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

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August 20, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include: God Against the Gods by Brian Godawa; One New Man by Jarvis Williams; A Dream so Big by Steve Peifer; Truth Matters by Andreas Kostenberger; and Old Testament Exegesis by Douglas Stuart. You can find them all here.

Top 10 Things I Wish Worship Leaders Would Stop Saying

Jared Wilson lists the things he really wants worship leaders to stop saying—things like “Lord, we invite you to be here” and “Let’s give God a hand.” He follows it with Top 10 Things I Love That Worship Leaders Do.

Can the Devil Read My Mind?

R.C. Sproul takes a shot at an answer.

Ministerial Magpies

Jeremy Walker writes about pastors and plagiarism, but he does so very realistically. “We must never simply run through another man’s sermons as if they were our own. Simple honesty forbids that. But, when opportunity permits and as duty requires, let us make our way into the vineyards of our bookshelves and e-resources, and glean the best of the fruit; spend time around those vines that have produced the sweetest and juiciest fruit of past years. Press down the grapes and soak prayerfully in the best of the past, and let it seep into us.”

Praying in the Wake of Zika

Kathryn Butler, an MD, writes about Zika. “As Christians, how do we understand the outbreak, and how do we respond to the fears, both in our communities and in our own hearts?”

Dumb Moments in Church History

I wish I had thought of this idea for a series! This should be good.

This Day in 1913. 103 years ago today, Robert McDonald, an Anglican missionary and gifted linguist, died in Winnipeg. He evangelized to the First Nation peoples of Canada. *

Where Did the Footprints Poem Come From?

Everyone knows the poem. But who wrote it? “The short answer, it seems, is that there are many claimants to authorship (no surprise given the potential financial windwall if authorship can be demonstrated!), but no consensus as to who wrote it originally.”

Flashback: Sanctification Is a Community Project

The measure of the Christian life is growth in holiness. We grow in holiness, at least in part, by putting sin to death. We put sin to death by exposing it to the light.

The Reformation at 500

Thanks to the G3 Conference for sponsoring the blog this week. The conference takes place in Atlanta this January.

Baxter

There are too many men who are ministers before they know how to be Christians. —Richard Baxter

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
August 19, 2016

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by the G3 Conference which also sponsored the blog this week. The G3 Conference will be taking place January 19-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, and will feature a long list of speakers including Paul Washer, Steven Lawson, D.A. Carson, Voddie Baucham, James White, Conrad Mbewe and many more. 

There will be just one winner this week but the prize is a good one: Passes for 4 to attend the G3 Conference. These passes are transferable to someone else if you cannot make it yourself. Failing that, we’ll replace the passes with a package of books. So one way or another there is something great for you to win. 

Enter Here

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. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

G3

The Bestsellers
August 19, 2016

Today I continue this series of articles that takes a look at books that have been awarded the Platinum or Diamond Sales Awards from the Evangelical Christian Booksellers Association. The Platinum Award recognizes Christian books that have reached 1 million sales while the Diamond Award recognizes the few that have surpassed the 10 million mark. Today we turn our attention to a book that was based on a movie, both of which promised to strengthen and even save marriages.

The Love Dare by Alex & Stephen Kendrick

The Love DareBy 2008, brothers Alex & Stephen Kendrick had begun to make their mark as Christian filmmakers. While their debut film Flywheel (2003) had made only a tiny splash, Facing the Giants (2006) had earned more than $10 million on a minuscule $100,000 budget. For their third film they had a half million budgeted and hired Kirk Cameron to play the leading role. Fireproof was released in September 2008 and though the reviews were tepid, Christians flocked to it, earning it more than $30 million at the box office.

Fireproof tells the story of “a heroic fireman locked in a failing marriage who accepts his father’s challenge to take part in a 40-day experiment designed to teach both husband and wife the true meaning of commitment.” With his marriage on the rocks, Caleb Holt takes the “The Love Dare,” a challenge designed to improve his marriage by transforming the way he relates to his wife. Over 40 days he becomes a changed man and, through these changes, wins back the heart of his bride. It is a hopeful movie that culminates in a happy ending.

