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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

May 23, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include a selection of books by Sam Storms: Tough Topics ($4.99); Chosen For Life ($3.99); Signs of the Spirit ($2.99); Kept for Jesus ($3.99); More Precious Than Gold ($2.99). You might also consider Kenneth Boa’s Handbook to Scripture ($1.99).

Do Biological Facts No Longer Matter?

I am always interested in Nancy Pearcey’s take on contemporary issues. “The Darwinian worldview implies that the cosmos is merely a vast amoral machine. It reduces the human body to a lump of matter, a collection of atoms and molecules, not intrinsically different from any other chance configuration of matter. There can be no natural law ethic because humanity has no purpose to fulfill.”

The Importance of Integrity

I like the sound of this series by John MacArthur. “We’re going to consider what God’s Word says about integrity—how to develop it, how to nurture it, and how to guard it from the duplicitous nature of our fallen flesh.”

The Stewardship of Power

This is so important: “God gives power and position for the sake of his people, not for the privilege of the leader.”

Hospitality

I enjoyed this little reflection on the beauty of hospitality (perhaps in part because I think I know who Elle is).

Are You Ashamed of Jesus?

I appreciate Steven’s questions for himself, questions that help him think through whether he is boldly living for Jesus or quietly ashamed of Jesus.

This Day in 2007. 9 years ago today in Deerfield, IL, The Gospel Coalition kicked off their first National Conference. *

Flightless Birds

From AiG: “When we think of birds, we think of flight. But it appears the Creator had other plans, too. Along with birds of the air, He made birds that dash across the grassy plains and swim gracefully under the open sea!” 

The Oregon Trail Today

“One of America’s greatest highways is barely visible from the ground. It’s only from the air that you can pick out the remains of the Oregon Trail.” This short video proves it.

Flashback: The Ledger

Consider: Near the center of every religion is a ledger. Every religion acknowledges, on one level or another, that people do good things and bad things and every religion then maintains a tally, supposing that one day there will come a reckoning. Every religion hopes that on the day of accounting, the day of the audit, the good will outnumber or outweigh the bad.

Horton

The battle for the Christian life starts with the battle for the Christian mind. —Steven Lawson

May 22, 2016

Today I’ve got a new batch of letters to the editor. Some weeks I get many and some weeks I get few. This week was somewhere right in the middle, I think. Here we go!

Comments on A Call for Plodding Bloggers

There was quite a response to my call for plodding bloggers which showed me just how many bloggers there are who feel discouraged by the response to their writing which, in turn, tells me how important it is for all of us to encourage people whose work benefits us. Here is a sampling of some of the letters I received:

Just wanted to say a brief word of thanks for this article. It might be one of those articles you consider small or insignificant, but it was very encouraging to me. Which, I guess, proves your point.
—Michelle L, Baton Rouge LA

***

I appreciated the article about plodding bloggers. I have been blogging since 2004, and I’ve watched my own blog grow in readership only to fall to a mere handful. I’ve been guided for a desire to get attention and a desire to just write well. I have found the latter to be a better motivation. A personal trial helped me realize that blogging can skew one’s priorities. I have found that when I write less from an acute awareness of the audience and more for the joy of writing, I am more content. I agree with you that we ought to plod on, and our efforts must be guided less by a desire for attention than a desire to be good communicators, sincere Christians, and people of integrity. Thanks for your thoughts on the subject.
—Kim S, Simcoe ON

***

Your words on blogging are so very appropriate for pastors, especially those of us who have served decades in small churches, not just those relatively few who have planted a church. After so many years we have to be regularly reminded to focus on the Lord and leave the results in His hands, and keep on doing the work, plodding on.
—Robin S, Gambrills MD

***

I am writing because I oh so enjoyed reading your article “A Call for Plodding Bloggers.” Reading it brought much joy to my heart, as that is exactly what I do. I blog more for my own enjoyment than I do for others. I don’t blog as frequently as I aspire to, however that is alright in my book. Maybe one day I will get there and have the time (and energy!) to blog on a more regular basis. But, as for now, I seek to Glorify God in all that I do, including my Plodding Blogging. So, once again, thank you for your words of encouragement!
—Jonathan B, North Fort Myers, FL

