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

Tim Challies

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November 22, 2014

It is a beautiful, cold and snowy start to the weekend here, though I hear rain is on the way. Early winter is a strange time in Canada. Kindle readers will want to know that I went looking for deals and found nothing. However, do check A La Carte Archives from the past 10 days and I’m sure you’ll find something to carry you through the weekend.

When the Spirit Says Put a Sock In It - Douglas Wilson: “Some might want to represent this as a view of mine, in which I am seeking to quench the Spirit. It is actually the view of the Spirit, working through Paul, in order to quench us.”

Here is something I’ve always wondered: Why do so many Asians wear masks in public? This article explains.

Angry? Jen Thorn struggles with it too and lets you into her fight with 5 Ways to Kill Anger.

I’m grateful to Reformation Heritage Books for sponsoring the blog this week with their article From Tyndale to Today. I appreciate sponsors because they cover the costs associated with hosting and supporting the site.

Lore Ferguson can flat out write, like she displays in this article: Looking for Love in All the Right Places.

J.D. Greear offers up Three Ways the Gospel Changes Our Generosity.

If your kids are into The Hunger Games, you may appreciate these 5 Ideas for Discussing Mockingjay with Teens.

One great power of sin is that it blinds men so that they do not recognize its true character. —Andrew Murray

Murray

November 21, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff is sponsored by this week’s blog sponsor—Reformation Heritage Books. They have just released a great new product in the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, and they are eager to get a few of them into your hands. So there will be 5 winners this week, and each of the winners will receive a genuine leather KJV Study Bible.

Here are some of the Bible’s best features:

KJVspreadsheet1vfs A Study Bible to Feed Your Soul …

  • Thoughts for personal and family devotions for every chapter
  • Three dozen articles on how to live the Christian life
  • Guidance on how to experience the truths of the Bible

KJVspreadsheet2vfs

A Study Bible to Instruct Your Mind …

  • Thousands of study notes with integrated cross-references
  • Introductions to each section and every book of the Bible
  • Classic Bible text with explanations of difficult words
  • More than fifty articles on key Christian teachings
  • Concordance, color maps, daily reading plan, and more!

A Study Bible to Discover Your Roots …

  • Overview of twenty centuries of church history
  • Ancient creeds, confessions, and catechisms with introductions

Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Specifications

  • Trim size: 6 ½ x 9 ¼
  • Page font: Bible text font is Minion sized at 9.8, Study Notes font is Myriad SemiCondensed sized at 8.
  • All Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bibles are Smyth Sewn for lasting durability.

KJV Study Bible

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.

November 21, 2014

You are not “running late.” You are rude. You are inconsiderate. You need to change. Greg Savage’s frustration with other people’s tardiness boiled over into an amusing rant that he posted online, and that was subsequently read by hundreds of thousands.

10 people kept waiting in a meeting for 20 minutes, while some selfish pratt who idles his way via the coffee shop, is actually 20 minutes times 10, which is 200 minutes wasted – while you keep us waiting because you did not catch the earlier bus. That is over 3 hours wasted. By you! How much has that cost the business? Shall I send you an invoice?

And an arrangement to meet someone for a business meeting at a coffee shop at 3 pm, more often than not means at 3.10 you get a text saying ‘I am five minutes away’ which inevitably means 10 minutes, and so you wait for 15 or 20 minutes, kicking your heels in frustration.

Like most epic and enjoyable rants, we can all identify with the heart of the issue. Most of us feel some of his angst, because most of us have been kept waiting by someone who pulls in late too often and who apologizes too seldom. Somehow lateness has become culturally acceptable, excused away by busyness or traffic or the other trappings of our frantic lives. Savage says, “I consider serial lateness a character flaw which I take into account when working out who to promote, who to hire and who to count amongst my real friends.” In his view it is that important.

