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Tim Challies

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August 18, 2014

I have been thinking about this one a lot, lately. I was thinking about it long before I read Manage Your Day-to-Day, but that book helpfully distilled it to a single sentence: “We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently.”

This is our temptation in all areas of life: to look for the quick fix, to look for the one or the few great moments that will accomplish more than the hundreds or thousands of smaller moments. “Anthony Trollope, the nineteenth-century writer who managed to be a prolific novelist while also revolutionizing the British postal system, observed, ‘A small daily task, if it be daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules’. Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity.”

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

I see this in work. We are prone to believe that unless we can block off a significant piece of time to work on that book or project or task, we may as well not even bother. So instead of doing a little work, and advancing a step or two, we let it lie dormant and perhaps waste that time instead. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently.

I see this in parenting. We invest great hope in the big moments, the weekend away with the child or the special night out. But we may neglect those hundreds of evenings where we could simply talk while doing the dishes or where we could pray for just a few moments before bed. We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in their lives in a short period, and underestimate what we can accomplish over a long period, provided we are willing to advance slowly and with consistency.

But most of all, I see this in spiritual growth. We are often tempted to believe that one moment of great spiritual intensity will bring about greater and more lasting change than the oh-so-ordinary means of grace. We can have more confidence in the single three-day conference than in the day-by-day discipline of Scripture reading and prayer, the week-by-week commitment to the preaching of the Word and public worship. We tend to overestimate how much we can grow in a short period, and underestimate how much we will grow over a long period, provided we simply take hold of God’s ordinary means.

This is where so many Christians lose their confidence—they want quick growth and measurable results, and give up far too soon. Their confidence is not in God working through his Word as they open it each morning and hear it preached each Sunday, but in the big conference later in the year, or in that new devotional, or in that new study method. They are distracted and spasmodic rather than consistent and disciplined. They look this way and that, instead of than simply persisting in the means God prescribes.

The fact is, most growth in life—and spiritual growth is no exception—is measured in inches, not miles. The ground an army gains by a slow march is often safer than the ground it gains by charging over it. Spiritual growth is no less real simply because it comes slowly and is difficult to measure. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Christian, persist. Persist in the ordinary means of grace. Persist even, and especially, when the growth seems to slow. Persist in your confidence that these are the means God gives for your good, for your growth, for his glory.

Snail image credit: Shutterstock

August 18, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Healing for a Broken World by Steve Monsma ($2.99); Confronting Kingdom Challenges edited by Samuel T. Logan ($1.99); Why Cities Matter by Stephen Um & Justin Buzzard ($1.99); Political Thought by Hunter Baker ($0.99); The Problem of Evil by Jeremy Evans ($2.99); The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer ($2.99).

Wrongful Birth - This is the awful story of a couple suing because pre-birth tests failed to discover their daughter’s genetic abnormality. Had they know it, they would have aborted her.

Iceland’s Aerial Landscapes - Here are some beautiful photographs from Iceland, just for a visual treat.

There Will Be No Sea - R.C. Sproul explains why the Bible says there will be no sea in the new heaven and new earth.

10 Grammar Rules It’s Okay to Break - Most grammar rules are okay to break, at least occasionally. This is a list of 10 of them.

The Ways We’re the Same - We’ve all been there, I guess. Here’s what not to do in an awkward social situation.

The Sin in Our Cynicism - Cynicism is not a Christian virtue or a godly character trait.

The most significant gifts in the church’s life in every era are ordinary natural abilities sanctified. —J.I. Packer

Packer

August 17, 2014

The Internet is awash in “life hacks”—methods and techniques for increasing efficiency or productivity. They are meant to be simple and ultra-practical ways of doing those everyday tasks that make up so much of life. Though many life hacks are novel and ridiculous, there are some that prove themselves both meaningful and helpful, and I have applied many of them to my own life.

I also love to discover new “faith hacks”—practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. It is not that I want to live the Christian life with great ease and efficiency, but that I love to discover fresh insights from others as they tell how they live as Christians. Over the next while I plan to share some of these with you.