***

Thank you for this recent article. I write a small, obscure blog for the church that God has called me to serve at. When I started the blog, I viewed it as an opportunity to further the ministry of the Word to the body. Like you said, I quickly found little or no response. The result? Discouragement and the laying down of the pen. But recently (and thankfully), the Lord prompted me to get over my own pride and get back to the grind of producing a weekly blog for the church. Whether or not the Lord chooses to use these little nuggets (am I assuming they have value?), I have found the process both beneficial to my own soul and to my preaching as well. So, thank you for consistently plodding. May we plod on and not hit too many difficult stones in the process!
—Dave T, Connoquenessing, PA

Comments on Why I Am Not Atheist

Thank you for the article. I also grew up in the Christian faith and hold to the Reformed belief. Thank you for highlighting the sovereignty of God, that we believe because he designated that we believe, not because we choose too. However, my issue with this article is that it seems to state that you only believe because you simply grew up in the faith, and this is just what you were taught, and so you believed. Then what about someone who didn’t grow up in the faith? What about someone who doesn’t believe in the bible? The article seems to state that it was merely by chance that you believe, because you simply grew up that way. I hope I am making sense, but when I think about it from a non-believer stand point, the reasoning does not sound compelling because it is strictly from a Christian standpoint. It’s like saying I believe in the Bible because the Bible says I believe. What if you don’t believe at all? Personally, I agree completely with the article since I am too a believer, but thinking about it from a non-believer stand point, it seems like it could easily be said, I believe in Islam because that’s just how I grew up; I had no choice.
—Sam H, San Jose, CA

Tim: I said from the beginning that my purpose was not to write apologetics but to write from my own experience. To some degree the two are the same, but I do not intend to write “Why you should not be Roman Catholic” as much as “Why I am not Roman Catholic.” That is quite a different emphasis.

***

So you wrote an article talking about why you aren’t an atheist and then you attack almost every other Christian and deist faith in the world? You lessen the Koran and Book of Mormon which both testify of God. That gives more evidence thy God doesn’t exist. The more phony books of scripture that are out there, the less credible the Bible becomes. Also, NOTHING is more human than the Bible. It has so many obvious errors and interpolations of men that it’s barely legible at times. No book has been tampered with more. You really need to educate yourself a little more on not only religion, but basic writing and argument development before you write more articles.
—Alister F, Jackson, TN

Tim: There were surprisingly few responses of this nature which is unusual for when I write about atheism.

Comments on Fathers (and Mothers), Do Not Provoke Your Children!

Thank you so much for writing on this topic, and for clearly stating that it is indeed possible for a child’s anger to be more righteous than a parent’s treatment of them. My husband and I have been reminding each other of this admonition frequently as we have 3 children ages 6-11 (prime time)! However, I would love to see you write on the topic of parents who provoke their adult children. There are basic scriptural principles (honor your mother and father, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, etc.) that I feel can be applied. But very little specifics in evangelical, biblical circles about the way to handle/set boundaries with difficult adult parents. Thanks so much for your ministry!
—Sarah R, Newberg, OR

Tim: I have actually noticed that there is very little material written about the relationship with parents and adult children and seems to represent quite a gap in the Christian literature right now. I believe Christians would benefit from some guidance in how to respect and care for their aging parents and, of course, how to properly care for especially difficult ones.

May 21, 2016

It is a long weekend here in Canada as we pause for Victoria Day on Monday. This holiday marks the unofficial start of cottage season for those who have been so blessed. The rest of us just enjoy an extra day off and, hopefully, some time with friends and family.

How to Shepherd Every Member

The latest mailbag from 9Marks offers a helpful take on how pastors can care for every member in the church.

Women Teaching Men

I’d encourage you to give Mary Kassian’s excellent article a careful read.

