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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

January 20, 2015

I didn’t actually intend to review this book. It showed up at my door and a brief glance turned into a quick skim turned into a full read turned into a review. As a committed reader always looking for something new and interesting, I just love it when that happens.

There is a new religious movement alive today that is gaining momentum and claiming followers. Like so many movements before it, it began in the United States and has since spread around the world. I have seen many manifestations of it right here in Canada. It is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and it is the subject of God’s Super-Apostles, where it receives some well-deserved scrutiny.

The New Apostolic Reformation is a movement that is set on returning apostles and prophets to the church. Its adherents believe “that God always intended for apostles and prophets to govern the church, not only the early church, but the church during each generation. Yet their rightful place of rule has been neglected by Christians for centuries,” replaced, in most cases, by pastors and elders. This movement is apostolic because it restores apostles and prophets to the church, and it is a reformation because its leaders hold that, like the Protestant Reformation before it, it will transform the church.

NAR is associated with well-known leaders like C. Peter Wagner, Rich Joyner, Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson, and Cindy Jacobs, and organizations such as The International House of Prayer, The Call, GOD TV, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Charisma magazine. You may know you have encountered it when you hear buzzwords like activation, dominionism, generational curse, prayerwalking, soaking, or spiritual mapping. There are currently something like 3 million people in America who are actively associated with NAR, and hundreds of thousands or even millions more who would be loosely associated or who have been influenced by its teachings and teachers. It is, in short, a powerful and growing movement.

In God’s Super-Apostles R. Douglas Gievett, professor of philosophy in the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, and Holly Pivec, a researcher and journalist, combine forces to examine and respond to the NAR movement. Modeling their work after the Bereans of Acts 17, they look at this new movement and then simply turn to God’s Word to see if it can be supported by the Bible. And, not surprisingly, they find that many of the movement’s boldest and most distinct claims are not only missing from Scripture, but completely opposed to it.

They first look to the NAR teaching about apostles, then go to the New Testament examples and descriptions of Apostles, and compare the two. NAR’s beliefs and leadership do not hold up well under such examination. The authors do the same with prophets, and again find that NAR offers something very different from what the Bible holds out. Then they look at some of NAR’s distinct teachings about spiritual warfare and the promise (which often becomes a threat) of apostolic unity. They close with an examination of miracles and miracle workers, disputing NAR’s understanding of miracles and casting doubt on the many of the claims of miracles.

This book may draw some comparisons to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, but even while it reaches many of the same conclusions, it is a very different work in that it focuses far less on individual manifestations of the movement’s flaws and foibles, and more on a framework meant to understand and interpret it. It may be tempting to immediately write off the authors as people who have a deeper agenda than exposing the worst of the movement, but they anticipate and answer this:

Some readers may suspect that the authors are anti-charismatic. They may expect us to argue that the miraculous gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12—including the gifts of prophesying, healing, and speaking in tongues—are no longer active in the church today. This is not our objective. Many Christians around the world, including charismatics and classic Pentecostals, believe that the miraculous gifts are still active, and we do not dispute their belief. We’ve tried to show that NAR teachings do not represent the views of most charismatics or classic Pentecostals, but are, rather, entirely different.

If I have a concern with the book it is its logical and methodical style. Of course I found this very helpful, but I am not sure how many of NAR’s adherents will be convinced. You have heard it said that you cannot reason someone out of an irrational position and, sadly, many people who are swept up in NAR may be almost immune to the kind of reason the authors bring to bear here. They have been trained to look past the Bible to signs and wonders and prophecies; many have tacitly or even outright denied that the Bible is their norming norm, their sole final authority. Yet the authors have done the right thing and simply held up NAR to the light of Scripture; it is my hope that many people within the movement will read the book and at least consider it.

God’s Super-Apostles is a clear and winsome work that provides just the right depth of examination, and that comes to clear and biblical conclusions. It is worth reading whether you wish to better understand NAR or if you wish to evaluate its claims.

January 20, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Finally Free by Heath Lambert ($3.99); Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (A new edition edited by Kevin DeYoung) ($3.99); The Forgotten Trinity by James White ($1.99); A Model of Christian Maturity by D.A. Carson ($2.99); The Crucified King by Jeremy Treat ($1.99); The Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathan Dodson ($3.79). You can find a complete list here: Kindle Books Deals for Christians.

Zobrist’s Goodbye - I enjoyed reading what Ben Zobrist did as he left Tampa Bay (after being traded to the Oakland A’s).

20 Things for My Daughter - This is a great list: 20 things Melissa wants her daughter to understand about being a woman.

