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

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March 20, 2015

Here’s a little grab-bag of Kindle deals: HarperCollins Atlas of Bible History ($3.99); Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told by Bradley Wright ($0.99); God’s Lyrics by Douglas Sean O’Donnell ($5.29).

Magna Carta - “One of two beautifully illustrated animations telling the story of Magna Carta, to celebrate the 800th anniversary of it’s creation, and the re-union of two of the original parchments at the British Library in London - with the added bonus of being voiced by Monty Python’s Terry Jones!”

Things I Would Do Differently If I Were Raising My Children Again - Mark Altrogge explains what he would do differently if he had to do it all again.

Pastor, Should You Write that Book? - I’m doubling down on The Blazing Center today, but I really enjoyed this article from Barnabas Piper. He explains why some great sermon series make lousy books.

Rethinking The Bible For A Mobile World - “Former Apple designer Kory Westerhold, now a product design at Twitter, partnered with his childhood friend Yahoo design director Aaron Martin to create a beautiful, modern Bible app.”

Our Everyday Obedience - You’ll like this one, I think.

Airport Codes - You probably need to be a bit geeky to care about this: an explanation of various airport codes.

The humble soul endeavors more how to glorify God in afflictions, than how to get out of them. —Thomas Brooks

Brooks

March 19, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and at this time of the year my desk is almost overflowing with all of them. Here are a few of the highlights that have shown up in the past few weeks.

PhilippiansPhilippians: A Mentor Commentary by Matthew Harmon. The Mentor commentaries from Christian Focus has long been an excellent and trustworthy series. Harmon’s volume now extends the series to Philippians. I have only skimmed through the book, but have already found some excellent insights. It comes with endorsements from Thomas Schreiner, Douglas Moo, Robert W. Yarbrough, Justin Taylor, and James Hamilton. Here is the publisher’s brief description: “Christians throughout the centuries have loved Paul’s letter to the Philippians for its call to rejoice in the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of life’s circumstances. But our familiarity with the letter can cause us to neglect or overlook Paul’s message to the Philippians. Dr Matthew Harmon in this uplifting and inspiring work brings context and application to this wonderful book.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

ActsActs by Guy Prentiss Waters. Mentor commentaries is not the only series that has grown this month. Evangelical Press Study Commentaries is another fantastic series and it has now added a volume on Acts written by Guy Prentiss Waters who is Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. Derek Thomas commends the volume with these words: “Dr. Waters is the ideal commentator on Acts. Scholarly, pastoral, theological all these and more combine in making this my first resource for Luke s second volume. An outstanding contribution to the series and deserving of the appellation, Essential!” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

MacArthurThe Shepherd as Preacher: Delivering God’s Word with Passion and Power, edited by John MacArthur. This is the first of a short series of books called “The Shepherd’s Library,” and the material is a kind of “best-of” from the many years of The Shepherd’s Conference. Here is the publisher’s description: “When you consider all that God desires to accomplish through preaching, it becomes apparent why it’s such a big deal. It’s God’s main means of feeding, comforting, correcting, and protecting His people—as well as pointing unbelievers to Christ. Such an enormous responsibility deserves a pastor’s best. In The Shepherd as Preacher, you’ll find the best encouragement and guidance available on how you can preach God’s Word God’s way. With John MacArthur and other outstanding Bible teachers, you’ll survey the essentials every minister needs to know, including the focus and purpose of biblical preaching, the character of a faithful preacher, the keys to effective preaching, how to preach in the Spirit’s power.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

BillingsRejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ by J. Todd Billings. I have heard a lot about this book, and every word of it has been glowingly positive. The publisher says, simply, “A Christian theologian shares his journey, struggle, and reflections on providence, lament, and life in Christ in light of his diagnosis of incurable cancer” but you may gain more insight by Michael Horton’s endorsement: “Every chapter brims with pools of insight, pointing us beyond platitudes to the God who has met us—and keeps on meeting us—in the Suffering and Risen Servant. This is a book not just for reading but for meditation and prayer.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

ThiseltonThe Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology by Anthony Thiselton. This is a big reference volume that looks very helpful. “Covering everything from “Abba” to “Zwingli,” The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology offers a comprehensive account of a wide sweep of topics and thinkers in Christian theology. Written entirely by eminent scholar Anthony Thiselton, the book features a coherence lacking in most multiauthored volumes. Drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge, gained from fifty-plus years of study and teaching, Thiselton provides some six hundred articles on various aspects of theology throughout the centuries. The entries comprise both short descriptive surveys and longer essays of original assessment on central theological topics…” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

30 Events30 Events That Shaped the Church: Learning from Scandal, Intrigue, War, and Revival by Alton Gansky. I like books like this one, that approach history not only chronologically but also thematically. “The church of today did not appear on the earth fully formed; rather, it developed over the centuries. Following Jesus’ command to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, the apostles and their spiritual descendants have grown the church through times of peace and times of war, through persecution and pilgrimage. The church that began as a ragtag group of Middle Eastern fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots became the multiethnic, multifaceted church we know today through historical events that, while they may seem distant, have a direct effect on our everyday lives. Now thirty of these course-altering events are brought vividly to life by consummate storyteller Alton Gansky. Spanning twenty centuries of history, this lively book will entertain, educate, and enlighten you even as it enriches your appreciation for those who have come before us in the faith.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

