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Tim Challies

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September 08, 2014

There is lots of Kindle goodness for you today: Finally Free by Heath Lambert (a great book on overcoming pornography) ($3.99); Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill ($3.99); Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman ($1.99); The Power of Words and the Wonder of God by John Piper ($1.99); Words for Reader and Writers by Larry Woiwode ($1.99); Meaning at the Movies by Grant Horner ($1.99); Art and the Christian Mind by Laurel Gasque ($1.99); Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles by Kathy Keller ($1.99).

BBC Earth Titles - Today only Amazon has a lot of BBC’s Earth titles up to 79% off. They include Planet Earth, Life, Frozen Planet, etc.

Africa Needs a Whole Lot Less of Joel and a Whole Lot More of Rick - Here’s a response to Victoria Osteen that comes from the mission frontier.

The Simple Technology That Accidentally Ruined Baseball - Baseball fans will enjoy this one.

The Abomination of Desolation - The Gospel Coalition turns to Daniel Doriani to ask, “What is the abomination of desolation referred to in Matthew 24?”

What Kind of Procrastinator Are You? - Here’s a simple flowchart to figure out how and why you procrastinate.

InterVarsiety De-Recognized - This seems to be increasingly common: Universities refusing to recognize Christian campus organizations (or, in theory, other organizations that involve some kind of exclusivity).

May I Marry for Looks? - Clint Archer pens a letter geared toward young men.

“Busy” isn’t about the accumulated number of hours we work, its about the nervousness of our hearts. —Justin Risedorf

Risedorf

September 07, 2014

Today I’d like to do a little “faith hacking”—to find and share one of those practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways, and today I want to tell you about one great suggestion for improving the way you meditate on Scripture.

If you are like me, you find meditation a difficult practice. You like the idea of it, but find the reality difficult to carry out. In my mind, “meditation” seems like an ethereal term, one that contains a good idea but without any clear structure. I struggle with it.

In his book Simplify Your Spiritual Life, Donald Whitney says, “When meditating on a verse of Scripture, it’s usually much easier to answer specific questions about it than to think about the text without any guidance or direction at all.” Which, I think, pretty much explains my frustration. He describes meditating on Philippians 4:8 and realizing that the verse offers helpful directions for the kinds of things he could meditate on for any passage in the whole Bible.

Philippians 4:8, which you’ve probably memorized at one time or another, says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Whitney studied the verse for a time, and came up with a list of questions that can be helpful for meditating on nearly anything in your life, but especially Scripture. Here they are:

  • What is true about this, or what truth does it exemplify?
  • What is honorable about this?
  • What is right about this?
  • What is pure about this, or how does it exemplify purity?
  • What is lovely about this?
  • What is admirable, commendable, or reputation-strengthening about this?
  • What is excellent about this (in other words, excepts others of this kind)?
  • What is praiseworthy about this?

And there you have it—8 questions that can help guide your meditation.

Do you have other questions to guide your meditation? How do you make sure you are not only reading Scripture, but also pondering and applying it?

September 06, 2014

The weekend is here, and with it a new edition of Weekend A La Carte. And I’ll begin by expressing my gratitude to this week’s sponsor, Clarifying the Bible. My site is dependent upon sponsors to keep going, so be sure to check them out week-by-week.

Rick Reed went looking to Bonhoeffer to pick up some interesting tips on teaching and preaching. I like this one: “The best sign of a good pastor is that the congregation reads the Bible.”

Jared Wilson says He Must Increase; Our Churches Must Decrease. And I quite agree.

Daniel Doriana offers up some tips for dealing with a bad boss, because we have all had to at one time or another.

Here are 7 Signs You’re Spending Too Much Time Looking at Your Phone. Am I the only one who has permanent iPhone-shaped indents in all of my pants, right at the left-front pocket?

This is a fascinating video of pianist Glenn Gould in a state of almost possession, or is it absence?, as he plays piano.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I like the headline: Canada is now more American than America. It looks to the Burger King / Tim Horton’s deal as proof.