This Will Revolutionize Education - “Many technologies have promised to revolutionize education, but so far none has. With that in mind, what could revolutionize education?” This is quite an enjoyable video.

Undeveloped World War II Film Discovered - You might like this video in which the Rescued Film Project discovers and processes 31 rolls of film shot by an American WWII soldier over 70 years ago.

The Oldest Gospel Fragment - “A text found on papyrus used on a mummy mask may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist—a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year AD 90.”

What Did Jesus Mean? - What did Jesus mean when he said we would do greater work than he would do? Here’s R.C. Sproul’s explanation.

We are not primarily called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to Someone. —Os Guinness

Guinness

January 19, 2015

Have you ever compared the front and back of a tapestry? The front of a tapestry is art. In the hands of a skilled weaver it displays incredible artistry and fine detail. The world’s best art museums collect the world’s best tapestries and display them there as examples of a rare but beautiful form of art.

The back of a tapestry is a mess. A tapestry is made by weaving together different-colored threads, and the images and designs are created by the interplay between the different colors and textures. What is clear on the front is opaque on the back. The back shows something of the image, but it looks more like a child’s attempt than a master’s: it lacks nuance and clarity and detail. Where the front is smooth, the back is covered in knots and loose ends.

We are meant to see and admire the front of the tapestry, not the back, and this has often served as an illustration of the truths of Romans 8:28: That God promises to use every single event in our lives to bring about good. Though I have often heard Joni Eareckson Tada use the illustration, I believe it originated with Corrie Ten Boom and her poem “The Master Weaver’s Plan.” “Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow; / And I in foolish pride / Forget He sees the upper / And I the underside.” It serves as an effective illustration for the truth that for now we get to see only the underside of all God is weaving together in this world, while clinging to the promise that someday we will see the upper side and marvel at what he has been doing.

But it illustrates something else equally well. I have been thinking a lot lately about good deeds—not the good deeds people do to try to earn the favor of God, but the good deeds people do when they already know that Christ has earned them the favor of God. Titus 2 calls us to be people that are zealous for good works; in Matthew 5 Jesus tells us to let our light shine before others by doing good works; Ephesians 2 tells us that God’s very purpose in saving us was enabling us to glorify him by the good works we do for others. As Christians we are to be known for our good works—those things done for the glory of God and the good of other people.

And so we go through life doing these good works, and far more often than not, these are small and seemingly inconsequential deeds. We rarely talk a person out of recklessly taking his own life; we rarely write a check that utterly transforms a life or ministry; we rarely save a drowning child or defuse a ticking time bomb. Instead we interact with people for moments at a time and attempt to say something—anything—that may be encouraging; we write small checks and place them in the offering basket; we have brief conversations with children, and we share just a shred of the Good News with that taxi driver.

Most of our good deeds go unnoticed and unmarked by others. I suspect that even we ourselves fail to notice or remember the majority of the good deeds we do. But not God. God sees them all, knows them all, remembers them all, and uses them all.

Just as some day we will see the beautiful tapestry God has been weaving through our suffering, through the events we never would have chosen, in the same way we will see the tapestry this Master Weaver has been creating through those good deeds. We will see how a kind word resonated in a person’s heart even days and weeks later; we will see how that small amount of money was used to accomplish something amazing; we will see how that little shred of the gospel was the pebble in the shoe of the person who had hardened himself against God.

Some day God will show us his tapestry, we will see how God has woven each of these little deeds together to his own glory, and we will rejoice.

Here is Corrie Ten Boom’s poem:

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

January 19, 2015

Crossway has reduced the price on several volumes of the excellent Preaching the Word commentary series to $5.99 each: Job, ProverbsLuke, Revelation. Also consider: Jesus on Every Page by David Murray ($1.99); Standing Strong by John MacArthur ($2.99); Alone with God by John MacArthur (free).

Gigapixels of Andromeda - NASA recently released an incredibly detailed photo of the Andromeda galaxy. This video shows it off. It’s amazing.

A Story About a Bird - I enjoyed Elisha’s account of someone simply taking the time to encourage her.

Developing Godly Qualities in Children - Randy Alcorn: “Teaching our children the truth is absolutely necessary, but it is not sufficient. The solid foundation for a life is not just hearing the words of God, but doing them.”

Euthanizing God? - This is an important article that deals with the growing likelihood that euthanasia will soon be considered a legitimate option in Canada and beyond.

The Path to the Attack at Charlie Hebdo - The New York Times has a long but interesting piece on the attacks in Paris.

Heavenly Lies - Mike Wittmer writes about Alex Malarkey and his new claims that he didn’t go to heaven after all.

