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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

June 20, 2014

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve received boxes of them and, in sorting through the pile, some have risen to the top.

Growing Up Gods WayGrowing Up God’s Way for Girls and Growing Up God’s Way for Boys by Cris Richards and Liz Jones. “Growing up God’s way is a colourful, fully illustrated book available as separate versions for boys and girls. It is intended for children approaching or experiencing puberty, typically represented by the 10-14 years old age range. The artwork haas been specially produced for the book and includes accurate biological drawings as well as cartoon illustrations to keep the young reader interested. Most importantly of all, the Bible is the constant reference point, so that what the Bible has to say about the matters dealt with is always front and center. The result is that this book conveys essential biblical ethical teaching as well as the facts about puberty.” (Amazon: For Boys, For Girls)

Christopher Ash JobJob by Christopher Ash. “Life can be hard, and sometimes it seems like God doesn’t even care. When faced with difficult trials, many people have resonated with the book of Job—the story of a man who lost nearly everything, seemingly abandoned by God. In this thorough and accessible commentary, Christopher Ash helps us glean encouragement from God’s Word by directing our attention to the final explanation and ultimate resolution of Job’s story: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Intended to equip pastors to preach Job’s important message, this commentary highlights God’s grace and wisdom in the midst of redemptive suffering. Taking a staggeringly honest look at our broken world and the trials that we often face, Ash helps us see God’s sovereign purposes for adversity and the wonderful hope that Christians have in Christ.” (Amazon, Westminster Books)

My FaultIs It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb. “Is It My Fault? is a message of hope and healing to victims who know too well the depths of destruction and the overwhelming reality of domestic violence. At least one in every three women have been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in their lifetime. The effects of domestic violence are physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual, and can have long-lasting distressing consequences. It is common for victims of domestic violence to suffer from ongoing depression and recurring nightmares, self-harm, panic attacks, substance abuse, and more. Is It My Fault? addresses the abysmal issue of domestic violence with the powerful and transforming biblical message of grace and redemption. It deals with this devastating problem and sin honestly and directly without hiding its prevalence today.” (Amazon)

June 20, 2014

It has been a great week for Kindle deals, and it keeps getting better: Redeeming Science by Vern Poythress ($0.99); Interpreting the Pauline Epistles by Thomas Schreiner ($4.99); Taking Christian Moral Thought Seriously by Evans & Heimbach ($0.99); Faithful to the End by Terry Wilder, etc ($4.99); Evangelicals and Nicene Faith by Timothy George ($3.99).

What If She Lives With Us Forever? - “Call me crazy, but one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when my daughter was born with Down syndrome was, ‘Will she live with us forever?’” This is a sweet article about love and disability. But mostly love.

Before You Watch Game of Thrones - Here, from John Piper, are some questions to ask before watching Game of Thrones

How the Mormons Conquered America - There’s not a lot of new information here, but it’s still an informative look at Mormonism.

Is the Pope the Antichrist? - J.V. Fesko takes this one on over at the Crossway blog.

Mommy Guilt and the Cross - “Is there a mother out there that doesn’t feel guilty about her mothering?” If there is, I don’t think I’ve met her.

Clarity on Sanctification - Todd Pruitt shares some of what Derek Thomas has taught on the suddenly hot subject of sanctification.

The severest self-denials and the most lavish gifts are of no value in God’s esteem unless they are prompted by love. —A.W. Pink 

Pink

June 19, 2014

It is going to take time—decades at least—before we are able to accurately tally the cost of our cultural addiction to pornography. But as Christians we know what it means to tamper with God’s clear and unambiguous design for sexuality: The cost will be high. It must be high.

We all know the cost will be high in fractured families and heartbroken parents, husbands and wives. Already we are seeing far too many of these and each one is its own tragedy. We know the cost will be high in the countless thousands of women who are used and abused in front of cameras so they can be violated for other people’s pleasure. That is a sickening tragedy as well. But an overlooked cost, and one that will only become clear in time, is that porn is stealing the best years from a million young Christian men and women. Porn is dominating their lives during their teens and twenties. It is controlling their lives during those years when energy is high and responsibility is low, when the world lies open before them and the possibilities are endless, when they are charting the trajectories for the rest of their lives. Their dreams and their abilities are being hampered and squelched by a reckless commitment to sin.

So many young Christians have stunted their spiritual growth through what I call pornolesence. Pornolescence is that period when a person is old enough and mature enough to know that pornography is wrong and that it exacts a heavy price, but too immature or too apathetic to do anything about it. Pornolescence is that period where he feels the guilt of his sin, but still enjoys it too much to give it up. He may make the occasional plea for help, or install Covenant Eyes (but keep a workaround for when he’s really burning up), or ask for an accountability partner. But he doesn’t really want to stop. Not yet. She may phone a friend on occasion or plan to speak to one of the older women in the church, but in the end her internal shame weighs heavier than her desire for holiness. So she continues on, night after night.

