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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

July 01, 2015

Happy Canada Day! I know that each of you is celebrating in your own way. To celebrate the day (and the start of a new month), here are a few freebies and deals. Free from Logos is a pair of books, including one by Tom Schreiner. You’ll need to visit the main page of Logos.com and click the link to Free Book of the Month. Meanwhile, this month’s free book from Christian Audio is Ian & Larissa Murphy’s Eight Twenty Eight. It’s a good one, and it’s there for the taking! Finally, and as always, Amazon begins the new month with a selection of Kindle deals that cover most genres.

Earth View - Earth View is a collection of especially interesting shots from Google Earth. (If you are a Chrome user, grab the extension.) I love it!

Face Death Defiantly - There is a lot to be said for this: “Within the bounds of the gospel, defiance against death can be holy, cleansing, and constructive.”

Apologetics Resources - Westminster Books has some good apologetics resources on sale this week.

Colors - I enjoyed this short celebration of color. Of course I probably would have enjoyed it even more if not for the fact that I’m red/green color-blind.

The New F-Word - This article discusses how swearing and profanity inevitably change over time. (Note: Obviously there are offensive words in the article since, well, it’s about offensive words.)

You Will Be Perescuted with Words - Tom Schreiner: “It isn’t right to say that Christians in the United States are free from persecution. We should be more precise: we are free from physical persecution.”

It takes more than clicking like for a good cause to change the world. —Michael Oh

Oh

 

June 30, 2015

A couple of days ago Aileen and I were at the gym, alternating between lifting heavy stuff off the floor and then putting it right back down again (with a bit of running to nowhere in the mix as well). This kind of activity often leaves us rather sore, and, as it happens, there was a chiropractor working the floor that day, offering to show how she could soothe some of that soreness. It was a free sampling of sorts, the health club equivalent to Costco’s little samples of crackers or pizza.

I tell you what: This place has it figured out. They work you hard so you get hungry and, wouldn’t you know it, they’ve got a nice little café to feed you. They push you to your limits so you get sore and, once again, they’ve got a chiropractic and physiotherapy clinic to serve you. It’s a perfect little cycle. But I digress.

Aileen was particularly sore that day, and is a little bit less self-conscious than I am about getting professionally twisted and kneaded in a public space. So she told the chiropractor about her sore knee and lay face-down on the table. The chiropractor pretty much ignored Aileen’s knee and instead began to work her hamstring. She protested a little, explaining again that it was not her hamstring but her knee that was bothering her. But the doctor kept on working the hamstring while explaining that the knee was not the problem. In reality, the hamstring was tight and this was putting abnormal strain on the knee, causing it to get inflamed. The problem with the knee was not actually with the knee at all. And, sure enough, after a few minutes of work the pain eased and disappeared.

As I watched the chiropractor doing what chiropractors do, I realized that I invariably become a better pastor when I observe doctors and other medical professionals. Physicians of the soul are not too different from physicians of the body. And in some ways these doctors are more adept than pastors at seeking problems and in solving them.

The chiropractor that day reminded me of the importance of careful observation. Her temptation might be to go straight to the knee—to hear the words “knee pain” and to immediately start work right there. But instead, she asked Aileen to do a few simple tasks, to move in certain ways, to describe the kind of pain she was experiencing. As Aileen did this, the doctor was feeling her muscles, feeling her ligaments, and observing it all. That careful observation led to a surprising but accurate diagnosis. And as a pastor, I know that I am tempted to neglect scrutinizing a spiritual issue and to make a quick and trite diagnosis of the problem. When I see someone believing what is wrong or living in a way that dishonors God, I need to resist the temptation to offer the quick fix and instead to talk, to pray, to observe, and to trace that sin to its root.

The chiropractor that day reminded me of a second and related issue. She reminded me that the presenting problems—the marital disputes, the explosive anger, the addictions, the deep sadness—are not always the thing. We can go right after that problem, find some Bible verses that speak to it, and try to memorize them together. But a careful examination through good conversation will often lead us to see that these sins are actually only symptoms of a much deeper problem. It may expose a deeper sin, it may expose the pain of past victimization, it may expose simple immaturity. But sometimes sin’s causes are much harder to discover than sin’s symptoms.