2 Principles to Consider - Here are 2 principles to consider before you pick up and move to a new town.

We should be content to be abased and obscure provided Christ is honored and exalted. — Thomas Manton

Manton

January 18, 2015

The best writing is writing that transcends times and ages. This morning I found myself reading some brief thoughts from J.C. Ryle on the importance of self-examination, and though his words were written in the late nineteenth century, they are perfectly appropriate to our day. They offer an important challenge.

Let me counsel every true servant of Christ to “examine his own heart” frequently and carefully as to his state before God. This is a practice which is useful at all times: it is especially desirable at the present day.  When the great plague of London was at its height people [noticed] the least symptoms that appeared on their bodies in a way that they never remarked them before. A spot here, or a spot there, which in time of health men thought nothing of, received close attention when the plague was decimating families, and striking down one after another! So it ought to be with ourselves, in the times in which we live. We ought to watch our hearts with double watchfulness. We ought to give more time to meditation, self-examination, and reflection. It is a hurrying, bustling age: if we would be kept from falling, we must make time for being frequently alone with God.

I was also struck by another of Ryle’s warnings, this one against being drawn in by false teachers.

Let me entreat every true hearted servant of Christ “not to be deceived by the superficial disguise” under which false doctrines often approach our souls in the present day. Beware of supposing that a teacher of religion is to be trusted, because although he holds some unsound views, he yet “teaches a great deal of truth.” Such a teacher is precisely the man to do you harm: Poison is always most dangerous when it is given in small doses and mixed with wholesome food. Beware of being taken in by the apparent earnestness of many of the teachers and upholders of false doctrine. Remember that zeal and sincerity and fervor are no proof whatever that a man is working for Christ, and ought to be believed.  

Peter no doubt was in earnest when he told our Lord to spare Himself, and not go to the cross; yet our Lord said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan.” Saul no doubt was in earnest when he went to and fro persecuting Christians; yet he did it ignorantly, and his zeal was not according to knowledge. … It is an awful fact that, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Of all the delusions prevalent in these latter days, there is none greater than the common notion that “if a man is in serious about his religion he must be a good man!” Beware of being carried away by this delusion; beware of being led astray by “serious-minded men!” Seriousness is in itself an excellent thing; but it must be seriousness in behalf of Christ and His whole truth, or else it is worth nothing at all. The things that are highly esteemed among men are often abominable in the sight of God.

January 17, 2015

I’ve got just a few new Kindle deals today: I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That by Steve Timmis ($1.99); The Measure of a Young Man by Gene Getz (free); The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias ($2.99).

Here are 5 Simple Ways to Teach Your Children Theology. It’s not nearly as complicated as we can sometimes imagine it.

In light of the firing of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, Russell Moore asks Is Glorifying God a Hate Crime Now?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss shares some reflections on Ministering in a Maximum-Security Women’s Prison. “We conducted an impromptu two-day conference that included many hours of studying God’s Word together, group interaction, worship, prayer, and testimonies, as well as one-on-one ministry with numerous women.”

Yes, even pastors sometimes get Hate Mail. Here are tips on what to do about it.

Yesterday I linked to the video, but also wanted to link to this article: Lecrae Confesses Abortion, Invites Others into the Light.

Thanks to Matthias Media and Tony Payne for sponsoring the blog this week with the article Doing the Obvious.

Denny Burk looks Inside the Evangelical Fight Over Gay Marriage.

Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years. —Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer

January 16, 2015

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends at Crossway. Crossway is giving away 5 prizes this week, which means there will be 5 winners. Each of the winners will receive the following 2 books: 

  • New Morning MerciesNew Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. “Mornings can be tough. Sometimes, a hearty breakfast and strong cup of coffee just aren’t enough. Offering more than a rush of caffeine, best-selling author Paul David Tripp wants to energize you with the most potent encouragement imaginable: the gospel. Forget ‘behavior modification’ or feel-good aphorisms. Tripp knows that what we really need is an encounter with the living God. Then we’ll be prepared to trust in God’s goodness, rely on his grace, and live for his glory each and every day.
  • ESV Journaling Bible. “The ESV Journaling Bible provides the perfect way for you to keep a journal of your spiritual life right inside the Bible that you read and study each day. With covers and formats that look like the finest journals, the Journaling Bible features two-inch ruled margins for writing observations, reflections, prayers, praises, notes, and journal entries. This unique Bible makes a great gift and lasting keepsake for anyone who values God’s Word.”

These are two excellent resources to help you know and apply God’s Word every day.

Enter the Draw

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.