading, prayer, and meditation—in other ways that are not of the same kind with the lust wherewith he is troubled—he is loose and negligent. Let not that man think that ever he shall arrive to the mortification of the lust he is perplexed with. This is a condition that not seldom befalls men in their pilgrimage.

This is what Owen wants you to know: Even while you focus so much attention on that one sin that torments you, you may still be living a fast and loose life in other areas. You may battle hard against that one sin, even while allowing yourself to slip in other ways. You cry out to God to be delivered from lust or addiction, but all the while you neglect the simple disciplines of reading and praying, or you continue to have a fiery temper and to make excuses for it. If that is you, you should not expect that God will deliver you from that one sin. Your tendency will be to battle hardest against the sins you find most alarming. However, you ought to look to your entire life and to battle sins that God finds alarming. “These are no less sins and evils than those under which you groan. Jesus Christ bled for them also. Why do you not set yourself against them also?” 

As he loves to do, Owen draws a medical metaphor. “He that has a ‘running sore’ upon him, arising from an ill habit of body, contracted by intemperance and ill diet, let him apply himself with what diligence and skill he can to the cure of his sore, if he leave the general habit of his body under distempers, his labor and travail will be in vain.” In other words, if you live a life of drunken indulgence which causes your body to break out in some kind of sore, you can apply all the medical attention you want to the sore, but you haven’t cured the greater problem. And in the same way we like to go to battle against the most disturbing outward manifestations of our sin, rather than the far deeper root causes. It is far easier to put a bandaid over the sore than to stop the addictive behavior that causes it. It is far more likely that we will battle the sin that most disturbs us than the sin that most disturbs God.

Owen says it well: “Let not any man think to do his own work that will not do God’s. God’s work consists in universal obedience. … If we will do anything, we must do all things.” So battle that sin you hate by battling all the sins God hates.

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the ninth chapter of the book. You can still get the book and read along if that is of interest to you.

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.