And let me leave you with a quote…

I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man. —Dwight L. Moody

Moody

September 05, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends at Reformation Heritage Books. They have put together a great prize package this week; there will be 5 winners, and each of them will receive the following 6 books:

  • SwinnockThe Blessed and Boundless God by George Swinnock. “This book, by Puritan George Swinnock, is precisely what is needed in order to introduce God’s people to the blessed and boundless God. I cannot wait to share this work with my own flock.” (Mark Jones, minister of Faith Presbyterian Church, Vancouver, British Columbia, and coauthor of A Puritan Theology)
  • Building a Godly Home by William Gouge (3 Volumes). For years, William Gouge’s Domestical Duties has stood as the foremost Puritan treatment of Christian family life. Yet due to its size and antiquated expression, it has become almost unknown among current generations of believers. To help revive the usefulness of this classic book, Scott Brown and Joel R. Beeke divided Gouge’s work into three manageable volumes, updated the language to modern standards, and have given it the title Building a Godly Home.
    • A Holy Vision for Family Life
    • A Holy Vision for Happy Marriage
    • NEW: A Holy Vision for Raising Children
  • Beauty and GloryThe Beauty and Glory of Christian Living, edited by Dr. Joel Beeke. “The Beauty and Glory of Christian Living is a storehouse of spiritual riches for all who desire to experience the fullness of Jesus Christ. The topics covered in these pages are well chosen, carefully addressed, and comprise a treasury of truth for every Christian. Get alone with God and read the book. You will be greatly helped in your growth in godliness.” (Steven J. Lawson, president, OnePassion Ministries, Dallas, Texas)
  • A Vine Ripened Life by Stanley Gale. “This was too important to read just once. The possibilities for growth were too good to pass up, so I read it again. So consider reading it this way: go through it slowly, try to do it with someone else, read it aloud, and pray together as you go. Blessing and growth will follow.” (Edward T. Welch, counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) and author of When People Are Big and God Is Small.)

Enter to Win

Again, there are 5 prize packages to win. And all you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

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.

September 05, 2014

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve received and awful lot of them and, in sorting through the pile, here are some that have risen to the top.

ESVESV Women’s Devotional Bible. This is a new edition of the ESV with short devotionals and reflections for women. “The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible is a valuable resource for strengthening women in their walk with God. Applicable for women in any stage of life, the Women’s Devotional Bible is theologically rich in content while remaining accessible and practical. Readers will be encouraged in daily, prayerful Bible study, and equipped to understand and apply the Bible to every aspect of life. The Women’s Devotional Bible features materials designed especially for women. The book introductions, character sketches of key figures, all-new daily devotionals, and all-new articles have been written by both women and men contributors. These contributors include professors, musicians, authors, counselors, homemakers, and conference speakers.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Eight Twenty EightEight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up by Ian & Larissa Murphy. You’ve probably heard of Ian & Larissa Murphy before. If not, this would be a great introduction. “What if that thing you really feared happened? Would the joy you hold pop? Or would you experience love and joy deeper than you can imagine? They met in college and fell in love. They talked about getting married, and he started looking for a ring. They dreamed about life together, a life of beauty and joy, raising babies and laughing with friends and growing old. They did not imagine a car accident. They did not imagine his brain injury. They did not dream about the need for constant care and a wheelchair and fear that food might choke him. And they could not have imagined how persistent love would be. Theirs and God’s.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Gods DesignGod’s Design for Man and Women: A Biblical-Theological Survey by Andreas & Margaret Kostenberger. Here is a fresh treatment of a subject that continues to be disputed and relevant. “This thorough study of the Bible’s teaching on men and women aims to help a new generation of Christians live for Christ in today’s world. Moving beyond other treatments that primarily focus on select passages, this winsome volume traces Scripture’s overarching pattern related to male-female relationships in both the Old and New Testaments. Those interested in careful discussion rather than caustic debate will discover that God’s design is not confining or discriminatory but beautiful, wise, liberating, and good.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

