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

Tim Challies

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February 01, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson ($2.99); Finishing Our Course with Joy ($2.99) and Rediscovering Holiness ($2.51) by J.I. Packer; Finishing Well to the Glory of God by John Dunlop ($2.99); Has Christianity Failed You? by Ravi Zacharias ($3.99); Yawning at Tigers by Drew Dyck ($2.99); The Call by Os Guinness ($3.99); No Compromise by Melody Green ($2.99); God’s Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace ($3.99). Also check out Amazon’s general market monthly deals.

Logo users can check out the free book of the month (which is actually a journal) while those who are into audiobooks can download I Don’t Have the Faith to Be an Atheist for free from Christian Audio.

Patient Parenting

Sometimes parenting is really, really hard. We’ve been experiencing some of those times lately, so this article was a joy to read.

You Can Trust God with Your Kids

Speaking of parenting, here is encouragement that you can trust God with your kids.

Ten Biblical Truths on the Obedience of Children

Sticking with the theme of parenting, read John Piper’s ten biblical truths on the obedience of children.

When Will It End?

And then one more—a mother’s reflection on just how quickly it all goes by.

How ‘Church Relevance’ Is Boring

It’s so true—all of this relevance stuff gets so boring.

Helping One Another Forsake Sin and Follow Jesus

Randy Alcorn tells how and when to help others forsake sin in order to follow Jesus.

New from Crossway: Crossway just released numerous books at the end of January, and they look excellent. I specifically recommend you check out these: The Miracles of Jesus by Vern Poythress, The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson, Family Worship by Donald Whitney, Christ or Chaos by Dan Dewitt, and Church in Hard Places by Mez McConnell and Mike McKinley.

The Secret to a Happy Life

R.C. Sproul: “The world is marked by warfare. There’s global war and national conflict; there’s warfare in the church; there’s warfare in the community; there’s warfare in the home—there’s conflict all around us.” What’s the key to happiness in a world like this?

How R.C. Sproul’s Words Changed My Life

Speaking of R.C. Sproul, I enjoyed this. “I asked a question about pride and success. Sure, I could have struck a nerve with double predestination or eschatology or whatever. But I can find those answers on my own. I wanted to ask a question that only Sproul could answer, so I asked this…”

Carson

If you want to see what judgment looks like, go to the cross. If you want to see what love looks like, go to the cross. —D.A. Carson

Letters to the Editor
January 31, 2016

With another Sunday, we have another batch of letters to the editor. I received plenty of comments on my article about preaching the gospel to Mormons. Several of them were from practicing Mormons who, not surprisingly, strongly disagreed with what I said. Here are some of the other responses I received.

Comments on When the Mormons Come Calling

I have both Mormon and JW family members and have studied apologetics in that area for decades now. I appreciate that you try to reach them with the gospel and that you understand the JW’s are more likely to have a chip on their shoulder. I would say that with JW’s you must change your strategy. Trying to prove the trinity or divinity of Christ is a dead-end with the JW’s and it is the area they train for. Worst is that it doesn’t really get you to the gospel. Go for an area where they are less prepared and is essential to the gospel. They deny the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Push them to tell you their position that Jesus’ body was dissolved into gases and God recreated the archangel Michael again from His memories. Then get them to read through John 2:18-22. This outright contradicts their beliefs. Then go to the gospel definition in 1 Corinthians 15 and go through that slowly with lots of questions. Their rejection of Jesus’ resurrection is a rejection of a key and essential part of the gospel. Your time will be much more well spent there.
—Greg H, Columbia, MO

*****

Speaking as a former Mormon, I can tell you that it can be very difficult to get through the hard veneer of Mormon doctrine - especially since most of these young men have grown up in the Mormon faith and have been indoctrinated since birth with the false gospel of Mormonism. I’m sure you know that they do not hold a view of the Bible as inerrant and that their founder Joseph Smith re-translated many verses of the Bible to fit the doctrine they teach. They hold the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants in much higher esteem and authority than the true Word of God and, for this reason, it can be difficult to point them to errors in their doctrine using the Bible alone. This is why praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to them is so key. Also, it is important to know that terms we use and take for granted have very different meanings in the world of Mormonism (such as Jesus, salvation, & hell) so you can’t assume that you are all on the same page just because you are using the same terms.

