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Tim Challies

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July 12, 2014

We arrived safely to our quiet spot in South Carolina, after a very long and scenic drive that took us through ONNYPAWVVATNNCSC. And here we are. Again, it will be light blogging for the next week as I focus on unwinding. (But I can’t not write at least a bit since it is the most relaxing part of my life.)

A shout-out goes to the folk at Bristol Caverns in Bristol, TN. We dropped by to take a tour of the caverns and met our tour guide Doug who turned out to be a reader of this site. The caverns are well worth the hour-long tour.

This Is Mindy - This is a hard-to-read article from former porn producer Donny. He describes how he recruited a girl named Mindy and then destroyed her life. The point of the article: there is a terrible hidden cost to pornography.

The Vanishing Screwball - Baseball lovers may enjoy this longform article from the New York Times on the screwball and why almost nobody throws it anymore.

The Unexpected Answers of God - Jon Bloom explains that we are often unprepared for the kind of answers we receive from God. And I think he’s absolutely right.

Foods that Taste Bad - Ever wondered why that glass or orange juice tastes unbearable after brushing your teeth? This article explains.

Theology, the Last Resort - Here is some thought-provoking stuff from J.D. Payne.

The Vatican’s Bank - Did you know the Vatican has a bank? Neither did it. Foreign Policy says that its history “reads more like Dan Brown than the financial pages.”

When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head. —C.H. Spurgeon\


July 11, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends at Harvest House Publishers. They are giving away 5 prize sets today, and each of the prizes will contain the following 3 books:

  • LifelinesLifelines for Tough Times by Mike Fabarez. “When tough times hit, we often find ourselves vulnerable—to doubt, fear, worry, even depression. We ask, “Does God care? Has He forgotten me?” So why does God allow suffering? Author Mike Fabarez—who is well acquainted with deep pain himself as the father of a special-needs child and as a pastor who has counseled many through life’s hurts—looks to the truths of Scripture for answers. Along the way, he shares… how complete trust in God alone can restore your confidence and hope; the power of focusing on God’s eternal goals for you in life’s temporary setbacks; God’s promises to love and protect you no matter what happens. This book will not only help you understand why God allows suffering—it will provide you with the resources to stand strong, rest in God’s care, and endure!”
  • Things That Go Bump in the Church by Mike Abendroth, Clint Archer & Byron Yawn. “What does the Bible say about the important topics you hear about in sermons every week? Authors Mike Abendroth, Clint Archer, and Byron Yawn explore issues where confusion abounds — critical issues such as: Hell: What does the Bible say about hell being a real place of future punishment? Demons: Just how much influence do demons really have in the life of a Christian? The secret to overcoming fear is knowledge. As you carefully compare your church doctrine with what the Bible says, you’ll gain confidence in knowing the truth and be able to discern and apply it. The more you know what God’s Word says about things that go bump in the church, the less hesitant you will feel about discussing them with others and living according to them.”
  • PreachingThe Kind of Preaching God Blesses by Steve Lawson. “A powerful must-read for every minister who desires to preach God’s Word in a way that truly exalts the Lord and nourishes His people.  In 1 Corinthians 2:1-9, the apostle Paul wrote about the keys to effective preaching. In this compact yet dynamic book, readers will learn about… the priority of biblical preaching—an urgent call to every minister; the poverty of modern preaching—what is lacking in today’s pulpits; the preeminence of Christ in preaching—making Jesus the dominant theme; the power of the Spirit in preaching—replacing self-confidence with God-dependence; This is a passionate appeal to Christ-centered preaching—the kind that God blesses, the kind that brings real revival in people’s lives. Great for pastors, Bible teachers, and Christian students aspiring to a teaching ministry.”

Enter to Win

Again, there are 5 prize packages to win. And 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.

July 11, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Running Scared by Ed Welch (free); The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative by Steven Mathewson ($2.99); Union with Christ by Todd Billings ($3.99); Promises of Grace by Bryan Chapell ($1.99); Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore (just a good, fun summer read) ($3.99).

eBooks for Sale - Westminster Books has begun offering eBooks. And to get things started, you can get 2 books of your choice published by Crossway for just $1.99 each. You can see the list of books here.

China Beachhead - WORLD has an important report from China: “Pro-life efforts are growing in the nation with the most abortions. But saving lives in the womb is an enormous challenge—even within the church.”

