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Tim Challies

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February 27, 2015

Warming Up Your Car - The current cold snap seems like a good context to share this article about the myth of warming up your car on a cold day.

Three Relationship Rules - You may appreciate these three relationship rules from Ed Welch.

A Three-Parent Baby - How do you make a baby from three parents? Here’s how…

Counter Culture - If you’d like a second opinion on David Platt’s new book (which I reviewed on Tuesday), Al Mohler has written a really helpful review.

Euthanasia Comes to Canada - While we are on the subject of new cultural issues, Canada has recently full-out embraced euthanasia. Obviously this opens up some serious dangers and implications.

Who Turned the Lights Out? - Bob Kauflin writes about the relatively new phenomenon of turning down the lights during a worship service.

Mysteries of Sleep Lie Unsolved - I’m really bad at sleeping and have found the same thing as this author: sleep-tracking devices provide information, but not answers.

Because He’s the living God, He can hear. Because He’s a loving God, He will hear. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

February 26, 2015

The “I love you.” You know the words, and you know the weight they carry. Recently Aileen and I were remembering back to the first time we said those words to one another. Each of us already knew how the other felt, but that did nothing to temper the thrill of actually voicing it and the joy of actually hearing it.

“I love you” marks a milestone in a relationship, and not only a romantic one. Friendships also thrive and deepen with the admission and declaration of love. “I love you” says that this is no mere acquaintance, but a true, deep, and meaningful friendship. I hate that our society threatens the love of friendship by the suspicion of homosexuality, and I want us to push back and to declare that we can love one another in the best and purest way.

But as I considered the importance of the “I love you” I found myself pondering three other words that also cause a relationship to grow and to thrive. A friend recently said something or did something he should not have, and later approached me and so-humbly and so-kindly said, “Please forgive me.” I forgave him, of course. Who am I, a man who has been forgiven so much, that I should withhold forgiveness from anyone else, and especially from someone I love? And I know that in that moment our relationship deepened. It grew in the exchange, in the transaction, of repentance and forgiveness. I felt it, and I knew it.

So I thought about those words and I thought about my friendships. And I believe a relationship grows just as much through “Please forgive me” as through “I love you.” One friend speaking to another and saying, “I love you”—this is where love is declared. But one friend approaching another to express remorse and seek forgiveness—this is where love is displayed and preserved.

February 26, 2015

Here are a few new Kindle deals: Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions by Ken Ham ($3.49); If God Made the Universe, Who Made God? ($2.99); All the Names in the Bible ($2.99); (Here is the Complete List of Kindle Deals for Christians).

6 Rules of Cultural Engagement - Joe Thorn offers guidance on engaging the culture around us.

Congratulating Wesleyan - Carl Trueman congratulates Wesleyan for a ridiculous new step forward in the sexual revolution.

The Medium is the Message - Here’s a helpful 2-minute summary of Marshall McLuhan’s famous aphorism, “The medium is the message.”

Don’t Badmouth Obama - Mark Altrogge explains why you should refrain from badmouthing your president. 

Ligonier Ministries 2015 National Conference - The audio and video for the recent Ligonier Ministries National Conference is now available (for free).

The Greatest Illustrated Story - God does not only tell us the story of what he is doing in this world, but he also illustrates it for us.

A good man is ashamed to speak that which many people are not ashamed to act. —Matthew Henry

Henry

February 25, 2015

There is nothing my dog won’t do for food. There is no command she won’t obey when we are looking, and no rule she won’t break when we are looking away, if only she can get a bit of food in her belly. I guess it is hard to fault her since, as a Lab, every gene in her body drives her to gorge herself. It’s like Paul was writing about her and her breed when he said, ” Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). Food is her idol, her god, the thing that will motivate her to do anything or everything.

I am no dog, but I, too, am hard-wired for something—for validation. Just as a dog will lie down or roll over or beg or bark on command to get a snausage—doesn’t she realize how pathetic she looks?—, there is not much I won’t do to receive validation, to have others affirm my self-worth according to my criteria. I want to feel special about myself, I want to feel big and important. And when I look for what makes me feel good about myself, I inevitably find my idols. The thing that validates me is the thing I worship, the thing that momentarily takes the place of God in my life.

Lately I have been pondering and listing those things—those things that make me feel so special that I will do irrational things and make poor decisions in order to have them or achieve them. It makes for a pretty ugly and embarrassing little note. I think most of them are best kept between myself and the Lord, but I will give you a couple of examples.

Distant travel validates me. I receive invitations to do a fair number of conferences or speaking engagements over the course of a year, and I make it a point to prayerfully consider each one of them, knowing that I can accept only a few. But I have learned that the farther away the destination, the better it makes me feel about myself. I don’t even know why it works this way, but I suppose I like the idea that people far away are interested in hearing me speak. It feeds my ego. This makes me tempted to accept speaking engagements that will come at the expense of my church and family, even if I can really make no unique contribution to the event, and even if it makes very little sense for me to be involved. I am tempted to accept the event for the worst of motives: for how it makes me feel about myself.

Big audiences at big conferences validate me. I hate to own this one, but it is true: A bigger audience makes me feel more important than a smaller audience. A big audience at a big conference makes me feel awfully good about myself while a small audience at a small conference (or, even worse, a small audience at a big conference) is the kind of thing that can cast me into self-doubt or even despair. Again, there is a temptation to accept an invitation on the basis of how many people will be at the event rather than on any better or more noble criteria.