When they arrive on Saturday, you can expect them to be prepared to present to you an overview of the gospel as they understand it. They have been trained to basically ignore any objections and deflect any questions you might have. It is an excellent move to request that they listen to what you have to say in exchange for listening to their message but don’t expect too much. As I said, these are young men who have been heavily indoctrinated, have never seriously investigated the claims of their church, and rely heavily on well-practiced, canned presentations to make their point. Any veering off-script tends to be met with a deer-in-the-headlights look and an exhortation to read a highlighted passage in the Book of Mormon they will leave with you and to be on the watch for a “burning in your bosom” that will testify of the “truth” they are sharing. I pray, Tim, that the Holy Spirit will give you wisdom, discernment, and the right words to say that will at least get them questioning their beliefs and set them on a journey of discovery that will set them free from the falsehoods and imprisonment they are living under.
—Rick E, Hillsboro, OR

*****

Appreciated your recent article on Mormonism and agree with what you say. One thought, though: I have shared the gospel with Mormons, and they will agree with everything I say. This is because of the language barrier. Every important word has been redefined by the LDS church such that you must slowly define every term carefully or else what you’re saying and what they’re hearing are two different things. I try to be intentional about defining my terms so that they will know that terms like “God”, “Jesus”, and “grace” mean something different than what the LDS church has taught them. Blessings to you.
—Jeffrey S, Central City, NE

*****

There is also a practical reason for being polite and listening to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who may knock at your door: for every minute they are spending with you, they are not next door or down the street spreading their false teachings to another person who may be more inclined to accept it.
—Paul M, St. Thomas, ON

Comments on Going All-in With Ebooks

And then, of course, there were plenty of letters about my decision to go all-in with ebooks. (See last week’s letters for more of them.)

Although not written specifically to Bible readers, I think Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows” and Naomi Baron’s “Words Onscreen” both effectively raise the issue that reading eBooks could be changing the way we read. In my own journey into reading Scripture well, I continue to find people who are re-awakening to the possibility that reading Scripture on an e-device really does effect the way they read, how they attend to the text, and what they end up taking away from their reading. It’s easy to eRead. What might escape notice is the real possibility that reading eTexts could be changing how we read and understand Scripture.
—Brian O, Greenville, SC

*****

I’ve enjoyed reading all about your decision to go all-in with e-book reading. And I’ve enjoyed reading the comments. My Kindle bit the dust about a year ago (it refuses to re-charge and I am hesitant to purchase another.) I went through terrible withdrawal! Which only served to show me that I was relying way too much on it. So now I’ve retreated back to the printed page. It’s been a good journey. I’m sticking here.
—Pamela N, Hudson, OH

*****

Thank you for your article on committing to E-books. I made the same decision years ago and here is why:

  1. Like you, space was an issue with printed books for me. I learned this lesson eight years ago when I moved from Massachusetts to Wyoming after nine years of Bible college and pastoral ministry. In those nine years I amassed a library of nearly 2500 volumes, saturated with large commentary sets and weighty (in both thought and actual weight!) reference works. The book boxes took up the most space in our moving truck, dwarfing the upright piano and couch. After some time in Wyoming we returned to Massachusetts to plant a church, yet some of the books have yet to make the trip!
  2. The ability to bookmark, or copy and paste directly into documents is invaluable. I spent hours as a pastor and seminary student meticulously handwriting quotes and references into sermon notes or notecards, tasks that take no time with e-books. Insisting on printed books means considerable more time in sermon prep or academic research, and makes me think of a person that would insist on performing a lexical search through different Greek reference works that would take hours, rather than using Logos or Bibleworks, which would only take seconds. I do think a refusal to use e-books when they could save significant time is a stewardship issue that deserves consideration.
  3. In our digital age, e-books easily go anywhere with me. Time spent waiting while my wife shops or in an airport terminal can be used to maintain my reading plan, do research, or continue sermon prep. Many commentaries and reference works are just not mobile in their paper form, but e-books allow me to make the most of downtime that might otherwise be wasted.
  4. While authors might lament this, the reality is that e-books are usually much more inexpensive than printed versions and allow me to stretch my book budget much further than if I purchase paper versions. E-books seem to go on sale within months of their initial release, and I have gotten many books for a fraction of the cost of the paper version.