Don’t Touch the Button - Here’s why you should never touch the elevator buttons when you’re in a hospital.

Unbroken - Here’s a trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation of Unbroken. (The book is just $4.99 at Amazon.)

Entangled in Photons - “If you’re after science that makes you question your place in the universe, focus on that phrase ‘light years’, one that astronomers use so casually.”

How Do You Prepare Your Teenager for Adulthood? - Here are a couple of suggestions from Brian Croft.

Our little time of suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to Heaven. —Samuel Rutherford


July 10, 2014

My vacation begins today and that means I’ll be scaling back my writing for a week or so. It will be either A La Carte or another article most days, not both. I’d love your prayers since we have a lot of driving to do while we head very far south (and since we’ve got Aussies, of all people, taking care of our place while we’re gone!).

Here are some Kindle deals: Reckless Abandon by David Sitton ($0.99); 7 Truths That Changed the World by Kenneth Samples ($2.99); From Tyndale to Madison by Michael Farris ($2.99); Christless Christianity by Michael Horton ($3.49); Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton ($2.99).

Comfort for Christian Parents of Unconverted Children - Jim Elliff: “All Christian parents wish that God would show us something to do to secure our child’s salvation, and then ‘we’ll do it with all our might’ because we love our child so much. Yet, God has not made salvation the effect of somebody else’s faith; our son or daughter must come to Christ on his or her own.”

Why Do Catholics Pray to Mary? - This episode of Ask Pastor John has Michael Reeves as a guest and he explains the history behind Roman Catholics and their devotion to Mary.

War on Religious Liberty - Denny Burk points to a chilling new front in the war on religious liberty in the United States.

Married to Darwin - Marvin Olasky: “Theistic evolutionists say we must bend or die, but when we bend on something so basic, where do we stop? Is our chief task to glorify our Creator or to be glorified by other creatures? When Darwin trumps the Bible, what are we worshipping?”

A Sexual Revolution for Young Evangelicals? - Are we in the midst of a sexual revolution for young evangelicals? Russell Moore says no.

Evangelicals Who Are Not Evangelicals - Thomas Kidd says “There are at least four types of Christians who often get cast as evangelicals who really are not evangelicals, if that term has any meaning.”

I would not give much for all that can be  done by sermons if we do not preach Christ by our lives. —D.L. Moody


July 09, 2014

I have written about envy before and have referred to it as “the lost sin.” Envy is a sin I am prone to, though I feel like it is one of those sins I have battled hard against and, as I’ve battled, experienced a lot of God’s grace. It is not nearly as prevalent in my life as it once was. Recently, though, I felt it threatening to rear its ugly head again and spent a bit of time reflecting on it. Here are three brief observations about envy.

Envy is Competitive

I am a competitive person and I believe it is this competitive streak that allows envy to make its presence felt in my life. Envy is a sin that makes me feel resentment or anger or sadness because another person has something or another person is something that I want for myself. Envy makes me aware that another person has some advantage, some good thing, that I want for myself. And there’s more: Envy makes me want that other person not to have it. This means that there are at least three evil components to envy: the deep discontent that comes when I see that another person has what I want; the desire to have it for myself; and the desire for it to be taken from him.

Do you see it? Envy always competes. Envy demands that there is always a winner and a loser. And envy almost always suggests that I, the envious person, am the loser.

Envy Always Wins

Envy always wins, and if envy wins, I lose. Here’s the thing about envy: If I get that thing I want, I lose, because it will only generate pride and idolatry within me. I will win that competition I have created, and become proud of myself. Envy promises that if I only get that thing I want, I will finally be satisfied, I will finally be content. But that is a lie. If I get that thing, I will only grow proud. I lose.

On the other hand, if I do not get what I want, if I lose that competition, I am prone to sink into depression or despair. Envy promises that if I do not get that thing I want, my life is not worth living because I am a failure. Again, I lose.

In both cases, I lose and envy wins. Envy always wins, unless I put that sin to death.

Envy Divides

Envy divides people who ought to be allies. Envy drives people apart who ought to be able to work closely together. Envy is clever in that it will cause me to compare myself to people who are a lot like me, not people who are unlike me. I am unlikely to envy the sports superstar or the famous musician because the distance between them and me is too great. Instead, I am likely to envy the pastor who is right down the street from me but who has a bigger congregation or nicer building; I am likely to envy the writer whose books or blog are more popular than mine. Where I should be able to work with these people based on similar interests and similar desires, envy will instead drive me away from them. Envy will make them my competitors and my enemies rather than my allies and co-laborers.

