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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

Coming Soon: Visual Theology the Book
April 26, 2016

It was a week ago today that we released my new book Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God (which, of course, I co-authored with Josh Byers). Now, just a week later, it’s out of stock at Amazon, Westminster Books, Lifeway, CBD, and pretty well every other bookseller. I’ve had a number of people get in touch to ask why they can’t track it down. I did some digging and conference calling this morning and came up with an answer. The long and the short of it is this: You bought every single copy. Let me tell you how this happened.

Before a book is released, the publisher makes a determination of how many copies they think will be purchased over the first few weeks or months. The last thing they want is to order too many since then they will eventually have to heavily discount those copies just to get rid of them. Instead, they estimate how many they will need and plan to order more when inventory begins to diminish. That’s just good business.

When Visual Theology went into pre-order, it began to sell pretty well, so the publisher, HarperCollins Christian Publishing (aka Zondervan), ordered first one and then two reprints. They had assumed that a book with the word “theology” in the title would necessarily limit itself to a relatively small market. Apparently not! Since the book released last Tuesday there has been yet another reprint but even then, by the time it arrived in the warehouse, every single copy was already spoken for and thousands more were backordered. It was even the publisher’s bestselling title to the American Booksellers Association last week. (The ABA accounts for stores that are not part of the Christian Booksellers Association). The new printing, which they just tripled in size, will take place this week and should arrive at the warehouse on Monday, May 2. It will then be forwarded to the various retailers for distribution. The publisher had no idea that the book would be of such interest. Neither did the authors.

So here’s what you need to know: If you ordered your copy on or before last Sunday, it will probably arrive in the next couple of days. If you ordered it yesterday or today or if you order it any other time this week, it will probably arrive around the middle of next week. If you have been planning to order it anyway, the best bet is probably to do that sooner rather than later just in case the backorder grows beyond the size of the next printing.

On behalf of myself and Josh, please accept our gratitude. It has been a thrill to see so many of you enjoying the book with both its words and pictures. It has been our prayer all along that it will serve you well. We continue to pray that it will do so.

VT

Visual Theology FAQs

Here are answers to some of the questions we have been receiving over the past few days:

  • Can I purchase posters or digital files of the graphics? In most cases, yes. Most of the book’s graphics are already available at visualtheology.church. You’ll also find a lot of graphics there that are not in the book. We are regularly adding more.
  • Can I purchase or download PowerPoint slides to go along with the book? You will be able to very soon. We are working on them and hope to have them available within a week or ten days. We had underestimated how many people would request them so had not made this a matter of priority. Lesson learned!
  • Is there a study guide or facilitator’s guide to the book? Not yet, but there will be. These, too, are underway. We hope to release these free in the next couple of months and certainly before the fall season.
  • Will there be a sequel to Visual Theology? One thing at a time! But if you know what you’d like to see in a second volume, be sure to let us know via social media.

VT

Your Days Are Numbered
April 26, 2016

Of all the gifts God gives us, few are more precious and few are more fleeting than the gift of time. Most of us feel sharp twinges of regret when we look at the way we’ve used or abused the time that has been given to us. There are so many forces competing for it, so many bad things and, even harder, so many good things. Our days are numbered; how can we ensure that we are using them for the best and highest purposes?

John Perritt provides some answers in his new work Your Days Are Numbered: A Closer Look at How We Spend Our Time & the Eternity Before Us. “Wasting time may not seem like a big deal to some,” he points out, “except for the fact that our time really isn’t ours, but God’s. Not only that, but it is a limited resource. You can be the richest person in the world and you still can’t buy more time. The reality is, there is a clock ticking somewhere, right now, and it is the clock of your life. Seconds that add into minutes, which add into hours, which add into days are ticking off your life.” This is a sobering reality and for some a depressing one. For the Christian, though, it is a challenging opportunity. Perritt says, rightly I think, that the way we use our time is one of the most pressing issues today, and one that encompasses so many others. For example, pornography is a plague today, but one that would go into great decline among Christians if they only determined they would refuse to waste a moment in idleness and sin.

Discussions about our use of time often generate regret and guilt, but Perritt is quick to address those in the best possible way. “Jesus perfectly spent His days living for the glory of God so that you, by faith, have perfectly lived for God’s glory. As we move forward in this book, the foundational truth of — Jesus righteously lived every second of His life to redeem your time — must be at the forefront of your mind. If you lose sight of this truth, you will either live in guilt or self-righteousness. Guilt, because you can’t measure up, or self-righteousness because you’re going to try and do a bunch of stuff for Jesus. Yes, strive for righteous living, but know that Jesus already accomplished that task for you. Your time is already redeemed.” This simple truth brings great relief and also great freedom. Christ has already lived time perfectly on our behalf, freeing us to claim his accomplishments. We then have the joy of living out of gratitude for what he has done on our behalf, something that should motivate us all the more to ensure that every moment counts.

Though Your Days Are Numbered is a little book, it packs an outsized punch. Perritt examines hobbies in both their blessings and their distractions and he diagnoses the trivialities that can consume so much of our time, explaining that “innocent things often become deadly in the hands of our Enemy.” He looks at the epidemic of busyness and then at our dislike of the mundane moments that inevitably comprise the majority of life.

He also offers biblical practices that can assist us as we attempt to live out our days for the good of others and the glory of God. He explains stewardship and the understanding that our days rightly belong to God. In a particularly strong section he discusses the goodness and necessity of sabbath rest. He gives pointers on balancing life’s responsibilities and the importance of never neglecting life’s non-negotiables—devotion, worship, family, and even evangelism. He wraps up with reflections on some necessary disciplines and on God’s good sovereignty.

In the end, he provides a short, winsome book stuffed full of practical wisdom. He offers solutions for challenges that apply to every human being but focuses equally on challenges unique to our twenty-first century context. He uses God’s enduring Word to prove the value of time and explains the joy and blessing of using time to carry out the most important of all missions.

(A final note: I might suggest reading Your Days Are Numbered, and following it with Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy, and then finishing with my Do More Better. These three would provide a complementary one-two-three punch that will motivate you to structure your life to live for the good of others and the glory of God. And even with all three, you’re only looking at about 300 pages of reading.)

Image credit: Shutterstock

April 26, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include Preaching the Old Testament by Scott Gibson ($2.99) and NIV Zondervan Study Bible edited by D.A. Carson ($4.99). Beyond that, you may be interested in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary which are $4.99 each.

Some people have been asking about purchasing Visual Theology. As far as I can tell, it is sold out everywhere (though I hear rumor it may be available at some local Lifeway stores). You can backorder it at Amazon, Westminster Books, and other retailers. I suspect Amazon is the way to get it soonest. (If you’re in Canada, Indigo has 3 left in stock.)

When Character Matters Less Than Talent

This is so important: “If you look at some of the celebrity pastors who have recently fallen you can see a pattern. They had obvious talents and gifts and passion, but there were a few questions about character. But we let some of those character issues slide in the hopes that character would eventually catch up with the talents.”

Remembering Marshall Harrison Brown

I don’t know Jamie Brown or his father Marshall Harrison Brown, but I sure did enjoy reading this sweet, gospel-drenched remembrance.

The Least Attended Church Gathering

You can probably guess what the least attended church gathering is. Nick explains and diagnoses. It strikes me that all 4 of the reasons he offers can apply to individuals as much as their churches.

A Song in Malawi

I really enjoyed this video of a little Presbyterian church in Malawi singing praise last Sunday. (This church is associated with my friend Fletcher and Joy to the World Ministries.)

Facebook Isn’t the Social Network Anymore

“Now there are signs that it may have peaked. Not as a media platform, or as a place where people simply spend time on the web, and certainly not as a business. But as a social network per se—a place where people go to connect with friends and acquaintances—Facebook may be just beginning to wane.” But don’t think that its losing purpose or influence.

Ten Cravings of the Sinful Nature

Just how sinful and obnoxious is the sinful nature? This article gives some glimpses.

This Day in 2006. 10 years ago today, Together for the Gospel hosted their first conference—and I liveblogged it! *

A Virtual Reality Check

Is virtual reality the next big thing? If so, this article offers valuable thoughts on its potential blessings and costs.

Six Major Theses

This summary from Eerdmans gives a preview of Richard Longenecker’s massive new commentary on Romans

Platt

The martyrs did not die because they believed the gospel, they died because they proclaimed the gospel. —David Platt

The Two Kinds of Conversation with Your Children
April 25, 2016

Over the course of my years of parenting, I have picked up advice from a hundred different sources. Like most parents I have read a few books on parenting, some of them general works and some of them targeted at specific joys or challenges. I have read a lot of blog posts and other articles addressing one angle or the other. Of course I’ve been challenged by the Bible through personal study and sermons. And then there are those personal one-on-one conversations with other parents where I have asked them questions or they have volunteered counsel. I remain a firm advocate of saying to people, “I’d like my children to be like yours. Tell me what you’ve learned along the way.”

One of my most formative conversations came when my oldest child was seven or eight. I was speaking to a friend who was both older and more experienced in parenting—his oldest child was already into her late teens. The counsel this friend gave me was as simple as it gets and just about as helpful as any I’ve heard.

He told me about the various conversations you will need to have with your children as they grow and mature. Those simple and direct talks with seven-year-olds eventually give way to much deeper and more nuanced ones with seventeen-year-olds. And then he offered advice on two different ways to have such conversations.

The first is the face-to-face conversation. This is the one you have when sitting on opposite sides of a table at Starbucks or of a booth at Denny’s. In this setting both you and your child can look each other in the eye and enjoy all the relational directness and intimacy this affords. These are occasions that will at times arise serendipitously but ones you should also be deliberate in creating by inviting your children to go out with you or by finding times you can be alone in the home. This is when you can ask about school and work and family. This is when you can ask about faith and church and devotion. This is when you can enjoy simple and free conversation and follow it wherever it goes.

The second kind of conversation is the side-by-side conversation. This is the one you have while driving together—you in the driver’s seat and your child in the passenger seat—or perhaps when working on a project or activity together. In this conversation you will not be looking one another in the eye because the setting makes it difficult, and this is exactly the point. As you converse you will both be able to keep your eyes fixed on the road ahead or on the task at hand. As you reduce the intimacy of your posture you can increase the intimacy of your conversation. You do this out of kindness to your child, knowing that it is easier for him or her to express or confess certain matters when not being forced to stare into the eyes of mom or dad. This is when you can ask about love and romance and matters of the heart. This is when you can ask about lust and purity and matters of sexuality. This is when you can discuss matters that would otherwise be awkward and uncomfortable. And again, these are opportunities to take when they unexpectedly arise and opportunities to generate when you know a particular conversation is due or overdue.

From the perspective of an inexperienced parent with young children, this counsel was both timely and valuable. It was counsel I’ve heeded and counsel that proved to me the necessity of mature, experienced Christian friends.

Image credit: Shutterstock

April 25, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include 5 from Crossway: Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper ($2.99); Note to Self by Joe Thorn ($2.99); Jesus or Nothing by Dan DeWitt ($3.99); Growing in Christ by J.I. Packer ($3.99); The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by me ($3.99). Also consider The Hope of Glory by Sam Storms ($2.99); Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower ($1.99); Running Scared by Ed Welch ($2.99); The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias ($0.99).

Board Game Sale

A couple of times a year Amazon puts strategy board games on sale. Today is one of those days. How did I not know there’s a game called “1812: The Invasion of Canada”?

Beautifully True

How can we know the Bible is true? John Piper responds in this artistic video.

How Facebook Plans to Take Over the World

According to The Guardian, Facebook “went from digital directory for college kids to communications behemoth – and it’s planning for prosperity with its global takeover.”

Give Us Eyes for the Lonely

“Can you see them? Do you know who they are? They sit among us in the congregation, sometimes at the heart of the body, sometimes on the fringes. They worship on Sundays and gather for Bible studies. Some come to events and activities, hoping that maybe if they come enough and do enough, they will start to belong.”

Word Matters

Podcast listeners may want to check out this new one from Trevin Wax and Brandon Smith. “Each episode takes a contested or puzzling passage of the Bible, walks through the most common interpretations, and then recommends how to preach or teach the passage effectively.”

This Day in 1800. 216 years ago today, English poet William Cowper died. Cowper (along with John Newton) wrote many Olney Hymns, such as “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” *

The Extraordinary Pastor

“Quite a number, if not the majority, of pastors, ministers, evangelists and preachers, for part of the time at least, are tempted to, or actually do, preach from unworthy motives, to make life harder for others, or increase their own success.”

Which Countries Are the Most/Least Overrun by Tourists?

“If you want to visit a place not overrun by tourists, where should you go? In other words, which are the least ‘touristy’ countries in the world?”

Mohler

Christ will hold us fast. But we need gospel friends to hold us close. —Albert Mohler

April 24, 2016

The last couple of weeks have been fairly quiet when it comes to letters to the editor. Not surprisingly, the majority of them dealt with the article I wrote on evolution and the age of the universe. Here are a small selection of letters.