I will begin with this: a simple way to humbly display servant leadership. Though it is directed at church leaders, it is equally applicable to any Christian.

Derwin Gray, pastor of Transformation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, wants his church to be a community of servant-leaders. After all, “servanthood is the essence of leadership and the heart of what it means to be an apprentice of Jesus.” He believes “leadership is embodying what you want others to become.” To have a church of servant-leaders, he and the other pastors must lead the way.

How does Gray display what he wants other people to become? Simple. He and all his staff members park farthest away from the church building. Instead of taking the best spots, they leave those for others, and take the worst spots. The walk from their cars to the church, and from the church to their cars, is a straightforward, tangible display of what they want their congregation to become.

And I guess there is a bonus: They get to meet more people than if they were hustled out the side door and into reserved parking spots.

Do you want to practice servant-heartedness and meet more people at the same time? Consider parking in the farthest spot.

See: Why I Park the Furthest from the Church at Ministry Grid.

Parking lot image credit: Shutterstock

August 16, 2014

Summer is quickly winding down, isn’t it? We have two weeks of summer vacation remaining up here in Canada, and then, the day after Labour Day, life goes back to normal. As a person who is very dependent upon routine, I’m looking forward to it!

Here are just a few Kindle deals for today: A Model of Christian Maturity by D.A. Carson ($2.99); Israel by Daniel Block ($2.99); Abortion by R.C. Sproul ($2.99); it’s not a Christian book, but it’s a good one by one of my favorite authors: The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough ($2.99).

Thanks to Books at a Glance for sponsoring the blog this week. I depend upon sponsorships to balance out the expenses the blog incurs, and am grateful to Books at a Glance for their support.

I appreciate these 8 Tips for Talking To Your Kids About Sex.

Every now and again—usually a couple of times a year—Amazon puts board games on sale for 24 hours. Today’s the day for a selection of strategy games. Power Grid, Dominion, Pandemic, 7 Wonders, Diplomacy—these are some of the best games you can buy. Check out the list here.

Aileen and I visited Niddrie last year, and we each left a bit of our heart there. I love what the Lord is doing there, in calling people to respond to the gospel. He Was a Rat is a powerful testimony to God’s grace.

Joe Thorn, in his series on The Lord’s Supper, says something I fully agree with: Sip It, Don’t Dip It. “I know that some of you will read this and think that this is straining out a gnat, missing the forest for the trees, or spending too much time on a trivial matter. But in my estimation this is an important matter we should consider seriously.”

Can we really find joy in suffering? Yes, it is actually possible.

Here’s how to make the perfect paper airplane. You know you want to try it.

No soul shall ever come to Heaven, but the soul which has Heaven come to it first. —Jeremiah Burroughs

Burroughs

August 15, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Moody Publishers. They are offering some excellent books this week. There will be 5 winners, and each of those winners will receive the following 5 books:

  • HolcombIs It My Fault: Hope and Healing for Victims of Domestic Violence by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. “Is it My Fault? proclaims the gospel of healing and hope to victims who know too well the depths of destruction and the overwhelming reality of domestic violence.”
  • Pulling Back the Shades by Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery. “Christian women don’t have to choose between being sexual and spiritual. They have legitimate longings that the Church has been afraid to talk about, and books like Fifty Shades of Grey exploit.”
  • LettersLetters to a Birmingham Jail:  A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Bryan Loritts, John Perkins, Crawford W. Loritts Jr. and John Piper. “Letters to a Birmingham Jail is a collection of essays written by men of various ethnicities and ages, yet all are committed to the centrality of the gospel, nudging us to pursue Christ exalting diversity.”
  • Finding God at the Kitchen Sink: Search for Glory in the Everyday Grime by Maggie Paulus. “Finding God at the Kitchen Sink is a collection of reflections, written for those who long for solace in the middle of chaos and those looking for grace in a fallen, confusing and disorderly world.”
  • God’s Pursuit of Man by A.W. Tozer. “Although written two years after the publication of The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer’s God’s Pursuit of Man sets forth the biblical truth that before man can pursue God, God must first pursue man.”

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.