March 19, 2015

Here are just a couple of Kindle deals: The Shorter Catechism Made Simple by Andrew Conway ($0.99); Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall is a fun and easy read for just $1.99.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth - This is an amazing interactive graphic about what happens when you go down, down, down…

It’s Not You, It’s Me - “God has a multitude of arrows in his quiver that enable him to hit his mark. Sometimes he does so in surprising, even humbling ways.” Yes he does.

RaceTogether - What happens when you go into Starbucks and, at their invitation, ask to speak about race?

The Millennial Adulthood Decision - “Millennials are often labeled as the self-centered, ‘Me’ generation, and I’ve always hated that stereotype because I didn’t really see it. Now I do. Millennials think adulthood is more self-empowerment than self-sacrifice. This explains everything.”

Of Serial Killers, Hiding Sins, and the Glorious Hope of Forgiveness in Christ - It is good to be reminded of the hope and power of the gospel.

Why I’m Not a Feminist - From the True Woman blog: “I’m just not a feminist. Here’s why…”

An argument may remove doubt, but only the Holy Spirit can convict of truth. —Ravi Zacharias

Zacharias

March 18, 2015

I read a lot of books. I read a lot of books because I just plain love to read, and a read a lot of books because, as a reviewer, I receive a lot of them and am always trying to keep ahead of the growing piles. But the more I read, the harder I can find it to answer this question: What is a good book? What are the marks of an especially good book?

I was recently reading Iain Murray’s short biography of Amy Carmichael and in there he quotes A.W. Tozer who once said, “The work of a good book is to incite the reader to moral action, to turn his eyes toward God and to urge him forward.” And yes, this a good criteria; a good book will urge its reader to do something, to become something, to make some significant and lasting change to life. Murray goes on to say, “Amy Carmichael’s writings belong to that category. Numbers who took her books up only out of interest, put them down to pray.” Prayer: That may be the best moral action of all because it ought to come before anything else we do, any other changes we make, any other plans we form.

So I paused and began to think of the books that have caused me to stop and to pray, to put down the book and to go straight to the Lord. And here are just a few of them:

  • The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy. Few books have impacted me as deeply as this one, with its slow, beautiful meditations on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. When I reviewed it ten years ago I wrote, “I was often compelled to stop and worship, to stop and meditate, or to stop and dry my eyes, thanking Christ for His immeasurable sacrifice.”
  • The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. The Holiness of God is remarkably effective in two ways: In exposing the sinfulness of the reader, and in exposing the holiness of the Creator. As I came to a deeper understanding of my own depravity, I couldn’t help but to come to a deeper appreciation of God’s holiness. I had to stop and pray often, calling upon God for his forgiveness and thanking God for his mercy.
  • A Praying Life by Paul Miller. I have learned not to take it for granted that a book on prayer will actually help me pray. Certainly, though, the best ones do, and Paul Miller’s A Praying Life is one of them. It gave me a hunger for prayer; I looked forward to getting to the end of a chapter so I could immediately start applying it.
  • John and Betty Stam by Vance Christie. It is not only theological works, or Christian living works, that can drive us to pray, but also biographies. One biography that caused me to put it down to pray was Vance Christie’s work on John and Betty Stam. The Stams were such normal, relatable people who had such great love for the lost, that when they faced the ultimate cost of their faith, I just had to ask God to give me that confidence and that fervor.
  • Look and Live by Matt Papa. There is something beautifully poetic about this book. Papa teaches no new truths, but finds new and fresh ways of explaining those same old truths we love so much. Several times I was captivated by the beauty of the good news, and could only pause to pray.
  • Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen. Of all the books I have ever read, besides the Bible, I don’t think any has done such a work in my soul as Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation. I have read it repeatedly, and every time it has forced me to pray, to confess sin, and to seek God’s grace as I attempt to grow in holiness.

I’m sure there are others besides these 6, but they give just a sampling of books that meet that precious criteria: “Numbers who took her books up only out of interest, put them down to pray.”

What are some of the books that fall into this category for you? What are books that have forced you to stop and to pray?

Image credit: Shutterstock

March 18, 2015

Why Doesn’t God Just Remove that Sin? - “Every Christian I know has had the experience of coming up against the same sin—again—and wondering, ‘Will this struggle ever end? Why doesn’t God just remove this?’”

Man Does Not Live By Man Skills Alone - Paul Tripp takes a look at some of the cultural conversation about manhood and manliness.

Grief Undone - Westminster Books continually offers some great sales, and this week’s is no exception.

How TripAdvisor Is Changing the Way We Travel - “Research almost any travel destination and you’ll probably wind up on travel-industry Goliath, where passionate people praise and denounce everything from romantic getaways to cockroach-infested hotel rooms. But who can you trust?”