Thank you again for the article. No doubt there were those that had trouble adjusting to printed, bound books when they replaced scrolls hundreds of years ago!
—Mark R, Middleborough, MA

January 30, 2016

This weekend’s Kindle deals include The Religions Next Door by Marvin Olasky ($0.99); Beginning at Moses by Michael Barrett ($0.99); Prayers of an Excellent Wife by Andrew Case ($0.99); Preaching with Passion by James Draper ($0.99); The Little Handbook to Perfecting the Art of Christian Writing by Don Aycock ($0.99).

Don’t Theologize or Spiritualize Ministry Mediocrity

This is an important challenge to churches that love good preaching. “Why is it that so many churches that profess a commitment to the primacy of expository preaching, settle for mediocrity in so many other facets of the church’s ministry?”

The Most Dangerous Place On Earth

And speaking of preaching, read this one by Steve Lawson. “Satan has no greater strongholds than houses of worship where the truth is suppressed. Nowhere is he more deeply entrenched in the lives of people than among those who are religious but who have no supernatural light of holiness and truth.”

The Deep Space of Digital Reading

This is a good article to read if you are concerned about what digital reading is doing to us. “The history of reading suggests that what we’re presently experiencing is probably not the end times of human thought. It’s more like an interregnum, or the crouch before a leap.”

75 Hobby Ideas for Men

Yes, 75 of them. I approve of reading being at the top.

Why the iPad Is Going Extinct

Here’s why the iPad and other tablets are slowly going extinct. I don’t see them disappearing anytime soon, but they do seem to be in decline. I don’t want to go back to preaching off of paper!

The Blessing of Visiting the Sick

Nick Batzig tells of the unexpected blessing of visiting the sick.

Tomorrow in 1892. 124 years ago tomorrow, extraordinary Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon died. *

Hearse

I enjoyed this short video on the word “hearse.” It fascinates me to learn how words transform in meaning over time.

Family Worship 101

Westminster Books is offering a deal on Donald Whitney’s book on family worship. It’s a good one to buy in bulk and distribute in your church.

iPhones, Androids, and Your Church

My gratitude goes to Finalweb for sponsoring the blog this week with an article titled “iPhones, Androids, and Your Church.”

Sanders

We are saved by the gospel of God to worship the God of the gospel. —Fred Sanders

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
January 29, 2016

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Finalweb who was also the blog's sponsor for the week. Finalweb creates excellent websites for Christian ministries and churches, while seamlessly integrating advanced features like livestreaming and mobile apps. Their unique system allows your church to create its own site without the need for any programming knowledge or experience. That site can be updated as often as necessary using nothing more than a web browser. This makes it more than a website but a powerful management tool to help your organization thrive. You can learn more here.

FireAs for the giveaway, there will be 5 winners this week and each of them will receive a Kindle Fire tablet. This device is designed for both reading and entertainment and does each of them well. They are giving away the 7" model. One interesting feature of this new model is called "Blue Shade." It works behind the scenes to automatically adjust and optimize the backlight for a more comfortable nighttime reading experience. Simply tap Blue Shade on the quick actions menu to turn on this feature and enjoy your favorite book, news article, app, or any other nighttime activity without straining your eyes. This also reduces the blue light that has been associated with insomnia. 

Please note that this prize can only be shipped to North American addresses.

There are 5 prizes to win, so sign up now!