It is not just pastors who are to be adept at seeing and diagnosing spiritual problems. This is true of every Christian, to all of us who are called “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:12). We are all responsible before God to be involved, to observe carefully, to diagnose accurately, and to treat patiently. Are you caring for the souls of others?

Image credit: Shutterstock

June 30, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: A Housewife’s Adventure with God by Jessie McFarlane ($2.99); Running Scared by Ed Welch ($2.99); The Radical Disciple by John Stott ($2.99).

Where You Start Determines Where You End - “This is an exciting, important time to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Our lost culture needs us now more than ever. We don’t have to be spectacular to stand out.”

On Twenty Years of Marriage - This is just a great bit of writing about the joy and beauty of marriage. (HT)

An Interview with Mark Dever - Tabletalk magazine has an interview with Mark Dever. He always has interesting things to say.

Celebrating Distinction - “Creator and creation. Male and female. Distinctions are important. In this excerpt from the teaching series Only Two Religions, Dr. Peter Jones explains why these biblical distinctions are under attack.”

5 Questions I Wish My Accountability Partner Had Asked - There is level-headed counsel in this article. And it’s not really about accountability partners at all.

Getting Ready to Forgive - I quite agree: “Rather than presenting forgiveness as a law, what we need to do is to shepherd the wounded Christian to the point where they could say truthfully that their hearts are watching the road.”

If you can trust God to save you for eternity, you can trust him to lead you for a lifetime. —David Platt

Platt

 

June 29, 2015

I suppose we are all familiar with the categories of sin and depravity. We are all familiar with the Bible’s ugly descriptions of fallen humanity and equally familiar with the internal corroboration of our hearts and the external corroboration of our lives. The simple fact is, we are sinners. We are people who have offended a holy God and people who act out that rebellion every day.

I know you have read the second chapter of Ephesians and reveled in the beauty of what God has done in calling some people away from a life of rebellion and toward a life of righteousness. What Christian hasn’t read it with joy? What Christian hasn’t seen the word “but” there and rejoiced that God entered in and changed everything? “But God…”

I wonder if you’ve noticed one fascinating little part of the text—the change in actors or the change in agency.

Read the first three verses of the text, and allow me just a little bit of liberty with the pronouns:

And I was dead in the trespasses and sins in which I once walked, as I followed the course of this world, as I followed the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in me and in all the sons of disobedience—among whom I once lived in the passions of my flesh, carrying out the desires of my body and my mind, and I was by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

You can hardly fail to notice that it’s all about me. This is who I am when left on my own, when left to live my own life in my own way. And it’s not a pretty picture. It’s an ugly plummet from sin to sin, from spiritual disobedience to spiritual death and destruction.

And then there is the word “but,” and look what happens after that.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which God loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and God raised us up with him and God seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages God might show the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

You can hardly fail to notice that it’s all about God. This is who God is when God acts in accordance with his character. And it’s a beautiful picture. It’s a beautiful progression from love to mercy to grace to life to righteousness to glory.

The point and the purpose is simple. When we take action, we find only destruction. When God begins to move, we are given grace.

June 29, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul ($4.99); Apologetics for the Twenty-first Century by Louis Markos ($4.99); Can You Believe It’s True? by John Feinberg ($4.99); Covenantal Apologetics by Scott Oliphant ($4.99); That’s Just Your Interpretation by Paul Copan ($3.99); The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre ($3.99); Churches, Revolutions, and Empires by Ian Shaw ($4.99).

15,790 Slave Ships - This interactive animation shows the course of 15,790 slave ships from the Old World to the New. “This interactive … gives you a sense of the scale of the trans-Atlantic slave trade across time, as well as the flow of transport and eventual destinations.”

Teach Your Child to Have Devotions - “On a human level, we can take this step of obedience: when your child is old enough to read, give him a Bible and train him to use it.” He includes a helpful worksheet.

Justice Kennedy’s Arguments for Polygamy and Polyamory - This is thought-provoking. And probably inevitable.

Advice from Chesterton - From the same site, read this excellent advice from G.K. Chesterton.

Give Us This Day Our Daily News - “The decision of what goes on the front page and what leads the evening newscast is a worldview decision. Understand this when you consume news reporting…”

Deal With Your Anger - Here are 3 compelling reasons to deal with your anger.