Comments on Spiritual Drafting and the Danger of Christian Complacency

Thanks so much for this article. One point to add is that drafting actually helps the person in front go faster due to less personal wind drag. I think you could develop more spiritual applications with this principle in mind. My wife and I ride bikes… well, now we ride one bike—a tandem. This bike is now our bike of choice and “two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their labor”. Just some thoughts. Thanks for your ministry!
—David D, Meridian, ID

Tim: Yes, I am aware that drafting actually benefits the lead rider as well. It’s something to do with physics, I suppose. But to admit that it benefits the lead rider would have damaged my analogy so I just chose to ignore it! And, actually, I think I’m on good ground there since even in the Bible analogies or parables are used to prove one point without fully exploring every angle. They all fall part at one time or another.

Comments on Evolution and a Universe as Young as Humanity

Tim: I knew when I wrote this article that I was going to receive responses. I was grateful to see how many of them were kind and challenging. The great majority compared space to time and said that if I want to say that the vastness of time causes trouble with my understanding of creation, I also need to deal with the vastness of space. Here are just a couple of examples.

The theological thrust of this article seems to be missing something. If you think we need to deny the vastness of TIME for the theological reason that it makes humanity too insignificant, you’d also need to deny the vastness of SPACE, a similarly tiny proportion of which is directly relevant to humanity. In fact, on this reasoning, vast space is a bigger problem than vast time. Any amount of time can be understood as all purposed by God to lead up to humanity, while nothing similar can be said of all space.

Fortunately, there is no theological reason to deny the vastness of either time or space. Psalm 8 reflects on Genesis 1 and gives us two truths about humanity side-by-side. A. Humanity is extremely insignificant compared to the vastness of what God has created (v3-4, alluding to Genesis 1 day 4). B. Yet, despite that, God has graciously given humanity authority to rule creation like God himself (v5-8, alluding to Genesis 1 day 6). So an increased appreciation of the vastness of time and space would not deny that we’ve been appointed to a central position in creation (B). Instead it would deepen our appreciation of the vastness of creation relative to ourselves (A) and so deepen our appreciation of God’s GRACE in appointing us to a central, God-like position over creation (B).
—Jeremy W, Brisbane Australia

***

I have been a longtime fan of this blog, but I think Mr. Challies’ basic argument regarding the age of the universe has some deep flaws.

He writes: “If we admit and endorse an ancient universe, we see a vastly purposeless universe that for the great majority of time had no human beings to bring purpose and order to it. We see that humanity’s role in the universe is late and incidental rather than timely and purposeful.” This simply does not follow. For one, there’s no necessary, logical entailment from the “If” to the “then”. But worse, it seems to presuppose the unbiblical notion that it is man’s presence in the universe that gives the universe purpose and order. There is nothing in Scripture that supports this idea, and I’m sure Mr. Challies does not believe this.

True, man is the image-bearer of God and at the center of redemptive history, but that must be counter-balanced by the fact that we find ourselves at that center because of our sin and neediness— on this score, God’s Word teaches us that it is NOT all about us. And so, on the contrary, one could just as easily take this 24-hour clock analogy as a healthy antidote to human pride, with the lesson being that if we’re this small on a scale of just a few billion years, how much more compared to the eternality and perfection of God?

Indeed, if Challies’s presupposition, above, would apply to an ancient universe, then it would also apply to a 5 literal-days-old universe—but again, Challies would never admit to the notion that creation was “vastly purposeless” for the great majority of the first 5 days of the creation week because he understands that what gave the creation purpose and order was God’s work, not man’s. Man’s work was designed to bring glory to God by imaging the order and dominion that God has manifest from eternity past—following the creation week. But if Mr. Challies can believe, on theological grounds, that a “human-less” creation can still manifest God’s purpose, direction, and design for a relatively short span of time, why not also for a relatively “long” span of time, with God directing the details (as theistic evolutionists argue)?

So our presence and work in the universe is just a blip on the cosmic radar?—welcome to finite existence, and meet your infinite Creator, O man of dust, whose life is a vapor!

Further, if we extended Challies’ logic about mankind’s significance relative to time, we should also wonder why we can’t also apply it to space—but then we might reach the absurd conclusion that the universe, indeed, even our own galaxy, can’t possibly be as large as scientists say that it is, as that too would diminish man’s place in creation.

And finally, what would this logic force us to conclude when we consider that Jesus—the God-Man—only stepped into human history for a mere 33 years? Even in a universe that is only 10,000 years old, Jesus’ ministry would proportionately comprise only 25 seconds of a 24-hour day. And yet, from this, we would certainly not draw the kind of conclusion that Challies draws regarding man’s place in an ancient universe, as we know that it is God Himself who gives great significance to “brief” events.

