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

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December 20, 2014

There are some good Kindle deals today, including: Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In by Louis Zamperini ($3.99); Desperate by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson ($2.99); Boring by Michael Kelley ($0.99); Connected by Erin Davis ($2.99); The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel ($2.99); The Lion and the Lamb by Andreas Kostenberger ($2.99).

Also, Amazon has their cheapest Kindle down to $59 and that includes free two-day shipping to get it there before Christmas. The Kindle Paperwhite has the same offer.

The 9Marks blog has some good Advice for a New Elder.

Thanks to Logos for sponsoring the blog this week with their article 3 Easy Ways to Get Logos 6 (and Special Gifts!). Sponsors help cover the costs associated with hosting and maintaining this site.

This probably won’t be a shock, but family-friendly TV isn’t so family-friendly.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church just released some sweet congregational singing they recorded while honoring Mark and Connie Dever for 20 years of service there.

Looking at the mess that is Sony right now, this editorial says it well: The Media Fiddles While Sony Burns.

For the next two weeks there will be no quote graphics. They will return in January. So enjoy this last one until 2015!

Had any other condition been better for you than the one you are in, Divine Love would have put you there. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

December 19, 2014

Friday is here, and it brings a brand new edition of Free Stuff Fridays. This week’s sponsor is Shepherd Press and they are giving away some great new products. There will be 5 winners this week, and each of the winners will receive the following items:

  • ShepherdingShepherding a Child’s Heart. You have probably heard of Tedd Tripp’s book before, but there is now a DVD to go along with it. The DVD is a seminar recorded before a live audience. This package includes the The Shepherding a Child’s Heart DVD, along with a copy of the book, the Parent’s Handbook, and the Leader’s Guide. It is recorded in English and subtitled in both English and Spanish. “In this newly-recorded edition, Tedd Tripp presents his Shepherding a Child’s Heart seminar in twelve sessions. Tedd has refined this material over two decades, resulting in a presentation that is practical and accessible. He draws on his wealth of experience as a parent, school administrator, and pastor as he guides viewers through the principles of biblical parenting.” (Learn more)
  • HarveyWhen Sinners Say “I Do.” And that’s not all. You will also receive a package based around Dave Harvey’s excellent book When Sinners Say “I Do.” This package will include the teaching DVD, a copy of the book, and the Study Guide. “In this eight-session video series, Dave engages his audience with humor and honesty as he speaks about sin and the power of the gospel to overcome it. He opens the delightful truth of God’s word and encourages the reader to see more clearly the glorious picture of what God does when sinners say ‘I do.’” (Learn more)

For anyone who is interested, the following products will be discounted 30% using the coupon code CHALLIES (valid through 11:59pm EST, Monday 12/22).

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.

 

December 19, 2014

There are not a lot of new Kindle deals today, though I did find PROOF by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones ($3.51) and Gospel by J.D. Greear ($2.99). And don’t forget some of the better deals from earlier in the week: The Money Saving Mom’s Budget by Crystal Paine; The Power of Suffering and Strange Fire by John MacArthur; Ordinary by Michael Horton.

An Unforgettable Christmas - It is so true: “Kids learn to love what brings their parents delight.” There is direct application for the Christmas season.

Embiggening English - It has been many, many years since I’ve watched an episode of The Simpsons. But I did enjoy reading this article about its impact on the English language.

Bloodlines - There may be no better time than now to read John Piper’s book Bloodlines. Westminster Books has marked it way down.

Ligonier - Ligonier also has some good books on sale today for $5 each, and they include a favorite: R.C. Sproul’s The Truth of the Cross. There are several other deals as well.

The Everything Books - “Amazon won the book war. In a series of rare interviews, the company tells us what’s next.”

The Thank You Project - “Ten years after a tragic car accident, Kellie wants to find the heroes that saved her son’s life and thank them.”

Christian theology stands or falls with a historical Adam and a historical fall. —Michael Horton

Horton

Porn-Free Family
December 18, 2014

This Christmas a lot of children will receive porn from under the tree. It not what they wanted, and not what their parents intended for them to have. But they will get it anyway.