The gospel shows us that Jesus chooses those who are failures to display his glory. —Dave Harvey

Harvey

 

June 28, 2015

There isn’t anything easy about parenting. There isn’t anything easy about parenting girls. For that reason I enjoyed reading through Andy Farmer’s little booklet A Father’s Guide to Raising Girls. I found this section particularly helpful.

We will make our share of mistakes as dads do. But another factor we have to account for is our human weakness—our limits, our foibles, our character deficiencies that affect every aspect of our lives. Let me give you an example.

My girls used to love to stage plays while they were growing up. Elaborate multi–act performances involving friends, puppets, stuffed animals, Barbies, whatever they could cast for effect. There was one performance I’ll never forget. On a lazy Sunday afternoon the girls came up to the living room where we were hanging out and announced that they were going to do a play about mom and dad. We were naïve so we said we’d love to see it and film it for them. From a dramatic standpoint the play was not one of their better efforts. It was a kind of improvisational satire with little dramatic arc. Basically it consisted of Jill’s character running around in a cleaning frenzy while my character spent the entire play snoring on the couch with a newspaper over his head. As a work of art, I found the drama unmoving and my character entirely too one– dimensional.

However, in retrospect their performance was a great lens to see how my kids viewed me. I know snoozing was not the only experience they had of me, but it was a wake–up call that has kept me alert over the years. My ability to detach while at home and to find ways to indulge historic laziness is officially documented in the video of that performance.

Their little drama became a morality play revealing to me that my weaknesses are not private things. Nor are they inconsequential. The book of Proverbs is about weakness. It assumes weakness as a starting point for everyone—a lack of understanding that speaks of immaturity and limited insight. The first ten chapters of Proverbs are essentially one long appeal for us to grow—to seek wisdom and insight. Immaturity is not a permanent condition. Instead, it is the starting point to either wisdom and insight or foolishness and blindness. A father who is not seeking to address his weaknesses by the pursuit of wisdom will become blind to them and foolish in them.

We all have weaknesses. Here’s what I’ve learned about my weaknesses: they usually affect other people far more than they bother me. At times I’ve grown accustomed to them, made provision for them, coddled them where I can, compensated for that where I must, and ignored them wherever possible. But in some ways they define what others know about me.

How do you identify weaknesses in your life? Here’s a clue: your weaknesses are what others who really know you have to endure while living with you! If you can’t describe your weaknesses and how they affect others, you don’t really know them. Talk to those who are affected by your weaknesses. Ask your kids. Ask your wife. Ask your coworkers. Ask your heavenly Father. Asking God to open our eyes to our weaknesses is a scary prayer! But I’ve found that he answers those kinds of prayers with great mercy and abundant grace for change. It is a healthy family where dad gets real and gets wise about his weaknesses.

June 27, 2015

There are a few interesting Kindle deals today. Check out Puritan Portraits by J.I. Packer ($3.99). Amazon has a collection of American history books on sale at great prices, and I’m sure you can find some good summer reading there. (Check out Manhunt, for example. Also, Amity Shlae’s life of Coolidge is considered the best biography of that figure and I quite enjoyed reading it.)

By now you know how the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. Al Mohler has a special edition of The Briefing to talk it through. John Piper shared a lamentation. The Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission released Here We Stand, a statement of dissent signed by a whole series of Christian leaders. CBMW released an official response. And that is just scratching the surface.

Mike Riccardi has a primer for those wanting the lay of the land when it comes to various Theories of the Atonement. If the subject confuses you, this is a helpful overview.

The Banner of Truth is hosting quite a good giveaway if you’re interested in good literature.

Preachers would do well to keep these Rules for Sermon Writing close at hand and to consider them both before and during sermon preparation.

How Often Should We Celebrate The Lord’s Supper? It is a question every church has to consider and this article models thinking it through well.

I find it a delight to watch any artisan at his craft. There’s even something beautiful about watching a pair of bespoke shoes come together.

If you’re a nervous flyer you might be comforted by this article which describes all those weird noises you hear on an airplane.

Thanks to AccessTruth for sponsoring the blog this week!

Correct division should be preferred over corrupt unity. —Mark Dever

Dever