August 15, 2014

5 Principles of the New Sexual Morality - Alistair Roberts lays out 5 principles of the new sexual and relational morality. You need to understand this to understand the great shift happening around us today.

How the Sun Sees You - This is a fascinating video that demonstrates how the sun sees you.

Balancing Authority and Wisdom - H.B. Charles Jr. offers wisdom on how to balance authority and wisdom as a guest preacher. Because these things can go way wrong.

To Date or Not to Date? - Aimee Byrd reflects on an article that has been making the rounds the past few days—an article suggesting that courtship just hasn’t worked.

Robin Williams’ Most Uncomfortable Role - There are some insightful comments in this article: “It’s tempting to think that Robin Williams could have been lifted out of a state of despondency if only he had been able to read all the Twitter comments praising his amazing career as a great actor. Yet this would not be a safe assumption.”

J’adore Paris - These timelapse videos are starting to get a little repetitive, but this one, displaying the beauty of Paris, offers a few tricks and surprises. (Don’t miss the footage after the credits.)

Child Labour Crisis - This is a brilliant bit of satire.

A Technology Fast. Kind of. - John Dyer makes some insightful observations about technology in this article.

You may be singing ‘Holy, holy, holy,’ but if you aren’t thinking about God while singing it, you are not worshiping. —Donald Whitney

Whitney

August 14, 2014

Many times over the years I have invited readers of this blog to join me in a reading project, mostly as part of a program I’ve called Reading Classics Together. We’ve read some incredible books together—Holiness by J.C. Ryle, Christianity & Liberalism by Gresham Machen, The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, The Cross of Christ by John Stott, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks, and a whole lot more.

I think it’s time to begin another classic. In this case, I’d like to return to one of the very first we read together. Of all the ones we have read, it remains my favorite, and certainly the one that has made the deepest impact in my life. It is John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin (or Overcoming Sin and Temptation). It is the absolute best book available on the life-long challenge of putting sin to death. Unless you’ve completely eradicated sin in your life, I know you’ll benefit from reading it.

Will you read it with me?

John Owen is known as being one of the greatest theologians in the history of the church and one who offered penetrating analysis of the human condition. Though his works are reputed as being difficult to read, they always prove worth the effort. Jerry Bridges says, “To read Owen is to mine spiritual gold.” Mark Dever says, “Sin is tenacious, but by God’s grace we can hate it and hunt it. John Owen provides the mater guide for the sin-hunter.” And Phillip Ryken insists that, “John Owen is a spiritual surgeon with the rare skill to cut away the cancer of sin and bring gospel healing to the sinner’s soul. Apart from the Bible, I have found his writings to be the best books ever written to help me stop sinning the same old sins.” Are you getting the theme there?

Here is how the program works: Each week we will read one chapter. Then, on Thursdays, visit my site and I will have an article on that chapter along with a place for you to add your comments or a place for you to link to your own blog (or Facebook or any other place you have been discussing it). The idea is to read the book together, so we can benefit from one another’s insights and have mutual accountability as we press on in our reading.

How do you participate? Simply by getting a copy of the book and reading along. You don’t need to register, you don’t need to comment, you don’t need to do anything other than read one chapter per week.

Buying the Book

OSAT

I am going to read Overcoming Sin and Temptation, a slight modernization of the work, edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic. This edition maintains the unabridged text, but provides useful introductions and editorial assistance. For example, the editors footnote difficult or obscure words, update archaic language (i.e. they change “thee” to “you”), transliterate words that Owen provided in the original biblical languages, and so on. They also add helpful introductions to the sections. They maintain the full impact of Owen’s words while removing some of the hindrances experienced by the modern reader.

However, if you would like to read the original, you are more than welcome to do so and will benefit just as much. Here is where you can track down the book:

Let’s Get Started

I plan to post an article on chapter one on September 4, and continue every Thursday after that. There are 14 chapters, meaning the program will last for 14 weeks. All you need to do is obtain a copy of the book and read chapter one prior to September 4.

Why don’t you leave a comment below if you plan to join the program (or if you’ve got any questions).