What’s the cure for envy? I can’t say it better than Charles Spurgeon: “The cure for envy lies in living under a constant sense of the divine presence, worshiping God and communing with Him all the day long, however long the day may seem. True religion lifts the soul into a higher region, where the judgment becomes more clear and the desires are more elevated. The more of heaven there is in our lives, the less of earth we shall covet. The fear of God casts out envy of men.”

July 09, 2014

The Perfect Family - That Greg Lucas guy can flat out write. “God in His sovereignty builds families. They are His work, His masterpiece, for His glory and our highest good. God makes a place for the destitute. He fathers them, defends them, rescues them—and He gives them to us for a family. What a lovely, messy, wonderful, disorganized, beautiful, loud, perfect group we are!”

A Company Liberals Could Love - Ross Douthat offers some important points about Hobby Lobby.

Evangelicals and Cities - I quite agree with Kevin DeYoung: “The evangelical advocacy for the city is a discussion in dire need of clarity.” If you’ve got some extra time, some of the comments are helpful as well.

Designer Babies - This is an interesting article about designer babies. Though it doesn’t look at the issue from a biblical perspective, it highlights some very legitimate concerns.

First Among Equals - What does it mean for one elder (or pastor) to be first among equals? Jonathan Leeman answers.

Exodus: Gods and Kings - “From acclaimed director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Prometheus) comes the epic adventure ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings,’ the story of one man’s daring courage to take on the might of an empire.” It releases in December, I believe.

Only God is capable of telling us what our rights and needs are. You have to surrender that right to Him. —Joni Eareckson Tada


July 08, 2014

A short time ago I shared some resources meant to help parents as they prepare to have “The Talk” with their children. But even after looking at those resources I had some questions I wanted to ask, so I spoke to Dr. Chris Richards, who together with Liz Jones has authored Growing Up God’s Way, a book with editions for both boys and girls, that helps prepare young people and their parents for adolescence and adulthood. Dr Chris Richards is a Consultant Paediatrician in Newcastle upon Tyne. He is the Director of Lovewise, which produces material for teaching about marriage and relationships from a Christian perspective in schools and church groups. He is married and has four children. He is a deacon at Gateshead Presbyterian Church. Here is what he had to say about preparing children to grow up in a world like this.

MeAs a parent it feels like we are facing unique challenges in what seems to be an increasingly sexualized culture. Are our challenges today substantially different from the ones people faced in the past? What makes today different from days gone by?

Chris RichardsCR: The Enemy is the same, though he has a different approach to damaging each generation and, thereby, assaulting God’s honour. Today, the battle for the hearts of the rising generation of young people is fiercest in the area of sexual purity and the temptations to disobedience have never been more intense or alluring. Here are just three of many reasons for this:

Growing secular practice and presuppositions. For generations marriage has been the chief social building block of our society. Respect for marriage was implicit and most children were raised under its beneficial wing. In accordance with the Seventh Commandment, sexual purity, both before and within marriage, was held up by society as both laudable and ideal. Even if there was hypocrisy, sexual immorality was described as such and its practice led to public shame. How different today! Marriage is held in low repute, and is neglected by the majority, whilst sexual purity is denigrated and illegitimacy is no longer a cause for shame. Recently, our Governments have attempted to redefine marriage. Those who defend and teach the rightness of traditional marriage are labelled as judgmental and old-fashioned. Added to this, fewer children today benefit from the advantages and witness of being raised by a married mother and father. We have a generation of children who are confused about how they should live and more urgently than ever need to know why sexual purity should be treasured and why marriage is such a blessing.

The deceit of ‘safe(r) sex’ education. The abuse of sexual intimacy has led to unwelcome consequences, including unwanted pregnancy and STIs. The condom is falsely promoted as the means of limiting the damage. ‘Safe sex’ teaching is deceitful in both its moral approach and its efficacy. When it is taught, right and wrong are left outside the classroom. In front of the tender minds of our children and in the name of education and preventative medicine, sexual intimacy is extracted from morality, marriage, and, even, a loving relationship. Standing in such clear opposition to God’s laws, it is not surprising that this approach has been a colossal failure in its stated objectives of stopping the spread of STIs and limiting teenage pregnancy. The promotion of the idea that sex outside marriage can be experienced without consequences in moral vacuum has encouraged sexual experimentation by pupils and a resultant rise, not fall, in STIs. The UK STI epidemic continues unabated after 35 years of ‘safe sex’ teaching.

