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

Tim Challies

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May 12, 2015

The new second edition of my book The Next Story on sale today only for just $1.99. It’s unlikely to ever be cheaper!. Other Kindle deals include: The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper ($2.99); Jesus and the Gospels by Craig Blomberg ($4.99); The Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis ($1.99). Then there are a few Warren Wiersbe books: Be Mature (James); Be Joyful (Philippians); Study Guides for Leviticus, 2 Samuel & 1 Chronicles, Ezekiel, the Minor Prophets.

Engagement Announcement - Nancy Leigh DeMoss is getting married! She shared the happy announcement yesterday morning.

The Five Best Years In Christian Music History - I’m inclined to agree with Stephen Altrogge: “I think 1995 – 2000 may have been the greatest five years in Christian rock history.”

Mix in Some Off-Speed Pitches - This is good preaching advice from Erik Raymond.

America’s $70 Billion Shame - People spent more money playing the lottery last year than on books, video games, and tickets for movies and sporting events combined.

Two Days in Dubai - Here’s an amazing collection of photos from Dubai (with a few of Abu Dhabi).

How Do I Know I’m a Christian? - Kevin DeYoung provides an answer for a question people keep asking.

Who Wrote the Gospels? - This is a very logical and common-sense answer to the question of who wrote the gospels.

It is not the doctrine of justification that does my heart good, it is Christ, the justifier. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

 

May 11, 2015

I suppose we all know that as Christians we are meant to grow up, to mature. We begin as infants in the faith and need to develop into adults. The New Testament writers insist that we must all make this transition from milk to meat, from the children’s table to the grown-up’s feast. And yet even though we are aware that we must go through this maturing process, many of us are prone to measure maturity in the wrong ways. We are easily fooled. This is especially true, I think, in a tradition like the Reformed one which (rightly) places a heavy emphasis on learning and on the facts of the faith.

When Paul writes to Timothy, he talks to him about the nature and purpose of the Bible and says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That word complete is related to maturity. Paul says that Timothy, and by extension me and you and all of us, is incomplete, unfinished, and immature. The Bible is the means God uses to complete us, to finish us, to bring us to maturity.

But what does it mean to be a mature Christian? I think we tend to believe that mature Christians are the ones who know a lot of facts about the Bible. Mature Christians are the ones who have their theology down cold. But look what Paul says: “That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Paul does not say, “That the man of God may be complete, knowing the books of the Bible in reverse order,” or “That the man of God may be complete, able to explain and define supralapsarianism against infralapsarianism.” He does not say, “That the man of God may be complete, able to provide a structural outline of each of Paul’s epistles.” Those are all good things, but they are not Paul’s emphasis. They may be signs of maturity, but they may also be masks that cover up immaturity.

When Paul talks about completion and maturity, he points to actions, to deeds, to “every good work.” The Bible has the power to mature us, and as we commit ourselves to reading, understanding, and obeying it, we necessarily grow up in the faith. That maturity is displayed in the good works we do more than in the knowledge we recite. And this is exactly what God wants for us—he wants us to be mature and maturing doers of good who delight to do good for others. This emphasis on good deeds is a significant theme in the New Testament (see Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:14, etc) and the very reason why God saved us.

This means that spiritual maturity is better displayed in acts than in facts. You can know everything there is to know about theology, you can be a walking systematic theology, you can spend a lifetime training others in seminary, and still be desperately immature. You will remain immature if that knowledge you accumulate does not motivate you to do good for others. The mature Christians are the ones who glorify God by doing good for others, who externalize their knowledge in good deeds.

Of course facts and acts are not entirely unrelated, so this is not a call to grow lax in reading, studying, and understanding the Bible. Not at all! The more you know of the Bible the more it can teach, reprove, correct and train you, and in that way shape your actions and cause you to do the best deeds in the best way for the best reason. More knowledge of God through his Word ought to lead to more and better service to others.

But in the final analysis, Christ lived and died so he could “redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Knowledge of God and his Word is good. Knowledge of God and his Word that works itself out in doing what benefits others—there is nothing that glorifies God more than that.

Image credit: Shutterstock

May 11, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals: Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen ($5.99); Spectacular Sins by John Piper ($2.99); Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore ($3.99); Whiter Than Snow by Paul Tripp ($3.99); Walking in the Spirit by Kenneth Berding ($2.99); Why I Am a Christian by John Stott ($1.99); Zondervan will have some good Kindle deals all week long. Today’s deal is the excellent Seeking Allah Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi ($2.99).