This is pornolesence, that period between seeing the sin for what it is and actually putting it to death, that period between the deep soul conviction of immorality and the stubborn commitment to purity. For some people it lasts days, but for many more it lasts for years. A lot of young people—too many young people—are growing up too slowly today. Their sexual awakening is coming far too early and amidst all the wrong circumstances, and it is delaying every other kind of awakening and maturing. It is especially delaying their spiritual maturation.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 makes it as clear as day: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” A Christian’s growth in holiness and his development in Christian maturity is directly and inextricably tied to sexual purity. A person cannot full-out pursue God while also full-out pursuing porn. It’s either/or, not both/and. God will not be mocked. God will not allow you to soar to spiritual mountain tops while you stoop in pornographic filth. God will not allow you to grow in Christian maturity while you wallow in your incessant pornolesence.

And I think time will prove that this is one of the gravest costs of pornography: It is stealing the best years from so many young Christians. It is stunting their spiritual growth and delaying their entrance into Christian ministry and service. These are the people who represent the future of the church—future elders, future deacons, future women’s ministry leaders, future youth leaders, future children’s workers, future mentors, future missionaries, future seminary professors, future defenders of the faith, future denominational heads, and on and on. But with each click, with each video, with each unblushing exposure to what God deems abhorrent, they choose to worship a god in place of the God. And all the while they delay their entrance into maturity, into leadership, into who and what God calls them to be.

If this is you, hear my plea: For the sake of Christ’s church, and out of love for Christ’s church, put that sin to death. Do it for Him, and do it for us.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

June 19, 2014

It’s a good day for Kindle deals. Here we go: Know the Heretics and Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb ($5.99); Visit the Sick, Prepare Them to Shepherd, and Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals by Brian Croft ($5.99); The Grand Weaver, Walking from East to West, and Who Made God? by Ravi Zacharias ($5.98); The Gospel According to Jesus and Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur ($5.98); Jesus In His Own Words by Robert Mounce ($0.99); How Sermons Work by David Murray ($4.39); Faithful to the End by Terry Wilder ($4.99); Hipster Christianity by Brett McCracken ($1.99); Mary-Another Redeemer? by James White ($1.99).

Daddy, Does God Want To Save Me? - David Murray: “Did you hesitate? Even for a second? Then you have a warped Calvinism. And there’s lots of it around.”

Thoughts on Visiting - Jeremy Walker offers some thoughts on hospital visits.

I Love a Man - The angle on this one may be a bit overdone (“I’m Southern Baptist and Love a Man”), but the article is good and deals with male Christian friendship.

False Security - Don’t let false security dupe you!

Baptizing the Dora Generation - Christianity Today writes about Southern Baptists and toddler baptisms. “While the number of baptisms is down for most age groups, ‘the only consistently growing group in baptisms is age five and under,’ the task force reported.” (Here is something I’ve written on age of baptism.)

Jesus vs. the World - Here’s a good comic from Adam4D.

Profanity is the use of strong words by weak people. —William A. Ward

Ward

June 18, 2014

Mariano Rivera has never been one of my favorite people. After all, for many years he was a fixture for the New York Yankees, divisional rivals of my own Toronto Blue Jays. When a game came to the final inning and the Jays were down by a run or two, Rivera would jog onto the field and shut it down. Once he came onto the field, the outcome was rarely in doubt.

But he has retired now, and I like him a lot better. No sooner did he retire than he got to work penning his memoir, The Closer. It’s quite a story. Born in abject poverty in Panama, Rivera grew up in, on and around fishing boats, working with his father to scrape together a living. When the tides were out, he and his friends would play baseball on the beach, improvising the equipment they needed: wadded up fishing nets for balls, rocks for bases, tree branches for bats, and milk cartons for gloves. It was an unlikely start to one of the great baseball careers.

When he was in his late teens, Rivera began playing shortstop for a nearby amateur baseball team. One day the pitcher played so badly that Rivera was asked to take over for a couple of innings. The results were so impressive that friends contacted a scout for the New York Yankees. Rivera gained a try-out, then a minor league contract. And the rest, as they say, is history. He went on to become the most dominant closer in the history of the game, earning 652 saves in the biggest baseball market in the world. He was an All-Star 13 times, won 5 World Series, and was once the World Series MVP. He had a storybook career and through it became world famous and fantastically wealthy, with his earnings topping $150 million. He has come a long way from that fishing boat in Panama.