JohnJohn: Reformed Expository Commentary by Richard Phillips. I’m always excited to a) see a new commentary in the Reformed Expository Commentary series and b) a new commentary written by Richard Phillips. I’m sure this will prove an excellent volume on the book of John. Here is what Joel Beeke says about it: “Richard Phillips’ exposition of John explains the text clearly, but it also sings, marvels, and gets its hands dirty in real life illustrations. What a great combination of biblical exegesis, doctrine rooted in the Reformation, and practical application! This is a great sermon commentary for pastors, and an extremely helpful book of all Christians desiring to grow in their love for Him who said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

September 05, 2014

It’s been a bit of a slow week for Kindle deals, but I tracked down a few new ones, at least: Into Africa by Martin Dugard ($2.99); The King James Version Debate by D.A. Carson ($2.99); A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur ($5.99); New from GLH Publishing is The Dangers of Prosperity by William Bates ($0.99). Also, today only Amazon has the 8.9” certified refurbished Kindle Fire on sale for $70 off.

The Battle for the Bible Continues - Jonathan Akin points to two recent examples of how the Battle for the Bible continues. You may also enjoy Denny Burk’s commentary on the article.

Christian Unity - David Murray is writing about Christian unity. There is far more to it than you may think!

Ancient Truths - I enjoyed this sweet post on motherhood.

He Will Hold Me Fast - Here’s some information about a song we’ve just begun singing at Grace Fellowship Church. It’s a good one.

Evangelism and Discipleship - 9Marks has an interesting article for you to read. “We asked several pastors to tell us a few practical ways they encourage evangelism and discipleship in the life of their particular local church. Answers are below.”

Am I Called? - Dave Harvey did an interview with me for his podcast; it’s just been uploaded if you’re interested in listening in.

We’re Doing It Again - Mike Wittmer: “Yesterday Matt Lauer interviewed Nancy Writebol in front of a banner that read SIM. It was so third century.” It’s true.

Life is not primarily about what we avoid, but what we pursue. —Brad Hambrick

Hambrick

September 04, 2014

Grace Is FreeAs a cofounder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates on news and tell you about our most recent titles. I want to mention a book that came out earlier this year, Grace Is Free: One Woman’s Journey From Fundamentalism to Failure to Faith by Marci Preheim.

It’s natural to want to emulate those we look up to. This can be done biblically, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” The danger comes when we lose sight of Christ and focus instead on outward actions.

Marci Preheim kept noticing this phenomenon among Christian women. She saw that in many churches, even those that are otherwise biblically faithful, the idea of a godly woman was a list of tasks rather than a heart attitude.

My whole life I’ve watched women fall into the same quagmire of conformity. I’m not talking about biblical conformity to the image of Christ, but conformity to
an unwritten code of some elusive “godly woman” that doesn’t exist. Her dress, behavior, personality, and hobbies are subtly different in each church. But if her behavior becomes a code to live by, then she is a false gospel. This nonexistent woman robs us of intimacy with each other, condemns us as mothers and wives, and holds us in a prison of law that none of us can live up to. She is a form of godliness that denies the power of the true gospel in women’s lives. But she is widely preached as the standard of righteousness, which is why the godly woman must be redefined in our generation.

As the title indicates, this book draws from Preheim’s own story. As a young girl, her idea of a “good Christian” had nothing to do with grace and everything to do with appearances. But as a teen, she lost her desire to be seen as a good girl. She quit trying to keep up the charade and rejected Christianity completely. It wasn’t until her young adult years that she finally embraced the gift of grace.

But though Preheim chronicles much of her own spiritual journey, it’s more than just a memoir. Her experience in women’s ministry, both in the church and a women’s prison, gives her a deep well to draw from. It also helps her show how God’s grace is sufficient for all people from all walks of life.