Enter Here

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. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

2016 Reading Challenge
January 29, 2016

Late last year I announced the 2016 Reading Challenge, a fun way to increase and diversify your reading through another year. I took the challenge and set this year’s goal at 104 books. However, because so much of my reading has to go toward reviewing books that are recently published and of interest to Christians (both for reviews published here and in WORLD magazine) I decided to pick from all over the list rather than working through it in order. What follows are the books I have completed so far in 2016 and, in parentheses, the reading challenge category they fulfill. They are listed in the order in which I completed them. Below that is the complete list of categories I need to cover.

  1. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien). I had read The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers at a nice, slow pace last year and began the final part of the trilogy on January 1. I enjoyed every page.
  2. Black Flags by Joby Warrick (A book about a current issue). This was one of two books I read dealing with the rise, reality, and purpose of ISIS. Because it is fast-paced and reader-friendly, Black Flags is an excellent place to begin. You can read my review here.
  3. The ISIS Apocalypse by William McCants (A historical book). Where Black Flags is somewhat biographical and reader-friendly, The ISIS Apocalypse is more of a history book and, thus, a little bit more difficult to read. Still, it tells the same story of the rise of ISIS and is worth reading to understand this organization and its goals. You can read my review here.
  4. The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders (A book about theology). This is a brilliant book and one of my new favorites on the Trinity. You can read my full-length review here.
  5. What Is the Trinity? by R.C. Sproul (A book by your favorite author). This is a good, short, and thoroughly Sprouline treatment of the Trinity. I read it and a couple of other books on the Trinity as a warm-up for this year’s G3 Conference.
  6. Delighting in the Trinity by Tim Chester (A book about Christian living). This is one of two books by the same title. This one is plenty good, but probably just outside my top-3 or top-5 on the subject.
  7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize). I read this because it was awarded last year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It is a very good novel but comes close to a concluding orgy of awfulness. A scene of rape mars the final chapters—the scene takes place in Germany at the close of the Second World War when Russian soldiers were pillaging and raping their way to Berlin, so it’s not like it was unrealistic. I just don’t know that it added anything to the book. Beyond that, it was a very enjoyable novel, but still not among my favorite Pulitzer Prize winners.
  8. The Forgotten Fear by Albert Martin (A book whose title comes from a Bible verse). This is a very helpful book on a neglected subject. You can read my review here.
  9. Dreamland by Sam Quinones (A book with a one-word title). This book received a fair bit of attention in the various round-ups of 2015’s best books. It is an interesting look at America’s opiate epidemic and the outsized role of one small Mexican county. It also draws negative attention to big pharma and its role in drug addiction.
  10. Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson (A book written by a first-time author). NFL standout Watson expands a Facebook post into a book-length treatment of race and racism. He writes from a distinctly Christian perspective and does a wonderful job of communicating the African-American perspective on race while challenging both African-Americans and whites to overcome their biases and to work toward lasting change. You can read my review here.
  11. Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson (A biography of a world leader). I wanted to love this biography but struggled with it a little. Still, Queen Victoria was a fascinating figure who reigned for a long, long time through a pivotal point in history. I appreciated Wilson’s treatments of her relationship with her husband and, later, with John Brown.

I am currently reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (it is so long!), The Lovers by Rod Nordland, and The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson; I am tracking it all through Goodreads.

I expect that I will be able to read 104 books, but that the difficulty will come in trying to fit those books into the categories. However, I suppose that will also be the fun part as well as the part that diversifies my reading.

The Light Reader (13 Books)

  • ☒ A book about Christian living (Delighting in the Trinity)
  • ☐ A biography
  • ☐ A classic novel
  • ☐ A book someone tells you “changed my life”
  • ☐ A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • ☒ A book about theology (The Deep Things of God)
  • ☐ A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle
  • ☐ A book your pastor recommends
  • ☐ A book more than 100 years old
  • ☐ A book for children
  • ☐ A mystery or detective novel
  • ☐ A book published in 2016
  • ☒ A book about a current issue (Black Flags)

The Avid Reader (26 Books)

