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

Tim Challies

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November 15, 2014

I am in Norco, California for the day, speaking to college students here about a variety of topics—productivity, technology, and pornography. By tomorrow afternoon I’ll be back on home turf and back to much better weather—cold and snowy!

Here are a few Kindle deals to close out your week: 60 People Who Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky ($0.99); Grounded in the Gospel by J.I. Packer ($2.51); Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton ($3.99); God’s Love and The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul ($3.03 each).

If you ever enjoyed Garth Brooks’ music, you might enjoy this attempt to understand his appeal and his place in country music.

Read and bookmark Six Truths About Sickness. It’s one to hold onto for a rainy day.

Here are 3 Disciplines to Develop Wise Speech. “You want to speak words that deliver, delight, gladden, and heal. You’d like to be able to defuse, persuade, inspire, and influence…”

Thanks go Logos for sponsoring the blog this week; sponsors like them make this blog possible.

Scott Sauls has quite an interesting article about abortion: Reflections Following My Conversation With An Abortion Provider.

You will enjoy reading about The King Who Never Married.

A right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. —J.C. Ryle

Ryle

November 14, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff is sponsored by our good friends Christian Focus. They are offering 5 prize packages this week. Each of the 5 winners will receive all of the following books:

Pleased To DwellPleased to Dwell- A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation by Peter Mead. At the centre of heaven is Christ, lovingly adored as the forever Lord of all. At the centre of Christmas is Christ, frail and cradled in the tender arms of a young mother. How can the two be put together? Heavenly glory and human frailty? That is the real wonder of Christmas. Pleased to Dwell is an energetic biblical introduction to Christmas. It is an invitation to ponder the Incarnation, and a God who was please to dwell with us.

“This book is perfect food for the heart for all of us who long for a richer understanding of the birth of The King!”

—Joseph M. Stowell (President, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan)

The Christmas Story - The Bible Version by Carine Mackenzie. In the corner of a stable where the animals usually eat there is a baby in a blanket lying in a box. This baby is the Son of God who has been sent to save.

In this book you will find out who needs saving and how it is that this special Child will do it.

“What parent, Sunday School teacher or Pastor would not want a Christ-centered, Biblically faithful and understandable story written for children that is also well illustrated and well written? Now we have one.”

Harry L. Reeder (Pastor of Preaching & Leadership, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama)

BackchatBackchat - Answering Christianity’s Critics by Chris Sinkinson You wish you had an answer, now you do. Sinkinson tackles dodgy science and Christian urban myths whilst reminding us that Christians are not called to win arguments but hearts. Darwin’s death bed conversion - truth or myth? Is God a moral monster? Is this really the God particle? Is the Bible an immoral book? Who was Jesus?

“When Richard Dawkins came on my radio show, I immediately knew who I wanted him to debate it with… Sinkinson, I can think of none better to provide it.”

Justin Brierley (Journalist and host of Premier Radio ‘Unbelievable’ Show)

New Atheism - A Survival Guide by Graham Veale. This summary of the arguments that dominate the current scene of thought unravels the philosophies behind modern popular and academic culture. Veale, a high school teacher, uses these arguments to motivate readers to stop and to think about their own direction and purpose, and ultimately, through consideration of the crucial questions, to find the vital answers.

“This is a great wee book which is an excellent introduction to and summary of, the current controversy surrounding the New Atheism… Highly recommended!”

David Robertson (Pastor, St Peter’s Free Church of Scotland, Dundee & author of Magnificent Obsession and The Dawkins Letters)

STSystematic Theology Volume 1 - Grounded in Holy Scripture and Understood in Light of the Church by Douglas F. Kelly. “I have written this first volume, thinking of my heritage as both Reformed and Catholic; gladly appropriating crucial insights of the whole people of God over the last two thousand years - Eastern Orthodox, Western Catholic, and Reformation Protestant - as they sought to live out the foundational truths of the inspired Word of God.” Douglas F. Kelly

“Douglas F. Kelly is one of the English-speaking world’s leading Reformed theologians. Here we begin to enjoy the fruits of his labors. What a feast it is.”