A Subjective Definition of Death

“An influential cadre of utilitarian bioethicists wants to redefine it to include a subjective and sociologically based meaning. Their purpose isn’t greater scientific accuracy. Rather, by making ‘death’ malleable, they hope to open the door further to treating indisputably living human beings as if they were cadavers.”

What Is the Internet’s Favorite Book?

“Which is the better book: War and Peace or installment one of The Hunger Games? If you ask a book reviewer or look at any of the ‘Best Book’ lists compiled by critics, you would say War and Peace. But what if you asked everyday readers on the Internet?”

If We Have to Foreclose, is God Still Good?

Lore Ferguson always does transparency well, and that’s exactly the case in this article.

When Honor Becomes Toxic

Even good things can become bad things eventually. That is exactly the case with honor.

This Day in 1832. 184 years ago today, Hudson Taylor was born. Taylor was an English missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission. *

Women and Concussions

Somehow studies like this, which on the one hand are completely unsurprising, seem very surprising at a time when differences are so downplayed. “In sports like soccer and basketball in which girls and boys play by the same rules, with the same equipment and the same facilities, girls have higher concussion rates than boys.”

Flashback: The Danger of Lectio Divina

“Over the past few years an old form of Bible reading and interpretation has resurfaced and made quite an impact.” Here is what I consider a helpful and level-headed critique of one of its shortcomings.

Why Pastors Need to Help Their People Connect Faith and Work

I’m thankful to Made to Flourish for sponsoring the blog this week.

Marsh

We are justified freely, by grace; meritoriously, by Christ; instrumentally, by faith; evidentially, by good works. —William Marsh

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
May 20, 2016

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Made to Flourish which also sponsored the blog this week. There will be 5 winners this week and each of them will receive a fantastic package of books (and a DVD) related to work, to vocation. Here are the titles:

  • For the Life of the WorldGod at Work by Gene Veith. "Unpacking the Bible’s teaching on work, Veith helps us to see the meaning in our vocations, the force behind our ethics, and the transformative presence of God in our everyday, ordinary lives."
  • Work Matters by Tom Nelson. "Striking a balance between theological depth and practical counsel, Tom Nelson outlines God’s purposes for work in a way that helps us to make the most of our vocation and to join God in his work in the world. Discover a new perspective on work that will transform your workday and make the majority of your waking hours matter, not only now, but for eternity."
  • Flourishing Faith by Chad Brand. "In Flourishing Faith, Dr. Chad Brand examines key issues of the history and theology of political economy: work, wealth, government, and taxation with its various implications. Brand then explores the philosophy of how government relates to political economy and highlights how Baptists have contributed. Insightful, provocative, and generous."
  • The Pastor’s Guide to Fruitful Work and Economic Wisdom by Various. "This Pastor’s Guide lays out a vision for our daily lives. Discipleship is not reserved for Sundays and service projects; it is faithfully lived in everyday actions in jobs, homes, and communities. Pastors, yours is a wonderful and difficult calling. This book is designed to equip you to serve your people in profound and tangible ways."
  • What’s Best Next by Matt Perman. "By anchoring your understanding of productivity in God's purposes and plan, What's Best Next will give you a practical approach for increasing your effectiveness in everything you do."
  • For the Life of the World (DVD resource). "For the Life of the World: Letters to Exiles is an invitation to explore the scandalous and beautiful story of God’s plan for the whole world. It starts with this key question: what is our Salvation FOR? How does it affect every part of our existence?"

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.

A Call for Plodding Bloggers
May 20, 2016

I believe that blogs have been a blessing to the church in the twenty-first century. Maybe I have to believe this since I have blogged nearly every day of the century. Still, with every bit of objectivity I can muster, I say it and believe it: For all their problems and all their shortcomings, blogs have been a blessing. They have served the church and the cause of the church.

Over my years of reading and writing blogs, I have seen thousands of blogs and bloggers come and go. There are many reasons people have stopped writing: Some have had life’s responsibilities overwhelm the time they would otherwise dedicate to writing, some have had to refocus on family or local church, some grew weary of critics and criticism, some have simply run out of things to say. But I think the most common reason people have given up is that they grew tired of the plodding. Over time they grew discouraged by the distance between the effort and the reward, between the investment and the result.