The irony in these two examples is that I am the ultimate homebody—I find it difficult to be away from home for more than very short stints—, and I am intimidated by large crowds—I find it extremely stressful to be in front of people. Somehow the things that validate me are the things I naturally run away from. I love them and hate them all at once.

I should note that neither of these things is wrong. Traveling distances to preach or to encourage others can be good and noble. Turning down a small event to speak at a large event can be good and God-honoring. But it can also be pure idolatry, a way I look for others to receive what only God is meant to give.

I need to be aware of these things—each of those ugly things on my ugly list. And most of all, I need to remember what is mostly deeply true. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to have the approval of others, and especially to receive the affirmation of God. But the crucial fact is, I already have it through Christ. I am already accepted by God because of what Christ has done, and this acceptance is all I need. When I am at my best it means everything to me. But when I am at my worst, it means nothing.

Image credit: Shutterstock

February 25, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: The God Who Justifies by James White ($2.99); The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson ($3.99); The Ever-Loving Truth by Voddie Baucham ($0.99); In My Father’s House and Conversation Peace by Mary Kassian ($0.99 each); Biblical Authority by James Draper ($2.99).

How Well Do You Know Your Bible? - The new issue of Credo magazine is now available for free online reading or download. This issue’s subject: How Well Do You Know Your Bible? 

That Malaysia Airlines Plane - This guy thinks he knows where that missing Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared to. It seems more than a little unlikely, but it sure is an interesting read.

Why We Pray - This week’s deals from Westminster Books include a new, highly-endorsed book called Why We Pray (along with several other excellent books on prayer).

Iwo Jima and the Monumental Sacrifice - My rule: If Tim Keesee writes it, I read it. I’ve yet to be disappointed.

SDO: Year 5 - The sun is big. And awesome. And beautiful. Check out this video from NASA.

Inviting Children into the Prayer Closet - I sure do feel this one all the way.

Does Your Youth Ministry Mess with Christ’s Bride? - This is an excellent article on both the blessings and potential drawbacks of youth ministry.

Too many church members are starched and ironed but not washed. —Vance Havner

Havner

February 24, 2015

We are witnesses today to a massive culture shift. Things we used to hold sacred are now subject to mockery; evils we would never even have dreamed of are now regarded as normal and beautiful. And everywhere we look, Christians are on the front lines—whether they like it or not, they are on the front lines. They are on the front lines of the battle between traditional marriage and same-sex marriage; they are on the front lines of the battle for life in the womb; they are on the front lines of the battle against sex trafficking and pornography. Wherever our culture delights in evil, Christians are attempting to speak with clarity and authority.

David Platt has observed this culture shift and in his new book calls upon Christians to ensure they will not stand idly by. Counter Culture is, according to the subtitle, a “A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography.” Platt calls on Christians to wade into the cultural battlefield and to represent Jesus.

He begins with the gospel. He believes that the gospel is meant to compel the Christian to take action, saying “the gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity, and it provides the foundation for countering culture. For when we truly believe the gospel, we begin to realize that the gospel not only compels Christians to confront social issues in the culture around us. The gospel actually creates confrontation with the culture around—and within—us.” The gospel creates confrontation through its most outlandish and offensive claim:

[T]the most offensive and countercultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty. Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in his love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from his lordship will suffer everlasting death.

With the gospel foundation in place, Platt sets out to draw attention to some of the most pressing issues of our day, and to show “how the gospel moves Christians to counter all of these issues in our culture with conviction, compassion, and courage.”

The heart of the book is a chapter-length examination of several major culture concerns: Poverty, same-sex marriage, racism, sex slavery, immigration, abortion, persecution, orphans and widows, and pornography. In every case Platt outlines the issue, shows how the gospel speaks to it, and then calls the Christian to action. He is a gifted writer and storyteller and often interweaves the chapters with tales of people he has met and situations he has encountered in his many travels. He is also a gifted theologian, and draws both deeply and accurately from the wells of Scripture. Inevitably some will wonder how this book compares to his bestselling book Radical, and I would say it has all the passion and intensity, but with far more nuance.

In the end, his call is both strong and convicting. Early in the book he lauds Christians for the ways they have already countered culture, but expresses this concern: “On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely to be applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak out. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most comfortable—and least costly—for us in our culture.” He is exactly right, and in this book he brings needed balance, dwelling not only on issues that will earn applause, but also the issues that will earn criticism or even persecution.

Platt believes that “[t]he greatest way to achieve social and cultural transformation is not by focusing on social and cultural transformation, but by giving our lives to gospel proclamation.” I agree entirely. His hope for our generation is this: “May it be said of us that we not only held firm to the gospel, but that we spoke clearly with the gospel to the most pressing issues of our day.” Counter Culture will equip you to do that very thing.

Counter Culture is available at Amazon or Westminster Books.

February 24, 2015

A Young Earth - Steve Ham: “I do believe the Bible gives ample justification for calculating the age of the earth at around 6,000 years and for seeing six normal 24-hour days in the week of creation.”

A Plea for Sanity - Mike Wittmer offers a plea for sanity at a time when people’s lives and businesses are being ruined for decisions they are making about their clientele.

Jesus Flips The Switch - Here is a good illustration that makes a good point.

A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief - Justin Taylor offers a crash course on Karl Marx.

Reading in Print - “Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.”

Powerhouse in a Petticoat - “Meet the heart of William Wilberforce’s abolitionist movement.”

Hope can see heaven through the thickest clouds. —Thomas Brooks

Brooks