Ligon Duncan (Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary)

Systematic Theology Volume 2 - The Beauty of Christ - a Trinitarian Vision by Douglas F. Kelly. Douglas F. Kelly returns to the writings of saints and scholars to exemplify the beauty and the wonder of Christ, the Son of God, in this highly-anticipated second volume of systematic theology. Kelly delves through a treasure trove of Patristics, Scholastics, Reformers, Puritans, and Moderns to recover an Augustinian reverence for the beauty of Christ, to illustrate that the Father and the Spirit are most fully revealed through Him, and to make clear that His coming is the restoration of the universe.

“A joy to witness… a model to which others should aspire.”

(Carl R. Trueman ~ Paul Woolley Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Enter to Win

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.

November 14, 2014

4 Dangers for Complementarians - Gavin Ortlund outlines 4 dangers complementarians need to face. “I don’t think it’s a sign of compromise to listen to some of their critiques. After all, some of the problems they are reacting against are real.”

Christmas Is for Sharing - It may be only a commercial, but it’s a powerful one based on a historical event.

Having Water from God for Others - A great little glimpse of the life of John Stam.

Know Your Steaks - Here’s a short video to explain what you’re eating.

Why Pastors Receive Housing Tax Exemptions - Joe Carter looks back a few years to see why pastors receive a tax exemption for housing.

How A Wound Heals - This video is just about at the right level for me. Now I (kind of) understand how a wound heals itself.

Asking Forgiveness From a Prostitute - Ed Welch: “It seems obvious, but I have never suggested it: if a man has been with a prostitute, it is right for him to ask her forgiveness. Consider this story.”

Let us humbly sit at our Lord’s feet to receive rebuke or instruction as he sees fit. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

November 13, 2014

It’s a battle we all must fight. It’s a battle we all must fight from this moment until the moment we die. It’s a battle fraught with discouragement and setbacks, yet a battle we all can and must win. It’s the battle against sin.

All throughout the New Testament we are told to put our sin to death. For example, in Colossians 3 Paul says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” How do you do that? How do you stop a sin, and how do you stop an especially stubborn and deep-rooted sin? Is there any hope? I want to track with John Owen here (via his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation) and give a list of 9 things you need to do to overcome sin. Consider that sin that is prevalent in your life and then consider each of these 9 steps.

#1. Evaluate

Evaluate whether your sin is especially serious and deep-rooted. You have heard it said that “all sin is the same,” and there is a sense in which this is true—every single sin alienates you from God. However, some sins are more serious than others because they bring more serious consequences. The most serious sins are the ones that have gone so deep that they are now habitual; your subconscious habits now lead you to sin again and again. Consider your sin. Is it manifested in your habits? Do you sin almost an auto-pilot? Is it easier to sin than to do what is right? If it is, your sin is especially deep and you will need an extra measure of God’s help to battle it and overcome it.

#2. Fill

Fill your mind and conscience with the guilt, the weight, and the evil of your sin. Sin always tries to convince you that it isn’t very serious and that it is not worth worrying about. “Come on. Others have sinned worse. This is just a little sin. You deserve this.” But God wants you to know that your sin is eternally serious and absolutely worth worrying about. You need to consider just how dangerous your sin is, how it dishonors God, how it calls upon God to discipline you, how it makes you less useful in the Lord’s work, and even how it may show that you are not saved at all. Let that sin sit heavy in your mind and soul. Never succumb to the temptation to minimize it.

#3. Load

Load your conscience with the guilt of your sin. Compare your sin to God’s law, to what he demands of you and promises you can have if only you take hold of righteousness. Feel the guilt that you have incurred. Consider how patient and kind God has been with you in allowing you to go on without striking you down for your sin. Consider all the ways he has been gracious to you. Look to the gospel, not for forgiveness yet, but for the ultimate picture of the cost of your sin. See Christ suffering for your sin and don’t turn away your gaze. Feel all of that. Feel the weight, the guilt of it.