And let’s not kid ourselves: Blogging is hard work. Far more often than not, it is mundane, unglamorous, thankless work. In that way blogging is a lot like most of what we do in this world. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes skill, and at the end of it all you wonder if it has made any difference to you or to anyone else.

Today I want to put out a call for plodding bloggers. I’m taking my cue from Scott Slayton who recently put out a similar call to plodding church planters. In that article he pointed out that many church planters delude themselves into thinking that they will move to a new town, start a new church, and see immediate, overwhelming results. But in reality, most move to that new town, start the new church, and see only very ordinary results. Unless they are plodders they will be tempted to give up.

And in much the same way, many bloggers set out with grandiose dreams of writing a few articles and witnessing an explosion of readers, of receiving mountains of grateful feedback, maybe even of seeing publishers waving book contracts. But the reality is far different. They publish a few articles, see little response, and find themselves tempted to give up. Or perhaps, even worse, they publish an article, see it explode in popularity, and then never again come close to matching that one. And soon the daily blogging becomes weekly blogging becomes occasional blogging becomes abandoned blogging.

Slayton says,

The man who plants [a sound, faithful church] must be willing to do work that doesn’t make for interesting tweets. He must be a man who cultivates his relationship with Jesus, his wife, and children each and every day. He has to be willing to spend hours glued to his chair with his head in the Bible so he can faithfully teach it to others. This man will dedicate significant time each week to purposeful conversation with other Christians, helping them to understand how to follow Jesus.

The task of the Christian blogger is different but the same. He, too, needs to do a lot of living that will never turn into tweets or blog posts. She, too, must first cultivate relationships with her Savior and her family. He, too, must be constantly learning and growing through the Word. She, too, must put aside desires for other visions of success in favor of the simple joy of helping others understand how to follow Jesus. And what a joy that is! And what a blessing that blogs make it possible.

Are you blogging to build yourself a platform, so you can be known and admired? No platform will ever be high enough and no amount of fame or admiration will ever satisfy. Are you blogging as a kind of necessary evil on the way to a book contract and a conference stage? You will forsake authenticity and true substance in favor of manipulative click-bait headlines. But if you are blogging out of a desire to glorify God by doing good to those who are created in the image of God, now you are in the spot where God can and will use you, even if he uses you in small ways and ways that are hard to detect. When I bump into readers of my blog and they tell me about articles that have been helpful to them, almost invariably these are the small articles that I would have deemed unsuccessful. They are the minor articles that barely registered. And yet the Lord chose to use them to encourage one of his people. Hearing this blesses and strengthens me every time.

I believe we are living in a golden age of writing, where any Christian with a heart for the Lord and the Lord’s people can have a voice of edification and encouragement. This is a tremendous blessing! We have thousands and tens of thousands of Christians eagerly using this new medium to tell others about what Jesus has done in them and for them. We are all the grateful beneficiaries.

So my message for my fellow bloggers is this: Plod on! Be content to be a plodding blogger and trust that God is glorifying himself and blessing his people through your faithfulness.

Image credit: Shutterstock

May 20, 2016

I’ve got 3 different kinds of deals for you today: First, Kindle deals include Rise by Trip Lee ($1.99) and It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke ($2.99). Second, Logos just announced they will be adding Christianity Today to their system. (Sign up during pre-order and you’ll also get a one-year subscription to CT.) Third, Westminster Books has a J.C. Ryle bundle that’s well worth it: Iain Murray’s biography of Ryle along with Ryle’s classic Holiness. Some of Ryle’s other works are on sale as well.

Don’t Be Embarrassed by Your Ordinary Church

By definition most churches are ordinary churches, right?

Hong Kong

This video of Hong Kong is beautifully done. (Isn’t it sad to see the empty, superstitious worship…)

Is Your Pastor Happy To See You?