In many ways I am inclined to agree with Savage. I can very easily see a link between promptness and character, where people of mature character tend to be the ones who show up on time, or even a few minutes early. Here in North America we could probably lobby to make it the missing fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, promptness, kindness, gentleness… But there is always one nagging little thought in the back of my mind: Jesus was late. Or was he just on time? He certainly looked late. In John 11 he is summoned to rush to the side of his friend Lazarus. But he dawdled and arrived not 20 minutes late, but 2 whole days late. By that time Lazarus was not only in the grave, but getting pretty ripe in there. His friends were disappointed in him, assuming that he didn’t properly understand the situation, or that he didn’t properly prioritize it. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

But Jesus had been waylaid for the best of reasons—he was deeply in touch with God’s will and knew that God had something he meant to do and something he meant to prove in this situation. Where a human perspective made Jesus look like a failure, from a divine perspective he was the greatest success. We can see the same in the Psalms where David seems to assume that God is late or too busy with other things, too busy or too distracted to reply to David in his agony. We can see it in the cries of God’s people under oppression, as God seems so slow to turn his face toward them. Sometimes even the Divine looks late when we look at Him from our so-human and so-limited perspective.

And this is just my fear when we demand promptness and assume that tardiness indicates a character flaw. There is so much we don’t see. There are many people who love to do good to others, and they allow that doing good to others to take precendence over their schedules. My temptation is just the opposite, to refuse to do good because I don’t want to be late. In fact, just last night I dreamed about witnessing an accident but driving away so I wouldn’t be late for an elders’ meeting.

This issue has been an important one in my church. Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in the world, which makes the churches multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-everything else. I would say that nearly half of our church is from a West African or South American background, and both continents regard time differently from the way we do. I might be tempted to regard this only as weakness, but there are strengths as well. While I arrive on time but alone, my African friends might arrive thirty minutes late, but in a socially-engaged crowd. While I might be tempted to rush right back out of church to get home, to get lunch, to get a nap, to get geared up for the evening service, my African friends might dawdle at the church and socialize for hours until the next service begins. The issue that may frustrate us also masks genuine strengths. Will those strengths diminish as promptness increases? Is it worth the cost? Some of the most thoughtful people I know, are also the most consistently late people I know. They show their thoughtfulness in other ways—ways that sometimes make them late.

I do not mean to defend lateness. I still believe promptness is an application of Jesus’ simple command that we are to let our yes be yes and our no be no. If you say you will arrive at 10, arrive at 10, not 11. Like Savage, I believe the deeper issue is with people who plan to be late, who think so highly of themselves that they don’t even attempt to get there on time anymore, and who don’t care a bit for how this inconveniences others.

So by all means, let’s plan to be on time, and let’s live orderly lives. But let’s be slow to stand in judgment of those who show up at a time we deem inappropriate. If nothing else, let’s know people for their many strengths and not only that one weakeness that most frustrates us.

Image credit: Shutterstock

November 21, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Everyday Talk About Sex and Marriage by John Younts ($2.99); Out of the Depths by Edgar Harrell ($1.99); The Promises of Grace by Bryan Chapell ($1.99). Also, a few days ago I listed the NIV Application Commentary series that is on sale, but missed a few of the newer volumes to reach ebook: Exodus1 & 2 Samuel*, Psalms (vol 1); Proverbs, 2 Corinthians.

Immigration Reform Will Tear Us Apart - Here is Russell Moore’s response to President Obama’s immigration executive action.

Things - Things is a fantastic piece of productivity software for Apple users, and the iOS versions are free for a week (down from $9.99 and $19.99): iPhone, iPad. I rate it second only to OmniFocus for what it does.

Choose Hospitality Over Entertaining - Jen Wilkin asks forgiveness and provides some sound counsel.

A Marked Ministry - WORLD magazine features an interview with Mark Dever, who always has good things to say.

Why Do Rivers Curve? - How did we ever learn such things before YouTube?

Why the Church Needs Struggling Members - “The opposite of our instinct is what we really need most, and when it comes down to it, our trials are not always about us. Sometimes we go through them for the sake of others.”