Making Meetings Effective - Here’s some simple advice for making church-based meetings effective. Because we’ve all been in too many meetings where too little actually gets done.

A Critique of Family Driven Faith - Jerry Wragg and Todd Murray have written a helpful critique of Voddie Baucham’s Family Driven Faith, and with it the Family Integrated Church movement (part 1part 2, part 3).

25 Things Yankees Should Know When Moving to the South - I enjoyed this list from Barnabas Piper.

Masculinity Crisis - “Porn and video game addiction are leading to ‘masculinity crisis’, says Stanford prison experiment psychologist.” I don’t agree with all he says, but the basic premise is interesting (and unsurprising).

If You See Something Say Something - “Ask religion journalists which they’ve encountered more: false witnesses and discord-sowers, or people with firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing who stay silent.”

Painless Parker - This is a fun little bit of history: Painless Parker, the celebrity dentist. Yes, dentist.

There is a difference between a well-instructed congregation and a well-nourished one. —Sinclair Ferguson

Ferguson

 

May 10, 2015

Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth is a book I have read and re-read, and one I intend to read again in the very near future. As I flipped through it today I came across the fascinating account of her conversion. 

While still at L’Abri, I had once accosted another student, demanding that he explain why he had converted to Christianity. A pale, thin young man with a strong South African accent, he responded simply, “They shot down all my arguments.”

I continued gazing at him somewhat quizzically, expecting something more, well, dramatic. “It’s not always a big emotional experience, you know,” he said with an apologetic smile. “I just came to see that a better case could be made for Christianity than for any of the other ideas I came here with.” It was the first time I had encountered someone whose conversion had been strictly intellectual, and little did I know at the time that my own conversion would be similar.

Back in the States, as I tested out Schaeffer’s ideas in the classroom, I was also reading works by C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Os Guinness, James Sire, and other apologists. But inwardly, I also had a young person’s hunger for reality, and one day I picked up David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade. Now, here was a story exciting enough to suit anyone’s taste for the dramatic—stories of Christians braving the slums and witnessing supernatural healings from drug addiction. Fired up with the hope that maybe God would do something equally spectacular in my own life, that night I begged Him, if He was real, to perform some supernatural sign for me—promising that if He did, I would believe in Him. Thinking that maybe this sort of thing worked better with an aggressive approach, I vowed to stay up all night until He gave me a sign.

Midnight passed, then one o’clock, two o’clock, four o’clock … my eyes were close in spite of myself, and still no spectacular sign had appeared. Finally, rather chagrined about engaging in such theatrics, I abandoned the vigil. And as I did, suddenly I found myself speaking to God simply and directly from the depths of my spirit, with a profound sense of His presence. I acknowledged that I did not really need external signs and wonders because, in my heart of hearts, I had to admit (rather ruefully) that I was already convinced that Christianity was true. Through the discussions at L’Abri and my readings in apologetics, I had come to realize there were good and sufficient arguments against moral relativism, physical determinism, epistemological subjectivism, and a host of other isms I had been carrying around in my head. As my South African friend had put it, all my own ideas had been shot down. The only step that remained was to acknowledge that I had been persuaded—and then give my life to the Lord of Truth.

So, at about four-thirty that morning, I quietly admitted that God had won the argument.

May 09, 2015

Here are a few new Kindle deals: Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson ($1.99); Forever Mom by Mary Ostyn ($1.99); Think Big by Ben Carson ($1.99).

Douglas Wilson takes on N.T. Wright in an article titled And All God’s People Said, “Wut?”

Jared Wilson has penned An Open Letter to Tom Brady. “I’m writing this not as a BradyHater™, but as a full-on fanboy. You are my favorite sportsman ever — in any game, from any era.”

Here’s a sweet letter from a mom to the birth mothers of her children: Dear Birthmother.

Todd Billings says God Is Bigger Than My Cancer. “There’s no doubt about the diagnosis,” the doctor said. Incurable cancer. A fatal disease. I had just celebrated my tenth anniversary with my wife, and we were busy raising our children, aged 1 and 3.

Joe Thorn has a little mini-series of posts on what small churches can do: Part one and part two.