#4. Long

Long for deliverance from the sin. Now you are in the right frame of heart and frame of mind to desire deliverance from that sin. When you know and feel the weight of your sin, you will want to put that sin to death for the best reasons. You will no longer hate that sin merely out of fear of consequences or fear of shame or embarrassment. Now you will rightly see the cost and guilt of your sin, and you will long to be delivered from it so God can be glorified in you. Long for it. Pant for it. Cry out for it. 

#5. Consider

Consider how this sin is amplified by your nature or constitution. You need to consider whether there is something in your makeup that makes you especially prone to this sin. Some people come from whole families of alcoholics and it may be that there is some kind of predisposition to addiction within them. Or perhaps you were sinned against earlier in life and the sins that were committed against you seem to make you especially prone to a sin of your own. Though these things may be true, you cannot allow them to excuse your sin. Instead, allow them to further convince you of your weakness and your desperate need for God’s strength. Being predisposed toward a certain sin puts the burden on you to fight even harder against it, to destroy it even more completely, and to be especially vigilant in watching out for its reappearance.

#6. Contemplate

Contemplate the occasions in which this sin breaks out and guard against them. Now think about the times when you fall into this sin. What are the occasions? What happens right before you sin? What are the habits or patterns that lead to it? Think about these things, know what you do before you actually commit the sin, and stop the downward spiral long before it gets to the point of sinning. You never commit a big sin without first sliding down a long and slippery slope of little sins. So consider those little sins, identify the patterns, and learn to stop the little sins.

#7. Battle

Battle hard against the first awakenings of that sin. Never, ever allow yourself to play with sin. Never think you will sin this far, but no farther. Do not toy with sin. Do not think you can control your sin and allow only so much of it. If you do that, sin will win every time. The very second you feel that sin awakening within you, slam it down with all your force and all your strength. Cry out to God in that very moment. Call for help from other Christians in that very moment. Sin is like water held back by a dam; the moment there is even a small crack in that dam, the weight of the water pushing against it will blow a hole right through it, and the entire structure will collapse. 

#8. Meditate

Meditate on God to see his glory and your desperate inability. Think about God. Read his Word and meditate on it. Especially search out the glory of God and think about the massive distance between you and him. Think of how great he is and how little you know of him. Humble yourself by thinking great thoughts of God. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble; if you want his grace in battling sin, humble yourself by considering God and by meeting with God. You cannot think high thoughts of God without being overwhelmed by sorrow for your sin and your sinfulness.

#9. Expect

Expect to hear God speak peace to your soul (but do not speak it to yourself until he does). As you do all of this, expect that God will help you put your sin to death, and expect that he will give you peace. You will feel peace because you will be at peace. But here’s an important thing to consider: Do not speak peace to yourself until God does. It is God who has the right to speak freedom and peace to your conscience, to your heart, to your mind. Let God speak it through his Word or through his people. When he does, listen. But do not speak it to yourself too soon or you will be deluding yourself, and will go straight back into your sin. Listen for God’s affirming voice and look for success. God is for you and loves to help you put your sin to death. It is his delight.

November 13, 2014

I dug up a handful of new Kindle deals today: The Great and Holy War by Philip Jenkins ($2.99); The Narnian by Alan Jacobs ($2.99); AfterLife by Hank Hanegraaff ($3.03); God Is a Warrior by Tremper Longman ($4.99). Every week Zondervan lets me choose one book to put on sale and this week I went with What’s Best Next by Matt Perman ($2.99).

Over-Pastoring, Under-Pastoring - “There are two common dangers in pastoral ministry and Paul is alert to both of them. They are what we might call over-pastoring and under-pastoring.”

Little Things Matter - Kim Shay directs some encouragement at young stay-at-home moms.