When Orphan Care Goes Bad - “Adoption is a beautiful, life-giving act, when taken up by those called to and equipped for it. But it does a child no good to be brought into a family that has counted their blessings but hasn’t counted the cost.”

Your Kids Are Hurting - This is a powerful letter, written by a woman raised by a lesbian couple. “I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.”

Nowhere in Scripture do we find doctrine studied for its own sake or in isolation from life. —Wayne Grudem

Grudem

March 17, 2015

It is tax season again. In just a couple of weeks a lot of us will be writing a check to the government, or, far better, hoping that the government will be writing a check to us. It is this time of year when, more than any other, we are forced to think about taxes, so once again I find myself pondering the first few verses of Romans 13. Paul is writing to the church at Rome and telling them that each one of them is to actively obey the governing authorities in every situation. He makes no exceptions; he simply commands them to obey all the time—”Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” It’s interesting to think about what Paul was commanding here.

He was writing to people who lived in Rome, people who were under the authority of a government that worshipped idols, that was systematically out to conquer and subjugate the world, that made death a form of entertainment, that promoted slavery, that was utterly ruthless and actively opposed to God. This was the government that was always on the verge of breaking out in persecution against the church. It was the government that had put Jesus to death. Paul was telling these Roman Christians to give honor, respect and taxes to the very government that paid the wages of the men who crucified Jesus, who mocked him, who spat on him, who rejoiced in his death.

And yet the Christians were to obey these rulers, to give them honor, respect and taxes—whatever was asked of them.

Taxes were obviously an urgent issue to people in those days since both Jesus and Paul had addressed it. These people were paying taxes to a government they did not believe in and paying taxes that would go to the soldiers who took advantage of them. Yet Paul and Jesus agreed: pay your taxes. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

I believe that there are at least two reasons that we are to pay taxes to the authorities. There is practical value in paying taxes and there is also a kind of important symbolic value.

Practically, we pay taxes to support the rulers in their work. Without our taxes, they cannot be set aside to do this work of governing us. If we believe in authority, if we believe that God has raised up governors to rule us, we see the need to pay them so they can do the work of ruling. I suppose this is similar to what we find in the church. If you believe in the value of pastors, you’ll be willing to give money to the church to support the pastor in his vocation.

There is also a kind of symbolic value to paying taxes. By paying taxes we affirm that we understand the intrinsic value of authority. Paying taxes is one very practical way that we prove our obedience to God and prove our understanding of the authority he has given to government. It’s a way in which we put our money where our mouth is.

Simple enough. But here’s a way I have to apply this: When I pay my taxes, do I pay them joyfully? It seems inconceivable that I’d be commanded to do something and then be allowed to do it hesitantly and with complaining. And I sure complain a lot about taxes.

I love to complain about taxes, and always feel justified doing so. I love to mumble about it, to grumble about it, to resent it. If there is a respectable sin in the Christian world, surely it is complaining about government. I hate that the government demands a hefty share of the money I earn. Yet with all the authority of God behind him, Paul tells me to pay my taxes and to do so with honor and respect. I have no right to grumble, no right to gripe or complain. Yet too often I react like a toddler who has been told to put away his toys—I do it, but my whole demeanor, my whole heart attitude, screams that I hate doing it, that I’m doing it only because I fear the consequences of not doing it.  So I pay my taxes, all the while harboring a deep resentment.

I am convicted by God that if I am to give what is owed to those who govern me, those who have been given authority by God, I must learn to give them the money they ask, but also give them the honor and respect they deserve.

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Image Credit: Shutterstock (Note: This article was adapted from one I published in 2012)

March 17, 2015

Reformation Heritage Books has their Reformed Historical Theological Studies series on sale at $4.99 each: The Marrow Controversy and Seceder Tradition; Teaching Predestination; Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism; The Spiritual Brotherhood; Unity and Continuity in Covenantal ThoughtThe Theology of the French Reformed Churches. And here are a few other deals: Truth Matters by Andreas Kostenberger ($2.99); The Five Points of Calvinism by Edwin Palmer ($0.99); Saint Patrick by James Holmes ($0.99); Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan ($2.99).

It is St. Patrick’s Day today, and here are two videos you may appreciate: Who Was St. Patrick? and St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies.

Advice to Young Speakers and Writers - Nancy Leigh DeMoss has some wise counsel for young speakers and writers.

It’s the Little Things - ” It’s the little things that members of a church or church plant do that help the ministry thrive—and without which the growth of the local church would be greatly hindered.”

Isn’t the Christian View of Sexuality Dangerous and Harmful? - “One of the most common and significant charges leveled against the traditional Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage is that it is damaging.” Sam Allberry answers the charge.

A Tale of Two Ecumenisms - Carl Trueman reflects on Evangelicals and Catholics Together twenty years after the fact.

The Church of TED - This article in the New York Times takes a brief look at the infamous TED talks and shows how they are not far off from their own religion.

If He has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much need of it. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon