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

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April 20, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include Same-Sex Attraction by Ed Shaw ($2.99); The Measure of a Man by Gene Getz ($1.99); Jesus Behaving Badly by Mark Strauss ($2.99); The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton ($2.99). Crossway will send you the ebook of James Hamilton’s What Is Biblical Theology? if you fill out a short survey.

This week’s deals from Westminster Books are all books authored by women, headlined by Jen Wilkin’s new book None Like Him. Also, check out Seeing Christ in All of Scripture, a new book from the Westminster faculty that’s available for purchase or free download.

Reviews for Visual Theology are beginning to come in. Here’s one from David Steele.

Why We Need Anonymous, Plodding Church Planters

This is so good and so important. “Unfortunately, for us to plant the kinds of churches we need to plant the men who feel called to planting must change their expectations and their definition of ‘success.’ We cannot bear another generation of church planters who want to be the next big thing. Men hungry for acclaim will do nothing to make a dent in the number of people in our culture who do not know Jesus.” (Jared Wilson’s article Listen to the Little Guy Too is complementary.)

When Her House Was Scheduled for Demolition

I love to hear of the lives and faith of Christian brothers and sisters from far across the world.

Making Manuscripts

This video from Getty Museum shows what went into making a medieval mansucript. It is incredibly labor intensive!

Reformed Theology is Indigenous to African American Christianity

“No matter how you define it, the core tenets of Reformed theology are woven into the fabric of African American Christianity. The sovereignty of God over all of life, his special prerogative in issues of salvation, and the authority of the Bible are endemic to the black church tradition.”

Isolation from the Church Is Dangerous

I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen the pattern: First people isolate themselves from the church, then they begin to distance themselves from Christ.

This Day in 1718. 298 years ago today, David Brainerd, missionary to New England’s Native Americans, was born in Connecticut. *

Theological Primer: The Holy Spirit

Kevin DeYoung put together a 1,000-word primer on the Holy Spirit.

Secret Shame Of The Middle Class

Rod Dreher on the way we spend our money: “I think this must be an extraordinary thing, in terms of history: people who spend recklessly to give themselves the lives they think they deserve. If you think about it, though, our culture, which valorizes Authenticity, encourages this.”

A Response to Swaim’s “Stott Bowdlerized”

Since I linked to the original article it’s only fair that I link to the response from Eerdmans.

DeYoung

Make no mistake: to be at peace with your sin is to be at war with God. —Kevin DeYoung

Coming Soon: Visual Theology the Book
April 19, 2016

Today is the day! Today is the official launch day for my new book Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God. This book is the result of a collaboration between me, a writer, and Josh Byers, a graphic designer. We worked together to create a book that brings together two great media—words and infographics. Combining the power of each of them, we created a book that both describes and illustrates the truth about God and man.

Our purpose in creating Visual Theology is to provide a guide to the joy and privilege of Christian living, a systematic look at living in this world for the glory of God. We teach that living for God’s glory is a matter of Growing Close to Christ, Understanding the Work of Christ, Becoming Like Christ, and Living for Christ—the four major sections that comprise the book.

Order

Sections

As you progress through these four sections you will learn the centrality of the gospel in all of life, you will come to understand both the doctrine and the drama of the Bible, you will see the importance of putting sin to death and coming alive to righteousness, and you will come to see how the Christian faith transforms vocation, relationships, and stewardship. All the while you will see these truths illustrated through beautiful visuals.

Visual Theology is a work meant to celebrate and combine two complementary media—words and pictures. It is meant to combine them in a way that teaches and disciples Christians to better know, love, and serve the Lord. It is a book to read on your own, a book to enjoy with your family, a book to read with people you are discipling. It is a book to read, to observe, and to enjoy.

Order It

Visual Theology is available at all major book distributors, including:

Visual Theology

Wayne Grudem kindly penned a foreword to the book, and here is what he says about it:

Visual Theology is a delightful read. It combines wise knowledge of sound theology with a readable, inviting style and frequent perceptive insights into practical Christian living. Tim Challies and Josh Byers repeatedly tie their discussion to relevant Scripture passages and then provide a healthy and balanced application to the Christian life.

Another strength of this book is that it takes sin seriously, an emphasis that is sadly lacking in some evangelical writing and preaching today. This book describes practical steps for progressively overcoming sinful habits and patterns in the daily lives of Christians, something that is essential if we are going to grow in Christian maturity.

I often draw diagrams in the classroom because I find that students can more quickly grasp and retain theological concepts when they can see them in a single visual image. But this book has expanded that process far beyond anything I have ever done. The visually inviting infographics in this book are very helpful in synthesizing theological concepts and showing their application to practical Christian living.

I am happy to commend this book, and I expect that it will invite many readers on a pathway toward regular Christian growth and increasing likeness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

—Wayne Grudem, author of Systematic Theology and research
professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary

Visual Theology
Visual Theology

Order

April 19, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include Designed for Joy edited by Jonathan Parnell & Owen Strachan ($2.99); Passport Through Darkness by Kimberley Smith (free); Ready for Reformation? by Tom Nettles ($2.99); The Measure of Success by Carolyn McCulley ($2.99); Beat God To the Punch by Eric Mason ($0.99); What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James White ($2.99).

Darryl Dash has posted the first review of Visual Theology (the book) which releases today! I’ll have more to say about the book in my next post.

Living an Others-Oriented Life

Here’s Mark Dever on living a life oriented away from self and toward others. (It’s an excerpt from his new book Discipling.)

Aurora Borealis from Space in Ultra-High Definition

Wow. Here’s the Aurora Borealis shown from Space in ultra-high definition.

Preaching and Preachers

If you are into podcasts, you may want to add Jason Allen’s new podcast Preaching and Preachers to your list.

Ten Principles for Personal Productivity

John Piper shares some helpful tips. “Give 10% of your focus in life to avoiding obstacles to productivity and 90% of your focus to fastening on to great goals and pursuing them with all your might.”

Why a Short White Man Isn’t a Tall Asian Woman

It shouldn’t be difficult to explain why a short white man isn’t a tall asian woman. But today’s students just can’t tell you.

5 Reasons Why We Need to Rest

I find that I need to remind myself of truths like this each and every week. Rest is just so easy to neglect!

Toronto Workshop on Biblical Exposition

If you’re in or near Toronto and if you teach or preach God’s Word, be sure to check out these workshops. 

This Day in 1529. 487 years ago today, German Lutheran Reformers were first called “Protestants” at the Diet of Speyer in Germany. *

The Local Church Isn’t Going Anywhere

No, the local church isn’t going anywhere no matter way the doomsdayers and naysayers tell us.

Real-Time Titanic

Here’s an interesting animation that shows the sinking of the Titanic in real-time.

McGowan

People may not agree with our theology but they shouldn’t be able to argue with our lives. —John McGowan

Spiritual Drafting
April 18, 2016

I’m no fan of most forms of racing. Cars, horses, drones, people—none of them do much for me. I find bicycle racing especially drab, except for those Olympic sprint events that suddenly grab my attention every four years. I do not know a whole lot about racing (which may well be why I don’t enjoy racing), but I do know enough to understand what they call drafting. Drafting is when a rider tucks himself immediately behind another racer, often settling just inches off his rear tire. When he does this, the lead rider has to muscle through the air resistance while the follower can enjoy the little vacuum that forms behind. The first rider has to work just a little bit harder which allows the second to conserve energy for that final push. In other words, the second rider benefits from the strength and diligence of the first.

Drafting is a great strategy for racing. Drafting is a lousy strategy for Christian living. Yet I fear that many Christians allow themselves to fall into a form of spiritual drafting. Let me explain—and let’s not push the analogy too hard since eventually, like any example, metaphor, or parable, it will eventually fall apart!

A number of times I have spoken to a woman and heard her admit that she essentially drafts behind her husband. She takes comfort in her husband’s spiritual strength and discipline but neglects her own. She goes to church when he is around but is quick to bail when he is not. She allows him to carry the load when it comes to teaching and training the children, when it comes to reading and praying with them. She doesn’t only allow him to take the lead (as, indeed, he should) but uses his leadership as a quiet excuse to not put in much effort of her own. She finds that the family is in good shape spiritually but admits that this is far more because she rides in his draft than that she is full-out pursuing the Lord. If he stopped putting in the effort, she would have little strength of her own.

Just as many times I have spoken to a man who confesses, perhaps a bit more sheepishly, that he drafts behind his wife. She is the one who has the living, vital relationship with the Lord and he coasts behind it. She is the one who guards her time to ensure she has a time of personal devotion each day. He allows her to be the one who suggests that they read the Bible and pray together. He expects that she will be the one to call the children for Bible and prayer. The family is doing well enough spiritually, but he can’t deny that it owes more to her effort than to his. He is drafting, taking advantage of her spiritual strength so he can put in little effort of his own.

It isn’t just husbands and wives. Teenaged children can coast along behind their parents instead of learning to pursue God on their own and determining they will personally develop spiritual strength and discipline. Church members can nestle in behind the few who are especially godly and neglect their personal spiritual walk. Sometimes the vast majority of the work of prayer, evangelism, or service is done by just a few members, often an indication that many are gladly coasting along, enjoying the greater efforts of the few. It’s all drafting.

Drafting is a concern because it is an indication of complacency. We all benefit from observing other Christians and seeing how they live the Christian life. This is God’s grace to us, giving us men and women who are worthy of imitation, putting people in our lives who are stronger than we are spiritually. But having such strong believers in our lives is meant to drive us to imitate them, not to simply take advantage of their efforts. Their example is meant to spur us on to greater earnestness in our spiritual lives, greater discipline in our pursuit of holiness.

The antidote to drafting is zeal, that quality we bring to so many of life’s pursuits but are prone to neglect when it comes to our faith. This is a good time to pull in that common biblical metaphor of the race. The Bible tells us that the Christian life is a race—not a race against one another but against the old man as we overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is a race that demands everything we have. It requires every effort. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1) We are to lay aside everything that hinders us, everything that slows us, including complacency. This race requires zeal deliberately directed to the highest pursuit.

We may think some people are naturally zealous or supernaturally gifted with spiritual fervor. Perhaps so. But my observation is that zealous Christians are those who are most committed to the awesomely ordinary means of grace—Word, prayer, worship, sacrament. This deep commitment to ordinary means is the fuel to their fire. This is a tremendous relief but also a significant challenge because it assures us that zeal is available to all Christians. Zeal is not bestowed only on the few and the gifted but is available to all who will follow the Spirit’s conviction. If you can honestly admit that you are drafting, putting in little effort of your own because of the greater effort of the one you follow, today is the day to confess that sin of complacency before God, to ask him to grant you godly fervor, and to pursue the means he offers to ignite such zeal.

Image credit: Shutterstock

April 18, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include a selection for pastors from Crossway: Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp ($3.99); The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson ($3.99); Expositional Preaching by David Helm ($3.99); The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine ($3.99); and Preaching for God’s Glory by Alistair Begg ($2.99).

Covenant College Women’s Tennis

I admire this resolve. “On Sunday, Kyle Taylor released a statement as director of athletics for Covenant College about the upcoming championship match. The match was scheduled for the Covenant women’s tennis team, a group that deserves a great deal of respect for a remarkable season, standing 15-5 overall and 11-1 within their conference. The problem arose, however, when the team was slotted to compete for the championship on April 17th, a Sunday, against Methodist.”

The Tragic History of RC Cola

Why is RC Cola a has-been instead of a major player in the soda wars? This article explains. It also tells why RC missed its big chance.

Outsourcing Memory and Wired for Distraction

Make sure you don’t just skim this one: “Over the last few years I have had a minor, but growing, niggle about my ability to remember and make connections with clarity and sharpness. Was it simply growing older, or the impact of several general anaesthetics in a short space of time, or was it something else?”

Was C.S. Lewis an Evolutionist?

“Was C.S. Lewis an evolutionist? I’ve heard this charge laid against him more than once, sometimes by admirers but more often by those who would prefer us to be reading and quoting someone else. The best way to answer this question is to look not just at one-off comments, but at Lewis’s intellectual trajectory as a whole.”

Farm to Fable

The long and short of this longform article is that many or most restaurants lie when they tell you that they use local ingredients.

This Day in 1587. 429 years ago today, John Foxe, known for his Book of Martyrs, died at 71. *

Does Satan have Access to our Minds?

Allan Murray: “This is a very important question for the christian. To answer it we have to go back to the basics of human existence in the fallen state.”

Be Quick to Read and Slow to Comment

Nathan has a challenge for those of us who comment online. “When a Christian comments without reading an article, it suggests they don’t value their brother or sister in Christ. To comment before reading an article is to elevate your words above those of the author. And to make it more dishonoring, it is often done on a platform they built—it’s their blog or Facebook page after all.”

Powlison

Christ-less, grace-less attempts at change conclude either with the praise of your own glory or with your shame. —David Powlison

Every Tribe
April 17, 2016

DispatchesFor many years now I have told you about the excellent series of videos called Dispatches from the Front. These videos follow Tim Keesee as he travels the world to discover and document all kinds of gospel advance. In past episodes he has traveled through Eastern Europe, North Africa, China, India, and just about everywhere in between. In every case he has found Christians and he has reported on how the church is growing and how the gospel is advancing in those parts of the world. He does it in his inimitable “dispatches” style. Episode 9, Every Tribe, has just been released and in this one he travels to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

I can’t describe it any better than the video’s own description: “The latest episode of the Dispatches from the Front series is set in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, where a patchwork of tribes lives—people groups long crushed by brutal dictators and enslaved to the worship of demons. But the gospel is setting prisoners free! From the killing fields of Cambodia to the remote corners of Laos, this is an ‘every tribe, every tongue’ story of first-generation believers, who are now singing for joy over their deliverance, loving the Word, and crossing borders to share the Good News that never has been kept within bounds.”

The video shows Christians—Christian brothers and sisters—thriving despite trials, sharing their faith despite opposition. It shows churches growing, Christians worshiping, the gospel advancing. It is a stirring testimony to what the Lord is accomplishing among his people.

In the years between I watched episode 1 and 9, Tim has become a valued and trusted friend. He is a man who loves the Lord, who loves the gospel of the Lord, and who is willing to venture into the farthest places to find and share evidence of what God is doing. I have gladly recommended all 8 of the previous episodes and gladly commend this one to you as well. I always make sure my family watches it and always make sure our church library has a copy. These videos are too good not to share, too encouraging not to broadcast to others.

Dispatches from the Front: Every Tribe is available from Westminster Books or Frontline Missions.

April 16, 2016

This weekend’s Kindle deals include: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield ($0.99); The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones ($3.99); Depression by Ed Welch ($2.99); Love Into Light by Peter Hubbard ($0.99).

Pray Together with Your Guests

This is a helpful admonition about making sure you pray when you have guests in your home. It’s encouragement for other believers and evangelism for unbelievers.

The Minecraft Generation

The New York Times has a long and interesting piece about Minecraft. “At a time when even the president is urging kids to learn to code, Minecraft has become a stealth gateway to the fundamentals, and the pleasures, of computer science. Those kids of the ’70s and ’80s grew up to become the architects of our modern digital world, with all its allures and perils. What will the Minecraft generation become?”

Stott Bowdlerized

Here’s an alarming look at what Eerdmans has done to “improve” John Stott’s classic Basic Christianity. “My curiosity aroused, I went through the new book and compared it, sentence by sentence, with the old one. The sheer amount of revision is startling. Two out of every three sentences, I estimate, involve some new wording.”

Jesus Paid it All

You may enjoy this video they showed at Together for the Gospel—elder DJ Ward preaching on “Jesus Paid It All.”

Ten Tips for Leading Church Well

You probably won’t agree with everything here, but you’ll still find some sound wisdom on leading church services well.

What’s Your Conscience Worth?

“Bruce Springsteen says he won’t perform for North Carolina, as long as the state upholds its recently passed law regarding gender and public restrooms. Springsteen is doing what millions of Americans are taught, in classrooms and in culture, to do: Standing up for his conscience, and drawing lines accordingly. But in our era, the question becomes: If this is counted to Springsteen as righteousness, why is it counted as sin to North Carolina?”

Tomorrow in 387. 1,629 years ago tomorrow, Saint Augustine of Hippo was baptized. *

The Great Monarch Butterfly Migration

Sometimes this great butterfly migration stops in our yard. It’s an amazing thing to see every tree blanketed in butterflies.

Everyone Files Their Taxes At The Last Minute

“Americans are a nation of procrastinators. Our tax returns prove it. Last year, 21.5 million Americans waited until the last minute – or at least the last week – to submit their tax returns. That’s roughly one in seven filers, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service.”

Spurgeon

What I have found of God in Jesus Christ is so wonderful, I am eager for others to know it too—and to know him. —C.H. Spurgeon