Divine Revision - Slate has an interesting article on why the Mormonism will eventually accept homosexuality.

Critiquing a Giant - Andy Naselli points to an example of a good way to critique a theological giant.

Your Best Hours - We get two hours a day when our minds are at their best. 

Should Couples Write Their Own Vows? - Russell Moore explains why couples should not write their own wedding vows. While I don’t completely agree, I appreciate the points he makes.

Sexual Orientation - Al Mohler writes about his change on the subject of sexual orientation; where he once denied the idea of sexual orientation, now he accepts it.

All whom the Father elects, Christ redeems; all whom Christ redeems, the Father adopts. —Ian McNaughton

McNaughton

November 12, 2014

Today I am continuing this series on Christians and productivity. I have said that productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God, and to this point I have suggested many different ways of doing that (You can see a series round-up at the bottom of this article). Our topic for this article is taming the email beast.

I think we all have a love-hate relationship with email. On the one hand email brings many good things—it delivers exciting news, encouragement from friends, and fun little notes from family members. It also has immense practical value—it delivers confirmation that the ticket order went through, or that the book we want is on sale. But, of course, there is a dark side as well—the endless spam, the email discussions that go on for far too long, the newsletters we didn’t sign up for, the chain letters promising bad luck if we don’t forward it to twenty more people. Email has become a mess of function and dysfunction. We need it, and yet we hate it.

Doing Email Badly

To better understand why so many of us do email so badly, let’s draw a comparison to a real-world object: your mailbox. Imagine if you treated your actual, physical mailbox like you treat your email. Here’s how it would go:

You walk outside to check your mail and reach into your mailbox. Sure enough, you’ve got some new mail. You take out one of your letters, open it up and begin to read it. You get about halfway through, realize it is not that interesting, stuff it back inside the envelope, and put it back in the mailbox. “I’ll deal with this one later.” You open the next letter and find that it is a little bit more interesting, but you do the same thing—stuff it back into the envelope and put it back inside the mailbox. Other mail you pull out and don’t even bother reading—it just goes straight back inside the mailbox. And sure enough, your mailbox is soon crammed full of a combination of hundreds of unopened and unread letters plus hundreds of opened and read or partially-read letters.

But it gets worse. You don’t just use your mailbox to receive and hold letters, but also to track your calendar items. You reach in deep and pull out a handful of papers with important dates and events written on them, including a few that have come and gone without you even noticing or remembering. And, of course, you also use your mailbox as a task list, so you’ve got all kinds of post-it notes in there with your to-do items scrawled all over them.

But we aren’t done yet. Even though you feel guilty and kind of sick every time you open your mailbox, you still find yourself checking your mail constantly. Fifty or sixty times a day you stop whatever else you are doing, you venture down the driveway, and reach your hand inside to see if there is anything new.

It is absurd, right? Your life would be total chaos. And yet that is exactly how most people treat their email. It is chaotic with no rules or procedures to control it. What do you need? You need a system.

Taming Your Email

We once again need to consider our foundational principle of organization: A home for everything, and like goes with like. On a high level, we now know that events, meetings and appointments belong in our calendar; tasks and projects belong in our task management software; and information belongs in our information management tool. That leaves email as the place for communication—communication and nothing else. Email is an abysmal task management tool and a woefully poor scheduling tool. It is tolerable only if we make it do the one that it does passably well: communications.

We can also use that principle of organization on a more granular level. Here it tells us that our email inbox is the place for unprocessed email and for nothing else. The inbox is not the proper home for archived email or for email that is awaiting our reply.

So let’s build a simple system that will allow you to tame your inbox. Your email system can be as simple or as complex as you want it, but the simplest method of all involves just three locations: A place to receive new email, a place to hold email you will reply to at a later time, and a place to hold email you need to keep for archive purposes. It really can be that simple.

