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

Tim Challies

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July 18, 2014

I’ve got some new Kindle deals for you: Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites by Bradley Wright ($3.99); The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson ($1.99); Renewing Your Mind by R.C. Sproul ($3.99); Reasons for Belief by Norman Geisler ($1.99). At Cruciform Press we’re doing a $0.99 sale on 5 of our books: Brass Heavens by Paul Tautges; Grieving, Hope, and Solace by Al Martin; Does God Listen to Rap? by Curtis Allen; Cruciform by Jimmy Davis; Smooth Stones by Joe Coffey.

Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? - This long article from Christianity Today explains that today’s controversy is far more complicated that religious freedom versus LGBT rights.

5 Insights Into Idolatry - J.D. Greear offers five valuable insights into idolatry. Since we are all idolaters on some level, we should all pay attention!

Do Planes Really Fly Themselves? - Here’s a (kind of angry) pilot explaining that despite what you’ve probably heard on the news, commercial airliners don’t come close to flying themselves.

5 Specific Prayers for Unsaved People - Here are five specific prayers for the unsaved people in your life.

Tattoo Removal Surges - Something to think about before getting that tattoo: Revenue for tattoo removal has surged 440% over the last decade. Not surprisingly, the main customers are people in their 30s or 40s.

The 8 Steps of Sin - An old sermon on Hebrews 3 traces the 8 steps of sin.

The Road to Jericho and the Border Crisis - Russell Moore comments on the current border crisis.

On this side of the cross misery persists, but the scales are tipped in favor of joy. —Ed Welch

Welch

July 17, 2014

I am a sinner. And as a sinner I exhibit all kinds of behaviors both odd and ugly. The more I come to know myself, the more I see the ways in which I am a product of my sin, in which I view the world through the lens of my sin. When I look outward, and when I look at others, I see them through sinful eyes and interpret them through a sinful mind. As I do that, I fall into the trap of sin projection.

Sin projection is when I project my sin upon others, assuming that they are prone to the very same sin and, therefore, falling into it as much as I am. I am not the only one who does this, either.

The adulterous husband wonders if his wife is committing adultery. The lying child assumes that he has been lied to by his teacher. The angry mother is quick to accuse her children of being angry toward her. The power-obsessed pastor believes the associate pastor is maneuvering to displace him. The young man with the lustful eye has trouble trusting that his girlfriend’s eyes are not equally prone to wander. The thief can’t trust others because he assumes they will steal from him just as he will steal from them. The envious musician assumes that others are being competitive toward him.

And on it goes. I see the world through my own sin and project my sin upon others. I see my sin in them, even where it doesn’t exist. I unfairly and sinfully accuse them of my sin.

I am a sinner. And as a sinner this is just one more of those odd and ugly behaviors.

July 16, 2014

I remain on vacation this week, and am enjoying all the unwinding—the time with family and the time with some good books (Let’s be honest—a lot of good books.) While I get back to it, here are some new Kindle deals for you: The Storytelling God by Jared Wilson ($0.99); Peacemaking Women by Tara Barthel & Judy Dabler ($2.99); The Great Evangelical Recession by John Dickerson ($1.99); How to Preach Without Notes by Charles Koller ($1.99).

Too Hot for Google - You may have heard that Google is no longer allowing advertisements for porn sites. This article explains why. (It’s important to note that Google search results will still find porn—it’s merely advertising that they aren’t allowing.)

Three Ways to Help - Tony Payne tells you three ways that the excellent Two Ways to Live outline of the gospel can be helpful to you.

What’s All This “Gospel-Centered” Talk About? - Dane Ortlund offers an explanation (and a helpful example) of what all this “gospel-centered” talk is all about.

8 Ways to Beat Temptation - Mark Altrogge offers 8 ways to beat temptation.

The Pastor’s Kid: My Happy Childhood - I really enjoyed reading this article from a pastor’s kid who says, “I would go so far as to say that being born the son of a pastor is one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given me.”

15 Benefits of the Word of God - If you are wondering how to come to God’s Word today, or you’re feeling like you can’t be bothered, here are some things to consider.

If God were not my friend, Satan would not be so much my enemy. —Thomas Brooks

Brooks

July 15, 2014

It starts like this: “My name is Nate, but you can call me Samson. That’s the code name my friends have given me, and for reasons you’ll eventually understand, I’ve given the same symbolic name to each of them. We are the Samson Society.” It’s an intriguing start to the book Samson and the Pirate Monks and I, for one, wanted to know more.

Nate Larkin is founder of the Samson Society, a group for men who are looking for male friendship, (dare I say it?) accountability, and authentic brotherhood. It is a group for men who have tried to do the Christian life on their own and have found it impossible. It is a group that anyone can begin, without cost, without contracts, without hassle.

I have long observed that men tend to do pretty poorly with friendship. I don’t know if we are really bad at friendship or if most of us have just never given it a fair try. In either case, I think it’s clear that too few men have genuinely significant friendships.

Larkin was there. From the early days of his marriage he developed bad habits which, in time, grew into outright addiction. Before long he was hooked on pornography, visiting the seedy parts of town and, eventually, visiting prostitutes. Despite being raised in a Christian environment, despite being a pastor himself, he gave in to his habits, gave in to his lusts, and found his life and marriage crumbling around him. And he dealt with it all in isolation, without men around him who could help him and guide him. Even when he saw his sin and was desperate to overcome it, his life was devoid of meaningful relationships that could make a difference. For too long he wallowed in his sin.

It was only when he got other men deeply involved in his life that he was able to gain real victory over his sin. He came to realize that Christian friendship—men befriending men—is a precious gift. As he emerged from the mess of his addiction he says “I was willing to trust Christ, but I was not ready to trust the body of Christ. … What I did not yet understand was that while Jesus does offer a personal relationship to every one of his disciples, he never promises any of us a private one. … The church, according to the New Testament, is not a loose confederation of individuals. The church is a body—a living, breathing organism whose members are so intimately connected that they can only move together. On any given day, every member of that body needs help, and every member has some help to give.”

Samson and the Pirate Monks is partly Larkin’s biography and partly an account of the founding of the first Samson Society. It is also a call for men to put aside their pride and inhibitions and to find meaningful relationships with one another. And it provides more than a call—it provides a defense and a structure.

The book is full of helpful insights about life and faith. Things like this: “I have found that for short stretches of time I can convince myself that I am being faithful to God if I define faithfulness in terms of only one behavior.” That resonates, and so does this: “Self-righteousness … is a doubled-edged sword. If I have reduced holiness to a single behavior, then I am standing on one leg. One slip and I am nothing again, absolutely useless.” And this: “God, in his grace, has used addiction to shatter my moralistic understanding of the Christian faith and force me to accept the gospel. I am not a faithful man. That’s why I need a Savior. I cannot live victoriously on my own. That’s why I need a Helper and brothers. I cannot keep my promises to God—the very act of making them is delusional—but God will keep his promises to me.”

I find books like this easy to dismiss, perhaps especially because so many of us have tried accountability relationships and found them wanting. That and we have had so many calls to relationship, to accountability, to Eldredge-style openness. But then I think about men I know and wonder how they would receive this book and, even better, the kind of relationships it models. And then I realize that men are desperate for exactly what Larkin describes here. The book may be easy to dismiss, but to dismiss it too quickly and too easily would probably say more about me than about the book and its ideas.

I enjoyed Samson and the Pirate Monks thoroughly and would commend it to any Christian man. Read it, pillage it for ideas, and start pursuing true brotherhood.

July 14, 2014

I’ve got some new Kindle deals for you today. To Live is Christ to Die Is Gain by Matt Chandler ($3.99); The Message of Acts by John Stott ($2.99); Ten Myths About Calvinism by Kenneth Stewart ($2.99);  The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever ($0.99); Learning Evangelism From Jesus by Jerram Barrs ($2.99); Reaching the Lost by Bobby Jamieson ($0.99); Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? by Thomas Miller ($2.99); Christian Focus has some of their Jungle Doctor books on sale ($2.99 each): Jungle Doctor Spots a Leopard, Jungle Doctor and the Whirlwind, Jungle Doctor’s EnemiesEyes on Jungle Doctor, Jungle Doctor’s Crooked Dealings.

Does He Need to Confess Adultery? - I appreciate Russell Moore’s answer to this difficult question: Does a man who had a brief affair several years ago need to confess it to his wife?

Cheap at Sea, Pricey on the Plate - Most weekends I enjoy reading a few longform articles. This one from The Globe and Mail was quite interesting as it simply follows a lobster from the sea (where it’s cheap) to the plate (where it’s expensive).

Arminianism FAQ - Roger Olson is probably the foremost champion of Arminianism today. He has put together a helpful FAQ that answers common questions about Arminianism. Start at that link and navigate to parts 2 and following. (I remain a Calvinist, but am glad to have firm answers to these questions.)