Fireproof

The book The Love Dare was timed to coincide with the release of the film that introduced and featured it. The book’s website describes what it is and what it is meant to accomplish: “The Love Dare personally leads you through daily devotionals, records your thoughts and experiences, and ends each day daring you to perform a simple act of love for your spouse. This 40-Day journey equips you to melt hardened, separated hearts into an enduring love that can withstand the flames of fear, pride and temptation. The Love Dare will help you reinforce and enrich your marriage, earn back a love you thought was lost, and hear more about the One who not only designed unconditional, sacrificial love—He illustrated it. In a world that attacks, devalues, and redefines relationships every day, learn how to rescue and protect your marriage from the firestorm. Take The Love Dare and FIREPROOF your relationship.”

Sales & Lasting Impact

Fireproof proved to be a successful movie and it aptly introduced the premise and promise of The Love Dare. Interestingly, the book became a greater success than the movie that inspired it. It quickly made its way onto the New York Times list of bestsellers and by 2009 had already sold more than a million copies, thus receiving ECPA’s Platinum Sales Award. To date it has sold more than 4 million copies.

Reviews of The Love Dare were generally positive, at least among Christians who understood its premise and who were grateful for its emphasis on Scripture and prayer. Amazon contains more than 1,800 reviews where it is averaging 4.5 stars. Many reviewers tell of the difference the book has made to their lives and marriages.

On the flip side, some reviewers pointed out that the transformation Caleb and his wife experience in the movie is good storytelling but not entirely realistic. Many Amazon reviewers tell that they benefited from the book personally but lament that it did not have the desired effect on their spouse. Some relay this with deep, sad disappointment.

Since the Award

The Love Dare generated the inevitable associated products: The Love Dare Day by Day, The Love Dare for Parents, The Love Dare Bible Study, Living the Love Dare perpetual calendar, and so on. Meanwhile, Fireproof was the Kendrick brothers’ breakout success and would soon be followed by Courageous (2001, $34 million earned at the box office) and War Room (2015, $73 million). The Love Dare proved that a book could be a valuable accompaniment to these movies and both of their subsequent films was accompanied by one, a novelization of Courageous and The Battle Plan for Prayer for War Room. As far as I know, the Kendrick brothers have not yet announced their next film.

Kendrick

A Personal Perspective

While I caught an early screening of Fireproof, I did not read or review The Love Dare. I chose not to read it largely because of resistance to its very premise. While I am sure that much of the book’s counsel was sound, I was uncomfortable with the idea that something as deeply difficult as a struggling marriage could be fixed by following a 40-day plan. That is especially the case if only one spouse is following it. The book’s advertising copy is a clear example of overselling its potential: “This 40-Day journey equips you to melt hardened, separated hearts into an enduring love that can withstand the flames of fear, pride and temptation. The Love Dare will help you reinforce and enrich your marriage, earn back a love you thought was lost.”

I know that many people read the book, followed the plan, and saw changes to their marriage. Well and good. But I know other people—people I love—who dutifully followed the plan only to see their spouse grow more distant. Their attempts to love were met with anger. Their marriages were just too broken, their spouses too hardened. For these people the book simply could not meet its promises.

In the end, I suppose we just rejoice that the book was genuinely beneficial to some and really did transform marriages. Then we allow it to remind us that at times the consequences of sin are so deep and dark that simple solutions are simply not enough.

August 19, 2016


Aging with Grace

This article is fantastic! “Proverbs says Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised and Gray hair is a crown of glory. After all, isn’t my age part of God’s sovereign plan for my life? He decided the year of my birth. Not a decade before. Not a decade after. And if every hair is numbered, that includes the ones that are no longer black.”

Is It Ever Okay for a Christian To Lie?

Here’s a simple question that requires a long answer.

Parents Cry ‘Foul’ as Doctors and Educators Ignore Them

David French on transgenderism: “Human experience simply doesn’t conform to ideological models, and the far worse damage is done when we try to impose radical ideology onto the complexities of individual, troubled lives. In reality, people are far more vulnerable to suggestion and fashion than the Left lets on. Rather than affirming an immutable identity, our culture is ratifying and rendering permanent what often amounts to little more than a troubled youthful phase — one that is subject to all the whims of fashion that mark any other cultural trend.”