The power of the media. It hardly needs to be said that films, television, internet and music have been a highly effective way, in the name of leisure and amusement, of spreading messages that are contrary to God’s word. How hard it is for even the most alert and godly parents to guard their children against these messages, which invade our homes with such ease.

MeHow can a parent know the right time to have the talk with their child? Though I am sure it varies from child-to-child, what are some general guidelines?

Chris RichardsCR: The idea of ‘The Talk’ needs to be unpacked. Actually education by parents about ‘sex and relationships’ starts way back through the child’s observation of their parents’ relationship. In a home where parents are happily married, sexual faithfulness will be implicitly communicated to the child without a word being said. The child observes, and their consciences are sharpened, by the good example that they experience. Biblical instruction also lays down such principles as right and wrong, sacrificial care for one another, accountability to God, and the nature of temptation and sin. Teaching about more intimate matters builds on this.

The Biblical wisdom about teaching our children is that ‘The Talk’ actually needs to be ‘talks’. These will not always be premeditated but as the opportunity arises (‘when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way’ Deut 6:7). We should not be so busy that we do not have time for them when questions and opportunities come up. Opportunities may be provoked by a range of things; perhaps a discussion will be provoked by what the child has been told which they instinctively know to be wrong. One of your correspondents remarked that reading through the whole Bible will highlight many dimensions of marriage and sexual relationships, both good and bad.

However, you are still left with the question of how much to say and when, especially about more explicit matters such as pornography and masturbation. When we talk about sexual matters with our children, we walk on tender and holy ground. Discomfort, both of parents and child, is not, as the secularists claim, an obstruction that we ‘just need to get over’, but points to the God-given shame placed on us after The Fall (Genesis 3:7) and provides a defence against improper thoughts which might provoke arousal in the wrong setting. We need to look for guidance from our own and from our children’s consciences about how much to explain and when. This requires sensitivity and wisdom. In how we refer to matters, we can learn from the parents of Proverbs 1-8 that it is possible to refer to the danger of sexual temptation without going into the details that might set the imagination running. 

The format will vary with age and maturity. Generally with early teens the emphasis needs to be on teaching the spiritual and biological facts about sexual purity and marriage. As they grow up, there will be a need for a more interactive format, which will allow the young person to share concerns and questions on the topics discussed. As well as teaching about the rightness of God’s ways, parents will also need to warn their children about the half truths and lies about sex and love that they will hear, and to help their children respond appropriately to challenges from a very difficult cultural environment.

MeOne of the tensions I’ve felt as a parent is speaking to my children about issues they are already grappling with or may soon grappling with, but without saying too much. So with an issue like masturbation, I find myself hesitant to say too much lest I give them an interest in something they haven’t yet considered. Is this a genuine concern? How can we navigate such issues?

July 08, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Seeing the Unseen by Randy Alcorn (free); Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem ($5.99); Old Story New by Marty Machowski ($3.82); Zondervan has the “How to Read” series at $3.79 each: How to Read The Bible Book by Book; How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens; How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth; How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth.

Put Your Phone Down - Exactly! “As a people we have lost the plot. Because we can document everything, we will, and we can’t stop.” So stop already!

Complete Cardiac Transplant - Don’t click this link if you’ve got a weak stomach! But if you can stomach it, well, marvel at the human body as you watch a complete cardiac transplant.

I am Ryland - This is a very important, very interesting article on a little girl who today might just be labeled transgender.

How Churches Became Cruise Ships - Here’s an interesting look at how churches somehow became just like cruise ships.

Can I Really Trust the Bible? - This is about the best book promo you’ll see. (You can buy the book here; the entire series is worth checking out.)

The Live Room Sessions - I’m kind of a fan of the band Needtobreathe and think their newest album is absolutely brilliant. If you like them, you’ll enjoy these Live Room sessions (which are being released one per week).

Engaging Cult Members - Here’s Greg Koukl with some sound counsel on engaging cult members (like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons).

Christ did not suffer so you wouldn’t suffer. He suffered so when you suffer you will become like Him. —Tim Keller