Open Letter to Gospel-Centered Preachers - Nick has an open letter to gospel-centered preachers. What he says is worth considering.

The Wonder of the Word - Matt Boswell considers the wonder of the Word in corporate worship.

Working Out Before Work - Here, from QZ, is a complete guide to working out before work.

Little learning and much pride come of hasty reading. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

July 13, 2014

Who is the most important person in your church? On one level it’s kind of a silly question to ask. Yet in his book Healed at Last, Scott Blackwell provides an answer that is both sweet and encouraging. He tells about his friend Steve who has been profoundly disabled since birth.

He has been forever wheelchair-bound, and his arm and head movements are often uncontrolled or controlled with difficulty—especially when he gets excited. His speech is difficult to understand, and his vocabulary is limited. Because he was born in the 1950s, those who cared for him made certain assumptions about his ability to learn, respond and understand. He was institutionalized and given minimal stimulation and therapy—such was the state of rehabilitation for the profoundly disabled back then. It was assumed he would never be able to read, so he was never taught. Now, in his fifties, Steve is thoroughly dependent on the aid of others. He requires assistance to eat, drink, bathe, dress, toilet, and so on. Steve also constantly battles the kind of respiratory and gastro-intestinal disorders that life lived full-time in a wheelchair bring. All this is so much more difficult to witness knowing that trapped within Steve’s dysfunctional body is a sharp and inquiring mind that was left untended and ignored for years.

Yet, as Blackwell points out, Steve finds joy despite such severe challenges.

Steve is the most joy-filled and enthusiastic believer in Jesus I think I’ve ever met. He’s bright, intelligent, witty, stubborn, passionate and compassionate. He holds down a job and, every time I talk with him, he insists that he is far too busy. His grin and his “G’day” is one hundred percent genuine for every person he meets. He insists on having his Bible open at the right passage with the rest of us, even though he cannot read it. The phenomenal thing about Steve is that somehow he manages to view every day of struggle as another day of triumph, and this he does, by his own testimony, through his faith in Christ. Hope and trust in God’s promises burn brighter in Steve than in anyone else I’ve ever met. In our church it’s impossible to preach about the return of Jesus, or the great resurrection day, or even death, without being interrupted by the man in the front who is madly flailing his arms around and shouting with excitement, “No more chair!”

After telling more about Steve’s deep faith and his sure hope that one day he will stand on his feet before his Savior, Blackwell says this:

Personally, I think it is possible that this makes Steve the most important person in our church. Once, during a rare moment of melancholy, he asked me why I thought God had caused him to live out his life in a chair. I thought for a long time before I said I didn’t know for certain, but that maybe his disability and his chair were meant for our teaching, blessing and benefit. I suggested that, possibly, it was God’s intention that through Steve our church might learn great lessons about patience, love, endurance, joy, compassion, hope and faith. I said to him (and I believe it is true) that he is perhaps our most dynamic and effective evangelist and pastoral worker. His look of surprise and shock actually made me laugh out loud. It had never occurred to him that this was what he was for us. He was just Steve.

Through my friend Steve, God has worked wonderful deeds of spiritual growth and maturity in our church.

July 12, 2014

We arrived safely to our quiet spot in South Carolina, after a very long and scenic drive that took us through ONNYPAWVVATNNCSC. And here we are. Again, it will be light blogging for the next week as I focus on unwinding. (But I can’t not write at least a bit since it is the most relaxing part of my life.)

A shout-out goes to the folk at Bristol Caverns in Bristol, TN. We dropped by to take a tour of the caverns and met our tour guide Doug who turned out to be a reader of this site. The caverns are well worth the hour-long tour.

This Is Mindy - This is a hard-to-read article from former porn producer Donny. He describes how he recruited a girl named Mindy and then destroyed her life. The point of the article: there is a terrible hidden cost to pornography.

The Vanishing Screwball - Baseball lovers may enjoy this longform article from the New York Times on the screwball and why almost nobody throws it anymore.

The Unexpected Answers of God - Jon Bloom explains that we are often unprepared for the kind of answers we receive from God. And I think he’s absolutely right.

Foods that Taste Bad - Ever wondered why that glass or orange juice tastes unbearable after brushing your teeth? This article explains.

Theology, the Last Resort - Here is some thought-provoking stuff from J.D. Payne.

The Vatican’s Bank - Did you know the Vatican has a bank? Neither did it. Foreign Policy says that its history “reads more like Dan Brown than the financial pages.”

When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head. —C.H. Spurgeon\

Spurgeon