Every breath in your life is a gift of mercy. —George Swinnock

Swinnock

November 20, 2014

I would pay good money to watch a debate between John Owen and Joel Osteen. Wouldn’t you? I have read John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation many times now, and have benefited with every reading. It just never gets old and it just never stops sounding so counter-cultural, countering both the wider culture and even the going Christian culture.

This week I read a chapter that teaches the value of self-examination and self-abasement. I was immediately struck by the difference between the heart of Owen’s understanding of the Christian life and what passes for Christian living today. I don’t mean to pick on an easy target, but it makes a fascinating contrast to compare Owen’s books with, say, Joel Osteen’s. I am not exaggerating when I say that they really are polar opposites in just about every way. Though both pass as Christian books, they could hardly be more different.

Where Joel Osteen writes about how we are to accept the unfortunate reality that we have made mistakes, his solution is that we should just press on and determine that we will not do bad things again. Owen, though, calls our mistakes “sin” and assures us that this sin has eternally distanced us from God. He allows sin no quarter and would never stoop to calling it a mere mistake. Where Osteen teaches that we are fundamentally good and that we should think highly of ourselves, Owen teaches that we are fundamentally sinners and need to fill our minds with self-abasement and thoughts of our own vileness.

Yet these low thoughts of ourselves have an important purpose and an important qualification. We are not to think low thoughts about ourselves in isolation. Instead, such thoughts are to be the natural consequence of pondering the majesty and the “otherness” of God. Do you want to see yourself accurately? Then see God accurately first. As we ponder God we are led to see the inconceivable distance between him and us. Once we see that distance, all we can really do is accept and ponder his greatness and our comparable vileness. I am sure there are those who read this and quickly picture dour Puritans who enjoy thinking of how awful they are, as if beating up on themselves is a form of holiness. But this is not what Owen says at all. Instead he teaches that proper thoughts of God and of humanity are of critical importance because only through abasement of ourselves before God can we experience humility of spirit. It is like a balance. As our thoughts of God increase, our view of ourselves naturally decreases accordingly. As that view of ourselves decreases, our love for God swells.

Osteen and so many of today’s other popular authors could never arrive at such conclusions because there is too little difference between their view of humanity and their view of God. In their way of thinking, we are not so far removed from him. They think of God too seldom and themselves too much; with every great thought of themselves, they lower God.

Here are a few of Owen’s best quotes from this chapter:

  • “Our further progress consists more in knowing what he is not, than what he is.”
  • “The intention of all gospel revelation is not to unveil God’s essential glory that we should see him as he is, but merely to declare so much of him as he knows sufficient to be a [foundation] of our faith, love, obedience, and coming to him—that is, of the faith which here he expects from us; such services as beseem poor creatures in the midst of temptations.”
  • “Know that your very nature is too narrow to bear apprehensions suitable to his glory.”

Next Time

For those reading Overcoming Sin and Temptation with me, well, I know that I took some liberties this week by looking beyond the one chapter. I couldn’t help myself! Next Thursday we will continue with the thirteenth chapter of the book—we are nearing the end! You can still get the book and read along if that is of interest to you.

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together.

November 20, 2014

I’ve got a few new Kindle deals for you today: Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Greg Koukl & Francis Beckwith ($2.99); The Problem of Evil by Jeremy Evans ($2.99); Nothing Is Impossible With God by Rose Miller (free); The Illustrated Life of Paul by Charles Quarles ($4.99). New from GLH Publishing is A Church in the House by Matthew Henry ($0.99).

True Things In a True Way - I appreciate what Darryl says here: “I’ve noticed a trend. In many of our settings, we tend to say things that are true as far as they go, but the way we say them contradicts what’s being said.”

The Case for Face-to-Face Meetings - There’s much more that could be said, but here are some good opening arguments on the value of face-to-face meetings.

Gospel-Centered - John Piper explains what it means to be gospel-centered or cross-centered.

The Band-Aid of the Future - Here’s a potential medical breakthrough. (Note for those with weak stomachs: the video display a small amount of blood.)

You Are Cured of MS - Does God heal today? Yup.