In the end, this kind of argument seems to unwittingly Christianize the pronouncement of Protagoras that “man is the measure of all things”, which the Greeks and Romans maintained for centuries. For centuries, this notion helped entrench the geo-centric model of the universe, not a God-centered one, as some of its advocates in the Church supposed.

Let me be clear: I am certainly not accusing Mr. Challies of failing to be “God-centered”—indeed, I believe he is devoutly God-centered. Nor am I a theistic evolutionist: I would cheerfully join Mr. Challies in mustering arguments against it, in fact. I just wouldn’t use this one.

Rather, I would simply encourage Mr. Challies and his readers to continue to think more critically about the kinds of arguments that are used on all sides of this debate in order to better harmonize our understanding of science and Scripture so that the God of Scripture would be magnified.
—Eric T, La Mirada, CA

Comments on Our Forgetful God

Many thanks for all your insightful posts! I always enjoy reading what you write.

I, however, cannot agree with you that God forgets things. As Jay Adams points out in his book From Forgiven to Forgiving, God does not forget, He not-remembers. That is, He stops bringing things up. God is omniscient. To say that God forgets something, at least in the normal way people forget things, is contrary to this attribute of God.

Not-remembering is at the heart of forgiveness, as Jay Adams points out. Indeed, one of the chief points of interest in that book is Adams’s definition of forgiveness as a three-fold promise: when you forgive someone, you are making a promise that you will not bring the matter up again either to the person who offended you, or to anyone else, or to yourself.

Applying this definition to God’s forgiveness towards us, forgiveness is a promise that God will not-remember our sins against us. He will not bring them up again. Of course He knows that we actually did those sins.

This distinction between not-remembering and forgetting is crucial, I think. Forgetting is a human thing where we once knew something, and some time later we do not know it. God forgets nothing, because He knows everything. Not-remembering is a decision, a promise, never to bring something up again, and it is this, not forgetting, that is at the heart of forgiveness.
—Adrian K, Park City, KS

Tim: I believe you and I are saying roughly the same thing. I am teeing off a passage which says that God forgets our sins. I understand that God’s forgetting is a particular kind of forgetting—the kind that Jay Adams helpfully labels as a “not-remembering.” But because the Bible says God forgets, I think we are on good grounds to say it as well.

April 23, 2016

It was a joy to meet so many of you at the Sex, Sin, & Salvation conference here in Pittsburgh. I’m heading back to Toronto this morning and looking forward to leading a quick breakout session at the Thinking? conference later in the day.

It has been a bit of a slow week for Kindle deals, but I hear there should be some good options next week, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, here is some weekend reading for you.

Advice for Better Bible Memory

“Many of us know how valuable it is to memorize God’s word. But we often don’t know where to start. We get discouraged. We burn out quickly and move on to something less taxing. I’ve wrestled with these frustrations for years now. As a performer and worship leader, I’ve had to develop techniques so that I don’t drop the ball when I take the stage. I want to share a few of the methods I use regularly when memorizing God’s Word.”

10 Guidelines for Christian Voters

There’s wisdom in these guidelines for Christian voters.

Silencing God’s Megaphone

“If we are honest, virtually all of us desire to grow our influence and expand our platform, even if we don’t think about it in those terms. It may have a healthy motivation or it may be one consumed with pride. That is a determination that can only be made by God and the individual. But if your goal is to make Christ famous, instead of yourselves, have we ever wondered if achieving personal fame is the best way to go?”

Where Movie Sounds Are Born

Here’s a brief video showing how movie sounds are made.

Reformed “Spotlight”: What is Spiritual Abuse?

David Murray provides a helpful definition of spiritual abuse. “Spiritual abuse is a sinful use of spiritual authority by Christian leaders to promote, protect, or enrich a person or a Christian institution regardless of the spiritual damage done to innocent parties and the cause of Christ.”

This Day in 1982. 34 years ago today, missionary linguist and founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators Cameron Townsend died. *

Praying Together as Mentoring and Discipleship

Sometimes the most effective forms of mentoring and discipleship are the simplest ones.

On Sola Scriptura & Solus Christus

“We have derived a rich heritage from the Reformation—things for which the Reformers were ready to die, and many of them did die. Why is Christ’s death sufficient for the sins of all who trust in him? Why is God’s word greater than any of man’s tradition? In this video, James Montgomery Boice answers these questions and others.”

Does God Talk to Us? A Post by Michael Horton.

I’m grateful to Zondervan for sponsoring the blog this week. Sponsors play a crucial role in keeping this site going!

Walker

Expect Satan to tempt you most viciously at those moments and periods when you are seeking God most vigorously. —Jeremy Walker