3 Pieces of Marriage Advice from Spurgeon’s Mother-In-Law

“Charles Spurgeon abandoned his fiancée on a Sunday afternoon. After lunch, a carriage took the betrothed couple from Susannah’s house in St. Ann’s Terrace to Kennington where Charles would preach.” That led to her receiving some invaluable advice.

The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus

There are some solid suggestions here. (As usual, replace “meditation” with “devotions.”)

This Day in 1662. 354 years ago today, Blaise Pascal, French scientist, polemicist, and Christian apologist, died at age 39. *

Lost in Light

This video shows how much of the night sky we lose through light pollution.

God Remembers You

There is real comfort here: “The King of kings, whose deeds are worthy of being proclaimed among the nations, remembers the weak. He never forgets. His mind is a veritable steel-trap. He knows the conditions and concerns of his people. How encouraging is this?”

4 Interesting Facts about the Production of the KJV

George Guthrie offers 4 things you may not know about this most revered of translations.

Flashback: What Will Be the Cost to the Church?

What will be the cost to the church if young men continue to give themselves to pornography? What do we, as Christians, stand to lose if so many of our young men continue to spend their teens and twenties in the pursuit of pornographic pleasure?

Yuan

Unconditional love does not equal unconditional approval of my behavior. —Christopher Yuan

3 Keys To a Powerful Prayer Life
August 18, 2016

Every Christian comes to find that prayer is difficult. Prayer is a tremendous joy and a tremendous blessing but the joy and blessing come through tremendous difficulty. Thousands and tens of thousands of Christians have written about prayer and offered their counsel on becoming more skilled, more consistent, and more confident in this precious discipline. I was recently reminded of David McIntyre’s counsel as offered in The Hidden Life of Prayer and it both encouraged and motivated me to pray and to pray all the more. Here are his 3 keys to a powerful prayer life.

A Quiet Place. The first key is a place of quiet, a place that is free, or as free as possible, from distractions. “With regard to many of us, the first of these, a quiet place, is well within our reach. But there are tens of thousands of our fellow-believers who find it generally impossible to withdraw into the desired seclusion of the secret place. A house-mother in a crowded tenement, an apprentice in city lodgings, a ploughman in his living quarters, a soldier in barracks, a boy living at school, these and many more may not be able always to command quiet and solitude. But, ‘your Father knoweth.’” Of course today we have distractions that may arise from the very devices we use to pray—the iPhone that houses our prayer app, for example—so we need to take special care that we “silence” our devices so they do not distract us.

A Quiet Hour. Having found a quiet place, we also need a quiet, committed period of time. This is the second key. “For most of us it may be harder to find a quiet hour. I do not mean an ‘hour’ of exactly sixty minutes, but a portion of time withdrawn from the engagements of the day, fenced round from the encroachments of business or pleasure, and dedicated to God. … We who live with the clang of machinery and the roar of traffic always in our ears, whose crowding obligations jostle against each other as the hours fly on, are often tempted to withdraw to other uses those moments which we ought to hold sacred to communion with heaven. … Certainly, if we are to have a quiet hour set down in the midst of a hurry of duties, and kept sacred, we must exercise both forethought and self-denial. We must be prepared to forgo many things that are pleasant, and some things that are profitable. We shall have to redeem time, it may be from recreation, or from social interaction, or from study, or from works of benevolence, if we are to find leisure daily to enter into our closet, and having shut the door, to pray to our Father who is in secret.” The most important appointment you make every day is the one you make with God. All of life’s other responsibilities will threaten to encroach upon this time. You will be constantly tempted to neglect it. But it is too good, too sweet, to miss.