  • ☐ A book written by a Puritan
  • ☐ A book recommended by a family member
  • ☐ A book by or about a missionary
  • ☒ A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize (All the Light We Cannot See)
  • ☐ A book written by an Anglican
  • ☐ A book with at least 400 pages
  • ☒ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien (The Return of the King)
  • ☐ A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • ☐ A book with a great cover
  • ☐ A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers
  • ☐ A book about church history
  • ☐ A graphic novel
  • ☐ A book of poetry

The Committed Reader (52 Books)

  • ☐ A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with
  • ☐ A book written by an author with initials in their name
  • ☐ A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • ☐ A book about worldview
  • ☐ A play by William Shakespeare
  • ☐ A humorous book
  • ☐ A book based on a true story
  • ☐ A book written by Jane Austen
  • ☐ A book by or about Martin Luther
  • ☐ A book with 100 pages or less
  • ☒ A book with a one-word title (Dreamland)
  • ☐ A book about money or finance
  • ☐ A novel set in a country that is not your own
  • ☐ A book about music
  • ☐ A memoir
  • ☐ A book about joy or happiness
  • ☐ A book by a female author
  • ☒ A book whose title comes from a Bible verse (The Forgotten Fear)
  • ☐ A book you have started but never finished
  • ☐ A self-improvement book
  • ☐ A book by David McCullough
  • ☐ A book you own but have never read
  • ☐ A book about abortion
  • ☐ A book targeted at the other gender
  • ☐ A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended
  • ☐ A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you

The Obsessed Reader (104 Books)

  • ☐ A book published by The Banner of Truth
  • ☐ A book about the Reformation
  • ☒ A book written by a first-time author (Under Our Skin)
  • ☒ A biography of a world leader (Victoria: A Life)
  • ☐ A book used as a seminary textbook
  • ☐ A book about food
  • ☐ A book about productivity
  • ☐ A book about or relationships or friendship
  • ☐ A book about parenting
  • ☐ A book about philosophy
  • ☐ A book about art
  • ☐ A book with magic
  • ☐ A book about prayer
  • ☐ A book about marriage
  • ☐ A book about a hobby
  • ☐ A book of comics
  • ☐ A book about the Second World War
  • ☐ A book about sports
  • ☐ A book by or about a pastor’s wife
  • ☐ A book about suffering
  • ☒ A book by your favorite author (What Is the Trinity?)
  • ☐ A book you have read before
  • ☐ A book about homosexuality
  • ☐ A Christian novel
  • ☐ A book about psychology
  • ☐ A book about the natural world
  • ☐ A book by or about Charles Dickens
  • ☐ A novel longer than 400 pages
  • ☒ A historical book (The ISIS Apocalypse)
  • ☐ A book about the Bible
  • ☐ A book about a country or city
  • ☐ A book about astronomy
  • ☐ A book with an ugly cover
  • ☐ A book by or about a martyr
  • ☐ A book by a woman conference speaker
  • ☐ A book by or about the church fathers
  • ☐ A book about language
  • ☐ A book by or about a Russian
  • ☐ A book about leadership
  • ☐ A book about public speaking
  • ☐ A book by Francis Schaeffer
  • ☐ A book by a Presbyterian
  • ☐ A book about science
  • ☐ A book about revival
  • ☐ A book about writing
  • ☐ A book about evangelism
  • ☐ A book about ancient history
  • ☐ A book about preaching
  • ☐ A book about the church
  • ☐ A book about adoption
  • ☐ A photo essay book
  • ☐ A book written in the twentieth century

Bonus (109 Books)

  • ☐ A book from a library
  • ☐ A book about business
  • ☐ A book by an author less than 30
  • ☐ A book published by a UK-based publisher
  • ☐ A book you borrow

January 29, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include just a couple: Reading God’s Story by George Guthrie ($1.99) and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel ($1.99), in case you’ve never read it.

A Matter of Inches

You will eventually breathe a sigh of relief. “My wife and I got into the car and drove across town to the hospital, fearing the worst and yet trying to hope for the best. We offered short, pathetic prayers as we went.”

Uncool Coins

There’s probably a sermon illustration in this story about a man who destroyed a coin worth $250,000.

D.A. Carson on the Ground of Our Assurance

This short video will encourage you.