Four Reasons Time Management Is More Difficult - Matt Heerema offers 4 reasons that time management is more difficult today than in times past.

Airspace - Here’s a great video showing UK airspace over a day. Watching the overnight flights arrive from North America is incredible.

The cross of Christ is in itself an offence to the world; let us take heed that we add no offence of our own. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

November 19, 2014

This series on productivity is beginning to reach its end. But before it winds down, I have just a couple more topics to cover, and one of them is the all-important weekly review. I have written at length about the value of a system. Systems are wonderful and powerful, but require some maintenance in order to continue functioning smoothly. The weekly review is one of the primarily means through which you can maintain your system. Today I will tell you about my weekly review, and also tell you about some of the unique features of my system.

A Weekly Review

If the daily review [part 6] is tactical, the weekly review is more strategic. The purpose of this review is to set new plans into motion, to restart projects that have stalled, and to course-correct plans that are drifting. Where the daily coram deo takes only a couple of minutes, the weekly review requires a little bit more time—I find that I need to block off around 30 minutes for it. I schedule it for each Friday afternoon so that when a new week begins on Sunday, the week is already set and organized.

This weekly review is a work in progress and I occasionally add a step or remove a step. But on the whole it is comprised of these actions:

  • [Get Focused] Pray
  • [Get Clear] Bring: Email Inbox to 0
  • [Get Clear] Bring: Evernote Inbox to 0
  • [Get Clear] Bring: OmniFocus Inbox to 0
  • [Get Clear] Tidy: Desk
  • [Get Clear] Tidy: Desktop
  • [Get Current] Review: Calendar for Next 30 Days
  • [Get Current] Review: OmniFocus Forecast for Next 7 Days
  • [Get Current] Review: Evernote Notebooks
  • [Get Current] Review: All Projects
  • [Get Set] Review: Mission & Principles
  • [Get Going] Decide: Next Week’s Deadlines, Deliverables, and Priorities

I will give you a brief overview of what I do in each step.

[Get Focused] Pray. I pause to pray, asking wisdom to know what I ought to do, and for grace to do it well.

[Get Clear] Bring: Email Inbox to 0. [Get Clear] Bring: Evernote Inbox to 0. [Get Clear] Bring: OmniFocus Inbox to 0. I tidy up all 3 inboxes to ensure that my system is clean and running smoothly. All emails are replied to or filed, all information in Evernote is placed in its proper notebook, and all my tasks are filed in their appropriate projects.

[Get Clear] Tidy: Desk. I clean up my physical workspace, filing any papers, putting away any books, and so on. This step actually extends a little beyond my desk to any other place that paper, books or other bits and pieces tend to accumulate. It is not a total cleaning of my office, but a gathering of anything that could contain information I may need when looking ahead.

[Get Clear] Tidy: Desktop. I clear up any files that have ended up on my computer’s desktop.

By the time all my [Get Clear] steps are complete, everything is where it ought to be as per the familar maxim a home for everything, and like goes with like. Now that I am clear, I can get current—I am going to look at my tools to familiarize myself with all the items I could take action on in the week ahead.

[Get Current] Review: Calendar for Next 30 Days. I look over my calendar to see if there are any major events coming up that I ought to be aware of. I rarely need to take action on things that are more than 30 days ahead, so a month is plenty of time for me.

[Get Current] Review: Evernote Notebooks. There are certain notebooks in Evernote that contain crucial information and that need to regularly reviewed. Let me give you an example. If I am an account manager, I might have a notebook in Evernote that contains information about each of my clients. At the end of the week I would go through that notebook and see if there are any notes that have not been updated in a long time (which would indicate that I have not been in touch with that client for a long time). Where I see that kind of information, I can create tasks to check in with those clients or to take other appropriate actions. To be clear, I do not review all of my notebooks—only the few that contain especially important and actionable information.