I think you’ll appreciate this one from Jared Wilson. (I feel the need to say that Grace Fellowship Church treats its pastors very well, so this is not much of an issue there!)

Our Respectable Sin—Laziness

“The testimony of the Bible from beginning to end says that laziness is wicked. But we don’t often look at it that way. Why is that? Why don’t we think laziness is a big deal? Why has laziness become a respectable sin among Christians?”

Tim Challies Wins Jeopardy! In Dominant Performance

I thought you might enjoy this satire from The Babylon Bee since A La Carte features prominently. (But I guess he didn’t know that Canadians are no longer allowed on Jeopardy.)

The Manchineel Tree

“You might be tempted to eat the fruit. Do not eat the fruit. You might want to rest your hand on the trunk, or touch a branch.  Do not touch the tree trunk or any branches. Do not stand under or even near the tree for any length of time whatsoever. Do not touch your eyes while near the tree. Do not pick up any of the ominously shiny, tropic-green leaves.” (Just ignore the evolutionary mumbo-jumbo.)

This Day in 1690. 326 years ago today, John Eliot died. Eliot was a missionary to the Native Americans of New England and publisher of the first Bible printed in America. *

Preacher, Teacher, Sunday Entertainer?

There are some good lines in this article like “You are boring. The Bible is not” and “Exegesis is like digging in a mine. Digging is hard work and it’s time-consuming. We don’t do it because we like holes, but because we expect to find gold.”

Flashback: A Knight in Shining Blubber

It’s a silly title but makes a serious point—a point about not missing the point.

Moody

Those who have left the deepest impression on this sin-cursed earth have been men and women of prayer. —D.L. Moody

Why I Am Not an Atheist
May 19, 2016

Today I embark on the first part of my promised series “Why I Am Not.” This series was provoked by the question of how I came by my religious beliefs. Why do I believe so strongly in the existence of a God instead of doubting or denying it? Why am I Protestant instead of Roman Catholic? I began to think about these questions and many more and, naturally, my thoughts worked themselves out in writing. Today I want to begin with the broadest question of all and tell why I am not an atheist. My goal is not first to persuade but simply to explain.

My beliefs about the existence and identity of God originated in my childhood. I was born to Christian parents and raised in a Christian home where I was taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Nothing is more foundational to Christianity than the existence of a God. As a child I memorized answer four of the Westminster Shorter Catechism which provides a stirring introduction to this God: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” There was never a time in my life when I did not acknowledge the existence of a God, and even a God much like this one. What was assumed in my childish heart and mind later took deeper root in my adult heart and mind.

There was never a time I denied the existence of God. Not only that, but there was never a time I even doubted it. Never once have I had disquieting thoughts while lying awake at night; never once have I had intellectual wrestlings with the idea that perhaps God does not exist. That’s not to say I have never interacted with atheists or encountered their claims. I have read the works of many of today’s most prominent atheists: Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. I’ve watched The God Who Wasn’t There. I know what these people say and why they say it. But not one of their claims has resonated with me. In fact, their claims have only served to deepen my faith. I’ve never doubted God’s existence any more than I’ve doubted my own. That’s simply the truth.

So why am I not atheist? I want to give two answers.

First, according to the Bible, I am not an atheist because God determined I would not be. See, it’s not that I have any spiritual, intellectual, or philosophical inclinations within me that nudge me toward God. Rather, I have all the makings of a very convinced atheist—an inclination away from authority and toward independence, a questioning mind, and a restless spirit. But God chose to reveal himself to me and to draw me to himself. In his own way and for his own purposes he revealed himself, his existence, his goodness, his power, and I responded with faith, with belief. Ultimately, then, I am not an atheist because God showed me himself.

That is the first answer and the second cannot be separated from it: I am not an atheist because of things I believe and decisions I have made. God works through, not apart from, human agency and ability. And in that way I am not an atheist on the basis of evidence I have observed and conclusions I have made.