Family Worship 101

You may be interested in this free 5-day course with Donald Whitney. It would probably help to pick up a copy of his book Family Worship (which has just been released in a new edition).

Tor and the Trinity

Here’s another take on the whole mess at Wheaton. I appreciate this one because it highlights some of the absurdity of it all. “Hawkins essentially declined to elaborate, saying ‘I don’t want to be subjected to a theological inquisition.’ Instead she held a press conference where—and somethings you can’t make up—she was flanked by Jesse Jackson as well as a handful of liberal, female, clergy.”

IdolsNew from P&RToday P&R Publishers is releasing updates to two excellent books: Anthony Carter’s Black and Reformed: Seeing God’s Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience (print, Kindle) and Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone (print, Kindle).

Focus on the Bible Commentaries

While we’re talking books, Logos has the Focus on the Bible commentaries discounted. The Old Testament volumes (and especially the ones by Dale Ralph Davis) are highly recommended by the commentators on the commentaries.

Kill Your (Celebrity Culture) Worship

Mike Cosper: “Celebrity culture turns pastors and worship leaders into icons. Celebrity culture turns worship gatherings into rock concerts. Celebrity culture confuses flash and hype for substance.”

How Donald Trump Uses Language

Love him or hate him, this is an interesting look at how Donald Trump uses language. (HT)

Bridges

Reading gives us breadth, but study gives us depth. —Jerry Bridges

The Character of the Christian
January 28, 2016

Today we continue this series on the character of the Christian. We are exploring how the various character qualifications of elders are actually God’s calling on all Christians. While elders are meant to exemplify these traits, all Christians are to display them. I want us to consider whether we are displaying these traits and to learn together how we can pray to have them in greater measure.

Our topic today is a qualification Paul repeats in both 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6. The ESV translates it as “the husband of one wife,” a common rendering of the Greek which says, literally, “a one-woman man.” There are several ways we could interpret this qualification. Does Paul mean to say that a pastor cannot be a polygamist? Does it mean that an elder must be married? Does it mean that the pastor cannot have been previously divorced and remarried? None of these quite get to the heart of the matter. John MacArthur says, “It’s not concerning status, it is concerning character. It is not a matter of circumstance, it is a matter of his virtue. And the issue here is a man who is solely and only and totally devoted to the woman who is his wife. It is a question of his character. He is a one-woman man. Anything less is a disqualification.”

Similarly, in his book Biblical Eldership, Alexander Strauch reminds us that the first qualification, above reproach, is a summary that is defined by the virtues that follow. He writes, “In both of Paul’s qualification lists, he places the qualification ‘the husband of one wife’ immediately after ‘above reproach.’ So the first and foremost area in which an elder must be above reproach is in his marital and sexual life. … The phrase ‘the husband of one wife’ is meant to be a positive statement that expresses faithful, monogamous marriage. In English we would say, ‘faithful and true to one woman’ or ‘a one-woman man.’” Philip Ryken says Paul “wants the leaders of the church to be living examples of biblical marriage: one man and one woman in a love covenant for life.”

Just as an elder is to be an example of sexual integrity, so the call goes out to all Christians to “abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). This is true whether the Christian is married or single, male or female. Paul commands the whole congregation in Corinth to “flee from sexual immorality” and warns “every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Writing to the gathered church in Ephesus, Paul sets the standard so high as to demand, “Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3). If you are “sexually immoral or impure,” he says, you have “no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5). Writing again to an entire congregation, Paul calls such sexual immorality one of “the works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19).

Of course, as with all of these qualifications, we will not exemplify them perfectly so must always return to the good news of salvation and sanctification through Jesus Christ. Paul also says that even though some in the congregation had been “sexually immoral” and therefore had no inheritance in the kingdom of God, he goes on to rejoice, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). He reminds them that their sexual sin is related to the old man and its evil ways, not the new man and its righteous ways. Still, the call to sexual purity is among the most prominent and repeated commands in the New Testament.