But there is more to his story than baseball. In his early twenties Rivera was exposed to the gospel and became a Christian—an unashamedly outspoken Christian. While the book describes his life, it also describes his faith and, to borrow a sport’s metaphor, he leaves it all on the field. He tells how important his faith has been, how it has sustained him, and how the Bible has given him guidance throughout his life.

The Bible can’t tell you the story of my walk with the Lord, but it can tell you everything about how I try to live, and why the love of the Lord is the foundation of my whole life. For me, the Bible is not just the word of God, but a life road map that is packed with wisdom that you cannot beat even if you spent the next hundred years reading spiritual books and self-help books. It is the best kind of wisdom: Simple wisdom. This sort of wisdom, from the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, verse twelve: Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

When it comes to his faith, Rivera describes just what he believes and why he believes it. While it becomes clear that he loves the Lord, it also becomes clear that he is not a theologian. Unfortunately, a few of the things he says are unclear or confusing and probably owe more to Pentecostalism than to the historic Christian faith. And yet, again, it is clear that he is passionate about the Lord and the spread of the gospel. In the aftermath of his storied career he has both moved on and stayed just the same. “For the last nineteen seasons, the Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to play professional baseball for the New York Yankees. My job was to save games, and I loved every part of it. Now I have a new job—probably better described as a calling—and that is to glorify the Lord and praise His name, and show the wonders that await those who seek Him and want to experience His grace and peace and mercy.” To do this, he and his wife have co-founded a church where they serve as pastors.

As is the case with most sports memoirs, this one is dominated by descriptions of games and plays. Those who love sports, and who love the Yankees in particular, will find it riveting. Those who are a little less enthusiastic about sports may find themselves skimming over certain sections. And if you’re like me, you may find yourself silently finding yourself hoping he’ll lose the games, just because he’s pitching for New York. In any case, Rivera’s story is a good one and well worth reading.

June 18, 2014

Here are your Kindle deals du jour: Life in Christ by Jeremy Walker ($0.99); A Portrait of Paul by Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker ($2.99); A Better Way by Michael Horton ($3.03). Zondervan has discounted 4 volumes of John Wesley’s writings ($3.99 each): Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4. Also check out Westminster Books’ sales for this week as there are a few good deals there.

Amazon’s Massive Wish-Fulfilling Machine - This is a fascinating look inside one of Amazon’s massive fulfillment centers.

How My Son with Autism Transformed my Business - Christianity Today has a guest post by Randy Lewis about Walgreen’s new initiative to employ people with disabilities.

Terrifying Ads - Check out these creepy (but effective) ads meant to warn parents about online dangers.

When It’s Time to Leave a Church - H.B. Charles Jr. offers a red light, green light, yellow light approach to leaving a church.

Questions for Christians Who Support Gay Marriage - Kevin DeYoung has 5 questions for Christians who support gay marriage. Each is worth considering.

If you are drawn into a controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words. –C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

June 17, 2014

I trust God with my soul. I do. I have no other hope in life and death but the confidence that I am in Christ for all eternity. I trust God with my soul, but for some reason have a much tougher time trusting him with the souls of my kids. I wonder if you can identify with the struggle.

I am convinced that God saved me by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I did nothing to merit this salvation. There is nothing in me that turned God’s eye in my direction. There is no vestige of goodness that compelled him to look my way. I was not seeking him when he began seeking me. It was all of his grace without even the smallest bit of my merit. I added nothing to my salvation but the sin that made it necessary.

I believe all this about myself, but somehow find it more difficult to believe when it comes to my children. Now it’s not quite as simple as you might think: I have seen enough of my kids to know that they suffer from the same total depravity as their father. I know they have no merit to bring before the Lord. No, my problem is deeper than that, and a little more difficult to root out.

When it comes to my kids, I seem to want to believe that God’s action is dependent upon my action. I believe that for God to save my kids, I first need to do the right things. If I want God to save them, I need to cross the spiritual t’s and dot the spiritual i’s. And if I don’t, well, their salvation may just be questionable. When it comes to their eternal destiny, it’s like he isn’t looking to their good deeds, but to mine, as if they will be justified by my merit or condemned by my lack of merit.

I don’t actually articulate this, but I see it trying to manifest itself in my life.

I see it when family devotions subtly switch from a time of worshipping God to a means of twisting God’s arm: If I do family devotions every day, will you save them then? Or perhaps more clearly: If I don’t do it for a couple of days, are they still savable?

I see it when my decisions come from a place of fear rather than a place of confidence and when I determine that what is best for the kids must be what looks safest for them: If I choose this school or that league, could that somehow remove them from your grace? Will it all be my fault?