The first iPod, the first tablet, the first laptop—these are today’s coming of age rituals. We give our daughter her first iPod and she responds with joy. While we know there is lots of bad stuff out there on the Internet, we never imagine that she—our little girl—would ever want to see it or ever go anywhere she is likely to find it. We give our teen his first laptop, warn him about the responsibility that is now his, and send him on his way. We make a mental note to follow up in a couple of weeks, but are sure that he will do just fine. “He will talk to me if he has any questions or temptations, right?”

The statistics don’t lie. According to recent research, 52% of pornography is now viewed through mobile devices, and 1 in 5 searches from a mobile device is for porn. The average age of first exposure to pornography is 12. Nine out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls will be exposed to pornography before the age of 18. 71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents. 28% of 16-17 year olds have been unintentionally exposed to online pornography. (source)

The fact is, giving your children computers, iPods, tablets—any of these devices—gives them access to the major gateway to pornography.

The statistics are intimidating, but not inevitable. There are things you can do to protect your family. If you choose to give your kids digital devices for Christmas, be sure to take measures to protect them.

You will need to have at least 3 goals.

Your first goal will have to be teaching and training. You need to teach and train your children to use their devices responsibly. This kind of training is an indispensable part of responsible parenting in a world like this one. Train your children to use these devices well, and as they prove themselves, allow them freer access and more responsibility.

Your second goal will have to be guarding your children from seeing or experiencing what they do not know exists. The innocent ought to remain innocent without being unintentionally exposed to pornography or dangerous situations before their parents have been able to teach and train them.

Your third goal will have to be preventing your children from seeing or experiencing what they may desire once they learn that it exists. Children and teenagers are insatiably curious and are taught from a young age to use the Internet to find answers to their questions. This is a dangerous combination when it comes to adult matters, and especially matters of sexuality. The concerned parent will want to make it as difficult as possible for his children to access dangerous or pornographic material, even if they want to.

There are different ways to achieve these three goals, but as a starting point, why don’t you consult my Porn-Free Family Plan. It is not a perfect solution (There is no perfect solution!) but it is a good one, and will at least get you on your way.

Read: The Porn-Free Family Plan.

December 18, 2014

Here are some new Kindle deals for you: Money, Greed, and God by Jay Ricards ($3.79); Theologians of the Baptist Tradition by Timothy George ($2.99); Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi ($3.99); Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton ($3.99). There are also several titles by C.S. Lewis: The Screwtape Letters ($2.99); The Weight of Glory ($1.99); The Great Divorce ($3.99); Virtue and Vice ($0.99); George MacDonald ($1.99); The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (Illustrated) ($1.99); The Magician’s Newphew (Illustrated) ($3.99); Yours, Jack ($3.99); The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis Volume 1 ($3.99). Finally, The 40 Most Influential Christians by Daryl Aaron (free).

The Weight of Perfection in Marriage - This is a very enjoyable and challenging article on marriage.

Pharma Spam - Ever wondered who’s behind all those spam emails you get that try to sell you cheap pills? This article explains.

Through the Eyes of Spurgeon - This new documentary looks at the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon.

Unbroken - “A new documentary chronicling the remarkable life story of the late Louis Zamperini will be released on Christmas day to coincide with the highly anticipated release of Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’.”

The Hobbit - To some degree Peter Jackson is a victim of his own success.

Jehovah’s Witnesses - Here’s how to very simply prove the existence of the Trinity to a Jehovah’s Witness.

Winning arguments does not create spiritual transformation. —Paul Wartman

Wartman

December 17, 2014

George Clooney loses sleep over bad reviews of his movies. Angelina Jolie is a “minimally talented spoiled brat.” Tom Hanks checks into hotels as Johnny Madrid. You know by now, I’m sure, that a group calling themselves Guardians of Peace hacked Sony’s computers, obtained a massive amount of private and internal data, and released it to the public. The media has had a field day sorting through it, digging up the dirt, and sending it out to an eager public.