I see evidence of God in existence. The fundamental question every human needs to answer is this: How is there something instead of nothing? We all need to grapple with the question of existence, with the reality that there is a world, that there is a universe, that there is something. Existence is impossible, or at least so very improbable, that every person must at least consider that perhaps existence owes to one who pre-exists it, one who transcends the trappings of space and time. Try as I might, I simply cannot account for existence in any other way than through the prior existence of a God.

I see evidence of God in design. I see evidence of God in existence, and further evidence in the orderliness of what exists. This universe follows laws and patterns, it behaves in consistent ways. I see no reason to allow or even imagine that something as orderly as this universe came to be without some kind of agency, without an orderly being extending his order into it. When I look at stars and creatures and chromosomes I can’t help but see the fingerprints of God. When I look at the sheer wonder of a blazing sun, of a flower in full bloom, of a human eye, I do not see chance or randomness but design, order, and purpose. Where there is art there is an artist, where there is something there is a someone, and where there is design there is a designer.

I see evidence of God in humanity. When I look at all that exists and all that reflects design, it is clear that one thing, one creature, stands above it all. Human beings transcend everything else in sheer wonder and ability. Only humans ask the great questions about meaning and purpose and what lies beyond. Only humans gasp in awe and wonder. Only humans long for transcendence and acknowledge a transcendent soul, a part of them that cannot be seen or touched or quantified but that is still so real. It seems clear to me that human beings were made to reflect someone or something else, to exist for a higher and bigger purpose. It seems clear to me that humans were made by and for God.

I see evidence of God in the Bible. And then I see evidence of God in a book, in the Bible. I see it in its words, in its wisdom, in its form, in its coherence, in its frankness, in its truthfulness. I have read holy texts from other religions—the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Koran, the Book of Mormon. They are so unsurprising, so unfulfilling, so very human. I have read the Holy Bible and found a book that is so unexpected, so deeply challenging, so entirely other. The Bible is so different from everything else, every other book, every form of human wisdom, that I have to conclude that it came from beyond humans. The Bible displays the mind and heart of God and in that way provides wisdom for this world from beyond this world.

I am not an atheist because I cannot be. Both the evidence and God himself have drawn me away from it. Both the evidence and God himself have led me to declare that God exists and that his Son, Jesus Christ, is the Savior of this world.

I hope you will join me next time as I discuss why I am not Roman Catholic.

May 19, 2016

I did not track down any Kindle deals today. However, if you are an Olive Tree user, you may be interested in picking up Visual Theology which they’ve just added to their catalog.

Why Believers Must Avoid Immoral Joking

I quite agree. “I write these very words because I, too, could easily fall into the trap of ungodly speech – and I must daily remember these truths myself. Here’s why we must fight for holiness in our joking.”

Same-Sex Marriage Cannot Deliver on Its Promise

This video of Al Mohler is all of 46 seconds long, but well worth watching. (See also David Murray’s An Al Mohler Prophecy Comes True.)

The Power of Public Prayer in the Church

Pastors (and others) would do well to read Kent Hughes’ article on the power of public prayer. It contains some helpful practical instruction.

Heron vs Catfish

They say that nature is red in tooth and claw. And beak, apparently, as you’ll note if you watch this heron go one-on-one with a giant catfish.

Are You Flexible for the Gospel?

D.A. Carson asks the question. This is such an important issue for Christians to understand and apply.

This Day in 1536. 480 years ago today, Henry VIII had his wife Anne Boleyn beheaded on spurious allegations of adultery and witchcraft. *

The Changing American Diet

This is an interesting, interactive look at the changing American diet.

Bad Motives? No Problems

“Scripture is full of surprises, but most of Scripture’s teaching on the motives of our hearts is not so surprising,” says Ed Welch.

Flashback: No Man Left Behind

“As Christians, we are charged with caring for one another—the shepherds first and every church member after them. It brings all manner of joy, comfort and security when we affirm, and when we insist, that we will not leave even one person behind.”

Keller

Friendship does not flow out of great sexual chemistry. Sexual chemistry grows out of terrific friendship. —Tim Keller