The inbox is the place to receive email. No matter what email program you use, your inbox will be built-in and probably already full of email. You also need a place to temporarily hold email as it waits for your reply, so go ahead and create a folder or label called Reply. And then you need a place to hold email that you will be keeping for archive purposes. Most email programs already have this functionality as well. If your program does not, create a folder or label called Archive.

With our folders in place, let’s put together a workflow.

November 12, 2014

Here are a few new Kindle deals for you: The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays ($2.99); Christianity’s Dangerous Idea by Alister McGrath ($2.99); Did Eve Really Have an Extra Rib? by Ken Ham ($3.03); Connected by Erin Davis ($2.99); Breakout Churches by Thom Rainer ($4.27). If you are into popular-level commentaries, don’t forget yesterday’s list from Zondervan.

A Soldier’s Diary - What was it really like to fight in the Second World War? These diary excerpts give us some glimpses.

Hide or Seek - You may want to check out this book deal from Westminster Books. When a book is recommended by Tim Keller, Ed Welch, Scotty Smith, and Philip Ryken, it must be good!

Common Mythconceptions - You might enjoy this list of common myths.

MacArthur Q&A - John MacArthur recently did a Twitter Q&A. You can find some of the highlights here. A favorite: “What is the best way to deal with pride?” “Get your eyes off yourself and onto Christ. The gap between whatever you are and what he is is infinite.”

The Sorrow and Joy of Imputation - “It is difficult to understand the sorrow and amazement and agony of a holy being in having sin thus by imputation imposed upon Him.”

Is Bill Watterson Staging a Comeback? - I doubt it, but I hope so. Did you see his new comic? It’s a good one.

A Theology of Healing - Justin Taylor summarizes an interesting article at Christianity Today.

Though sin often brings immediate pleasure, it gives no lasting joy. —RC Sproul

Sproul

November 11, 2014

What is a man’s greatest challenge? Of all the virtues described in the Bible, which is the one that causes men the most pronounced struggle as they seek to exemplify it? Many will be tempted to look straight to sexual purity and the allure of sexual sin, but in his book A Man’s Greatest Challenge Dai Hankey looks at another virtue: Self-control. I am inclined to agree with him. I have often described self-control as “the lost virtue” and can think of no other book that deals with that virtue and nothing else. Here is what Hankey says:

The battle for self-control has been the greatest challenge of my life. The faces of the issues I have sought to gain control over may have changed over the years, but the roots have remained and the struggle has never subsided. Looking back, my deepest regrets have come from losing control in one way or another. And my greatest frustrations have come from believing that I’d finally conquered certain sins, only to find my self-control failing as I messed up once again.

Perhaps you can identify. Perhaps you have a history of blowing up in anger, or drinking to excess, or being unable and unwilling to look up from your mobile phone, or dedicating so much time and attention to online pornography. The specifics may change, but the heart of it is the same: a lack of self-control. Says Hankey, “I want to tell you that building a life of lasting self-control is possible, though it is a challenge that requires honesty, sweat, tears, humility and faith. I’m praying that the gospel truths in this book would change your life as you read it as much as they have changed mine as I’ve written it.”

A Man’s Greatest Challenge uses an extended metaphor to instruct the reader about self-control. The author looks to the Old Testament and the many kings who were instructed by God to build walls around their cities. These walls functioned like self-control functions in our lives, keeping the enemy at bay. When the walls fell or when the walls were untended, the enemy was quick to take advantage. King Solomon himself said, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Prov 25:28).

This metaphor extends through the book, and Hankey invests a great deal of effort in properly equipping the reader to understand self-control. There are no quick-fixes here. While the book is practical and provides clear and specific guidance on self-control, it first takes long looks at building a plan of action, understand the consequences of past sin, rightly putting sin to death, and laying a proper foundation through identifying with Christ. With these building blocks in place, he is finally able to instruct the reader in putting on the great virtue of self-control.

Written with winsome honesty and refreshing candor, this is a book that will benefit any man who chooses to read it.

A Man’s Greatest Challenge is available at Amazon or from The Good Book Company.