Preheim then goes back to the basics. In other words, she starts with the gospel definition of a godly woman (a woman saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ), and explores how that affects every area of a woman’s life. The gospel changes how she will handle sin, work, trials, friendship, marriage, and motherhood.

It’s sometimes hard for this type of book not to confuse celebrating grace with celebrating sin. Preheim does a good job emphasizing that though grace alone saves us, it also changes us: “Obedience is not the debate—we all agree that we must obey the Lord. But what exactly should we obey? This has become confusing because people have added their own rules—things God does not require—to the gospel.”

Preheim has a heart for women and a heart for the gospel. She found freedom in Christ, and she wants other women to experience that as well. This isn’t a new message, but a fresh celebration of an old one. 

You can buy Grace Is Free at Amazon or direct from Cruciform Press.

September 04, 2014

I have invited the people who visit this blog to read a classic of the Christian faith with me: John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin or Overcoming Sin and Temptation. We are reading one short chapter per week, and then returning here each Thursday to discuss it. Hundreds are participating and I trust we will be blessed as we read together. If you’d like to join in, you are only one chapter (5 pages) behind—just track down a copy of the book and read along with us.

The Mortification of Sin is all about putting sin to death (or what Owen refers to as “mortifying” sin). Through 13 chapters Owen will show the necessity of putting sin to death, then define what it means to put sin to death, and give direction on how to do it. The book is deeply theological but also eminently practical and deals with a problem that is common to every one of us. It is somewhat difficult to read, but worth every bit of the effort.

Here is a short summary of the first chapter. Even if you have not read the book, you will benefit just from reading the summary. Let it be a teaser that helps convince you to read the book!

The Foundation of Mortification

Owen bases this chapter, and really his whole book, on Romans 8:13: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death [mortify] the deeds of the body, you will live.” Within this verse is a great challenge and a great promise that extends to every Christian. In those few words from Romans, Owen finds a condition, a kind of person, a means, a duty, and a promise. Let me explain.

  • The condition. The verse begins with a condition: if. If you do one thing, you will receive the benefit. He says there is a clear connection between putting sin to death and receiving life: “if you use this means, you shall obtain that end; if you do mortify, you shall live.” It is that simple: if you put sin to death, you will obtain eternal life.
  • The persons. Owen says “If you…” and in this case the “you” refers to believers, the people to whom the Apostle Paul has written this great letter. Whatever Owen describes and prescribes in his book will be for the unique benefit of Christians.
  • The means. The cause or the means of putting sin to death is the Holy Spirit. We put sin to death only by and through his power. So Owen can say, “The principle efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit … All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit.”
  • The duty. The duty described in Romans 8:13 is the duty of mortification, or putting sin to death. Paul says, “put to death the deeds of the body.” The body refers to human depravity, to indwelling sin. The deeds of the body are those acts that flow out of our inner corruption. And, finally, putting a sin to death entails destroying its power, life, vigor, and its strength to produce its negative effects.
  • The promise. The great promise to those who put to death the deeds of the body is that they shall live. This life refers not only to eternal life, but also to the joy, comfort and vigor of a pure life in Christ, free from the power of besetting sins.

And all of this leads here: “The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.” In the chapters to come, Owen will prove this, and show how to do it.

Reflection

I have read this book several times now, and every time I read it I am struck by something different. This time I was struck by the sheer distance between the church and the world—between Christians and unbelievers.

Owen says that Christians—the choicest Christians—hate sin and pursue it to its death. Could there be a conclusion that is farther from the world around us? The world, the flesh, and the devil tell us to pursue our sin, to enjoy our sin, to go deeper and deeper into our sin, to identify ourselves by our sin, to become our sin. God’s Word tells us to identify our sin, to hate our sin, to destroy our sin. And by God’s grace we can do that very thing. He can give us a revulsion toward our sin, and then empower us to kill it. Praise God!

Let me leave you with a few choice quotes:

  • “Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”
  • “The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.”
  • “All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit.”

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the second chapter of the book. We have only just begun so there is still plenty of time for you to get the book and to read along.

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together.