A Quiet Heart. With place and time secured, we now face the most difficult task—securing the heart. McIntrye is right when he says “For most of us, perhaps, it is still harder to secure the quiet heart.” Prayer is difficult when we are hurried or surrounded by distractions. Prayer is more difficult still when our hearts are withdrawn, when our hearts are distracted, when our hearts are uninterested in praying. McIntrye shows how this has been the challenge of many great Christians: “Stephen Gurnall acknowledges that it is far more difficult to hang up the big bell than it is to ring it when it has been hung. Mc’Cheyne used to say that very much of his prayer time was spent in preparing to pray. A New England Puritan writes: ‘While I was at the Word, I saw I had a wild heart, which was as hard to stand and abide before the presence of God in an ordinance, as a bird before any man.’ And Bunyan remarks from his own deep experience: ‘O the starting-holes that the heart hath in the time of prayer; none knows how many bye-ways the heart hath and back-lanes, to slip away from the presence of God’.” It is difficult but necessary.

Christian, find a quiet place and a quiet time where you can quiet your heart before God. These are the keys to powerful prayer, to effective personal devotions. If you need further inspiration, consider Jesus himself:

Crowds were thronging and pressing Him; great multitudes came together to hear and to be healed of their infirmities; and He had no leisure so much as to eat. But He found time to pray. And this one who sought retirement with so much solitude was the Son of God, having no sin to confess, no shortcoming to deplore, no unbelief to subdue, no languor of love to overcome. Nor are we to imagine that His prayers were merely peaceful meditations, or rapturous acts of communion. They were strenuous and warlike, from that hour in the wilderness when angels came to minister to the prostrate Man of Sorrows, on to that awful “agony” in which His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood. His prayers were sacrifices, offered up with strong crying and tears.

Now, if it was part of the sacred discipline of the Incarnate Son that He should observe frequent seasons of retirement, how much more is it incumbent on us, broken as we are and disabled by manifold sin, to be diligent in the exercise of private prayer!

 

August 18, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include: The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper; How Do We Know the Bible Is True? by Ken Ham; What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? by Ed Welch; and Ben-Hur (a modernized adaptation). You can find them here.

Logos users may want to check out these August deals.

How God Saved Me from the Prosperity Gospel

This is a neat account of how a Kenyan pastor found freedom from the prosperity gospel.

Land of Luther Study Tour

Next year is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and Ligonier Ministries is hosting a “Land of Luther Study Tour.” I’m excited to be going along and would love for you to join me. This tour was created with affordability in mind and with some great teachers to lead the way.

What Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Miss about Simone Biles

I had intended to write this very article. “As Simone Biles was clinching yet another gold medal in Rio, people on both sides of the abortion debate were pointing to her achievements and background as a justification for their position. But both miss out on a very important fact: Simone Biles has value not because she is a young woman inspiring the world or because she is a world champion gymnast who was adopted as a child. Simone has value simply because she is Simone.”

Is the Pope Catholic?

This article looks at what the Roman Catholic church means by “unity.” “The Catholic Church sees itself as a sacrament of unity for the world. By this, they mean that they are a visible and effective sign of unity—visible because they are seen to be at the centre of unity and effective in that they unite various religions and philosophies with God.”

Spending on Leisure and Entertainment

Randy Alcorn and Wayne Grudem discuss whether Christians can confidently spend money on leisure and enjoyment.

Ecclesiastes

The Bible Project moves on to Ecclessiastes with one of their unique videos.

This Day in 1688. 328 years ago today, John Bunyan, Puritan clergyman and author of Pilgrim’s Progress, preached his last sermon before dying 13 days later. *

The JFK Shooting That Wasn’t

There is some bad language in this story, but it’s still a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the pandemonium that occurred when someone claimed there was a gunman at JFK.

Flashback: The Spasmodic Hercules

The spasmodic Hercules: this is how many of us behave. We behave as if one moment of great activity can overcome a thousand moments of inactivity, as if one moment of taking hold of opportunity will overcome all those moments wasted. The unglamorous habit of frequency is what makes up so much of life’s progress. Yet we are constantly tempted to put our hope in the brief and the glamorous.

Wilson

The Church needs pastors who’ve had the swagger gospeled out of them. —Jared Wilson

August 17, 2016

The Prince of Peace once told his disciples “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Many antagonists have interpreted this to mean that Jesus incites his followers to acts of violence—if not physical violence, at least relational. In their view Christians are cruel, Christians are mean, Christians are eager to separate themselves from anyone who disagrees with them.