[Get Current] Review: All Projects. Now it is time to review every single one of the projects in my task management system. One of the best features of OmniFocus is its automated review functionality which automatically prompts me to review each of my projects on a regular basis. At this time I have it set so I review each of my projects on Friday afternoon. Depending on the software you use, you may need to do this step manually. It involves little more than a glance at each project to ensure I have a next action assigned to each, to ensure items have due dates, to see if I have missed or overlooked anything, or to see if I completed anything but neglected to mark it as complete. I will also see if any of these projects has a pending deadline. If I see anything that needs to be adjusted or prioritized, I can set an appropriate due date. I can’t overstate the importance of this step to the functioning of the system.

[Get Current] Review: OmniFocus Forecast for Next 7 Days. I open the forecast perspective in OmniFocus and run through the next 7 days, reminding myself of any pending deadlines.

At the end of these [Get Current] steps I have gathered all the information I need and I know which of my tasks I could take action on in the week ahead. But I still need to decide which I actually will take action on. However, there is one step I need to complete before that.

[Get Set] Review: Mission & Principles. I go to Evernote where I keep a note containing my mission statements for each of my areas of responsibility, and where I keep a list of productivity principles I attempt to live by. I read my mission statements and principles every single week. Where my mission statements tend to stay static, I often find myself making minor adjustment to my principles. (See below for more on these principles.)

At the end of [Get Set] I have put everything in its place. I have gotten all the information I need. I have considered my mission and principles. Now, at last, I can get going.

[Get Going] Decide: Next Week’s Deadlines, Deliverables, and Priorities. At the end of it all, I decide what I mean to focus on in the next week or weeks, and assign due or defer dates as appropriate. Example: In my review of the Evening Service project I see that I will be preaching the next part of my series on the following Sunday evening. Therefore I set the due date on that task for the Friday, and the defer date for Tuesday. Next week Tuesday, when I do my daily coram deo, I will see it as an option for that day and flag it as one of that day’s top tasks. And on Friday I will receive a reminder that it needs to be complete before I leave the office for the day.

And that is my weekly review. It takes about a half hour at most, but offers a very important reset to my productivity system.

Mission and Principles

I mentioned under [Get Set] that every week I review my mission and principles. In a previous article I wrote about mission statements [part 3], so now let me tell you about principles.

November 19, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp ($0.99); Introduction to Global Missions by Zane Pratt ($4.99); Forgotten Songs by Richard Wells & Ray Van Neste ($2.99); Bonhoeffer Speaks Today by Mark Devine ($2.99); Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas Kostenberger ($3.99); 1 Peter ($3.99) and James ($2.99) in B&H’s Exegetical Guide to the New Testament series; The Christian Husband by Bob Lepine ($0.99); A Theology for the Church by Daniel Akin ($5.99); 1 Corinthians by Mark Taylor ($2.99). Today only the Kindle Fire HD 7 is $20 off at just $119.

Man, Woman, and the Mystery of Christ - Here’s the (PDF) text of Russell Moore’s address at the Vatican earlier this week. 

Interpretive Dance - WORLD magazine covers BioLogos. “The BioLogos Foundation is making a major, well-funded push to change the way Christians read Genesis and think about Adam and Eve.”

Daily Devotionals - I’m often asked to recommend daily devotionals, but rarely know which to suggest. Here are a few that are bundled and on sale at Westminster Books; they all look excellent. (Peace by Stephen Nichols, New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp, Saving Grace by C. John Miller.)

A Proud Calvinist - Don Whitney: “A proud Calvinist is a combination of two terms that have opposite meanings. A true Calvinist is one who humbly submits to God’s sovereignty.” And yet…

Mothering in the Internet Age - Instead of googling that question about mothering, why don’t you ask one of the older women in your church?

What’s Wrong with Reparative Therapy? - Heath Lambert addresses the much-maligned reparative therapy.

In closing…one of the new ways I am jealous of Americans is that they get access to all of Amazon; we can get ebooks, but not a whole lot else unless we’re willing to pay crazy shipping costs and taxes. But if I was in the US, I’d be all over today’s Gold Box deal, since we’ve had our pots and pans forever and a day.

What makes a leader is character. What makes a non-leader is ego. —Ray Ortlund

Ortlund