The majority of this information is mundane, of course. But then there are the few pieces that are downright incendiary. I guess it is somehow entertaining to read about the foibles of the big stars and satisfying to see a massive corporation take a hit. But this hack should cause us all to pause and consider.

Sony’s nightmare proves one thing beyond any doubt: There is an imbalance between our ability to create digital information and our ability to protect it. We create digital data all day and every day. Every email, every Facebook update, every Tweet, every photo, every Google doc—it’s all out there, and it all remains out there. But there’s far more than that. Every Google search, every phone call, every Facebook profile search, every place you take your mobile phone, every purchase you make, every scan of your loyalty card—every bit of it is collected and stored somewhere. We trust that it is all stored safely. But what happens when it’s not?

When I think about all of this information from Sony, it is not the megastar temper tantrums that stand out, and it is not the details of new movies. What intimidates me most is the very ordinary people whose lives have suddenly been exposed. An article at Gizmodo (language warning) says it well: 

The most painful stuff in the Sony cache is a doctor shopping for Ritalin. It’s an email about trying to get pregnant. It’s shit-talking coworkers behind their backs, and people’s credit card log-ins. It’s literally thousands of Social Security numbers laid bare. It’s even the harmless, mundane, trivial stuff that makes up any day’s email load that suddenly feels ugly and raw out in the open, a digital Babadook brought to life by a scorched earth cyberattack.

And that’s just it. The biggest victims here are the ordinary, low-level employees who represent the collateral damage—people who were doing normal things in the normal way, but who suddenly had it all laid bare. People who are just like you and me. Their shame has become our entertainment.

This digital world brings us some amazing new capabilities, but every big technological shift also brings us serious risks and vulnerabilities. You can see those vulnerabilities all over the headlines today. We need to decide whether information that has been made public should really be considered public. We need to decide what it means to think and behave as Christians in this area. Is it okay to declare open season on public information?

I have no skeletons in my closet. I have no deep and dark secrets that would ruin me if they leaked out. But still, the thought of my emails being made public, and the thought of you combing through them looking for dirt (because you sure wouldn’t go combing through them looking for grace, would you?) is terrifying. Too-quick comments, private jokes, thoughtless replies, unformed thoughts, out-of-context humor, romantic sweet nothings, bad days and ugly words—they would all be there, I’m sure. It is all there in the mundane day-to-day emails that receive little more than a moment’s thought and are immediately erased from my memory. I can barely imagine the sense of dread and the vulnerability that would come, knowing that people were clicking through one after the other after the other. I don’t need to have deep and dark secrets—buried in these tens of thousands of mundane messages would be more than enough to expose things I don’t even know about myself, and things you have no right to know about me.

It is only a matter of time before something like this happens to someone you know. At some point you may well be faced with the opportunity to go rooting through another person’s emails after they have been hacked and made public. So let me ask: Will you read those emails? Will you read your pastor’s emails if they are suddenly available to the public? Will you read your favorite celebrity preacher’s emails if they are just a click or two away? Will you read your least-favorite Christian celebrity’s emails if they are there for the taking? Will they read your emails?

The time to decide is right now, not in that moment. At that moment it may already be too late.

Photo credit: 360b / Shutterstock.com

December 17, 2014

I’ve got just a couple of new Kindle deals for you today: The updated-English version of Jonathan Edwards’ The End for Which God Created the World is $1.99; What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert is $0.99.

Free Bible Study Tools - Jacob Gerber shows where to find and how to use some excellent free Bible study tools.

The Things of Earth - Westminster Books is offering good discounts on some new books, including one that comes highly recommended by John Piper: The Things of Earth.

The Dumbest Thing - Here’s the dumbest thing he said: “Christianity is so easy. I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Is it Ridiculous? - Is it ridiculous to believe in a literal Adam and Eve? No more ridiculous than any other explanation of our origins.