But any fair reading of the Bible will show that sword is not meant to be understood literally. No, sword is meant metaphorically, as a representation of conflict—the inevitable conflict that will come to Jesus and to those who follow him. Just as a sword divides, Jesus will divide. But who will he divide? What will be the nature of this division? “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” This sword will disrupt and at times even destroy the most natural, precious relationships any of us can have. Fathers and sons and mothers and daughters will be sliced apart, divided from one another.

Jesus is the sword. His gospel is the sword. Every Christian soon finds that the most divisive thing he can do is tell someone else about their sin and their need for a Savior even or especially the ones he loves most. He finds that living for Jesus brings even greater and deeper division. The thrusts of this sword are acts of love, care, concern, pleading. I think of Keith Green and his “Song To My Parents:” “There’s a heaven waiting / For you and me / I know it seems every time we talk / I’m only tryin’ to just make you see / And it’s only that I care / I really only want / Just to see you there.” His relationship with his parents was strained and breaking because he had turned to the Savior and now pleaded with his parents to do the same.

The gospel that is beautiful and transforming to God’s people is ugly and odious to those who are not his people. The gospel that so satisfies those who believe it revolts those who reject it. This difference in taste, this difference in perception, brings division. It divides so that the One who brings peace to the Christian’s soul also brings division to his relationships. One commentator says it well: “Hostility against Christians results not from their making themselves obnoxious but from the sad fact that … sometimes the gospel so alienates unbelievers that they lash out against those who would love them for Christ’s sake.” It isn’t the believer who pushes away the unbeliever, but the unbeliever who pushes away the believer. This distance is caused not by the believer’s hatred but by his love—love that is rejected and despised.

Christian, you cannot be surprised when you experience division. You don’t need to seek this division or long for it or glory in it, but you do need to expect it. Jesus and his gospel bring division between those who embrace him and those who reject him. As Matthew Henry said, “Christ came to give us peace with God, peace in our consciences, peace with our brethren, but in the world ye shall have tribulation.” Even with those you count nearest and dearest to your heart.

August 17, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include: Peacemaking Women by Tara Barthel; Mere Apologetics by Alister McGrath; On Guard and On Guard for Students by William Lane Craig; Then Sings My Soul by Robert Morgan. You can find them right here.

A Terrible Investment

Hosting the Olympics is invariably a terrible investment. And yet cities are lined up for the honor… (Or, as the New York Times says, cities are lined up for the event where the prize is the chance to lose billions.)

Should Children Sit Through “Big Church?”

In general I agree with John Piper here, though I think there is leeway for churches to adapt to their own culture and the people who are part of their community. (At Grace Fellowship Church we offer classes up to age 6.)

MacArthur on Self-Discipline

Here are John MacArthur’s nine tips of self-discipline.

The Wonder of Work

Melissa Kruger: “Our lives here are not only spent building sandcastles that will fade with the passing of time. We have the opportunity to build for all eternity, if we build on the right foundation and with the right materials.”

A Key to Understanding the Development of the NT Canon

From Melissa to Michael: “Unfortunately, the high level of interest in the New Testament canon is often combined with a high number of misconceptions about the canon. For anyone willing to search for it, the internet is packed with myths, mistakes, and misunderstandings about how the whole process really worked.”

This Day in 1761. 255 years ago today, William Carey was born in Northamptonshire, England. He would become a tremendously successful Baptist missionary to India. *

Do More Better

It has been a long time since I’ve shared a review of my book Do More Better. In this one Paula Marsteller encouragingly shares how the book has helped her.

Flashback: What Would I Lose If I Lost Worship?

Can you imagine your life without worship? Can you imagine your life without regularly gathering with God’s people to worship him together? Corporate worship is one of the great privileges of the Christian life. And perhaps it is one of those privileges that over time we can take for granted.

CHS

It is easy to bring a man to the river of regret, but you cannot make him drink the water of repentance.C.H. Spurgeon