Thus this qualification is a call to devotion—devotion first to God and then to a God-given spouse. It is a call away from adultery to be sure, but also from a wandering heart, wandering eyes, or wandering hands. It is a call on each one of us to be pure and chaste, to be exemplary in character and conduct whether in marriage or singleness. It is a call for the married to pursue and enjoy the sexual relationship with their spouse and a call for the unmarried to willingly submit their sexuality to the will and the care of their loving God.

Self-Evaluation

To strengthen your fight against sexual immorality and your striving toward sexual purity, I encourage you to evaluate yourself in light of questions like these:

  • Even though you are imperfect, can you stand before the Lord and honestly say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)?
  • Are there any sexual sins you have committed that you need to confess and repent of? Are there any sins you have been hiding that you need to expose? (Psalm 32:3-7)
  • Are there certain settings or contexts where you are especially prone to sexual failure? What precautions have you taken to avoid these settings? Are there radical actions that you still need to take? (Matthew 5:27-30)
  • Does your marriage serve as an example of God’s design and ideal for marriage? Are you in love with your spouse? Do you regularly pursue sexual union with your spouse? (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
  • Do you regularly indulge in entertainment that displays explicit nudity or sexuality or that debases God’s design and purpose for sexuality? Or do you willingly abstain from every form of evil and refuse to make light of it? (1 Thessalonians 5:22; Ephesians 5:3)

Prayer Points

If we are to gain sexual purity, to maintain it, and to increase in it we must pray. Let me encourage you to pray in these ways:

  • I pray that you would give me the desire and the wisdom to guard my heart from all forms of sexual immorality. I pray that I would be quick to confess and turn from all known sexual sin. [Consider praying through Proverbs 6:23-35.]
  • Men: I pray that I would regard older women as mothers and younger women as sisters, in all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
  • Women: I pray that I would regard older men as fathers and younger men as brothers, in all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
  • I pray that you would purify my heart so that the sin of adultery—expressed even in lustful thoughts and glances—would lose all of its power over me. (Matthew 5:27-30) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
  • I pray that I would not become despondent when I sin. Please let me take comfort in the knowledge that when I confess my sins, you are faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Next week we will bundle together three qualifications: “sober-minded, self-controlled, and respectable.”

January 28, 2016

To this point, we have had a good week with Kindle deals. There’s nothing new today, but I expect there will be some tomorrow. What a blessing that we can build a library $1.99 at a time. We are spoiled!

Our Prayer Instincts Are Backwards

“Approaching the Queenstown airport in mid-winter—with mountain ranges on both sides and a huge lake straight ahead—we were caught in a giant wind tunnel. The plane was shuddering and sporadically dropping 50 feet at a time. The cabin filled with shrieking and praying. Many people were crying out to a God in whom they did not believe. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there certainly aren’t many on buffeted flights.”

Plastic Bags Are Amazing

Just think about it: Plastic bags are actually an amazing feat of engineering. “Just look at the numbers: Plastic grocery bags cost pennies to make and hold more than a thousand times their weight. They’re light. They’re waterproof.” They’re amazing.

Good Governance over Good Theology

I would imagine you’ll either love or hate this article: “Goodness and faithfulness are important, but no substitute for competence. Believers and nonbelievers alike should choose the best candidate, not the best Christian, for president.”

I Can’t Be Good Much Longer

This article was a joy to read.

This Day in 1907. 109 years ago today, John Paton died. Paton was a missionary to the New Hebrides and had endured much heartache, including both persecution and the death of his wife and his son on the mission field. *

The Wreck of Amtrak 188

What caused the worst American rail disaster in decades? This article explains.

What If You Only Drank Soda?

It turns out your mom was right all along. And I feel very virtuous for drinking only club soda. 

An Update on Pastor Saeed

Here’s a sad and disturbing update on pastor Saeed written by his wife Naghmeh.

High-Resolution Daily Quote Graphics

Do you enjoy these daily A La Carte graphics? If so, you can now download them in high-resolution. They are free to share or display however you see fit (except for selling them). Click here to get started.

And finally, here is today’s quote graphic:

Medders

A profession of faith without progress in the faith in a dead faith. —J.A. Medders