Immediately Mom at Christmas - “For moms, sometimes days are just a series of ‘immediately’s.’ This is especially true during the holidays…”

Trials in life are meant to take our eyes off of our trials and fix them on Christ. —Burk Parsons

Parsons

December 16, 2014

2014 was a great year for Christian readers, and today I want to share some of my top picks from the year that is swiftly drawing to a close. Let me offer a few caveats: First, these are almost certainly not the best books of 2014 in any objective sense; rather, they are my favorites, the ones that have remained in my mind and impacted my life since I read them. Second, they are in no particular order. And finally, at the request of several readers I am posting this list before the end of the year because some people would like to refer to it as they do their Christmas shopping. Enjoy!

Look and LiveLook and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ by Matt Papa. This was one of the last books I read this year, but undoubtedly one of the best. Papa, a musician and worship leader, dives deep into Christian history, into the best of contemporary writers, and, of course, into the Bible to draw the reader’s attention to the beauty and power of the gospel. His goal for the book is “to help you overcome idolatry and certain sadness by pointing you to the all-satisfying, sin-destroying glory of Jesus.” He succeeds admirably. (Buy it at Amazon | Read my review)

Infinite JourneyAn Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness by Andrew Davis. This book was released at the very end of 2013, but because it was not in wide distribution until early this year, I have chosen to include it as a 2014 title. And it is a very good one! It is a book about growing toward spiritual maturity, but it is more than that; it is also a map for the journey. This makes it something like a systematic theology of spiritual growth and maturity, and one that will benefit any Christian. (Buy it at Amazon | Read my review)

Whats Best NextWhat’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. This is a book about getting things done, and one that looks at the subject from a distinctly Christian perspective. Perman takes the work of men like Peter Drucker, David Allen, Stephen Covey, Tim Ferris and many others, and examines them through the lens of Scripture. What is good he accepts, what is bad he rejects, and what is somewhere in-between he adapts. This makes it a book for anyone who needs to get better at getting things done, but especially for those involved in knowledge work and the realm of ideas. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)

Prayer KellerPrayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller. Tim Keller has now written a long succession of powerful and bestselling books, but I believe this will go down as one of his best. He has no interest in startling new insights on prayer or novel new ways to pray. Instead he looks to the past, to the deep wells of Christian history, and draws heavily from Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Owen, and Edwards (and, in more recent history, Edmund Clowney). He grapples with the tension between prayer as a kind of communion with God and prayer as a means of seeking the coming of God’s kingdom, and he comes to satisfying conclusions. It is a book that will teach you why you ought to pray, while also teaching you how to pray. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)

The GospelThe Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund. What Ortlund sets out to show in this book is how the gospel is meant to shape both the life and the culture of the local church so that the local church serves as a display of Christ, as he is, according to the gospel. There are hundreds of books today that claim to be gospel-centered, but this one deserves to be near the top of your list. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)

Taking God at His WordTaking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung. Kevin DeYoung is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, largely because of his ability to take difficult theological concepts and to make them reader-friendly. In Taking God at His Word he provides a basic introduction the Bible’s sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity—four key qualities of Scripture that are under attack today. It is a great introduction to the doctrine of the Bible for those who have never read one, and a great reminder to those for whom this is already familiar territory. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)

EssentialismEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. This is not a Christian book, but it is one that impacted me as deeply as anything else I read this year. McKeown’s burden is to help people stop trying to do everything in life so they can focus instead on the few areas where they can make the deepest impact. He wants people to discipline themselves to do their best in a few areas rather than spreading themselves too thin. You’ll need to apply some Christian thinking to the book, but I also believe you’ll benefit tremendously from it. (Buy it at Amazon | Read my review)

DispatchesDispatches From the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places by Tim Keesee. For many years now Tim Keesee, founder of Frontline Missions International, has been going to places few of us will venture in order to see how the Lord is working there and in order to promote and support such work. He is dedicated to supporting gospel advance in the world’s most difficult places. In this book he shares glimpses of the church in those difficult places where, despite all the odds, God’s work continues. Read it to be both inspired and encouraged. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)