Thanks to Matthias Media for sponsoring the blog this week with Two Ways to Grow a Disciple-Making Culture in Your Church.

There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him. —William Law

Law

 

May 08, 2015

It is time for a new Free Stuff Fridays and this week’s giveaway is sponsored by Rare Document Traders. There will be 3 winners this week: The grand prize winner will receive a sermon manuscript page from a Charles Spurgeon sermon, while two other winners will receive a letterpress print of the five solas.

The grand prize is a sermon manuscript page from a Charles Spurgeon sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Sunday, May 5, 1889. The page was heavily amended by the Prince of preachers himself before the sermon went to the printers. It comes with a printed page giving the sermon text itself and title, a picture suitable for framing and a certificate of validation and authenticity from Spurgeon’s College in London (see an example).

I recently purchased one of these myself as a gift, so can attest that it’s genuine. It will look something like this: 

Rare Doc Print

Two other winners will receive a Letterpress 8×10 Print of the Five Solas.  This specialty piece was printed the old-fashioned way with an original 1960′s Heidelberg printing press.  Letterpress is the oldest form of printing. It is an entirely hands-on process which requires a lot of time and careful craftsmanship. The method used for letterpress printing leaves an impression on the paper which can be seen as well as felt and has slight variations from piece to piece because of its manual nature.

5 Solas

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.

May 08, 2015

I am not a crier. I’m the kind of person who naturally keeps that stiff upper lip, and there isn’t much that causes my emotions to ride too high or to sink too low. It’s probably the Canadian in me. And yet there is this one thing I do on a regular basis that almost always overwhelms me with a deep sadness. If it doesn’t actually bring me to tears, it brings me awfully close.

A few months ago I downloaded an app called Carousel; this app pokes through all the thousands of photographs I keep on my computer and once a week it packages up a collection of highlights from this week in years past. My phone buzzes, I open up the app, and suddenly I am staring into the past. And it just about breaks my heart every time.

This week there is a photo of my son that was taken on May 11, 2008. He is wearing his brand-new Athletics jersey, ready for another season of little league baseball. He is making a goofy face, masking his discomfort in front of a camera by hamming it up. He looks so young. So young! He was 8 back then, but is 15 today. What happened? Where did the 7 years ago?

The next photo goes back 10 years to 2005, and my daughter is at a princess party, looking so tiny and looking as cute as a button. She was 3 then, and is 12 (going on 19) today. How is that even possible?

Princess Party

And then, right between the two, is May 4, 2006. My two oldest children are in our living room, meeting their little sister for the very first time. Could that really have been 9 years ago? 9 years! 3,285 days!

Meeting

There are thousands of these photos, each one a little link to days gone by and to time that has already passed. While there is joy in looking at those old shots and losing myself in memories, there is also a deep sadness. Why? Because every photo looks like an opportunity lost. Wasn’t it just yesterday that the kids were toddling around, barely able to walk? Wasn’t it just last summer that they ran in circles outside trying desperately to get some dollar-store kites to soar into the air. No, according to the timestamp on the photos that was in 2008. I will never see those 7 years again. They are gone. And what did I do with them? How did I love and serve my children with them? Where did all that time disappear to? Why wasn’t I outside with them, trying to get those kites in the air instead of just snapping a few photos of the action?

This is the tragedy of time. Time is one of the few resources in this world that is given in finite measure. I can always make more money—I just need to work harder or work longer or invest better, and more money will come. But there is not a single thing I can do to gain more time. It ticks by and is gone forever. Every one of those photos shows a moment that has come and gone and will never be repeated. Every one of those photos shows opportunities taken, but also opportunities lost. When I stare into the past I am faced to grapple with all the things I have done and all the things I have left undone. It is nearly impossible to look at those photos and not feel the sorrow of failure.

And yet I know that the photos are just a few snapshots of a few moments, and that our lives are much more than these pictures. They captured some moments, but not the most important moments. No one took photos of me reading Bible stories to the children. No one took photos of Aileen cuddling the girls while talking about life and eternity. No one took photos of our family sitting together in church, singing together, praying together. We don’t have a single picture of the family devotions we do just about every day. No one took photos of my son when he suddenly came to the realization that Christ had died for his sins. These photos record reality, but only the smallest sliver of it. Few of life’s most important moments can be so easily captured.

Note: Watch picture courtesy Shutterstock